When I introduce people to leather craft, I often give them templates for a project as their goal. This eliminates design guesswork and helps them jump into the craft with little knowledge. Some companies take this a step forward with leathercrafting kits. The kits provide pre-cut and pre-punched leather pieces that help make the final product professional, encouraging those who try leather craft to stick with it.
Leather craft kits are project bundles that provide all the leather, tools, and instructions needed to create a project. With pre-cut and pre-punched leather pieces, crafters can work without fear of a failed design. Kits come in various projects and cost $4–$300, depending on their complexity.
Let’s take a look at what leather craft kits include, what skills they can teach, and how they inspire new crafts.
What Is a Leather Craft Kit?
A leather craft kit is a product that contains all the necessary tools and materials for a project. Leather craft kits often contain pre-cut and pre-punched leather pieces that will be sewn together to create a wide variety of goods. Craft kits are a great introduction to working with leather as it guides you step by step.
Since the cutting and hole-punching processes are already complete, beginners can rest assured the final piece will not have large design flaws. Not only do kits inspire those looking to get into the leather craft, but they also introduce them to some necessary craft skills, such as sewing and edge work.
What We’ll Explore
- Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
- The History of Leather Craft Kits
- Why You Might Like a Leather Craft Kit
- Leather Craft Kit Overview Table
- Popular Types and Styles of Leather Craft Kits
- Common Leather Craft Kit Characteristics
- Leather Craft Kit Costs
- Pros of Leather Craft Kits
- Cons of Leather Craft Kits
- Leather Craft Kit Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made
- Experienced Tips for Choosing a Leather Craft Kit
- My Personal Research with Leather Craft Kits
- Leather Craft Kit Care and Maintenance
- Helpful Insights on Leather Craft Kits
- Key Takeaways
Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions
To many, leather craft kits serve a small purpose and will be quickly outgrown by those looking to advance in the craft. It is often said that leather craft kits have limited opportunities to hone various skills. However, the uses of these kits can go much further.
Leather craft kits can teach experienced crafters how a specific product is constructed. They can then be used to create patterns that can be altered to make the design their own. Items such as bags with gussets are often a tricky part of leather craft, and purchasing a leather kit can help demonstrate how they are attached.
A vegetable tanned kit can be used as a surface for tooling practice. Often tooling practice is limited to scrap leather with no practical application. Using a leather kit lets crafters see how an item will look when pieced together.
The History of Leather Craft Kits
Tandy leather was one of the earliest retailers of leather craft kits. Tandy leather originated as a leather source for shoe repair and was founded in 1919. It was not until 1948 that Charles David Tandy took the business into the hobby market. The company began selling mail-order tool kits and developed project kits as the interest grew.
Although successful, it was not until the acquisition of the American Handicrafts Company in 1952 that the Tandy DIY kits began to take off. Today, Tandy still provides a wide variety of kits, but they are not alone. Many other retailers, and individuals, have entered the leather craft kit market. Those looking for a leather craft kit now have seemingly endless choices, from bags, wallets, key fobs, and more.
Why You Might Like a Leather Craft Kit
Leather craft kits are a great introduction to the craft. Those intimidated by working with leather can use a project kit to guide them through their early projects, teaching them sewing, designs, and edge treatment skills. Leather craft kits are typically an all-in-one product that makes great gifts for family or friends interested in the craft.
Additionally, vegetable tanned project kits can be used as a surface for tooling practice. By tooling leather that will be used in a final product, crafters can see how their designs work with a finished product. For those more experienced in leather craft, project kits still offer knowledge of the construction methods for different projects. This can help those looking to branch out by providing a basic design pattern that can be altered.
Leather Craft Kit Overview Table
|Leather Craft Kit Characteristics||Details|
|Item||Leather Craft Kits|
|Uses||Introductory projects, tooling practice, design study, and sewing practice|
|Common Materials||Pre-cut and pre-punched leather, necessary hardware, needles, and thread.|
|Popular Colors||Natural, black, brown, and other earth tones|
|Sizes||Various sizes depending on the project being made|
|Popular Styles||Wallets, bags, key fobs, and coasters|
|Cost Range ($)||$4–$300|
|How Long it Lasts (on average)||20 Years+|
Popular Types and Styles of Leather Craft Kits
The most popular leather craft kits are small projects aimed at beginners. These kits will come in different designs and leathers and provide simple instructions to complete them. Most basic kits will only require sewing and edge work as an optional task.
