How to make a leather watch strap

So here at CL.AM HQ we’re rather big fans of leather. We’ve been looking into the possibility of having a luxury leather range, to sit alongside our printed envelopes recently. It’s still very much in the planning stage at the moment, but whilst we were looking into it we thought it might be nice to share a little ‘how to’ on making a leather watch strap.
My watch strap is a Christmas gift, so although this could work with almost any kind of leather,I’ve gone all out and ordered a skin direct from the Horween Leather tannery in Chicago
Horween was established in 1905, and is generally considered to produce some of the World’s best tanned leathers. Here in the UK they’re relatively unknown, but in America and Japan their reputation is held in the highest acclaim.

Horween Chromexcel leather No8

Horween Chromexcel Leather- No8

This skin is called Chromexcel and is in a colour called No8.- A colour unique to Horween, it’s a very dark ruddy brown, which ages amazingly and becomes slightly redder over time.
What you need to for this tutorial-

Leather of your choice
Metal Buckle and keeper I used Zulu hardwear
Leather burnisher
Saddle soap
Waxed thread and wide eyed needle x2
Stitch spacer
Leather punch

You can pick most of these bits up from either Amazon or Tandy Leather

How to make a leather watch strap

What you need- How to make a leather watch strap

So firstly you’ll need to cut out the basic shape of your strap. I’m making a one piece military style watch strap, which is 18mm wide and 29cm long. After you’ve cut out the basic shape, you’ll want to round off the corners to give it a nice professional finish- there are several ways to do this but it may take a bit of trial and error to find out which one works best for you. I start by cutting small straight cuts all the way around so I’m left with a very round semi-circular end. I then cover the edge with saddle soap, and use the burnisher to create a nice smooth edge. It takes a while, and you’ll need to keep applying saddle soap, but it will be worth it in the end.

Hand burnishing leather

Burnishing leather by hand

After you’ve done that to both ends you’ll be ready to mark the hole for the buckle- the placement will vary depending on the size of your watch strap. I fold the leather back on itself 24cm from the end, choose the worst of your rounded edges as this won’t be visible when you’re done. Then use a awl to mark the centre of the strap on both sides of the fold. Then take the leather punch and make two appropriate sized holes on either side of the fold, and use a scalpel to join the holes together. You should end up with something similar to the below.
How to cut hole for buckle leather watch strap

Cutting the buckle hole, leather watch strap

You can then slide your buckle into place, and you’ll be ready to mark the stitch holes that will hold it in place. Make sure to try and fold the leather as tightly up to the buckle as possible. You want it to be held snugly in place. You then use the stitching spacer to mark where your holes are going to fall. After you’ve done that, take the awl and push it all the way through both pieces of leather.
Stitch holes, hand stitch leather

Making your stitching holes

You’re now ready to stitch your buckle into place, there are loads of different tutorials and methods you can use to stitch the leather together. For a good overview of the options and a detailed video of how to do it you can’t beat the Tandy Leather videos on youtube
Hand stitching video
I use the two needles method; to do this first you’ll need to thread your needles, I use Tapestry needles as they have a nice wide eye- which you’ll need so you can get the waxed thread through- and a blunted end, which is also useful to prevent accidentally damaging the leather. You thread the needles as normal but then bring the thread that has passed through the eye, up and then pierce it with the needle head, and bring it back down the eye. This will prevent the thread slipping out when you’re pulling it through the holes. Once you’ve done this with both needles you can start stitching, I want a double stitch at the end for extra strength. To do, pull one of the needles through the first hole and out the back, then bring it round to the front hole again, creating a full loop round the edge of the strap. Do the reverse of this with the other needle. You can then continue with the rest of the stitching, you continue in a figure of 8 motion so both needles pass through every hole. Finishing again with a double loop at the other end. You then cut the thread off as close to that strap as possible. The best thing for this is wire cutters, but you can also do it with a scalpel if you’re careful. You’ll be left with two stubby piece of thread. You then take a lighter, and very carefully burn the edges of the thread, the causes a bubble to form which will prevent the thread from coming loose. Be very careful doing this, its easy to damage the leather.
how to stitch through leather how to thread a needle for leather work

How to stitch leather

You then repeat this whole process with the metal keeper, again making sure to stitch it in as tightly as you can. For my watch I’d also like a leather keeper, to make this you just need to cut a small strip of leather, long enough to wrap around the thickness of two piece of leather. You then just need to hold it in tight with a couple of double stitches. You can then stitch it in place just as you have with the buckle and other keeper.
How to leather keeper

Leather keeper for watch strap

The last thing you’ll need to do is use the leather punch to make the holes for the buckle to fit through, and then you’ll be done!

Leather watch strap how to

Finish leather watch strap

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2 thoughts on “How to make a leather watch strap

  1. Ped's & Ro says:

    You did a fine job!! The leather you chose is excellent, I hope to work with Horween leather someday.

    Reza from Ped’s & Ro

  2. I have been thinking to get leather strap watch, but I was not getting more design in the strap as per my choice, After reading your post I am able to do like you and would love to make my own strap. Thank you for sharing the very creative post.

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