Little Craftsmen #3: Of LOVE, LAMENT, and LEATHERCRAFT; if you love your kid, hand him a mallet!

Welcome! Thanks for joining us in Craftsman Corner; raising up capable and confident kids! If you’re just joining us, here’s what you’ve missed so:

Leather Lament

Last week was a hard one for our son. It was one of those “when it rains it pours” weeks, both in the literal and figurative sense of the phrase. It started with an elderly family friend passing away —our son’s first personal experience with death. Being only six, he initially moved through all five stages of grief in about twenty-four hours, but what heavy hours they were. Then, just about when he’d finally recovered from the shock, he had an accident with a toy metal dump truck and sliced his eyebrow open. Thankfully, accidents of this nature fall under Papa’s job description, so our boy was able to be fixed up in the comfort of his own home. But he had to have a numbing shot and two stitches which made for two extra rough days back to back; injury added to insult. Then to top it all off, a couple days later . . . Daddles died.

It shouldn’t have taken me by surprise . . . after all, doesn’t every literary dog die in the last chapter? Talk about Mom fail. Thankfully, Daddles wasn’t our son’s first fictional death; he said goodbye to Charlotte almost two years ago, and then Ragweed this past winter (wow was that one bad). So he’s not entirely new to literary grieving. But this was no ordinary week.

Coming on the tail of an already hard week, losing Daddles was dog-gone devastating (pardon the dark-humored puns) and turned the light rainfall —both outside and in— to a deluge.

I tried everything I could think of, mostly in the selfish attempt not to feel so helpless (quite possibly my least favorite feeling in the world). I tried holding him and letting him cry it out . . . you know, welcoming the storm. I tried comforting words and long explanations. I gave alone time a try . . . you know, isolating the storm . . . far, far away from me. I encouraged the pillow-wresting. I tried distracting him with books and lessons and play. But what helped the most, which is so often the case for me as a mom, was supplied by a happy accident. Our already-scheduled Skill School week offered us unexpected shelter in which to weather the storm.

At first I had put off the activities, thinking my son needed more down time to process everything. But he knew better than I. He said he wanted to carry on. And once he began crafting, it was plain to see that getting his hands onto tools and raw materials was exactly what the doctor ordered. He was enraptured and didn’t want to stop. His focus was incredible —almost like he was in some kind of meditative state. I faded into the background as much as I could, not wanting to disturb him in what was palpably so much more than mere art. And as I watched him at work, I was hit by a quote from one of my favorite parenting books:

“Often when young kids feel emotional about something—when they’re angry or hurt or sad—they need to put it right by doing. They need to have a hug or give one, to dig a hole or find the dog, they need to draw a picture with a lot of green in it, or make something. They need to work it out by doing. . . to put the feeling to right in some physical way. And with that, sometimes, they may need a bit of help.” –Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne

This past week, I learned firsthand the truth in this quote. Craftsman week brought our son solace in a way that must be seen to be believed.

The wood-burning helped him begin to emerge from his grief —as if his mixed up emotions were rising up, evaporating in the trail of smoke.

The hours of Art-Hub helped him begin to grasp and piece together all that had transpired; especially in the pictures carefully chosen to honor our deceased friend.

“Hammer Time” permitted him to work out some aggression and knocked him out at bedtime, welcoming healing sleep.

But I believe it was leathercrafting that rounded out the healing process;

dampening the hard fibers, letting them soften . . .

stamping out the last fits of aggression, pounding out the final pangs of grief . . .

then drying up and hardening again —scarred, but not without purpose, and somehow lovelier for it all.

Through crafting, I witnessed our son heal; watched a transformation in him not unlike that of the materials he was working with. And I can’t help but believe it to have been at least partially causational —that change was enacted within him as he enacted change onto wood and leather.

That he worked it out by doing. That his hands were instruments to his heart.

Craftsman Week, Day Three: OF LOVE & LEATHERCRAFT!

If you love your kid, hand her a mallet!

Leathercraft kits are labeled 10+ . . . absurd! With a little help, children as young as two can begin pounding their little hearts out onto leather!

Leathercraft is really a combination of stamping and hammering, and as such I find it is helpful for a child to learn both the concepts and coordination for these two simpler skills before applying them to dampened leather. Although leathercraft is not an easy art to master by any means, it is incredibly soothing and satisfying once the initial learning curve is hurdled, and a favorite of children fortunate enough to be handed some hide and a mallet.


  • safety goggles (if desired)
  • bowl of water
  • Tandy leathercraft kit including stamps, mallet, pre-cut leather pieces, sponge, stain/sealer
  • good leathercraft instruction book (like this one!)

*Why TANDY leathercraft? They are simply the best. Made in USA and surprisingly affordable. This is the kit my siblings and I grew up using that my mom recently passed on to our son. It is fabulous and can still be found sometimes used on Ebay.


*Use in conjunction with your leathercraft instruction book or magazine

1.) Set up your leathercrafting station on a hard, ok-to-hammer-on surface. Assemble all of the above supplies.

2.) Have your child put on his safety goggles, if you wish.

3.) Just as we practiced with wood-burning, allow your child to “leather doodle” on some scrap leather first but still following the next steps. I highly recommend allowing your child to practice wetting, hammering, and stamping onto scrap leather for a good long while, even into multiple leathercraft sessions before moving on to a specific, result-oriented craft such as a bookmark or bracelet.

4.) Choose a piece of scrap leather to practice on, or a specifically cut project piece when ready as outlined here:

Leathercraft projects in order of difficulty:

  • bookmark
  • bracelet
  • key chain
  • coin purse
  • belt
  • wallet
  • moccasins

5.) If attempting a project, help your child stencil/sketch out a design on paper first, if desired, taking into consideration all the stamp patterns available to you.

6.) To prepare the leather for stamping, instruct your child to dip her sponge into the bowl of water, squeeze it out until still wet but not dripping, and smooth it onto the backside of the leather first (re-dipping, squeezing, and applying as needed), and then repeat on the surface side, ensuring that the entire piece of leather is wet and darkened in color front and back. Then, allow the leather to sit for about a minute or two before stamping. If working with a large piece of leather, this will need to be done in sections to ensure the leather is soft enough for stamping area by area. If leather is not dampened deep enough it will not stamp properly. But it will also tends to bounce back into shape if too wet when stamping. Practice is necessary to get this balance just right.

Our toddler loved the wetting of the sponges and the dampening of leather so much, she basically did only this step over and over again for maybe twenty to thirty minutes, only hammering a few times with Papa.

7.) Help your child select a stamp, steady it in one hand, and then pound it out like he means it! Encourage him not to give in to his curiosity to peek under the stamp after the first whack but to keep pounding at least three to four hard blows before lifting and revealing his mark. If your child needs practice hammering, refer to our previous post: Hammer Time!

8.) Once the design is complete, instruct your child to set the leather somewhere until dry before finishing the project work and staining/sealing according to the specific project directions.

Thanks so much for crafting with us this week! Tune in next week for “TOY CHOREY”!

Thanks ever so much for reading!

Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~

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