Recycled Leather Projects: Things to Do With Old Belts

Transform old belts and other leather scraps into creative, functional items.

Reader Contribution by Bobbi Peterson
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by Adobestock/279photo

Looking for things to do with old belts instead of throwing them in the trash? Try these recycled leather projects and give new life to scrap leather.

You probably have a million of them. A not-so-reasonable stash of leather belts you’ll honestly never wear again. Big buckles, punch designs, skinny, wide, battered or barely worn. Don’t worry! Below you’ll find five innovative ways to turn all that leather into creative, functional and unique items.

Things to Do with Old Belts

Of significant note are the many benefits for repurposing old leather. A non-sustainable material, leather is made from the hide of an animal. The tanning process utilizes highly toxic substances which off-gas directly into the environment. Detrimental to tanners individually, the physical area in which tanning plants function and our carbon footprint, hazardous effects of leather-production pollutants are far-reaching and severe.

Repurposing leather gives old product new use. Doing so in your home as a DIY project extends material life, eliminates fossil fuel transport costs, and let’s face it–saves you money. Never mind how much fun it is to design inventive items and revel in the wow-factor of their final form!

Weave a New Chair Seat

Do you have a sturdy chair with classic lines but a worn seat? Consider a woven leather replacement. Using the current seat form as a guide, gather several belts and line them up to measure against both the length and width. You’ll want to leave enough length on each to allow for slack. Cut and weave leather strips basket-style. Staple each end securely to the bottom of the chair form, stretching first to reinforce weave strength.

If you use belts with different shading and design features, try to balance them out, so the finished product doesn’t look too piecemeal. For a more uniform look, check out leather paint options. Specialty leather paint products provide full coverage or can help you add specific artistic detail. Painting as a final step enhances conditioning and protection of your repurposed leather.

For this and other projects listed below, it’s best to use a staple gun appropriate for working with leather and a pair of heavy-cutting shears.

Customize a Camera Strap

Add vintage charm to your Digital SLR — single lens reflex–camera by customizing a leather strap. Measure belt length based on how you routinely carry and maneuver the device. At each end of the fitted piece, punch a hole and thread copper wire through. Attach the wires to your camera’s side clips and twist securely.

Holes can effectively be punched through leather with an awl, electric drill, Phillips head screwdriver, leather punch or — in a pinch — the corkscrew of a wine opener! Make sure you drill through the belt into a scrap piece of wood that is well-weighted to guarantee stability.

Design Drawer Pulls

Picture a farmhouse bureau or rustic kitchen cabinetry sporting specialty leather drawer pulls. Consider whether long, thin strips or boxier pieces would best accentuate your desired look. Grab leather colored to stand in direct visual contrast from the article in question. Darker belt shades will highlight well against light-colored drawers and vice versa.

Simply cut leather strips with scissors and attach with small nails or rivets. That’s all there is to it!

Hang an Indoor Terrarium

For this project, you’ll need two belts, one wide and one narrow. Gather a glass milk container or small-mouthed vase that remains relatively full on the bottom. You will build your air plant terrarium by placing the plant in some pebbles in this receptacle. Consider adding a bit of natural moss as well to regulate the watering process, which can be tricky.

Both belts will be fashioned into a unique hanger. First, glue the terrarium bottom to the middle of the wider belt. Once the glue has dried, pull the belt buckle up into an oval and glue along the terrarium sides, leaving enough free space on top for hanging. Think of the garden as sitting in a narrow hammock. To secure the jar, cut to measure and firmly fasten your narrow belt around the neck.

Fashion a Strapping Wreath

Purchase a wreath form from your nearest craft store and wrap belts about in a slight crisscross manner. Arrange buckles as ornaments. Garnish with greens, berries, fall foliage or hang as a fashion-savvy year-round piece.

Don’t be alarmed, as you get the hang of repurposing old leather, to note surprising belt junkie tendencies. You may compulsively ask friends and casual acquaintances for their old belts or systematically haunt thrift shops. It’s all good. After all, the more leather is reused, the more sustainable it becomes!

Bobbi Peterson, of the sustanability blog Living Life Green, has written for a number of other publications. She enjoys writing about a wide range of topics, including gardening, homesteading, green living, and renewable energy