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HELPFUL INFO /FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


HOW TO CLEAN A LEATHER JACKET, OR LEATHER GARMENT

Check your garment after you wear it every few times. The sooner you clean makeup off, the better the results. (Wearing a scarf around the neck is a major step towards a clean collar!)
Your best solution for smooth leather is to use Aquila Leather Cleaner! Just spray and wipe. Let dry 15-20" and repeat if desired. 
If you do not have Aquila-  wipe the surface with a damp lint-free cloth. You can use clean water or a very diluted solution of mild soap, like Ivory or Woolite, to dampen the cloth. Do not scrub.  Wait 15-20” for it to dry and repeat if necessary. Moisturize and protect.


HOW TO REMOVE A GREASE SPOT FROM LEATHER

If you get a butter or an oil spot on your leather jacket at dinner, take it off as soon as you get home! The sooner you begin the cleaning process, the better the results will be.
Lay your garment out on a clean surface. Place a small pile of cornstarch on the spot. Do not press it in, and do not touch it or move it for a day. It will draw a large part of the oil to the surface. Then, lightly brush the cornstarch off without getting it on the rest of the jacket with a dry terry cloth or toothbrush.
Then wipe the rest of the white powder away with a barely-damp lint-free cloth. Do not scrub. You can use clean water to dampen the cloth if you do not have Aquila Leather Cleaner. Let that dry and repeat if necessary.  This is a good time to go ahead and clean the whole coat. Let dry completely, then moisturize and protect.

HOW TO CHOOSE A LEATHER COAT

The leather itself is, of course, the biggest factor.  Most of what is on the market today in smooth leather is lamb or cowhide and these are almost always your best choices. Pigskin is not common in smooth leather, as it is usually tanned for suede which we don't recommend. (Click here for or more on suede.) Deer, elk, and moose are commonly made into garments, but not usually found in the stores, and are difficult to keep clean. Only occasionally will you find new garments made of goat.  Most of these will likely will have a sprayed dye finish*. 

Lambskin is beautiful, soft as butter, and feels like a second skin on you!  There is nothing like a lamb jacket!  However, lambskin can be delicate.  Know that the least expensive of lamb coats may tear easily and the finish wear off quickly. Even so, if you find a lamb jacket you want for the style, fit, or feel - then buy it!  Take it home and spray it with Aquila , or other water repellent for leather, and purchase some Tenderly to keep it moist. This will help keep it clean and looking nice. When the color begins to fade, since lamb is almost always vat dyed, it can be redyed by Leather CARE Specialists and made to look new again. 

Cowhide is much tougher and the finish lasts longer. If you don't want to be concerned about jumping in the car or truck, being careful with the seat belt, or shoving your gloves in your pockets, you should buy a cowhide.  New tanning processes are delivering some “lambtan” cowhides that are very close to the feel of lamb.  If you prefer the luxury of lamb but need the practicality of cowhide you should consider these.  Labels will still only say “100% Leather.”  Ask your clerk to be sure of what you are buying. Keep a cowhide coat conditioned properly and you should have it to enjoy for a great many years. 

Next, look for vat dyed leather as opposed to sprayed finish leather.

*Sprayed Dye Finish
Sprayed finish hides have not been dyed in vats during the tanning process, which allows for color penetration all the way through the skins. An example of sprayed cowhide jackets are your brightly colored sports leather jackets. It is almost impossible to get them recolored once the color starts coming off. Your less expensive coats may also have a sprayed finish. You can spot a sprayed finish by checking the garment at the stitching needle holes, or at corner edges (collar tips, for example, where the leather has been pulled  to turn). If the “paint” has been added after the tanning process there will be places where the finish cracks and you will see light colored flesh showing through.

Sprayed finishes are usually less desirable as they indicate extremely mass produced imports of questionable value, whereas a vat dyed jacket will allow new dye to penetrate and the jacket can be made to look new again in the right hands. 

(An exception to the rule - some USA made WWII jacket replicas on the market  that are made of expertly tanned and sprayed leather.)

Check the leather panels. Does the leather  have some body to it, a good moist look, and do the panels show consistency in cutting from the best sections of the hide?  Take a fold and see if it feels smooth when you move it back and forth between your fingers. Check for quality skin (see the photos below) Very thin places should give themselves away. Also, skivers can leave hairline cuts that go almost though. You can usually spot these from the outside.

Check the panels at the pockets, elbows, and stress points for strength. If they seem thin or stretchy, look for a different jacket.  The upper outside arms are one of the most common areas that we receive at Leather CARE Specialists for repairs.  This area is susceptible to tears, so make sure these panels feel strong without weak spots (see photos).

The underside of a quality skin.
The underside of a poor quality skin.
The flesh is very thin in spots and will give way to any small stress.  This is an animal that was treated poorly, handled roughly, and, if only for this reason, you shouldn't buy it.

