The process of working on leather mosaic is tedious, but creative. The elaborate designs may take months to reach their final stage. The designer starts by developing ornamental patterns and choosing color combinations of leather and threads. When the design is finished, it is cut and, then, stitched by hand by professional embroiderers. Depending on the complexity of the mosaic and the type of product, it can take from 2 weeks to 5 months to complete. When the mosaic is ready, it is stretched for a day or two. After that the mosaic itself is incorporated into the specific item (boot, bag, pillow, jacket, belt, etc.).
Creating design and patterns.
- Prepare the detailed draft in color of desired patterns and overall design of as a color sketch. The thorough consideration of layout and combination of leather colors and silk threads are important to a satisfactory outcome. We will lead you through the steps of creating the mosaic itself only; it will be up to your imagination and creativity to incorporate mosaic further in an actual item.
- You may want to start with simple leatherwork, for example, a small wall decoration or purse.
- Choose patterns from Tatar ornament templates -it needs to be real-life size and in color. It will help you visualize the project all the way through and coordinate all pieces easily. Tip: Keep your template handy, it will be needed at the final stage for stretching the crafted piece.
Preparing leather, thread, tools
- When looking for leather, try to visit the supplier yourself first to touch and see the best options available. Once the supplier knows that your standards are high, you can mail order. Valerie Michael offers a list of trusted leather suppliers in the book “The leatherworking handbook” . You can also find the information here.
- Obtain leather pieces and scraps with a thickness between 1/32 – 3/64 inches (or 0.9-1.1 mm).
- Tip: Here is a simple trick on how to know if the leather piece is suitable for creating a mosaic structure: squeeze the leather piece in your hand for several seconds. When released, the leather should remain smooth without visible lines and wrinkles.
- The leather color choices are dependable on the ornamental design, structure of patterns or availability.
- The size of leather may not be big. You may decide to use colorful scraps of leather.
- When storing the leather pieces, make sure that the temperature is around 20C /70F. You can either roll the leather piece and lay it horizontally or hang it on a round wooden bar.
Kazan stitch requires two types of thread: polychrome or synthetic polyester, and embroidery or silk. Silk thread is used for stitches that are visible on the face side of the mosaic. Silk threads are arranged in twisted spirals: It gives a distinctive and beautiful contour between parts of ornaments. Thorough consideration of embroidery threads’ color palette is important when designing the whole item. Polychrome thread is the hidden core for the spirals of the embroidery thread. Its purpose is to hold the leather patterns and spirals of the embroidery thread tightly together.
- Look for the highest quality of polychrome and silk threads. They are available in any craft store.
- The size of polychrome thread should be between 18 (up to 6 cords) and 30 (3 cords). Choose a darker color. One reel is sufficient for one project.
- Pick the colors of silk threads according to the ornamental design. Consider buying up to 3 reels of each.
- Have beeswax handy: It is needed to coat the polychrome thread in order to protect the thread and make stitches stronger. It is sold in small blocks and is available in craft shops.
Following tools are required: Awl for stitching (look for size 57 mm (2 ¼ in), which are available in most craft stores); knife (look for craft knifes with a shortened blade for precision cutting-a contour rotary cutter might be better fit for cutting longer lines); needle (look for size 4 egg-eyed harness needle). Spindle ( to twist the silk thread to produce spirals); cutting board (look for self-healing cutting board). Wooden stitching stock with leather strap serves as a working platform for stitching. The leather strap would tightly hold the working leather surface, so they do not move while stitching. There are two types of wooden stock:
full size placed on the floor (photo on left: The pressure that pulls the strap and pushes the wooden plank on the bottom of the stock is applied by foot)
compact size placed on the workbench (photo on right: It is mounted on the table. The leather strap is the same as in the full size model. The pressure is provided by pulling the lower end of the strap by foot. The compact tool can be reproduced by professional carpenter).
Cutting leather patterns
Have the following ready: pre-cut paper ornamental patterns, leather pieces of selected colors, sharp knife cutting board, pen, masking tape, good light and a firm, flat surface.
- Take one leather piece of chosen color, and position it on the board with face side down either from head to tail or from side to side, never diagonally.
