A family affair
I'm Jess, the sole pair of hands behind Red Bike Leatherworks. I'm a second-generation leatherworker and work from my tiny workshop in rural Essex.
I make charming, timeless leather bags and accessories from high quality leather, using centuries-old methods. Every step is by hand, from pattern making to cutting to stitching and finishing leathergoods. Techniques and tools were passed to me by my saddler mum and stand the test of time.
Handcrafted in small numbers, my pieces are built to last and only get better with use.
Leather is a beautiful, durable material that comes in many guises. On the high street, we tend to see quick fix, chrome tanned leather, where chemicals have been used to transform it into a workable material.
The leather used at Red Bike Leatherworks is full grain and vegetable tanned. This means that the hides have been processed slowly and gently, using only vegetable matter such as tannins from bark and other plant matter. The natural fibres are intact, which is what gives RBL items such a rich smell and feel! The fact that vegetable tanned leather continues to absorb water and oils means that your item will change colour over time, developing a beautiful patina with wear.
I am looking hard at the sustainability of my small business and am continuing to make changes to the leathers I select: belt leathers now come from the only remaining oak bark tannery in the UK, and I am reusing beautiful old leather from equestrian items to make new bags and accessories.
Once a piece is ordered, the pattern is cut by hand, debossed, personalised and fixtures and fittings are attached before the sewing begins.
I hand stitch using two needles and waxed thread, making a 'knot' with each stitch so that no unravelling can occur, as could happen with machine stitching. Stitches are marked with a pricking iron and each hole is created using a sharp diamond awl. Simply including one standard zip adds an extra 350 holes to individually punch and stitch!
Lastly, the edges are levelled, bevelled and burnished to give them strength and a satisfying shine.
Every product is made in this way - slowly, carefully and precisely - to give a beautiful finish.