Monday, May 18, 2015

Leather work recent and past, plus some carving

Things have slowed down as far as commissions, but there are still plenty of new things leaving my workbench. Up first is a long zippered wallet in a very soft purple and gray cowhide. The client wanted to include the image of a feather, so I took that opportunity to do way too many tiny stitches. Very satisfying:

A friend from my hometown wanted a dopp kit for his toiletries and wet shaving essentials. He also wanted it to be tooled with Masonic imagery, which was a first for me. Vegetable-tanned leather exterior, dark brown cowhide for the lining, and plenty of zippered pockets:
Another friend had this leather collar that she loved, but unfortunately it was mostly glued together and was half felt, half leather. It was falling apart, so she asked me to make a nicer version. Doe kidskin for the black, and it's lined with a soft brown cowhide:
A while back I did a bunch of key fob/pouch things for the Hotel St. Cecilia, but I never did take a picture of the final product. Recently I was doing some repair work on a few that had busted hardware, and I remembered to take a photo:
I've been going through my stash of exotic leather, and found enough useable pieces to make a batch of front pocket wallets. Seven are ostrich, two are alligator, and all are available:
Making leather goods that look like or are inspired by animals is turning out to be a "thing" with me, so here's another one (that's available too) - a clutch purse inspired by the Surinam toad. Soft gray leather for the exterior, dark green for the interior and what would be where the babies hatch, and it fastens with a magnetic snap:

This is a pretty standard wallet style for me, but it's kind of experimental - it's vegetable-tanned leather, but it wasn't dyed in the traditional sense. Instead, it was turned black with vinegaroon, which acts on the tannins in the leather and turns it a dark blue/black without the use of pigments. As this is my first time trying this, I'm not sure how it will hold up, so I'm going to give it to a friend and see how well they can abuse it. Oh, and the chain is handmade too:

And last but not least, sometimes you just want to do some carving with no real purpose or plan for the final product. I've been seeing some amazing body jewelry lately that was carved out of tagua nut, and it reminded me that I had a few of these laying around. And here is what I came up with:

The nut had a lot of cracks and voids on the inside, but it ended up working well with my choice of subject matter. The loop and tassel is kangaroo hide lace. Not sure if I'm going to keep this or put it up for sale just yet.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

2015 is off to a good start

After my winter break project of working with metal and synthetic fabrics, it felt good to get back to the familiarity of leather. Up first is a clutch modification. The client had purchased this leather clutch/portfolio at a thrift store, but wasn't thrilled with the monogram that decorated the flap:
She wanted a tooled leather piece with her own initials to cover the stamped monogram, which seemed simple enough. However, once I was ready to start sewing it into place, I discovered that, while the exterior leather was in great shape, the interior lining was extremely thin and fragile, and tore as easily as tearing a sheet of paper. I ended up replacing the entire lining with vegetable-tanned leather, to match the tooled piece on the flap:
Somehow it was rainy and dark the entire time I was working on this, which is why I don't have better photos of this project.
 Up next is a fun project - another squirrel wallet. The client wanted to acquire for his girlfriend a nice wallet, but wasn't exactly sure as to the specifics. He put me in touch with her, and we figured out the details of what would fulfill her carry needs - zippered all the way around, with enough space for cash/cards and a smartphone, plus a wrist strap. There would be some tooling on the interior of a saying from her dad, plus some imagery to match. And here is the end result:

Dark blue/violet pebbled Horween leather for the exterior, tooled veg-tanned leather for the interior, and the wallet zips shut with a sturdy YKK zipper.
This next project is another zippered wallet, and an Etsy request. She really liked the zippered wallets I have for sale, but wanted a different color scheme - something a little more natural. After some discussion as to what "natural" meant, we settled on black doe kidskin for the exterior, with an interior color to be chosen by me:

Usually I use a thicker leather and use that for the entire wallet, but the kidskin was thin enough to do turned edges and I think it turned out quite well. I'd forgotten how fantastic that particular leather feels.
A friend from work wanted just a plain, sturdy belt, and wanted to reuse the buckle from his soon-to-be-retired current belt. Here is is, made from thick Hermann Oak leather and dyed black:
And finally, I decided at kind of the last moment to make something complicated for my own special lady for Valentine's Day. She's a big fan of purple, and I had a lot of new purple leather to try working with, and it seemed like a good idea to turn it into a chambered nautilus clutch purse:

It's mostly constructed from soft purple cowhide, and gold speckly leather was used for the inlays and onlays, plus the interior lining. It closes with an antique brass YKK zipper.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Winter break

While I was away from work on an extended winter break, I finally tackled a project that I've been wanting to do for quite a while - create some low front panniers for my commuter bike. Normally I use a large bag that sits on top of the front rack and it works just fine, but the handling starts to feel perilous in wet road conditions. I thought it would be a good idea to put the weight much lower and see how that affected the handling.
First, the rack had to be modified to hold the panniers where I wanted and also keep them out of the spokes. I added a portion to each side that would be a low attachment point and also keep the bags from bashing into the wheel:

Once these were attached I could start planning and building the panniers. Here they are in place with a typical work day load:

I didn't want to build hooks and have a rigid back on each pannier, so I used a combination of straps and tension locks, plus some heavy duty elastic to loop around the lower attachment points:

The interior of each has a floating liner of vinyl coated polyester, for maximum water resistance, and to keep them from being an unorganized mess on the inside there are dividers with two pockets and multiple pen/pencil slots:
I've only been using them for a couple of weeks but the difference was immediately apparent. The bike handles much better with the weight down by the axle, and the ride is much more nimble. I no longer feel like I'm wrestling with the steering. Also, this frees up the top of the rack, in case I need to lug something else around. There are a couple of downsides though. It's less convenient to carry two separate bags around, as I couldn't think of a way to utilize a shoulder strap with both of these that was clean and simple. Also, getting them on and off the rack is very finicky and slow, so I may reconsider putting hooks on the top instead of those straps. Overall, I think that, with all the time I spend riding, the improved handling outweighs the inconveniences.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Most of my Xmas work

Now that the holidays have come and gone, I can finally post some photos of the Xmas presents I made for my family. But first, a couple of larger zippered pouches. These are roomy enough to hold a smartphone and can hold cash on either side, and the divider can hold cards in either of the two pockets. The brown one was for the Arts and Drafts holiday party, which always features a white elephant/gift stealing extravaganza. The dark blue pouch is still available:


My mom requested another purse, this time of the slouchy variety. It's constructed out of the same dark blue/violet leather as the pouch and has enough adjustment in the strap that it can be worn crossbody or on one shoulder:


Laurel also asked nicely for another purse, as her lavender one was getting fairly worn. It's the same basic construction as her last one and my mom's, but she wanted the leather to be milled vegetable tanned. It's really soft and supple, and it's been left undyed so as to acquire a natural patina:

My sister wanted some leather bracelets, so this seemed like a good opportunity to use a variety of construction techniques. Not pictured (because I forgot to photograph it) is the vibrant blue one that almost perfectly matches her purse:

My brother-in-law ended up with a travel case for neck ties:

And my brother wanted some sort of vessel to empty his pockets into at the end of the day. There are a lot of companies and makers that offer a basic leather change tray, with the corners pinched together with rivets, but I wanted to do something nicer. This was my first time to do intrecciato (woven leather), and I like the results: