Updated: Nov 13
While I could entitle this blog post ‘Your Guide To Nipple Relocation’, I retired my inner child and settled on the above headline.
Advancements in leathercraft technique are the reason we have such interesting and beautiful designs dating back several hundred years.
Every interesting skill you've seen from rolled handles, piping, turned edges, saddle stitching, and most of what we as crafters take for granted, was created by some clever skin wizard along the way.
A wise fellow once said ‘The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man’.
What Mr Shaw means to say, is in order to progress, we can’t stick to what’s already been done, which would be the ‘reasonable’ way, we need to push the boundaries and be downright unreasonable.
I can tell you now, most of what I have learned over my leathercrafting career can be attributed to not much more than playing around with leather, thread and glue.
Hoping for some bright idea to come to life and create a new technique, or at least a better method for a known one.
In today’s blog post, I am pulling back the curtain to show you once such experiment I did recently. My desire is that you adopt the mentality of experimentation to advance your knowledge and skill to better yourself.
You may not even find this practical or interesting, however, you may find the thought process and problem solving mindset more appealing. Focus on the why, rather than the what.
Ok, so here’s the story.
I once had a beautiful tan ostrich skin that I used for the ‘Turenne Luxury Handbag’ course a few years back. Most of the ‘crown’ which is the area on the skin covered in ‘pearls’ (the bits that look like nipples), were used up in the project.
Recently I started a new video course ‘Leather Zip Wallet’, and I wanted to use ostrich skin to make the wallet a bit special. However ostrich skin prices have shot up recently and the cost from my usual supplier has gone up almost 400%.
Not really needing an entire skin for a wallet exterior anyway, I hatched a plan to relocate the pearls from a few off-cuts I had laying around to fill out a nice area that was missing some pearls.
So, here's what I did.
In the below image, I have taped off a section a little larger than the wallet exterior pattern. You can see I don't have enough pearls to fill the entire area, so we're going to harvest some from another donor offcut from the original skin.
Now you could try and estimate where each new pearl is going to go by eye. However, I am going to copy mother nature's consistent randomness by tracing over the existing pearls with pencil and paper.
The best wat to do this is before you flatten down the pearls (something we do in fine leathercraft).
So now you have an accurate location template, you'll need to punch out each little pip that shows up in pencil. You can do this using a 4mm hole punch.
Using this template, you can now find the ideal place for the pears to appear in the area that's missing them.
To do this you'll want to trim away most of the top layer from your template so you can see and pair up the pearls to the holes you punched out.
It won't be an exact match, you simply want to average everything out by pairing as many paper holes to ostrich pearls as you can.
Your next task it to place a dot of white ink on the skin in the centre of each hole. The reason you want to do this before punching out your holes, is to make sure the spread of pearls are even once the template has been removed.
You don't want two pearls right next to each other, as this is something you don't normally see.
White ink is removable with a damp cloth, so that's why we're not using a regular pen.
Once you have settled on your template placement and your hole placement is marked in white pen, you can start punching out where the new pearls will go. Again using a 4mm punch.
Once you have punched out a row or two, move the template down and continue marking in white pen. Making sure to confirm placement visually with the template removed, then punching out more holes. Keep going for as many rows as needed.
The next step is best described using a video I made in the subject about a year ago.
In a nutshell, you'll need a 12-15mm hole punch to remove a pearl from a donor area.
Then you need to carefully skive the little pearl 'puck' so that it is thin and the edges are tapered.
This can be achieved with a skiving knife, like in the video, or use a scalpel which most people will find easier.
Now you can install the donor pearl into the 4mm hole you punched through your ostrich skin previously. PVA/white glue is ideal as any excess can be wiped away with a damp cloth.
Once all the donor pearls are in place, let everything completely dry and turn over the piece onto the flesh side.
Here you can begin thinning the rear of each donor pearl so that it blends in with the new skin. Without this thinning process, excess bulk can show up when you eventually add a reinforcement backing to the ostrich skin.
If you accidentally cut through, apply PVA and press back down with a few light taps from a hammer. When completely dry, trim again from another direction.
Once complete, you can add a backing to the rear. This fixes everything in place permanently and creates uniformity. Backing can be anything from thin fabric, leatherboard, microfiber or leather itself (such as a glued-in lining).
Now the skin has been completed, you can then use it for your next project!
To discover more on the processes and techniques of handbag making using Ostrich skin, check out the course preview: 'The Turenne Luxury Handbag' below.
This course is exclusive to members with a 6, 9 or 12 month Video Plan.
Click the blue button to get started today!