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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How does one start in leather craft anyway?

A stereotype perhaps, but the story of hide industrie begins like many others that involve men.

Hubris. Verbalised: “Okay, I could so make that. How hard could it be?”

I can’t remember the fateful item clad in leather that started me on this journey, but that’s how it started.

A few YouTube clips were viewed, and through the grainy badly edited 320×240 resolution, the mission was clear: To begin making my own leather goods. I became ever indignant of Italian leather houses that were plainly gouging us of our hard earned money.

When the fog arose, the reality was of course different. It took me a good year before I made *anything* that I was remotely satisfied with. When each hole for each stitch is hand pricked and punched, the chances of a misstep are pretty large, and naturally I gamely stepped into the abyss more than a few times. Early attempts featured stitches that were more than slightly uneven, or burnished badly or badly formed and thus functioned badly. A different course was clearly needed.

I ordered more tools, this time Japanese in origin, convinced that it was the lack of proper tools that held back my innate abilities.

It was a bit of that, but more so the dire lack of experience. (Ze Gods of Vuitton, I recant) Over time, things started to fall into place a bit more. Items started to have less of a ‘handmade in a shed without lighting’ sort of chic. I sold my first camera strap. Then another. People started to look me up to ask if I could ‘repair this belt’ Oh fuck off. A case was sold, more straps, a camera bag etc.

There are lots to learn still naturally. But it has been a great experience. Therapeutic mostly, murderous at others.

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A large Clutch

Size matters a lot to women it seems.

It needs to be large enough to fit everything, yet not so large as to make movement cumbersome.

The Clutch.

Handmade from a single piece of veg-tanned Buffalo hide, the Clutch holds a wallet, a cellphone, and various other ‘girlie’ things.

Okay, that’s a Rollei 35 S inside, which isn’t a ‘girlie’ thing. It’s a serious photographic tool damnit. But yes, you get the picture.

Available here.

 

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Tote

B wants a tote. B gets a tote.

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This is the strap, mid-stitch.

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All about straps

So in addition to leather craft, we like cameras. A lot. And when the two meet, you end up with straps.

We make, and sell camera straps for almost any type of camera. From Mamiya RBs (a heavy beast that will over-deliver on your image expectations every_damn_time) to older cameras with ring-style strap lugs.

The one that is our current favourite?

Handcut from Veg-tanned Buffalo hide, right along the spine (leather is strongest when cut from head to tail, rather than across. I’ve confused you haven’t I?) and then hand burnished.

They look like this fitted.

These are 1/2″ thick, about 40″ long when attached to your camera.

Get them here.

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