How to Embroider a Leather and Ribbon Belt

comments (6) November 8th, 2008     

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JenniferStern Jennifer Stern, contributor
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Tie the ribbons in front for a pretty complement to the embroidery!
Or tie a bow behind for a graceful back view.
Thread the ribbon through one side and wrap both ends around to the other side, tying with a bow or knot.
Tie the ribbons in front for a pretty complement to the embroidery!

Tie the ribbons in front for a pretty complement to the embroidery!

Photo: Jen Stern

This embroidered leather ribbon belt is perfect for gift giving—or treat yourself to a little luxe! When it comes to accessorizing my wardrobe, I'm a little inept, but I love belts. All you have to do is buckle or tie one on and you're instantly pulled together! I designed a leather and ribbon belt that can dress up eveything from jeans to your favorite chiffon tunic. The great part is that it can be worn high at empire waist level, cinched around your waist, or low on your hip. Tie the silk ribbons behind your back or wrap them around to the front for a pretty complement to the embroidery. I was inspired by an article I saw featuring costume-jewelry bracelets that were made into belts by attaching ribbons to the ends...this is a great idea, too! If you have any such treasures, you can use them instead of the embroidered leather for a little more sparkle! If you are going to embroider your center medallion, use one of the designs you already have or visit for the design I used here. A great source for silk ribbons is Hannah Silk Ribbons.

Here's what you'll need:

  • Two small pieces of leather (One should be heavier uphostery weight (for embroidery) and one should be lightweight (for backing). Both should be at least 3 inches x 7 inches to accommodate the embroidery design.)
  • Embroidery design
  • Polyester embroidery thread (rayon frays and breaks more easily)
  • Metallic embroidery thread (optional to add a little sparkle)
  • Heavy cut-away stabilizer
  • 505 Temporary Adhesive Spray
  • Small sharp scissors
  • Seam ripper
  • Craft knife
  • All-purpose sewing thread to match the leather
  • 4 yards of hand-dyed silk ribbon (or ribbons of your choice)

If you have embroidery software that allows you to digitize your own original designs, this would be a great project to practice with. Here is my sketch that I used to create the embroidery for the leather. I used a template that had various sized circles to make my design.

The sketch I used to digitize the design.
In the end, I adjusted the circles as I went along. If you are working with a symmetrical design, you can digitize one side and then copy/paste the objects to the other side of the design—half the work!

Once you import the design to your embroidery machine, put in a size 12 leather or metallica needle. Hoop a heavy cut-away stabilizer and use temporary adhesive spray to stick the scrap of leather into the hoop. Put the hoop on the machine.

use temporary adhesive spray to get the leather in the hoop
This is a great way to use up small pieces of leather you may have hanging around!

Embroider the design. If you have a baste in the hoop feature, use it! Normally when you're working with leather you wouldn't because of the holes that are left by the needle. For this project, we are going to trim away the leather around the design, so it's okay to baste—the holes won't affect the final project.

embroidered design
Basting in the hoop holds the leather to the stabilizer really well.

Trim all your threads on the top and back side of the embroidery design with small sharp scissors. If you clip the bobbin thread behind the basting stitches, the top thread will pull out easily.

use a seam ripper to remove the basting stitches
Use a seam ripper instead of scissors to get the small basting stitches out.

The next step is to remove the stabilizer. If you used my embroidery design, the heavy cut-away stabilizer will tear away easily because of all the perforations made along the edge by the needle. (I used a bold backstitched outline.) If you are using another design, gently pull at the stabilizer to test if it will rip. If it doesn't tear away easily, use small sharp scissors to trim very close to the outside edge of the design.

remove the stabilizer
Don't worry about the sticky residue left by the adhesive spray. It will either be covered by the backing or trimmed away.

Place the leather that will be used for the backing face down on a paper towel. Spray it with temporary adhesive and stick it to the wrong side of the embroidered leather, covering up the bobbin threads.

Stick the backing leather on with temporary adhesive spray
I used fancy gold leather, but any lightweight leather or Ultrasuede will work nicely.

Change to all-purpose thread and program your sewing machine with a short straight stitch (1.5 to 2.0 mm). Stitch around the outside edge of the embroidery design, about 1/8 inch from the outline. Use an open-toe foot so you can see where you are stitching.

stitch around the outer edge to hold the two pieces of leather together
Take your time when you are stitching the leather pieces together so you get a nice smooth outline. The shorter stitch length will make it easy to fold the curves.

To make loops to thread the ribbons through, stitch around the inside edge of the crescent-shaped spaces at each end of the embroidery design.

Stitch around the inside edge of the crescent shapes
If you are using your own embroidery design, stitch a loop shape in the leather on each side of the design. Make sure to connect the stitching to the embroidery design.

Use a craft knife to slice an opening in the crescent shape. Make sure it's big enough to get the tips of your small sharp scissors into.

Use a craft knife to slice a hole in the crescent shape.
Working on a cutting surface, press down with the knife, and be careful not to slice through your embroidery!

Use small sharp scissors to cut a smooth opening large enough to thread the ribbon through. Don't worry if your opening didn't come out perfect...the ribbon will hide most of the cut edge.

Cut an opening in the leather so you can thread the ribbon through
Cut an opening that will be large enough for the ribbon the fit through.

All you have left to do is thread the ribbon through the openings. Check out all the different ways you can use the ribbon at the beginning of the post!

thread the ribbon through the openings

posted in: wearable, embroidery, leather, ribbon, belt

Comments (6)

fabulous writes: I really like the way that belt looks, its very different.
I am impressed, I must try it too.
Posted: 12:45 am on January 13th
Love_it writes: Thank you for making this piece printable without an printer error codes and not extra pages that print blank.

I love this project. do you have more?
Posted: 2:42 pm on December 17th
Nannysc writes: How lovely ~ Thank you for sharing, with such detailed instructions. I have not yet tried machine embroidery on leather but can't wait to try this one!!! Thanks again!
Posted: 7:28 pm on November 30th
JenniferStern writes: Thanks guys...If you don't have an embroidery machine, you could draw a linked circle design, cut two out of soft leather and sew them together (wrong sides facing)...Add some ribbon and you have a non-embroidered version!
Posted: 1:46 pm on November 9th
erika_kern writes: How Glamorous! Everytime you post a project it makes me wish I had an embroidery machine. . . one other than my own hands. . . but yeah, that belt is fab!
Posted: 8:31 pm on November 8th
Divinitrix writes: Sooooo Nice! I never thought about using leather with my embroidery machine...would have thought it too heavy for such. Great Idea - I must try
Posted: 8:08 am on November 8th
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