1. cutting mat
4. alphabet stamps for leather
5. hole punch (2mm)
6. stamp handle
7. rotary cutter (or tapestry knife)
10. polymer cutting board or a wooden cutting board (not shown in the photos)
Cut your piece of leather into strips and cut each strip into several tags. My initials hat tag is 85mm long and 12mm wide. I also make other sizes depending on what kind of garment I am using them on. When making tags for hats I let the brim of the hat decide how wide and long the tag should be. For slippers I make a wider tag, and so on. I use the same rotary cutter I use for fabrics, a metal ruler and a cutting mat to protect my kitchen countertop.
You need to moisten the leather before stamping, this is called casing. There are two basic methods of casing, surface-casing and thru-casing. Which method is best depends on the thickness and size of your leather to be stamped. If it is a heavy weight leather and a big piece, you should use the thru-casing method. If the leather is lightweight and small you can use the surface-casing method.
My leather tags are small pieces of lightweight leather so I have used the surface-casing method. Surface-casing is when you wet the leather with a sponge on the skin-side of the surface. I however, did it on both the skinned side and on the flesh side (yes, I experimented a bit). Fill a glass bowl or a plastic container with water (metal containers can cause the leather to stain). With clean hands, apply the water as evenly as you can and dry of excess water that forms on top of the leather, (I have not done that yet in the photo above).
The rule of thumb is that if the leather is to dry when stamping, you will have to use excessive force and the leather will not accept the stamp impressions (This is exactly what I experienced with my first initials hat). If the leather is too wet it will form deep initial impressions, but will not retain the impression after it has dried. Try to moisten only the leather you are going to use there and then. If not you might have to re-moisten the leather too many times (which is not good).
When the leather begins to return to its natural colour, but still feels moist to the touch; begin stamping.
Stamping the letters
Place a polymer or wooden cutting board on a firm surface like a table or kitchen countertop. Place the leather on your cutting board, which will be your work surface. Place the letter stamps on your leather. Place the stamp handle in one of the letter stamps.
Make sure you hold the handle down firmly while striking with the mallet. If you are stamping more than one letter, place the stamp handle on the other letter, place it on the leather and repeat the procedure.
Use the hole-punch to make holes in the tag. Place the hole-punch where you would like the holes and strike with the mallet (but not as hard as when you were letter stamping). Your are now ready to sew your tag onto your knitted garment.
There are several alphabet stamp fonts. I bought the bottom one in Barcelona this fall, but I think my favourite is the one in the top. There are many different fonts and sizes in leather shops, hopefully you can find one that is right for your project.
If you decide to make an initials tag after reading this tutorial, and you blog about it, I would be happy if you link back to this post, as thanks. Oh, and please let us know what you plan to use the tag on, to continue the upward-inspiration-spiral. Thank you!
To read more about casting leather, visit this article by B. J. (Kirk) Kuykendall