Lamb leather, as a human tool, has been around for some time. One of my favorite things on Earth (wine) was once commonly carried, as was water and other liquids, in this dried skin. They may have used goats or other animals as well but it’s still a cool story, and true. No eco-friendly 30 dollar fancy metal containers then, sorry people. I will begin with saying that we will reference this animal as ‘lamb’ rather than ‘sheep,’ which essentially implies that it is a younger animal’s hide. The majority of the leather from this animal that we deal with and sell is from the younger specimens because of their ‘hand.’ This refers to it’s feel in the hand, an old trade technique that became an expression. As humans, we all want to reach out and touch things. Leather is no different. The hand of lamb, if tanned properly will be quite soft and supple. As with all animals, the skin fibers will toughen with time, so we use lambs (approximately in the 6 to 9 square foot range – with some slightly above and below that size, depending on type of lamb and use for the skin) for most garment and other uses where the softness of the skin is desired. Part of the tanning process, especially the initial steps right off the animal are what effectively ‘preserves’ the hide in a ‘frozen’ state at that age. Lamb, when cut to garment weight or thinner for uses such as trim or gloves, can feel almost weightless when holding a single skin. This leather tends to not hold out weather or retain heat as well as say, deer, but it’s much less costly and that hand is not comparable anyway. You can always add lining in limitless ways for warmth and style if need be.
If the skin is tanned correctly, it will retain a soft feel while not being easy to tear and be durable enough for multiple uses from skirts to handbags. It can be backed with different interfacing fabrics or boards to create stiffer feel, less stretch and retain shape. It can even be glued and bonded to thicker, stiffer cow leather for belt use. It is limited by itself but with some help,, very versatile. If they are tanned semi-aniline, with additional exterior protection, yes, they lose some of the hand and ‘natural look’ BUT if someone was spilling my wine on me while walking by, I would prefer that liquid resistance that ‘semi’ provides. Full aniline looks great in the showroom but can have a hard time holding up in the long run. Also, stretch marks and other blemishes will be more visible without the additional processes, even with some better skins, which can look cool, or not, depending on the use and look one is going for. All exterior conditions matter though. If someone does not spill wine on me and I minimize what touches the skin’s exterior (ex – oils and dirt in our skin absorb deep into the skin surface making the shade of color darker and darker with time and touch) that full-aniline lamb may look pretty for a long time and some would argue as they do with other leathers such as cow, that these oils and various outside elements add change, some calling it ‘character.’
There are a number of factors that come to mind here. Yes, lamb has more ‘stretch’ BUT some of that stretch will not return, meaning unless the leather is blended with a spandex-like material, as with ‘stretch leather’ the lamb leather will stretch out and stay there with time. So, it’s the price we pay for leather that sits right up against the body. Those tight pants will start to have pockets at flex areas like the knees and rear. No, it can’t be tightened up. Yes, different conditioners off the shelf may help keep things more elastic and avoid this stretch out for a longer period of time with leather, but it will happen.