Amanda Cooper is a California native, an avid board rider, and a vintage clothing/photography fanatic. She has spent more than 10 years as a professional art director and designer and recently founded a vintage clothing & California lifestyle brand, The Sunset Sessions. The Sunset Sessions’ online shop carries California designers’ vintage clothing (including swim and surfwear), ranging in years from the 60s to 90s, and specializes in very rare and custom leather goods. The shop also sells exclusive wardrobe pieces from professional photography shoots. Most recently, Amanda has created a line of handmade custom leather cuffs made from recycled leather jackets, vintage circa 1960-80. Each individual cuff is handmade and 100 percent unique. Since we love a lady who can work with leather, we asked her to break down the process for us.
STEP 1: Getting Started
The idea is to find a solid durable jacket to use for scrap when making recycled designs, and I often find that the older weathered jackets and/or those with rare colors, irregular surface grains or wearing, or unique stitching often make for incredibly cool authentic cuff designs. As a vintage shop owner who specializes in leather, I obviously have jackets available for purchase, but there are many other sources for used, vintage leather jackets from online and brick-and-mortar shops, markets and other personal/friend/family collections. I try to carry very-high quality category vintage items in store, but there are many old used leather jackets out there which are really awesome designs but, sadly, have been affected by signs of wear or improper storage. In this case, these pieces make for great recycled scrap material because there is plenty of untainted area to play with. There are also different gauges (thickness) of leather; it’s easier to work with the thinner gauge leathers to start — the cutting is smoother and faster, and you can get away with simpler tools or snaps, rivets. In this demo, I am using a suede leather jacket which is around 7-8 oz.
You will want to have an open, uncluttered, smooth hard surface area to work with, which can support heavy hammering (not glass or carpet).
You will also need:
– Leather jacket
– X-acto knife (for smaller gauge leather) industrial knife for (thicker gauge; ie. motorcycle grade jackets)
– Line 20 or 24 (diff. size circumference; dep. on cuff width) Nickel-plated snaps for the closures –or you can use screw posts for the super thick gauge jackets
– Self-healing cutting mats for cutting/working (and incorporates ruler)
– Metal T-square ruler
– Leather dye (if you want to dye leather) – I ONLY use non-toxic and all-natural dyes (much safer for your skin; healthier for environment) & rubber work gloves and disposable mixing bowl
– Decorative studs (if you want added to design)
– Leather tools:
– Setting tool for placing eyelets, snaps, grommets
– Leather punch tool for punching holes
– Leather palette tool for securing decorative studs
STEP 2: Find your angle
I am using a 1960s era boho-style suede leather jacket for this demo. The front pockets and sleeves have a really cool braided stitch pattern, which would make for really unique scraps for a bigger piece like a clutch. Since I am making a cuff and want a straight, flat piece, I am going for the bottom side edge of the coat—which offers a long narrow straight open panel to trim off. And still allows most of the jacket to remain for a lot of scrap material for other projects.
STEP 3: Trim it out
I am making this particular one sized at: 2″ wide x 8″ long. (It can accommodate most male and/or female wrists.) I use the T-square and self-healing mats to ensure accuracy in measurements and perfect straight cuts.
STEP 4 and 5: Cut
This is a fringed design; so I am cutting long slits down center to create three leather bands from one cuff.
STEP 6: Dye it up
It’s time to submerge the leather in the dye. (I typically allow the dye to set overnight, but this process should typically take a minimum of 3 hours to settle and dry.) There are all kinds of great leather dye colors out there; or you can even get creative by developing your own colors and textures. *This part is another one of my secrets, I have a few tricks up my sleeve for allowing random, individual pattern variation and/or textures in the surface of my cuff designs, which makes for these really unique pieces.
STEP 7-9: Dry and set everything in place
Once the dye is settled and fully dry, I’ll set the nickel-plated snaps in place. (Photo 8 above shows you the tools required.)
I add TWO sets of snaps to the closure, because I allow for different widths of wrist sizes (for different circumferences of wrists and to accommodate both men, women.)
STEP 10: Cut, again
Here, I cut the grooves in the leather for the studs with the X-acto knife; then use the palette tool to secure the back sides of the studs in place.
STEP 11: Try it on
Voila!!! All done. Here are a few images of models featuring various cuffs from latest lookbook from The Sunset Sessions Spring ’13 shoot:
These special leather items are also available for purchase in the store. To shop vintage clothing and/or keep up with The Sunset Sessions, please check out:
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