Monday, February 28, 2005

Leather Craft

A Brief description of the contents of existing manuals & those still to be written

The manuals cover all the subjects that were in that City & Guilds two year full time course & a lot more that we could not include. Sadly those A & O level courses are now defunct & the college no longer offers any craft courses.

The Finished Manuals, Which are on sale from my site.
Manual No.1 Covers all the basic skills, Straps & Belts, Handles, Cutting, Hand Sewing, Paring, Fixtures & Fittings, Tools, Costing, etc. In all 154 pages. This is a comprehensive work which provides all the basic skills & techniques, What is good practice as well as bad practise. It is full of old tricks & tips & makes an ideal reference manual for the beginner as well as the professional worker. The Hand Sewing section covers all styles of hand sewing that are or were in use by leatherworkers & Saddlers. The Cutting & costing section coves an essential collection of information never before recorded. It is something that any small business should pay close attention to.

Manual No.2 Covers Small Leathergoods such as: Notecases, Coin Purses & Wallets With examples of all relevant methods of construction. There is also another section which completes the costing process. In all 228 pages. This manual deals with what is often described as flat work. & takes the reader from ‘Cut Edge Work’ (Sometimes described as ‘Raw Edge Work’) to ‘Semi Solid’ To ‘Turned Edge Work’ The subject of costing is completed including examples of costing’s related to the articles used for examples.
Manual No.3 Continues Small leathergoods with Giftware, etc. Subject dealt with: Glass cases, Traveling Photo Frames, Blotters, Jewel & Trinket Boxes, Built Up Work, Folios & Zip Insertion. in al1110 Pages, This takes the Manual user into more complex constructions using more advanced techniques & will provide the ability to start developing their own styles & concepts.
Currently being written.

Manual No.4 This covers all the construction methods related to Handbags. (Plenty of photo’s &
sequences). ‘Butt Edge’ Turned & Butted’ ‘Boot Seams’ Piped Seams’ ‘All round Gussets’ ‘Set in End Gussets’ ‘Compound Gussets’ ‘ Concertina Gussets’ ‘Raised Bases’ ‘Brief Cases’ ,Top Frame Briefs’ ‘Framed Bags’ Nothing is left out.

No. 5 Large Luggage. Areo Bags, Shut Flush Cases, Shut Over Lid Cases, Valises, Kit Bags, etc. Executive Cases, Gun Cases. Again many old styles of cases some never dealt with before including some unusual methods of construction.
(Material Gathered but still to be written).

No. 6 Fitted Work. Frets, Partitions, Special Linings, etc, Again too much to list but there are methods & techniques here that have never been written about before or included in a craft college course. This was my own special expertise (Still to be written).

No. 7 Pattern Making & Design, The creation of Patterns will be fully explained here. You will be taken from the stage of a design on paper to the production of a full set of cutting patterns & making patterns including assembly jigs, the production of a prototype, etc. With regard to design the normal standard information will be provided with The features & considerations that must be included to produce a functional & salable article. (Still to be written, Although some related material is included from Manual No. 3 onwards).

My Background I had over 50 years experience in the leathergoods industry, this started with an Art & Design course, followed by a Leathergoods Course which led to the following: Working for "Top London Companies" as a Craftsman producing leathergoods for; all the Top London Stores, then a supervisory & designer role with a Diary House, Works Manager then Works Director with another leathergoods company designing & producing display & fitted cases & finishing as a Head of Department at a London College.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Leather Craft

I mentioned Leather Courses and Leather Training, so where can you access a comprehensive list of available courses & training? Visit I may not have every one listed that is available around the World but there should be something for everyone.

There are many excellent books published on this subject for those that wish to read about this subject which cover all aspects of this diverse subject. I have included publishers & authors together with an overview of most of them. Subjects dealt with, Leathergoods, Footwear, Bookbinding, Saddlery, Tooling, etc. Visit

Leather Instruction Manuals. With my background in the UK Leather Industry which was mostly spent at the high class end of the craft, my time in industrial training, lecturing at a London college & as a Head of Department and finally as City & Guilds Moderator. I decided to put the extensive skills that I possess down on paper. To this end after retirement I started to write a book on this subject, it soon became apparent that this was not all going to fit into one book the obvious choice was a range of books or manuals. The obvious vehicle to reach a World wide public was the emerging internet, that meant learning to use a computer and building a site. This I set out to do eventually finishing the first two manuals for sale on my own site. These manuals along with the third one in the series can be viewed and purchased, see,

