Leather Crafting – Another Ancient Craft Still Useful Today!
Leather crafting happens to be a lot of fun, but if you’re a beginner you should expect some challenges. The list of projects you can take on is nearly endless. And best of all, you can likely sell your creations on ETSY, eBay or at flea markets and at least cover the cost of your hobby. And, don’t forget that leather makes great handmade gifts.
Leather crafting has been around for at least 25,000 years and began when our Stone Age ancestors started using animal hides for garments. Leather has been used to make water and wine casks, tents, whips, tents, saddles, boats, helmets, shields and a nearly endless list of useful items. It is without a doubt one of the more important materials used throughout history.
Leather crafting for the beginner requires only a few basic tools. These would include a ruler or measuring tape, a pen or pencil, an awl, a knife or leather shear and some needles specifically designed for sewing leather. These tools can be found at a craft specialty store. Once you have your tools, you are ready to buy some leather.
There are many kinds of leather available for the hobbyist to work with. Here is a good tip I found. When looking for leather to purchase, check out your local flea markets and thrift stores. Leather jackets and other clothing articles from these places can be a great source of high quality, low cost leather.
For some projects you will need to go to the craft specialty store to get your leather. There you will find a range of costs based on type, thickness and overall weight. Craft stores usually sell leather by the square foot. It may pay you to shop around online for the lowest price, if you know the basics of leather and can safely order the material you need for your project. However, I have heard people say that they will not buy leather unless they can see and touch it beforehand. I guess it depends to some extent of the specifics of your project.
So, you now have all of your tools and supplies for your project and it is time to begin. Once you have cut out your pieces you need to bind them together so that as you sew or lace them together they stay in position. You don’t want to use pins as these will scar the material. What you can use includes binder clips, spring clamps or even mild glue.
You now need to choose to sew or lace your project together. Sewing uses a needle that essentially cuts a hole as you push it through the leather. The alternative is to lace your project. This involves making small holes all the way through the material at equal intervals and then lacing the thread in and out.
There are a few different stitches you can use on your leather crafting projects. There is a saddle stitch, running stitch, cross stitch or a whip stitch. Each has its advantages for different types of projects. You will have to determine which is best for your creation.
In general there are three forms of leather sold today. These are:
Full-grain leather, sometimes called top-grain is the upper layer of the hide that originally included the epidermis and hair. This layer is kept with all its natural marks. It is not buffed, sanded or brushed which gives it greater strength and durability. This leather also has greater breathability which makes it more comfortable for clothing.
Split leather is made from the fibrous part of the hide left after the top-grain has been removed. Depending on the thickness of the split, the hide may be split into even more layers. Split leather has an artificial material applied to the surface which is then pressed to give it leather grain look. Split leather is used to make suede.
Corrected-grain is any top-grain that has been buffed sanded or brushed to remove surface imperfections. Sometimes corrected-grain is called top-grain because it is made from the top layer of the hide. Here is the difference, corrected-grain begins with inferior hides that don’t make the cut as top-grain.
There are a host of other leather types that mostly come about due to special processing, different tanning methods or less common animal types.
How Leather is Sold:
Leather is sold by weight and square foot. As an example, five ounce leather weighs five ounces per square foot. The weight of leather also relates well to its thickness. Again as an example, five ounce leather will be 5/64ths of an inch thick. Seven ounce leather will be 7/64ths thick, and so on.
Your leather crafting project will determine the thickness of leather you will need to purchase.
- Belts use a thick leather, usually seven to nine ounce in a cowhide, pigskin or calfskin.
- Briefcases are usually cowhide in a four to six ounce weight.
- Handbags are usually made from garment suede from lambskin or split cowhide in weights of four to ten ounce weight.
- Upholstery is usually one to four ounce weight in a top-grain pre-stretched cowhide.
- Wallets, key cases and book bindings are usually two to four once weight in a calfskin, cowhide or pigskin.
As you develop your leather crafting skills, you will want to invest in a few more tools to give yourself that extra flexibility in design. The information on these kinds of tools will come to you as you progress. Hopefully the above information gives you sufficient knowledge and confidence to give it a try. Remember, it is all about having some fun!
Other descriptors include ideas for hobbies, leather tooling, find a hobby and crafts for kids.