Welcome to the Leather & Thread journal, where you can keep up-to-date with all that's going on in our workshop and read our musings on leathercraft and all things leather. But please don't judge us on our writing, we're leather workers not wordsmiths.

A Brief History of Leathercraft
If you're reading our journal, you're probably as passionate about leather as we are. So here's a brief history of leathercraft to give you some insight into how the craft has developed through the ages. And show you why preserving this traditional craft process is so important.

Humans have been using leather since as far back as 20,000 BC – we know this from ancient cave pictographs depicting hides being used as items of clothing. We can’t be sure if they knew how to tan or treat it back then though, as the earliest reference to the tanning of the hides wasn’t until 8,000 BC.

The earliest tanners would scrape the hair off the hide before treating it with animal brains or urine to preserve and soften the leather. We know in the ancient city of Pompeii they collected urine from public urinals to tan hides – indeed, in the ruins of Pompeii you can see one of the world’s best preserved ancient tanneries.

Vegetable tanning, the process used to produce all the leather we use at Leather & Thread, wasn’t discovered until around 2,000 BC. Vegetable tanning is a traditional process that occurs slowly in wooden drums using natural tannins from materials such as tree bark, wood, leaves, fruits and roots. Tanneries have handed down their techniques through the generations, endowing their leather with unique characteristics.

It was during the Middle Ages that leather workers began adding decorations and embellishments to leather, with tooling being seen for the first time. In Europe and the colonies leather was an essential material for everyday life, with the craft processes involved in tanning and the use of leather flourishing until the Industrial Revolution.

In the early 1800s the Industrial Revolution dramatically changed the way people both made and consumed goods. With advances in machinery and production techniques, goods could be made in mass and at a much lower cost. Around this time chrome tanning was invented, changing the leather industry forever. 

Chrome tanning is a quick process that takes around a day and takes place in plastic drums using a solution of chemicals, acids and salts. The practice is also known to be extremely harmful to the environment and turns the leather a pale blue colour before it is then re-dyed or painted to a more familiar tone. The introduction of chrome tanning around the time of the Industrial Revolution meant that the traditional vegetable tanning craft process almost disappeared from use.

For a brief time, William Morris and John Ruskin’s 1860s Arts & Crafts Movement revived the craft industry in England and the rest of Europe. Leather craft was also used after WW2 when it was introduced in therapeutic leather work programs in military hospitals, recreation centers, and rehabilitation centres. Because of its unique ability to be tooled, carved, branded, painted and dyed, vegetable tanned leather could offer veterans a healing process, as they worked with their hands to create wallets, sheaths and similar items. 

Most leather items produced today are still chrome tanned and imported from countries like India or China. At Leather & Thread we believe in doing things the old fashioned way – this means only using vegetable-tanned leather, natural materials and traditional hand tools.

By buying a Leather & Thread handmade leather item you are acquiring a natural canvas that will develop with age, taking on unique markings that tell the leather’s own story.

You are investing in a tradition that as been passed down through the generations, You are helping to keep our craft alive, and for this we are truly grateful.​​​​​​​


Why Choose Vegetable Tanned Leather?

At Leather & Thread we only work with the highest quality vegetable-tanned leather made in the last remaining oak bark tannery in the UK.

Our leather is produced from animals that have had a life, for this reason our leather sometimes exhibits small scars and other markings from the animal’s life – perfect imperfections that form part of each product’s unique story.

How most leather is made.

Tanning is the process of turning animal hides into leather. Around 90% of leather produced today is chrome tanned, a quick process that takes around a day using a solution of chemicals, acids and salts. Chrome tanning is known to be extremely harmful to the environment. 

The process turns the leather a pale blue colour before it is then re-dyed or painted to a more familiar tone. The leather usually has a strong chemical smell, which frequently remains in the final product. Chromium salts are also harmful to human health and are known to be carcinogenic.

Despite these obvious downsides, the fashion industry still prefers chrome tanning over other techniques due to the speed and ease of the process and the low costs involved. 

How our leather is made.

Vegetable tanning is a natural and environmentally friendly alternative to chrome tanning and continues to be used by traditional tanneries across the globe.  

Vegetable tanning occurs slowly in wooden drums using natural tannins from materials such as tree bark, wood, leaves, fruits and roots. Tanneries have handed down their traditional technique through generations, endowing their leather with unique characteristics.​​​​​​​

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Good things come to those who wait.

