Tuesday, May 17, 2011

restore to save more: how to dye leather

Those of you who found my blog on the ever-awesome YLF forum (the site that single-handedly restored my faith in kind, supportive women) have already heard heaps on my love affair with leather dye, but I wanted to consolidate all my dye posts into a single how-to before I forget all about them and they fall off the edge of the interweb.

Dyeing for the Perfect Color
My problem this past Fall: I needed to replace my dark brown boots, but I couldn't find anything to fit my calves. One pair came close, but the leather was so soft, the shafts puddled around my ankles. The solution: a damaged pair of Sam Edelman boots at the swap meet (they were these, but damaged on the OTK part). Wrong color, wrong style, but the calf fit like a second skin, and the price was right. Cheap boots + brown dye = experiment time! It might sound scary to some but I prefer to take matters into my own hands, rather than wait for the winds of fate to blow new boots my way.

I chopped off the damaged top of the boots to get them down to the height I liked best, and I reattached the buckle detail where I liked it. Then it was time to bust out Tarrago's self shine leather dye kit in dark brown.

  • Step one: Scrub with preparer fluid (provided) to make sure the leather will accept the dye.
  • Step two: Use paint brush (provided) to paint dye into seams, crevices, and anywhere else hard to reach with a sponge.
  • Step three: Use sponge (provided) to apply dye to boots. Use a circular motion, and don't let the dye glob up - spread it out nice and thin so that the leather can absorb it. Let coats dry.
  • Step four: Check out your dye job in various types of light to see if there is a nice, even color. Repeat step three as needed.
You can also use masking tape to protect hardware or other elements that you don't want dyed, but I am pretty steady with a brush (and impatient), so I skipped that part. Didn't matter in the least for me. It seriously was THAT easy. I didn't make a mess, didn't run into any problems.

Dyeing to Erase Damage
Where I undertook the above boot project to satisfy my impatient nit-picky-ness, I decided to dye this bag in order to restore its stained, dirty leather. Dying the bag was a tiny bit harder than dying the boots, simply because there were more design elements to work around: buckles, straps, folds, zippers. However, it was still super easy -- I made it a point to put in as little effort as possible -- and it still turned out really well. I even managed to spilled the preparer fluid all over the bag... Oops. It didn't matter at all. :)
Shortcuts: This time around, I did not paint every single seam (as per the instructions) before using the sponge. I used the sponge from the get-go, and just tried to make sure I got every nook and cranny. This saved a lot of time, because you have to sponge over the brush strokes anyway, in order to prevent glooping and keep a nice, even color.


Hardware Hardships: I make the decision not to tape over much of the hardware, and I also gave dying the zipper fabric a shot. A bit of dye leaked through the zipper fabric, so if you want to preserve your lining *and* dye your zipper, then you should tape off the edges of your lining first. I painted over much of the hardware, then tried to remove it with acetone -- this was a problem, as it was impossible to avoid touching acetone to the leather, and it caused color loss. I ended up rubbing the dye off with tissue, and it came off easily without damaging the leather -- MUCH better.


Leather Love: the leather does NOT feel stiff, and the slouch/movement of the bag was not affected. It's an floppy, unstructured bag, and its movement feels the same as before dying. I would say that if you are dying distressed leather, none of the distressing will carry through. It may seem obvious, but the dye definitely makes the leather look brand new... so don't dye if you need to preserve a super matte/sueded/nubuck type look.


Well, there you have it! Whether you give a so-so item that extra oomph or pull a truly busted item back from the brink of your donation pile, leather dye is your friend. From now on, I will always look past the current condition of a leather item and consider what its condition could be after a quick coat of dye.

14 comments:

  1. I'm here via YLF. What can I say except that I fangirl you like woah for what you've done with these boots! The colour, the cut - they fit you beautifully. Totally Uh-Mazing!

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  2. where did you buy the dye kit in la?

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  3. Hi Abby, I've bought my kits from both Ebay and Amazon. The link in the body text will take you to the Ebay seller I prefer. :)

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  4. Don't buy this dye from eBay!! They charge $14 a bottle when you can google "Tarrago leather dye" and find it for $6.99 a bottle!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the tip - when I bought, it was $9 shipped on Ebay. Yes, you can find it elsewhere for about $6.99, but don't forget to factor in shipping and tax, which other sites may charge in addition to the list price.

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  5. Which shade of blue is that? I'm trying to decide which shade I want, and I've looked at multiple color swatches that show different darkness for the same color.

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    Replies
    1. Hi, Ann Maine! I used the "Air Force Blue" color, and I'd say the final pic is true to life (at least on my monitor). I agree that those swatches can vary wildly!

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  6. How is the dye holding up? Any crackling or other flaws? Would love an update.

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  8. Leather colorant kits can be used to restore worn patches, large areas of co lour loss or even to change the co lour of your leather.
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    ReplyDelete
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