- Tape the leather with masking tape to the board.
- Trace one pattern at a time with pen.
- Keeping the knife upright, cut through the leather by exerting firm, downward pressure. Be sure to hold the leather and the paper cutout firmly with one hand and make cutting strokes as smooth as possible. For long, straight lines use rotary cutter.
- When done cutting out each pattern, place on the workbench. Tip: Make sure that all bigger parts of the planned items (like background) are placed in one direction (preferably vertically). Place bigger patterns closer to the center of the leather, place smaller details closer to the edges of the leather cut.
Assembling leather patterns
Have the following ready: leather patterns, pen, good light and a firm, flat surface
- Assemble leather patterns in the chosen ornamental design. You may want to re-evaluate the color palette and make changes for thread color choices upon looking at actual mosaic.
- Place the assembled ornament with backside up. In order to avoid unnecessary shifting of the patterns when stitching, the inner side of the ornament needs to be marked.
- Mark small perpendicular lines every ½ inch (15 mm) on straight cuts or every ¼ inch (5 mm) on curved lines
Preparing the embroidery thread
Have the following ready: wooden spindle, 3 reels of silk thread of chosen color, floor space available for spinning the spindle.
- Measure about 2 yd. (1.5 m) of silk thread of one color. Cut it from the reel and lay out on the workbench. Repeat the procedure 3-5 times depending on the thickness of the thread. You will end up having up to 5 lines of colored silk thread.
- Hold loose threads’ tips together and make a loop around spindle to secure the threads.
- Hold unsecured end of embroidery thread with one hand and twist it until it places itself in spirals around the spindle.
- Continue spinning until the silk threads end.
Threading the needle and awl
Have the following ready: awl, darning needle, polychrome thread, good lighting
- Cut 40 inches of polychrome thread.
- Thread the darning needle with it. Make knot at the end. Beeswax it and leave it on the workbench.
- Take the spool of polychrome thread again and cut shorter this time. The thread should be about 20 inches.
- Thread the needle that is part of the awl. Fix the thread and coat the thread with a layer of beeswax
Hand stitching the patterns
Have the following ready: stitching stock, awl, darning needle, embroidery thread, polychrome thread, good light, time and concentration.
- Place two leather details backside up on the top of the stitching stock so that the edges that to be stitched are on the center of the stock.
- Place the leather strap so that the area that needs to be stitched is in the center of the stitching stock and in the middle of leather strap.
- Provide sufficient pressure with your leg, when pressing the leather strap. Hold the pressure.
- Take the spindle with twisted embroidery thread, make the knot at the loose end and place it under the closest leather strap.
- Take the threaded awl with dominant hand and poke a hole in one detail (Figure 1).
- Make three circles around the awl’s needle
- Poke a hole on the other detail, so the 3 scrolls of embroidery thread are between two details. Hold the awl such that the needle and polychrome thread are sticking on the other end of the detail (Figure 3).
- Take darning needle with non-dominant hand, fit it in the space between awl needle and polychrome thread, and draw out the thread that belongs to darning needle (Figure 4).
- Now you have the polychrome threads on both sides of the stitching stock: one with darning needle, another with awl needle. Tighten the stitch by pulling left-and right until it is tight and strong (Figure 5).
- Finish up the working leather section by repeating steps 5 through 9. When you finish up stitching the section, release the foot pressure and arrange the next section as mentioned in Step 1 and Step 2.
- When the details are stitched together, fix the threads by making knots.
Stretching mosaic leather
Have the following ready: wooden plank, hammer, stapler, sprayer with water.
- Liberally wet the back side of the mosaic with the sprayer. If there is an excessive amount of water, gather it with sponge.
- On wooden plank, which should be a bit larger than the mosaic, place the paper template.
- Place wet leather mosaic backside up on the template and start stretching the mosaic gently.
- Starting from the corners of the item, partially hammer the nails onto edges of the leatherwork. The distance between the nails is up to your discretion. The goal is to stretch the piece so it looks naturally smooth.
- Let the leather mosaic dry for a day. Make sure there is no direct sun or sources of heat close by. If the mosaic still looks wrinkled when it is dry, you may need to repeat the process over again.