Vegetable tanning is a slow process, but worth every second.  It takes 14 months to produce a piece of vegetable tanned leather, resulting in leather with a beautiful beige finish and a natural woody, earthy smell.

We love the look and feel of natural vegetable tanned leather and it is an amazing material to work with. Vegetable tanned leather will continue to develop long after it has left the Leather & Thread workshop, taking on a unique patina over time.

Why should you choose vegetable-tanned leather goods?

Because by purchasing our handmade leather wallets, belts and accessories you are investing in the whole process from start to finish.

You’re saying that it’s not ok to use an environmentally destructive process just because it’s quicker and cheaper. A Leather & Thread handmade leather item will last a lifetime, meaning you consume less and reduce your footprint on the environment.

By buying a Leather & Thread item you are acquiring a natural canvas that will develop with age, taking on unique markings that will tell a story.

You are investing in a tradition passed down through generations, and allowing us to keep our craft alive.

So, well done you for choosing vegetable-tanned leather!


What Handmade Means to Us.

We hear the terms ‘handmade’ and ‘handcrafted’ being used a lot these days, especially with the growing popularity of online market places like Etsy.

But what do these terms actually mean? And are these ‘handmade’ products actually as handmade as they would like us to believe?

The meaning of the word handmade was actually brought into questions in 2013. Up until this point handmade products had been generally acknowledged as being made entirely by individual sellers or artisans. However, in 2013 Etsy reclassified its definition to include products made by larger manufacturers, albeit by the hand of their employees.

The new definition now means handmade products can be produced in a manufacturing environment. The question is whether the handiwork of these people should be devalued because it takes place in a factory setting?

The Oxford Dictionary definition of handmade is as follows:

Made by hand, not by machine, and typically therefore of superior quality. 

Therefore, by this definition, an item can indeed still be classed as handmade if it is produced in a manufacturing environment.

The truth is handmade is what you make of it. To us at Leather & Thread handmade means that every item we sell is 100% made by an individual without the use of any machines.

It means that every item produced in our workshop is a labour of love; from the initial pencil and paper design, to the delicate trimming of each piece of leather to make sure they fit together perfectly. 

Every cut and every stitch is made by human hand, one by one. Each item is truly unique, exhibiting perfect imperfections that can only come from human hands. This is what handmade means to us and we believe it should always be that way.​​​​​​​


A warm welcome to the new and improved Leather & Thread website! 

It's been many months in the making and taken many a late night and abundant cups of coffee to get there, but we are finally live! We hope you like the end result as much as we do. 

Why the big change?

To quote the legend that is Bryan Adams, here at Leather & Thread everything we do, we do it for you. We wanted to make our new website as workable and user-friendly as possible for you, our customers.

For instance, we've changed the navigation on our site to make browsing our handmade leather items as easy as possible. Should you know exactly what it is you're after, you can simply select from the category menu. Alternatively, if you're still not sure what floats your boat, you can simply browse all of our handmade leather wallets, purses, card holders, belts and accessories all on one page. 

What's more, we've made it quicker and easier to personalise your items by adding initial embossing to your order without having to add an additional product to your order. 

We've also added a brand-new review feature, so you can read what other people have to say about our handmade leather items. Now, there's no excuse not to write us a review if you've purchased from us in the past though, we really do love hearing what our customers think of our work.​​​​​​​

We didn't stop there.

As some of you may have already noticed, we've also been working on upgrading all of our product imagery. We've switched to a plain white background, meaning you can now view every detail of the item you're browsing, and gaze at its true colour in all its glory.

Keeping you in the loop.

And don't forget our awesome new L&T journal, keeping up-to-date with all the goings-on in the Leather & Thread workshop, and giving you the inside track on what goes on in our workshop (we don't just drink coffee all day, honest). You'll never be stuck without something to read on the toilet again.

Finally, and a little more boringly, we've gone to great lengths to make our website as secure as possible. We've added a new payment gateway, enhanced SSL security certificate, as well as a customer login area, so you can easily track the process of your order.

We're pretty darn pleased with how it's turned out, but we really want to know what you think. Have a look around and let us know if you spot any typos (go easy on us, we're leatherworkers not copywriters after all). 

And remember, we're still the same handmade leather workshop you know and love... we've just had a bit of a makeover.