Posted by: bschutzgruber | October 22, 2019

Leather: An Interwoven 3D Network of Fibers

Belonging to the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild has broadened my exposure to the wide range of techniques and materials that make up the ‘Fiber Arts’ with an eclectic range of speakers and workshop presenters/instructors. This October the guild offered a workshop with Michigan artist Brenda Geiger

and I had the opportunity to work one of the oldest materials human’s have used to make clothing and straps…leather. Never having worked with leather I was was curious to see what this fibrous by-product from animals raised for meat, dairy and wool is like and how it might be incorporated into future sewing or felt projects.

In the workshop and her talk at the guild meeting, Brenda gave an introductory explanation as to the different grades/types of leather,

what is involved in the tanning process (historic and modern), the impact that vegetable, aldehyde, and chrome tanning have on the environment, and where to find ethically produced leather for projects.

For the workshop she had plenty of examples of tools and types of leather for us to see, touch and use.

In the workshop we made a simple purse with a cross-body strap.

We punched the holes for stitching 

which produced quite a bit of what we humorously came to call ‘mouse droppings’,

then we worked on our stitching skills.

Next came making the petals for the flower embellishment.

I added a glass button and ribbon for a unique pop of different textures.

Sewing each petal individually, then stitching the flower to bag gave me new appreciation for anyone who works with leather!

Rivets were used to secure the strap to the hardware and the purse.

It was amazing to see that even though we all started with the same basic pattern, we each added our own personal touch to our purses!

I enjoyed working with leather
and can see myself playing it in future projects down the road!


  1. What a fun workshop. Do you think you’ll do more leather work in the future?

  2. I work with leather and would very much appreciate knowing where to ethically source it. Would you share your list? Lovely purse. Use it in good health.

    • Hi Lila-
      This is from my workshop notes:
      Getting leather that is vegetable-tanned is the most natural and has the least environmental impact for the tanning process. There is only 1 tannery left in the USA -Horween Leather Co in Chicago- but they may only sell wholesale and large orders. Most of the leather sold by established US companies now comes from Brazil. Are you looking to purchase a full or 1/2 hide or smaller pieces? Weaver Leathercraft & Leather Hide Store will sell retail but only full hides. There is a Tandy Leather store in SE Michigan so I can go and actually see what I might want to get and has a variety of sizes and other locations. Leather Skins Shop (out of NYC) sells small cut pieces. If you go through other Etsy stores make sure you search USA ONLY as leather coming from China and India can vary greatly in quality as well as ethical/environmental/working conditions.
      Hope this helps!

  3. Thank you so much. I buy whole hides of elkskin. I don’t know the tannage. I buy wholesale from The Hide and Leather House in California. But I don’t know anything about the ethical background, or where they source their leather. Their link is You might also be interested in this book on leather braiding – kind of like 3D weaving. “The Encyclopedia of Rawhide and Leather Braiding.” I will look up Horween Leather Co. Thanks again. I so enjoy your blog.

    • Lila-
      Thanks for the source and book title I’ll check them out.

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