What Is Fish Leather

Fish skin leather finished and tanned is much like tanned cowhide or sheepskin. The leather made from fish skin is tanned and cured to make it strong and resistant to wear. It functions similarly to other leathers.  When fish is tanned, the scales are taken off. On leather, you can see a pattern made by the skin pockets left on the skin of fish like Baltic and Atlantic salmon. The scales on burbot skin are very small and give the leather a beautiful, varied texture. The scales do not entirely cover the leather, though.

Is fish skin leather strong?

Fish leather is thicker than other leathers, but it is stronger than other leathers. Fish skin differs from other hides, like cowhide, because the fibres run in different directions and cross each other. So, although fish leather is thin, it is solid and has a high tensile strength. Fish leather is used to make everyday items that are useful and don't put too much stress on the leather. This is why we aren't thinking about making things like belts or rucksack straps, which need thicker leather.

How long does fish leather last?

Fish skin leather is thinner than most leathers made from mammals, but it is even more vital for its thinness. Wallets entirely made of fish skin leather are an excellent example of how durable something can be. It's common for these wallets to last more than ten years. For example, a burbot skin ribbon 2.5 mm wide is much stronger than a thicker buckskin ribbon.

Is fish leather waterproof?

Fish skin is not water resistant. Some fish leathers are pretty waterproof, but that's because of the coatings on them, not because that's something that fish leather naturally has. Fish skin isn't completely waterproof by nature. Instead, it's slightly porous, so fish can take in or lose water through their skin. When salmon return to rivers from the sea and move into freshwater, they risk drinking too much water. To avoid this, they are said to consume less and pee more.

Is leather from fish is stronger than leather from other animals?

The idea that fish leather is weak and easy to tear is false. Fish leather is very different from other leathers of the same thickness, which makes it more durable. It is made of collagen fibres that go in different directions, like a basket weave. This gives it a tensile strength of 90 newtons. Other leathers with the same thickness, like cow leather, have a tensile strength of between 8 and 25 newtons. It might be hard to picture because the skin is so thin, but the strength of fish leather comes from how many fibres and layers cross each other.

Of course, it doesn't smell and won't get wet

Because fish leather has a lot of oil, it doesn't get wet quickly. The fish smell is taken out in the early stages of tanning, turning skin into leather. When the process is done, the leather smells like other leathers.

People wonder why it isn't used more often and why, if it's a by-product, it's not cheap

We could ask these questions, but the process is complicated. Fish leather is not nearly as common as leather from mammals. There are fewer manufacturers, and the existing ones are small.

The trick is to eliminate all fish oils, so there is no smell. In the soaking stage, timing is crucial. Also, fish leather is more expensive to make than, say, cow leather of the same size. Because the leather hides are small, you need to use more than one piece of leather and a good design to get the most out of the fish skin leather.

How Fish Leather Got There: Fish leather has been used for a long time

Fish leather is not a new thing. Hundreds of years of use attest to its reliability. The Nanai people, who lived in Eastern Siberia along the Amur River and traditionally made clothes out of fish skin, figured out how to make fish leather. People called these people Yupi Tartars, which means "fish skin tartars."

Many people have used fish leather for a long time. The fish skin was used to make leather by the Egyptians and northern Indians thousands of years ago. This leather was used for clothes, shoes, and boots, and the inside was padded with grasses. Icelanders, Scots, and Irish people related to the Vikings also used fish skin.

In the 1600s, the skins of rays and sharks were used to cover weapons and knife blades. During the Art Deco period, from 1920 to 1939, fish leather was famous for making handbags, cigarette boxes, and furniture. It was also used to make perfume bottles, powder boxes, and cases. In the 20th century, the practice of making fish leather disappeared because of colonialism and assimilation. Boots, shoes, and clothes made by hand out of fish skin were replaced by rubber boots and factory-made clothes. People also needed to remember how to make fish skin leather.

Today, local artists and designers are again making shoes, handbags, and even lining the inside of a car with salmon skin. With the help of a research project funded by the European Union to find ways to make and use fish skin leather sustainably and to increase its use in the fashion industry, companies and organizations that care about the environment are building a new industry around fish skin. Fish leather's usefulness and beauty have made people want to find something new, different, eco-friendly, and beautiful.

A new way to use something that has been around for hundreds of years: fish skin leather boots, shoes, accessories, and clothing

Creative people are finding new ways to use, make, and design something that has been around for a long time. Fish skin leather has gone from being used to being worn. In the past, it was used because it was strong and lasted a long time. It is used in fashion because it is long-lasting, has natural textures, and has beautiful patterns.

Fish skin leather is being used by many new artists, small businesses, and designers worldwide, from Alaska to France, Africa to Italy. This is being done for environmental or economic reasons. People are interested in fish leather because it has a different feel than other leathers. A shoemaker in Europe who has been in the same family for three generations is using beautiful new fish leathers in their line of boots and shoes. A mother and daughter learn how to tan fish leather for boots, shoes, and other accessories in a way that is good for the environment.

How to Make Fish Skin Into Leather

Fish skin leather was common in many places in the past. It was a lot like Gore-Tex before it came out. Now, it's on the way back. Fish skin leather is also becoming popular in the fashion world. In the past few years, designers have become interested in using it to make high-end items. Other business owners who care about the environment are getting ideas from traditional tanning methods to find other, more environmentally friendly ways to make leather. With its comeback, the craft gives people a chance to think about old ideas that still apply to modern life.

