Dyeing a Leather Purse. A Tale of Craft Fail and Success

April 18, 2013Allison Murray

Dyeing a white leather purse with Dream a Little Bigger

I’ve had this purse for just over a year. And for that year I have bravely attempted to keep it its original, lovely ivory color. On the first day carrying her an ill advised attempt at eating sushi in the car gave her a nice sprinkle of purplish brown dots on the front side causing a sincere bout profanity. Did I mention I was driving?

I then spent almost 2 weeks with my little nephews. These kids don’t just like me for my stellar company. No, they also like the Auntie A Carries It All! service. We’ll be walking down a hallway and one will start digging in my purse and when I give them the stink eye I will be informed that I’m carrying Spiderman / a half eaten, open and melting Toblerone / a Capris Sun conveniently strawed up and ready to go. You name it and I’ve probably unwittingly carried it in my purse for those two little buggers.

Dyeing a white leather purse with Dream a Little Bigger

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Now when I bought this gal I really didn’t think twice about the color. I loved it and that was that. It soon became clear after my soy sauce incident that keeping it clean was going to be extremely difficult. See up above? It’s a close up of the war wounds my bag acquired in about two weeks.

Dyeing a white leather purse with Dream a Little Bigger

And if I’m carrying this bag there is a 99% chance that I’m also wearing jeans. And since it is a cross body that sits on my hip, the denim rubs an awful stain onto the back. See the strap. Yeah, it looks so darn nasty. And I’d have to clean my purse every few days but who the heck is that diligent?

So I went to the store looking for the same bag but in a different color. All they had were white ones on steep clearance. Apparently I was the only idiot who thought this color choice was a good idea. I decided that I would salvage my bag by dyeing it a fun color. And I knew just what fun color I wanted, too.

Dyeing a white leather purse with Dream a Little Bigger

I got online and bought myself some Fiebings turquoise leather dye and got after it. It looked fine while it was still wet but when I came back to it the next day it quite literally looked like a bruise. Oh. My. Goodness. This. Is. Tragic.

I put another application on it to see if that fixed the problem. All it did was make the bruise even darker and I managed to get frustrated and apparently wiped my neck a few times with my gloves on. And since my neck is essentially human leather, I had a nice turquoise bruise looking discoloration that I got to deal with for several days. Sweet. This is one awesome DIY, folks.

Dyeing a white leather purse with Dream a Little Bigger

So I ordered up yet another round of teal dye. This time opting for Fiebing’s Acrylic Leather Dye in Turquoise . I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d be getting but the description was that it was opaque which sounded right about what I needed at this point.

It suggests to use a soft brush, so I used my Martha Stewarts because they are by far the silkiest brushes I had. I went ahead and just got after it figuring if it failed at least I could put my poor bag out of its misery.

First coat on the first pocket had me pretty darn stoked. This is going to work!!!

Dyeing a white leather purse with Dream a Little Bigger

But then it dried and I just knew I’d ruined this bag AGAIN. I went ahead and did another coat and after it dried, I was pleasantly surprised. This is going to work out after all.

The pic above shows two coats on the left and a single on the right. Big difference. Huge.

Dyeing a white leather purse with Dream a Little Bigger

And here you can see the bottom done up with acrylic dye and the horrendous regular dyed back.

Dyeing a white leather purse with Dream a Little Bigger

And there she is. I had to do three coats total for decent coverage. It took at least a week for it to dry to the point of no longer being sticky, but I figure it has a lot to do with the high humidity we were having  here. Overall, I am really, really happy wit how my purse turned out and I’ve learned a lesson. I will never, ever dye white leather again.

I hope very much that you take from my tale a few things.

  1. dyeing light colored leather can be difficult. In the past I’d only dyed things in a similar color family. If it’s something you can’t live without, don’t do this because it may not pan out.
  2. acrylic leather dye is essentially a runny acrylic paint. while with typical leather dye you have to wear gloves, this is just the same as dealing with craft paint. It will easily scrub off your hands.
  3. if you have humid weather it may take some time to dry, so work that in if you need the project complete in a time frame.

Happy Thursday out there!


Comments (16)

  • Sandi

    April 19, 2013 at 2:10 AM

    It looks fantastic. I don't think you should shy away from dyeing white leather again. Now you know how to do it and you have a pretty "new" purse!

