Thursday, May 08, 2014

mystery braid belt

First make of MMMay'14 - mystery braid belt.
Completed May 6th.

I have made a plaited belt before (in fact I have made a couple for others too which I haven't blogged about) and while I like my first one, it is small - made to wear on my natural waistline, and I wanted one to wear more on my hips. I also wanted a belt in this natural, neutral tone. Basically I wanted this belt and this belt to have a baby!

I had wanted this belt to be a bit narrower, around 3/4", but I only had 1/2" or 1" buckles in this nice antiqued brass colour and I didn't think a silver coloured buckle would look right.  For my MMMay pledge I wanted to work from my stash so rather than sourcing a new buckle, I went with the 1". 
Using my strap cutter (that cross-shaped wooden tool handily marked as 'The Strap Cutter') I cut a 1" strip from my roll of vegtan leather. There's the resulting belt blank in the top right. I have my buckle (from a selection at J.T.Batchelors), rivets, a smaller thinner strip of vegtan which will be the loop bit, as well as the necessary tools - clicking knife, slot punch, awl, dividers and hole punch.

Here I have punched a slot for the buckle, holes for the rivets and for size adjustments. I have skived the end to reduce bulk when folding it around the buckle. I have also divided the width into three (marking the lines with the dividers) and cut the plaiting strips with my knife.
To be honest, deciding on the length and the hole positioning was a bit of a guess as I wasn't quite sure how much length was going to be lost due to the plaiting process. I did make a mockup belt first, tried it on and then added an inch to the length of the plaited section.

I also finished all the raw edges prior to plaiting, first with gum tragacanth (more about it here) using the wheel to round off the edges of the ends of the belt, and just rubbing with my fingers to smooth off the edges of the strap section to be plaited. Once it was dry I wiped on a thin coating of Resolene to protect the leather, making sure the edges of the plaiting section were coated too. This natural vegtan is very prone to showing up water stains and other marks, and the Resolene gives it a protective coating. I then buffed it with a cloth to a nice soft sheen.

And finally, the plaiting! As mentioned with my first belt, the technique is tricksy because only the middle section of the belt is plaited, the ends are solid. I waffled on in that post saying how you have to start plaiting from one end and un-plait from the other, and that surely there must be a logical way of doing it. Well there is! Watch this handy video and in under two minutes you can learn how it's done!

The finished product. A little bit wider than I would have liked but it is crisp, has a nice flow and the leather makes a pleasing creaky noise when I put it on! It has already been out in the world for a slightly damp dinosaur viewing and picnic in Crystal Palace Park, and I know I'm going to get a lot more wear out of it this summer!

Hooray for mystery braids!


  1. Wow! That's brilliant, I've never seen anyone make their own belt before.

    1. Cheers Penny! Compared to a pair of shoes, a belt is a relatively quick fix!