HAND-CRAFTED LEATHER GOODS
Preparing vegetable-tanned leather for dyeing
The leather can be cleaned by simply sponging it with lukewarm water. Avoid rubbing your fingers over the leather to be dyed as much as possible as the acids or oils from the skin will inhibit the dye penetration. When using the sponge apply it lightly, quickly and as evenly as possible.
Let the leather dry before dyeing, though in some instances lightly dampening the part to be dyed will aid its penetration.
It's easier to get an even result using full-strength colours straight from the bottle. Several applications will increase the intensity of the colour until the saturation point is reached.
Using a diluted mixture some dye pigments may be heavier than others if the solution is not thoroughly mixed, thus causing darker streaks. Bear in mind also that certain parts of a hide will accept dye pigments more easily than others. Also certain colours are more difficult than others to control to obtain an even coverage. Only practice and experience ensures success.
It is beneficial to have at least half-a-dozen brushes of each of the varying sizes you use. This makes sense considering the range of colours you use, yellows, reds, greens, blues, browns and blacks, and dipping your brush into very penetrating spirit dyes, the hairs quickly absorb it, and some can get trapped inside the ferrule. So, unless care is taken to thoroughly clean a brush these pigments can be released, bleeding back into the lower part of the brush, causing discolouration when using another colour. Keeping brushes as much as possible to the one colour eliminates this possibility. I'm sure you would not be pleased when the brush you'd used for yellow then 'cleaned' before using it for blue, you suddenly realised was actually producing green!
Yes, you can re-dye the colour of a belt! (the leather the belt is made from is not dissimilar to shoe leather). You can usually buy a de-glazer from a shoe-repairer or good shoe shop to remove the clear top-finish on the belt (Or acetone from a paint and wallpaper shop. Nail-polish remover will work at a pinch, but it’s an expensive way to do it). You can then use a "shoe colouring dye" from the same shoe-repairer or shoe-shop to re-colour the belt, assuming you can find the right colour. This “dye” will be a largely opaque dye (more like a paint) than the Fiebing’s leather dyes from a leather-crafts shop, which are transluscent and will only darken the existing colour.
Has a lacquer base and is very durable and clear, it is waterproof with a glossy finish. It is ideal for leather items receiving a lot of hard wear, especially outdoors. Clean brushes used to apply it in Neat-Lac thinner or cellulose thinner.
This finish is waterbased. It is clear, with a semi-waterproof finish that applies smoothly and will not streak, with a non-shiny finish. It can also be used to thin antiquing stains, not only that, but small amounts of Spectra Shade dye can be mixed with it to colour-tint the finish. The only drawback, though a minor one, is its liability to become spotted and stained if subjected to prolonged periods out in the rain. A big plus is that you can clean your brushes in water.
This is a water-repellent acrylic and when dry has a high-gloss finish. It is hard-wearing and flexible and can be applied to the majority of leather items.
This is actually a very light antique stain and when it dries it gives a semi-gloss finish to the article. It is useful too for accenting tool impressions and knife cuts. Water can be used to clean your brushes.
This is a stain very similar to Leather Glow but is much, much darker and will dry to a semi-gloss finish. It is the perfect medium for almost all stamped designs and for enhancing tool impressions and knife cuts. Make sure you don't waste time cleaning your brushes in warm water, otherwise they go stiff and tacky.
This is a water-based leather conditioner. It's full of natural waxes (carnauba is a yellowish wax from the Brazilian palm), and when dry, polishes up to give a nice sheen. It's most suitable for smooth, plain leather surfaces. Though it can be used on carved leather, that necessitates using a stiffish brush over all cuts and impressions after it's dried. Neither will it enhance carved or stamped designs as the two finishes above. You'll also need to use warm soapy water to clean your brushes.
You can get this in brown or black and it's primarily used to finish off the edges of belts, handbags and any other item not having a laced or turned edge finish. You can if you so wish use it to dye the backs of belts or any other item without a lining leather. It's not the most penetrating of dyes so you'd be better to first dye the edges with a black or brown Pro Dye to ensure a solid base for it. Rinse out your brushes immediately before washing in warm soapy water.
Colouring Leather - more examples
Every piece, although made with today's leather-working tools is made as it was made years ago. Remember, leather is a natural product and we work with the material in the traditional way, not only to produce an item that looks good, but will be durable in everyday use.
The same applies to the colouring of the leather. The dyes may be made, though not all, in a different way, but the care and patience in their application is no different today than it ever was.
All items shown on these pages are made by hand. By hand, meaning using our own hands, and a needle or rivets and a mallet. No machinery of any kind is used to produce any item we make. If an item is sewn, it is sewn by hand, not a sewing machine.
If the edges are finished by thonging (or, if you prefer, lacing) it is done by hand using a needle and the appropriate lace. The leather used to make each item is cut by hand using either a knife or scissors, no matter how intricate the pattern.