Monthly Archives: March 2012

Everyone is a genius

Hey all, it’s been a while.

I’ve been a bit caught up with other parts of my life, so leather craft has taken a backseat for a while. I’ll be back in a bit though.

Let’s talk about leather craft, and how you can get started. I first got into the hobby when I foolishly concluded that it was easy, and that ‘anyone could make that, duh’. And, to a certain extent, that statement still holds true. Anyone can make an item out of leather, but how beautiful or well-made it is, that’s a deep deep chasm that divides the err men from the err boys.

Anyhow, if you want to get started, here’s what you can do.

Watch  YouTube is a godsend. As with most crafts, the art of hand-working leather boils down to technique, and techniques seldom translate well into the printed word. “The needle pierces the leather and should overlap the other side. Then thread the other needle through the same hole. Repeat” You could read that a hundred times or just watch these.

Read  Videos give you a great start to how things ‘should’ be done, but peering closely at a printed page helps to cement the concepts in your head. I bought this soon after I started, and would highly recommend it. Nicely detailed, and it contains projects that you can take on as well. I’ve heard that our National Library has good books for beginners as well, so you could pay them a visit.

Discuss  Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions. I’m no expert, but I’ve probably made far more mistakes than you have, and I’ll help where I can.

Then you’ll need tools. I’m located in Singapore, where leather craft shares the same heights of popularity as banjo playing. It was, and still is, a huge challenge to find good quality tools locally, which is why I’ve given up and ordered most of my stuff online. I’ve worked with GoodsJapan before, and Simon is a great guy to purchase from and the quality of his stuff is great. Tandy is yet another well known supplier, and I’ve bought a lot of hardware (buckles, snaps, rivets etc) from them as well.

For a start, I’d recommend the following set of tools:

  • Pricking irons – You’ll need at least one or two. Start with the 4-prong 1.5mm and 2.5mm irons, these two will give you a fairly flexible range for a start.
  • Mallet – Rawhide or wood, either would be fine. What you don’t want is to just use a metal hammer on your irons because the ends of the iron will deform and you will have a sadface.
  • Cutting mat – Easy enough to purchase locally. I’d recommend getting one that is at least A3 in size.
  • Punches – I’ve had luck finding punches at the local Daiso so you may want to check those out. A very viable alternative would be a Rotary Punch, commonly used to put in extra holes in your belt after a hard festive season.
  • A good knife – When I first started, I purchased a X-Acto knife from a crafts shop and was perfectly happy with it. That would work fine until you decide that it’s time to invest a little more money in the craft.
  • Leather needles – Leather needles are NOT sewing needles. They are larger, and while pointy, they aren’t sharp. You can get away with using larger sewing needles, but trust me, you’ll be online looking for proper needles after the first 20 pricks to your fingers.

And that’s about it. A basic tool set like the above would run you about $100-$120. Not exactly cheap, but with a set like this, you’ll be able to make almost any type of small leather goods. There are of course a whole ton of specialist tools that you would very rarely need, but would thank your stars for when you do need those. Get those later.

Go give it a go. You’d be surprised at how horrendous your first piece is going to turn out, but with enough good humour and patience, everyone can discover surprising amounts of genius within your fingertips.

 

Oh.

I’m planning to put together a leather craft workshop, so if you’re interested in attending, do register your interest in the comments below. I’ll get in touch with you once details are ironed out.

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A Tall Bag

Sometimes, projects start from the oddest circumstances.

I had been working on a tote for B for a while, but she hadn’t gotten back to me about the length of the straps she preferred so that was stalled.

Then, I’d recently purchased a couple of bag claps and then there was this leather that I’d been saving up, and I didn’t have much planned for the day… So on a Sat morning, a new project was begun.

I kinda knew what I wanted to make: a larger version of the Big Clutch, but this time with straps, so that it would be workday-ready.

Straps. Pricked and ready for stitching. When you’ve a pair of straps to make, a pricking iron and good sound deadening are the two friends that will save your ass.

Clasp and strap stitched. I actually did the leather strip for the clasp twice because I suddenly decided to line the bag with pigskin. Yes kids, indecision will cost you dearly.

The leather is a waxed cow hide with a subtle grain. Glossy, but lovely to the touch. I’d liked the hide from the moment I’d seen it, and I’m glad that the design of the bag showed it off nicely.

The sewing itself didn’t take as long as I’d been bracing myself for. All in all, this bag took the weekend, from ‘staring into space’ phase to final clipping of loose thread ends.

