The main reason I decided to work with leather for my dog products is firstly because I think it’s a wonderful natural material (the smell transports me to somewhere wonderful, not that I can smell it as strong now I work with it everyday!!) and secondly because of it’s incredible strength and durability. Dog collars in the UK are more often than not produced as cheap as possible by big chain companies … Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not all bad and I do think that some of the stuff from said places are good. But for me I think there is little to no imagination or creativeness in most of these products, we all know dogs like bones or make paw prints, right?!
Every dog I have ever known has a unique character, so why make them wear the same as every other pooch on a street corner! I know that my future dog will be wanting to stand out with something not only fashionable but made to last. Which is why I have the belief in my own dog collars and leads. This blog will hopefully show you how and why Absurd Design products are made and some unknown facts and information about the beauty of handmade leather products and the best of the best; saddle stitching!
First up LEATHER, this one may seem obvious, but any leather product you're considering buying shouldn't have any signs of breaking or tearing on the surface of the leather, it just wont be good. All leather I use for Absurd Design collars comes from top quality vegetable tanned* shoulders. This is a fantastic leather for making dog collars and by making my Absurd Design products from this I know I’m giving you the very best product for your dog.
*Again something I feel very passionately about is making sure that the tanning process is environmentally friendly. Buy using Vegetable tanned leather I’m making sure it uses natural ingredients instead of any chemicals - why would I want that anywhere near any dog!
*The leather is tanned using tannin and other materials of vegetable origin such as tree bark. The resulting leather is supple and looks natural with softer colour tones; a true luxury leather.
Traditional Saddle Stitching
This one has left me with tough and callused fingers and very strong arm muscles! Next on the list after making sure I’m using the best quality leather for dog collars it’s making sure they’re made to last with every pull to meet a new dog, see an old friend, pull to get your food or …. SQUIRREL!
I’m not able to afford a huge industrial leather stitching machine which would take up half of my work room… but nor would I want one. For me half the beauty of making leather goods is the time and love that goes into the stitching. It takes it’s time ( and I’ve got faster believe me!) but it also can’t be beaten by any machine, to me anyway. Hand stitching –specifically saddle stitching– is the most durable and aesthetically appealing kind of stitching. Here’s how it works :
You have two needles attached to a single thread which pass through the same hole and looped around each other in order to create a knot. When the needles are pulled, the knot seals. This means if one of your stitches are cut or broken by something the rest of the stitching can’t then be undone as there is a knot between each stitch. It holds every stitch in place! It’s amazing, as you can see with the photo below the stitching is angled rather than a straight stitch you might see in sewing. This is how to look out for a leather product which will last.
I got this fact about the difference between machine stitching and saddle stitching from when Esquire interviewed Bellanie Salcedo of Chester Mox :
“Machine stitching is a different story. In this technique, one needle with one thread is hooking to another thread at the bottom of the machine. As the needle moves forward, it creates a bunch of loops until you finish. That's why, when the one thread breaks, the whole thing unravels. In saddle stitching, even when one stitch falls apart (which is rare), the thread won't unravel. In fact, if you wanted to pull the thread out, you would have to sit down and grab an awl (or something with a pointy tip) in order to remove the stitches, one-by-one. It's a very difficult process and you would have to intentionally try to pick the stitches apart.”
Burnis..what. Burnishing is finishing the edges of any leather good to protect the leather from the elements. I have two ways I like to protect my Absurd Design products. One is to burnish the edges of my leather so that the layers fuse together and create a nice seal and the second is using a waterproof and protecting wax which I rub into the leather. This means that as much as your dog loves to go into the sea and muddy puddles your Absurd collar will be protected and keep going so long as it’s looked after and cleaned. I recommend wiping off any dirt and moisture from a collar when you get home letting it dry naturally and then once a year applying another coat of a protective leather wax. This will keep your leather collar going for years.
I used waxed linen threads because they're again made from a natural product (the fibers of a flax plant) which are strong, even when compared to nylon threads, and have a lot of flexibility. The French Linen thread I use is already waxed but I run the thread through a lump of beeswax before stitching. This ensures that it's runs smooth from the first stitch to the last and makes sure my hands don’t become too manly!
And that's it folks ! I hope this gives you a little insight into how Absurd Design dog collars and leads are made and also some facts about handmade leather products and what to look out for to make sure you're getting great quality products for your dog.