Vegetable tanning was the major tanning method until the 20th century and is now growing in importance once again.

Before tanning the hair or wool is removed from the pelt, usually by the application of selected chemicals to eat away at the hair roots. Treatment with lime is done to open up the fibres and remove unwanted material from between the fibres. Other processes will be carried out to specifically remove any hair roots and adjust the stretch characteristics and some physical processes will remove the flesh and thicker hides will be split to get to the correct thickness.After tanning many varied processes follow which are often classified as Currying or Shedding vegetable tanned leather. Activity may involve treating the leather so the veg tan does not migrate to the surface, rolling on when the leather is quite moist, rolling off when it is a little drier. Drying is done in a stove, with the hides or skins usually hanging from hooks. Wooden slatted windows may be used to crudely adjust temperature and provide ventilation.

Natural aging, commonly known as Patina, is a unique characteristic of full grain leather. Instead of peeling and cracking like sued leather, full-grain leather develops unique dark shades along its edges and stress areas giving it a beautiful antique look. The cross arrangement of fibers on the upper part of the skin provides full grain leather its unusual strength and durability. Compared to sued leather, it lasts long and ages gracefully.


Waxed cotton is cotton impregnated with a paraffin or natural beeswax based wax, woven into or applied to the cloth. Widely used from the mid-19th century to the mid-1950s, the product, which originated in the sailing industry in England and Scotland, became widely used by many for waterproofing.

Early mariners noticed that wet sails were more efficient than dry sails, but due to their weight slowed the vessel down. From the 15th century, mariners applied fish oils and grease to their heavy sailcloth, out of the worn remnants of which they cut waterproof capes to keep themselves dry, the forerunner of the fisherman's slicker. The result was efficient sails in dry weather, lighter sails in wet weather, and drier sailors throughout.

From 1795, Arbroath-based sail maker Francis Webster Ltd had perfected the art of adding linseed oil to flax sails, creating an oiled flax. Lighter than wet sailcloth, these started to be used by the Royal Navy and the early tea clippers. As the tea races increased in competition, the clipper designers and captains looked for weight reductions. As the clippers were often used to ship cotton from Egypt, experiments were started with this lighter material.