Mice have delightfully soft fur. They are also prolific, easy to catch, and easy to skin. The first time I ever even heard of mouse use for hides was last summer at the Echoes in Time skills gathering. One of the basket girls had a tiny mouse hide bag. I thought it was a wonderfully creative and adorable idea, and, being a maker, I wanted to try making one myself. Mouse hides are the perfect size for amulet bags.
The first part was the mouse hides. Mice are generally trapped anyway because they are often a nuisance, so instead of disposing of the mice from the traps as usual, I threw them in a bag in the freezer. When I had a few I decided to try skinning them. It was much easier than I thought it would be. I thawed them just enough, so that the innards were still mostly solid, but the skin was supple. The skins are very thin and therefore delicate, but they peel right off. The most difficult part was figuring out where to cut the ears and the lips to get the face off intact. I discovered that a cut right under the ears will bring them off nicely, and a pre-cut along the edges of the mouth makes the whole face much easier to deal with. It took me three tries to get a good one with the whole face and no holes (the one pictured).
I then soaked the hides in Earl Grey tea for a few days. Tea contains tannic acid which treats the hide and because the hides were so small, it was much easier to use tea than bark. This is essentially bark tanning. I do not know much about bark tanning, but I find braintan.com‘s section on bark tanning very informative. It’s a highly interesting process. I then rubbed oil (walnut oil mixed with beeswax to be exact because that’s what I had at the time) to soften the hide.
To make the bag, I folded the back end of the hide up to the ears and whip stitched the sides closed. I then sewed a piece of buckskin lace under the fold of the flap (on the backside of the ears). To make the fold nice, I left the bag with the flap folded down under a book for a while.
“Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…” – Clement Clarke Moore, A Visit From St. Nicolas