If only I could go leather shopping every week … It feels every time I go shopping for leather that there are those beautiful treasures waiting to be found by me to take home and be processed into the most beautiful bags I can possibly make. Due to the lack of infinite money and time resources, this isn’t a possibility. Therefore when I go, I have to make compromises and choices to leave some hides behind so I have also something to eat at the end of the month haha… But seriously, what should you keep in mind while shopping for leather? I have made a 15 bullet point list below just for some leather shopping. If it is a little too much at this moment, just Pin it or save it on Bloglovin’ and take your time to read it:
In my case at my ‘not-so-local’ leather shop, all leather hides are sorted according to their colours. From black to brown to green to blue to red etc.. Therefore you should think about which colour you would like your projects to have. Every once in a while I don’t have any specific colour in mind but do I go with guts and search through the whole shop for those little treasures and a picture will be created in my mind. If you are working for a customer this might not be an option and therefore it might be useful to keep the colour in mind.
2. Type of animal
As you can read in the post ‘the 101 – leather guide‘ you can read that there are a lot of options when it comes to leather. You can choose between cow, bull, sheep, goat leather or even crocodile, lizard, ostrich and even more exotic types of leather with each their own looks and properties (which is also on the list below). With the autumn/winter trends of this year, you might want to keep in mind what type or which types of animal leather you would like to get for your newest project.
3. Thickness and weight
Each project might require another thickness, for example, you won’t use the same thickness of leather for leather gloves as you would use for a weekend bag. When you don’t own or have access to a splitting machine, it might be a no-brainer to keep thickness and weight in mind while designing and shopping.
Even though you buy ‘100% made of leather’ it isn’t always the best quality… In the 101 leather guide mentioned earlier, shredded leather, glued together, is also made of leather but of really poor quality. So when you decide to put blood, sweat and some tears into a new project it better be worth it. Your time is valuable so make sure your leather is that as well. Buy the best quality of leather you can afford and make something even more beautiful out of it.
5. Type of leather
The type of leather isn’t the same as the animal. Suede, nubuck, pull-up and polished leather are examples of a cow hide. In case you are making a rough and tough looking bag a matching type of leather would make it even rougher and tougher. Every project the look and the design of the leather can be complemented with a specific type of the leather.
As you can imagine, a goat is a little bit smaller in comparison with a cow or even with a sheep. All hides from which animal for so ever will differ in size. During the Festival des Métiers of Hermès in Amsterdam last year the craftsman told us that from one hide of a lamb or calf about 1, maybe two pairs of gloves are made. So think about how much square meters with the addition of the amount of cut-off you will need for your project.
7. Animal bites and scars
I still can’t afford a complete bug bite and scar free hide. I don’t even know if they actually do exist without any preprocessing… So when checking out your hide with the best quality/price ratio don’t forget to see if you can work around those little damages to do make products without any flaws. If you can’t work around them I would advise you to search for another hide just as beautiful but with better ‘ placed’ bite marks.
We certainly can’t forget this bullet point. Whether it is for yourself or for a project you should include the price into your final calculations. Each hide might have a different price and if you have a limited budget you will have to be creative during your shopping. Sometimes the salesman will cut the piece in half or maybe some negotiation is possible…
9. Properties of the leather
Each piece of leather will have different properties. Do you need supple or stiff leather? Depending on the design and purpose of your project you might find yourself in the need for a specific property of leather. Each type of animal, type of leather combines with its thickness will have their own properties… Roll-out those hides and check their properties before you buy it!
10. Type of tannery
There are different methods of tanning a leather hide. A vegetable tanned piece of leather is, for example, tanned with organic materials instead of chemicals. Besides vegetable tanned, you also have chrome-tanned pieces of leather. The type of tannery will also influence the properties of the bag, for example how easily you can colour the hide by yourself or add any other finish…
In case you do like full leather linings, which are colour matched to the outside leather, it is useful to buy them both at once. With both rolls next to each other, you can find the perfect matching or contrasting colour. Sometimes leather shops do also sell other linings but keep it in mind while shopping leather.
12. Edge finish
For each type of leather, you might need to use another method to finish the edges. Think before you buy any type of leather if you are capable of these methods or if you see any other solutions. Learning a new method isn’t the problem but at least while you arrived at bullet point number 12 you have thought about it.
My ‘not-so-local’ shop introduced lately a hardware section in the shop, to my joy. I find it difficult to judge hardware online to decide if it has the right look, feeling and quality. So when shopping for leather why not take some hardware home at the same time!
Even though the quality and the price of a leather hide may be perfect if it isn’t according to your or your customers taste you will have to dive in one more time. Continue until you do find a piece to your liking. Sometimes this is difficult if you are shopping for someone else and therefore a pre-shopping-conversation about expectations and ideas might be a good idea.
Last but not least you will have to keep in mind how you will transport your catch of the day. Did you come with car/public transport or on the bike…? Some shops offer shipment to your atelier or home address. But if they don’t … one hide might already be a challenge on a bike haha…
Once you have kept all these things in mind while leather shopping I think there is almost nothing that could ruin your perfect day of leather shopping. If you have missed my latest catch of the day don’t forget to follow me on Instagram. This way you can check out my ‘Instagram story’ every once in a while and get those sneak previews! When you are going leather shopping in the near future check upcoming DIY (for mother’s day) next Thursday. Because you might need to make one (or multiple) for yourself as well!!