Braiding … Flat lace braids … 2 month’s previous

There’s about 2 months of flat braiding to recap, so I’m not sure what or how long this one will hold…

First of all, parts / strands / thong / lace are interchangeable.  Plait / Braid / Weave should essentially be interchangeable too.  As far as I can tell, cowboys / spanish / sailors / boyscouts all use slightly different terms for the same things. Also, note; when talking pricing, I’ve got a business discount for my tax ID. 

Now for my story … It started with making handle covers.

As with anything, when you are ADHD, it takes on a whole new life of it’s own when you first start and the sky is the limit.  I was all over Google images for two weeks trying to figure out what can be done.  Then all over the forums of the various leather places for what it took to make the beautiful patterns I had been seeing.

Of course the recurring theme, was start small and cheap!  Then the multitudes of different specializations were starting to become apparent.  Like decorative braiding versus functional.  From there, I was trying to decide flat braid, with the beveled edges or the fuller styles of braiding that did not lay flat.  After that, I had to decide if I was going to buy a whole hide and shave it down, with another set of techniques to master there or just buy pre-made lace.

Well, I wander down to the local Tandy’s and Johan points me out to the Imperial Lace / Pro Lace, which are a fourth and a third of the cost of a 100% real of leather lace.  Additional you get more lace to play with even despite the cheaper cost.  Now, Imperial lace is like a foamy substance that sucks to work with in braiding unless you leave it on the reel, but great for starting out and doing edge lacing.  The Pro Lace is pretty amazing for the cost!  It also is shiny and makes beautiful projects.  I use it in all edge lacing over real leather, as the strength is not an issue.  It does tend to scar a bit fast than the real leather.  With ProLace I find that when you do the braids, the important part of making sure they turn out pretty is …

  • Anchor it with a clamp to your table or a braiding stand
  • Use a ring or another piece of something stiff to start the item out, leather sinew or rope can work, but is harder to use
  • Braid management is key to even braids after getting started.  Always use the same pressure when pulling the braids tight.  From there, two schools of thought exist on the angle to pull.  Some people prefer to pull side ways for tighter sitting braids.  Other people prefer to pull down to the entire braid stretches less later on in the life of the braid.  Then there is the stiff method.  First I pull the strand extra hard down at a 45 degree angle.  Then I pulling across all strands away from the braid almost completely horizontal, then I pull them all down, lastly pulling all of the strands up to lock them back in place and a final tightening.  This method can at 15 minutes to the braiding process, but makes a leather braid stiff enough to stand almost upright when held from the bottom on a 12″ piece of diamond braid.
  • There seems to be some experience with strand management.  I do not have this experience or still to impart on you, beyond the saddle soap shavings trick.  If someone has suggestions for dealing with strands/parts off of reels of leather and management of any strands, I would love to hear from you!  It is especially annoying to get near the end of the reel and all of these rounded cords bending in over each other.  With the bonded 1/8″ or wider ProLace, I tend to add just a light dash of neatsfoot oil to a cloth and wipe/pull the leather loosely to help rather than doing the saddle soap.  I am really on the fence about either one and recommend testing these yourself based on what you need from the braiding.

Back to the beginning, I go home with the Imperial Synthetic lace and spin off black and white sets in to “diamond braid” of various objects.  Some key tails, some key chains, some bracelets.  I did not have any key rings to mount, but started giving them out for free to other people to attach to their keys.  After a week, I’m out of the two reels.  I would take the 3.2 mm wide strands, with 4 strands of 72″ for 288″ total, with half of it white and half black.  This makes me about a 40″ piece of diamond braid.  These take about 20 minutes to weave and another 10 or 20 minutes to feed back in to themselves to form loops or handles.  This lasts me about a week and a half.

I like this key chain idea.  It will probably be everyone’s Christmas present.  I order from China 100 x 1/4″ split ring key holders and 40 x 1/4″ Lobster Clasps on swivels for $6 with free shipping.  These do not arrive for almost 2 months.  When they do arrive, the split ring key holders are too weak to use with a serious key chain & the lobster clasp’s have a rivet that sticks out a bit and might catch fabric or skin.  I have not had any issues with the lobster clasps myself, but was mildly freaked out that the rivet looked sloppy until I tested and could not get the rivet out without tools.

I then run down to Tandy’s again and grab myself a black ProLace 1/8″ wide reel along with a tan ProLace 3/32″ wide reel.  I realize my weaves can get much tighter with a smaller width leather.  So, I’m spinning off key chain tails and loops now, feeding one end into the other.

At this point, two things happen.

First, I realize the tan 3/32″ ProLace is not suitable for diamond braiding key chains as it’s too weak in strength and rips any time my finger nails gouge it.  I keep my finger nails short for guitar work.  It should be noted at this point I’m still playing with how tight or loose can you hold the leather lace while braiding, but needless to say anyone with more than 10 keys should not be using the 3/32″ wide ProLace.  It is explained to me by Matthew, another Tandy’s Leather guy, that ProLace is so cheap as it is “bonded leather“.  Essentially, when too much water or oil hits your braiding, it will lose a majority of its strength.

