Thursday, September 26, 2013

Washing Leather Garments

You have got to be kidding me.  That was my first thought when I saw this post about washing leather purses and garments from The Elegant Bohemian blog  
You Can Really Machine Wash Leather It looks like Serene might be taking a break from blogging but this post is still a marvel. 
I wasn't ready to throw a vintage Coach purse into my washing machine but I did pull out my Murphy's Oil Soap to try an experiment.  

Would you wash leather skins?

You see, a few years ago I got caught up in my usual Patternreview and blog frenzy. Several terrific sewists made beautiful leather skirts, purses and jackets and I thought I might join the crowd.  I was stalking visiting Fabric Mart that summer and they were having a clearance sale on remaining leather skins.  Caught up in envy and a buying frenzy (my usual mode of operating at a Fabric Mart sale) I bought a pile of pearlized baby blue leather skins....pearlized baby blue, what was I thinking?  I have five of these suckers in my fabric collection and now no earthly idea what to do with them.  I was going to make a leather jacket and must have thought the baby blue wouldn't look too silly in southwest me, after living for ten years in a wealthy resort area, I could easily imagine some trophy wife wearing a baby blue leather mini dress.  But I have come to my senses and admit that I was just caught up in a perfect fabric frenzy storm.  And although I may be a trophy wife, I don't live in SW Florida anymore.    
Left side the strip I washed and let dry flat overnight.
Maybe a slight "crackling" on the finish on the left side piece of leather
All of that background to say that I am cleaning out my resource center and pulled those skins out of the closet once again.  I decided that perhaps a touch of this blue might be nice on a ponte knit top or skirt.  But would I want to pay dry cleaners to maintain it for me?  That's when I decided to Google handwashing leather and came up with this terrific post.  

I cut off a long strip and tossed it into the sink with half a capful of Murphy's Oil sol, warm water and swished like crazy.  No baby blue in the water and that skin was totally wet and sudsy.  Rinsed it then blotted it dry with a towel, again no dye run off, and I let it dry flat overnight.  I did not precisely measure the piece but it seems not to shrink with the hand washing.....a machine might be different, of course.  The pearlized finish is slightly crackled but other than that the leather looks virtually the same washed or unwashed.  

Wow, this opens up some interesting ideas for my wardrobe while still keeping it hand washing friendly. I don't mind dry cleaning my lined jackets but since I prewash almost all of my fabrics, I'd like the option of delicate washing them at home after sewing them up.  
No immediate plans for this leather but it's nice to know that my options have expanded thanks to some new knowledge.  Have you ever washed weather garments or purses?

In more directly sewing related news from the "studio" I also stitched up a few of these quick items after that detailed dress work.  DO you know what they are?  
Yes, these tubes will become pillowcases for Rhonda's pillowcase drive.  Rhonda's Creative Life

She's doing a great kindness by harnessing the power of her blog to get sewists across the country assembling pillowcases for charity.  Bravo to her and bravo to all of you who give your time and energy to any good cause.


  1. We are on the same wavelength. I have an older leather jacket which is destined to be reused as pieces in another jacket. BUT, this washing question perplexed me. I wash my leather boots, and saddles, and bridles...but condition then afterwards. Thanks for the results of your research.

  2. I am going to make some pillow cases when I get home..I am now in FL visiting Patrick & Cheryl...& very greatful to be here...

  3. Great post! I have a 40 something girlfriend who has a baby blue short leather jacket and it is beautiful... you should make one. Great to be able to wash it too!

  4. Thanks for sharing the results of your leather-washing research. And I'm always so happy when I see more bloggers spreading the word about Rhonda's pillowcase project. Her instructions inspired me to make some and send them along to her, and I posted (briefly) about it -- in the hopes of encouraging others, too. Thanks! Your pillowcases are so very nice!


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