If you were to sit down and start listing historical trades, you’d probably say farmer, blacksmith, and then sit for a few minutes, and come up with a tailor or maybe butcher. It fascinates me the number of trades that were common in “ye olde times” and were absolutely necessary that we don’t think of as a trade anymore. Take, for instance, leatherworking, it interacted with so many other trades. As part of our history lesson a few years ago we worked through all of the historical trades, and leatherworking was one of our more difficult projects to learn about.
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Let’s talk about the historical trade: leatherworking
Before we get into our leatherworking project, and how that went. Let’s talk about leatherworking.
When we went to Colonial Williamsburg a few years ago, they didn’t have a leatherworking shop to visit yet. Apparently, they were a transient shop moving around (I knew they HAD to have some, but I’m glad to hear they have an official location now).
I’ve got a friend who raises rabbits, and she tans the leather she gets from the rabbits, and apparently, much of the process hasn’t changed too much from ancient times:
First, you scrape and stretch the hide for it to dry, and then you add various acids to cure the leather.
It’s the curing that was kind of gross for much of history.
It was cured in urine.
That’s right, urine. Actually, in ancient Rome many people collected their urine to sell it to the leatherworkers, for curing the leather. This is also why leatherworkers were often on the edge of town, because it wasn’t a pleasant smell to be around.
Actually, one of the last times I was at Colonial Williamsburg, the bookbinder joked they were trying to convince the management to let them make the leather in the traditional method, which meant they would also need to be half-drunk since they drank quite a bit more alcohol.
More how to make leather resources:
But, let’s talk leatherworking, and how everyone uses leather.
The picture at the top, is from the shoemaker’s shop. Here is a brief list of trades that would use leather: blacksmith, any and all smiths, tailors, saddlemakers, cabinetmakers…..
Pretty much, every single trade is going to use leather in some way shape or form, and it takes a specific skill to sew with it, which lets me transition into that (after one brief bit more).
I found this video as a suggestion from a professional leatherworker while trying to make sure I wrote factual information:
Our leatherworking project
As is clear from the videos, you need to prepunch the leather before you can sew it. With that in mind, I chose to get some pre-made kits. I do not have the tools, nor do I want to invest in the tools to truly create leather materials.
Okay, I’ll be honest, I kind of want to try, but I do not have the time.
I feel like this sometimes with all I want to do. But back to historical trades and leatherworking.
I picked up this multitool/flashlight holder for the kids to put together.
We got started on working on it, and despite the holes being pre-punched, we struggled to pull the thread through the set-up, but we kept at it.
After we were halfway through the project, we decided not to include the flashlight addition, because we were really struggling to get the thread through the holes.
I’m reading the reviews and everyone is saying they had no problems.
However, this was our experience. We broke several needles, and towards the end, we were running low on needles.
They kept working at it, slowly, but surely it came together. All the trouble did give the kids a new respect for the hard work it takes to make anything made of leather.
All in all, it was a great thing to work through, though I think if I were trying this with a small class, I would probably not use real leather.
Instead, I would probably use fun foam to try sewing with that, and using a hole punch to punch the holes you need, or maybe some faux leather.
I’m not sure.