Fish Tanning Blog

Fish leather is not all about salmon. Over the coming months,
I will be sampling many types of fish skins to see how they tan and what types of fish leather can be produced.
I will show some photos, a bit of the process and results of the tanning.
Please do not ask for more details of the various fish tanning recipes I use. Those are a trade secret. But please do check back to see the latest fish leather tanning experiments.

Salmon skin - Oak Tanned
Salmon skin – Oak Tanned

Fish Leather Jars

Depending on how the fish skin is tanned, Salmon and fish leather is translucent, making it a wonderful covering for jars, candle holders, lamp shades and window screens.

The fish leather has been tanned and processed using natural ingredients such as salt, alum, vinegar and lime as well as natural tree barks and plant dyes.

Please check my Etsy shop for some of my latest creations using this zero waste unique material.

About

My grandmother was a Norwegian Sami. She crafted belts, shoes and bags made of reindeer skins and fish leather that she sold to other Sami people. My father worked as a commercial salmon fisherman fishing in the Fraser River and along the coast of British Columbia. He had a small fishing shack in Finn Slough, Stevenston, BC where he moored his fishing boat and repaired his salmon fishing nets. As a child growing up, I spent many happy summer days with him at his little fishing shack, helping to repair the nets.
I am a hand weaver and recently I have taken more of an interest in learning the traditional Sami handcrafts, weaving the colourful narrow bands that the Sami used for embellishing their handmade clothing. Following in the footsteps of my Sami grandmother, I have also learned to stitch with reindeer skins and fish leather to make small bags, wallets and pouches.
I have studied the almost lost art of tanning fish leather as the Sami did, turning what is thought of as scrap waste, into a beautiful, soft leather that can be used for clothing, bags, shoes, jewellery and pieces of art.

Päivi Suomi

Salmon Leather Wallets

Shop for Flex Frame wallets, coin purses, card wallets or billfold wallets made of Salmon leather and other fish skins and other naturally tanned Fish Leather in my PaivatarYarn Etsy Shop.

The salmon and other fish skins are a zero waste product. I purchase the fish skins from local fish suppliers that would otherwise be discarded. Fish tanning is a long and complex process. The fish skins must be descaled, cleaned and soaked in a tanning bath for several weeks. I only use natural ingredients such as tree barks to make the tanning baths. After the skin is fully tanned, then it is treated with a natural oil and rubbed by hand to soften the leather. Salmon leather has a soft and natural suede finish. When tanned with tree barks, the natural shading and pattern of the fish skin is retained.

The Sami people were known to tan fish leather as well as reindeer, in order to make purses, pouches, clothing and other items for everyday use. Reindeer leather is a precious commodity that is difficult to source. Most of the reindeer hides are used by the Saami people for their own clothing and personal use. I am only able to purchase the reindeer leather in small quantities that are sold as scrap leather. I stitch the small pieces together in order to make purses, pouches, reindeer bracelets and other items. Nothing is wasted.

Fish Leather Wallets

Fish Leather Coin Purses and Pouches
Fish leather coin purses – hand stitched fish leather and reindeer leather kiss frame coin pouches.

Fish Leather BiFold Wallets
Hand stitched Bi Fold wallets made of bark tanned fish skins and reindeer leather

Salmon Leather Skins

Salmon Leather skins come in sizes ranging from 40 – 60 cm in length and 10 – 15 cm in width.
Colours will vary depending on the particular tree barks or natural dyes that have been used.

The salmon skin leather has been sourced from fisheries in British Columbia and the UK where the fish skins would otherwise have been discarded.

Please check back for our latest selection of naturally tanned and dyed salmon skin leathers.