Tuesday, October 24, 2017

DIY All Day: Leather Conditioner and More

Recently my parents bought a furnished house as an investment and it was full of stuff no one in the family wanted, so they have been cleaning it out. They were kind enough to bring me some stuff they thought I might be able to sell to help out with all our kids' recent medical bills. Among the items they brought to me was this World War II B-6 bomber hat. The hat is so old it was part of the Army Air Forces uniform, the precursor to the modern Air Force. I did some research and this is one of the most desirable and valuable pieces collectors want, so naturally this one is in horrible condition.

Most of the stuff my parents had to clean out was stored in the home's basement. The house is in a flood-prone area, and the basement is damp, so it is not an optimal storage environment. The leather and shearling were covered in dust and mold and the hat, to be frank, is rotting. When I unbuckled the chin strap, which was pulled across the back of the hat as it was stored, a big chunk of leather fell off underneath it. I saved the piece in case there's something a restorer can do. I didn't want to do anything to the hat and further decrease its value but every time I touched it little flakes of shearling or leather came off, so I had to do something to stabilize it. My mom was thinking we should just throw it away, but it's so cool I didn't want to.

The flaps have pockets to hold the headphones.

The hole is where the headphone wire went through.

The hat is size Large.

The hat has ear flaps with leather pockets to hold headphones. There is a little hole inside the hat for the wires to go through. It's a Large and you can see the B-6 and size labels are in perfect condition. I did some research and most sites warn not to use any modern conditioners with silicone. I got out the vintage shoe shine kit that belonged to my grandpa to see if there was anything I could use. Most of the solutions in the kit have been replaced with modern ones and they don't say whether they have silicone or not. I thought I would just brush off the hat with the horsehair brush in the kit.

I brushed off the dirt.
I brushed off the dirt and then wiped the entire hat with a damp cloth, very gently. I looked up do it yourself leather creams on Pinterest and it didn't disappoint but I saw they were all pretty much the same ingredients as the wood polish I make to seal my handpainted matryoshka doll sets: beeswax and olive oil with some lime essential oil for fragrance. So I tried the polish on a tiny spot in the back of the hat. I let the spot dry. The leather on the body of the hat looked much smoother and the leather on the little reinforcement areas, like the seams and ear flaps became smooth and shiny. I decided to treat the whole hat.

Wood Polish

Work in small areas.

The polish also cleans.
Working in small areas, about two inches square, I rubbed the polish in very carefully. I noticed it cleans the leather as well as treats it. The cloth was black with grime by the time I finished. I was careful to avoid the printed Army Air Forces insignia. The hat turned out looking and feeling much better. Now you can touch it without the leather flaking off. The shearling is still extremely fragile. I figure someone might want to display the hat, as it is really neat looking, or they may even be able to find a restorer to repair the holes, so I have this up for auction in my eBay store. Besides this, I have a lot more loot from the house listed or on the way. It's mostly Midcentury stuff for men, including gold cufflinks, car or bike parts, and Stetson hats, so if you want great unique men's gifts you'll want to check it out. There are also some wine accessories, Hallmark Keepsake ornaments, etc.

The hat after treatment

The Army Air Forces was the precursor to the modern Air Force.

Normally I would not recommend you try to treat vintage leather, as that can decrease its value. Most sites warn about removing the charming "patina". There wasn't much worry about that in this case; there's plenty of patina to spare! If I felt like the hat would have survived shipping without treatment I would have left it as it was. I have no problems recommending the wood polish recipe as a leather polish, however, for modern leather. It worked really well and it's economical, all natural, and easy to make.

I've been getting a lot of work done the past couple days because I can't exercise right now. Four years ago or so I tripped while running. I didn't fall down but I did something to my foot. At the time it didn't seem like a big deal but it was a while before I could run again and still every so often it really starts to hurt. The other day, for no apparent reason, it acted up while I was at the grocery store. I couldn't put any weight on it at all and had to limp out of Food Lion like Quasimodo. Therefore I'm taking it easy, working mainly from my posterior.

A "pocket pal" sweatshirt
My daughter's birthday is coming up and she specifically asked for an oversized hooded sweatshirt. She stole one I made for her big brother and I made her return it so she wants one of her own. She's a future crazy cat lady so I hand cut flocked vinyl scraps to make it look like the kangaroo pocket has a cat in it. This has been popular on social media, so I will probably design a few for my stores. Instead of hand-cutting them as I did here, I will design some for my machine so they're all uniform.

We did end up getting a puppy when we went to look a few weeks ago, a Huskimo (Husky and Eskimo Spitz) named Loki. He and our other dog were sick but are now recovering, but he needs a lot of attention like all babies, so I am behind on my blogging! Maybe cute little Loki will make it onto a sweatshirt!

Loki the Huskimo

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