How to Straighten Leather Cord

© by Rena Klingenberg; all rights reserved.

Here’s a simple, fun way to straighten leather cord that’s coiled up too tightly to be easily used.

When you buy leather cord for making jewelry, it often comes wrapped around a spool like this:

Once it's coiled, leather likes to stay that way!

When you’ve bought several yards or meters of leather cord, the spool is a handy way to keep it untangled. But the downside is that once the cord has been coiled around the spool, it often acquires that curve and refuses to uncurl when you’re ready to make jewelry with it.

So here’s what I do.

It’s a technique that traditional leather workers have used for centuries to straighten and soften leather cord.

I have a collection of bone beads (see them in the photo above) that I’ve come across just from buying various bead lots that had natural beads in them.

I saved these particular bone beads aside because they have hole sizes that accommodate the leather cord widths I often use.

After I cut off the length of leather cord I need for a project, I simply run it back and forth through one of the beads a few times, to soften the cord and take the curl out of it.


For best results, you need to angle the bead slightly as you do this, so that it scrapes across the surface of the leather.

The scraping is what softens the cord and relaxes the curl.

I find that after the leather is softened and relaxed like this, it’s much nicer to work with as a jewelry making component.

It also takes on a very nice “distressed” quality.

I think what I especially enjoy about using this technique is knowing that our ancestors used this same method in creating things. I like feeling connected to them by doing things the same way they did.

Here’s our newly straightened leather cord:

You can see how easy this is to do – and it’s fun, too!

how to straighten leather cord

I hope you enjoy this new technique in jewelry making.

See Leather Cord Necklace design ideas.

Rena Klingenberg

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  1. Thanks for the cool tip, Rena! 🙂

  2. You’re very welcome! It’s so easy and kind of fun too.

  3. What a great idea. I work with leather cord often and have always been frustrated by the curling. I’m going to give this a try.

  4. Will this work for leather that is kinked from being wrapped around cards instead of spools? I’ve even tried tying a rock to a long length and hanging it to stretch and heat up in our Arizona sun, but it didn’t work.

  5. Hi Daisy!

    I’ve never worked with kinked leather cord, so I really don’t know how it would work for that. I would cut off a test piece of your kinked leather cord – about a foot long – to experiment with.

    Then as you run this test piece of cord back and forth through your bead, try to really scrape those kinked spots to relax them. You might have to run it through your bead several times.

    I’d be interested to hear how it works for you! 🙂

  6. Hi Rena,
    What a great idea. i will be glad to have another little tool to add to the toolbox.

    Here is something I do with both wound leather and with kinked leather.

    Take your piece and pull it just like you would to stretch your beading thread. Use an even pull on both ends and remember leather breaks too so pull slowly and evenly. If your piece is long do it in sections. Then put it in your palm and very slowly run it through, several times if it is really kinked or has been on the spool for a long time. Your palm will heat up the leather and relax it, then you can pull it again. Leave a kinked section in your palm for awhile longer.

    This would be another way if you don’t want your leather to look “distressed”.

  7. I work for a leather cord manufacturing company and this article is very useful! Thank you for the tips and I will be sure to share (if that is alright with you).

  8. Thank you, Amy! I appreciate hearing that from someone who works in the leather industry. Yes, I’d love to share this super-easy way to straighten out coiled leather cord. (And of course I’d appreciate a link back.) Thanks so much! 🙂

  9. I will definitely link back. Thanks again for the great post!

  10. Dionne Siegrist says:

    What a great idea … thanks … I certainly never would have thought of that. I am so greatful to be able to come to your site for all these wonderful tips Rena!

  11. This is a wonderful tip to have! I hardly use leather any more because I have so much trouble straightening it, and I do have quite a bit on hand! Thanks for this one.

  12. Great tip Rena, thank you!

  13. Does the bead need to be made from bone or will this work with other materials too?

  14. Louise says:

    Try preparing the leather by putting it in water for a short time before use. Cold or luke warm – either will do. It will become instantly softer and the kinks can usually be removed easily with your fingers. If you have dyed leather, or are not sure, try a test sample first.
    If you want to emboss leather, this is an effective method to get a good impression. Soak the leather, then pat it dry with a cloth or paper towel so there is no moisture on the surface. Place your embossing tool in place on the leather and hit it with a hammer. You will have a wonderfully crisp impression. Allow the leather to air dry naturally.
    Leather can often easily be worked into projects while it is damp, and it generally more pliable than when it is dry.
    I hope this helps someone out with their project…

  15. Rosanne Moore says:

    When I use the dyed suede cord I grasp it with an old washcloth and pull the cord through until the excess color stops rubbing off. It softens the cord and removes that suede lint as well. I’ll try with a damp cloth to see if it gets more of the color off. I like having suede cord as a choice but don’t want that dye transfer.

  16. Paula Countryman says:

    Thank you for all your tips Rena..I check my emails daily as I so look forward to them 🙂

  17. I would suggest to NOT soak your leather to emboss it but to just dampen it. My Mom did leather carving and stamping for many years abd she warned me many times against it.

  18. Neat article! I just made my first leather cord necklaces (with metal closures I bought on and they rock! To soften and relax the leather cord I dampened it slightly, stretched it gently by tugging a bit, and let it hang to dry. After it was dry I conditioned it with mink oil (the kind you put on shoes). If you don’t have any on hand, a gentle hand cream (I love Burt’s Bee’s cuticle cream, always have it on me) works too! Dry leather can break easily, so keep it conditioned and it will last longer. 😉

  19. Sandy, thank you so much for the mink oil / cuticle cream tip – I didn’t know that, but it makes perfect sense. 🙂 Thanks for sharing that!

  20. sara walls says:

    I straighten leather cord by hanging something heavy from it overnight. You might need to wet some leathers beforehand, just make sure they are colorfast first.

  21. can this same technique be used on cord that “isn’t” leather?

  22. Hi Cheryl! Thanks for asking. Here’s the best way to find out whether it works on your type of cord:

    Experiment with this technique on a small piece of your cord that you wouldn’t mind using as a guinea pig, and see what happens. That’s the only way I know of to find out for sure whether a technique will work with the materials you have.

    I have only used this particular cord-straightening method on leather, but it’s possible that it may work on other types of cord too.

  23. that’s great Rena I have done some leather work in the past (before my Jewelry making days) and wetting the leather is one way to work the leather, also the mink oil, I used on saddles when we had horses. Leather looks great also after running it back through the bone beads several times and I like the distressed look. Have a bead that might be bone that I use for that, not sure if it is bone but it seems to work. I love hearing from you with your wonderful ideas.

  24. Sue Shade says:

    Thanks for sharing Rena. I love using things our ancestors used in my work.

  25. Thanks for the tip!

    Working with wire – is there a similar technique you would suggest? I recently bought a pair of nylon jaw pliers, but find they only take “just so much” curve out!

  26. I love this newsletter. Every time I run out of ideas or can not figure out my next step the newsletter pop up on my email

  27. That’s wonderful to hear, DeShawna! Thank you for taking the time to let me know! 🙂

  28. Thanks! That’s handy.

  29. Barbara Jacquin says:

    If you don’t have the right bead, maybe you could draw the cord back and forth over a table edge. Gently though! I haven’t tried it; just an idea.

  30. Great idea, Barbara!

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