As stated three of these manuals are now finished and available as loose leaf folders. They have also been produced as e-books and will be available as down-loads shortly. The fourth manual is about half written with a further three to write, making a total of seven manuals in all. This project when finished will produce a leather craft encyclopedia being the first of it's kind related to this subject and a fitting subject to leave to posterity. The subjects covered are all fully described on my site but I will give a full description of them in my next blog.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Leather Craft

Craft Training & Craft Courses are virtually non existent these days and the choice for those people wishing to embark on a career using Leather Craft as that career is practically a non starter. Having said that there are some excellent short courses run by artisans in various parts of the UK. However this can prove expensive if relied on exclusively as a beginner will have to return frequently to a centre to get all the basic skills necessary to become a credible and proficient Artisan. There are some college courses available but these are HND design courses with the main emphasis on design with a small impute of craft skills which is intended to enable a student to specialize in a specific area of either shoes or leather goods.

The old and now defunct City & Guilds 470 0 & A level Leathergoods Craft Courses which lasted two years placed the emphasis on craft skills with an element of design included. How did this come about, We can't blame the colleges as they have to provide courses that will bring in suitable funding. HND & Degree courses produce that funding. The fault lies with successive Governments (of all all shades). Or to put it more bluntly their department that oversee the funding.

Craft Couses have always been seen by these controlling bodies as 'Low Level Courses' The theory being that you don't need to have any intelligence or schooling to work with your hands or create Craft Objects. Consequentially little funding was available to colleges offering such courses. The availability of grants to student wishing to take craft courses was also meager if offered at all, all these factors played their part in the demise of craft courses.

Apprenticeship's stopped and to be fair the closure of many leather goods companies due to them being unable to compete with cheap imports helped to bring this about. The introduction of NVQ,s helped lower the standard of skills (I will be taken to task for this) but I was unfortunately involved in the introduction of these into the Leather Industry, but I said at the time it would be bad for crafts in general and I think I have been proved right. Now don't get me wrong I did not say that all NVQ Qualifications are rubbish or that they did not work. In fact they are fine & provide excellent results when applied to the right subjects.

Lets use Hotel Management as an example It is not important where in the country a hotel is situated the basic requirements will be the same & these specific skills can be taught adequately using the NVQ formula. It was couses of this type that the NVQ honed its skills on & formulated its course structure on. Their mistake was in assuming this would work on Crafts and Hand Skills (Which was as far as I am concerned further proof of the ignorance prevalent regarding Skilled Work). Another major flaw was the assumption that skill taught in one factory would match those taught in another, With NVQ,s being Work Shop based as far as their craft Skills component was concerned is the cause of the problem. There are companies producing cases, companies producing handbags, companies that produce only belts, companies that produce only wallets, etc.

Lets take that company that only makes belts, the skills required to produce belt are few and an NVQ acquired there will not enable the recipient to make more advanced items like a case for example. This is without allowing for the quality factor as some companies produce cheap goods & others produce high quality goods. I have no problem with this as there is a market for both, but where does that leave NVQ,s and to be more precise their value as a Craft award. A lot of the newer companies making leather goods have started up with no background in the industry and unlike the old established companies do not have the technical knowledge to pass on, how can they, skilled craftsmen of the old school are either long gone or in short supply. (And we hear Governments complaining of Skills Shortages), I as a City & Guilds moderator for those old Leather Craft Courses am well placed to make this criticism. More on how to get these skills now in my next blog.

History of Leathergoods

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Leather Craft

You have now got some idea about the origins of Leather Craft & mans long association with this versatile material and how it developed from a primitive necessity into a thriving industry between the two world wars. The introduction of Nylon and Plastic has changed the trade to a degree but most of the construction techniques & making skills still apply to these materials and provide the Craftsman or Artisan with an extended range of materials to work with.

Of the two Nylon offers the better long term usage for a customer and has replaced leather to a degree for medium priced and cheap luggage due to it's hard wearing qualities, it is practically scuff free. All this makes it an ideal material for the ever expanding travel industry especially air travel. Plastic likewise has proved successful for a wider range of uses, handbags and other small leathergoods items are made from it as well as luggage. There are manufacturing restrictions however as neither material can be worked with in the same way as leather which means that only certain methods of construction are feasible. Plastic does have one major drawback in that it has a short life, being a by-product of the petroleum industry it gets brittle as it ages and the molecules break down, cracks and breaks occur especially at flexible areas like lids and flaps.

Both these materials being 'Man Made' are popular with people who have problems with the entry of animals into the food chain and the use of the waste from them (leather being used). However these materials due to the chemical process involved in making them pollute the atmosphere and are probably an area which environmental campaigners while have problems with.

In the next posting I will explore the present day industry & craft side looking at modern training, courses and the ability for people to acquire these ancient skills.