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Revitalizing a Leather Purse

Revitalized leather purse from Tuesday Stitches

Revitalized leather purse from Tuesday Stitches

I bought this worn leather purse at the thrift store thinking I would cannibalize it for the pretty hardware. And when I got it cleaned I noticed that the inside had crafty pocket construction so I set it aside thinking I’d wait to cut it apart until I could take some time exploring how the pockets were constructed. And after it had sat in my WIP pile long enough I decided that it was worth seeing if I could perk the leather back up and give it a second life as is. I think she’s looking good and ready to live her second life!

Revitalized leather purse from Tuesday Stitches

I’m certainly no expert, but I did do a fair bit of reading to figure out the best approach to bring old leather back to life and the following was my approach.

  1. Clean the bag. I had already given the purse a thorough cleaning with soap and water since it was pretty grimy (which isn’t an ideal approach since the soap can strip the leather of oils it needs to stay supple, but at the time I thought I was just going to be cutting it apart anyway). If you can get major grime off with just water that’s a better starting point.
  2. Deglaze the leather. This is an extra cleaning step which gets excess oils off the surface like oils from your hands (so wear gloves from this point on). There are specific leather deglazing products but I’ve read that isopropyl alcohol is sufficient and it’s what I used since we had some under the sink already.
  3. Apply leather dye. I bought Fiebing’s leather dye since it seems to be the most recommended. I applied it to the purse in two separate coats (it dried almost immediately so it didn’t take long). Make sure to wear gloves since it will definitely dye your hands too! The bottle of dye comes with a little applicator but I found it easier just to use a scrap of rag. Make sure you’re getting the dye rubbed into cracks and folds.

Revitalized leather purse from Tuesday Stitches

4. Seal and condition the leather. To seal the leather and recondition it, I used Sno-Seal (partially because I had seen it recommended and partially because I had some in the cupboard from when I sealed my hiking boots). It does make the leather a bit darker but it makes it a lot healthier so it will stay supple and it locks in the dye so it’s worth doing. One thing to pay attention to when applying Sno-Seal is that you want to heat the leather you’re sealing and then apply the Sno-Seal instead of melting the Sno-Seal and then applying it. (I stuck the purse in the oven and then when it was warm I rubbed in the Sno-Seal.) This does mean that you can end up with quite a bit of extra wax on the leather after application so you’ll need to buff it out. If you’re doing it over fresh dye it will buff out some of the dye and get your buffer cloth all waxy so you probably won’t want to use whatever you use as a buffer again – I grabbed some fabric scraps from my fabric recycle bin instead of a rag from the cupboard.

Revitalized leather purse from Tuesday Stitches

And that’s it! Easy peasy. Have you ever redyed or reconditioned leather? I was surprised by how easy it was and how satisfying the end results are! I’m definitely going to keep my eye out for similar projects in the future.

Comments 5

  1. I’ve never dyed leather, but I’ve been thinking about it. I have a pair of red shoes that I love, but I don’t really wear red, so I’ve been contemplating dying them. They’re embossed leather though, so I’m not sure whether the dye will even out the tone too much so that you can’t see the embossing, or highlight the embossing so they’re too contrast-y.

    1. Post
      Author

      I think you should dye them! If you don’t wear the red shoes, they’re not doing you any good sitting in your closet. I’m certainly no expert, but I would suggest dying them a solid color. If you find that the embossing isn’t showing as much as you like, you can add a polish that you dab on very lightly so it only hits the embossed part or you can cover the shoe in the polish and then rub some off so more rubs off of the embossing than the deeper parts.

      1. I actually do wear them. I also really want them either magenta or navy, and I’m not sure whether 1) the magenta will cover or 2) the orange-y red will do weird things to the dye. Predicting the results of overdying is difficult! But you’re right, I should do it.

  2. Hi Erin,

    Love your blog.

    I am intrigued by this project. I have a really nice leather purse that my sister gifted me. It has a stain from what looks like a marker. Otherwise, it’s in very good condition. The color of the leather is a light tan. Could something that color, with that type of stain be successfully dyed? I don’t want to mess the purse up or darken the color. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

    Sarita

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      Author

      Thanks Sarita! If you don’t want to darken the purse, I’d focus on trying to remove the marker before thinking about dye. Be gentle so you don’t remove the dye too. Rubbing alcohol is a good thing to try to start with. I’ve also heard that lighter fluid gets out different kinds of stain/markers.

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