I'm on a mission. I want to find as many small leather companies and leathercrafters who live right here in the good ol' United States of America. The mission is simple, support these artists in anyway I can. Unfortunately, my budget doesn't allow me to buy something from everybody... But I would if I could! That's how amazing I think these folks are! As I (slowly, or I'll go broke) purchase their quality goods, I'll write a little blurb about each product and company. The journey has begun!
The bag itself is perfect for me. The strap can be adjusted to be worn on the shoulder or across the body. Add in the full-grain cowhide and brass hardware and this satchel should last me a lifetime! (They recommend not evening conditioning the bag for awhile and just letting it patina.) I can fit most of my accessories in there, including my water bottle and tablet, which is great for traveling. It also makes a good everyday bag if I am going to be out for awhile and I don't want to bring around my Duluth briefcase. The man bag (calling it that) will come in handy on shopping trips, city outings, and hiking adventures!
On to the Corter Leather & Cloth Indigo Travel Wallet (Special Edition 2016 yeah!). With my upcoming journey to Rome in October, I was looking for a good looking passport wallet. A bunch of the crafters make them but I decided on Corter because they have the cast iron key ring at the top. I really couldn't find another one like that. Also, the dying of the leather is just beautiful! From their website:
"We designed this tannage ourselves completely from scratch. Our signature Indigo Latigo is a latigo leather that is drum dyed through the core to be reminiscent of freshly oxidized indigo. It is then hot stuffed by hand with waxes and oils to be soft and ready to use. It will age darker over time, burnishing in spots of high wear and developing a deep blue patina."
Being a fan of denim, and having just gotten Pigeon Tree Crafting's Indigo Belt (will be in Part 2), I knew that this travel wallet was the right choice! Plus, the fact that they tanned this leather themselves makes it really special and unique.
The wallet arrived within a few days, and funny story, came right when I received my passport! Awesome. The passport pocket is a little snug but I know it will form to it with more use (plus I don't have to worry about it falling out...). There are two card slots for credit cards and the back of the wallet as an extra slot. The saddle stitching (Entirely hand stitched, no machine!) is perfect and the contrasting blue thread is a really nice touch. The snap button closure is brass (I believe) and doesn't have that "cheap" hardware feel like so many name brand companies use to cut corners.
The company's itself has a very informative website. For example, in their 'Materials' section, they break down and describe each type of leather they use. That extra mile some companies go to let the consumer know about their materials and crafting process I find really interesting.
I am very happy with my choice of a travel wallet and it will get a lot of use through the years!
Well, that's part one! I hope to keep finding these little leather gems that are tucked away under all that trash from department stores. There are still real leatherworkers out there! #findingcrafters
For my full list of companies so far click here. I literally find new ones almost everyday!)
Resale shops are awesome. You can find some true gems if you get lucky! I found this pair of Nordstrom Made in Italy Women's Moccasins at this resale store for only $10! Here they are getting ready to be dyed:
I don't know the exact model, but they appear to be an older model and factory seconds of Tod's 'Gommini' Driving Moccasin. Regardless, they were in pretty good shape when I got them, no stitches falling out, no stains or discoloring etc... They had creases from previous wear of course but that is normal. The only real problem with them is that the color is just so... Blah (at least to us anyways).
The only thing that really needed to be done to them before dyeing them (in my opinion) was to give them a once over with a horsehair brush and condition them. To condition the moccasins, I used Saphir Renovateur- Luxury Leather Care Balm. I really like this product and use it on my belts before dyeing them as well in order to keep them from getting completely dried out from the dye. It also smells amazing!
So I used the conditioner, waited about 15 minutes, then buffed the shoes again with a horsehair brush. I cannot say that this method is the right way or not, but it works for me and I have done it on several projects without any issues.
To dye the moccasins, I use Fiebing's Low VOC Brown Dye. I usually just go down to the street to Hobby Lobby and pick up the dye there. I can't really compare it to other dyes because I have not used much else besides the Brown and Black VOC Dyes by Fiebing's. What I can say is that it does a good job but that you probably should wear gloves and cover your work space. It can get pretty messy!
The other products I used were a dauber, cotton swabs (for the places the dauber couldn't get to). and Fiebing's Tan-Kote as a finishing layer after the dyeing process was complete. I realize that in most cases, it is probably a good idea to use a deglazer to remove the original finish but I didn't have any! Oh well, I dyed them anyways.
The dyeing process is pretty calming, although the leather on the sole had to be done almost entirely with a cotton swab because of those round rubber traction pieces. I put about 3 coats of dye on, taking a small break in-between to let the dye absorb a bit. I have noticed with brown dye that the color you see when you first dye a project is definitely not the color you get when it's all said and done! So in my opinion, waiting a bit between each coat helps you see where on your project there needs to be more dye added and where there doesn't.
The final outcome was a success! The previous dye kept the finished color of the shoes lighter than I expected, almost like a shiny tan look. They stand out more and there are less imperfections than I thought (and what usually results when I use brown dye)! Pictured below is the finish product:
I think they look really good and I hope my lovely lady enjoys them! Also, this process didn't come about because of a huge mistake like it did the last time I dyed shoes!
Products: Leather Shoes, Boots, and Other Accessories
Founder(s): Sebastian Blanco and Antonio Garcia Pastor
Product in Post: Marco/Cuero
"What?! You dyed an expensive pair of good looking shoes?! You idiot!"
Yes I know, it wasn't my first option. In fact, I was trying to "renew" the shoe and make it shine like new... Unfortunately, being a new and a novice to the whole world of leather, I fail more than I succeed.
The good news is that I bought the shoes (about three months ago) used and very cheap from Last Chance, the so-called "last" place Nordstrom products end up ( after Nordstrom Rack). Being from an outlet store, the Magnanni shoes I purchased are most likely used factory seconds.
They sure did seemed used at least: there was a lot of creasing, significant wear on the leather soles, and the straps had seen better days. Regardless, when I tried them on, they were one of the most comfortable dress shoes I have ever worn! Sold!
I should explain that these were my very first pair of quality dress shoes. My other ones were bought new for cheaper than I got the Magnanni's and some even had that dreaded huge square toe (I am ashamed)! So the first thing I wanted to do when I got home was polish and make them "brand new." And I may have been a little overzealous...
One of the reasons I was so excited to work on them is because I watched Carl Murawaski's "How to Make Cheap Boots Look Expensive" video. Watch below:
So in reality it's Carl's fault! Haha, no, just kidding, his video blogs have been very beneficial to me and I might have actually done it right if I had actually watched and listened to the whole video... He actually gives fair warning to do what he's doing in the video, I just didn't listen!
I really wanted these shoes to turn out nice and it was getting late at night, and some projects you can't quit until they are done! Realizing how bad they looked I panicked and decided to dye the shoes. The dye I used was Fiebing's Low VOC Leather Dye. At first, I thought brown would be a good way to go, but since I hadn't thought to wipe off the black polish, the shoes started to look worse! So black dye was really the only option.
I am pretty satisfied with the results, considering the complete train wreck at the beginning of the project. I certainly learned my lesson to be patient when it comes to leather work, from actually doing my own leather crafting to polishing. All in all, they are a solid pair of shoes and you cannot tell they were dyed with the naked eye. But would I do it again? Absolutely not!
The actual process of dyeing the shoes was rather easy; especially since black is probably the easiest to work worth. After they dried, I coated them with Fiebing's Tan Kote Finish to give them some protection (they need it since I am the owner) and then polished the shoes to get a nice shine (yes, I used black shoe polish). -Stylin' Asian