How can I reuse or recycle scraps of leather/suede?

LeatherAs I mentioned in passing the other day, we hacked up a very old sofa at the weekend. We wanted to give it away for re-use as a sofa but it was in frankly awful condition – thanks to the cats and just years and years of use – we got it at least third hand after it had been a family sofa then used at some offices.

We stripped it down before getting rid of it though – I covered the sofa foam on Monday, the wooden frame has gone into a scrap/fire wood pile, and we’re going to see if we can use the (flat) springs as some kinda notice board and/or use as a support for french beans in the garden next summer.

We also cut off the leather from the bits that weren’t utterly ruined/torn – mostly the back of the sofa and the backs of cushions. They’re quite a soft leather with nice, clean suede on the other side. But what can we do with it?

I always like practical suggestions but am open to crafty ones too – especially if I don’t need to buy special tools for it.

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18 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle scraps of leather/suede?”


  1. Bobbie says:

    You could recover some dining chairs or an ottoman. Or even a table or desk top. I recently read that leather can be painted or dyed using special leather products, but must stay in the same color family just darker/lighter. Leather could be made into some useful clothing, but I suspect that it would take and industrial sewing machine to sew through it.

    • CatMan says:

      no need for an industrial machine.
      use your thickest niddle and HAND CRANK your machine, dont use the motor.
      use your hand and the machine’s wheel to slowly pierce the leather piece.
      you will have plenty force, and leather don’t need too many holes, so it won’t take long.
      use the machine’s biggest step, though.
      and a strong thread.

  2. AliceJ says:

    It’d make nice wallets, bags, and holders for things like a belt pouch – I made a leather belt loop to hold my secateurs ‘cos I always need to put them down for a minute to use both hands.

    If it’s quite thin leather then it’s reasonably easy to sew – try putting it though a sewing machine in single layers to punch the holes, then sewing it by hand using the ready-punched holes.

    Use natural fibres (e.g. cotton), as polyester etc can cut through the leather.

    If it’s thicker leather then it’s good for sheathing blades and protecting things – maybe you could cut out squares to use as coasters? The suede side would stick to a table nicely.

  3. Karlie says:

    You could cut the leather into thin strips and latch-hook them into a trendy Shag Leather Pillow or even a throw rug if you think you have enough. Though you could probably mix in some of the more worn leather to make use of it too.

  4. Hazel says:

    It actually looks good enough to make a patchwork skirt from — I don’r know about your sewing machine but mine is fine with even quite thick leather if set to a slow speed using the largest needle I can get. If you’ve never worked in leather for this type of thing then do look at patchwork leather handbags — lay pieces flat and zig-zag don’t overlap or try to seam as you would with a woven fabric.

  5. jen says:

    A new purse or totebag! seat cushions for hard chairs! work gloves!
    my son does archery and a leather arrow quiver would be very appreciated-his current one is recycled denim, its simply a long skinny bag with a drawstring top, easy to make.
    cut into strips and wave for a throw pillow or awesome wall hanging.
    a patch quilt combined with denim.
    wow if I ever see a leather couch in tatters, I am going for the leather!

  6. Betty G. says:

    Hi:
    I think it could be cut into strips and braided into a men’s leather belt.

  7. renee says:

    old leather can make awesome masks and sculptures. just soak over night and shape with your hands into what you want and allow to dry.

  8. V. says:

    I have used scrap leather for bookbinding. You can find bookbinding directions online or at the library. For mine, I cut the leather into a rectangle, sewed groups of pages (folios) to the middle, which creates the spine. I’ve seen some really beautiful professionally made books and photo albums with leather covers.

  9. Draes says:

    I had a lovely old suede skirt – shallow circle – that I took all the seams out of and ended up with triangular panels. I intend to make a nice pair of snug knee-length shorts out of it, and also – which is my primary suggestion due to possible size constraints – a pair of soft fitted shoes, hopefully with soles made of cast-off tire-rubber.
    You could also brand designs onto small rectangular pieces, soak and let dry to harden a bit into a curved shape, punch holes in the ends and use as a hair tie-back – either attach an elastic to the holes or push an old chopstick through.
    Small bits would also make excellent patches on work clothes at knees or seams that are wearing through.
    Very small pieces would work well as tie-on thimbles when sewing – same concept as the hair band – or replacements for missing zipper-tabs.

  10. HuntingWabbits says:

    Purse, wallet, fashionable belt, the possibilities are endless. You can make a pirate costume vest from the leather.

  11. Mark Gerrasch says:

    OK, here’s what you have to do. As an artist myself I would gather all the leather I could from old leather coats to old worn out out shoes.
    Get yourself a half inch piece of plywoodto use as the background. Now start cutting the shoes into shapes that can be glued to the wood alound with short nails that won;t go thru the back of the wood either. You can wet the leather in warm water then use cotton as a filler and make a three demention shape under the leather. I would make the plywood about 24 inches by 40 inches so you can show alot of movement and interest. Keep adding layers, and when you feel it’s done take differnt color shoe polish and highlight the highs and lows. Hang on the wall and enjoy a real work of art.!!!!!

    • Penny Castillo says:

      I like the art work idea but I’m a little confused about how to do it. Do you have a picture of a finished product?

  12. skipper says:

    if you cut it into 1/8 inch strips it will braid really nicely

  13. Kelly says:

    You can make awesome leather bracelets, thin and thick and even add beads to them, or punch them and add snaps.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Try reusing leather pants and skirts for pillows and decor- cubes with foam inserts, as well durable playmats for kids

  15. Gena Faulkner says:

    I am a ceramic student trying to make drum heads from recycled leather coats, does anybody have any info on how to get the leather stiffer like a drum head? I wet & stretched,tied and dried but it doesn’t pop, like it is too flexible. Any help will be divinely appreciated. Thanks, Gena

    • Ophelia says:

      Hey
      When I was at a festival I met this dude who was selling leather jackets he had made, and since I was going to start a project out of leather as well I decided to chat with him. He said that if you boil leather (especially thin pieces) it will make it a lot stiffer and tougher, so perhaps give that a go :) Good luck



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