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Posts Tagged ‘leather’

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stud_2All of the leather shown above is undyed. The colors achieved are simply the result of time, general use, and sun exposure.

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I am asked the question, “what is vegetable tanned leather?” pretty often. Sometimes people wonder if it’s even real leather… is it made of vegetables?

Tanning is the process of treating animal skin to produce leather. All leather is tanned in one way or another. It is what converts an animal skin into a functional, usable material. The 2 most common types of tanning you will likely hear of include chrome (or mineral) tanning and vegetable tanning.

“Vegetable tanned” means the process of tanning leather has been achieved with tannins, and other ingredients found in plant matter – most commonly tree bark. Vegetable tanning is an age old traditional method, which is often done by hand, by skilled artisans. It is a lengthy process from start to finish, which can take up to 60 days. By the use of natural tannins, vegetable tanned leather improves rather than degrades with age. It starts out with a firmer temper – feeling stiffer than chrome tanned leather – and then becomes soft and supple, and develops a rich patina on it’s surface. In a sense, vegetable tanned leather is like a living organism, responding to it’s environment.

Chrome tanned leather makes up the majority of the leather you will find on the retail market. Chrome tanning employs the use of chemicals, acids and salts (including chromium sulphate), and the process is quick, taking only one day. It is easily mass produced, and highly toxic to the environment, as well as the people involved in the tanning process. Leather tanned with chemicals doesn’t wear well, and eventually often cracks and becomes brittle.

I have been exploring the world of leather over the last couple years, and when I first got my hands on a side of vegetable tanned cowhide, I could immediately smell and feel the difference. It invites you to handle it. The smell is soft and comforting. The subtle variation in grain and color from piece to piece is exciting and beautiful. One of the more notable features of natural vegetable tanned leather, for the end user, is the change that occurs over time. What begins a pale flesh tone, gradually transforms to a rich chestnut or cognac brown. The end color will vary somewhat, depending on the exact tannins used – from reddish brown to golden brown. This change can be accelerated with the application of oil, and with sun exposure. Just as your skin can get a suntan, so will vegetable tanned leather.

The rucksack above, which belongs to a customer of mine, has been in regular use for about a year. The leather has not been dyed! My wallet shown above would be quite a lot darker if I were to leave it out in the light each day. Since it spends most of it’s time in my bag or my pocket, the change has been more gradual. If you were to inspect my wallet closely you would see where the oils from my hands have darkened the edges, and the subtle gradations from light to dark, depending on each area’s exposure and wear. The way a quality wallet (or pair of shoes, or bag, etc) wears, can say a lot about the user and the life of the item. I love that.

This post just scratches the surface of all there is to know about leather, but it should help gain an understanding of some of the basics.

For anyone interested, here are a couple of further resources.

A wikipedia article on leather:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leather
and an encyclopedia brittanica entry on tanning:
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/582713/tanning

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Wishing you all a happy and healthy start to a new year! I am always amazed at how quickly another year has passed, and this year is definitely no exception.

The shop has reopened, with select items available. I will be adding more as I can.

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A new item, just out, is the checkbook wallet. I had a lot of inquiries about the prototype, which I have been using for a while now. It has softened up beautifully and is already darkening to a warm rosy tan. For the final, I increased the size a little, and made it easier to access and view the contents of the wallet with a cut-out in the front. Have a look here if you’d like.

 

Here’s to the best year ever. xo

 

 

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ikat and leather

 

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I’ve started adding some new leather bottom pencil cases to the shop. These are made with a vintage ikat textile I recently found. I salvaged the sturdy areas of the textile, and removed what was too tattered and worn. On some of the cases you will see lovely little signs of wear. All of them are built to last.

I love the variation throughout this material, in vividness, pattern and color. Each case is one of a kind.

no. 1 and no. 2

More to come soon.

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I have just added a few new Handstitched Buckle Wallets to the shop.  In order from top to bottom, in the photo directly above – hand dyed vegetable tanned leather in antique tan, velvet brown leather and natural vegetable tanned leather.

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Our new Camera Strap is now available in the shop. It is currently being offered in Stone or Sage waxed canvas, with natural veg tanned leather. Other canvas colors may be available upon request, so feel free to inquire. I even have pink! :) I almost made some in pink, but thought I’d start out with some unisex favorites first. Come take a peek if you’d like.

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We are in quite a windy rain storm, and I think it’s here to stay a little while longer. I sat down to do a little blogging this afternoon, for the first time in almost a month, and the power went out. It was down for just a few hours, but this has us working on preparedness for the season. Our camp stove and propane is now handy, candles are out, batteries are charging, and gallons of water are in the freezer. Last year’s near 2 week outage was quite a wake up call.

While the power was out, I prepped some leather for making wallets. Once it got too dark to work upstairs anymore, I set myself up at the dining table to do some hand stitching.

I managed to finish one of them, and I immediately filled it with the contents of the card wallet I made myself a couple months ago. I actually hadn’t meant to keep it, but I think it’s here to stay :)

I have been using the original (which was machine stitched) constantly for about 9 weeks, and it’s already developing a beautiful patina. A couple weeks ago I added the tab closure to it, to keep my cash more secure. I appreciate the simple design, and love the feel of it in my hand. Here it is when it was first completed. And below shows it after about 2 months of use.

 

There will be some hand stitched versions available in the shop soon.

 

While I sat at the table stitching, Steven and I talked and watched a big flock of tiny pine siskins take shelter on our deck. As much as a power outage can be a lousy inconvenience, there is just as much about them that I appreciate. The quieter time away from our machines and technology is pretty refreshing.

I hope all is well out there.

I won’t be gone so long this time…

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Hi folks, I have just added a new tote to the shop. Our long time favorite “2-tone tote” is now available in slate waxed canvas and natural hemp, with natural veg tanned leather straps. Lined with organic cotton canvas. I am quite fond of this golden brown leather and I think it really complements the slate. This bag will soon will be available with another leather color as well.

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