8 courses to improve your leather skills.
Since the pandemic, millions of individuals across the UK have faced the prospect of looming redundancies and reduced incomes. On the 11th August 2020, the BBC reported that the unemployment rate stood at 3.9% - nearly the lowest it has been in 40 years. This has meant many things to many people. For some, it has meant having to adapt, learn new skills and think of alternative ways to provide extra income. From our own experience, we have seen an influx of new enquiries from novice leatherworkers who have had the desire and need to set up a side business to help ease their financial situation.
As our creative ways have had time to flourish these past months, has this been the making of us? Well for some, yes. Making small leather goods and selling them online can be a great way to gain extra cash.
With all this mind, leatherwork is a skill which needs to be taught. Here we run through some of the top leather courses for novice leatherworkers which are available in the UK today. We look at location, online v face-to face learning as well as cost to ensure our readers have a comprehensive range to choose from.
Based in the Midlands, Nigel Armitage from Armitage leather offers leather courses for groups, one-to-one and online. His one-to-one sessions extends beyond developing your leather crafts skills and also offers mentoring, consultation, design development, A1 Assessment and support with QEST applications.
If face-to-face learning isn’t feasible then Nigel offers a Vimeo subscription for just £2.99 per month. The channel includes almost 100 skill, technique and project-based videos.
Nigel has been a bespoke maker for thirty years focusing on the longstanding traditions of making leather goods completely by hand.
Price range: £250 - £750
Drakelow Business Park
Burton upon Trent
DE15 9UA, UK
Telephone: 01283 529981
Email: [email protected]
Diamond Awl leather is run by the BBC’s Made in Great Britain leatherworker, Jason Stocks-Young. Jason’s workshop is based in Saddleworth, North West and offers a variety of classes to suit novices and intermediates. Choose from either 1 day, 2 day, 3 day or one-to-one training courses.
Diamond Awl’s leather Courses focus on making premium leather goods. The courses are designed to teach you all the core basics of traditional leatherwork, including marking and cutting out leather, preparing the leather for hand stitching, saddle stitching by hand, skiving, bevelling and burnishing. Below we list what you will make on each of the courses.
1 Day - small leather goods, such as wallets, notebook holders, card holders and passport holders.
2 Day - choice of making either a messenger bag.
3 Day – Leather backpack (this course is more complex and is suitable for people who already have some leatherwork skills)
Jason started making leather goods six years ago, learning from some great leather workers who share the ethos and passion of using traditional techniques, the best fixings and the finest leathers.
Price range: £140 - £450
1 Manchester Rd,
Email: Email Jason via his contact form here.
GDH Leather is operated by the same family business who publish ‘Waxing the Thread’. They provide warm, friendly courses to all individuals no matter what your ability is. At the end of the course you will feel confident to produce a professional finished product worthy of a price tag.
GDH offer several types of courses from one day courses to a seven day intensive leatherwork course. What caught our attention is their ‘Leather Bag Making Course – Beginners Level’. The two-day course how to make and traditionally hand stitch your own beautiful leather tote, messenger or satchel with vegetable tanned leather and waxed linen thread. This course will give you the core basics and the confidence to make your order simple leather bag designs. Sounds ideal for those who have taten up leatherwork since lockdown.
Price range: £180 - £1,495
The Old Chapel
Telephone: 01437 563110
Email: [email protected]
Guest leathercraft is owned by ‘Ginger’ who began leatherworking back in 1973. During his career, Ginger has spent time in Texas studying western style leather techniques including leather carving. He has taught leatherwork in schools, scouts and prisons and now offers training to anyone with a passions for leather. All classes are personalised to meet individual requirements.
Price range: £150
Unit 2, Hampson Street
Telephone: 01204 695660
Email: [email protected]
Identity Store is operated by married couple Pete and Jackie Laight. This duo have a wealth of experience behind them. Both previously worked for Pittards, Pete as Technical Director and Jackie as the Technical Administrator.
Since the pandemic, Identity Store are offering most of their classes online. Packs of tools and materials are sent out prior to the training day, and the classes are kept small and are run in much the same way as a physical class. They offer a range of short courses covering different aspects of leatherwork. If you need help with sourcing leather for your projects then you can also book a free 15 minute online advice session.
Price range: £65 - £155
The Identity Store
Images supplied by JH Leather.
Based in Powys, Wales, Jo Heard runs JH Leather. Jo uses traditional saddlery techniques learnt though the Cordwainer's Diploma at Capel Manor College and is now a member of the Society of Master Saddlers.
After launching her You Tube Channel, Jo was inundated with messages and requests for training. The courses range from complete beginner to more advance skill sets and cover a wide range of techniques and items. Each of the is a 1-to-1 basis to ensure time is well spent on focusing on the individuals needs.
Price range: £175 - £1049
Telephone: (+44) 7494 654036
Kinglesy Walters offers 1,2 and 3 day course which all offer comprehensive learning. The aims of each course include:
• How to work traditional saddlery Tools
• How to sew using the traditional saddlery technique by hand
• How to work with patterns and how to mark around and cut leather
• How to maintain and care for leather
• How to identify vegetable tanned leathers, and gain an understanding of their qualities & potential
• How to maintain saddlery tools
• How to Finish edges
Kinglsey Walters started as a hobbyist making small leathergoods for family and friends. By word of mouth, he started getting requests for commissioned work. Over the years he has learn invaluable leatherwork and saddlery skills which are now taught through his courses.
Price range: £165 - £495
1 Fashion Street
Telephone: 07495 350098
Email: [email protected]
Leatherwork courses provided by Valerie Michael and Neil MacGregor are based upon the techniques described in ‘The Leatherworking Handbook’. Tuition is centred upon an awareness of both craftsmanship and design, so for students who are particularly interested in contemporary fashion accessories or more traditional leathergoods, their highly regarded courses provide the foundation and progression students require.
Valerie’s and Michael’s experience and knowledge is industry recognised. Over the years they have written and contributed to multiple publications.
Price range: £200 - £900
MacGregor and Michael
37 Silver Street
Leather UK is also a great source for reaching out to the leather trade and is a great directory for networking with link minded people. Discover UK leather suppliers, grants and training courses here. (https://leatheruk.org/help-and-resources/grants-and-training/)