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Aha Moments from Fine Leather Working workshop

Aha Moments from Fine Leather Working workshop

Aha Moments from Fine Leather Working workshop





Windy Glow has an Instagram account (@the_windy_glow) where we communicate daily with followers and customers. As a designer and artisan, I love instant speaking with people and answering their questions; however, social media communications usually are quick and short. There is so much more that I'd like to share in depth. Hence, I set up a blog on the website. The primary purpose is to share my journey of leather working: what I have learned from people in real life and history by reading books, my options on controversial issues regarding the ethics of using leather products, and some inspirations I receive from other artisans and life. 




[Article No.1]

Aha Moments from Fine Leather Working Workshop 


Learning new skills and sharpening old ones is always what an artisan has to practice along the way. 


I started my leather working journey by taking Leather 101 class at the Chicago School of Shoemaking and Leather Arts (short for Chicago Leather School). It is an amazing space that I will be describing in a separate blog. Recently, I participated in a Fine Leather Working workshop hosted at Chicago Leather School that opened a new door for me in the leather working world. There is so much I learned as a leather artisan in a technical way. But I will share some Aha moments that are less technical but interesting. 




Sharpen the knife before cutting the wood. 


There is a Chinese saying, sharpen the knife before cutting the wood. It is also true in leather working. The fine leather working workshop I attended was focusing on making a wallet. Each layer has to be skived super thin. We were introduced to using traditional Japanese skiving knives to achieve the look. On the first day, I was very frustrated because it seemed my skiving knife did not work. It was so hard to push, and I even made a hole in the middle of a piece of leather. Then something happened on the second day. I felt that I was a master of skiving - everything became so easy and smooth. I realized that the knife was much sharper than it was the day before. So I asked the workshop instructor if he sharpened the knives for us. Not surprisingly, he did. He said he spends 30 minutes sharpening his tools before working on a leather project. We were also told that in old Japan, an apprentice had to sharpen their master's knives for years before learning how to cut a piece. I feel so lucky I don't have to go through this process now. Meanwhile, I realize how important it is to sharpen my knives for a fine leatherworking project. 



Achieving a perfect look with several passes 


My knife was sharp. I thought I could achieve any cutting result with a sharp knife. I was wrong. 


It usually takes several passes to make a perfect cut, whether it is a straight or curved line. For example, one can cut with just one pass for a curved line. But usually, the look is not smooth. There might be some in and out here and there. However, cutting a tiny piece at a time will likely achieve a perfect curve. Be patient. That is what I have to remind myself all the time. 





Making a smooth transition 


If you cannot make a perfect look, then make a smooth transition. 


Many times, it is hard to achieve the perfect result as one plan. For example, on the pattern, there are five punching holes from point A to point B. In reality, the space can only fit 4.5 holes. Instead of making the last one look so close to the previous one, it is much better to rearrange the previous three holes to make them closer to each other so that your eyes would not catch a sudden change when you look at a hand-sewing line. This principle is so helpful that it can be applied in almost every step of leatherwork. Another example is skiving. It is best if you can skive to the perfect thinness you want. If you cannot achieve that, the second best is to make a smooth transitional line. I apologize for being a little technical here; I hope you understand what I am attempting to convey. 




Last but not least, I'd like to express my deepest gratitude to the instructor of the workshop Sean Aquino. He is a master of leather handcrafting and an excellent teacher who taught me so much within such a short time! Having a good teacher is a must in fine leather working - not only saves me a lot of time from making mistakes and sets me a different kind of mindset to approach leather working. Starting this blog is also inspired by Sean's blog on his FLW website, where he has written for many years. If you are interested in fine leather working or fashion in general, I highly recommend checking out his blog. 



Other than making two wallets (one of them was finished during the workshop, and the other one is still under some final touch), I managed to make my first hand-stitched dog collar!! In the next blog, I will be introducing to you a series of features that make a leather good "couture." The first one is hand-stitching. Stay tuned! 






  • Thanks, Maïté, for reading the blog!!

    Windy Glow on

  • So Interesting! Loved reading this blog post! Can’t wait for the next ones. Thank you for sharing your experience with us!

    Maïté on

  • To: Ding,

    Thanks! Glad you enjoyed reading the article.

    Windy Glow on

  • Very nice!

    Ding on

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