|Time required||Complexity||Tools & Supplies|
5 hours (+36h drying time)
Common for leathercraft
Spending time in nature is a very important part of my life. I love spending time observing my surroundings and keep being amazed by the beauty and complexity of the many shapes through which life expresses itself and comes into being. Thus it is not suprising that nature often influences the designs that I come up with. I used to be surrounded by aloe vera plants when I was living on the island of Gran Canaria which inspired me to create this aloe vera incense holder made with leather. A few years ago I cycled through the lotus fields in China and this memory led me to work on a leather white lotus flower. This time it is my time spent in a hostel in Lagos Portugal which is responsible for giving me the idea of developing this pattern. I spent a while making ojo de dios in the patio, surrounded by a beautiful asortment of plants that the owner lovingly cared for. Among them were several succulent plants. I often admired the complexity of their structure and the uniqueness of the colours that they each offered. I kept this image in the back of my head and a few weeks later I am happy to be able to publish this leather succulent plant tutorial for you to enjoy as well!
- 1x5mm stitching prong / 1mm hole punch
- Stitching Awl
- Scissors or X-Acto knife
- Applicator for the dye
- Edge slicker
- 2 leather stitching needles
- Hammer or mallet
- Cotton rag
Bill of Materials
- 4/5 oz veg tanned leather
- Leather dyes
- 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.
Don’t forget to mark the positions of the holes that we will need to punch through later on.
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 .
Bevelling the edges
Bevel the edges of your leather pieces with your edge beveler (size n*1 in my case).
As the leaf’s edge gets closer to the center of the crown it can be difficult to access with the beveler. You can use your cutting mat or a piece of cardboard to isolate the edge that you are working on from the surrounding ones.
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 the leather pieces in different dye baths of decreasing dilution ratio in order to create a gradient of contrast between the crowns. I also added a bit more green as I was progressing outward.
After this first dye I let all the pieces dry overnight, then applied a very conservative amount of magenta near the edges of the leaves.
Once the leather is completely dry, apply a coat of oil on each crown to re-hydrate 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.
Burnishing the edges
Use ~200 grit sandpaper to smooth-out any irregularity from your edges, then use progressively finer grit to prepare the edges for burnishing. The finer the grit, the smoother the edges will be which will make the actual burnishing a lot easier and the result look a lot cleaner.
Dampen the edge you are working on with water before sanding. It will help you obtain a sleek result much faster than if you were working dry and it will minimize the amount of leather dust in the air.
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).
You can also seal the rough side of the leather as I did by 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.
Stitching the crowns of leaves together
Position the crowns of leaves on top of each other. Arrange them as you see fit and saddle stitch around the center.
Wet-forming the succulent’s leaves
Start by briefly submerging the plant in water until no dry spot remains at the surface of the leather.
Remove it from the water and dry the excess with a cloth. Starting from the innermost crown of 3 leaves, fold each leaf towards the center. Repeat this successively with each crown moving outward until you obtain a bud shape. Use a piece of cord o thread to secure it so that it doesn’t open on its own.
Leave it to dry partially – a few hours depending on your climate. We want to leaves to mostly retain the shape that they will be moulded in while drying in the bud while still leaving some humidity in the leather in order to be able to re-work them a bit before they dry completely and solidify.
Once the bud is partially dry, open it and carefully shape the leaves and the plant according to what you want it to look like.
Finally let it dry completely (around 24h).
Apply the conditioning product of your choice on your creation and rub vigorously with a cotton rag to polish it and give it a nice shine.
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.
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: