Caring for your leather, wool and/or fur items

custom wooly clutch

A little extra time spent will go a long way in extending the life of any natural fiber-based product.  Though I use the finest materials I can get my hands on, they are not immune to heavy use, time and the elements.  Like living creatures, natural materials dislike being wrapped up in plastic, stored in extreme heat, direct sun and getting submerged in water.  Read on to learn more about leather care, wool care and fur care...

Leather Care

Here in the southwestern US, leather (like our skin) tends to dry out quickly and requires more frequent oiling than folks in the midwest or east coast.  But after a while, it doesn't matter where you live, you will need to oil the leather.  In a pinch, you can use olive oil but it tends to darken leather a bit.  My favorite product is Skidmore's leather cream.  It is a wonderful mix of natural oils and a touch of beeswax that nourishes, seals and protects the leather from the elements.  It's made up in Washington state and can be found online easily.  (*they also sell a waterproofing that is great but has quite a bit more beeswax and will wreak havoc on tooling so steer clear of that for these purposes)  Rub on the cream with a soft scrap cloth, let it soak in, and then buff off the excess.  This works best when the leather is warmer than colder.  
Direct sunlight will also permanently darken leather, especially if its been freshly oiled.  This eventually gives each purse, belt and leather accessory its own unique patina and color and can be used to your advantage if you want a darker color.  This can go bad , though, when you leave your purse on the front seat of your car with something covering half the leather and the sun beating down on it -trust me.  It looks sort of like when you forget to rub sunscreen on that hard-to-reach spot on your back and you end up with a strange looking burn.  Except, it doesn't go away...  
Moral of the story moisturize your purse, don't let it burn.

Wool Care

Pendleton Woolen Mills is well known for their superior weaves and their matierials are wonderful to work with.  Being able to find blankets of theirs that are over 100 years old is a testament to their quality.  That being said, they are not immune to daily use, rubbing against the side of your body and being thrown around in a ranch pickup by husbands that just don't understand.  The wool will begin to pill and not look as sharp as it did new. The garmet brush was invented to remove pill and I'd highly recommend using one before things get to pilled up Eventually, though, the pill will wear away and you will be able to see the white cotton warp threads the wool is woven around.  Personally, I love that well-loved worn look.  It reminds me of my favorite pair of threadbare jeans.  As far a dirt goes, wool has a naturally low static, which means that dirt is not attracted to it (literally).  Short of dropping the wool in a puddle of mud, it is relatively simple to keep clean.  I use a damp cloth occasionally to clean up the wool a bit.  Because of the leather top and satin lining, it would be a bad idea to try to soak the wool to wash it, and dry cleaners are out unless they can be trusted to spot clean.  When not using the purse (or any wool product) store it somewhere it can breathe (no plastic bags or tubs) and not suffocate with heat and/or humidity (attics and garages aren't usually ideal)


Fur Care

I use Tibetan lamb and bison on my purses.  Tibetan lamb is softer and a bit more delicate feeling than angora and can tangle up easily if not brushed out occasionally.  This is especially true if you have a fully wooly purse or carry a half wooly with the wool rubbing against your body.  If you invested in the fur, invest in a few items to care for it.  Like your hair, the fur will require an occasional brushing and a little moisturizer.  I use a pet comb (from the feed store) with short, wide teeth.  For cleaning and moisturizing, I have a solution I bought from a furrier online.  It's like tangle spray for my purse.  Several sites sell a fur cleaning/conditioning spray for home use that can be bought easily and cheaply enough.  I usually sit down in front of a movie and slowly work on brushing out tangles.  Careful not to pull too hard, you don't want bald spots on your purse!  The fur will poof up quite a bit and this is where the conditioning spray comes to the rescue...  Once I have the tangles brushed out, I spritz the fur and crunch it up with my hands to get those curls to come back.  Hang it up for the night to air dry and give it a good shake and tousle with your fingers the next morning.  Voila!  Easy peasy.  After a while, if cleaner/conditioner spray just isn't doing the trick, it may need a deeper clean.  A professional furrier will use a super coarse type of cornmeal to clean it and bring back its original shine.  



Hope this helps answer some of your questions!  Let me know if I can answer any others...