Q: I have a leather vest with a stand-up collar. Over the years, the collar has started to droop and has developed diagonal creases. Is there a way to remove or to reduce the appearance of these creases?
—Deanna Riley, Westfield, Massachusetts
A: Anna Mazur, author of Handbag Workshop (The Taunton Press, 2014), offers tips on working with leather:
When we see wrinkles, the first thing that comes to mind is to add moisture, then iron them out. This is fine for many fabrics, but isn’t the best approach for leather. You run the risk of creating water stains and/or discoloring the leather.
I tested some lambskin leather of the type and weight typically used for garments and came up with some successful pressing techniques. In general, I found that dry heat, with pressure and plenty of patience, is the most effective way to flatten wrinkles in leather. It’s a slow process, but it can be done. You may need to repeat the process three or four times, and you might not get out all the wrinkles, but you can come close to it.
Get set to press following these guidelines:
Pressing surface—Work on a surface that is not heavily padded. The padding on the average ironing board is fine. Cover the surface with a piece of muslin to protect it and the leather.
Heat setting—Set the iron to the lower range of the steam setting but turn off the steam: in other words, a fairly hot, dry iron.
Press cloth—Muslin is the perfect density for the heat to pass through, not too thick or too thin. You may come across advice to use brown paper for a press cloth. I find it’s too thick for the heat to pass through.
The general process for pressing leather requires working in short intervals and allowing the leather to cool in between. Using the tip of the iron, iron in a circular motion, applying firm pressure. Start ironing in 5-second intervals; lift the press cloth and check to see how warm the leather feels. If it feels lukewarm, increase the time to 10 seconds. Don’t iron for longer than 10 seconds at a time, as you may damage the leather. Once you’re satisfied with the results, let the leather cool completely before lifting it off the pressing surface, otherwise it will become limp and the wrinkles will resurface.
For mild creases on leather skins, work with the skin right side up. For mild wrinkles on garments, isolate the wrinkled area. The best way is to lay it, right side up, over a ham so you don’t accidentally touch other areas of the garment. Cover the leather all around with a press cloth, exposing only the wrinkled area. Hint: An easy way to do this is to cut a hole in the press cloth just big enough to expose the wrinkle so you can focus the pressing. Then apply a cloth over the area to be pressed.
If the wrinkles are stubborn and can’t be removed with dry pressing, work from the wrong side. Apply a minuscule dab of water—just enough to moisten the wrong side but not soak through to the right side. Dampen your fingertip with water and apply it to the wrinkle, targeting the exact fold. Then press as before. Keep reapplying water as needed until the wrinkle dissipates. Remember to apply the heat in 5-second to 10-second intervals. Keep ironing until the leather is completely dry. For lined garments where the wrinkles cannot be worked out from the right side, it’s worth opening the lining to expose the leather and then work from the wrong side.
This article was originally featured in the Q&A department of Threads #207 (February/March 2020).
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