You know that special, excited feeling you get when you’re sewing, about creating a project will be unique and customized just for you? Imagine that excitement doubled (or tripled) for the joy of having completely custom American Duchess shoes! If you’ve been following us for a while, you have probably heard us extolling the potential of our dyeable/paintable ivory shoes. There is something about dyeable leather that is just so cool.
It’s easy to get nervous about taking dye to your shoes, but it’s not as scary as it seems! With proper preparation and a slow-and-steady hand, you can get beautiful dye results at home.
We have instructions on how to dye leather shoes up on our website, and there is a blog post from back in the day (2013) showing some lovely dyed Hartfields (first gen!), but we felt it was high time for an updated dye tutorial.
To dye your own custom shoes, you will need:
- Ivory leather American Duchess shoes
- A protected surface to dye on
- Angelus Deglazer and Leather Preparer(this is what we recommend; other leather deglazers can also be used, just check with the retailer first to make sure it’s the right stuff!)
- Soft and clean cloth for deglazing
- Angelus leather dye (again, this is what we use and recommend, but other brands work too. We used the color ‘brick’ for this pair.)
- Wool dauber (one dauber is included in every box of Angelus dye)
- Painter’s tape or vinyl tape
- Paper towels
- Optional: spray bottle filled with water
- Angelus Lustre Cream (in neutral or a color that matches the dye)
- Angelus Shoe Wax
It’s helpful to get your dye station all set up and organized before the dyeing process. We used a crafting mat with some kraft paper over it to protect our surface from dye stains. It’s also a good idea to set something down to protect the floor, like a sheet, tarp, or more kraft paper. Get your dye bottle set up too (Angelus dye boxes have a handy punch-out section so you can stand the dye bottle upright in the box), some paper towels for blotting, your gloves, etc.
Remove any laces, ribbons, or trim from your shoes. Next, carefully apply painter’s tape to any areas that you don’t want to get dye on. For these ivory Londoners, we taped the heel as well, to protect its lovely stacked look. Try to get the tape as close as possible to the edge of the leather where the sole meets the upper. Go ahead and use a few layers if that makes you feel safe! Additionally, place some tape on the insides of the shoes anywhere where there might be dripping or dye bleeding through. If your shoes have buttons, tape those too. Stuff some tissue paper or paper towels into the shoes as well, to keep the insides protected.
Next, remove the protective finish from the leather with the Angelus Deglazer. Using a soft, clean cloth, rub your shoes all over with deglazer. Be thorough, but not rough. You will see that the shoes look a tad duller once the finish has been removed. This product is drying to the leather, so be careful not to rub too hard or excessively. Once you have finished deglazing the shoes, let them dry for a few minutes. The deglazer breaks the surface finish to allow the dye to soak in; it does not remove the existing color completely, so you only need to give your shoes a quick rub down.
This next step is optional- you can spritz your shoes all over with water to lightly dampen them. This helps the leather to take the dye evenly.
Next, it’s time to start dyeing! Dip your dauber lightly into the dye bottle. These daubers are very absorbent, so just lightly dip yours into the dye, press the dauber up against the inside of the bottle, and blot it onto a paper towel. You don’t want the dauber absolutely saturated with dye, as that can cause dripping on the shoes.
Start applying the dye evenly, moving swiftly in small circles. It can be helpful to do one section at a time. Be careful not to over-saturate the leather with dye; you want to apply thin layers and let your shoes dry in between. Over saturation with dye can cause a bronzing effect. If you do end up with a bronzing effect, you can remove it easily using some deglazer and a cotton ball or piece of sponge.
Once you have applied your first layer of dye, let the shoes dry for at least several minutes before applying the next layer of dye. Just make sure the last layer has dried completely and doesn’t feel tacky before you go in with another layer of dye.
These ivory Londoners have tongues, which require some strategy to dye. We actually ended up using a small piece of sponge to dye the tongues, using the sponge to get into the little nooks and crannies.
Once you have achieved a color you’re happy with, let your shoes dry overnight!
The final step of the dyeing process is to rehydrate and protect your new dyed shoes. The deglazer and dye is drying to the leather, so you want to sufficiently rehydrate your shoes with several coats of lustre cream. Use a soft cloth to rub lustre cream all over the leather. Be aware that there could be some dye transfer here, so don’t use your grandmother’s hand-embroidered tea towel if you can avoid it. Let the shoes dry between layers of lustre cream. You can use neutral lustre cream, which works for any color, or a colored lustre cream that matches your dyed shoes.
Once you have finished rehydrating your shoes with lustre cream, let them dry completely and buff with a soft, dry cloth.
Finally, protect your shoes with a layer of Angelus shoe wax. Use a soft cloth to apply a thin layer of wax all over the leather of your shoes, buff to a shine, and let dry.
That’s it! Your custom-dyed shoes should be finished and looking fabulous. We paired these custom-dyed Londoners with our satin ribbon laces in burgundy. Don’t they look darling?
ALL of our ivory and white leather shoes are dyeable! You can find all of our ivory pairs on our website. The sky is truly the limit. Let your creativity flow!