#MarchMeetTheMaker

This is going to be a LONG one! Those who know me, know I aim to be as transparent as I can. I just think it’s good practice. So, grab a cuppa and some bickies and get ready to Meet the Maker…

Intro, Style & Values

Hi I am Dani and I am the founder, designer, marketing manager, dispatch coordinator, admin manager, copywriter, brand strategist, social media manager, coffee maker, and product tester! Dave is the Technical Consultant and my sounding board.

I have bright pink hair, I’m little with a BIG personality and I’m a bit of a Rainbow Hobbit haha! I love bright colours and my food schedule isn’t far from the Hobbits! Yes, one of my favourite snacks is Walkers Salt & Vinegar Crisps! *drool*

 

Those who know me, know I like all things PRACTICAL and that is the style of the business. We aim to create practical crafts for everyone to enjoy! We are all for custom orders that can make that product practical to the end-user.

As a Practical person who values quality over quantity and a right-first-time attitude, I can confidently assure you that our Leathercrafts are creatively crafted by hand in Preston, Lancashire, UK. Offering a variety of colours and the ability to customise and personalise, we can create unique and practical products personal to you, that will last a lifetime.

We believe in doing all we can to support the world we live in and we are conscious of how we do things. Where possible we do everything by hand, our packaging is plastic free and our materials are responsibly sourced. 

What's on my Desk

Whilst I cannot work in the shop, the Lounge has become the Workshop and here are all the things that are usually strewn across my desk. Having very little space I have gotten really good and putting things away almost immediately so that I have as much space to work as possible.

I managed to get hold of a couple of narrow and tall tables to put behind and beside my desk so that things can be elevated up out the way whilst I work.

Of course when it gets to 9/10pm I like to have a clear desk to journal and plan for the next day so this setup really works for me at the moment!

Newest Make


This was a super fun make – a Passport Traveler’s Notebook with ALL THE POCKETS! Super Practical and with a matching Pen Sleeve.

 

We love to offer the option to customise your leathercraft! Fancy something different? You could have Blue Leather with Red stitching or Black Leather with Pink Stitching! Fancy different colours of leather? We can do it! 

Favourite Pens

Four of them are fountain pens (no brainer) and the coffee bean rollerball is just incredible and SMELLS LIKE COFFEE).

Listed left to right:

Viking Products – Coffee Bean Rollerball
TWSBI Eco-T Fountain Pen (F)
Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain Pen (F)
Jinhao 51a Fountain Pen (EF)
Kaweco Brass Sport Fountain Pen (M)

Hit me up if you want to learn anything about any of these pens! 

Favourite Desk Accessories

As you can see, I am a sucker for Leather, Brass and Wood.
These are my favourite accessories that live on or around my desk! I’ve got my trusty noteboard and fountain pens, desk calendar, perpetual calendar, brass pot for all those little things that don’t have a home, protractor, scissors, bullet ballpoint and callipers!

I am still in search of the Ultimate Brass Pen Stand in some sort of cute form, maybe a Brass baby Yoda holding his hands out to hold my pen! Please do let me know if you see anything like this! 

Work in Progress


Ohhh I have lots of things that are work in progress……it’s hard to just pick one! I think the main one that we’d like to highlight is Leathercrafts made from multiple colours! That’s a new one for us!

We have had a request to create a phone holder that is Pink & Purple and a Backback which is a few different colours.

WATCH THIS SPACE!

Learning Curve

When we started layering leather in our leathercrafts, we soon discovered we need to reduce the thickness of the layers in order to prevent too much bulk – as that’s not practical.

I did lots of research and found these special Japanese Skiving Knives – incredibly sharp and they looked to be exactly what I needed. I ordered two and practiced how to use these knives. There were a few mishaps and a few cut fingers. They are not right for what we need.

 

Then I discovered a relatively small SKIVING MACHINE, which seemed to be a better way of doing it. Less stress on the hands and hopefully quicker! So I ordered it, and when we spent hours testing it out on scraps of leather and very quickly realised, this is NOT what we need. This machine “Skives” the leather – so takes off a little bit of thickness, but we had no way of completely reducing the thickness of say a pocket for a journal cover. BACK TO RESEARCH!

