Hi Everyone! Today I’m starting a series on leather and trying to use different materials to impress designs into it. I’m trying to emulate the tooled look while using my Sizzix Big Shot to roll things through with the leather and see what we can come up with. So today’s experiment is using an embossing folder. Originally I planned on using a letterpress plate by Sizzix, but there aren’t too many around anymore so I decided to use something that is more widely available.
Just a quick Note on this series:
I had to re-do a lot of my videos about leather. So hopefully these videos won’t be super disjointed. I missed copying a whole month’s worth of shooting (grrrrr), so I’ve got bits and pieces that I’m trying to re-shoot and cobble together.
This is the first one in the series.
NOTE: you should be very careful doing any of this embossing of leather with your die cut machines especially if you have a warranty as I’m sure this would not be covered ;). Make sure you are very comfortable with using your die cut machine and know when a stack is too thick. I would not attempt these leather projects unless you are very comfortable and know what you are doing with your die cut machines! Do NOT FORCE anything through your die cut machine! It should be a tiny bit stiff to roll through but not super hard where you have to really crank the machine.
I would NOT use these techniques in an electric/motorized machine!
In this first project, I am using a premade leather bracelet that you can find at many leather stores or probably even Amazon. In other videos you will see me use strips and pieces of leather that I’ve cut myself. I typically use leather about 4mm thick.
If you decide to use leather vs the premade bracelets, the leather can be cut using a rotary tool and a straight edge. For the most part, the strips I use were cut with an Accucut Grande Mark machine and dies called Strip Maker. The Strip Maker dies come in multiple sizes and for bracelets I like the 3/4 inch size. You can find this die here or search for Strip Maker to see all the sizes on the Accucut web site.
The other items you will need if you want to try this is an embossing folder and a machine that you would normally emboss with. I use the Sizzix Big Shot and will be using that in my demonstrations. You can probably use other machines as well, but may need to play around with your settings, sandwiches, shims etc.
NOTE: I am using the manual Big Shot machine. I know there are electric powered ones, but I would not attempt this sort of project with one of those!
With the Sizzix Big Shot you’ll see me use different combinations of the platform, mats and additional shims depending on what I’m embossing with, but you’re probably going to have to play around based on what you end up using.
I will also mention that I’ve learned as I’ve been going along and so now when I do my embossing, I tend to tape everything down so that things don’t shift on me. You’ll see in the videos in several cases where I don’t tape anything down and things shift and move and you either get a little bit of ghosting and/or whole shifts of the design. So I don’t really show that, but I will talk about it because it is something I tend to do now after having many a project move and be ruined 😉 . I usually use something like the blue artists tape also called painter’s tape/pro mask. You can get this at any painting store or Amazon or Walmart etc.
The first thing that you have to do before you do anything with leather is spritz it with water and it doesn’t have to be soaking. I just spritz the top of the leather with a spray bottle filled with water and on the first spray the water soaks right in. If you spray again it’s a little more even, and I would usually spray a third time. You can just brush with water if you don’t have a spray bottle. You basically want to get the leather to the point where the water soaks in but takes a few seconds longer than the first attempt. It should be damp, not dripping.
In this example where we are using an embossing folder, you’ve got two ways you can emboss. One side of the folder usually is pressed in, so the leather embossed that way would bump out. The other side of the folder would typically be inverted so placing the leather against a design that stands out will deboss a design that presses into the leather. You might want to test with a test piece or even a piece of paper if you aren’t sure which side to use.
Now, the other thing I will mention is the Big Shot is a small die/embossing machine. I do have a bigger machine called an Accucut Grande Mark. Accucut used to sell a plate that was used for embossing. I show it in my video. That plate in the Accucut works great for all these embossing techniques so if have one then you might want to play around with that machine. They also make a tray adapter to use in their system for thinner dies. That would also probably work, but again you will need to play with sandwich options, shims etc. I may explore that in a future video.
In this technique, I use an embossing folder without breaking it apart. I’m sure most people don’t want to do that to their folders, so I demonstrate how to open it up and use it that way, and how to line it up on the leather. For you initial attempts at this I would recommend using an embossing folder you don’t care about or that can easily be replaced 😉 .
In order to emboss you need embossing rubber and a cutting or embossing mat. The rubber and the mat must be covering the item that is doing the embossing (in this case the folder) and the leather. If the item you are using, like the embossing folder, has an edge and that is covered by the rubber AND the mat then you will get an impression of that edge. In order to avoid that I show how I use Accucut purple crease/cutting mats one of which has been cut, using metal shears, into small pieces in order to fill in and/or avoid edges. I have another video where I show how to cut down the mats. You can get a starter set of the mats here.
In this video I show how to try to avoid getting those edges in there. If you’re using straight leather that you cut yourself, it’s a bit easier to avoid the edges, especially if the design is going to cover the length of the leather, but otherwise you do still need to pay attention when you are covering the embossing folder with the rubber and mat and make sure the edge of the folder itself is not covered. I use the cut down Accucut pieces to line up with the edge of the design on the embossing folder, but not the edge of the folder itself. It can be very fiddly at times which you will clearly see me dealing with in the video 🙂 .
