The art of leather work can be learned very easily, as it consists of drawing upon dampened material, so that any girl who can draw will be able to make beautiful and original pieces of leather work, requiring a very small outlay of expense. If the craft-worker has no knowledge of drawing, she will have to resort to a stamped design, which can be traced on to the materials. The most important point to remember is that the right kind of design must be chosen for the particular kind of leather selected.
There are several ways of bringing about the desired results in leather work - it can be manipulated by insizing, carving, staining, tooling, burning, and embossing, which gives a large field for this interesting craft. When making a selection of material, it is not always easy for the beginner to distinguish between good and inferior hides; we all have to learn by experience, but there are quite a number to choose from: Russia calf-skin, ooze calfskin, and split cowhide are all used for modelling. Sheep-skin will not model well, but is suitable for perforating, burning, or inlaying.
It is not necessary to be equipped with a large number of tools, as very few will be needed to begin with. Two modellers must be provided, each with a different shaped tool at the end. A slab of marble, slate, or glass about a foot square, a foot rule, a sponge, a triangle, and a sharp cutting-knife will equip the beginner. The blunt thumb-shaped modellers are used for pressing down the surface of the leather, while the sharp ends of the modellers are used for insizing lines and pointing.
In looking at the illustrations, it will be noticed that most of the pieces selected are in the form of card-cases and blotters.
It would be advisable to begin with a card-case, as this is one of the simplest things to make. After deciding on the size, take a piece of paper and fold it the desired shape, allowing a return to the flap at least three-quarters of the size of the front of the card-case. Then cut the leather out the same size and dampen it upon the back. Then rule the four spaces required, two for the covers and two for the flaps on the inside of the leather. Then proceed to fold it carefully, creasing it in the middle. Then rule another line in the middle flap. From this line all measuring must be done. Then draw a straight line horizontally, for the top and bottom of the card-case, squaring it carefully with the triangle. Upon the front cover trace a design like any of those in the illustrations, the simpler the better. The card-case can be finished off with a line about half an inch from the edge. The flaps can also be ornamented in this way, when two lines following the shape exactly of the flap will give it a dainty finish. It is best to put a curve or depression on the inner flap so that the cards can be drawn out easily. The lines on the flap and back must first be ruled to secure correct placing, but it is best to go over them with a tool without the guide of a ruler, as it would look too machine-made unless done in this way.
It is important when beginning work of this sort not to attempt much elaboration, or too much detail. Treat the material in a frankly flat and decorative manner, with just enough detail to prevent monotonous spaces. 6
Many workers in leather evolve for themselves individual methods of working up the background.
In looking at the illustration of a book-rack and blotter, lying on the table, it will be noticed that the background is modelled. This is done with the soft point of the tool. An interesting way of ornamenting a card-case is to place the monogram at the lower right hand corner. The card-case looks more finished if it is lined, and this can be done with silk of the same colour, or soft ooze leather. Paste this on to the hard leather with paste made for the purpose. Fold it on the centre line and press and then unfold, rubbing evenly over the two pieces until the lining is properly attached. Meanwhile, the leather must be allowed to remain damp. When finished and placed under a heavy weight, it will retain the final folded shape, when it will be ready for the sewing. This can be done with an ordinary sewing-machine; use a medium-size needle threaded with twist or sewing silk. As the stitch must go very near the edge, the top and bottom of the card-case will need cutting with a sharp knife, and only one-eighth of an inch of leather must be left above the stitching.
A magazine cover makes a delightful gift. To make a cover, cut a piece of leather 15 3/4 by 10 3/4 of inches, which will allow three-quarters of an inch for the back, and an overlapping margin of half an inch. Then proceed to make the design upon paper the exact size of the cover. When this has been made to the satisfaction of the worker, and after trimming the leather with the square, then find the centre line, and measure three-eighths of an inch from it each way, and rule the lines which will indicate the size of the magazine for which the cover is made. A broad margin is very decorative, as it will be seen on glancing at the upright cover in the illustration. Then trace the design from the paper on to the front of a cover. Then tack it to a board, and go over the design with a blunt tool; indent with the tool, or allow the pattern to stand up in relief by modelling the background in the way that the book-rack is done. Great care is needed in the modelling in order to allow the designs to come up sharp. It might be well for the beginner to keep to indenting until she has perfected herself in this form of ornamentation. Then proceed to line the cover, taking great care not to get any of the paste on to the front of the leather, or a dark spot will be left. Rub the paste well into the wrong side of the cover, and place the lining, which must be cut a little larger than the modelled piece, and rub the two gently together. Fold the sides and open again as you would a book, keeping the leather stretched at the fold. Then put it under a weight. When it is dry, proceed to cut the lining until it is perfectly even with the outside cover. Then tool a line all round the corner, half an inch from the edge, and on this line begin at the corner and punch holes with a wheel leather-punch (costing 75 cents). Then cut, with a very sharp knife, narrow thongs of calfskin three-sixteenths of an inch wide. This needs considerable practice to prevent the knife from slipping away, and sometimes it is well to buy leather boot - laces, if they can be procured exactly the right shade. Proceed to lace the edges by beginning at the fold of the cover, and bind over and over through the holes all the way round. The thongs can be finished off at the top of the inside by tying the two ends together and leaving one long one hanging. Tie another thong at the lower end of the fold, and knot the ends. These thongs are to keep the magazine in place.