Photo: Barbarossa Leather

A Buying Guide For High Quality Leather

The first step to knowing what to look for in buying leather skins & hides for handbag design is understanding what sets apart high quality leather from inferior products. Luxury leather is deemed as such due to a combination of three factors: The type of animal it comes from, the way it has been treated, and status of its grain. The most desirable and durable leathers are high grade and full grain, but there is more to it than that….a brief primer on leather terminology will ensure you know what you’re purchasing when looking for new leather sources.

Leather Grain (Grades)

In general, leather is sold in three finished forms:

Full Grain

grade aThe finest of all leathers. Only the hair has been removed from the epidermis. The surface is natural and has not been corrected, split, or buffed to conceal imperfections. The backs of these leather show no colour but left natural. Only the finest quality hides are reserved for this category of leather.

bTop Grain

Leather that has been buffed and is generally treated with full pigment colour. Top grade treatments are applied to leathers that have prevalent scars and other defects related to environmental exposure.

c graddeSplit

Leather that is derived from middle and lower layers of the epidermis. This leather is exclusively used for making suede or corrected-grain leathers, which are covered in a fully pigmented polyurethane coating (commonly called a “PU Split”). This treatment is reserved for the least desirable hides, and is substantially less durable than full grain and top grain leathers. Corrected grain leathers can mainly be bought as two finish types: semi-aniline and pigmented.

Tanning Processes

The three most common tanning processes used in fashion and accessory design are: vegetable tan, chrome tan, and vegetable re-tan (a combination of both processes).

Vegetable Tan—Vegetable tanned leather is produced using ingredients found in nature, most commonly plant and vegetable matter, tree bark, leaves, fruits and similar products. This is the most environmentally responsible process of tanning leather, and is also less harmful to the leather itself, allowing skins to maintain their tight fiber structure, thus resulting in better wear over time. Vegetable tanned leathers will burnish, resulting in a desirable patina appearance that continues to evolve over time.

Chrome Tan—This process uses chromium sulfate and results in soft leather, which will keep its look, unchanged for the lifespan of the product. The chrome tan process allows for more vibrant colors and a soft, supple hand.

Vegetable Re-tan – This process allows leather to maintain its strength durability and some burnishing, while adding a softer, more supple hand.


Which Animal Sources for Leather?

Virtually any animal hide or skin can be processed or tanned to produce leather. The animal source used is often a by-product of the regional food chain and the mechanical and chemical processing of the skin render a variety of characteristics suitable for many different applications. Leather offers a wide selection of textures, grains, durability, comfort, maintenance, cost, water resistance, abrasion resistance, weight, strength, pliability, softness, and appearance.

Leather from small animals are described as skins while those from larger animals are called hides. The terms are often interchangeable.

Bovine or Cowhide leather is the most abundant and common leather source. Cowhide offers maximum value for texture, appearance, durability, and comfort. Cowhide is easy to care for, the least expensive due to its availability and is dirt and water resistant. Cowhide is one of the heaviest leathers making it very tough wearing and durable featuring a pebble grain appearance. Although it can be somewhat stiff, cowhide breaks in easily. Cow leather is used for virtually every leather product including handbags, and can be natural or dyed in an array of fashion colours.

Calfskin is used to produce a high quality, attractive leather with a soft, fine feel. Calfskin has a smooth surface, which is dense, lightweight, and abrasion resistant. Calfskin takes on high luster with use and is used in creating small leather goods.

Pig or hog skin leather is a dense leather similar to cowhide with a soft and supple feel and very good durability. Pigskin is very pliable, comfortable and water resistant. Pigskin is used to manufacture handbags and its texture can be treated in many ways such as stamping, perforating, or embossing.

Goat skin leather is an economical, strong and durable, with a smooth fine grain. Goatskin is slightly softer and tougher than cow leather and is lightweight, comfortable, supple, flexible, and water-resistant. Kidskin is a very soft leather made from the hide of a young goat.

Sheep and lamb skin leathers are extremely soft, comfortable, and pliable. The finely grained leather is thin and supple with a buttery texture. Sheep leather is lightweight, warm and delicate and absorbs water well. Sheep leather’s low tear and tensile strength stretches and well and reshapes after wearing, however it can distort with excessive use. Because sheep skin leather drapes well and flows, it is often used to make high-end leather garments, as well as handbags.

Deerskin is one of the toughest leathers available due to the thorny nature of the animal’s natural habitats. Deerskin leather’s high tensile strength is abrasion resistant and offers high durability. Deerskin is extremely soft and comfortable with a spongy feel. It is lightweight, water-friendly, stretchy and fits well. Deerskin is more expensive and used to manufacture handbags, wallets, and upholstery.