Similar to small leather kits are creative ones, which take simple projects such as coasters and valet trays and expand them by providing dye, paint, or tooling patterns. Smaller projects geared toward beginners include:
- Key fobs
- Notebook covers
Common Leather Craft Kit Characteristics
Leather craft kits include pre-cut and pre-punched leather pieces with needles and thread to sew the project together. Various kits may also include hardware if the project requires it, such as rivets, buckles, clasps, etc. A dye may be included with more decorative leather kits. In addition, decorative kits may provide tooling patterns to practice on simple projects like leather coasters.
Most leather craft kits are smaller projects like wallets, belts, and keychains. These are common utility items people purchase, so being able to make their own is enticing. As the craft has grown, so have the sizes of projects.
Portfolios, dopp kits, and pouches are some of the most common medium-sized projects, with the largest projects being bags, backpacks, shoes, and even armor-making kits. With a wide variety of leather kit makers, the projects available are endless and continuously growing.
Every leather craft kit available will provide a wide variety of differences between each project. Even wallets come in many designs, leather types, and thread colors. However, the larger variations between kits are their purpose. Since leather craft kits introduce different techniques, they can be broken down by what they teach.
Most leather kits may only focus on constructing a leather item, teaching the basic skills for crafting. However, more creative leather kits will provide materials for decorating leather. This can be done through dyes, paints, and tooling patterns.
The most important part of leather craft kits is creating a path for those interested to begin working with leather. Crafting kits inspire potential hobbyists by teaching them the required basic skills in a guided and fulfilling way.
Richard D. Heath, from Eastern Illinois University, in Charleston, Illinois, discussed the benefits of kits, both leather and other hobbies. Heath concluded kits provide varying educational benefits, but well-chosen kits can be used to introduce techniques in leathercraft. Kits are not limited to those new to the craft, though.
Seasoned leather workers may use leather craft kits to introduce new techniques or designs. Crafters can learn how each part comes together by providing a deconstructed version of the item to make. This information is vital for those looking to design their own products, skipping over common design flaws by being guided through a project firsthand.
Leather Craft Kit Costs
Leather craft kits can cost as little as $3. These budget-friendly kits will be smaller projects such as keyfobs and bracelets. At around $15, the projects come slightly larger and will most likely require sewing. At this price point, wallets, journal covers, and small sheaths can all be found.
Large projects such as bags and backpacks start around $40, but the prices can quickly increase. Kits can offer different leathers, better hardware, or more complex projects that will increase the final price. Some leather craft kits may cost up to $300, offering premium leather and hardware while providing additional tools to help with the project.
Pros of Leather Craft Kits
Leather craft kits are incredible as introductions to the craft. Often people interested will not know how or where to start. Project kits solve this problem without requiring a costly investment. This leads to many new crafters sticking with the hobby long term. In addition, leather craft kits can provide useful information, or new skills to even the most veteran crafters.
A leather kit can teach how an item is designed and constructed by offering a wide variety of projects. They may also be used as practice surfaces for tooling projects. Seeing a tooling design on a finished piece may provide valuable insight into how to design a pattern that flows with the construction of an item.
Not only do kits inspire those looking to get into the leather craft, but they also introduce them to some necessary craft skills, such as sewing and edge work.
Cons of Leather Craft Kits
For many, leather craft kits can be limiting. The projects they offer are straightforward, often pre-cut and pre-punched. This prevents large changes from being made to the project without additional leather, and tools. The holes used for the projects are typically round, and while this makes sewing easier, it limits the technique that can be applied to hand-sewing leather.
