Estimating Leather
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Estimate the Amount of Leather to Buy (and layout)

V1.1 - January 2003

Before you estimate, work up your pattern first.  Leather needs different pattern considerations.

How much leather to buy?

This info is taken from a question where the girl is looking to do a Legolas type outfit and has a small frame...

"How many square feet of suede would it need to buy?"

Buying hides is not as simple as just square footage.  If you bought it like regular fabric, you would have to patch like crazy if you just bough by square foot because the hides have a weird shape -- that of the animal they came from. The patching could give you a cool look, but you'd have to plan for that in the design of your outfit.

Actually, you see the limitation of the widths of the leather outfits and how most are cut into narrow pieces.

If I'm going leather shopping on a budget, I always show up with at least a quick newspaper tracing of the pattern, with the grain line marked. This is the full pattern... not the half you get from a pattern sheet. If I need 2 or 4 of something, I cut 2 or 4 so I can lay them all out at once.

When I get to the shop, I just pull out the hides and  lay the rough pattern pieces on top of them. When you have the chose of multiple hides of the same color, you sometimes find you can fit things on two hides instead of 3 or you can buy splits (halves) instead of full hides.  

Watch out for color variations on hide to hide though... it might be fine to make the top and bottom of a tunic from two different hides.  However unles the dye lots are perfect you may not want to make two sides of the same front of a tunic from two different pieces.  Though sleeves father apart from each other wouldn't be as important.

You are slim so you might be able to do half and that will save you money. However, there's no way you're going to know that until you lay it out on the hide.

The sleeve style will also make a lot of difference in the amount of fabric. You may be able to get away with cross grain, laying something out at the bottom of a hide you use for the bodice, but you would have to be careful.  On the other hand, you can get creative with sleeves based on the scraps you have left over after cutting the body.

On scraps also, even if you're not going to use fold over leather strips to edge the whole lacing edges, and if you are using very thin suede, you may want to lay a strip on the underside to help re-enforce your grommets. Also, finds bits enough to make a pouch/purse to go with your outfit.


If you have to order by internet, you need to know you max width and length per each major pattern piece and then hope that the folks are the other end will work with you a bit.. else you guess... and be prepared to have too much or too little.

After you've worked with leather for a while, you eye can look at a pattern piece and say just give me X...

Rough guess for your actual outfit, that I wouldn't guarantee but it will give you an estimate.  Since you're small -- Dark green: one full hide for front tunic pieces and yoke. Sleeves can probably be cut out the scrap, though you might need to patch. Probably 2 hides for the lower part. You've got 4 half tunics pieces (for front and back) that all need to be laid on straight of grain and then those big sleeves. So 2 and the sleeves probably... With different or no sleeves, I'm not sure if you could get away with less or any splits


Sizes of Hides

If it's larger than 12 square feet it's probably cow. A side of cow runs about 25 sq. ft. (although generally smaller in split suedes, around 15 to 18 sq. ft.), and a full upholstery hide (from reeeeeelly big cows) can be over 85 sq. ft.

== Adam S.


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LOTR Home | Up | Terms & Definitions | Leather Weights | Estimating Leather | Patterning in Leather | Leather Tips | Aging & Distressing | Tooling Leather | Machine Sewing | Hand Sewing | Leather Etch | Gilding Leather Carving | Faking Leather

This page was last updated 04/22/08