A beginners guide to leather crafting, pt 3

Okay! The newbie is here to instruct other newbies – no offence to us all, but I guess the reason you’re here is to either learn something new or to judge my newbie skills, so I figured we’d just get it sorted right away! This post is number three, you can read part one and two by clicking the links. If you asked me a question and I didn’t answer it now; I already have earlier! Or someone did too, and it is worded a little bit different.

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Most of the questions I recieved I have already answered, but I’ll do a quick summary here for the most popular questions, and add which part you can find a better answer on! 🙂 Skip to the next paragraph if you want to read new questions and new answers.

Where do I buy leather and tools? I buy it from Skinnlåven, a rather local, norwegian store. I do not buy big supplies form abroad. I can promise you theres a niche store (or several) in your native country you can buy from! I recommend a little FBI-ing and a little kung-google-fu, and I’m sure you’ll find a good store. Better answer in part 1.

What tools to I REALLY need to get started? Sadly, as leather isn’t mendable without tools, you kinda need them all. This is why I recommend everyone to take a beginners course (like a two day noobie course, you’d be surprised they exist!) if you’re curious, as what tools you really really need depends on what you want to make. With a little experience, you are capable of choosing for yourself what you can postpone purchasing. Better answer in part 1.

What will it cost me to get started? I like comparing this to when you start any other expensive hobby. You’ll need a lot of basic equipment and it’ll be quite the cost to get started. I wrote more about this in part 2.

What project is recommended as a fist-project for someone who has never done this before? Belts! And dog collars. One-buckle projects. Bridles are a bit fidgety. However, if you want to practice your sewing, a double stitched halter is one hell of a way to become an expert sewer in one project. Some swearing guaranteed, haha! Answered in part 1.

Now on to the questions I haven’t answered before!

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  • Do you need special needles and thread?

Yes! Your leather supplier will be able to guide you into the needles you’ll need. A short explaination is that leather crafting needles are usually blunt, because you’ve already punctured a hole in the leather before sewing it. The thread we use is waxed and sticky, and there’s plenty of brands to choose from. The ideal is the “tiger thread”, but it also cost half my salary. Currently, on my budget, I’ve chosen a rather cheap synthetic thread, and it’s more than good enough for my use! Some will frown over that statement; but remember, the most important factor is that you are satisfied with your quality, and that you craft things that doesn’t break. I’d rather spend my money on decent leather.

  • Tips for lefties?

Most leather crafting equipment are not designed for the right handed, but are the unisex answer to left/right-handedness. Being ambidextrous myself (I’m not right nor left handed, I use both), I don’t have an issue with any of my tools, but there’s one or two tools I can think of that are either left or right handed. Luckily for all lefties, left hand versions of those tools aren’t hard to find, so I think the only tip you need is “tell your supplier” and you’ll be on the right (or left?) track immediately.

  • Can you make horse tack from vegan “leather”?

It’s perfectly possible to create horse tack with biothane and similar vegan products. Myself, I’m not very fond of the finish, and you have less shaping options (as biothane comes in set widths, and my leather comes in one huge piece). But if you’re vegan and/or want to experiment with vegan options, I’d say go for it! You might need other tools than what we use for leather crafting though. Please just remember that these vegan options are plastic. Not that leather is super enviromentally friendly – but plastic isn’t either.

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  • How do you punch holes in the leather? How do you water proof the leather? How do you make the edges so smooth? How do you evenly shave the leather thinner?

I did get a lot of “how do” questions, and firugred I’d smush them down into one answer. All of these questions will be answered when you start learning, but the answer is sharp knives, sharp awls, a piece of bone/wood/plastic + friction (for the edges). If you’re an equestrian you already know how to waterproof it; bring out your tack cleaning soap and fats and get to it! 🙂

  • When making a bridle, which part of it do you recommend starting with?

This is very personal! And not in the private kind of personal, but it’s very personal what you prefer. I start with the cheekpieces and the crownpiece, and then it’s a little bit up to what style of bridle I’m going for.

  • What leather is best to work with, where can it be found, how do I make sure the quality is good enough and is there a more reasonable priced leather suitable for newbies on a budget? Does price really affect the quality?

Different parts of the cow has a different quality, will have a different price, and be suited for different projects. Think meat! Some parts are just tastier and yummier, and some parts work best as slow cooked soup ingredients. Your leather supplier should be able to guide you to find the best newbie on budget alternative they have. I usually purchase the front part of the cow, it’s not the absolute best quality leather, but my supplier often have some really nice pieces in, so I’m able to compromise.

  • Can anyone do it? Are there any free resources you an learn from?

Lots of free resources! YouTube is filled with tutorials, and you’ll find detailed instructions, craft-alongs and tips and tricks for making almost anything. Bags, wallets, belts, bridles – you name it, they have it!

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  • Is it easy to make your own reins?

Yes – if you have thick enough leather. My 3-3,5mm leather is too light weight to be suited as reins, unless I do something to add weight to them, and I am not going to invest in thick enough leather. I find it much easier to just purchase the length I need 🙂

  • What do you use to apply dye to the leather?

A dot of sheep pelt is actually incredibly handy to use when dying. For intricate colour details, you can use a brush, or special sponges or fluffy brushes. Your leather supplier will have many options, and if you let them know what your project is, they’ll most likely be happy to help you find the best alternaitve for you!

  • Is there any step that is easy to forget, but is important?

I’d like to say no, as you have to do step one in order to be able to do step two. But the biggest mistake I have ever done, and somehow manage to still do every once in a while, is to put the buckle on the wrong way and spend an hour sewing. Gosh. And then you have to cut everything apart, get the buckle the right way around and then re-sew everything 😛 Important step: Double check that your buckle is on the right way hahaha

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  • How do you not get your hands sore?

I do get my hands sore! But slow and steady wins the race. Don’t sew more than you are comfortable doing, your fingers will soon grow extra skin to better handle the hard work. Be more careful about your tendons – if they’re sore, take it calm. You don’t want long term sore tendons, they’ll screw you over in your day-to-day life too, haha.

  • Biggest NO NO?

Don’t sew across the leather, only along the length of it. Especially important if you are working on a project you need to NOT fall apart, like horse tack and equipment for big dogs. I like to say “think toilet paper”. All those tiny dots going across? Perfect for ripping apart. Yes, sewing makes the leather stick together, but you are also creating a lot of holes. Those holes will rip.

  • Can you do leather crafting with one hand?

I think this will be quite a challenge sadly; and I don’t imagine myself being able to do anything I am doing, with one hand less. Then again; I have never had to try. Depending a little on how you, if you at all, can use your paralyzed hand/arm (to support, or lean against the project) you might be able to look into working with thinner leather for non-heavy duty work, but the thick leather I work with is incredibly hard strength wise.

  • How do you avoid making the wrong measurements?

You don’t. You’ll mess up, and you’ll take things apart, or you’ll just measure better the next time 🙂

Okay! That was 14 more questions answered for you all! I see that the returning answer is “ask your supplier” and “practice your best kung google-fu”, but you’d be surprised how happy people are in terms of sharing their knowledge.

Emma

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