Here’s what you should know about when specifying leather:
Raw material (geographic region, selection)
Tannages (chromium, vege, chrome-free)
Finishing (coloring, tipping, etc.)
You should care about these topics because you want to:
Choose leather products that are suitable to their application and the client’s expectations
Know your options when dealing with budgets
Educate your client
Raw Material is Key
Care and climate affects the quality of leather hides. Cows raised in cooler climates,
that graze on open ranges, and that have good veterinary care, have fewer defects
(e.g. scratches, bites). Cows raised in hotter climates or that roam among barb wired
fences have more defects.
Additionally, species of cow differ in size and shape. US cows, for example, tend to
be smaller than European cows. Many South American cows are Zebus (they have large
Remember that “defect free” doesn't necessarily mean most desired and appreciated.
Natural characteristics are often valued by leather connoisseurs. As always, beauty
is in the eye of the beholder.
Why Does it Matter How Leather is Tanned?
Until a hide is tanned it’s a rawhide. To create a supple product, leather is either
chromium or vegetable tanned. Chromium tannages, introduced in the 19th century are
the preferred method for tanning leather. A chrome tannage yields a soft hand.
Vegetable tanning is used when firmer leather is required.
Full Grain, Top Grain… Who Cares?
Full grain and top grain leather refers to the overall quality of the leather. Full
grain leather tends to be relatively defect free (i.e., doesn't need correction),
and is undisputedly the leather of choice for clients looking for a product that
ages beautifully over time.
Top grain leather refers to leather hides that need additional processing (i.e.,
“buffing”) to reduce or eliminate imperfections. Top grain leathers receive a
heavier top coat of pigment to smooth out the finish and to give the leather
protection against minor scratches and spills. Top grain leathers are ideally suited
for heavily trafficked areas.
Why is Leather Dyed?
Fine upholstery leather should be dyed close to the final finish color. Dying the
crust (i.e., tanned hide) to match the finished color helps to mask superficial
scratches that can occur during normal wear. Budget leathers may well be produced on
mismatched crust colors.
Why Is Leather Embossed?
Most people think embossing is simply for decorative purposes. Plating (embossing
with a natural looking grain) is also common. If desired, plating can give a full-
or top-grain leather a uniform look, or make a flat looking leather come alive.
The Finishing Process
Finishing (or top coating) is the final step to giving a leather product its unique
characteristics. The purpose of finishing is to modify the leather’s color and to
provide a protective surface.
Aniline dyed leather refers to a finished product that has been fully colored without
the use of pigments.
Aniline dyed leather is a connoisseur’s delight. The natural grain is easy to
recognize, and all the hallmarks of the leather are evident (e.g., fat folds, neck
wrinkles, even minor scarring). Semi-aniline dyed leather refers to a lightly
pigmented protective finish that gives the leather a more uniform appearance, and
stain and water resistance.
When cleaning your leather for the first time, always test a hidden area first, and
let air dry.
Pigmented leathers like Rhapsody, Tempo, and Improv have a
protective finish by the nature of the finishing
For spots and spills: Blot gently with a clean absorbent cloth. Use clear
warm water and gently wipe the spill. Dry with a
clean towel and allow to air dry.
If water is used, use on entire area (i.e., entire
seat cushion, arm rest, etc.)
where the spill occurred.
For stubborn spots and stains: Use a mild solution of mild soap and warm
water. Apply the solution with a clean,
mildly wet sponge and wash.
For butter, oil, or grease: Wipe excess substance with a clean, dry cloth
and let stand. The spot should dissipate into
the leather in a short period of time.
Do not apply water.
Do not use: Any oils, abrasives, cleaners, soaps, furniture polish, varnish
or ammonia water.
Please note: The leather with initially repel most liquids, but if left to
stand over an extended period of time, they will be absorbed.
Even if the spill is
absorbed, it will dissipate in time and eventually diffuse any
Natural, aniline leathers like Cadenza and Reverie have little
surface protection. If your aniline
leather becomes soiled, immediately blot
liquid with a soft, clean cloth. If
additional cleaning is required blot the
area (i.e. the entire seat cushion, arm
rest, etc.) with a clean, damp cloth and
clear luke warm water, starting from the
outside of the spill to the center. Do
use soaps, oils, abrasives, cleaners,
furniture polish, varnish or ammonia
Please note: Due to the natural characteristics of this leather, scratches
and marks may appear over time. This appearance is the “character”
the natural leather.
Embossing is a creative way to develop unique upholstery leather for your client.
But there’s a couple of things you should know.
Firstly, as a matter of standard practice, most (not all) embossings are made on
half-hides measuring about 25+ square feet. The reason is that a lot of the leather
industry’s machinery goes back to the day when embossing was primarily for apparel
(e.g. belts, hand-bags).
The implication is simply that if your upholsterer requires very large cut sizes –
perhaps for big wall panels, large banquettes, or oversized sectionals — you may
want to see if options are available to emboss on whole hides. If they are, be
prepared to pay more. There’s more hand-eye coordination required, which means more
time producing the end-product.
Secondly, find out which way the embossing pattern runs. As just mentioned, a bunch
of embossing plates were originally developed for apparel, so the pattern repeats
may not run in the direction you need. This is analogous to fabric whereby you think
about railroading, etc.
All of Groove’s embossing patterns listed on the web site were developed for