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For Christmas, Olive has been working on custom leather patches for her siblings. She’s adding the patches to hats. She is halfway done with the project and I think they’re turning out really, really great! It’s been fun to see how easy it is to burn the leather. I can imagine making all sort of designs — initials, silhouettes or patterns — to create cool leather patches. Fun to embellish a wooly scarf or a totebag or even a baseball cap.

[ UPDATE: Olive has finished the project, so I’ve added in more photos to this post. ]

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1) Start by assembling your materials. The only thing unusual you’ll need is a heated crafting tool. There are lots of different brands and they’re available at pretty much any craft or hardware store. I picked up this Dremel VersaTip at True Value (of course) for about $20.

custom leather patch DIY

You’ll also need leather. For ours, Olive and I stopped at at Goodwill and picked up this $5 leather purse. We also picked up a collection assorted hats in cotton and wool for everybody in the family. (Yes, our family has endured lice before, so yes, we thoroughly cleaned them when we got home.) Getting our materials at Goodwell made this an eco-friendly project too.

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In addition to a heated tool, leather and hats, we also used a stencil and pen for lettering — but if you have good handwriting, you could totally freehand it.

custom leather patch DIY

2) Since I’d never used a heated craft tool before, or worked with leather much, I experimented on a small patch of the purse to get comfortable with the different tool tips. Then I taught Olive. (Tip: use pliers to change the tips if the tool is hot. Don’t get burned!)

custom leather patch DIY

3) Once we had our materials assembled and felt comfortable with the tool, we got to work. We started by tracing a circle on a piece of the purse leather and cutting it out.

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4) We decided to personalize the patches with each person’s birth year. We used the stencil and pen to get the numbers onto the leather.

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5) Then we went over the pen marks with the very hot craft tool to burn the numbers into the leather. (Note: the heat will make the leather curl a bit, and the smell is strong. Work with ventilation.)

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6) Custom patch is done! Time to secure it to the hat with embroidery floss and the biggest, sharpest craft needle I had in my multi-pack. Getting the needle through the leather was tough but doable. Olive still has 4 hats to go, so we’re still experimenting with different knots and stitches. If needle and thread aren’t your thing, I know there are glues/adhesives specifically for leather out there.

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Here’s the process one more time on Ben Blair’s hat. Stencil. Burn. Stitch.

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Here’s an overlapping patch we used for Ralph’s hat.

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And that’s it. I’m so pleased with this project. Again, it was fun to experiment with a new tool and I feel confident more custom leather projects are in our future. I’ll be sure to update this post with the rest of Olive’s hats when they’re finished. [ Update: I’ve added all the pictures now that Olive is finished. ]

What about you? Have you ever worked with burned leather before? Does it look too complex to you, or would you want to try it? If you were making custom patches what would add them to — backpacks? shoes? lunchbags? party favor hats?

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Need more sibling gift ideas? We made several fun projects this year: Monogram MugsBleached Out TeesBottlecap Magnets and Photo Snowglobes. You can also find a list of projects from past Christmases here.

P.S. — Thanks to the True Value Blog Squad for helping me be brave enough to try something new.

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