Second, I fall in love with the shiny bonded ProLace in the 1/8″ width. I start a 6 part braid with an Over 2, Under 1 then Over 1, Under 2 pattern.  I can not seem to finish it though and give up.  I look up paracord braiding out of frustration with finding a good guide for braiding 6 or more parts.  I find one for 6 & 8 parts.  I finish an eight part braid 12.5″ in length of the 1/8″ ProLace.  It started as 4 x 80″ lengths that I folded in half to form 8 x 40″ strands.  I am guessing it took about 6 hours to start and finish the braid.  I go and pick up two more in black and one in dark brown from Tandy’s Leather for about $35.  I pick up a thing of Superior Calf Lace for another $24.  Tandy’s Leather wants what I consider to be too high of price on their key rings at Tandy’s Leather.  I know now, that it is worth the cost if you are using real leather or ProLace 1/8” so the ring quality is as good as the leather you are working with…learning experience had right there!  To be specific, the key rings are the right size and shape, but lack the tinsel strength to keep the keys on the ring when pulled.

So, I go home and hope on  I order two more Imperial Synthetic Lace from amazon, as someone has a year old version for less than Tandy’s Leather with free shipping.  I feel mildly guilty here about ordering outside Tandy’s Leather, but I’m short on funds due to investing in Renaissance Festival camping passes, rain proof gear and such.  I also order myself some super cheap and more than likely 2 year old chocolate to assuage my guilty conscience.  While on here, I observe most simple key chains go for $6-$8.  This appears to be a good return, as I have spare time during the day which can not be utilized for anything else and the cost of ProLace is good.  I also order 1,000 feet of paracord for $35 special from prime with free shipping.  It’s normally between $40 & $50 on prime or $32 & $40 with out, but then you have to pay shipping.

I start braiding reels again without key rings or clasps, as at this point, they have not arrived.  I finish off the 3/32″ wide ProLace and give most of it away to Renaissance Festival people or the coworkers I liked.  I am down 200 yards of black/white Imperial Synthetic at this point.  I am not selling anything but figure that braiding is an easy way to do key chains or tails and make some cash back.

About this time, I also start getting mail from the MN Tax Revenue group.  It appears I had to file by July to avoid penalties.  Disturbed, because I have not sold anything and have no filing status or a tax person yet to help make sense of the obscure Minnesota Tax rules.  They are far more militant than the IRS about this issue or maybe the IRS is just that much slower…who knows I might have someone right now double checking my account at the IRS.  Thus, I am not selling anything to anyone yet, as this will increase my book keeping by a magnitude.

Luckily, the Renaissance Festival has been picking up and I make back what I invested by the 5th week in tips.  I pick up a copy of “Leather Braiding” by Grant as it has Turks Head, Spheres, Lacing in several varieties and a braids glossary that is actually comprehensible.  The rest of the tips I shove in my saving account which I somehow blew $250 at Tandy’s Leather due to them clearing out some old stamps etc that I wanted.  I also tried a tie or two of making 3 bight turks head knots.  I am still not sure on the transition to leather what the formula for generating your bight to part ratio.

I submitted two forms to the MN Tax Revenue, clear my good name and swear I will find a tax preparation person before October ends.  Tandy’s Leather reports that they need another printed copy of my MN Tax ID number, I swear to get that to them this year too!

I do a 2 part thong that forms a sort of accordion from the “Braiding Leather” book by Grant in ProLace.  It looks awkward or odd due to my shiny side versus the other side of the flat lace being a grayish hue of black.  It moves kind of interestingly, so I’m excited to use this to hold lighter objects on my belt for Renaissance Festival, as it’s a very nice looking design.  I want similar things.  I skip the next 19 plates and their variants to get to “Plate 22” on page 44 of the same book.  It’s a cool 4 part plate where the stack upon each other in a flat manner to create squares.  As I skipped the other plates, I note the book progresses from 3 thong to 12 thongs.  It adds a herringbone pattern and also uses that next walk you through making a quirt.  A quirt appears to be a sort of whip.

At this point, I have 5 braids that I know.

  1. Diamond Braid – 4 strand round braid made with flat strands of leather lace
  2. Generic 6 strand braid – It another round braid used on handles and cores of quirts/whips.  Its a different pattern on each side.  One side is 2 over, 1 under.  The opposite side is 1 over, 2 under.  It is a bit counter intuitive to start out and I suggest learning the 8 part below first.
  3. Generic 8 strand – It is another flat lace that turns into a square if hollow or round braid if you put a core of wood/metal/rope to weave around it.  The pattern is under 2, over 2 for both sides.
  4. “Plate #2” by Grant – It’s a series of loops with each previous loop threaded by the following loop to prevent it from coming a part instantly.
  5. Sailor’s Crown Knot or “Plate #22” by Grant – it’s a four strand braid that lays a top and threads previous loops, essentially folding over the other pieces rather than interlocking the edges.

At this point, I had a book cover, a few belt clips, four sporran holders to make and went to a few classes on rope ties to learn knots in addition to a local leather club meet.  I lost the braiding for a bit and found when restarting, I had to study how to make the knots again.  They disappear from the brain rather quickly it appears!

I began gathering information on cutting my own lacing at some point.  It was interesting and I did one cut on some suede, which I am detailing in the next post.

Upon checking the Tandy’s Lace I have in my bag:

  • Imperial Synthetic Lace:  1/8″ by 50 yd or is 3.2 mm by 45.7 m in metric.
  • ProLace:  1/8″ by 50 yd or is 3.2 mm by 45.7 m in metric.
  • ProLace:  3/32″ by 50 yd or is 3.2 mm by 45.7 m in metric.
  • Superior Calf Lace:  1/8″ x 50 yd or is 3.2 mm by 46 m in metric.  Note they estimated here!
  • I have cut my own suede and a 26″ oval in 1/2″ makes a lot of lace.  I lost track after a hundred feet and that might have only been the half way point.

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