DIYdiy projects

DIY Project: Leather Plant Hanger

by Kate Pruitt

Everyone in the Design*Sponge office is jumping up and down because we just had some beautiful BIG plants delivered today! We can’t wait to show you how everything is shaping up, but right now, we only have plants on the brain. Last week, I created a simple tiered design for multiple plants, and today I’m thrilled to share this leather hanging planter tutorial from Steven Soria of Make Smith Leather Co. Based in Santa Barbara, CA, Steven is a third generation leather craftsman, and his love of the material shines through in this project.

Inspired by Japanese paper folding, Steven has created a circular template that pops up like magic into this three-dimensional plant sling. I love the little details on the strands and the effortless, California coastal look of these. I can’t wait to scrounge up some leather scraps and make some! However, if you want to buy these direct from the master craftsman himself, you can purchase them from Make Smith online here. Thanks for sharing this project with us, Steven! (Last year we did a little peek into Steven’s Santa Barbara home – you can check it out here)— Kate

Image above by Nancy Neil
DIY Photographs by Cara Robbins

Read the full how-to after the jump . . .

Image above by Nancy Neil

This project was appealing to me because of the process involved. I enjoy working with leather as a sculptural form. When you wet natural leather, it becomes really malleable like clay, and you can sculpt various shapes. The cutting techniques are in a similar vein to traditional Japanese paper folding: When you cut along the lines and fold in certain spots, out pops a really great form. I like that, too. I think those “A-Ha” moments are what draw me to this type of project — it’s like being a kid with a pop-up book! I grew up with a very similar pattern as a kid working on various craft projects. I ended up altering this one quite a bit, making new sizes for different sized pots, hanging styles, etc. — Steven


  • purified water
  • vellum tracing paper (8.5” by 11” at the art supply store)
  • 4 pieces of long rope strands, leather laces, hemp twine, etc. (3–4 feet)
  • leather dye (optional) & gloves
  • 1 square foot of veg-tanned tooling leather (12” by 12”)
  • masking or packing tape
  • dull pencil
  • carpet knife and/or X-Acto knife
  • computer and printer (for printing template)
  • template
  • sponge for wetting and dyeing



1. Prep: Print out the plant hanger pattern onto 8.5” by 11” vellum paper.

2. Placement: Lay the pattern down on the leather and find the perfect placement to transfer the pattern (not too close to the sides, and avoid any blemishes in the leather).

3. Softening the leather: Wet the leather somewhat evenly by dipping the sponge down into the purified water, then blot the water onto the leather. Repeat this step at least three times until the leather looks like it can’t take any more water. This will soften the leather and allow us to press our pattern into it easily.

4. Transferring the pattern: Now, place the Vellum pattern down on the leather and tape it in place. With your dull pencil, draw on top of the printed lines with a medium weight, pressing into each and every line. This will press the pattern into the softened leather.

5. Cutting: Now, pull the pattern off the leather to reveal the impressions you have made on the surface. Using the carpet knife or X-Acto, start cutting onto and into the impressed lines — all the way through. Cut every line including the outside perimeter line.

6. Dyeing: Note — This step is optional, depending on the color desired and materials at hand. In our case, we are dyeing this one dark brown. Once the leather has dried for at least an hour, apply the desired dye. I recommend Tandy’s Leather Factory Eco-Flo Dye — it’s water based, low VOC and meant for use on natural veg-tanned leather. Apply the dye with a sponge while wearing gloves until the desired effect is achieved.

7. Casing and Shaping: As the leather is drying, pull at the leather a bit to expose those cut marks you made. You will begin to see the leather take a new shape. Keep pulling and stretching the leather to create the basket shape that it will soon dry to be in a stiffened form. This shaping of wet leather and drying process is called “casing.”

8. Suspending: Once the leather is completely dry and you have your plant basket shape, punch four holes in the top to run the ropes through. You want to place the holes evenly apart from each other so that the leather plant basket hangs evenly. Tie a knot at each rope so it cannot pull through. Note — You can use leather lacing, twine, or anything you desire.

9. Styling: Add tassels, beads, rivets — whatever you want to achieve the style you are envisioning. Macramé would be an added bonus to this project!

10. Mounting: At the top of the hanging ropes, grab all four strands and tie them into a knot. You can use this knot to hook onto a ceiling mounting hook and/or a ring. At this time, adjust to the proper height for the basket to hang.

You’re done!

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  • Oh my god I literally just googled “diy plant hanger,” saw nothing I loved, then saw this. WILL BE MAKING IT ASAP.

  • I really love these. I am going to try this, I have some leather pieces just waiting for a project!

  • Brilliant! I can’t wait to try my hands at this one…I love the idea of pairing natural leather with plants…very complimentary!

  • Beautiful project! Just one question, what kind of plant is the one with the “tentacles”?

  • Wow this concept is really striking; I think I’m going to try my hand at this. My only major challenge is the 21 feet ceilings I have living in a loft space! Amazing love it!

  • Thanks for all the feedback! I hope everyone has a good time exploring this project. Feel free to ask me technical “how to” questions… I’m all ears :)

  • these have been on my mind since his house tour- thanks for sparing me all that figuring out!

  • Made this in my morning room, it is awesome. Found leather in the recycled free pile at my job, then made this lovely hanger.

  • awesome! so cool. hanging plants in windows is the way to go. it frees up a lot of counter space and the plants get more light too

  • As all of the comments above have reinforced this has a real timeless simplicity, just trying to thing of recyclable uses also. Possibly using the design with car tyre rubber or ……dont know cant pull it out of the grey matter? Suggestions for alternative materials would be cool. ps. Great site x

  • Oh my! This is so beautiful! This is my second time to visit your page and I am enjoying it. Thanks for sharing these wonderful ideas! Looking forward to see more.

  • hiya, love this design. just wondering what size pot to buy for this project? thanks! xx

  • I have so many plants in the garden and in the porch, and I want to declutter. Hanging plants is the way to go. It frees up a lot of space and the plants get more light too.

  • I’d also like to know if this is possible with another material methan leather? Something “vegetarian” ;) Or recycable?

  • I made this in suede. No water necessary. Molds to the pot like magic. No tanning- buy the color you like. Why go to so much trouble, Steven?

  • I am purchasing some leather for this project, and need to select a weight for the leather. Any suggestion? This is my first time working with leather. Thanks!

  • Can you use bigger or smaller templates,and what about a square template.This is a project that I will surely try

  • “Casing” the leather is the process of wetting the leather to right amount and letting it dry until it is almost back to its normal color, this is done in preparation of carving and tooling, it has nothing to do with shaping the leather, the process you used is called “wet forming”…just an fyi…

  • was so easy! did’t wet the leather. I just traced a circle then drew the lines with a lead pencil. No template really needed either to trace. Just as a guide. So great!