Leather Initial Keychains

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A couple of Saturdays ago, I went to a leather fabric store in Downtown Los Angeles. It was right by the 10 Freeway in a sketchier part of town. But surprisingly, there was a flood of customers for such an obscurely secret place. They sold all kinds of leather; from lambskin to pigskin.
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I went looking for white leather to make a cute clutch I saw online, like the one below. Since I didn’t need a large piece, I went directly to the scrap piles that sold leather scraps for $3.50 per pound! Unfortunately, the only white leather piece I found was too small. So I ended up getting a big sheet of light grey pigskin fabric for ONLY $13.50! Still a bargain!
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Then off we went to look for some purse hardware and trims (for a lamp project I’m doing.) Going to the fabric district is like treasure-hunting to me. And I’m glad to do it with a friend who loves sewing and creating stuff just as much! :) Anyway, before tackling the leather purse, I wanted some practice sewing on leather. So I decided the easiest thing to make was initial leather keychains out of the scraps. One for my name “S” and another for my sis “W”.

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Here’s how I made the keychains:
(IMPORTANT: Before you do this project, please read through the steps and figure out what you’ll need to do for your initial/letter. Since each letter is differently shaped, you’ll need to alter the positioning and cutting/gluing of your shape.)

Materials You Need
* Leather Scraps
* Sharp Scissors
* Clear plastic (as template for initials)
* Fabric or Tacky Glue
* Sharpie Marker
* Scratch Paper
* Ruler
* Binder Clips
* Key Ring
* Sewing Machine
* Denim/Leather Needle

Instructions
1. Select a piece of leather you want. It should be big enough for your initial/letter(s).

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2. Cut the plastic to a rectangle that will fit your letter and set aside. Draw (or print out) your letter(s) on a sheet of paper. I drew mine using a ruler. It took me a few tries to get the shapes I wanted. Place the plastic over the letter and trace over it with a sharpie. Cut out the plastic letter.

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3. Before you place the plastic cut-out on the leather, you’ll need to figure out where the key ring will go. The leather will be folded over to create a 2-ply and it’s the fold that will create the “hole” for the key ring. I’m using “W” as my example and I’ve decided that the key ring will be positioned on the top left (or right) of the “W”. (See picture # 5.) So that’s where the fold will be. When you’ve decided on the placement of the key ring, place the plastic cut-out on the wrong side of the leather. Using a ruler, draw an outline around the letter, about 1/4″ from the edge of the plastic.

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4. Remove the plastic and set it aside. Fold the leather over to create a 2-ply, making sure you have enough space in the fold (to create the hole for the key ring.)

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5. This next part is kind of tricky… Hold onto both layers of leather tightly and start cutting along the outline. Use binder clips to help you hold the leather together. Cut as neatly as possible around the edges.

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6. Here’s the leather initial, unfolded.

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7. Next, you’re doing to glue the 2 layers together with the plastic template sandwiched in between. (The purpose of the plastic is to make the keychain sturdier and less flimsy if your leather is on the thinner side.) Glue on the plastic first, then put glue all over except for the key ring area. Put the two layers together and press gently. Clean any glue that seeps out between the layers.

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8. Let the glue dry for at least a couple of hours before you start sewing.

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9. Here are the initials all glued together. I didn’t take pix of the sewing steps. But I sewed very carefully near the edge of the letters, remembering that there is plastic in between the layers. Actually, I had to hand crank the sewing machine because you cannot make mistakes on leather… Once you’ve punctured a hole, the hole is permanent! So if you’re not an expert with the machine, I strongly suggest hand-cranking each stitch and taking your time going around the edges!

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10. As for the treatment of the edges (apparently, that step is called “burnishing” leather edges), you need more tools. But I wasn’t about to buy more stuff just for these initial keychains. :) So I read up on how to do the minimum treatment. You can treat the edges by using some water and a canvas piece to rub off the roughness for a smoother finish and paint with some acrylic paint or rub beeswax to seal the edges. I painted mine with some gold acrylic paint I had on hand! (The products photographed here don’t show the finished edges. I had taken the photos before I found out about burnishing. lol.)

Hopefully this is easy enough to try it yourself! It took me about 3-4 hours to complete two initials. If you do make your own keychains, please do share and send me a link! Thanks for reading~.-

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