Sunday, May 10, 2015

Playing with Leather

I don't normally like to advertise myself as a leatherworker...because I'm not!  I reserve that hobby for my boyfriend, not for lack of ideas but rather because my hands do not like dealing with the tools.  But recently Diana, our Suburban Girl, asked if I(we) could make a butterfly bracelet for one of her steampunk cosplay characters...well, how could I say no...beads were offered as trade!  Of course then I had to sweet talk him into helping me with the parts I lack skills in...  But, I thought you all might like to see my part of the process.  
Pictures of the insect display at the Nashville Zoo - trying to gain a bit of inspiration.  It really helped to see the depth of color in the wings.
The first thing I did was scour the internet for an image of a butterfly that I could easily trace off my laptop screen (printer on the fritz).  When my boyfriend got home from work, I handed him the drawing, and after eating and relaxing for a bit he went off to his little desk and I heard the tap-tap-tap of leatherworking.  A few minutes later, he brought me out a flat, naked butterfly!
Because the leather was still damp from the tooling process, I was able to wet-mold it a bit, to add physical dimension to the body and edges of the wings - as if the butterfly had just finished landing and opened his wings to sun on your arm.
The next step was to add some detail to the veins that he had cut.  I used an alcohol based marker (Sharpies work great, but my fine point black is a Bic Mark-it) to define the cut vein lines.  You can see I had some issues with the tip of the marker going outside the lines, so I had to ad lib the design in a few places.
Next I dyed the back of the leather a bordeaux (reddish brown) color, and flipped it back over to dye the body of the insect.  Switching to a black dye, I then filled in the outside edge of the design, and division line between the wings...this also helped cover up some of my marker issues.  It's looking a bit better now, right?
I had already asked what color Diana wanted him to be, and she was set on something in the orange or red realm.  Well, we didn't happen to have orange dye on hand, so I mixed this color with red and yellow.  I like the look, but it still seemed a bit flat looking to me...
To add a bit more dimension, I went ahead and added some accents with straight red dye to the edges of each section.  I also dyed the wristband the same bordeaux color, so I could put all of the dye paraphernalia away...I had already knocked my water dish over twice... 
Next, I added white spots...and suddenly he came to life.  It helps that the dye had dried in the meantime, and doesn't look streaky now.  I also got my boyfriend to punch me some stitching holes for attaching the butterfly.  He also applied a coat of finish to protect the dye and paint, and we let that dry overnight.
And here is the finished product!  While I was stitching the butterfly to the wrist band...I decided he needed antennae too, so I twisted some up out of brown craft wire and small magatama drops.  The body also looked a bit too plain, so I got out my trusty marker and gave him a few striations on the abdomen.
Here you can see the band, and snap closure.
And here I am, modeling it for scale (yes, that is bordeaux dye on my fingers...I got it everywhere) !  Diana and I have exactly the same size (teeny) wrist, so I know if it fits me right it'll work on her.  I love that the butterfly is wide enough to extend past the edges of my wrist, so that you can't see the wristband from this viewpoint.  
I hope you all had fun following along with this process!  Diana should get her bracelet in the mail tomorrow...maybe she'll post some pictures modeling it on Facebook?  Please?!?!!  It's so seldom that I get to see my work on the person I made it for, that I really hope she does!

PS, my boyfriend has a page for his leatherwork over on Facebook too!


  1. The finished butterfly looks very natural, as though its going to fly away any moment. But I love the first raw leather your boyfriend had made - it has great textures

  2. Love it! I do hope Diane models it.

  3. omg, that is so awesome. Diana is going to swoooon!

  4. Wow! that is some "playdate". What a gorgeous bracelet! You did a wonderful job!

  5. What an awesome piece - loved seeing it come to life step by step.


  6. Gorgeous! I've been collecting tools for leather work and pieces such as yours give me inspiration so thank you for posting. By the way, you have a very special boyfriend to help you as he did. Take it from someone who knows first're a lucky girl!


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