Leather chaps today are not markedly different from the cowboy chaps of the past, which were used as riding protection in rough terrain. Most modern chaps are still used for riding, although the style has been adopted by others due to the popularity of Western films and television shows. Whether you are looking for chaps for practical purposes, fashion or costume, you can make leather chaps at home using the same materials as the professionals.
Things You'll Need
- Reference pictures
- Muslin fabric
- Safety pins
- Marker or fabric pencil
- Measuring tape
- Heavy-duty sewing equipment and supplies
- Heavyweight needles
- Leatherworking tools
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Determine the type of leather chaps you are going to make. Most chaps fit into 3 categories: the wide, flared type known as bat wings, the short fringed type called chinks, and the long, fitted type known as leggings. Look for reference pictures of the type you have decided to make before you begin drafting your pattern.
Get a friend to help you draft your own leather chaps pattern, so that you have an accurate fit. Put on the pair of pants you will be wearing under your leather chaps, usually jeans or work-quality trousers, and wrap a large piece of muslin fabric around one of your legs. Pin the muslin together with safety pins at the back of the leg, in the middle, leaving all excess fabric hanging off the end of the outside layer. This excess fabric will become the "flap" part of the chaps, so trim it until you have the width you like. Remember, for bat wings, this will be very wide, while in leggings it will be almost nonexistent.
Draw the bottom hemline of your chaps directly onto the muslin. For bat wings and leggings, this will be at the ankle, while for chinks it will be about mid-calf. At the waistline, mark out what height you would like your chaps legs to be attached to the belt, and add 1/2 inch for a seam allowance. Mark the inside shape of the chaps leg, drawing a curved concave line from the pinned seam, just below crotch level, to the waistline at the front of the leg, at about where your pants pocket is. Do the same to the back of the leg, drawing a curved convex line from the waistline at the back pants pocket to the vertical edge of the "flap." Along the back "seam," mark the placement of snaps or ties all down the length on both sides of the fabric.
Unpin the muslin and lay it out flat, then neaten all of your markings and trim away any excess fabric. At the hemline on the "flap" edge, create another convex curve so that you have a gentle, rounded corner. Take another piece of muslin and mark out a basic belt pattern for your chaps. Make the pattern several inches wide and a few inches longer than your waist measurement, then taper the edges.
Pin both muslin pattern pieces to your leather and cut the pieces from the leather, making sure to cut 2 opposite pieces for the legs and 1 piece for the belt. On the belt piece, mark out on the wrong side any places where you would like to do decorative stitching, plus holes for the belt buckle. Be sure to include stitching so that you can attach the chaps to the bottom edge. On the chaps legs, do the same, marking out all decorative stitches and the lines where you will attach the legs to the belt, 1/2 inch away from the top.
Make all decorative stitches on the belt and legs. Loop the non-notched end of the belt around the center piece of a belt buckle and stitch the loop together, then poke the buckle holes in the other end with an awl. Put the belt on and buckle it, then mark the places at the front where you will attach the legs, which will be at your front pants pockets. Take the belt off and stitch the top of the legs to the bottom of the belt, starting at your markings.
Attach snaps or ties at the snap placement markings on both sides of the legs. Add all final decorative touches to the chaps, such as shredding the bottom edges for chinks or adding decorative buttons to the snaps markings on the outside of the "flaps."