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Celebrating 42 years of Kingsmere Crafts on Mersea Island

HAND-CRAFTED LEATHER GOODS

These pages are merely an introduction to hand-crafted leatherwork, in the hope that those reading them, having a desire to create in this unique and interesting material, will be inspired to do so. They are also intended to be (at least within the limits of my knowledge) a source of reference regarding leather in general.

My website is not offering things for sale, and you won't find pages full of advertising. It is a site to share with you whatever leather-craft knowledge I have acquired.

Seeking to supplement this with a visit to a local bookstore I found nothing. The local libraries produced the same result. So I turned to the internet. I found snippets of information here and there but spent hours jumping from one place to another.

Frustrated, I decided to do something about it, and created this site. I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy putting it together.

Now, a word on accuracy. During my researches I came across masses of contradictory information and to the best of my ability I have tried to make this site as accurate as possible. 

Hand-crafted leatherwork should appeal to all those of you who have a love of natural materials, and the techniques involved in working with it are singularly its own.

Viking boots

Bellows

How to make shoulder-strap handbags

Keyrings (initial)

Kingsmere Crafts produces hand-crafted leather goods using in-house, unique designs, utilising only the finest leathers. Each operation, from cutting, dyeing, sewing, carving or embossing, to the final polishing, is done by hand.

Everything is hand-crafted, from keyrings, purses and wallets, to bellows, belts of all widths and lengths, also handbags of various shapes and sizes, in fact everything you see, or is mentioned, on this website.

Purses

Stirrup-shape handbags

Barrettes

Handbag

Butterfly hairslide and leather butterflies

Items can be personalised, and if made from leather, repaired.
There is even a restoration and repair service for helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft interiors.

Leather is not simply the skin of a dead animal. It is a produced through a multi-step process by skilled tanners practising a craft that goes back thousands of years. In the ancient world, formulae were whispered from father to son, and the trade guilds of the European Middle Ages protected the secrets of the process. Tanning is not a task to be undertaken lightly. It takes experience, as well as a dedication to quality to produce the kind of leather that true craftsmen desire.

Leather is one of the most versatile materials known to man. As a raw material, it is extremely durable, strong and absorbent. These are the properties which make it well-suited to a wide range of treatments. One of the oldest industries known, leather making today is a complex process. The same basic production stages will be common to all leather manufacture. However, the individual skills, experience and techniques of the world's best leather makers can greatly influence the manufacturing process and add value and quality to the end product.

medieval musical instrument

medieval musical instruments

medieval drum

As one of the oldest industries known to mankind, our earliest ancestors used skins to protect their body, hands and feet. Leather is made from the skin of any animal, reptile, bird or fish through a process known as tanning. This process preserves the skin that would otherwise quickly decay. No two hides are exactly the same. Characteristic marks of the hides' natural origin are healed scars, neck growth marks, veins, abrasions and areas of different fibre density or hair pore structure. In the first few weeks of use, the leather will acquire perfectly natural creases and wrinkles. However, leather improves with age. Staying soft and supple, it will develop a rich patina over the years.

According to the Bible, Simon the Tanner (also known as Saint Simon the Shoemaker) was plying his trade as long ago as 2000 years ago. But before this, the first leather was created almost by accident by Neanderthal man. As the early hunter gatherers prepared their prey, the first part of the preparation was to skin the animal. They soon discarded the skin and not long after noticed that skins left in moist areas when combined with the foliage from leaves had exhibited certain characteristics. They lasted longer before they began to decay and retained their features longer than other skins. The plant extracts eventually became known as vegetable tanning and is still practiced today in a similar form.

The earliest record of European tanning is: Homer's Iliad (389 f.): "The ox hide, which is soaked in fat, is pulled to and fro by men standing in a circle, thus stretching the skin and causing the fat to penetrate into the pores."

Through the careful control of tanning and finishing processes, leather can be fire and water retardant and resistant to acids, fats and oils. It can be impregnated with rubbers, resins and plastics to give defined performance characteristics such as hardness/flexibility, elasticity, tensile strength, heat resistance, etc. Leather can be moulded to any shape.

Today, the leather industry continues to improve its methods and processes through aggressive technology but with an additional emphasis on protecting our natural environment. Similarly, with very few exceptions, animal hides are a by-product of the meat industry; almost all leather producing animals in just about every country are reared for the food they provide, not for their hides.

There are many synthetic materials where a great deal of effort has been expended to reproduce the grain effect of leather. So much so that the public in general is frequently deceived, and at craft shows I've found myself saying, "Yes, it is real leather".

Leather has nothing to fear from its imitators. The feel and character of leather belongs to leather alone and cannot be replaced by man-made substitutes.

Toolholsters

How to make a pair of moccasins

Moc-croc handbags

Wallets, cig lighter cases, purses




These pages are written & maintained by DAVID BOLAND-THOMS
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