It’s always great fun to learn new skills, especially when that includes learning about a new material so when my friend Ruth Pullan mentioned she was starting to teach courses in leatherwork including tradition hand stitching, I jumped at the chance to invite her to Cumbria.
We started out by looking at samples of different grades and types of leather and discussing their qualities and uses. Ruth had brought beautiful British veg-tanned leather and explained the different ‘cuts’ and how to get the best from them by working with their natural qualities. I’ve looked through leather catalogues in the past and never really been sure what exactly the various terms mean so this was really valuable information.
After a talk through her specialist tools and a demonstration of hand stitching we started making our own leather belts using top-quality bridle butt straps and brass buckles. A seemingly simple belt actually involves quite a number of processes to do properly including setting the buckle, finishing the edges and of course the stitching using two needles. This was the most time-consuming aspect of the belt but also the most pleasurable for me as it’s something I’ve often admired but never seen demonstrated. The method is fairly simple when you’re properly shown and a rhythm starts to develop after only a few stitches.
The finished belt just oozes quality and I can’t wait to see how it ages over the years as the leather softens with time and use.
A new material opens up all kinds of possibilities and ideas for leather and wood combined. I’ve got ideas for new products combining the two which I’ll be working on this year as well as making some proper leather sheaths for some of my favourite tools.