Although I haven’t started leather craft yesterday, there still are a lot of mysteries for me about leather. So it was time to do a little research. Since I didn’t take any classes I will have to return to my basic research sources …. theories in books, the Internet and you ladies of course.
I will try to assemble a list or guide of all the different types of leather I can find and therefore enrich my own but maybe even your knowledge too. Though if I have missed a big one (because there are many different kinds), please let me know and I will add it to the list.
First of all, we have to look at how the fibres of the hide are build-up. There will be some terms you might have seen in my posts the ABC of leather craft (Part I & Part II), though for my own and your full understanding of what all those terms mean, have I summarised them below.
Types of Leather:
Animal skins or hides have of course a hair side and a flesh side. With the grain side, we refer to the outer or hair side. This also has different layers, a grain layer and a corum layer. The full grain layers consist therefore the scars, bite marks and burning marks.
Top grain leather
Once the first layer of the grain is removed also the insect bites or scars will be removed. Finally, you will end up with the lower layer of the grain and the upper part of the corum (the part above the flesh).
The Full grain and the top grain are both ‘grain types of leather’. These types of leather will come in three more kinds of “finish” to make it even more complicated.
- Aniline leather: This type of leather is coloured with dye but has no surface coating or pigment. This makes it the most natural looking leather
- Semi-aniline: Semi-Aniline leather is more durable than aniline leather due to the application of a coating on the surface of the hide with pigment. It still has a natural appearance but with a consistent colour which can hide some of the inconsistencies in the hide.
- Protected or pigmented: The last type of the grain leathers is the protected or the pigmented one. This is also the most durable in its kind due to the polymer surface coating and with pigments for a consistent colour. This type of leather is mostly used for upholstery.
Even more types of grain leather
Besides the previous types of leather, there are more types which are actually grain leather.
- Such as Nubuck, which is a top-grain hide that has been sanded or buffed on the grain side which caused the fibres in that layer to give it a softer looking surface.
- Or Belting leather, a full grain leather originally used to drive machinery. Generally, it is a heavy and durable type of full grain leather.
- Pull up leather is aniline dyed and impregnated with oils or/and waxes. Due to those last products, the aniline dye will darken. Though when you stretch or pull it the lighter colour will be ‘pulled up’. This gives the hide a very interesting and natural look to the hide instead of for example being painted.
Once we remove the full- and a part of the top grain of the hide we ‘split’ it. This is a commonly used term in the leather industry. Once you end up with the split of the grain we call it ‘Genuine leather’. Genuine leather is the lower part of the grain and the full corum layer. The fibres of the leather are the strongest at the top and will loosen to the corum with will make it more easily to tear. Genuine leather is there for real leather though just not the strongest part of the hide but this makes it also less expensive.
Genuine leather is known under a lot of other names:
- Corrected leather
- Embossed leather
- Coated leather
- Napa leather
- Painted leather
- And as I already said, split leather.
When we have removed the top layers of the leather we don’t have a compact grain anymore and therefore there are two types of leather made of split leather.
- Finished split: it has a coating on it with an embossed grain to mimic the full/top grain leathers
- Suede: the fibres of the split are trimmed or napped like nubuck to give it the typically look of suede, soft and furry.
There is the last type of leather, bonded leather. Some might say it is not even leather because it is shredded leather scraps bonded together with a filler and an embossed coating. Therefore, it is ‘made of leather’ and it ‘is’ not leather itself. It is very cheap but also with a very low quality.
There is always more to learn about types of leather
I have learned already a lot though I still find it hard to actually recognise all these types in the shop where I buy my leather. Hopefully, next time I will do a little better. During my research, I found much and much more information for example on tanneries and really crazy types of leather. So I think I have enough information for a lot of posts! Though I would love to hear what you would like to see more in the ‘pure leather’-type of posts.
But before I dig into the theory of leathercraft even deeper, I will have to finish the projects I already have laying around. Such as the Black bag as the ones, who follow me on Instagram, will recognise…. Let’s get crafty and maybe I will even do some valentine experiments (my valentine isn’t allowed to see it though…hmmm). Stay tunned for much and much more leather and style here on Florineleatherandstyle.com, Pinterest and Instagram!