(n.) Cabindo: A condo on a lake, among tall old trees. Half cabin, half condo. My first home. This is a running journal of the renovations, projects, and general shoestring budget craziness.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Adventures in Leather Gathering

Mandi is a blogger at Vintage Revivals who is a girl after my own heart; in so much that she thinks outside of the box, and always is coming up with new and unusual ways to do things.
When I read her posts on skinning a couch for it's leather: I knew I needed to follow suit. Not to straight up copy her: I've always wanted to work with leather, but gag at the super high prices for raw leather from fabric stores.

After getting this bug in my brain, I stalked Craigslist and found a couple leather beauties. The below pictures are not the exact ones I got, but VERY close.

1 white leather couch
The 1984 special.

1 turquoise/dark green chair and ottoman
More floppy 80's styling.
The one I picked up was a bit darker.

1 dark tan chair
This chair is actually attractive.
The one I got for free was NOT.
It was half vinyl and one arm was broken off.

I did not have the chance to take pictures of the real items, because they were picked up and quickly skinned before they ever got home.
The couch especially was a ridiculous operation:
I grabbed it from way across town using my dad's truck one night after dark, then found a secluded parking lot with a light under which to disassemble the thing (in a good part of town). The cushions were my friends; I could just unzip and rip the leather off of those suckers.
The body took a bit more work.
I hopped up into the bed of the truck and onto the couch itself to cut around the edges of each side with an exacto knife. A couple people driving past slowed down and stared at the crazy girl attacking a couch, but hey, thats life in the big city.....or the burbs. Crazy does not acknowledge socio-geographic boundaries, and I take this show on the road. Anyway.....I was able to get 90%+ of the leather off the couch.
With the cab full of white, wrinkly (slightly smelly) leather; I went to my condo cluster and backed up to the most secluded dumpster enclosure on the property. This also happened to be the dumpster that I'd repeatedly seen large furniture left beside (even though you are not supposed to leave furniture outside the dumpster), so I didn't feel too bad about abandoning the couch frame there. I still wrestled it into the enclosure fast as I could, and promptly drove away like I'd stolen something.
A short time later, the chairs were both able to be shoehorned into the back of my Subaru Outback. This happened on separate trips, as each chair by itself caused me to scoot the seat waaay up and practice some 'old lady' driving skills. They got skinned inside a different enclosure (since the first was full o couch) and tossed in the dumpster, which my sticker-for-the-rules-self felt better about than the couch.

Most of the time. Kinda.

I now had a big pile of funky smelling leather that needed to be cleaned and conditioned. It REALLY needed to be cleaned since after being left on the floor for 20 mins, a cat uncharastically decided it was a better place to pee than the litter box. Yum. Thanks jerk face.

I'm taking to you, cat.

I asked Dr.Google if I could wash leather, but he did not give me a solid answer. So, I went ahead and did it anyway; with regular detergent and white vinegar for good measure. After the first wash, the pieces seemed much cleaner, but I ran them through again just to make darn sure I'd done all I could to address the weird leather smell (not to mention the cat pee).
I tossed em in the dryer after this for 10 mins or so on high heat to get rid of the dripping-wet excess moisture. When they were damp to the touch I turned down the temperature and threw in a bunch of liquid fabric softener with a little vegetable oil to prevent any drying out and cracking. They came out smelling purdy and feeling soft, having soaked up all the softener and oil.

The pieces from the brown chair looked dryer than the rest after this so I re-oiled them with a little bit of vegetable oil.

Beans wanted to lick every inch of those suckers during ze oiling.
Wierdo #1 could not control himself and got relegated to the office behind a closed door.

Using an iron on medium heat (with a linen dish towel barrier) flattened out any wrinkles or waviness. I did this for a couple pieces with good results and will do the others as I use them.

And viola. A big pile of clean, cheap leather for future projects. I've already made a purse for my mister's sister, and have lots of other ideas in mind (see pinterest board here).

Those are clearly not my hands.
I can only dream of having long nails and a well kept manicure.

She requested a flap style similar to this, but as a purse, with additional specifications of: "foldy, inconspicuous, and big enough to fit a phone, wallet, and keys." Also to have a shoulder strap long enough so the purse would fit snugly under her arm, just above the waist.
I used a coral pink linen napkin on sale from Anthro ($3) for a needed pop of color on the inside, since the outside would be simple and unadorned. A few lines of stitching held it securely to the leather separator piece and provided the inside some texture. Two straight seams up the sides to close the ends like an envelope, one handle later; and it was complete. I waxed the edges and made a little tag from scraps (imprinted with a heated metal spoon handle) to finish it off.

She was SUPER pleased and has now offered to help me create and run an Etsy store. I really should take her up on it.


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