3 Tips for Getting Started in Leather Working
Leather working has always been on the fringe of my awareness but never in a meaningful, practical way.
It's expensive, seemed impossible to do, and I honestly thought of leather only in terms of horse tack and motorcycle jackets.
That changed when I went to Writers in the Field, a three-day immersive event in Dallas, Texas.
I went to teach belly dance and hang out with my friends. I don't dabble in fiction at all, so I wasn't attached to any one thing. Of course I tried out some combat, learned Italian court dance, and hung out with the dyers and weavers.
My main activity, though, was doing EVERY (free!) project that Tandy Leather offered at their ongoing sessions.
I caught the leather bug, but I didn't do anything with it until COVID. I pounded leather for hours while sitting home waiting for my students to show up on video or to send me questions.
Since then I've done some commission work, created my own designs, and have taught community and school classes in the craft.
If you're interested in learning leather working but aren't sure where to start, here are three tips to get you going if you can't attend a leather working class near you.
Pinterest can be your friend, but it can overwhelm you with too many intricate options. I started with stamping a belt, but I recommend starting even smaller. Find a packet of pre-cut veg-tan bracelets (1.5 inches or so), a sponge, a mallet, a pounding block, and 1-3 stamps to create a pattern.
You don't need to start dyeing at this point: creating patterns and getting the proper stamping technique are both good introductions to the craft.
Don't be afraid to use kits!
Many kits contain pre-punched leather along with needle and thread/cording. The basic kits are inexpensive--a low cost way to get experience in stitching and building leather pieces without having to buy punches or getting frustrated with the punching process.
By this time you'll know if you want to invest in more tools and better leather.
Use Pinterest and Youtube to determine your next move.
Before buying larger kits, start to use Pinterest and Youtube to help you know which direction you want to go.
If you want to do jewelry, you might want to invest in more stamps and jewelry components.
If purses and such catch your fancy, you'll need to move toward purchasing good punches, box cutters, a cutting mat, higher end thread, and a stitching pony. This is also where you'll decide if you want to dye your leather or purchase pre-dyed pieces.
The list is endless, but the point is this: add to your leather collection relatively slowly so you aren't paralyzed by the possibilities and so that you enjoy the process!
(You will probably end up splurging, but the idea of moving rationally and with deliberation is attractive).
If you have any question or want to add another tip, let me know in the comments!