Course Descriptions

Before the advent of modern tanning agents, humans were turning raw skin into usable leather products using very basic techniques and materials. Learn to produce incredibly soft, strong and durable leather from raw animal skin using one of humankind’s earliest tanning technologies! Utilising materials readily available in the surrounding environment we will walk through the steps of this transformation. Come learn the progression of this process from raw skin to beautiful, usable, finished leather!

 

This course focuses on tanning deer skins with a variety of fat tannage which uses brains* as the dressing agent. Whilst not for the squeamish the end product is worth the work! The class will cover removing the meat and fat (de-fleshing), removing the outer grain layer (de-graining), applying the tanning agents (dressing), softening and smoking the skins.

 

In addition to enthusiastic instruction I provide comfortable, easy to use tools and detailed handouts covering the tanning process, as well as ethnographic anecdotes and a list of helpful literature for those who wish to further their own knowledge of tanning! So, please join me for a course sure to contain plenty of memorable moments, lots of practical information and, provided that you put in the work **, one that will see you heading home with a beautiful, unique and usable piece of traditionally tanned leather!

 

* A brain substitute will be available for those who truly prefer not to use brain tissue.

 

** Please be aware that a reasonable amount of fitness is required for this course. I will provide instruction on good technique and timing with the skins, but you will need to be able to be on your feet and active for 6 to 8 hours per day.

 

3 Day course

 

10 Student maximum

Deer Skin Tanning

Before the advent of modern tanning agents, humans were turning raw skin into usable leather products using very basic techniques and materials. Learn to produce incredibly soft, strong and durable leather from raw animal skin using one of humankind’s earliest tanning technologies! Utilising materials readily available in the surrounding environment we will walk through the steps of this transformation.

 

This class will focus on tanning furs with a variation of fat tanning using brains as the dressing agent*. Whilst not for the squeamish the end product is worth the work! The class will cover rehydrating dried furs, de-fleshing, dressing and softening the fur skins, as well as smoking them so they can be easily washed.

 

In addition to enthusiastic instruction I provide comfortable, easy to use tools and detailed handouts covering the tanning process, as well as ethnographic anecdotes and a list of helpful literature for those who wish to further their own knowledge of tanning! So, please join me for a course sure to contain plenty of memorable moments, lots of practical information and, if you put in the work**, one that will see you heading home with a beautiful, unique and usable traditionally tanned fur!

 

 * a brain substitute will be available for those who truly prefer not to use brain tissue.

 

** Please be aware that a reasonable amount of fitness is required for this course. I will provide instruction on good technique and timing with the skins, but you will need to be able to be on your feet and active for 6 to 8 hours per day. Any serious injuries need to be discussed with me prior to booking onto the course please!

 

2 Day course

 

12 Students maximum

Fur Tanning

Have you ever wondered what happens to the parts of an animal which don’t make it onto your grocery store shelves? This course covers some options for using those parts! The course aims to introduce you to what parts are useful for what products and how to preserve those parts until they can be used. Multiple levels of technologies from stone to steel will be covered! Some examples of what will be covered in the course are as follows:

 

-Organs: Removing, sorting and cleaning the edible organs as well as the utilitarian ones such as: brains for tanning the skin, the bladder for water bags and intestines for thread.

-Skin: Removing the skin, de-fleshing and preserving the skin for later and the making of hide glue

-Meat: Removing the meat, what cuts are best suited to different uses. How to debone, make roasts, jerky and soup meat. Basic meat preservation.

-Fat: How to render fat to preserve it.

-Bones: How to separate joints, bones as food, how to make tools from bones such as: skin processing tools, awls and needles, fish hooks, harpoon and arrow points, and jewellery.

-Sinew: How to remove, clean and preserve both backstrap and leg sinew and how to later process it for fibre for sewing, bowstrings, hafting, bow backing etc.

-Hooves: How to process the hooves for decorative items or for hoof glue.

-Antlers: If antlers are present how to remove them, and a discussion on how best to work with antler.

 

The length of the course will allow us to cover a wide range of introductory subjects but will not allow for the completion of finished projects. This is a pilot course and as such the content covered will evolve based on time, weather, and participant interests!

 

3 Day course

 

10 Students maximum

Using the Whole Animal

Ever wondered what people used to sew with before cotton or polyester thread became a mass produced commodity? Well then this is the course for you! Learn how to process materials such as sinew, intestine, leather, fur, hair, and plant fibres to make usable and unique thread. This class will be a combination of demonstration and trying it out for yourself!

 

1 Day course

10 Students maximum

A Stitch in Time- Threads from Nature

In this course you will learn a variety of different stitches and what types of seams they are best used for. During the morning you will make a memory card to help you learn the stitches and to keep as a memory aide for a later date! In the afternoon you will put your new repertoire of stitches use by making a small bag from soft leather. The bag will incorporate all the stitches and theory you will have learned in the morning session.

 

1 Day course

10 Students maximum 

Basic Leather Sewing: Bags and Stitches

Spend 5 days making a pair of your own fabulous and functional custom fit lace up boots while learning the ancient process of Bark Tanning! Each morning will cover a different part of the procedure for turning a raw skin into a beautiful piece of Bark Tanned leather. Learning this ancient and rewarding process will allow you to tan the leather to make your next pair of shoes! Each afternoon will cover the patterning, cutting and sewing needed to produce a wonderful pair of custom boots!

 

5 Day course

8 Students maximum

*Not available in the UK

Leather Boots and Bark Tanning

Make your own Rawhide Sandals using only Stone Age tools! The course will cover how to work with pre-prepared rawhide, pattern the sandal, hole placements and lacing style options. With a few simple pieces of knowledge and very basic tools, you can make a great pair of rawhide sandals which require very little work and which with proper maintenance, will last a surprisingly long time!

1 Day course

10 Students maximum

 

All tools and rawhide are provided.

*In very wet climates, thick vegetable tanned leather will be used instead of rawhide.

Rawhide Sandals

This course will take you from a flat piece of leather to a finished shoe! I will guide you through the process of making a custom pattern individual to your own feet. You will then use that pattern to cut, sew and construct a functional and beautiful pair of shoes.

 

*Styles range from ethnographically sourced types such as centre seam style moccasins, a style used by a variety of groups in the Eastern Woodlands of North America, through to more creative, modern versions of boots. All styles will be constructed from soft fat tanned skin, a type of leather which has been in use for most of human history.

 

The course will include discussion of material selection, understanding leather as a material and how to, or more specifically, how not to, cut pattern pieces from a skin, a variety of stitch and seam options and which are best for what application and maintenance of your finished footwear to make it last as long as possible. 

 

During this course you will sew with modern waxed nylon thread. However, this course combines well with the Threads from Nature course. If  you bring thread you'v made previously in this course you are welcome to use it for the stitching material. You will not have time to make thread during the course.  All tools and material are included in the cost of the course.

 

2 Day course

8 Students maximum

*please get in contact to discuss which style of shoe you'd like the course to cover. No more than 2 in any 1 course please.

Leather Shoes

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