Thursday, 12 November 2015

Give to Me Your Leather (and Wool)

This blog's third anniversary, which was two days ago, was its leather anniversary. I did a special cotton anniversary post last year and so this year calls for a leather post. And it turns out that leather and wool are the combination Stevie Nicks and Don Henley should have sung about. One won't get much joy from actually knitting *with* leather (the result would be unwearably stiff and bulky), but my research tells me there are a number of great ways to enhance knitting projects with leather additions, so let's have a look at them. If you are ethically opposed to using leather, it should be possible to use these ideas on vinyl substitutes.

The bottom spool in the photo above shows leather strips being French knitted into cord. This would be a great way to make pull strings for hoods, plackets, waists, and cuffs of knitted garments.

The above video demonstrates how to French knit a cord. The demonstration material is paracord rather than leather, but this won't affect the technique.

One very practical way of adding leather to your knitwear is to add leather bottoms to slippers or bags or baskets, or palms to mittens and gloves, to make them more durable. This Craftsy tutorial offers two techniques for knitting onto pieces of leather.

These fingerless gloves, which are from Anthropolgie, would be relatively easy to copy as it appears that the leather (or possibly vinyl?) is simply stitched on top of the knitted pieces.

Another way to use leather when making knitwear is to add decorative trims or pockets or patches. I very much like this crocheted cowl, with its leather snap band. This cowl was made by Delia Creates, who offers a free pattern and tutorial. A knitted version of this cowl would be made in much the same way: one would crochet a line of stitches onto the leather band and then pick up and knit the stitches from it.

Fabric stores routinely carry leather handles like those you see here. It would be a straightfoward task for a competent knitter and sewer to replicate this commercially made handbag from Paper to Cloth. If I were to make this, I would consider putting a leather bottom on it as well.

Love this basket, made by the bloggers at Alice & Lois. The leather handles really kick it up several notches. The basket is made of coiled rope rather than knitted (and there's a tutorial), but leather handles would look just as good on a knitted basket and would be attached to it in the same way.

This isn't a knitting-meets-leather project, and I don't much care for these particular items (which are available as a DIY kit from Etsy seller Red Gate Stitchery) but I thought it such a great idea I had to include it. Punch some holes in a leather item and you can cross stitch any design you like into it.

This Tory Burch bag is commercially made, but it offers another idea for how to marry knitting and leather. I'm wondering if it might not be possible to create a bag similar to this one by upcycling a thrift shop purse and cabled sweater.

Adding commercially made snaps and buckles to knitwear is probably the easiest way to combine leather with knitting, but it can be a telling addition. As you can see, this piece from Alexander McQueen wouldn't look like anything very special without its leather buckles, but putting them on instantly turned this coat into a distinctively stylish piece.

This wrap, from Brooklyn-based designer Sunghee Bang, offers us another inspiring way to incorporate leather in knitwear. It looks to me as though a large piece of leather was simply sewn on top of this large needle knit wrap.

I rather like this cardigan, with its leather neckline trim and leather cuffs and body. This photo is from, which also features more pictures of this item. Adding leather to knitwear is an area in which you can get creative and have fun. It needn't be expensive either. Got an old handbag or leather jacket or skirt you love that's getting past being presentable or that no longer fits but that you can't quite bear to let go? Here's your chance to give that leather a new purpose in life and make a beautiful new usable item.

If you're feeling extra adventurous, you could always try making something like this piece from Balenciaga's Fall 2014 collection. This is really quite ingenious. I notice that by adding knitted elements, the designer has cleverly made this garment stretch where it needs to be -- through the waistline and neckline -- so as to make it possible for the wearer to get it off and on. Balenciaga hasn't exactly offered us all a tutorial on this could be replicated, but you might be able to figure it out how to make a similar piece with some experimentation and reference to the other techniques mentioned in this post.

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