How Many Leather Hides Do I Need for My Upholstery Project?

written by Melissa Wolck

Ordering leather can be tricky, especially if it's something you don't do on a regular basis. Unlike fabric, which is measured in yards, leather is measured in square feet. It doesn't come in a perfect square, because....cows have legs. Sometimes a hide measures 44 sq. ft., and sometimes it measures 54 sq. ft., because...cows aren't all the same size. We have developed this cheat sheet to make it easy to convert your measurements from yards to square feet.

1 yard = 18 sq. ft. (approximately) 

Standard Leather Conversion Chart, Greenhouse Fabrics

HIDE SIZES

Hide sizes will vary, because leather is a natural product. As I mentioned, not all cows are the same size. When you are ordering a leather hide, it will typically range between 45 and 55 sq. ft. give or take a few.

Each hide is measured and labeled with a stamp, a sticker, or written with a marker. It depends on the leather supplier, but this makes it much easier to quickly find a hide as close to the requested square footage as possible.

MEASURE TWICE. CUT ONCE.

Cutting patterns from a leather hide is kind of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Take a look at the images below to see what I mean. Upholsterers lay pre-made patterns in a very specific arrangement on top of the hide, and trace around each shape before cutting them out. When working with an expensive, one of a kind material like leather, it is important to measure twice and cut once.  

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

IRREGULARITY

The square footage of a hide is determined by the actual workable surface area of the leather. Leather suppliers do not include the irregular edges of the hide in their measurement. Be prepared to scrap this part of the hide, or get creative, and use it for another project requiring small leather piece, like jewelry or a change purse. 

B5173 Deep Blue, Leather Hide

FLAWS

Genuine leather is not like vinyl. It is a natural product; once a living animal. There may be imperfections such as scars or holes from tick bites. Specifically, with Brahma Bull hides, a hole is left in the hide near the neck from a large hump in their back. These flaws do not jeopardize the integrity or the quality of the hides. For many people, this adds to the natural beauty of the leather. 

When calculating the amount of leather you will need for your upholstery project, it is probably a good idea to account for some small flaws and scars. Ask your client if they "embrace the natural beauty marks" or if they see them as flaws. They may want the imperfections cut out or hidden. This will affect the square footage needed. That is why we say "1 yrd = 18 sq. ft. (approximately)". There is no way to be exact.

B1690 Copper Glaze & Grey Brindle, Hair On Hide

UNIQUE MARKINGS

One of the most beautiful aspects of upholstering with leather is that No Two Hides are The Same. Leather and hair on hides have unique markings, and each one is special. Take a look at the hair on hides in the images below.

The way a pattern is cut out will determine the finished look of the piece. If you have a preference about where the unique markings are placed, specific cuts and additional square footage may be required.

Black & White, Hair On Hide & Grey Brindle, Hair On Hide

Just remember genuine leather is a one of a kind product. No two hides are alike, so don't hesitate to contact your fabric guru for assistance when shopping leather, because your leather orders will likely never be the same either. 

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