Leather is a comfortable raw material. It is soft and pliable and can be molded into anything that you desire to make. This is why over the years it has captured the fantasies of designers and artisans alike. Some of the wildest designs have been brought to life because of this extraordinary property of leather. Hence it was no surprise when leather was subjected to a technique as routine as braiding to make it look better. And look better it did! The ancient art form of braiding looks fascinating on leather and is actually easier to do than it looks.
Braiding is primarily highlighted in the Spring Summer collection since it is used to create several patterns which are in line with the playful tone of the season. In fact, braiding was one of the primary techniques used in several bags from Chanel’s Spring Summer 2017 collection. As justified by several fashion houses, the technique of braiding has taken the fringe trend one step forward by adding more character to the handbag.
Over the years, several celebrities like Rihanna and Taylor Swift have used a small braided handbag as their go to accessory due to its chic design which adds a statement to any outfit. Several big fashion houses like Altuzarra, Coach and Michael Kors use braiding in only certain elements of the bag, for eg: handles, tassels or as an additional accessory.
Eské has dialed the technique up by a notch and used their expertise to manufacture bags with a braided front panel. Moreover, Eské is the only brand in the fashion space to use the unique technique of Noshi braiding for their handbags. This braiding technique uses colour blocking with 2 to 3 different coloured leather strips used to make the front panel of the bag.
The primary reason to use the technique of braiding was to create subtle variations in texture that add a lot of visual interest to a design. However, the property of braiding to optimize the original strength, flexibility and the thickness of the material translated to leather as well. One of the easiest way to braid leather is to start by using one of the fringe cutting techniques and then braid, because that way on one end of the braid, the individual strips are already attached and won’t need to be held in place by another finishing method. Braiding will take up some of the length of your leather, which needs to be taken into account for. It usually causes a length shrinkage of around ¼ depending on the thickness of the leather and the width of the strips.
Braiding also causes a width shrinkage which varies with the thickness of the leather. Often while braiding leather, you will think that you have created something that looks a bit messy, with a lot of twists in the strands. Don’t panic. There is order under all that chaos. As you add more and more strands while braiding leather, the structure of the braids begins to look a bit more like weaving, and you can create wide strips with interesting patterns.
Braiding with an even number of strands is always better than braiding with an odd number since it adds more balance to the design and makes it easier for the user to go about the process. While using this technique, one should always keep the grain side of the leather up and the tension on the strands equal as you braid so the weave looks even. Four strand braids will reduce the original length of the laces by about a third. Different types of braiding techniques can be employed to create various patterns and styles on a handbag.
Making the perfect braid
For example, it is advisable to use a round braid in places where you will be able to see both sides of the braid because round braids look good from any angle. If you want to incorporate a free hanging braid into your project you need to find a way to finish the end of the braid so it won’t unravel. There are a few different ways to do this. They are all a little tricky, so if you can find a way to incorporate braiding into a project where both ends are hidden inside seams it will make things simpler.
If you do want to try a hanging braid, you can either keep the strands of the braid free at the end or cap the braid so you don’t see the loose ends. If you are ok with seeing the ends of the lacing, you can wrap thread or another piece of lacing around the end of the braid almost the way you would with a hair tie at the end of a hair braid. If you use lacing or a strip of leather here, you need to sew together or glue down the ends of the lacing. It can look a bit more professional, however, to cap the ends of the braid with a larger piece of leather.
You can do this with a two-piece cap if you want to create a shaped end, or one piece folded over to create a flat end.
- First apply glue to the individual strands of the braid, or punch holes in them and sew them together.
- Then trim the ends to a neat shape.
- Cut one or two pieces of leather to form the cap you want to create.
- If you are using one piece, glue the cap down over the end of the braid, sandwiching the laces, then use one of the punching methods we’ve learned to punch sewing holes through all three layers.
- If you are making a two-piece cap, sew the front edge of the cap first, glue it over the braid and punch the rest of the holes.
- Sew the cap onto the braid with a saddle stitch and voila!
There you have it. Your perfect braid.
The evolution of design and leather as a raw material has always been parallel and overlapping at times to form something beautiful and extraordinary. Braiding of leather is one such example where an ordinary technique incorporated with an extraordinary raw material like leather has created something which will stand the test of time in the fashion world.