From Leather to Purses

The art of leather-working is as old as civilization itself (kind of like tree trimming st paul mn). Let’s go on a brief journey, from 1300 BC to the 21st Century.

Prehistoric men first used animal hides to create clothing and shelter to survive. Unfortunately, during winter the hides became stiff. They also suffered from rapid decomposition.
It was then found that hides left exposed to smoke, animal fat or damp vegetation lasted much longer than ones that weren’t. After this discovery, hunters began treating their animal hides. Tanning leather became one of the human race’s first technologies.

First, the hide was cured with salt to prevent rot. After that, it was soaked in water to restore lost moisture. Once dry the preserved hide was scoured, ready for tanning.
The first step in tanning involved leaving the hide to soak in urine. This loosened the hair so it could be scraped off with a knife. The hide was then kneaded with animal dung and soaked again in a mixture of tree bark and vegetable juices.
An alternate method to using vegetable matter was to smear the hide with a soup of animal brains. Tanning made the leather impervious to bacteria but still supple.
As you can imagine all the urine, feces, and discarded flesh meant ancient tanneries smelt horrendous! The smell was so bad they were usually banished to the very outskirts of communities.

The Middle Ages
Once spinning wheels and looms were invented, flax and wool could be spun or woven into cloth. Leather and fur was used less often for clothing. During this time tanners formed trade guilds and began sharing their knowledge with guildsmen in other fields.

Leather was still essential for many daily things since glass and pottery were expensive. Most towns and villages in the Middle Ages had a tannery for producing leather items. The Romans were masters of leather making, so as their empire expanded their expertise spread to many countries.

Leather was made into wineskins, aprons, gloves, slings, armor, sandals or other footwear. It was also used for saddles and harnesses, furniture upholstery, parchment and book binding.

The Industrial Revolution
Scientific advances during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries brought many changes. New agents like sulphuric acid and lime began turning traditional tanning methods into the beginnings of modern chemical processes.
Bark extracts were now largely replaced by chromium tanning. This significantly reduced the production time. Belting leathers provided transmission of power for the new machines transforming the mining and textile industries.

The start of the twentieth century saw another huge development: the internal combustion engine. The age of the horse was finally over. As demand for saddlery and harnesses dropped, once again leather makers had to adapt.
New, luxuriously soft leathers were used in shoe making and as upholstery for the first automobiles. The leather industry also expanded into light leather goods such as travel bags, purses, wallets and jackets. It doesn’t matter where you’re headed for the day; whether it’s to pick up your kids from daycare, or to the spa for a day trip, there’s bound to be a purse out there to suit any occasion. Many designer purses come with fun accessories like extra zippers, pockets, and clasps, which add a nice personal touch.

The designer handbags of this century have been influenced by a melange of past fusions; from the boat bag of the 1950’s to the clutch of the 1920’s; there isn’t any designer handbag that hasn’t been designed without the past in mind. Today, most designers are concerned with the relationship between function and style; with more and more women leaving home to join the workforce, a good, solid handbag will combine both of these elements. A sturdy, trustworthy bag is essential for any modern woman.
The materials of designer handbags have changed drastically over the last few centuries; from highly embroidered, velvet materials to mediums like wood and plastic, the designer handbag contains a rich history of unique and sometimes surprisingly mediums. During the 1960’s, Lucite and other plastic materials become popular, and designers began to experiment with interesting designs and non-traditional forms. However, just two decades earlier, designers were working with mediums like wood, metal, and other materials that could be found due to war efforts. Truly, the handbag has changed through the centuries.


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