Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Colonial Leather Jugs and Mugs With Printable PDF

When I was with my family at Plimoth Plantation, I saw a craftsman making these neat jugs and mugs entirely from leather. I didn't actually see any of the people at Plimoth Plantation using these, but the leathersmith said that he was relatively new there and starting to supply the Colonists with these.

In the background you can see one of the mugs that haven't been dyed.
The mug in the foreground still needs the inside finished.

Here's the bottom view of the colonial leather mug.
See how there are two rows of neat stitches--this is all done by hand!
He had them in various stages of completion, they are cut from leather, sewn by hand, colored using a variety of dyes, the insides are then coated with a pitchy substance and they are ready-to-go! This was an interesting project and I thought my students (and my children) would like a variation of this.

The leathersmith suggested I check out Tandy Leather for kits for my students, and there sure are a bunch of kits on their site, though I didn't see a kit for making a leather mug. I'm just not sure that we are ready for real leather just yet.

So, I thought of an easy, inexpensive alternative that will get my students to understand the idea of crafting this product, along with the cutting, punching and sewing, that the real process has, but without the expense of buying leather and fancy tools. They can even use this project afterwards! You know they'll be excited about that!

So, here it goes:

Colonial Faux Leather Mug

Supplies Needed:
  • 1 9" x 12" piece of brown craft foam
  • 1 9 oz paper cup (I bought mine from Walmart as a pack of 10 for $.78)
  • Template pdf (hopefully this template uploads well below!) *needs to be printed on 9"x12" paper, so download the file and have printed on larger paper and trimmed-sorry for the waste! 
  • Pencil or pen
  • Scissors
  • Masking tape, optional
  • Small hole punch (mine is 1/8")
  • Hot glue gun, optional
  • Braiding cord or any thin, strong cord you can sew with
  • Metal needle in which you can tread the cord through

1. Print out the template on 9" x 12" paper (sorry, that is the size paper that matches the craft foam sheet). And that's the size that works with these standard size paper cups.

2. Cut out the cup body and the bottom circle from the paper. Punch holes in the paper template using the hole punch wherever you see a little circle.

3. Place your prepared template onto the craft foam, I hold it in place with a couple rolls of masking tape. Use your pencil or pen to trace around the outside of the template. Before you remove your template, make sure you trace around the inside of the mug's handle.

4. Use scissors to cut the cup body and the bottom circle from craft foam. Cut out the inner shape of the handle and discard. These pieces would have been cut from thick, tanned leather in Colonial times.

5. Use the hole punch to punch holes into the craft foam, using your paper template as a guide. Hold the template and the craft foam together and punch through both layers. The leathersmith would have used a tool that looks like a multi-pronged wheel with a handle and roll it along the leather to make little pin pricks nice and even along with path he wanted to sew. Then he would take a sharp metal awl and poke through the leather, making a hole every place he wanted to stitch.

6. This is where I do something that is not-so-Colonial, but helpful for little sewers (you can skip this step, if you'd like). Fold the cup body in half, and line up the handles. Use a couple dabs of hot glue to hold the two layers of the handle together, making sure that you aren't getting hot glue in any of your sewing holes. Make sure you only tack near the sewing holes--don't glue to cup totally together! This will hold the cup body together for you to begin sewing, so you don't have to manage holding the pieces and sewing stitches at the same time. Older kiddos won't need this step, probably.

7. Take a length of cording and knot it at one end. Hide the knot inside the two layers of craft foam and begin sewing the two layers of the handle together. Sew around the handle and down the side of the mug (it will look like an uppercase letter "D"). Leathersmiths would use strong string they imported from England and other parts of Europe to sew the pieces of the mugs together by hand. I'm not sure of the stitch they used, but I used a running stitch.

8. Position the bottom of the mug and, using the photos as a reference, begin sewing around the bottom edge of the mug. Make these bottom stitches snug, but don't pull too hard or you will pull the cording right through the craft foam.

The bottom view of my mug.
9. When you are done, knot your thread and hide the knot inside the mug, if you can. You can secure the knot with a little hot glue, if you'd like. I know, not very Colonial, but bear with me! Colonial leathersmiths would now dye the outside of the leather mugs. The dyes are made by putting metal shavings in vinegar. Once that has oxidized overnight, the dye is painted on. The mug continues to patina as it is used. 

10. Slip a paper cup into your craft foam mug. With this design, the rim of the paper cup is visible. I did this because I wasn't sure that children should be putting their mouths on the craft foam, with this design, the child's lip touches the paper cup. Obviously, this mug should NOT be used for hot liquids, this project is for fun. Colonial leathersmiths would now pour a thick, tarry substance inside the mugs to make them watertight, thankfully, we are using a paper cup that should be watertight already!

Enjoy your handmade faux leather mug!


  1. I know this post is old, but I wanted to thank you for it. My 4th grade Virginia students will be created these. Our Jamestown Plantation is similar to Plimouth :)

    1. Hi Kristin! Thank you for stopping by! I'm so thrilled you can use the pattern--it was fun to make and my kids had a blast drinking from them. Send me picts and let me know how it goes! bpettus02@gmail.com

  2. This is great. Is the pdf no longer posting for the template? I'd like a group to do this before doing clay to see the slabs in a different way. Thanks!


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