    1. Grace11

      September 24, 2017 at 7:31 PM

      You did a good job and wonderful piece . Just an FYI you can also use Rust-Oluem fabric and vinyl paint it is for car upholstery . I spray a vinyl purse that was silver a dark navy blue I used the spray with the gloss and it is does shine like it has gloss, over in. They also have a glitter spray for the glitter glamour effect

  • Allison Murray

    April 19, 2013 at 2:34 AM

    Thanks, Sandi! I am sure that some day I will be all about it again. Never say never, after all.

  • Jenny

    April 19, 2013 at 5:52 AM

    That looks fantastic! I'm glad you were willing to keep trying, I love the bright turquoise.

  • Lauren @ The Thinking Closet

    April 19, 2013 at 6:05 AM

    Way to persevere through the road-bumps with this one. I think the outcome was definitely worth the headache, multiple coats, and bruising. Such a fun color for spring!

  • Allison Murray

    April 19, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    Thanks, Lauren. It was such a frustrating project but I love my "new" bag so in the end it was worth t!!

  • Jenn

    April 19, 2013 at 7:15 PM

    Where, oh where, did you find this purse!?? I have it in a lovely marigold color, but it's on its last leg. The faux-leather material is peeling off around the grommets and corners and on the strap, and I have denim stains on the back, as well. The store where I bought it has rotated them out. I have had no luck finding another cute, roomy cross-body bag with just the right pockets for just the right purposes like this one. Oh please oh please dish!!!

  • Allison Murray

    April 19, 2013 at 7:31 PM

    Hey, Jenn – I actually got mine at Kohl's in March 2012 but it looks like it was a pretty popular bag because they have it again but in red, black or brown. You can even buy it online if you don't have a Kohl's store nearby. http://bit.ly/13x4LFu

  • Rebecca S.

    April 19, 2013 at 9:43 PM

    Nice job. Love the color. I was wondering if the paint scratches off easily?

  • Allison Murray

    April 19, 2013 at 10:09 PM

    Hi, Rebecca – I first had the purse hanging on padded hanger by the strap and it was fine. But when I put the strap directly on a metal hook, in a busy part of my closet where it gets pushed and bumped several times a day, it's starting to see wear, just where the strap touches. I think under normal circumstances it will the paint will do really well but I'll have to carry it a bit more to be certain. Sorry for a total lack of an answer, but I hope that I helped!

  • Eileen

    April 25, 2013 at 10:46 PM

    Good job! Have you used this bag since you dyed it? I'm wondering if there are any issues with the dye rubbing off onto clothing?

  • Allison Murray

    April 25, 2013 at 11:04 PM

    Hey, Eileen – At this point it has just been fairly light use but so far so good. I'll update in a few weeks with how well or poorly it has worn with frequent use.

  • Johanna

    April 30, 2013 at 3:26 AM

    The purse looks awesome! I am wondering how/if you cleaned the bag first?

  • Allison Murray

    April 30, 2013 at 3:29 AM

    Honestly I used a magic eraser type of sponge as became habit. It was the only way I had found to remove the dark denim stains from the white leather. There are, however, pretreatments sold by the different dye companies that would be the proper way of going about it.

  • Comet

    September 11, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    I know this is “Late to the table” but the problem you might have had–and might have in future–is most of the RELIC bags are not real hide leather. Now–I love all of the FOSSIL stuff (RELIC is the non-leather more trendy FOSSIL line) but—these are not made to the same standards (material wise) as the leather Fossil items.

    So–you have to treat “pleather” differently than hide leather. And there are LOTS of people out there who for whatever reason DON’T like hide leather. First off–pleather doesn’t have the same porosity as real leather so it won’t accept the dye the same. And then color might flake or wear off. I DO think the acrylic dye was the better option for this–but there might be a cheaper way–just use an acrylic PAINT thinned with a medium and do a wash on it–you can always build up from there–and a TOP COAT to protect and seal. You can also custom mix this way–and surely this would be great for shoes too!

    Oh–and did you know–if all else fails with a leather bag–even REAL HIDE LEATHER that is beyond cleaning–you can WASH IT? Go see ONE GOOD THING A DAY BY JILLEE for her amazing story! (I have no affiliation just admire her braveness for tossing her bag in the machine!)

    For the person who was looking for that bag—check EBAY–I sell a lot of these (thrifted) bags and if you look for both the FOSSIL and RELIC name you can find most all models. And now you can have any color you want!

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