Making Vegan Leather - Batch 1.0

Updated: Sep 22, 2021

With the first batch of leather collected from Wild Boocha's brewery, thankfully only 5 mins away from where I live, I quickly got to work because I was pretty excited to find out how SCOBY leather feels and behaves.

First of 2 large pieces from Wild Boocha.

I was blown away at the amount they gave, as well as how big the pellicles came in. Homebrewers have their pellicles in mason jars, so they're only as big as the container the kombucha's brewed in. Luckily for me, Wild Boocha's containers were massive, and it'll do me good having large pieces of SCOBY for large pieces of leather.

I had to wash the excess yeast off under running water for a bit. The pellicle was very fresh and it felt extra slimy, probably due to the excess yeast. After washing, it was noticeably less slimy. I laid out some newspaper on the kitchen counter to see how large, and how thin the pellicle was.

Size compared with my personal bifold and phone.

The second piece was much thicker than the first, and also much larger. It weighed what felt like 3-4kg. My guess-timation, but it was impressive nonetheless. I laid that one out on a big blue tarp I had lying around.

My aim for the first batch was just to dry them out to see exactly how much moisture is lost, and how much pellicle would be left that would be my vegan leather.

From my research, it was pretty evident that most of what a SCOBY pellicle is is water, so I expected to be losing about 80-90% mass. I folded the thin pellicle into 3, and the thicker one into 2.

The larger, once folded pellicle, I left on the tarp, whilst I cut the other into 2 and placed them on aluminium baking trays.

I proceeded to "bake" one of the trays at 50 degrees Celsius, for 2 hours at a time to try to dehydrate it quicker, and left the other 2 out in the sun for the day. I also knew that leaving them out to dry would take a few days.

Baked SCOBY leather. Crispy edges.

After baking the one tray for about 4 hours, I saw that most of the (visible) moisture from the pellicle was out! Officially, I had made my first successful tray of vegan leather out of SCOBY! Elated, but upon inspection, I realised that it was paperthin and felt like parchment. They weren't kidding when they said SCOBY was mainly water. It also felt brittle at the edges, possibly due to the over-dehydration from baking.

Peeling the SCOBY off that baked tray was precarious. It often started ripping from the burnt edges, but its tensile strength from the material itself was strong, considering it was 0.01mm thin. I'm already impressed, thinking that if it was even 1mm thick, it could very well serve it's function as a leather alternative for smaller items

Fast forward 2 days, the other 2 sun-dried pieces were on their way to being dried out. As an organic material, drying out would reveal the differences in thickness throughout the material, as shown in the photos below.

For me, I have no problems with it. As a crafter, I accept the beauty in naturally made things, and I also have no intention of making vegan leather made out of SCOBY look like real leather. I think it takes something special about the material away. I'm quite happy that SCOBY leather looks and feels the way it does, in all it's weird "ugliness", and funky yeast-y smell when you put your nose to it.

In the next post, I'll be showing the results of the sun-dried pieces, as well as some other notes on the material.

Till next time, gentlefolk!

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