Goat Hides Refined: Chèvre Leather

Chèvre leather is one of my favorite kinds of leather because it is so easy to use, and it looks great. It is a very distinctive hide that stands out when you see it. Many high-end handbags, as well as beloved home projects, use chèvre. In a similar way to cow and horse hides, different kinds of Chèvre leather have varying degrees of quality. We carry two types of Chèvre, and they come from one of the finest tanneries in France. There are similar leathers available in the US (labeled simply as goat leather), but they typically aren’t consistently quite as nice. When you have both hides in your hands, the difference is immediately evident.

Details of a Chèvre hide
details of a chèvre hide

Chèvre Hides: Overall Look and Feel 

Chèvre has a distinctive look that is different from cow leather. The hides are small, and so is the grain. You can more easily see grain pattern changes like the spine, the shoulder, and the overall grain changing as you move from the body to the legs. For example, as you get closer to the top of the hide, you can see how the grain pattern gets tighter and closer together. 

One panel can have several of these details, making each hide visually dynamic and unique. Some professional bag-makers and other high-end designers deliberately seek out hides with nuances like these, but it’s also possible to produce a uniform texture throughout the piece.

An iconic bag made with chèvre
An iconic bag made with chèvre

Chèvre Chagrin

The Chèvre Chagrin we offer on our store is 100% vegetable-tanned, which makes it easy to burnish and safe to use for applications where the leather touches fur or skin (such as a watch strap). Using full aniline dye creates a virtually naked hide; a simple combination of tanned leather and color. Because of that, Chèvre Chagrin is one of our favorite hides to watch age and become even more refined with time. 

The hides have a surface burnish that makes it almost glitter in the light and can evoke much shinier pebbled surface like a fine-grain stingray. This effect is the origin of this leather; it was meant to evoke stingray. 

Chèvre Chagrin is a medium-tempered leather, and its thinness makes it very flexible, but not draping. 

Only naturally pristine hides yield Chèvre Chagrin since any imperfections in the naked leather will show. Because it is bare, high-use areas like the outsides of wallets, buttons, and flaps acquire a burnished shine to them, similar to how edges are shined after burnishing.

Close-up of a chagrin hide
Close-up of a chagrin hide. Notice the hair follicles are still visible

Handling and Maintenance

Take special care with this leather, both in the handling of it during construction and in its use as a finished product. The full aniline finish will absorb water and alter the color. If you want to use Chagrin hides for everyday items, consider using a light protector or wax finish.

Hides are completely dyed through from front to back, so surfaces, edges, and the flesh side will be very similar in color. This effect is known as the dye being ‘struck through.’ The benefit of this is that when edge finishing, you can achieve a shiny or a matte look, and it will have a very similar color to the surface.

smooth and consistent chevre crispe

Chèvre Crispe

Chèvre Crispe is also a full vegetable-tanned leather, but with a semi-aniline finish. Semi-aniline finishes are a combination of the aniline dye and pigments to give the color more substance. The pigment deepens the surface color of the leather but it is not added to the back. So while the base dye color is still ‘struck through,’ the back will have a lighter tint. The pigment adds a thin layer on top of the leather which has multiple effects, including increasing wear resistance and firming up the temper. It also fills in some of the leather’s grain and evens out small imperfections, giving it a more uniform color and texture. 

A wider quality range of leather hides can be used in the production of Chèvre Crispe because the semi-aniline finish smooths over the surface and corrects small blemishes. 

Handling and Maintenance

Chèvre Crispe has fair resistance to dirt and moisture on the surface. It’s not naked like Chèvre Chagrin so small drops of water will bead on the surface. To better protect your hide, I recommend edge treatment as well as applying a light protector on the back if you are employing single layer construction.

Chèvre crispe detail
Chèvre crispe detail – Softer features but more uniform

Chèvre Chagrin vs. Chèvre Crispe

When to Choose Chèvre Chagrin

For top-of-the-line items, it’s hard to beat Chèvre Chagrin. These carefully selected hides are stunning to look at and improve with age. They are an excellent choice for special occasion items or things that you use with care. Add surface protectants to enable you to use this leather for everyday items that you rough up a bit.

One other tip for using Chagrin hides: When selecting parts for your project, take advantage of the more visible grain and surface features. Since these hides have a natural good look, it’s better to leverage these features. In doing so, you will end up with a beautiful piece that has a dynamic look and feel.

Chagrin bag with spine detail
Chagrin bag with spine detail along the center

When to Choose Chèvre Crispe

Chèvre Crispe, with its more uniform and treated surface, works great for everyday items. It resists moisture and discoloration from exposure to light. Neither Chagrin or Crispe hides are waterproof, so be sure to use mink oil or similar treatment to increase protection against the rain and snow. 

The semi-aniline finish helps the hides to look uniform in texture and color. You can still see the grain features, and incorporate them into your work, but the overall look and feel of a Crispe hide will be much more uniform than a Chagrin hide. 

Chèvre Crispe pocket
Wallet pocket made from chèvre crispe

Chèvre Hides: Workability

Chèvre hides are typically pretty thin (0.8-1.5mm), and so you can use them as lining for lots of different projects. If you want a more robust feel, add a filler to make the layers of your project thicker. On a card case, a single layer works well, while two layers work well for pouches and small items. Two layers with or without a filler layer work well with handbags, backpacks, and other larger items.

Edge Burnishing

Both Chèvre Chagrin and Crispe can be edge burnished. Chèvre Chagrin can additionally be burnished on the top surface either during construction or naturally during regular use to impart a higher shine on the final piece. The color of Chèvre Crispe is deeper on the top, so edges will be lighter unless dyed. Both types of leather readily accept edge paint.

Gluing 

Our Chèvre does not have a waxy or oily finish and glues together easily. Be mindful of oversaturating Chèvre Chagrin with glues. If you use too much, it will discolor the surface.

Cutting

Chèvre has a bit of stretch to it, so it’s best to use sharp knives to cut the leather. Duller knives will stretch the leather before cutting and distort the final shape. Since Chèvre hides are thin, you can use finer blades like Xactos or other thin knives with ease.

Sewing

Sewing can be very straight-forward with chèvre leather. If you use an awl, it will easily pass right through the hide. This medium temper leather is pretty forgiving when setting your tension. You should still be careful no to over-tension your threads. When they are too tight, they will cut through the leather after you complete the stitch. This broken stitch is known as a ‘dead man.’ The finer grain of Chèvre pairs well with 9spi/3mm stitching and 632 linen or #8 MBT thread. 

Chèvre Hides: Just the Right Size 

Chèvre leather is durable, which makes it great for exteriors and works well for interiors too because it’s not too expensive. If you are creating a mono-color project, this is an excellent choice because you can use one hide for the entire project. 

Chèvre hides are smaller than cowhides. In examining the different parts of the leather, you’ll be able to notice the differences more easily since all of the parts are so much closer together. This proximity will afford you a better understanding of how to use each piece for specific components. As an example, you can make a small crossbody bag using all the different parts of the hide, with each section being perfectly suited to each bag component, like using the belly for the gusset and the back for the front panels. This feature will not only improve your understanding of hide selection, but it will also create a great looking piece.

Have you used Chèvre Chagrin or Crispe hides? What was your experience? Send us photos of your work! We’d love to see what you’ve done.

Chèvre Leather Video

Want to see a video of this post? It includes content from this post, videos of the hides, and projects made from Chèvre so you can see how they look up close.

Original source: https://www.fineleatherworking.com/blog/goat-hides-refined-chevre-leather/