Finally after many hours of research and watching videos online, we discovered that what we actually need is a SPLITTING machine. This is a very different machine and costs 8 times the amount of the Skiving Machine. We needed this machine, so we invested and ordered one. When it arrived, Dave had to fettle it to get it to work properly. We soon discovered we needed a VERY sturdy surface to be able to use this machine and realised we didn’t have a single piece of sturdy and fixed furniture so we had to get creative! We had a chunk of kitchen worktop spare, we screwed the machine down on it and now we use our body weight to hold the machine down whilst we SPLIT the leather. As a small female, I can understand why Leathercraft has predominantly been a Male-Dominated Industry. You need some serious strength to split leather! But I practiced…..nearly lost a finger on the incredibly sharp 8″blade, left it for a day and gave it another go. And now I finally have the optimum machine to do the intended task.

DEFINITELY A LEARNING CURVE!

Small Detail

I am a stickler for attention to details and think that is essential in Leathercrafting.
One small detail that I like to add to my Leathercrafts is corners. Yes the corners of leather. When cutting leather to size you always end up with a straight edge on the corners, and I personally feel this doesn’t look quite right. It’s prone to catching on things and potentially getting bent out of shape depending on the use.
So I have a tiny little cutting tool to cut the corners so that they are ever so slightly rounded. Take a look at our product pictures and you’ll notice the rounded corners. We like to be Practical.

 

Portrait


We’re not very good at getting pictures – we must work harder with that! We’re both used to being behind the scenes NOT in front of the Camera…

 

This is the one portrait (I know it’s landscape) that came to mind. We will always remember this day, it was absolutely incredible and Dani was so overwhelmed she had a happy cry!

 

In Use

I am taking this as the most used tools of my craft! If I had to go away somewhere and make stuff, my tool bag would have all of these items in it.

Here they are:
Nylon Maul, Leather Awl, Wing Dividers, Diamond Pricking Irons, Brass Leather Craft Knife, 2mm Punch, Embroidery Scissors, No.5 Edge Beveller, Brass Callipers, Leather Needles & Waxed Thread, Tokonole Burnishing Gum, Burnishing Stick, Set Square, Leather Thimbles and last but not least……a see-through ruler with a metal edge!

Favourite Stickers

Those who know me, know I am a bit of a Sticker fiend!

There are two particular companies that make these adorable little planner stickers which help me to plan and express myself.

These little stickers feel like mini alter egos that sit in my planner and tell a little story. I just love them!

TheCoffeeMonsterzCo
LauraJaneStyle

Favourite Stationery Storage


When you have as much stationery as me, you need to store it somewhere. I have a few storage systems but this Delfonics Pouch is just perfect for carrying about. Now I am not usually a YELLOW person but I absolutely LOVE THIS!

When we are finally allowed out, it will probably accompany me everywhere! 

Focus & Priorities

It’s in the name, we are PRACTICAL. We like PRACTICAL things. We aim to produce PRACTICAL crafts.

So yea, our focus is Practical crafts, that are unique to each customer. To achieve this, we offer customisation and personalisation options. Our online shop has lots of designs we have created, but a lot of our orders are custom and we really enjoy working with customers to make something that is personal to them. We strive to take that extra bit of time to create designs that not only look great but function well and can fit into someone’s life without any hassle.

We prioritise quality over quantity, which includes are base materials, tools and packaging. We don’t just want to give you a product. We want to give you an experience. 

From the Archive

Ohhhh the first proper leathercraft I ever made for DD Practical.

This is actually made from fantastic Buffalo Leather (this was before we picked our core range).

The Tool Pocket is part of our core range and looks beautiful in our Waxy Pull Up Ox Hide!

