I've been getting into shoemaking, currently working on my fourth pair. I really enjoy it, and I like making shoes that are not as environmentally, socially, or physically damaging as the average shoe sold in the USA today.
To keep costs down, I bought a batch of off-cut leather remnants. Of course, they were of lower quality than better sections of the hide, and I had to work around blemishes and avoid weak areas.
Eventually, I'd like to start using salvaged leather from old leather furniture and clothing.
So my question is: how to use inferior leather successfully? Can thin leather be glued together to create a thicker layer? Can unblemished, thin leather from clothing be glued onto more robust but flawed pieces of leather? Can backing up leather with cloth strengthen it? What about putting in extra (and decorative) stitching around the edges and other potential failure points? Can the seams used to join smaller pieces of leather together become a decorative design feature? How to discern when a piece of leather is too weak or will stretch in a weird way?
As I see it, if "junk" leather can be used to make workable shoes, everyone comes out ahead. Even if they wear out twice as fast, they'd still have less environmental impact compared to using brand-new, premium leather. And I'm making my shoes so that they can be easily repaired, trying to use water-based adhesives and stitching to hold them together rather than solvent-based adhesives.