How to Measure Leather in Square Feet
Why is Leather sold by the Square Foot, and not the Yard?
Unlike fabric, leather is not sold by the yard. Leather is a natural material and as such does not come with straight edges. Each hide can only be as large as the animal it came from. Because of this, the area of the leather is measured and sold by the Square Foot. This allows for tanneries and sellers to account for the uneven (but still usable) edges that come with leather. Large scale tanneries actually use a laser scanner to account for holes and rough edges when figuring out the square footage of a hide before shipping it out.
If you are used to shopping for fabric in yards but want to switch to leather for an upcoming project, like reupholstering a couch, the equivalent is approximately 18 Sq Ft of leather to every 1 Yard of fabric. Your average wingback chair typically requires 6.5 yards of fabric to recover it. Take 6.5 and multiply it by 18 and you get 117. That means you'll need 117 Sq Ft of leather to do the project.
Here is an example of an average yard, laid over a single side. Because of the variations in the natural edges, you cannot get a full square yard out of this piece. However, you can see there is plenty of leather to cut your pieces out of that will more than equal a yard.
Typically, a standard cowhide is going to be somewhere around 90" at its longest point and 72" at its widest point, however, they can run slightly larger or smaller. If you prefer to work with lamb, pig, or even exotic leather (like ostrich), those are going to be much smaller. The hides can only be as large as the animal they came from. We sell much of our cowhide leather by the side, which would be a half of a hide.
Because of the variances in size and width, it is often best to work with the exact sizing of your patterns or furniture, as opposed to yards. Knowing you need four 20" x 30" pieces, as opposed to 3 yards, is going to help you find suitable hides or sides much easier.
To help you shop for your leather, in all our side listings on The Leather Guy, we give you a "largest square" measurement as well as a photo of the hide with measuring tapes to show the full width and length of the side!
When we list the "Largest Square" in the description, this is what we are measuring on the side or hide. As you can see, there is still plenty of leather to use.
This measurement is simply to show the cleanest, largest cut you can get out of the hide without using the natural edges.
In the photos here at The Leather Guy, you will find a photo that includes not only any defects that may affect your project, but also measuring tapes so you can judge the true size of the piece against your needs.
Curious how leather is measured by hand when there isn't a laser scanner around?
Hides are measured from top to bottom, side to side. Rough edges are accounted for when making the measurements, meaning that the leather outside the dotted line gets counted towards the empty spaces inside the lines.
The equation for figuring out Square Feet is simple!
Length (in inches) X Width (in inches) = A A divided by 144 = SF
Example: 64X42 = 2688
2688/144 = 18.7 SF
If you come across leather sold by the yard, be sure to double-check that it is genuine and not faux leather. Faux leather will usually be on a ream or spool and listed in yards.