Chapter 2.2 (Art and Craft 5)

Thonging Method

Leather is made from hides and skins of animals. Hide is usually hard and tough. It is used to make items such as drums, tables, sheaths, carrier bags and shields. Skin is softer than hide. It is used for making items such as handbags, purses, shoes, wallets, briefcases, car seats and garments. Soft leather can be cut into thin strips called thongs. The strips are used for joining pieces of leather.

Activity 1

Leather items

Look at the items given below:

  1. How are the items shown above used? 
  2. What other items can be made out of leather?

Activity 2

Searching for leather items

When at home or in school identify items made out of leather.

Digital time

Find out more about leather items online from;

You can search using words such as: leather items, items made of leather, leather pencil cases, purses, bags and wallets.

  1. Differentiate between traditional leather items and modern ones.
  2. Find out the process of making items out of leather.

Thonging Technique

Thonging is a technique of joining two or more pieces of leather together. This is done by using long thin strips of cut leather known as thongs. In order to make a leather item, different pieces of leather are cut out according to a design made. Holes or slits are then punched on the areas to be joined. The pieces of leather are then held in position and a thong is tied on the first hole. Thonging is then done by lacing through the holes to the end. When thronging is complete, the thong is tied on the last hole to secure it in place. The pictures show thongs used to join pieces of leather.

Making a pencil case

Leather is used to make a range of items for different purposes. These items are made and finished using different techniques. Some of the methods of making and finishing leather items are stitching, thonging and gluing. To make a pencil case using the thonging technique, you can observe leather articles once again to help you create your own. You can also look at pencil cases in the class.

Reusing leather items

When leather items wear out, there are creative ways of reusing them. You can cut them out and make craft items. You can make belts, jackets, handbags and decorative items. This helps in reducing waste in the environment. For your pencil case project, you can ask your parents or guardian to provide you with old leather items.

What you need to make a pencil case using thonging tehnique

  1. Lacing or sewing needles
  2. Wooden cutting board
  3. Cutting tool such as sharp knife, skiving knife, blade, scissors
  4. Tool for making holes such as nails, thonging chisel or revolving punch
  5. Leather
  6. Pencil or pen
  7. Ruler
  8. Nails
  9. Mallet

Safety tips

Be careful when using the sharp blades, knives or scissors. When you are cutting leather, always make sure that you cut in the direction away from your body. Always hold scissors, blades and knives by their handle. Do not crowd when using sharp tools. Always wait for your turn to use the tools. When passing a sharp tool to someone else, always hold it by the handle with the blade pointing downwards.

Activity 3

Designing pencil case

Before you start making a leather article, it is important to prepare a design.This is the plan of how the article will look like. The plan is done in form of a drawing. Use the following procedure to design a pencil case.

  1. Decide the shape and size of the pencil case.
  2. Draw the shape of the pencil case and then the plan of the pencil case. The plan shows how the pencil case would look like when spread out. Include the dimensions on the plan of the pencil case. An example of a design and the layout plan is shown below.
Design of a pencil case
Net of the pencil case
  1. What other shape of a pencil case can you make?
  2. Draw the design and the net of your design.

Activity 4

Making a pencil case

Make a pencil case using the following steps:

  1. Measure, mark and draw the plan of the design you have made onto the piece of leather. Mark out the design carefully making sure the dimensions are correctly done. An example is given below.
Measuring , marking and drawing the design
  1. Cut out the design along the outlines using a sharp blade, knife or pair of scissors.
Cutting out the design

The edges of the cut out design must be clean and smooth. This means that the blade or knife must be very sharp. When this is done, your article looks better than when the edges are rough and uneven. You can also use a ruler with a metallic edge for straight parts of the design. For the rounded corners, use a coin or any rounded tool that cannot be cut through by the sharp blade. If the leather is too hard or tough, wet it with some little water to soften it. Use a soft piece of cloth.

  1. Fold the cut out shape to form the shape of the pencil case.
  1. Measure, mark and make holes along the edges of the cut out design. You can use a sharp knife, big nail, a thonging chisel or revolving punch to make the holes. Make sure that the holes are evenly spaced to make your work appealing. An example is shown below.
Marking out spaces for the holes
Making holes
  1. Cut thongs for lacing the pieces of leather in place. Ensure that the thongs are of uniform thickness.

Cutting thongs for lacing

  1. Lace the leather in place according to the design. Make sure that the thongs are stretched uniformly as you lace the pieces of leather. 
    ​To prevent the thongs from unraveling, lace the thongs as follows:
  1. Tie the thongs tightly around the first hole, and then lace the remaining spaces.The steps are shown below.
Tying thong around the first hole
Lacing through the holes

How else can you lace the pencil case using the thongs?

  1. Continue lacing to the last hole then tie the thong tightly in the last space to secure it.
Lacing using the thong
Lacing and tying the thong on the last hole
  1. Cut off the extra thongs using a sharp blade or a pair of scissors. Lace the other side in a similar way.
Cutting off loose thong
Pencil case with lacing on both sides

Activity 5

Displaying finished leather pencil case

Talk to your friends about your experiences as you made the pencil case.

Decorating the pencil case by beading

Items made out of leather can be decorated to make them more beautiful and appealing. One way of decorating your pencil case is by beading.

What you will need to decorate a pencil case using beads

  1. Beads
  2. Pencil
  3. Ruler
  4. Adhesive
  5. Pencil case
  6. Needles
  7. Thread, fishing line
  8. Cutting tool such as pair of scissors, blade or knife

Activity 6

Decorating a pencil case by beading

Below are examples of pencil cases decorated using beads.

  1. How are the pencil cases decorated? 
  2. Where can you get beads for decorating the pencil cases?
  3. How else can you decorate your pencil case?

Decorating pencil cases using beads

Below are some beading techniques you can use to decorate your pencil cases.

Stitching beads onto the pencil case

In this technique, string up the beads then stitch it onto the pencil case. You can also stitch individual beads onto the pencil case. An example is given below. Polyester or nylon threads are the best for stitching since they are strong and firm. You can also use threads from an old worn out tyre.

Stitching beads onto the pencil case

For this technique, use an adhesive to stick the beads on the pencil case. The adhesive used should be strong enough so that the beads do not come off. Use the procedure below to fix the beads on the pencil case.

  1. Select the beads to use then arrange them on the pencil case. Try out different arrangements to get the best effect. 
  2. Use an adhesive to stick the beads on the leather item.

Safety tips

Take care when using some local adhesives as they may be harmful. Make sure you wash your hands after collecting or using the materials. When using needles, be careful not to injure yourself or your friends. Store the tools in a safe place after use.

Activity 7

Displaying decorated leather pencil case

  1. Talk to your friends about your experience of decorating the pencil case.
  2. Appreciate the different decoration designs done by others.

Extended Activity

Ask your caregiver, parent or guardian to provide with an old item made out of leather that they no longer need. Design, make and decorate a leather item of your choice.

Community Service Learning Activity

With the help of your teacher, head teacher, guardian or parent, market and sell the leather items you have made. Discuss how to use the money you obtained to buy art materials.

Self and peer assessment

Together with your friends, find out answers to these questions:

  1. How can you join pieces of leather using thonging technique?
  2. Why should the thonging strips be of even thickness?
  3. How can one ensure even tension during thonging process?
  4. Why should the holes on the leather pieces to be joined be evenly spaced? 
  5. How does one ensure the thongs do not unravel after knotting?
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