Monday, July 9, 2012

Where to buy leather?

I am often asked where I buy the leather for my projects, and one place I go is called Sav-Mor leather. They're located near the garment district near downtown LA, and they have a great selection of leather with pretty competitive pricing. They also have a pretty lousy website, but don't judge them solely on that!

Please note: This isn't a paid endorsement or anything, just information I would pass along to a friend if someone I know needed a place to find leather.

Since there are so many different types of leather, I thought I'd share a couple of different hides I purchased on a recent trip, as they lend themselves quite well to general use for leather garments or restraints. Hopefully this will help you if you don't have a leather supplier nearby and need to make a purchase without being able to see (or smell) the leather in person.

The first hide is what Sav-mor refers to as "Leon" in black. This is a great jacket-weight cowhide leather in a full 56-square-foot size - large enough to make a sleepsack and hood, or several smaller projects.
Leon has a great combination of all the characteristics I look for in a hide: soft but strong, thick, but not too stiff. Supple, but restrictive, and something that could be used for a jacket or armbinder as well as a hood. Plus, it has that great leather smell!
The finish on the Leon hide has a nice sheen, without being too shiny, and the grain has a natural, uncorrected texture that gives each piece it's own unique personality. There will be brand marks and occasional other defects on these hides, but for the price and size, they are a great value.
It's just a good general-use hide, appropriate for a wide variety of projects.
Next up: we have a "Lamba" side (or half-hide) in Cognac color. This hide measures 26.5 square feet, and the color and finish made me fall in love with it at first sight. The price is $3.95 a square foot - a bit more than the Leon - but these run at a smaller size because they are only half-hides, not full.
The "Lamb" part of the Lamba name refers to the fact that these hides are "lamb-tanned". That means cow tanned to be soft and supple, just like a lamb hide, but with the strength and thickness of cow. These are great for hoods and armbinders, things that benefit from a soft stretch.
The color on this hide is just so gorgeous, and I love the way the color darkens towards the edge.
The grain on this hide is tight and fine with few defects, and a rich, deep saturated beauty. I can't wait to work with this stuff...
The last hide is an "Artisan" in cream. This one is an upholstery-type hide, and the price is $3.35 per square foot. These are available in full-hides only, and have what looks to me like a corrected grain - a bit less natural than the "Leon" hide. Also, the coloration is a bit more like paint than the Lamba in cognac - probably to be more consistent in applications like upholstery, where matching color is more important than having a natural color variation.
The good thing about this hide is it does have the softness and thickness I need for a lot of my leather projects. Plus, the color gives whatever you make a clinical kind of quality... If you're into that sort of thing.
Aside from some minor blemishes, this hide is almost defect-free as well, so the piece will yield lots of usable square footage.

I'll be doing projects with each of these in the coming weeks, so you can see along with me how these hides actually perform...


  1. In the UK, apart from Connollys, who supply Rolls Royce and charge correspondingly, a lot of London students go to a weird little back-gaage operations called JT Batchelor, in Culford Mews, Dalston. It has virtually no web presence and no street sign - it doesn't need either - but is the supplier most of the UK goes to, particularly for tools. Need a left-handed skife? They have them. They also stock a huge amount of leather, not much alum tan, but that's hard to find anyway. And fittings coming out their ears...
    So if you pass by London, go see them.

  2. Thanks for the comment, rahere... I can't wait to visit the UK someday!