How to recognize the different types of leather?

Anne-Cécile Learn
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Where does your leather come from?

Cand article will appeal to your senses. Touch, look, feel. You will become unbeatable by origin of the leather.  In addition to article on leather making, you will still discover here techniques such as grain  where the color, you will try to recognize the true of false. You will understand how silky suede is obtained, how we imitate the scales of a python or crocodile skin from a calf leather.

And when we talk about origin, we also talk about animals, where it all begins.

types of leather

different leathers



1. The true from the false

1.1 Quality goes through imperfection

1.2 The stretch test

1.3 waterproofing

1.4 The colour

2. The animal

2.1 Lamb leather

2.2 Cow leather

2.3 Calf leather

2.3 The other leathers

The true from the false

Abefore talking about the nature of leather, its original animal, let's talk about imitation leather,  imitation materials synthetic. Much cheaper, they are also good lower quality

Quality goes through imperfection

Lleather is the result of the treatment of animal skins. Nature, as perfect as it is, also gives us its mark of irregularities. A real skin is looked at through a magnifying glass to find what betrays its experience. The life of our dear animals marks the exposure to all kinds of aggressions and more or less painful encounters: Scratches, streaks, scars, hollows, bumps, everything is good. It smells of lived!

And remember that the hairs are nested in the skin, through the surface which keeps the memory of it.

leather skin

a hair in the skin

The edge of the faux leather is perfect, cordless, without roughness. Although there are techniques forfinishing of slices  when hot, real leather will show its animal edge, unambiguously. AnneCecileCreation creations thus choose to expose the true nature of leather.

natural leather edge

a slice of leather on a CREATIONACC ® wallet

The stretch test

imitation leather fabric

imitation leather fabric

Lleather ages well. you know the expression. And when you get older, you have wrinkles. Here is a good memo-technical means to remember that wrinkles  should appear on leather that is being ground. A faux synthetic leather will not fold easily, it will not change color on the fold. Synthetic fabric folds when you manipulate without wrinkling, unlike natural skin, yours for example. Take the test, press the skin on your hand.

skin wrinkles, a natural mark of time

Skin wrinkles, natural mark of time

Fluid absorption

Vyour skin is not tight. That of animals either. Synthetic faux leather is not porous. Result, the liquid slides  unequivocal above on its artificial nature.

There are treatments to make leather waterproof. Who hasn't heard a shoe salesperson ask you at the checkout if you have "what it takes" to make leather waterproof? Among the products I use, "Ultra Protec"  "Beaume de vie" brand is really effective.

waterproof shoe leather

Waterproof shoe leather

The colour

Flet's be simple, color is not at all a good indicator, we tint the real as much as the faux leather, all colors are accepted.

The color of the leather, how do we do it?

Gthanks to currying  and at finishingand at the  patina, the final stages of preparation / manufacture, the leather you love takes on its color and suppleness.

The Patina  : The patina corresponds to theaging, mechanical or chemical. In the case of leather, there is a certain aesthetic advantage in wearing leather of a certain age. The industry then looked at solutions to accelerate this action of time. We will not be exhaustive, a next article why not.

Example of chemical patina  : We start with acetone, a powerful solvent for stripping leather, in case it is waterproof. In a brush or in a vat as in Fes in Morocco, the colors spring up.

FES leather dye

Dyes at FES in Morocco.

The animal

Petit animal bestiary to identify the natural characteristics of each of their skin. Unfortunately, these characteristics  will not always be sufficient to decide on the nature of the skin. Treatments will often mask the origin of your leather. Carpenters are wrong about the nature of wood. Unless you have a microscope to reveal the structure of the hair implementation, the following chapters will not be decisive. The rule is combination, the superimposition of knowledge to allow a name to be put on the animal.

Lamb leather



Lhe skins are smaller than those of a cow.The patterns overlap and are slightly less uniform.

Smooth and colorful, flexible, soft to the touch.

The skin of this sheep can be treated in different ways, but no exclusivity in the matter. You can also apply the recipe to other types of leather: those of other sheep (sheep, sheep), cattle (calf, cow, bull calf, bull, buffalo, bison, ...), goats (cgoat, kid, goat, chamois, reindeer, deer, caribou), pigs (pig family).

Let's talk about 2 of these right now treatments, more often applied tolamb  in tannery: The grain  and treatment NAPPA.

Grained lambskin

grained leather

Grained leather, source

Aussi called foulonné, this treatment makes it possible to accentuate the steam  naturally regular grain, un treatment that creates a relief, and accentuates the grain and certain colors such as red or blue. Rather than technique, it is rather a recipe. Everyone puts their know-how, their method.

Another common practice is heated presses  at 80 ° c, in the form of rolls or plates which tighten the leather very strongly against a pattern reasons  (small grain, large grain, etc.)

The little story in the big story.

As so often in the history of crafts, it is more of a discovery than an invention. We tell 2 stories, each time in Scotland:

It was discovered that the impression of the ground pattern on pressed leather of substantial weight was irreversible. His tanner might stretch it, the relief was definitely part of the material. An evil for a good because the success of this skin was soon confirmed.

Another story says that the Whiskey barrels (or Whiskey for the Irish) helped to highlight a  chemical reaction  with barley. Or how the grain of barley gave birth to the grain of leather.

 grain barley

barley beans

nappa lambskin / veiled

Additional treatment applied to the surface to protect it from wear, UV or even rain. It is less natural than plunged leather (which is immersed to be dyed in the mass, a treatment reserved for the most beautiful lambskins).

 nappa leather

Nappa lamb leather, source

Cowhide leather

Éthickness, regularity of the grain, uniform and shiny appearance. This leather is said to be raw. Preferred in making jackets, it skates well.

In general, a leather is quite thin, between 0.5 mm and 3, even 4 mm for the buffalo, 8 mm. Cowhide leather (cow  or beef, i.e. a castrated bull) is around 1.5 mm. With this bovine leather, we seek durability and resistance. It is also widely used because it is abundant.

leather head

Leather head

Calf leather

Le veal  : Between lambskin, flexible, soft, and cowhide, wear-resistant, calf leather takes the best of both skin types. Used for shoes or small leather goods, often treated in full flower(click to find the definition). Tanneries specialize in veal for its qualities which interest the leather goods industry.

calfskin wallet
Calfskin wallet

The other leathers

NWe will not make a complete list, moreover the list swells with daring and imagination. Fish leather, small animal leather, reptiles.... how far will we go?

cracked skin
Cracked skin

python leather
python leather

Python wallet
CreationACC ® Python wallet

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