Bison or Buffalo skin is a heavy duty and durable leather and very value priced. This leather is rugged and strong, yet soft and supple with a rubber waxy feel. Buffalo leather features thicker fibers which are more widely spaced and evident hair follicles creating a pebbly appearance. Bison leather is used to make furniture, shoes, belts, bookbinding, rugs, gloves, jackets, and baseball gloves. It may be too thick for conventional sewing machine stitching yet can be easily sewn by hand using saddle-stitching.

Ostrich and emu leathers are much rarer, but are some of the finest and most durable leathers. Ostrich leather is luxurious, soft, supple, and thick featuring an exotic goose bump appearance from the large feather quill follicles. Ostrich leather is popular in luxury fashion and is used to make boots, footwear, upholstery, accessories, clothing, luggage, purses, wallets, and briefcases.

Crocodile and alligator skin (aka cayman) renders a very attractive and fashionable leather. The leather is strong, supple, durable and very expensive. A bony layer within the skin adds a protective shield, while a dimple on each scale makes a very exotic look. Crocodile and alligator leather is used to make luxury goods, handbags, wallets, boots, belts, and briefcases.

Snakeskin is typically produced from venomous sea snakes which are commercially farmed. The leather is delicate, thin, soft and flexible, while the fine small hexagon scales produce exotic detailed grains. Snake skin leather is used to make boots, wallets, and handbags.

Eel skin is a very thin and elegant, which is not very strong. Eel skin leather can be durable but requires maintenance if exposed to elements. Eel skin is soft, shiny, and smooth with horizontal pin-stripe patterns. This leather is actually produced from a slimy eel-like fish called the inshore hagfish, which is caught in the wild. Eel skin becomes softer and suppler with use and is used to make wallets and handbags.

Stingray or shagreen leather is very tough with a siliceous layer on the surface, which makes it as durable as hard plastic. Stingray leather has a beautiful appearance and wonderful feel, which is very strong. Stingray leather scales even protect from fire damage. The leather is usually dyed black and covered with tiny round bumps dyed white to highlight the decoration. Stingray leather is used for clothing, furniture, wallets, belts, purses, and briefcases.


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See what savings are in bloom in sewing… 


From noon MT, April 11th, running through to Sunday night, April 13th at midnight MT.

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Photo: Sew News

From Louis Vuitton to Hermes, Chanel to Dior, Fendi to Bottega Veneta.… creators of high fashion leather handbags have time and again relied on high-quality workmanship and nimble hands to build a business empire literally on the power of a single stitch that can only by done by hand. Known as the saddle stitch, it is a handsome stitch, that if done properly, will never come apart. Learn how to do this classic hand-stitch by creating my Saddle-Stitched Satchel project in the latest issue of Sew News (Apr/May 2014; page 64) now available at your local news stand.

satchel_sew newshttp://www.sewnews.com/index.html




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Now is your chance to get MAKING LEATHER BAGS at a great saving.


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Photo: Addicted 2 DIY

Not a bad review from  Katie at Addicted 2 DIY and a tip of the hat to my good friends at Leather Hide Store.

I love  how she made it her own. Thanks, Katie.


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Photo: Leather Hide Store

A fabulous leather give-away from my friends at Leather Hide Store.

Deadline is March 10, 2014.


CONTEST UPDATE: Congratulations to Karen S. of Northport, NY. She is the winner of the h-u-g-e 8 ft by 7 ft candy apple red cowhide leather winfall from Leather Hide Store. Karen entered the contest on Bag’n-telle’s Facebook Page. She plans to re-upholster her oak rocking chair.

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Photo: Fashion Media Group

Ever think to yourself,”What does it take to design your own handbag?”.

In an ongoing series, CRFashionBook (Carine Roitfeld/Fashion Media Group) deconstructs fashion’s most iconic accessories to tell their story.

Beautifully photographed by Ulysse Frechelin, with words by Christopher Bartley, and edited by Shiona Turini, this peek into handbag style & design is truly insightful and inspirational.

The Loewe Amazona by the numbers

39 – Number of leather pieces used

24 – Number of individual linings used

21 – Number of pieces of gold hardware (not including zippers)

11 – Square feet of suede required to construct a single bag

6.5 – Hours of craftsmanship required to realize a single bag

– Number of specialized craftsmen employed in the process of preparing, cutting, sewing, and assembling each bag.

 loews am



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