Leather sewing tutorial: Cell phone accessory

cellphone_hanger_finalToday’s my birthday (yay me) but you get the gift.

I can’t speak for you but I’m not wild on practice exercises. Since I like immediate gratification (we should be rewarded for trying, no?), I decided this would be an easy thing to make that is difficult to mess up and even if you do, somebody is going to want it so it won’t go to waste.

I did not invent this concept, it’s been going around the web for awhile now. Most of the ones I’ve seen are made out of paper and paper is just fine but using leather makes it a little longer lasting (plus we wouldn’t have a sample sewing exercise so I wouldn’t have anything to write about). There is also a cute one you can make out of discarded lotion bottles.

Since I didn’t have any dimensions to go by, all I’d seen was a kit you buy, I cut a rough rectangle out of oaktag, punched a hole in both ends and figured I’d reiterate from there. That worked out pretty well, I measured it after the fact and it was roughly 9″ long. To neaten things up, I made the final pattern 2″ wide but I’m thinking it could be narrower than that. By all means, lather, rinse and repeat to suit yourself.

From there I laid the final pattern on the leather and traced it out as shown below:


In the typical course of affairs, you’d trace the pattern, cut it out and then sew it. We’re not going to do that. No no. We’ll trace it out, sew it and then cut it out. In the photo below, you can see I didn’t do so well on those little circles.


But hey, it’s a first mock up, not even so grand as to be designated a proto. Consider this portion of the exercise as a matter of making sure you’re using the right needle size (I wasn’t, I had to upgrade to a size 14 for this double layer of garment weight pig suede) and that you’re using the right foot (as coincidence would have it, the foot fell off!) but it still ended up okay.

It is only after you’ve sewn it that you cut it out. That way you can get very close to the stitching and everyone will marvel at how precise your stitching is, ha ha.


cellphone_first_proto_finishedAnd last but not least, is a photo (right) of how this crude mock up came out.

Normally, I wouldn’t show something like this but I thought it would be good for you to see how organic and crude the process of design, pattern and construction iteration can be in real life. Which is not to say that there won’t be a plethora of tutorials on this all over the web next week, in prettied up photos from people who actually have wall paper or designer outlets and of course, no attribution assigned. Such is life.

Anyway, once you have some confidence in handling the materials, you can graduate to doing something prettier such as the white one I made that I opened with. I may give that to Martha on her birthday since she doesn’t read the blog. With that one I used scalloping scissors, all metal ones, not the plastic-y ones from the craft store. They don’t make the metal ones anymore but regular pinking shears would give a nice edge too. The holes I created with a die I bought at Tandy years ago. I think it makes 1/8″ holes but you have to hammer it (use a mallet or sewing hammer).

Stay tuned next week when we’ll make leather coasters!

PS. Mr. Fashion-Incubator walked in during the proofing of this post and he says OSHA would say “NO!” and that “the fire marshall would have an aneurysm”. So there you go. You can have the awesomest idea ever and it won’t fly because it could burn your house down. Alternatively, you’ll have to figure out a way to make your project safer.

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  1. Sandy Peterson says:

    Leave it to, Eric, to put a damper on things! Lol! Thanks, Kathleen, very interesting idea. And again, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

  2. Chantelle says:

    thank you for this, I also hate doing practice pieces with no practical use. So for someone like me who is dipping their toes into the world of leather sewing this is a great starting point.

  3. Susan Wright says:

    Kathleen … You probably have no idea just how validating it is seeing you mess up sewing those little circles. Try as I might, sewing accurately is hard since I don’t do it enough to get really good at it. Thank you for sharing, warts and all.

  4. Kathleen says:

    Susan: I hope it is validating, that was kind of my point. It takes some practice to do holes that small (3/4″). These were very difficult because it was hard to see the lines (black on red). The white was much easier. I didn’t want to spoil the empowerment vibe by posting photos of the white because they were close to perfect. FYI, shorten the stitch for tight curves like these.

    Leila: These are garment weight leathers so you need a comparatively small needle. Leather needles are best (triangle shaped tips to cut holes) but I don’t have any that fit this machine so I made do with a 14. I sewed this on my needle feed machine as opposed to the walking foot. The walking foot doesn’t want to work elegantly on suedes, it just want to plow forward, chewing through however many layers.

