DIY: Leather Plague Masks

Figured it was about time for me to upload another DIY! Usually for Halloween, my hubby and I go all out with costumes (2019 Astrid and Hiccup, 2018 Jack and Sally, 2017 Beauty and the Beast, 2015 Wedding). This year was a bit of a challenge with Covid and social distancing, but we made the best of it!

What better way to be creepy and protect ourselves than with DIY leather plague masks?

How to Make a Leather Plague Mask

What You’ll Need to Start

  • Vegetable Tanned Leather (I used 2-3 oz)
  • Leather Sheers
  • Scissors
  • Craft Paper
  • Tape
  • Marker
  • Leather Dye (I used black and oxblood)
  • X-acto Knife (or other craft blade)
  • Leather Punch
  • Heavy Duty Needles (with large eyes)
  • Waxed Cord
  • Acrylic Sheets (or whatever you want to use for eye lenses)
  • Dremel Tool
  • Buckles, Velcro, or Snaps (for sizing the straps)

Making Your Template

I spent several hours perusing Pinterest and other sites to find exactly what style of mask I wanted to make. Use craft paper to make a template for your mask, and tape the pieces together to check sizing on your face–it took me about 6 different versions to find the one I liked.

Once you’re happy with your template, trace the pieces onto your leather and cut out with leather sheers and your craft knife.

Prepping the Leather

Once you have all of your pieces cut out, clean them with water and a soft cloth to remove any residue/dust/etc.

Pieces for the body of two masks. Not shown–connecting straps, rounds for eye pieces, and sides for eye pieces.

Wearing gloves in a well ventilated space, begin applying dye to the damp leather. You may need to apply multiple coats to get full coverage. Allow leather to dry for several hours (or according to package instructions).

Sewing the Mask

There are several styles of stitching you can use to put the pieces of your mask together. For any leather stitching, I recommend pre-punching/cutting your holes. You can purchase special tools for this step, but I just used my leather punch and my craft knife to cut the holes. You will need heavy duty needles with large eyes for stitching with waxed cord.

Front side of the mask
Back side of the mask

I used a cross stitch for the “beak” of the mask (attaches leather edge to edge) and used a saddle stitch to attach the straps for buckles and across the bridge of the nose (attaches one layer on top of another). Check out this great tutorial by Maze Leather for step-by-step instructions on each stitch.

Attaching the forehead piece

Once you’ve got the main body of the mask together, attach your straps or strings for holding the mask on your face and check the fit. At this point, you might need to trim edges for a better fit. Pay special attention right around the eyes to avoid visibility issues.

Eye Pieces

You have several options for the eye pieces. You can purchase steampunk style goggles or eye lenses to make your life easy. I decided it would be a good idea to cut my own lenses from acrylic sheeting using a dremel tool (had to ask for help from the hubby on this part).

Once you have your lenses, you’ll want to prep the leather pieces needed to attach the lenses. I wanted the eyes to sit forward so I needed to cut a set of leather rounds and a set of side pieces (side piece can be seen on the far left in red) though you can use just the leather rounds to hold the lenses directly to the mask. Cut, clean, and dye the leather the same way as you did for the earlier parts.

Stitch one edge of a side piece to each leather round (it should wrap about halfway around). Fit the lenses inside the unit. You can glue the acrylic lens in place using regular white glue though my lenses stayed in place just fine without. Pin each eyepiece unit in place on the mask to make sure they’re even (with the side piece to the outside). When you’re happy with the placement, sew all the way around the outside using a cross stitch.

And that’s it! Congratulations! You’ve crafted your own creepy plague mask 🙂

Happy Crafting!

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