Leather describes the strong, flexible material made from animal skin. Cattle hide is the most commonly used skin, due to its easy availability and durable nature. There are three main processes that turn the hide into finished leather-

  1. The initial processing of the skin.
  2. The tanning (rendering of the material into a stable form so that it won’t decay).
  3. The crusting, where the skin is thinned, retanned and lubricated, before finally being dyed and conditioned.

Traditionally in Ireland, leather was the principle material used for harness and saddle making, bookbinding, shoes, including the Irish ‘pampootie’ (type of light footwear) as worn on the Aran Islands, and hurling balls.

Hurling balls, also called ‘sliotars’ in Irish, have been made from a core of diverse materials including horsehair and more recently cork. They are covered in leather, with full-grained ox hide being preferred for its durability.

Leather has been the traditional material of choice for cobblers and boot makers in Ireland. The shoemaking process involves many accurate measurements to ensure the final pair of shoes fits their wearer comfortably, with the majority of the shoe being made from leather, including the sole.

Pampooties are traditional heelless raw-hide shoes mainly from the Aran Islands. Originally they would have been made from sealskin. This basic shoe style would have once been widespread throughout Ireland.

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