Secret Leather Lingo

by Jennifer Harvey October 10, 2016


Entire Video Transcript: 

Good morning everyone!

Today I'm going to talk to you about my favorite
subject: LEATHER. So stay with me for that!

  • Where I Get My Leather

    Okay, so the first thing I want to talk about is where my leather comes from.
I have my manufacturer who tans the leather. I have them do a lot of different special customized processes for me, so that my leather is unique to me. But let me tell you, I get asked, "where does leather come from?" and "Is it sourced from cows who are bred for meat, or are they bred specifically for their skin?”.

    And so, I wanted to lay this question to rest once and for all. The leather is almost always  (I have never ever heard of it any other way), it has been sourced from the food industry. It is a byproduct of the food industry. So to me, it is a good
stewardship of humankind, to use all of the animal, so that nothing is wasted - so
that you know where the letter comes from, it IS sourced from the food
industry. I hope that answers a lot of questions for you.

  • Different Types of Leather [1:27]

    What I wanted to do is talk about the different types of leather, and more
specifically, the type of leather that I carry at,
and then some other types of leather that are out there, because I get
asked these questions quite a lot in E-mail and on the phone.

I thought that I would take a few minutes and explain
to you the different types of leather, and what the terms mean, because I know
it can be a little bit confusing for someone who may not be in the leather
industry, or, maybe has never been told.

  • Full-grain Leather 

    The first one we're going to talk about is full-grain leather, which is the best quality
that leather can be. Now, the term “full-grain” does not refer to the thickness of
the leather, because you can split full-grain down until it's just
microscopically thin, almost, but very, very thin, like card stock thin.
You can make full-grain leather very thin, and it's still considered full-
grain. So I have a sample here, and I'm going to share it with you, so that you
can see. This is my Tumbler tote, I don't know if it will focus that close. This is full-
grain leather.

    Okay, so let me first start by explaining what grain is. So inside this, this is the
flesh side [of the grain]. I have stuff in here, maybe I
should have taken it out, but inside is the flesh side. It's soft and nappy,
and has texture to it. The outside is what is considered as the grain of the leather.
So the top surface is the grain of the
leather, and when it's a full-grain, it means that it has all the natural
markings that the animal had on its skin. So all the bug bites, all the
environmental markings, and barbed wire scars. All of those are going to be on the
surface of the leather when it's considered full grain. So that is full
grain leather.


    Top-grain leather is often confused with full-grain leather, when in
reality, it is far from it. Top-grain leather is where they have taken the top surface of the leather and they have sanded it away so it's no longer
there. The top grain is sanded away and then they artificially
imprint another grain on top of it, and then they finish out the leather. So a
top-grain leather has been refinished, and they do this because they want to
hide the imperfections.

    All of those range marks and those lovely markings
that naturally occur during the animals lifetime have been erased and then an
artificial surface has been imprinted, and THAT is the finished
product. So it's more artificial, it's not natural, but it does have
a very even texture, and it does look very nice.
The term “corrected grain” is referring to top-grain leather. When you hear
the term 'top-grain', know that you're
getting an artificial surface.

  • Suede Leather [4:57] 

    Now suede, I don’t use too much, although the camouflage that sometimes I
carry is considered a suede, and sometimes I do have pigskin which
is also considered a suede. Suede is soft and nappy and has kind of a combed
texture, and it is made from the center split of the leather. They will take
leather and they will split off the top part of it (so the full-grain will be
split off), and then they will split off the bottom, because they want
the leather to have an even thickness. So the bottom gets thrown away, the
middle split is what will often get turned into suede. Now the leather industry has a
finite amount of cows, so they try to do as much with the leather as they
possibly can. And some leather comes in, and it's wonderful beautiful skin that
can be made into full-grain leather, and then others are pretty scarred-up (not
looking too great), so they make that
into top-grain leather.

    Almost all leather is going to be split down to the
thickness that the client and the customer want. For me, I like my leather
to be less than eight ounces thick. Often leather is quite thick, and so
they split it. They split off the bottom, they split off the top.
The part that's in the middle gets made into suede.
Suede is a beautiful, very strong leather, and it feels luxurious. If you
ever get the opportunity to own something made out of suede, then you should treasure it because it's a beautiful leather. It is also good stewardship on
the leather industry's part.

  • Polyurethane Leather or 'PU' [6:44]

    The last leather that I’m going to talk about today (there are many, many
types of leather), is called PU leather or “bi-cast” leather. Now you will
have people in the fashion industry, they use this leather (this type
of leather) all the time, and they always call it Genuine Leather. Now the phrase
"genuine leather" means that it came from a cow or an animal of some sort, was
tanned and turned into leather. That is ALL genuine leather means. It does
not, in any way, denote the type of quality of the leather. If you see
something that says genuine leather, you know that it's made out of some sort of
animal hide, and you should not assume that it is top quality leather.

    PU leather, or a bi-cast leather, actually starts as a kind of suede. It's like the ‘suede’
before they turn it into ‘suede’. It has a layer of polyurethane [plastic] put
over top, and then new textures stamped into the surface. It will come in all
kinds of different colors, usually really bright colors. They can also
make it look like real, top-grain leather. They can also make it look like
full-grain leather, although they almost never do, because the purpose of doing
the polyurethane over-the-top is to have a perfect surface. So, I have this
for an example. This is a polyurethane leather. The
underside of it is kind of like a suede, and then they
laid over top of it that polyurethane, and they stamped in their own texture.
When they put the polyurethane on it, that's when they put
the design on it as well.

    One way that you can tell if something is PU leather is if you put water on it, it won't soak into the leather. It just stays on the surface. Another way you can tell is it's usually very, very smooth and very, very uniform. So if you look at the surface of it, and it's practically perfect, then you know it is probably not a full-grain, top-grain, or any other kind of grain. It's probably an artificial surface, and it will not feel
like leather either. It will have a chemical scent to it, too. Now, all of my leathers,
are full-grain leathers. I do not use any PU leathers.

     My Pelican leather is a full-grain leather that has been hot-stuffed, so it is very water resistant. When you put water on it, it will sit on the top. And that is because the leather has a very high fat content, and that is what protects the
letter from moisture and water. Unless I state otherwise, ALL of my leather is full-grain.  I have, in the past, used a
couple of PU's. They were the bright pink, white, and turqoise. I made a couple of bags with this leather last summer. After I worked with PU leather, I said
“I will never work with it again”, because I just can't
stand it.

  • My Shop
           Anything that I work with in my shop is because I love it, and I want you to love

it, too. I try to always get the best quality that I possibly can. I'm gonna go full circle now, and I'm going to say that my leather is sourced from from the food industry here in the United States, even if is tanned say in Mexico (like the Crème
Brûlée - it’s actually tanned in Mexico; however, it came from the food industry
here in the United States). They ship it down to Mexico, and it gets made into leather, and then they ship it back. My other leather supplier, they get their hides
from Canada and the United States. My other leather supplier gets their
hides from the United States.

  •  [11:19]

    Well, that is all I have for you today. That's all I wanted to talk to you about, leather,
and what the basic types of leather were (that I am most familiar with).
I have done a ton of research. Leather is kind of my passion, in case you haven't
noticed, but I do very much enjoy learning new stuff, I enjoy researching it and
I love to know as much as I possibly can about the materials that I am using.

    If you have any more questions about leather, or my leather specifically,
please feel free to leave it in the comments below. If you would like to see
more videos like this, please give me a thumbs up, like
and subscribe, and I will see you next
video. Thank you so much.

Jennifer Harvey
Jennifer Harvey


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