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Beginning leatherwork started with horses!

My interest in leather stems from owning horses. Both my grandparents rode and held onto some leather items from their riding days. This leather sandwich case and a pair of plaited reins are among my most treasured items. They are probably nearly 100 years old and represent the longevity of leather when properly cared for.

Leather covered sandwich box

While I was pregnant with my daughter I was looking for a short course to do and came across some leatherwork courses in Dartington, Devon. So in 2012 I attended a basic leatherwork course at Tanner Bates in Dartington taught by John Hagger. Here I learnt the basics of leather and hand stitching and came away having made a belt for my husband. After this I bought a set of beginners tools and continued practising at home.

Some months later I was recommended a course in Tetbury which is run by an amazing couple called Neil Macgregor and Valerie Michael. The only course they had available at the time was a restoration course, I booked myself on to this and it was fascinating. Neil ran this course and showed me how to hold the awl and needles together to speed up my stitching. I also learnt how to box stitch which I love.There was so much to learn that I came away with new skills and a desire to go back for more.

As I practised I soon realised how much space I needed to work. It soon became impractical to use the kitchen table so my husband suggested getting a shepherds hut. Eventually as we couldn’t find anything suitable we decided to build one and so my workshop was born. Now I had the space to work and practise without tidying it all away each time. The fact that it is on wheels is a bonus, as we have had to move it several times.

Shepherds hut build in progress

Further to this I booked onto more courses with Macgregor and Michael. One was a handbag design course and the other a hand stitched leather goods course. These courses have been invaluable, Neil and Val are the most informative people and share so much of their knowledge. I also attended a bridlework course in Shropshire. This course helped with creating bespoke dog collars.

Craft shows and events

In December 2017 I was accepted to exhibit at Wonderworks in Chagford, Devon. I was incredibly nervous to show my work to the pubic but I was really busy and had some lovely feedback. From then on I have been to Craft festival at Bovey Tracey and Cardiff and a variety of other shows. I really enjoy the atmosphere of these events and think they are important to connect to my customers and meet other makers.

After a very strange 2020 I hope to get out and about meeting customers next year. I hope you have enjoyed my blog about how beginning leatherwork started with horses.