For the past several months I've been making a bunch of different kinds of accessories featuring intricate cut-out designs backed with iridescent film.
I started with a vision of what I wanted to make; an insect or fairy wing effect (which also turns out to be reminiscent of stained glass), and specifically set out to find materials that would work.
I had certain requirements for my structural material. It had to be flexible but not floppy, durable, paintable, glueable, non-toxic and cut well on my Zing electronic cutting machine.
I experimented with several materials; EVA craft foam, different fabrics, leather, faux leather, plastic crafting sheets, various kinds of paper and cardstock.
The papers cut beautifully, but weren't terribly durable.
The fabrics, leather, faux leather and foam were too soft, stretchy and/or fibrous to cut intricate detail well. The plastic sheets looked flimsy and cheap.
I needed something that cut like paper but held up like leather. I started looking into synthetic papers (of which there are a number), and ultimately came across this stuff: Kraft*Tex.
What is Kraft*Tex? Turns out you may have been wearing it most of your life without realizing it. Kraft*Tex is what those leathery tags on the backs of your Levi's jeans are made of.
It's been used in the garment industry for decades, and only recently been marketed as a crafting material.
In it's raw form it looks like a sturdy cardstock, with one paper-smooth side and one subtly textured side. But if you scrunch it up, or wash it, it gets creased and crinkled, which gives it a very convincing leather appearance. It starts out rather stiff, but over time and use, it softens into more of a fabric-like feel. It can be sewn, folded, molded into 3-dimenional shapes...probably a bunch of other stuff, too!
It is very durable, washable, flexible, paintable, glueable, non-toxic and, once I hammered out the settings and mounting techniques, it cuts like a dream on the Zing.
But still - what IS it? A paper? A plastic? A fabric? I couldn't find the answer to this question on the web, so I emailed the manufacturer, C&T publishing, and asked them. They replied promptly, informing me that it's a paper pulp impregnated with a kind of latex.
(Note: for those of you with latex allergies, don't worry - my accessories don't have any Kraft*Tex directly in contact with the skin).
Folks are starting to play with this amazing material - mostly making things like wallets, bags and book covers - things often made of natural leather.
But Kraft*Tex has many advantages over natural leather. A. No animals are harmed. B. It's cheaper than leather. C. It's more consistent than real leather (which tends to have flaws and uneven thicknesses and come in irregularly sized and shaped pieces, which results in a lot of waste scraps. D. It's actually more durable than real leather of the same thickness.
Here's a video with some great info: