Monday, November 24, 2008

How to dye an Untooled Piece of 3/32nds Leather Lacing

My apologies that a version of this went out last night before it was ready. I hit the wrong button.....

I know it seems sort of basic to start with an article on how to dye an untooled piece of lacing, but a lot of folks that get into miniatures and leatherworking for that fact, don't quite know how to start. It took me a couple of years and reading to figure out how to dye a piece of lacing and not have it turn out stiff. Hopefully I can save someone a few
years of frustration with this article.

DISCLAIMER: I am not saying that this is the only way to dye a piece of lacing. I am just showing you MY WAY of doing things. Admittedly I tend to be stubborn and sometimes I do things the hard way. Everyone has their own process and it's best to develop your own flow.

Firstly, I use Fiebing's Oil dyes. The folks that have been working in leather for a while all swear that it covers more evenly than the water based dyes. I have to agree with that.

Next, I use little plastic containers with a long "nose" on them to keep a portion of my dye in. I use this for two reasons:

1. I like the control that the needle nose gives me (I am a notorious klutz) for both pouring dye into the plastic container and into my plastic pallet;

2. It saves the dye that stays in the original container from constant exposure to air. I think I bought them as "glue" containers from a seller on Ebay and I don't think that they were too expensive. (I don't recall actual price because it's been so long.)

I also use paint brushes to apply dye instead of the wool daubers that Tandy recommends. I currently use a dick blick paint brush 2/0 that has been thinned out a bit. Again, I have had that paint brush for so long that I don't really recall the price. I know that it's called a "liner" when looking the brushes up on line or in a art/craft supply store. Don't buy a brush that is too expensive. The dye will turn the brush dark pretty quickly and you don't want to ruin a good sable brush. Just make sure that it's a decent brush that won't lose bristles while you are using it.

The natural colored lacing that I use is uncoated. I bought it from Melody Snow - . I use the uncoated natural lacing because I find that the dye goes on it more evenly. If you use uncoated lacing, make sure that you only touch the ends of the piece of lacing. The leather will absorb any oils from your fingers and your dye won't stick where your fingers touched. (Or it could turn the leather a black/grey color where you touched it)

If you don't wish to buy uncoated natural colored lacing, you'll need to "deglaze" it first before dying. You will need Tandy's "deglazer" and a q-tip. Dab the qtip into the deglazer and keep rubbing the top/grain side of the lacing until it no longer has a shiny coating on it. I don't know how successful I've ever been at deglazing so I can't offer much more than that. Make sure your lacing is dry all of the way through before dying it.

I use plastic paint pallets to put the dye I'm using in. You can get these at any craft store, or walmart or any art supply store.

Make sure you have some water handy for cleaning your brush and dilluting your dye. I save old spaghetti sauce Jars for this purpose.

Aways have paper towels handy in case you splash or spill or for "dabbing" your full brush.

It's probably best that you have a few layers of newspaper between what you are dying and the surface you're dying on. I use an old "Drawing Board" that has a resistive surface but if you don't have anything like that, newspaper is fine. Make sure your newspaper is VERY THICK because dye goes through anything. Make sure you wear something you don't mind getting dye on.

If at all possible, try to use natural lighting to dye your lacing. I have a desk that is near a window and I use a desk lamp for lighting.

Ok so those are our supplies. Now cut off a length of lacing that you wish to dye. I try not to dye too much at once because it gets tedious dying a really long piece. I probably dye about a foot at a time max. If you cut a shorter piece, you may need something to hold either end so that the lacing will lie flat, top/grain side up.

Pour some dye from the long nose container into one of the little circles in the paint pallet. Then dip your brush into the water and drop some water into the dye. (You can also use fingernail polish remover to "cut" your dye but I use water because the fingernail polish remover will dry out the dye faster) I "cut" my dye because I think that straight dye onto the lacing soaks into the lacing too quickly making some spots darker than others. I
probably dip my brush into water and then drip water into the dye about 3 times.

I then dip my brush into the dye and I dab the brush onto a paper towel before I put it to the lace. This takes a little bit of the dye off of your brush so again, it'll help the dye go on more evenly.

Start at one end of your lacing, and hold the brush so that you can pull the bristles sideways across the top of the lacing. Make sure that you do not get the dye onto the sides of the lacing. Putting dye on the side of the lacing will make the lacing stiff and make the lacing hard to skyve later on. Pull the brush sideways across the lacing until your run out of dye.

(you can see above where I slipped off of the top of the lacing and accidently hit the side)

Dip your brush back into the dye in the paint pallet and stir it up a bit to make sure that the water and the oil dye are well mixed. Then load up your brush again, dab it on the paper towel and start where you left off. This will leave lighter and darker spots on the lacing, but this is ok because you can go back and fill in light spots later.

When you have gone across the lacing the first time with dye, let the dye dry before starting the second coat. It is important not to put too much dye on the lacing at once because the dye will go too dark too quickly and become sort of "metallic" looking.

(Lacing after first pass)

Then Start your second coat. I usually start from the opposite end that I started on the first pass and repeat the directions above. The number of passes depends on how dark the dye is. For the DK Brown that I'm using, I usually do at least three passes and then go in and fill in any light spots and even it out the best I can.

After the lacing completely dries I will finish it with Super Shene or Antiquing paste. How you finish it is up to you :-)

I Hope this helps! If you have any questions, please leave me a comment and let me know!


Mandy said...

Visiting from The Secret is in the Sauce, you were ahead of me in roll call.:)
Your work is beautiful! Beautiful doesn't do it justice--it's really amazing. Thanks for sharing your amazing talent.

Lorie said...

What a great blog! And what beautiful creations!!