|Time required||Complexity||Tools & Supplies|
4 hours (x2 because of drying time)
Common for leathercraft
I really enjoy making stuffed animals as they always make the perfect gift for my nieces and nephews. Last year I worked on a stuffed ox made with leather to give to a friend in celebration of Chinese new year. The idea for the elephant came after telling my niece about the story of an encounter with one of them on a countryside road of Bangladesh a few years ago. Now she has this stuffed cutie to remember her uncle when I’m away on some cycling adventure.
- 1x5mm stitching prong / 1mm hole punch
- Scissors or X-Acto knife
- Awl and/or stitching chisels
- Applicator for the dye
- Edge slicker
- 2 leather stitching needles
- Hammer or mallet
Bill of Materials
- 2/3 oz veg tanned calfskin or equivalent and a little piece of black suede for the eyes
- Leather dyes
- Leather cement
- Leather finishing product
The pattern PDF is available for purchase on etsy.
Printing and cutting the pattern
You can get the pattern here if you haven’t already.
Print it on US letter or A4 paper depending on the version you downloaded and cut-out the pieces of the project.
Make sure that the pattern is not resized by checking your print settings. You can check if it was printed properly by measuring the reference found at the bottom of each page.
Print on thick paper to make it easier to trace the shape on the leather. 200g/cm2 and above is ideal (as long as your printer can handle it)
Tracing the outline of the pattern onto the leather
Using an awl, trace the outline of the pattern pieces onto the leather.
The elephant is composed of two sets mirrored pieces attached to a unique belly piece. The body and the ears are asymmetrical thus the corresponding pattern pieces will have to be turned over in order to obtain second mirror element of each required pair. The eyes, cheeks and ears are symmetrical in shape so no need to turn the pattern over for them. The same applies for the belly since it only has to be traced once.
Don’t forget to mark the positions of the holes that we will need to punch through later on. I left a little dot at the center of each eye to help me position them as well.
Checklist of all the pieces to trace:
- A x1 regular and x1 mirrored (pattern turned over)
- B x1
- C x1 regular and x1 mirrored
- D x1 regular and x1 mirrored
- E x4
- F x2
- G x2
- H x1
Cutting-out the pieces of the project
Using a pair of scissors or an X-Acto knife, cut-out all the pieces of the project .
Dyeing the leather
Dyeing can be achieved through different methods. I will refer you to this Youtube Playlist in order to learn more about the subject from much more qualified craftsmen than I am.
For this project I chose to submerge my pieces of leather in a dye bath. I prepared two different dilutions where I mixed some navy blue and anthracite. I wanted to obtain more contrast and dark tones on the body and the back of the ears and a lighter tone for the underbelly, the feet and the inner ears.
As for the cheeks I chose to dye them in a light shade of magenta.
Once the leather is completely dry, apply a coat of oil to re-hydrate it and protect the dye..
Try to be swift in your motions once the oil is on the leather to avoid creating darker spots. If this happens not to worry though, just leave it half an hour under the sun (rough side up so that the top grain doesn’t tan). The heat will help the oil spread out evenly in the fibers of the leather.
Punching the stitching holes
Use stitching prongs or a hole punch to punch the stitching holes for all the pieces using the marks that you left earlier as a guide to position them.
Preparing the tail
Start by making vertical cuts to separate the triangular base of the tail in thin strips (still attached to the tail of course!).
Then submerge the tail in water, remove it from the water and roll it between your fingers to give it a more cylindrical shape.
Finally tie a simple knot at the end of the tail. This will allow us to secure it between two stitches later on.
Burnishing the edges and conditionning the leather
Burnish the edges using the method of your choice. I usually apply some tokonole to the edge and use a wood edge slicker to create the friction necessary for burnishing. You can also use a cotton rag and simply dampen the edge, it works quite well (often better than a low quality wood slicker).
Never apply too much pressure on the edge during this operation. Indeed we want to prevent any mushrooming from happening especially when the edge is damp. It’s all about speed and friction to create heat, not pressure.
I also chose to seal the rough side at the back of the ears following the same principal used to burnish the edges: applying Tokonole and creating friction. Usually the edge of a piece of glass is used for that purpose but a similar result can be achieved with a wood slicker.
Last task to get the pieces ready for stitching.
Apply the conditioning product of your choice on all the leather pieces and polish them with a cotton rag.
I use a leather balm that I make by gently melting together “au bain-marie” 1 part beeswax and 6 parts olive oil. It’s great for nourishing and waterproofing.
Setting-up the eyes, the cheeks and the ears
To glue the eyes start by scratching the area where they will be placed so that the glue can penetrate the top grain a create a decent bond.
Move on then to stitching the two cheeks to each half body using a regular saddle stitch.
For the ears, you can use the pattern as a reference to know where to start your stitch line and which direction to follow. We start by stitching the inner part to the back of each ear until we reach the last edge which will be stitched to the half body. A regular saddle stitch is used here.
Stitching the two halves of the body, the feet and the belly
Time to stitch it all together. Reverse cross-stitching will be the preferred stitching technique from now on, except when it will come to stitch the feet to the legs where saddle stitching will be used.
Begin by following along the edge of the front leg to stitch the belly and the corresponding half body piece and progress along the edges of the two legs.
When you reach the bottom of each leg, stitch-in a foot before moving on to the opposite edge of the leg.
When half of the belly is stitched thusly continue along the belly, stitching in the opposite half body. At the end of this process you should be back to the same stitching hole that saw you start earlier. At that point you can start stitching down the trunk in order to stitch the two half bodies together.
Add some stuffing inside the elephant’s trunk, legs and body as you are stitching.
When you reach the location indicated on the pattern, insert the tail’s end between two stitch points in order to secure it there.
Continue stitching until the body is properly closed.
I hope you enjoyed following along this tutorial. Please consider posting a photo of your creation in the comments below. It would mean a lot to me to see my little projects out into the world as you make it your own.
Any feedback/question about this tutorial or project idea that you’d like to see posted here is and always will be more than welcome.
The following online content provided some assistance and/or inspiration during the making of this project: