Leather scraps are an inevitable part of the craft. When I first started, I purchased tons of scraps, but now I generate them from my other projects. With a seemingly endless supply of scraps, I decided to look for ways to use them.
Leather scraps are excess pieces of material that remain from a leather project. They can be any type and size of leather but are often smaller. On average, leather scrap costs $3–$15 per pound; however, the price can be much higher depending on the type and quality of leather offered.
Since leather scraps are a common part of leather working, let’s look at the best ways to utilize them for great project ideas at any skill level.
What Are Leather Scraps?
Leather scraps are pieces of offcut leather, typically generated when working on a leather project. Scraps can be any leather type, size, and thickness. They are often sold by weight and in mixed bags with various colors, tannage, and thickness.
However, most scraps will be under 0.5 square feet unless stated otherwise. Scraps are inevitable when working with leather but can be saved to make the most of them. They may be large enough for small projects but are always good practice pieces.
What We’ll Explore
- Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
- History of Leather Scraps
- Leather Scraps Overview Table
- Types of Leather Scraps
- Uses for Leather Scraps
- Where To Get Leather Scraps
- Cost of Leather Scraps
- Beginner Projects for Leather Scraps
- Advanced Projects for Leather Scraps
- Pros of Leather Scraps
- Cons of Leather Scraps
- Tips for Crafting With Leather Scraps
- My Personal Research Into Leather Scraps
- Helpful Leather Scraps Insights
- Key Takeaways
Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions
Leather scraps are often shied away from due to their size. However, many projects can be made from scraps alone, and they make useful practice pieces.
Scraps are not universal in size, and finding a good distributor can quickly change the views surrounding them. Some companies will offer pieces large enough to make small pouches, notebook covers, or glasses cases at a more affordable price than purchasing a large hide.
In addition, the scraps will offer a wider variety of leather, showcasing what a company may offer if needing to purchase leather for a project. While many crafters will graduate from scraps by accumulating their own, those looking to jump into leather craft may use them as an amazing learning tool.
History of Leather Scraps
Leather has been used since primitive man. Raw animal skins were cut to create clothing and boots, and the leftover leather from this process was likely used for smaller tools or supplies, including pouches and rope.
This was the trend for leather scraps throughout history, small yet useful items — until bonded leather was invented in the 19th century. Bonded leather took all leather scraps and ground them into a powder. The powder is combined with plastics to create this popular material. Bonded leather is used in many low-cost leather items, as it is lower quality than other leathers.
Leather Scraps Overview Table
|Requires a tiny amount of scrap and can be made from most leathers. A simple project with plenty of room for customization.
|Requires very little scrap and a snap. Can be made from most leathers, but best with ones that do not stretch. A simple project to practice setting hardware.
|Requires small amounts of scrap, as well as a key ring. Best made out of semi-firm leather with a sufficient thickness. A simple project that can be made as difficult as possible by incorporating varying techniques.
|Requires a small amount of scrap. Best made out of firm or semi-firm leather 4 ounces or under. A common beginner-level project that will teach newcomers many skills.
|Requires a medium amount of scrap leather and closure hardware. Best made with semi-firm leather that is pliable enough to close. An intermediate leather project that can be used to practice hardware setting, sewing, and lining.
Types of Leather Scraps
A great thing about purchasing leather scraps is the wide variety of types available. Each company will offer scraps of different tannage, color, size, and weight. Additionally, many of these bags will mix all these characteristics to create a completely random scrap bag.
Some companies may also offer more tailored bags, limiting the weight or tannage, allowing customers only to order what they want to work with. Leather scrap products may even include exotic leathers, allowing crafters to test out expensive leathers without the same price commitment.
Uses for Leather Scraps
There are many uses for leather scrap, including practice, projects, and templates. Practice is typically the best use of scraps as there are plenty of offcuts to test every technique. Crafters will better understand how it feels to perform different techniques on different leathers by using leather scraps as practice.
Another popular use for scrap is for projects. The projects that can be completed with leather scrap will depend on the material, but most leather scraps will be smaller than 0.5 square feet, which can still be used to make items such as card holders and key chains. Larger scraps are typically large enough for pouches, bi-folds, and small bags.
A unique use for leather scraps that is often overlooked is the ability to create templates using stiff leather. By using thick leather scraps or gluing multiple layers together, the leather can be turned into any template desired. A common use may be a corner radius or a wallet pocket template. The possibilities of how to use leather scrap are seemingly endless.
Anqi Chen, and Yuan Chen from the Guangdong Baiyun University College of Art and Design in Guangdong Province, China, have presented an alternative way to use leather scrap and prevent waste while manufacturing leather goods. They suggest combining modified offcuts through sewing to create a new leather panel, allowing scraps to be used similarly to the hide they were cut from.
Where To Get Leather Scraps
Leather scraps are most commonly found at both online and in-person leather stores. They are often sold by weight and are offered in various leather types. Packages of leather scrap will contain leather of various tannages, colors, sizes, and thicknesses, allowing new crafters to test many different types of leather before purchasing larger hides.
Occasionally, crafters working for a long time will offer their scraps to newcomers. These transactions are found in forums or in person when meeting other hobbyists.
Cost of Leather Scraps
Unlike most leather hides, scrap is often sold by the pound. On average, scrap is sold for $3–$15 per pound but can quickly become much more expensive. This is entirely based on the type of leather being offered. Common chromium tanned or suede leathers will be much cheaper.
On the other hand, more exotic leathers, or leathers from famous tanneries, will demand a higher price for their scrap. Compared to purchasing a full leather hide, scrap allows crafters to try a lot of new leather at only a fraction of the price.
Beginner Projects for Leather Scraps
There are many options for beginner projects utilizing leather scraps — one of the most popular being a keychain. Keychains are great for beginners as they do not require a lot of leather, are highly customizable, and can teach the basics of leathercraft meaningfully. Similar projects to keychains include bookmarks and cord keepers, each simple beginner projects that do not use a lot of leather.
A classic option for a beginner with leather scraps is to try to make a cardholder. While this project is slightly tougher than the others, it can still be accomplished using very little leather. In addition, a cardholder teaches new crafters how to sew and basic design concepts to create card slots large enough to fit cards.
In this fun video provided by Skill Tree, five beginner scrap projects are presented in step-by-step detail, offering various ideas for those looking to use their scraps.
Advanced Projects for Leather Scraps
Crafters tend to move away from leather scrap projects as they advance in the hobby. However, there are still plenty of options that can put their skills to the test. Small drawstring pouches are a great use of supple leather that can utilize medium-sized pieces. A glasses case is also a great advanced scrap project.
While these may require larger scrap pieces, they are a timeless project that can showcase a crafter’s talent. Cases can be fully stitched, edge painted, lined, and even stamped — allowing for plenty of leather techniques to be put to the test.
With large scrap pieces, it may be possible to create a small bag using leather. Bags are a great product for advanced crafters as they challenge them with unique design elements, hardware settings, and plenty of difficult stitching. Those looking to make the most of leather scraps should consider making a leather bag to hone their skills further.
Pros of Leather Scraps
Regardless of how efficient a crafter is with their hide, there will always be scraps generated from leather projects. They should not be wasted, as leather scraps have plenty of benefits.
- More affordable than purchasing a full hide
- Can be used for practice
- Great way to try various leathers
- Provide samples to potential customers
- Can be used to dial in various leather machines
Cons of Leather Scraps
Despite being a useful material, leather scraps have their limitations. Many veteran crafters will often opt to sell or donate scrap rather than use it themselves.
- Often too small for most projects
- Inconsistent color, size, and thickness
- Messy and can quickly take up a lot of space
- More difficult to perform some techniques with
- No quality standard when purchasing from stores
They are often sold by weight and in mixed bags with various colors, tannage, and thickness. However, unless stated otherwise, most scraps will be under 0.5 square feet.
Tips for Crafting With Leather Scraps
- Separate scrap by tannage and thickness to quickly find useful pieces.
- Glue multiple scrap pieces together to get a thicker, stiffer piece.
- Use a backing material to attach scraps together or create a mosaic.
My Personal Research Into Leather Scraps
With scraps being a common part of leather craft, I wanted to research various ways they can be used, straying away from standard suggestions and finding more unique applications. For this, I turned toward the leather community. I compiled their best suggestions while including my favorite use for leather scraps.
An incredibly unique idea I came across was making business cards out of leather scrap. These are great networking tools as they provide key information on material they can feel themselves. Business cards are small and can be decorated in endless ways, helping crafters demonstrate their prowess as they please.
While using leather scraps as a package filler may seem wasteful, it puts to use small pieces that may have otherwise been thrown away. Surrounding a customer’s item with leather scraps can help shed light on the work that went into making the item. While simultaneously helping to create the aroma many love.
I would advise picking scrap wisely, or wrapping the project, as some types may stain other leathers. By choosing what scraps to include, crafters may use it as an opportunity to showcase sample leather, allowing customers to make repeat purchases due to the small swatches included.
My personal favorite use for leather scraps is as a dye color guide. One of my favorite parts of the craft is hand dyeing, but until the dye touches the surface, it is almost impossible to tell what the color will look like. So anytime I purchase a new dye, I use scrap leather to test it out. Now, anytime I need to dye leather, I can pull out my handy guide and easily match thread, hardware, or any other requirements.
As leather workers, we often have plenty of creativity, and this craft is the perfect platform. Even something as small as leather scraps can become useful in our workshop, showcasing the seemingly endless ways to use remnants.
Helpful Leather Scraps Insights
What can you do with scraps of leather?
The most common use of leather scraps is practice. Most crafting techniques can be attempted using scrap leather to hone skills. Alternatively, scraps can be used for small projects. Wallets, key chains, and cord organizers are some of the most popular uses for scrap leather.
How do you join leather scraps?
Leather scrap can be joined with a cross stitch. This will bind together the leather at the edges to help make the scrap into a larger piece. A similar option is to use a backing material to glue the leather to. This will give the leather scraps more structure, creating a panel of leather that can be used for any project.
How do you sew leather scraps together?
Scraps can be seen together using a cross stitch or box stitch. This will pin the edges of the pieces together. Another option is to use a backing material and sewing across the scraps. This is a great way to use up scraps without excess stitching.
What can I do with small leather scraps?
Scraps are a great surface for practicing any leather technique. In addition, they may be useful for smaller projects depending on their size. Cardholders, keychains, and bookmarks are popular projects for leather scraps.
How do you find scrap leather?
Scrap leather is remnants left over from leather projects. Since only some cuts will be a perfect square, many leather pieces are left over. When shopping for scraps online, they may be listed as remnants or cut-offs, often sold by weight or square footage if large enough.
How do you flatten leather scraps?
The best way to flatten leather scraps is to get them wet and hold them flat overnight using a flat, heavy object. Another option is to use an iron with a fabric in-between the leather. The heat and pressure can help flatten some leathers.
How do you store scrap leather?
Storing leather scraps is best done by using a breathable container. The scraps should be placed into the container and away from direct sunlight to prevent fading. Separate the oily scrap pieces from other leather to avoid color transfer.
- Leather scraps are a great way to pick up leathercraft without spending a lot.
- Scraps come in any tannage, color, size, and thickness.
- Leather scraps can be used as practice pieces or for various projects
As leather crafters, we have developed an appreciation for the material we work with. Getting the most out of leather hides is often important for many. Learning how to use leather scraps for small projects, practice, or testing, is a great way to optimize leather usage.
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