Before people started making their fabrics, people in coastal and riverine areas throughout the world tanned or dried fish skins and then sewed them together to make clothes. The material is strong and won't get wet; we needed it to stay alive. The Ainu were people who lived in Japan. They made boots out of salmon skin and tied them to their feet with rope. Along the Amur River in northeast China and Siberia, people from the Hezhen and Nivkh groups made coats and thread from the material. The Inuit made clothes in northern Canada, and in Alaska, people like the Alutiiq, Athabascan, and Yup'ik made boots, mittens, containers, and parkas out of fish skins. In the winter, Yup'ik men always stayed in their homes with their qasperrluk, loose-fitting fish-skin parkas with hoods that could also be used as shelter. Men would use an ice pick to prop up the hood and pin the edges to make a tent-like structure.

As valuable and common as the material was, making fish skin leather became less common in the 20th century. Its disappearance is linked to colonialism and assimilation. The protection law for Hokkaido's indigenous people was enacted in 1899. This law made it official that the Ainu people had become part of Japanese society. The Ainu no longer fished, hunted, or gathered for food. In Alaska, Russian fur hunters forced Indigenous people to work as enslaved people, and later, US policies tried to get rid of their traditional ways of life. Rubber boots and rain gear in factories replaced clothes made by hand out of fish skin. As fish skin leather became less common, people also needed to remember how to make it.

The history of the material needs to be more evident in British Columbia. In the late 1800s, ethnographer James Teit wrote about how Indigenous people used the material in the province's southern interior. Some Nlaka'pamux made shoes out of dog salmon (chum) skins, and some St'át'imc made fish skin sandals by repeatedly smearing the soles with pine or fir gum with sand or earth to make them thicker and harder. The Tsilhqot'in made bags out of fish skin further north. If it ever existed, most of the evidence from other cultures would have been lost. Archaeologists don't know much about the history of fish skin in the province because it doesn't last long.

Ancient Material For Modern Design

Making leather from fish skins is an old craft many coastal cultures used to do. Modern tanning and dying techniques have brought this craft back to life. Native Icelanders made their shoes out of the skin of wolffish, and it is said that they used the number of pairs worn out on a path to figure out how far it was. Salmon leather that didn't get wet was used to make bags, parkas, and other types of clothing in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. The people of the Hezhe ethnic group in northeast China were also called the "fish leather tribe" because of how they used to dress.

What Is The Importance Of Fish Leather In Modern Society?

It is suitable for the environment in two different ways:

  • It is a by-product of the fishing industry. It is made from raw materials that would not be used otherwise. It is made using clean hydro and geothermal technology.

  • The tanning and dying processes used on fish are much better for the skin and the environment than those used on mammal leathers, which use strong chemicals that release gases like hydrogen sulphide, which is flammable, toxic, and combustible. Since fish don't have feathers, there is no need to do this. You can take off the scales but can't do it with chemicals.

Still, progress in making leather from aquatic skins could help the fashion industry reduce its environmental impact in the following ways:

  • Fish leather is made from waste, so nothing "new" is raised or grown to make it. This saves valuable natural resources and prevents more pollution and emissions.

  • This item is biodegradable, eco-friendly, and natural.

  • There are no disposal issues because fish leather breaks back into nature. The leather and meat industries use land, energy, and other things to raise cattle. It may also cause trees to be cut down. Fishing, on the other hand, doesn't require clearing land.

Care for fish leather

Fish leather is easy to take care of. Most of the time, all you need to keep it clean is a clean, dry cloth. To get rid of any dust on the fish's surface, gently brush in the direction of the scales if the fish has scales. It's important to touch in the order of the rankings, so you don't do too much abrasive damage or peel them off. If they might be doing that anyway, don't worry. As they get older, their scales will naturally rise a little. This doesn't mean you've been mean to them. Just be gentle with them. You can get the dirt out with a soft-bristled brush if dirt is stuck between the scales. If there is a lot of dirt, you can dampen your cloth just a little to help you clean, but be careful not to get it too wet. Like most leathers, too much water can be bad for fish, and if you don't handle it carefully, it will dry out and break.

Sunlight and heat are also on the list of things to watch out for. Any leather will have this weakness. Even though it's normal for fish scales to get lighter over time (especially red and blue ones), sunlight and heat will speed this process up a lot and can completely change the colour of the scales as well as dry them out and make them brittle. For the best care of fish leather, try to keep it in a clean, cool, and humid place inside. A good place is inside a case that lets air in, like a wooden box or a dust bag. If your leather is starting to look a little dry or you want a layer of protection from the elements, you can find an exotic leather conditioner to feed it. Silicon spray is also a good alternative, but it tends to dry out leather, so use it sparingly and with care to take care of fish leather. Test leather conditioners before you use them. Unfinished, lighter-coloured, and exotic leathers can act strangely with some leather conditioner recipes. When you find a leather care recipe, you want to try, use a soft, white cloth to apply a small amount of leather conditioner to a hidden part of your item and let it dry. If the colour doesn't rub off on your clothes, change the colour of the leather or do anything else wrong, you should be fine. Spread it on your fish leather gently and evenly in thin layers in the direction of the scales with a lint-free cloth, applicator pad, or bristled brush, and let it dry for 15 minutes. Rub tight enough, or some of the colours may come off. After that, polish up the rest and enjoy the results of your hard work.

If you spill something on fish leather, you should dry the spot immediately with a paper towel or another soft cloth. Do not wipe this spot, or it will get smudged and sink deeper into your fish leather. Believe us; your problem will get worse. Don't wipe—just dab. If there is a stain, you could mix mild soap with water, mix it up, put the suds on a cloth (don't get the cloth wet), and wipe the stain (in the direction of the fish scales, remember). If grease is staining your leather, sprinkle a little cornstarch over the color and leave it there overnight. After that, use a soft-bristled brush to brush it off gently. The grease should be soaked up by the starch, saving your fish leather from being a fashion disaster.

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