Dyeing Leather
January 21, 2011 9:37 AM   Subscribe

I would like to dye this brown leather bag black. Tips?

I love the bag, but rarely wear brown. I would prefer to dye it myself, but if that has a high likelihood of turning out badly, I am willing to get it dyed.

If I do it myself, what brand of leather dye should I use? Any tips for making it go smoothly? How likely is it to turn out well/poorly? Or would you suggest I get it dyed professionally? Any and all input is welcome.
posted by insectosaurus to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'd try the leather dyes that Dharma Trading Company has just started carrying. They say to start with a Laather Preparer and Deglazer, so the dye can reach the leather.
posted by Ery at 9:40 AM on January 21, 2011

What is the stitching made of? If it's not leather, it may not take the dye and you'll have a blackish bag with very prominent brown stitching. Leather dying is really tricky; you can easily end up with a streaky mess if you haven't done it before. If that's a favorite bag, at least stop in to a high-end shoe/bag repair shop for a consultation about how it's likely to turn out. Also, what about picking up a thrift shop leather bag to practice using the dye?
posted by Frowner at 9:47 AM on January 21, 2011

a blackish bag with very prominent brown stitching.

Though it's amazing what the careful application of a Sharpie can do about these sorts of things.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:57 AM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Artbag, a company that specializes in handbag repair, cleaning and dyeing, once warned me that the dyes used to turn colored bags black could come off on my clothes.
posted by Lycaste at 11:26 AM on January 21, 2011

Hmm, not a direct answer but to me that bag looks tan rather than brown. Tan leather bags go well with most colors, including black, in my opinion. But this is probably down to personal preference (and the colors could look different on my browser).
posted by JenMarie at 11:34 AM on January 21, 2011

Don't dye it, I really don't think you'll be happy. I've dyed several leather items in several different ways (including at highly recommended leather specialists), it never turns out well for anything flexible, although it can be ok on smaller stiffer items like boots. IME the best case scenario is that you end up with a stiff, slightly flaky bag with an odd finish to it.

Personally I think the bag is lovely in tan, and that the color is a big part of its overall look. If you really want to change it I think you should just sell it on Ebay and buy a black version.
posted by crabintheocean at 11:52 AM on January 21, 2011

Best answer: Leather usually has a finish applied over the dye, which helps with the issue Lycaste mentions of bleeding dye. If you try to simply apply dye to a finished leather product, generally it won't stick and will come off on anything it touches.

To re-dye a finished leather product, you must first remove the finish. Then you apply the new dye, then you re-apply the finish. There are quite a few types of finish, and so that would typically determine what you use to remove it. The company who made the bag might be willing to be helpful on this.

That looks like a really soft leather, of a sort that might be ruined by the wrong product used for removing/replacing finish, so it'd probably help to have a good clear idea what precise products you need to use. If it were pretty stiff and resilient, you could probably just grab one at random and use it, but that's not so easy with a softer leather. You definitely don't want a stiff or thick replacement finish, or it will crack.

If it were me, and I were willing to go ahead and experiment with the knowledge that it might ruin the texture of the bag, I'd use:

Fiebings Deglazer applied with a sponge liberally to make sure it gets over, around, under, and EVERYwhere, perhaps also using some Q-tips or small wool daubers to get in cracks.

While it's still wet, apply

Fiebings Leather Dye in USMCBlack applied with large, medium, and small wool daubers to get it applied evenly and thoroughly. Make sure you get everywhere, in and under and around. Any spot you miss will be quite noticeable against the black. You may go through several daubers of each kind.

Then after that is completely dry, apply

Carnauba Cream as a soft flexible finish, also applied with wool daubers, very thoroughly. Any spot you miss will rub off (and stain whatever it rubs), and you may have to go through the whole process again to re-dye that spot.

But that's only if I were completely willing to lose the bag if one of the above were not the right product. I'd definitely call the company first and see if I could get a suggestion from them for finish remover, dye, and finish.
posted by galadriel at 12:02 PM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Lucky Magazine has a little piece on dyeing this month.

Here's a summary.

Here's a video.
posted by hansbrough at 1:38 PM on January 21, 2011

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