The word “leather” is used to describe a wide range of styles, some far superior than others.
At Billy Tannery, we’re champions of goat leather and sustainable vegetable tanning. In this blog, we’ll be giving you an overview on which leather is best for bag making, what makes goat leather so special, and more.
If you’re interested in finding out how goat leather compares to the rest, keep reading.
What kind of leather is available?
There are several different styles of leather available to buy, from genuine to full grain, to various types of hide including cow and calf leather, and sheep and lamb leather. You can also use deer leather, the latest innovation here at Billy Tannery which we use to make sustainable suede.
Then there’s the question of how the leather has been tanned. Different types of leather have different properties, with some more suitable than others for making bags and wallets.
Read more about different types of leather.
Many people assume that premium/genuine leather is the best quality, but this name is misleading. This style is actually some of the lowest quality leather available.
Genuine leather is indeed real leather, but it’s usually taken from the inner layers of hide, sanded down and painted - making it less durable and less attractive.
It may be tempting to go for cheaper leather when buying materials to make a bag, but if you’re going to the effort of hand making a unique piece, it makes sense to invest in the materials that will make your effort worthwhile.
This means investing in full grain - the most durable leather.
Which leather is best?
If you want to buy leather to make bags, full grain leather is the premium choice.
Full grain leather is the best quality leather you can buy. It’s leather in its natural form, taken from the top layer just under the hair, and is incredibly durable.
It’s also aesthetically the best option, as full grain leather shows the natural characteristics and unique imperfections that make leather a timeless material, and that make any piece look more high-end.
Why is goat leather better?
So if full grain leather is best, does it matter what animal it comes from?
While full grain leather from cows or calves will no doubt be good quality, goat leather reigns supreme when buying leather to make bags.
Goat leather is just as strong as bovine leather, yet it is far more supple and flexible.This is due to the natural oils, called lanolin, that are present in goat skin. Supple leather is easier and more pleasant to work with. And to handle once your creation is complete.
What’s more, goat leather is far lighter in weight than cow leather, which means it’s a great choice for bags and accessories. It’s important that your leather backpack or briefcase doesn’t weigh you down before you’ve even packed it!
Read our full goat leather guide.
Should you choose vegetable tanned leather for bag making?
We also want to touch upon the importance of the tanning process when buying good quality leather to make bags.
Tanning is what makes animal skin into leather. Most leather available on the market undergoes chrome tanning. This is fast and inexpensive, but can potentially be harmful to the environment due to the chemicals involved.
Vegetable tanning is at the opposite end of the spectrum because it’s the single environmentally friendly tanning method we have. At Billy Tannery, we use mimosa extracts rather than chemicals - it's a more time intensive process compared to chrome tanning.
But like most things, you get out what you put in. Not only is vegetable tanning a more ethical way to tan, it gives our full grain goat leather a beautiful scent and patina that deepens over time.
If you want quality and environmentally friendly leather to make bags that will only get better with age, nothing compares to goat leather.
Read more about leather tanning.
Where can you buy goat leather?
If you’re a novice and want a taster of working with leather, we recommend beginning with our leather craft kit. It contains everything you need to create a smart goat leather phone pouch, and is a comprehensive introduction to leathercraft.
So to answer the title of this blog… full grain goat leather is the superior option when buying leather to make bags. Its unique properties make it unbeatable, especially when vegetable tanned, like our leather here at Billy Tannery.
Discover our range of goat leather products.