Making reclaimed leather bracelets is one of the easiest and most rewarding jewelry projects that you can learn. They make great gifts for the holidays and are a great use of old belts, bags or jackets or simple leather scraps that you might find at a thrift store or have laying around your home or studio.
Learning the mystery braid
This particular technique is known as the inside trick braid or mystery braid. It gets its name because both ends remain unbroken and the braid only takes place in the middle. This basic technique can be lengthened to make purse straps, belts, or leashes.
In this braided leather bracelet tutorial I’ll be making a standard bracelet which is 7″ in length. Braiding the leather will shorten the length by about a 1/3 so account for that at the beginning by cutting your leather 1/3 longer. Mine will be 9 1/3″ in length and 1″ wide.
For this project you’ll need:
- A piece of leather at least 10″ long and 2″ wide. Vegan leather or pleather can work.
Begin by making sure that the long sides of your piece are parallel. I love my graphing ruler exactly for that reason. We’ll be cutting parallel lines off of these sides so don’t skip this step or that can throw off your other measurements.
Divide your overall width of leather into thirds. If you’re using the same measurement as me, that will mean that each of the three sections will be about 2.5/8″ wide. Account for 3/4″ at each end where we will make holes and closures. You can score this very lightly with a fingernail which can help you keep track of your lines without making extra clean up for yourself.
It can be helpful when cutting to use a metal ruler to keep your blade on track. Hold it in place with one hand and run your blade along its edge. Be mindful not to slice through either end. We want to keep those intact. I like to use a blade for this, but you might prefer scissors.
Be careful if using a blade that you place something under your leather to protect the surface below. There’s nothing worse that making a beautiful cut only to realize that you made that same cut down the middle of your dining room table.
Holding your strip facing up, assign each piece a letter, starting on your left and working right. Feel free to mark letters on the back in chalk in case you’re worried about forgetting.
Grab the lower end of the leather bring it up and between B and C. After this step, your leather will not lie flat when it’s straightened back out.
This is the beginning of your braid. Pass strand A over strand B. Then pass strand C over strand A. Finally B over C. Then, thread the lower end of the strip through the hole that has been made between strands B and C.
Repeat the above step until you’re satisfied with the pattern in your leather. More rounds of the braid will create a tighter weave. Fewer will create a softer and more flexible one.
Round the edges of the leather using your blade or scissors and punch one hole in the center of each end.
Cut a small strip of leather (3/8″ wide) about the same length as your bracelet and tie a knot at one end. Then thread that piece through your two holes and you’ve created a way to tie on your piece.