Sunday, April 5, 2009

Mystery Braid

One of the coolest things I learned early in my leather-crafting history was the three-part inside trick braid, known far and wide as the Mystery Braid. The mystery of this braid, and the fun, lies in the fact that it's braided with both ends closed.
People often surmise that there are cleverly hidden slices and splices involved. Not so. As the name implies, there's a trick to it... an inside trick that I've put into a short tutorial video for you. In less than two minutes you can see how it's done -- in no time at all you can master this trick braid yourself! You'll find the video box at the bottom of this post or, if you prefer a larger view-window, you can see it on You Tube by clicking here.
A few points to remember: Braiding will shorten what you're working on, so measuring can be tricky. The amount of shortening depends on how thick your material is, how long the item is and how tightly you braid.
You'll want to experiment with this, but a good beginning rule of thumb for making full-grain leather belts or wristbands is to cut the plaits longer than the area you want braided by about 1/2 inch for every ten inches of braid.
In other words, if you want a twenty-inch section of a belt braided, cut your slices twenty-one inches long. I punch a hole at the end of each slice for tidiness and to help the ends of the braid to lie smooth.
All dyes and finishes should be applied before you braid, including your edge-coating. Vegetable-tanned tooling leather should be wet before braiding -- this won't hurt the leather finishes I normally use; if you are unsure of your products, you'll want to do a test-braid first. I always retreat the finished braid after it dries with a spray silicon for added protection.
With just a bit of practice you'll be weaving mysteries of your own!


HomeMadeOriginals said...

Cool, thanks for the video. I don't work with leather but am going to try this with some other materials I use.

Justgivemepeace said...

Oh AOS, my adobe flash player is broken...This old hippie is gonna go down never ever knowing the mystery! Muah!
Much Peace,

aosLeather said...

Sorry to hear the flash issue is in your way -- did you try the YouTube alternative?

skinnylittlesister said...

Ha! Sooo Cool!
I had an anklet like this closer to thirty years ago & never, figured out how it was made!
What is even cooler is that you share!!!!
I am going to watch again, so I make sure I have got it...braid, braid, flip. braid, braid,flip.

Anonymous said...

Wow thank you. I admire your work as a leather artist greatly!

My 15 yo wants me to make him some arm bands, similar to the tooled wrist bands.

I have braided him one out of a commercially dyed leather as opposed to the straight hide I usually work with. However, it did stretch and he had to tie it.


My main concern is, how do I do those snaps? I don't have any experience with snaps in regular sewing either!

I actually learned "backwards", leather first and now I do some material sewing haha.

Anyhow, just wondering if you ever felt like doing a tutorial on the snap thingies..

Thank you for sharing!!!! mel

aosLeather said...

Hi -- wow, lots of questions. I will certainly consider snap-setting for my next tutorial. Great topic! Meanwhile, you might find my post on a new tool i purchased last year helpful --

This tool works great for heavy-duty snaps. Much better than the drive-setters available from craft stores.
Meanwhile, I will work up a snap tutorial -- thanks for the suggestion! Look for it in a few days.

Anonymous said...

i bought a bracelet like this at disney world but there is a small section on both ends of the mystery braid with a unbraided section in between them with my name engraved on it. i accidentally untwisted both sides and cant fix it. its too short to use these instructions and was wondering if there is another way to braid it.

aosLeather said...

Without seeing your band it's difficult to advise you. This is the only way to do this braid that i'm aware of. It's possible that your band needs to be wet to make the braid work, as is true with any heavy (belt-type) leather. Please feel free to email me a pic for more specific advice at

reid.damnit said...

wow, you made that look effortless, I hope mine goes that smoothly...

Anonymous said...

So... if you wanted to do something longer, say a hat band using this technique, how many inches of untwisted leather do you need to make how many inches of twisted hat band?

Art of Spirit LeatherWorks said...

That depends on a few variables such as leather thickness and the tightness of your braid, but on something like a hatband i'd say your unbraided leather should be 1.5 - 2" longer than you want your finished braid to be.

Anonymous said...

I am interested in purchasing unbraided pieces that members of a class (about 25) could do and end up with a small pocket sized braided piece. Do you sell these, and how small is practical to work with for both 20 year old guys and girls with no experience?

Really like the braid

Gary B

Art of Spirit LeatherWorks said...

Hi Gary
Thanks for your comments! I am sure i can help you or steer you in the right direction - it would likely be best to do it via email, though. Thanks! - Kathy

Anonymous said...

If your bracelet is wet it should work. I had one from Knotts and I got to braid again. I did it twice.