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Thin Leathers for Scale and Miniature Projects, Dolls' Clothes and Furniture


A range of types and thicknesses of leather are available for miniature, scale model, model horse tack, doll's clothing and dollhouse furniture projects. Leather is usually measured in terms of ounces per square foot, which relates to its thickness. For each one ounce weight, leather will be roughly 1/64 of an inch or 0.4 mm thick. Sold as either full grain or split grain, full grain leather is leather with the hair removed but otherwise intact. Split grain leather is leather which has been mechanically split into varying thicknesses. Lamb and kid skin leathers are usually the thinnest, with cow and oxhide considerably thicker.

1. Leather Lacing

Natural colored leather lacing used for miniatures and model horses shown with a quarter for scale.
Photo copyright 2011 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

Leather lacing is usually spiral cut from a whole hide. It is available in various thicknesses from speciality model horse tack suppliers including Rio Rondo. Flat leather lacing for miniatures is available in widths from 1/16 to 1/4 inch (roughly 1.5 to 6mm.), braided, round, and half round laces are also available from a range of suppliers, including suppliers to the jewellery trade.

2. Napa or Nappa Leather

Flexible Napa or Nappa leather shown with a sheet of printer paper to indicate thickness.
Photo copyright 2011 Lesley Shepherd

Nappa or Napa leather is a full grain, soft and pliable leather usually made from kid, lamb or sheepskin in lighter weights. The name comes from the fact that the tanning process used to make this soft leather was developed in Napa California. The process used to tan Napa leather allows for a wide range of bright colors.

Napa leather is useful for some doll clothing and footwear and upholstery for dollhouse miniature furniture.

3. Skiver Leather

Skiver leather, made from sheep or goat skin is often used for miniatures as it can be paper thin.
Photo copyright 2011 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

Skiver is a paper thin sheepskin or goatskin leather used for many miniatures. Skiver has been traditionally used for fine bookbinding and leather desk tops. For miniatures it can be used for handbags, luggage, miniature bookbinding, dolls clothing and footwear, and miniature upholstery. Skiver is usually fairly stiff, with a shiny finish. It is often sold in small pieces from dolls house haberdashery and fabric suppliers, or from specialist suppliers of bookbinding materials, or model horse tack.

Skiver is often used to line handbags and wallets, and you may find useful materials for miniatures in discarded handbags and wallets made from leather.

4. Chamois Leather

Chamois tanned sheepskin showing thickness and texture useful for miniature clothing and horse gear.
Photo copyright 2011 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

Although chamois leather was once made from the European chamois, it is now a form a cod oil tanned leather made most often from split sheepskin. Chamois leather is sold in a natural white or buff color, and is very water absorbent. When wet it will stretch and as it stiffens when dry, it can be stretched, dried, and colored to create a number of scale miniatures. It is readily available from car accessory shops and can be used to mimic suede and sometimes deerskin in miniature and model scenes.

5. Pigskin Suede

Pigskin suede for use with miniatures shown with a piece of printer paper for a thickness comparison
Photo copyright 2011 Lesley Shepherd

Pigskin suede is a thin, pliable suede with a distinctive grain or pattern, available in a range of bright colors. It is often available in 1.5 to 2 oz weight, and is a good choice to mimic heavier suede cowhides for dolls clothing like miniature suede chaps, vests and jackets.

6. Tooling Leather

Tooling leather for model horse tack shown next to a quarter to indicate the 2 - 3 oz. thickness.
Photo copyright 2011 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

Tooling leather is vegetable (tannin) tanned cowhide leather which can be stamped and carved. The tooling leather shown in the photograph is 2 - 3 oz tooling leather which is thin enough to tool for model horse saddles and harness at least as small as 1:12 scale. Tooling leather is sold in a natural finish and is dyed after tooling and carving is completed. For English model horse saddles, lightweight (2 oz) dyed cowhide is generally used, as it is softer than tooling leather, but has more body than napa leather, skiver, or suede.

7. Ultrasuede (TM)

Light weight Ultrasuede (TM)used for miniature doll's clothes shown next to printer paper for scale
Photo copyright 2011 Lesley Shepherd

UltrasuedeTM is one of a group of microsuedes, non woven, leather effect fabrics made from polyester microfibres. With a surface that resembles suede it is available in several thicknesses and a range of colors. The photograph shows one of the thinner types, Ultrasuede Light or Ultima(TM). Being washable, it is very useful for miniatures which will receive wear (doll clothing, miniature dolls and bears). It is available through online and local fabric shops, and can be purchased in small sized amounts from quilting and teddy bear material suppliers. It handles very similar to a thin suede, although it is a bit stiffer for its thickness than many suedes.

8. Thin Worn Leather

If you have access to it, some great sources of thin leather are worn leather golf gloves, used kid leather dress gloves, and worn out leather wallets. These leathers can be cut for lacing, or used for doll clothing or leather upholstery.

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