I always have a bunch of pieces of paper that I use for shims, and you might need to add some as well on top of the sandwich.
In this example, I also decided to go back in and add more of the design to the bracelet. This design was easy enough to line up, but might be trickier with other designs, so test cases are probably a good idea! I lined the dots up with previous embossing on the leather and only covered the new section with the embossing rubber and a very small piece of the Accucut mat, avoiding the edge of the folder as I did before.
So this was a fun experiment and I was able to use items I had already for mixed media projects in an unconventional way with leather to make some bracelets.
Here I sum up the relevant information for this leather series…
Again, just to reiterate- you should be very careful doing any of this embossing of leather with your die cut machines especially if you have a warranty as I’m sure this would not be covered ;). Make sure you are very comfortable with using your die cut machine and know when a stack is too thick. I would not attempt these leather projects unless you are very comfortable and know what you are doing with your die cut machines! Do NOT FORCE anything through your die cut machine! It should be a tiny bit stiff to roll through but not super hard where you have to really crank the machine.
I would NOT use these techniques in an electric/motorized machine!
Some of the items you will need to have on hand for these leather projects are:
- a die cut machine,
- cutting and embossing mats,
- cutting tools if you are not using premade bracelets
- snaps if you are cutting your own leather.
- You will also need tools to set those snaps.
For the most part my videos will feature the Sizzix Big Shot manual style. I would not, as I advised earlier, use the electrical/motorized version. The Big Shot comes with the multiuse platform, but you will need a variety of cutting and embossing mats as well as embossing rubber. I primarily use the Sizzix embossing Mats and I bought the Embossing kit which contains a mat and the embossing rubber, although you can also try ordering the embossing rubber separately and using a regular cutting mat. I also keep a set of Sizzix mylar shims on hand, but you can also use stacks of cardstock which is what I show in the videos for the most part. I also have used Magic Mats for Sizzix Big Shot in some of my videos. If you have the embossing mat and rubber and a set of regular cutting mats, I would hurry out to buy the Magic Mats. The mats that I now prefer to use to go over the embossing rubber are the Accucut GrandeMARK 2 Cut & Crease Mats because I can cut them using metal shears to sizes that cover the items I am using to emboss. I cut them so they are sized to cover just the design on the embossing material, but not any of the hard edges to avoid ridges on the leather from those edges. You could also cut pieces to size in case you need to add a design to an empty/missed space. As I mentioned earlier the starter set of the mats can be found here.
Having a combination of mats and platforms on hand is useful because each embossing item (folder, cardstock, pattern plates etc) will require a different stack thickness. Each machine will also have a different depth that you need to fill to run your items through and get the embossing items to impress the leather.
I also use my Accucut Grande Mark to impress leather. Accucut used to make embossing plastic/acrylic plates to emboss paper and there was a platform to work with those plates. This platform (and even the plates!) can be used with leather to run through the Accucut machine and it works works fabulously. It does not look like they still make this platform, but if you already have it, it is a lot easier than trying to use a stack of other cutting mats. This platform unfortunately is too wide to fit in the Big Shot (that I own at least). This platform for the Accucut machine measures about 5/8 of an inch in depth. I sometimes still have to shim with either paper or thin plastic. Your stack might measure differently. If you are going to be doing a lot of this and if you are lucky enough to have someone who can cut a hard piece of plastic/acrylic (or you can do it yourself!), once you figure out your normal depth of the stacks you typically use (minus the leather and the embossing item) you could cut a piece to the measurements that works with your die cut machine. Once you determine your stacks for the items you are trying to impress, I would keep track of them for the next time 🙂 .
Some of the leather I will be using are the premade bracelets blanks. If you search “leather bracelet blanks” you will find a myriad of choices including at Amazon, Etsy and other leather shops. I think I bought mine at Michaels, and they were from the company Realeather. You want to make sure you get VegTan leather or tooling leather.
For just plain leather, (not premade bracelets), I have used VegTan Craft Cut leather from Tandy and some cool wax colored leather, Conceria Walpier 🇮🇹- White Wax Buttero “Burro” – Veg Tanned Leather from Rocky Mountain Leather. I also choose the option to “add leather splitting” and choose the 4.5-4.0 oz option, but the thickness is up to you. I buy my leather in sheets/panels but both the options I use come in hides too, if you are adventurous ;).
When I cut my own leather I use either the Accucut strip maker die I mentioned earlier or a rotary cutter with a metal edge ruler and a cutting mat.
For snaps, my personal preference are the Segma (line 16) snaps from Tandy. They work great with the leather thicknesses I use for bracelets. Unfortunately they are kind of hard to find and I usually order them directly from Tandy. I also ordered the following tools- the mini leather punch set to punch the holes and the Craftool® Deluxe Snap-All/Rivet Setter Set to set the snaps- from Tandy. These can also be used with Line 20 and Line 24 snaps if you are using thicker/bigger leather items.
I also bought a set of Leather Burnishing tips for my rotary tool. The ones I bought on Amazon aren’t available anymore, but they have other ones and it looks like Etsy might have them too. They look like:
I am working on a post about coloring the leather and will update this post with a link to that when I am finished.
Stay tuned for more ideas in this ongoing series!!
Here’s how the bracelet turned out-
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