Traditionally a saddle stitch will strive for a slanted stitch on both sides, assisted by a diagonal hole. This becomes much more difficult with round holes as the thread is not forced into the holes. Similarly, leather craft kits limit skills to their specific projects. A basic wallet will not teach how to set hardware, while a flipped tote bag may not teach how to burnish edges.
The final con of leather craft kits is their cost. While kit prices vary, the buyer pays a premium for the guided project. This may be okay for beginners, but as one progresses, they may find their money goes further by purchasing the leather themselves.
Leather Craft Kit Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made
Leather craft kits start with a design that is tested to make any corrections. Once perfected the design can be turned into die cutters. The dies will include the pieces and stitching holes required for the project. From here, the company used press machines to cut out the kits from their chosen leather.
Most kits will offer natural vegetable tanned leather, allowing buyers to tool and dye their leather pieces. Any additional supplies, such as thread, needles, hardware, and tools, are added to a package completing the leather craft kit.
Experienced Tips for Choosing a Leather Craft Kit
Frequency of Use
Leather craft kits are typically not used repeatedly by someone. Similar to training wheels used on bicycles, leather craft kits are a means to guide someone through the early stages of the craft. As a result, crafters will purchase a few kits before deciding if they want to proceed with the hobby.
With more complex kits, seasoned crafters may purchase one to teach them how to make specific goods. However, the skills learned when using a crafting kit can be used for a lifetime with future projects.
Environment/Conditions of Use
The most common use for leather craft kits is introducing the craft to beginners. While the leather and tools can be purchased separately, having a guided project simplifies the process. Those intimidated by the craft will have step-by-step directions on how to complete a project. All while knowing how the final product will turn out.
This encourages those new to the craft to continue and push past parts of a project to complete the piece. Leather craft kits are not only for beginners; however, those looking to practice their tooling designs may purchase a kit to see how a pattern will look on a finished project. Other crafters may also purchase a kit to learn how to make more complex items.
Leathercraft kit prices are dictated by the project you wish to take on. Smaller items such as coasters, key fobs, and wallets will not be as expensive as more complex projects. With each kit teaching different skills, purchasing a project you want to focus on in the future may be best.
\For example, purchasing a wallet leather craft kit will best prepare you for designing and crafting wallets. With the large variety of kits available, you have complete control over how much you’re willing to spend on a crafting kit.
A benefit of leather craft kits is their ability to stay trendy. Regardless of the style, item, or complexity, there is most likely a project kit that is exactly what you’re looking for. From mimicking designer handbags to innovating on classic projects, any crafter can find what they want. Due to this, trends do not restrict the purchasing decision of leathercrafting kits.
In this helpful video by James Berry – LeFrenchCrafter, James completes a leather sneaker kit. Showing how a complex project, like shoemaking, can be done by anyone with the proper guidance and supplies.
My advice when choosing a leather craft kit would be to pick one that excites you, regardless of how big the project may seem. Like any other hobby, working with leather is supposed to be enjoyable. To some, the joy is through the crafting process; to others, it may be using a finished project.
As someone works through their leather kit, they may experience setbacks that can push them away from the craft. However, when a project excites you, the motivation to finish overcomes any problems you may experience.
My Personal Research with Leather Craft Kits
I wanted to see firsthand how leather craft kits may benefit those new to the craft. A friend of mine agreed to spend the afternoon making small cardholder wallets. The first was to be made unguided, where I limited the amount of help I provided. The second was using a cardholder kit I had purchased.
Wallet Made From Scratch
I started my friend off by having them make a wallet themselves. I knew using the kit would help them understand the design process, so I wanted to keep them as “new” as possible. They settled on a two-piece fold-over design with a single stitch line to hold it together. However, I noticed they did not consider the stitch line allowance when making the design.
I said nothing in hopes they would catch it. When the crafting began, I picked the leather out to avoid additional trouble but let them decide the best ways to cut it. My friend opted to trace a paper pattern onto the leather and freehand cut with shears. The lines did not come out as straight as desired. After gluing, I showed them how to use the leather punches before letting them make their holes.