    I like to use a teflon foot for sewing garment weight leathers. In fact, I never take it off this particular machine. The last alternative that I didn’t try was another single needle I have with a roller foot. Those are pretty cool. Atlas Levy posted a video for those if anyone is interested.

  5. Kay says:

    I’m going to sit over here in the corner with Mr. F-I, and we can discuss strangely started fires, emphasis electrical. It’s so much fun to wake up in the middle of the night and discover your bed is on fire from a shorted outlet — thank goodness for wool blankets!

    But I would suggest you could velcro the holder to the wall wart without provoking major issues with the local firefighters — at least if the holder is light weight and isn’t carrying much weight when loaded.

  6. Natasha E says:

    Y’know I would be in to this idea if I can figure out a way to adapt it for charging my kindle so it doesn’t accidentally fall into the toilet or crushed by my foot when I wake up in the middle of the night. (FYI Amazon has a very generous replacement policy)

  7. Eric H says:

    Fire inspectors generally pan power strips because the unused sockets will accumulate dust and debris. By itself, dust may not be a problem. But get it a little moist and now you have a conductive mass that could heat up and ignite. Once it ignites, it can become a floating ball of cinders.

    Before engaging in solutions like this, a Failure Mode Effects Analysis (FMEA) is useful. You don’t just think about what happens to the leather, you think about the jack and socket and how the leather changes the design of how they work. The leather prevents the jack from being inserted all the way into the socket. Is poor contact a potential problem? Can you guarantee that debris will not accumulate in the volume between the prongs and the leather? What happens when the leather gets wet?

    Sorry, I don’t believe in messing around with household mains electricity, where possible unintended consequences include “fire” and “death”.

  8. Theresa in Tucson says:

    There is a device that does the same thing, (hold a cell phone while charging), but it is made of plastic and either the plug slips through a hole in the plastic or the entire device plugs into the wall and the charger plug plug into that. I think I’ve seen them in the office supply stores or maybe even WalMart, so the device is not new. For power strips, I like the ones that mount sideways against the leg of the desk instead of the ones that sit on the floor. Thanks for the new acronym, FMEA, Eric.

  9. M-C says:

    Mmm. Not sure about the flammability, as I have many plugs with a round part that sticks out (a scientific term) to hold the prongs and so the hole could be made that size and the holder never get close between the plug and the outlet. These would be larger holes too, so easier to sew, although I heartily second your stitching recommendation :-). I’d like to point out though that both my phones plug in on the side, which makes the devices significantly more cumbersome.
    Happy birthday anyway, it sounds like at least you had fun :-).

  10. Quincunx says:

    Those are European plugs [type C or E or F]. North American power outlets are flush with the wall [type A or B–the picture above is a B], no depression to hold the round (or oval, or flattened hexagonal) sticky-outy-thingy. I like the European plugs. The nice round prongs are the least like a caltrop when you accidentally step on one with bare feet. I have unwillingly extensively tested this. :(

  11. David B says:

    This http://www.amazon.com/Leviton-47112-W-Decora-Mobile-Station/product-reviews/B007FTGF8A/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

    combined with this http://www.amazon.com/Leviton-T5630-W-Tamper-Resistant-Receptacle-125-Volt/dp/B008O11IEY/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1371554153&sr=8-6&keywords=Charging+outlet+with+cradle

    and this http://www.amazon.com/Leviton-80409-W-Wallplate-Standard-Thermoset/dp/B00006JPO6/ref=pd_bxgy_hi_img_z

    should provide an option that would meet fire and safety codes.

    I like the idea of the paper/leather project, but agree with the engineer that too often these imaginative improvisations have undesirable and unforeseen consequences. In this case the consequences could be serious (i.e., fire, death).

  12. Colleen says:

    Happy Belated Birthday, Kathleen, I hope you enjoyed the day.

    I like the idea, but even before reading Eric’s post, was concerned it might be a fire hazard. Something on my mind since moving into a pre-war apartment in Brooklyn!

  13. Christine says:

    I took classes in designing and making leather garments many moons ago with a teacher who made leather garments for the movie industry. (His former boss was head of the design room for North Beach Leather – us design students got a tour once…. what fun!). He actually did not recommend using leather needles for garments. You just get bigger holes in your garment. He just used heavyweight sharp needles (like 14s and 16s) and a 3-4 stitch length.

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