HOW TO | Make a DIY Braided Leather Belt
A braided leather belt is the perfect accessory. It goes great with history bounding looks, as it can take take something which was otherwise too formal or too historical and bring it into the modern day. Skinny belts go really well worn at the waist over a skirt or dress.
For this project, you will need:
At least 10 metres of flat leather cord. Mine was 4 mm wide, and I bought it on Amazon. The leather cord I used was thick, and created a more rustic looking belt. If you want something more polished, use a cord that is flatter.
A belt buckle. I found mine on Etsy, and it is about 1” wide.
A utility knife - for tapering the ends of the cord for beginning and finishing the braid. I found mine on Amazon for $8
Strong thread (optional: for creating a belt loop)
Cut leather strands to length.
To do this, wrap a measuring tape around your body, at the height you plan on wearing your belt (whether that is your waist or hips). Make an overlap of several inches, for the tail of the belt to overlap on your body. Then, take this length, multiply by 1.5, and add about 15” for finishing the ends of the belt. This is how long your strands of leather should be. Cut five strands to this length.
Taper the ends of the leather strands.
The ends of leather will be woven into the belt to conceal them. To prevent the belt from becoming too bulky at the beginning and the end, we need to taper about 19” of length on each end of each five strands. This allows not only the tails themselves to be tapered, but the ends of braid itself to also be narrower, so that when the tails are woven back in to the braid it won’t be much bulkier than the body of the belt.
Using your utility knife and a cutting mat or other safe surface, carefully draw the knife along the last 19” at the ends of the strands, down the middle of the strands. Be careful not to cut yourself, or to accidentally cut off the tail of your leather stand.
You should be left with 5 strands of leather which have ends that are narrow and taper to a point.
Attaching leather strands to buckle
You will use a “lark’s head knot” for this. First, fold down the first 6” of each strand, creating a loop with the main strand on one side and its 6” long tail on the other. Feed this loop through the belt buckle, and then pull the strand and its tail through the loop, pulling it tight. Repeat with all five strands. This will be bulky, and if you are using a narrow buckle like me, these five knots may try to creep up the sides of the belt buckle. Don’t worry. We will fix this in the next step.
Begin the Braid
We will be using a five strand braid, which is quite simple once you get the hang of it. Before I get into these instructions, I want to note that at the beginning of this belt braid, you will be working with each strand and its respective tail as if they are one. This is how the tapered ends will be concealed in the braid.
Divide your five strands (and their tails) into two groups: one with two strands and one with three. Hold one group in your left hand, and the other in your right. Remember, at this point you will also be holding the tails along with the main strands.
Take the outermost strand and its tail from your left hand. Pass them over the entire lefthand group, into the centre, and take them in your right hand. They have now become the innermost strand (and tail) in your right hand group.
Next, take the outermost strand and its tail from the righthand group, pass it over that whole group, into the centre, and take them in your left hand. They have now become the innermost strand and tail in the lefthand group.
Pull these first “stitches” of the braid as tight as you can. This will help all those larks head knots on the buckle to be pulled into proper position.
Repeat the steps from step 4, until all those tapered tail ends have become absorbed into the braid. Then, keep going!
Finishing the braided belt
You will keep braiding until you have reached your desired belt length from Step One. Your braid should become narrower at the end due to the tapered leather strands, and you should also have some inches of tapered ends left.
We are going to hide these ends in the braid by a process called back-braiding. One at a time, you will weave each strand backwards into the braid you just completed. Pull it through one “stitch” of the braid at a time, until the end is concealed in the braid. It is a lot like weaving. Repeat for the other four strands. The tapered braid and tapered ends should make it so your belt doesn’t become much bulkier at the end than the main body. It will probably be a little bulkier, but don’t worry. As long as your belt end can still fit through the buckle, you are golden.
STEP 7 (Optional)
Create a belt loop
To create a belt loop, simply take a short strand of leather, wrap it around the belt, and make sure it is loose enough to fit the tail of the belt through it as well. Overlap the ends of the belt loop on itself,
and wrap a strong piece of thread around this joint a few times, knotting it off when you are done. Place the joint of the belt loop on the underside of the belt.
We are done! Enjoy your beautiful handmade belt!
If you have any questions please leave them below.
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