Guest Posting: How to make a SCOBY Leather Bag from Kombucha, by Holos Kombucha

This article is re-posted from the Holos Kombucha blog, May 7, 2024. It appears here with their express permission. Note that Holos also supply researcher Reeti Roy of Imperial College, London with excess SCOBY pellicles from their Sussex brewery for her experiments.

How to make a SCOBY Leather Bag from Kombucha: Eco-Chic Fashion, by Joseph Landreth Smith, Head of Brand, Holos Kombucha

When it comes to sustainable fashion, innovation knows no bounds. Here’s how to grow and make your own leather bag, not from traditional animal hides but from a surprising source – kombucha.

At Holos, we are always throwing large, healthy SCOBY material into the compost bin. It’s a perfectly normal part of our fermentation process and each vessel will keep growing one or even several layers of SCOBYs on top of the tea mix. I could find very little information online about how to go about turning my SCOBY into leather, like it was some kind of secret! So I’m here to bare all, explain what I did and what I would do differently, to create this SCOBY leather bag.

Watch the video.

How to make a SCOBY leather bag from kombucha

1. Growing & harvesting: The SCOBY I harvested was from our starter brew blend which involved just sencha green tea. It had been left alone untouched and unmoved for 2-3 months before I took it off. The room was at 21-22c at all times, but this is only absolutely crucial for the first week or so. It was thick, but not thick enough, to grow thicker and grow quicker I would recommend decreasing the depth of liquid and at least doubling up on the sugar used. More on the exact recipe at the end.

2. Harvesting & framing: When taking off my SCOBY, I was pretty relaxed and didn’t think about it too much, I wasn’t planning on making anything until I saw how beautiful and thick this mother was. I quickly hung it outside for a few days on a rusty pole to let the water drain off. I also did all this when our manufacturing schedule needed me to rather then when I could of for this project. At this point, before any draining or any drying, would be a good time to place it in a dye bucket overnight for your chosen color. The final color looks like skin and is very see through, two things that are not ideal for clothes.

Instead: I would recommend taking it off more carefully then I did and also give it a bit of a clean. Get it into a stronger, thicker, tighter frame within 24 hours, keeping it flat and level before and framing! Not hanging! It meant that some sections of the material ended up weaker because the drained and dried quicker (also the rust didn’t help). 

3. Treating: I made a small wallet once before, again, spontaneously, and treated the material with coconut oil and beeswax to try and stay ethical and sustainable and whatever. The thing crumbled to shreds after 6 weeks. Not this time baby. I mixed a 1-1 ratio of raw linseed oil (aka flaxseed) for flexibility and turpentine for water resistance. I painted this on both sides and let it dry each time, I did this about five times and this took me about a month. I hung up my framed SCOBY in my garage but next time I either need to keep rotating or try and treat it flat lay, wiping the liquids on, as it did sometimes look streaky. Also I ripped it a bit! Again, next time I need to get my materials together before I harvest, I was waiting a few too many days (again) while they arrived. I should of massaged some of these liquids into the SCOBY before it has a chance to fully dry. 

4. Cutting: Not a bad job. But this when being a proper textile student would come in handy. I need to properly measure and a cut fabric pattern (eg. lay newspaper on top and spray glue them on). Use leather or fabric scissors and just me more precious and detailed over it all. If it rips, change your measurements, start again, don’t cut corners, you can’t save it. I used a rusty old Stanely knife to chomp at it. It still felt a bit sticky and rough which was concerning, next time I might try more of a ‘buffing’ technique when treating and also a proper buff on cutting day.

5. Sewing: Again I’m no pro, and experience here would of been great. I just slapped it under an old sewing machine and again chomped it up a bit! I should of used a leather sewing kit and gone by hand, or swapped in a leather needle into the machine. I’m personally more ‘freestyle to learn’ then ‘research to learn’.

I will update this blog in a couple of months on how it’s holding up. It’s the perfect size for a can or two of my kombucha, or even as a tiny keys/wallet/phone bag! I personally love it and it’s amazing that this can be just grown from a liquid. The whole process must of taken 3-4 months, so it’s slow, it’s a labor of love and care and timing.

If you want the tea recipe details or you’re interested in growing some SCOBYs or even making your own kombucha drinks, then I suggest getting hold of our kombucha starter kit. It’s one box, ready to brew on arrival and perfect start to your leather growing journey. 


The views and opinions expressed in this guest posting are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of this publication.

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