Ever made jeans, accessories or casual trousers? (I’m thinking Lander pants). A leather label on the outside for me is the ideal finish for stuff like denim but I never had any until recently. Fast forward to the sustainable tote bag kit project – there’s just 1 left for sale at the time of writing if you’re keen – and I decided on leather straps and labels because they felt more elegant than webbing or self-fabric straps. I liked the upcycled leather labels so much we made extras to share! Now if only I knit sweaters and beanies as well…
Pack of two (including sales tax and postage)
- EU: €8
- UK: £7
- AUD: $13
Pack of 3 (including sales tax and postage)
- EU: €10
- UK: £9
- AUD: $16
Sizes are assorted (depending on the leather bits that were available), but generally around the range of 2.5cm x 5cm. If you’d like them hole punched in four corners so you can hand sew them in like in the bag kit, just say so on the order form.
How are they made?
These labels are made from the leather rescued from old unwanted furniture by Dutch bag designer Naomi Rachèl Timan. They are hand cut and hand stamped by me and Naomi. It turns out that to use a heat embossing stamp you have to find leather with an appropriate finish which will accept the embossing. So not every bit of old leather can be used for this kind of purpose.
Vegetable-tanned leather? Chrome-tanned leather?
I had no idea about leather basics until the sustainable tote bag project. But thing worth knowing is that the “eco” version of leather for producing accessories you’ll see advertised in sustainable fashion, artisan or leatherwork shops is vegetable-tanned leather. However, the vast majority of leather in the world is chrome tanned (such as in this case) – and you’ll hear that chromium is bad from an eco perspective. I’m going to write more comprehensively about this another day … but you already know that I’m going to tell you that some of the messaging is oversimplistic and greenwashing. Also, given the number of chemicals used in any kind of leather tanning I’m not convinced vegetable tanning is the all singing and dancing solution.
Anyway – not dissimilar to fabric where it feels better to use something already there, I’m happy that these labels are upcycled regardless of the tanning method used.
Sewing, attaching, washing
You don’t need special equipment for sewing really small bits of leather, like these labels. The easiest thing to do is hand sew pre-punched labels using polyester thread. But if you are machine sewing then here’s what to do:
- Use regular polyester thread (if you have topstitch thread then use that. If not, a triple stitch on your machine can mimic a topstitch pretty well if you want. The triple stitch goes two steps forward and one step back)
- 3mm stitch length – slightly longer than normal
- Don’t backstitch, just go over the top for a few stitches from where you started
- Regular presser foot
If, however, one day you decide to sew big bits of leather on a domestic machine, then a walking foot and a packet of leather needles are useful. Though Naomi would caution against trying to sew huge amounts of leather on a lightweight domestic machine unless you really fancy tearing your hair out. You know she speaks from experience right?
Finally – does a leather label mean you can’t wash? No, but I personally don’t wash my jeans / thick trousers / accessories a ton anyway (FYI, the labels on RTW jeans these days are not typically made of leather!). For washing advice, check out this oldie but goodie blog post from Megan Nielsen on washing clothes with leather patches.
Have you used leather much in sewing clothes or accessories? I think I’m definitely a convert myself if I can upcycle.
Till next time
PS – for those of you here for the free sustainability info and chat, regular blog service will resume shortly 😉