Additional photos of the complete item follow.

An open view of the Tall Bag, shown with the first thing I could grab. In this case, a carved leather notebook from India.

A full view of it. The iPhone 4 gets a tad confused when there is too dominant a colour within the frame, which explains why it looks red here.

Overall dimensions: About 10in across, and 11in tall.

B likes it, so I guess it turned out pretty well.

 

Comments always welcome so say hi below.

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Something’s afoot

The weekend comes, and another project begins.

20120303-193858.jpg

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Handmade. No seriously.

The phrase “Handmade” sometimes gets a bad rep, especially when it comes to leather goods.

Is stuff sewn on a machine still handmade? To an extent, I suppose, if you count the machine as a very fast moving and accurate extension of your hand that never gets tired and doesn’t get callouses.

Let’s talk about this bag for example.

It’s a camera case I made for myself (ignore the snoozing dog doing a photobomb). Black veg-tanned Buffalo hide, with one main compartment that will, with dividers, hold 2 camera bodies and 1-2 lenses. Two side pockets and a front pocket complete it. Adjustable sling strap with a shoulder pad for comfort.

The thing is, cows seldom grow camera-bag-shaped. Yet, at least.

These were some of the parts that went into the bag. I was halfway through the first side pocket as you can see. The various straps had been pre-cut and burnished, but snaps, rivets and buckles had not been fitted yet.

The little holes that you see along the edges are the prick marks that would need to be hand-pricked and enlarged, and then sewn together.

So the entire process goes something like this:

  • settle down at the work space with a coffee
  • stare at a blank sheet of paper and start mentally working out how large the bag should be
  • start making design notes, including some truly terrible sketches with outside dimensions, pockets etc.
  • pick out the hardware that will be used. Yes, I recommend pre-planning EVERYTHING.
  • translate those terrible sketches into equally badly drawn cut-dimensions and try to group them to minimise leather waste
  • and all that has to happen before you do the cut, or clicking of the leather. Cut the leather. Or click. Whatever.
  • measure to make sure that your, erm, measurements aren’t off (Oh it happens. I’ve ended up with an additional inch of leather on one panel before. Much cursing resulted)
  • start marking and then pricking the stitch holes
  • plan your assembly. There is nothing more frustrating than to start off sewing the pieces together then realising that you actually should have sewn on this part first. Much more cursing will result should that occur
  • start sewing. I, like almost every other leather crafts person, would use a saddle-stitch. Part out of tradition, but mostly because there is no point trying to improve on what is probably the best stitching method for leather. Oh. Fun Fact: Saddle stitching can’t be done on a machine
  • sew some more. Look, there are only 24hrs in a day, and I have a day job and a needy dog alright
  • finally finish sewing, and then fit assorted buckles and snaps
  • burnish, wax and inspect
  • and you are done

All in all, this particular bag probably has about close to a thousand frickin stitches to be done by hand, and that isn’t particularly uncommon for a decently sized bag. I have the actual number scrawled on the plans somewhere but I’m not going to look it up.

And ladies and gentlemen, is what I, and other leather workers think of when we say handmade.

When you purchase an item with your hard earned money, the bulk of the cost isn’t all going into the cost of materials, but the workmanship that put it together. That is where your money goes. The final item isn’t going to be the cheapest thing around, but I’d daresay that it will be of a damn fair value.

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Abby

So this is my dog.

She’s a 5 year old Weimaraner who doesn’t listen to me and is doing her best to eat me out of house and home. 

Obligatory gross dog story: While asleep, she once passed gas so loudly that she woke herself up, which then woke me up, and the cloud of rancid intestinal gas ensured that I could not fall back asleep. #Fuckyeah #fuckinglovemydog

What a dog eh.

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Because it’s a Leica right?

So this one stumped me for a bit.

A good friend asked for a lens cap holder to give as a gift to a Leica-owning relative.

First thought was “Whats wrong with pockets?” But, after a couple of failed attempts, including a visit to the Peninsular area to ask for the actual dimensions of a Leica lens cap (I’ve never bought one out of poverty and principle), this is the result.

Single piece of buffalo hide, stitched at the back and fastened with a snap.

Unlikely I’d ever make another since it is just so fiddly to do the stitching if you’re not a Hobbit. The bottle of Macallan in the background did not have anything to do with the slow pace of assembly.

Well, last I heard, the user was mighty pleased with it, and it now sits proudly on the strap of his M9.

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