Yet another issue appeared. The punches had a 4mm spacing, but the wallet they designed did not take that into account. As they punched, a tine landed right on the top of the pocket, which they were unhappy with. Sewing the wallet went smoothly.
While the stitching wasn’t perfect, they picked up on how to sew rather quickly for a beginner’s attempt. Once finished, my friend was satisfied but could see the mistakes add up. I asked what he would change, to which he talked about the tight pockets and jagged edges.
Purchased Leather Kit
After making their first wallet, I had my friend create a leather cardholder kit. The style was different, a shell leather with two pockets to be sewn to each end. The construction process was much quicker. My friend enjoyed how easy it was to pass the needles through the leather and had no issues assembling the wallet.
Once completed, they said the kit felt like cheating but were excited to have a functional wallet. In addition, I told them that backpack kits were available, to which they felt excited and confident that they could make their own.
Watching someone inexperienced craft simple projects reminded me how far I have come as a crafter. His mistakes were things I also struggled with early on, and it took me time to learn how to improve. While my friend enjoyed designing and making their own wallet, the mistakes took away from their final enjoyment of the item.
Seeing him thrilled with the kit wallet and excited to try a larger kit in the future was awesome. As crafters, we are extremely close to the items we make and can see every little mistake. To those new to the craft, that can be disheartening. The leather kit may not have been as in-depth, but the joy it brought was important.
Leather Craft Kit Care and Maintenance
How to Clean a Leather Craft Kit
Cleaning a leather craft kit will require leather soap. The surface can be wiped clean with a cloth or brush before applying a small amount of soap and water to remove any unwanted stains. When cleaning leather, allow the item to dry fully before conditioning it.
The cleaning process may remove moisture from the leather, so using a leather conditioner is key to keeping the product hydrated. Importantly, most craft kits use vegetable tanned leather, which will darken when cleaned.
How to Maintain a Leather Craft Kit
A project completed using a leather craft kit should be periodically treated with leather conditioner. Project kits may have been in inventory for a while before being purchased, which could cause them to be dry.
A leather conditioner will rehydrate the leather and help protect it in the future. To apply leather conditioner, clean the leather before using a soft cloth to rub on small amounts of product. Leave the leather to soak in the conditioner before applying another layer, or using the item.
How to Store a Leather Craft Kit
When completed or unused, leather craft kits must be stored away from direct sunlight. Sun may dry out the leather and cause dark marks to appear on the surface. Heat may also dry out the leather, so a controlled environment is best. Keep the items in their original packaging when storing an unused leather kit. This prevents parts from being misplaced while protecting them from dust or debris.
Helpful Insights on Leather Craft Kits
Is leather crafting hard?
Leather crafting is a collection of techniques varying in difficulty. Most of the basics required for working with leather can be picked up quickly or brought over from other crafts. As a result, the entry-level for the craft is welcoming, and the crafter controls the difficulty. They can push themselves to become a true leather artisan if they choose to.
How do I start leatherworking?
As with most things, the best way to begin crafting with leather is simply to dive in. Pick a first project that will encourage you to follow through with the craft. Take time to learn craft basics through videos or articles and the item you intend to make. After purchasing your supplies, follow a tutorial when crafting, if possible. Patience is key for new crafters, as mistakes will happen, but the determination to finish the project will show you just how much you can accomplish and prepare you for future projects.
What is leather crafting called?
Leather crafting goes by various names, which largely mean the same thing. Commonly seen terms are “leather artisan,” “leather worker,” and “leather smith.” These terms all mean someone who works with leather, with “artisan” being specifically handmade. Other leather crafting terms are “saddler” and “cordwainer.” Both are specific terms for their craft; saddle and shoe making.
- Leather craft kits provide a guided introduction to working with leather.
- Kits can help seasoned crafters learn how a complex item is made.
- Various project kits can teach different skills, such as hand sewing, tooling, or painting leather.
Leather craft kits are a great option for those trying the craft. Not only do they provide guidance throughout the project, but they also help encourage crafters by showing them what they can accomplish. Leather craft kits are the perfect way to dive into the craft and begin making goods that can be cherished for a lifetime.
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