 

Process

Idea
Develop
Prototype
Create
Test

That’s what the process should be. I don’t always follow this process. Sometimes I SKIP straight from idea to create. Now I am not cutting corners, I just have a knack for visualising what the product should look like and then get lost in creating it and BOOM! New product!

People tell me how incredible this skill is, but I have always had it – I don’t know any different! Quite often we receive custom order requests and maybe a couple of Pinterest screenshots and that’s it. I seem to manage just fine and it works for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I only started making Leathercrafts less than a year ago and we were in a lockdown so there weren’t any Master Leatherworkers accessible to learn from and therefore I did it all myself. Since joining Leather UK, I have discovered there are LOTS of people that I now have access to and I will definitely be looking into developing my skills further in the future. There is an entire university dedicated to the Art of Leathercraft – who knew?

 

Colour

YES! ALWAYS! GIVE ME ALL THE COLOURS!

Traditionally leathercrafts stick with natural colours, as they didn’t have access to the processes we do today.

I love Natural Leathercrafts, but I also LOVE Colourful Leathercrafts!

Each to their own. This is exactly why we wanted to use a leather range that provided as many colour options as possible – to be able to offer that option of customising a leathercraft unique to you!

Silver Linings

We were so happy to open the physical shop in Preston Box Markets in November 2020, but then due to restrictions, were limited to Click and Collect only, then a period of being fully open, then back to Click and Collect, then overnight we found out we couldn’t open the shop at all. It has been a bit of a Rollercoaster!

There is a silver lining, due to all these restrictions, we were lucky enough to be eligible for some small grants from the Local Council to keep the business running whilst we couldn’t ‘be open.’

We’ve taken the time to concentrate ALOT on the behind the scenes running of the business and taken courses and joined business support groups to help us develop the business digitally.

I’m not sure where we’re going to find the time to re-open the shop! Fingers crossed it will be in the coming months.

Perhaps we’ll have to have a Grand Opening 2.0!

Favourite Washi Tape

Any proper stationery nerd has a huge selection of Washi tape 😉 It’s the rules!

These are my absolute favourites!

Favourite Notebooks

I am a recent convert to HOBONICHI – I really don’t know how I got to 31 before discovering the company! The paper is buttery smooth and my fountain pens work beautifully on it. The planners are also PRACTICAL and as you know, that is key for me! I finally found planner peace plus a range of notebooks for specific reasons!

1. Hobonichi Techo Cousin – A5 – planner
2. Hobonichi Day Free – A5 – Work notebook
3. Hobonichi Techo – A6 English – Daily Lists
4. Hobonichi Techo – A6 Japanese – Fountain Pen Challenge Notebook

Hands On

Being a leatherworker is incredibly hands-on. I cut the leather by hand (sometimes cutting myself), I stitch the leather by hand (sometimes stabbing myself), I add the hardware by hand (I sometimes hammer myself), stamped personalisation is done by hand (more hammering of myself). The only Leathercraft machine that DD Practical owns (that isn’t done by hand) is a laser engraver. Now if I could physically laser engrave by hand – I would, but you’ve seen my track record of injuries. I dread to think of what damage I could do with a Laser!  I like to think that in time, my injuries will be few and far between but who are we kidding, this is me.

Job/s

When I am not making, I am working around the country as a freelance lighting technician/general crew. It’s a bit of a change I know! Unfortunately, the pandemic wiped out our Industry (Dave is a Sound Engineer) and we have had to completely pivot and do something new until such time that we can go back to what we did before. Don’t fret! I have absolutely no intentions of giving up DD Practical and fully intend to do BOTH side by side, each as a Side Hustle of the other. I have discovered during the last year, that if I am not creating things, I am not fully myself and I strive to be the best version of myself.

Wrapped & Packaged


At DD Practical we are incredibly proud that our packaging is 100% PLASTIC FREE!

No matter what you order, everything is packed in sturdy paper or card packaging; whether it be envelopes, packing boxes or parcel bags! We have sourced matte paper stickers and even a cardboard alternative to bubble wrap! So you can rest in the knowledge that your orders are also safely packaged.

