DISCLAIMER: I received free products from Goodwill of Arkansas in exchange for writing this post. Though this is a sponsored post, all opinions are my own.
I think I may have found my new favorite thing to do with old belts, and that is turn them into awesome new jewelry. Upcycling has always been a great idea to me, so when I found out that you could do that with old belts, I had to jump right on that and make my own. If you're a jewelry lover and want something to dazzle your friends with, you can impress them with this!
The leather on an old belt is so thick and supple and luscious. Think about how much it would cost to buy a new bracelet from high quality distressed leather! One Goodwill belt can yield as many as three bracelets, depending on how big your wrist is and how much usable leather there is on a belt. Restoring worn leather can sometimes be difficult if you don't use a good leather cleaner so make sure you find a belt that's in good condition.
With a few inexpensive tools, they are super simple to make and you can embellish them up as you like with vintage trims, buttons, pieces from broken jewelry, even old hardware. The possibilities!
They're super easy to make. I'll show you how.
Materials: Leather belt, strong scissors, hammer & nail or drill, metal snaps & a snap setting tool, embellishments, and E6000 adhesive.
Leather belt (not woven). Look for leather or vinyl belts that are still in relatively good shape. Avoid belts with cracking on the leather or vinyl, or ones that are too stiff to wrap easily around the wrist. Also stay away from the woven belts, as pretty as they are. As soon as you cut them, all the pretty woven leather strips are going to start coming undone.
For this project, I chose one belt in a warm brown that was starting to show some wear but was otherwise in good shape. I liked the look of the distressed finish. I also grabbed a skinny belt to make a wrap bracelet.
Strong scissors. You'll need a strong pair of scissors to cut the leather, but don't use your best scissors because the leather will dull them. I used some scissors that were already starting to dull and had some damage but are still serviceable. I keep them around for projects just like this. (See My 3 tier scissors system.)
Hammer & nail or a drill. You'll need a way to punch holes in the leather so you can add snaps. A drill is the easiest way, but you can also use a hammer and nail.
Metal snaps and a snap setting tool. You'll need snaps with posts deep enough to go through the leather plus some to spare to set. We used a snap setting tool kit you can find at the leather store for less than $10. It's a metal set tool and a rounded disk, plus a bunch of snaps to go with it. You'll need a hammer as well.
Embellishments. This is the fun stuff. Dig through your craft supplies and find bits of vintage lace, buttons, even parts and pieces of damaged jewelry to embellish your bracelet.
So now that you've got your belts and your other materials, let's make some pretty bracelets.
First, measure your wrist and cut the belt to length. The easiest way to do this is to wrap the belt around your wrist and mark where it overlaps by about an inch. That inch overlap is important because you'll need it for the snaps. If you're making bracelets from several belts, I'd suggest measuring with each belt because the different thicknesses may require more or less belt to wrap comfortably around your wrist. Once you know how long to make the bracelet, use your strong scissors to cut it to length.
If you're using a skinny belt, you can wrap it around your wrist several times to make a wrap bracelet.
Mark and cut the holes. Use a ball point pen to mark holes for the snaps. Make sure they're centered across the width of the bracelet and far enough from the ends to accommodate the snap. Once they're marked, use a drill or a hammer & nail to make the holes. If you don't have a drill and you're not sure which to buy, check out https://toolhelpful.com/ for their reviews.
A drill is a lot easier and makes a cleaner cut, but the hammer & nail also work.
Put the bracelet on a board while drilling or hammering so the drill bit or nail has somewhere to go once it's broken through the leather.
Add the snaps. Now you're going to add snaps where you made the holes. Your snap setting tool will have directions on how to do it. It's really just a matter of layering the right pieces and hammering the snap setting tool to mash them together.
Embellish to your heart's desire. This is where it gets fun. Experiment combinations of vintage lace and trims, buttons, even parts and pieces of broken jewelry. I think a vintage key would look mighty cool on the leather!
When you get the look you want, use E6000 adhesive to glue it all in place. For mess-free gluing, squeeze some of the adhesive on to a paper and use a toothpick to transfer small amounts of the E6000 to the pieces you want to glue down.
Let the glue dry and you're done! That's really all it takes to upcycle Goodwill belts into cool new jewelry!
I used vintage ric rac for one bracelet, some silk yo yos (harvested from a Goodwill vest made entirely of fabric yo yos) and wooden beads on another, and a third bracelet I just left plain because I liked the look of the distressed leather by itself.
The skinny belt was already embellished with metal studs.