Starting Point

I wrote a blog about My Success Story in 2020.

Long story short:

I lost my Job in February 2020, went Freelance a week later, was booked up for a month, then lost all my bookings due to the pandemic. On 16th March 2020 the Government effectively closed my industry down overnight.

Luckily Dave was furloughed for a little while, but I was going stir crazy stuck at home. So I started making Stationery which I enjoyed but I wanted to learn something new – so I took up Leathercrafting – and DD Practical was born.

It was around May 2020 when I first started ordering bits and pieces and teaching myself how to work with Leather. I created my first proper Leathercraft (the Tool Pocket) as a custom order and it all took off from there! By August we had attended a couple of craft fairs and car boot sales and discovered what we really needed was a base of operations where I could sell AND MAKE. This led us to our local market where we discovered some Box Containers that could be fitted out as shops. There were two available, one full container and one-quarter of a container and one-quarter of the price (30 square foot). We thought, “what do we have to loose” and submitted an application to lease the teeny tiny shop.

Dave was then made redundant from a job he held for over 20 years. The pressure was on to find some way of surviving the year!

A month later – I had the keys to my business premises and we spent an entire day ‘fitting out’ the shop [mostly with IKEA units, chopping boards, shelves and peg boards]. I opened the shop (click and collect only) on 5th November and we had a Grand Opening with the shop fully open no 5th December. The Mayor of Preston even came and made it official by cutting a beautiful red ribbon!

Favourite Craft


Ooohhhhh, we shouldn’t really pick favourites should we? My leathercrafts are like my babies! BUT, I do have a favourite!

It’s my personal A5 Journal Cover.

I absolutely love it! It turns an otherwise boring planner into a cherished possession that will grow with me everyday and show all of its character and scars!

Favourite Inks


As a fountain pen enthusiast, you need to have some good inks to match your pens. These are my absolute favourites!

Left to right:

Pilot Iroshizuku – Ku-Jaku

Ferris Wheel Press – Lady Rose

KWZ – Sheen Machine

Diamine – Alexandrite

Ultimate Favourites

Ok so I sat and stared at my stationery collection for a while trying to pin down my absolute favourites.

Pen: Pilot Capless/Vanishing Point

Desk accessory: Brass Protractor

Stickers: Poppets (only because I discovered them first)

Washi: Rainbow Washi

Notebook: Hobonichi Cousin – A5

Ink: KWZ Sheen Machine

Range


Well, we certainly have a LARGE range of Leathercrafts available in 13 beautiful colours and most are customisable and personalisable directly in the listings – but remember you can also contact us to discuss a bespoke request!

We like the challenge of trying something new and have custom requests for Laptop Sleeves, Cable Pouches, Backpacks, Glasses Cases, Sheaths….ALL KINDS!

Looking Forward

DD Practical hasn’t even completed a full year yet but we have done a lot! We have no idea what is next! Who really knows?

I am really keen to develop my skills and really master the craft with the help of knowledgable and experienced leatherworkers across the country. We will be proactive in working with Leather UK to get the message across that Leather Products made in the UK really are sustainable!

We hope that DD Practical can thrive in the coming year and beyond! We are going to need YOUR HELP to help us get there!

Need some ideas for gifts? Contact us! We are more than happy to discuss ideas with you and create something truly special for that person.

Want to gift a leathercraft but have no idea what the recipient may like? Perhaps a gift voucher?

If you don’t know by now, we are up for any challenge and will put 100% into anything we make.

What else can you do for us? More than anything, we need you to help spread the word about DD Practical!

If you have purchased something, please do leave us a review.

See a post you like? SAVE IT! (it works wonders for the ‘algorithm’).

Want to ask a question? Please leave a comment! Dani has an obsession with not leaving notifications unread so she’s sure to get back to you really quickly!

See something you think others may like? PLEASE SHARE IT – we would be eternally grateful! 

Got an idea for a leathercraft design? TELL US! We love to hear new ideas!

We thank you for supporting our little business and are excited to see what the future holds

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