Check the other materials and construction details.  If the thread is dull, it is probably all cotton. You should be looking for bonded nylon to hold your coat together. Cotton wears wherever it rubs and you will end up with seams where the top thread is completely gone. Also, look to see if the stitching is back-stitched at the seam ends, and tight (indicating correct tension on top and bottom threads).

Are the buttons sewn securely with no loose ends? Are the snaps secure?

Is the zipper sewn in properly?  A zipper that is set in too close to the stitch line (the zipper head drags or the head sticks) will result in faded worn edges. Also, if the zipper is not sewn in nice and flat, it will be problematic. It may split open, jam, or wear out quickly at the pin (see photo on Shipping Garments page).

A quality lining will have a very tight weave and quilted linings should use “lock” stitches.

Lastly, the price. Most likely you'll pay extra for a good coat, but it will be well worth it, and now, you are equipped to pick one! 

CAN YOU HIT THE SAME STITCH HOLES WHEN YOU REPLACE THE ZIPPER?

I find that what customers usually mean when they say the "same stitch holes" is the "same stitching line" - which is doable. This may not be perfect every inch of the way, but at Leather CARE Specialists we're pretty good at compensating for leather layer movement. But to say, and mean, "hit the same stitch holes", that's probably not doable for the entire length of the zipper. Oddly enough, this is especially true for the best made jackets. That's because the better the jacket was made, the harder it is to get apart.


Whenever you have to pull something apart the leather stretches and pattern pieces separate. So when we tape the pieces to the new zipper, we'll ease the leather back in here and there for a consistent look. We set the stitch length to what it was originally and start out hitting the original holes. Then whenever the stitching gets off because everything has shifted, we'll make an adjustment and move forward again. All with care and caution. 

Also, and maybe it goes without saying, but since we are sewing the facing blind, it almost always reflects a new row of stitches. When taping the back of the zipper to the facing underneath, we do try to place it so that the needle will hit it's original stitch line as well. (Unless the zipper was not put in well to begin with. If it wasn't, we will correct it's placement, intentionally throwing the facing's new stitch line off of it's original one). This is tricky and takes some time.

Ultimately, the leather we can see and have the most control over, should look pretty great. The hidden piece, probably not so much. Obviously since we have to make a choice about which piece of leather will look the best- front panel or facing -it has to be the piece that shows. (Sometimes you'll want the facing to look the best for some inches, on coats where the collar folds over. In which case we'll stitch with the facing on top to the point where the stitch is hidden at the fold, and then stop and turn the jacket over and continue stitching with the front panel on the top). 

As for functionality, the zipper needs to be set far enough away from the leather that the pull will slide easily and not rub the leather, while not being set so far out that the tape is overly exposed, or not caught. The placement of the zipper between the leather layers where the zipper's box and pin are is critical, and is calculated to a 1/16 of an inch. If it's too close to - or -too far from these mechanisms (even if the tape is caught securely), it will be problematic for both the simplicity of use and the life of the zipper. 

CAN YOU ALTER A LEATHER COAT TO BE A SMALLER SIZE? 

Of course, the degree of difficulty corresponds with the degree of change.

Taking a coat in at the waist, sides, or back seam, may not be a big project - if you are able to take it in enough without going into the sleeves (side seam) or collar (back seam). As long as you can start at the bottom of the sleeve hole or beneath the collar.

If it is a lamb coat, the seam allowances that have been glued down flat may have adhered permanently (glue on lamb sticks!). These are really hard to get up and sometimes they have to be cut away in places with a razor blade, which makes it difficult to get smooth transition in the areas where you begin and end tapering. With some skill this may not be too noticeable, but requires more time than taking in a cowhide.

To fully resize a coat, more than taking it in at the side or back seams has other considerations. As you take in the sides, it does pull the sleeve hole in on the sides, making it smaller, but it may have been cut too deep to ever look and function correctly. Also, how much can it be changed without negatively affecting the pocket placement? (This is also a consideration if you want to cut a long coat off.) Possibly enough could be taken out of the back by going straight up into the collar. Then resizing the collar and putting it back on. Communications and a fitting take time as well.

Hopefully, you just need your coat taken in as we described in the first paragraph above. But if you are still considering a whole new size because it is a coat you really love and you can't find one like it anywhere else, and you are willing to go the expense, we will be happy to consult with you. If you are not in our local area you will need a digital camera, the ability to email photos, and someone to measure for you.


HOW TO CARE FOR A LEATHER JACKET


 
First look it over carefully and try to detect if there are any weak spots in the panels and try to protect them by not stressing them. You can protect the back panels of the      jacket where you sit, by just taking a little care with them when you get in and out of the car.  Notice where a seat belt may rub. If you have a lamb jacket  you may want to     keep a scarf in the car to throw over your shoulder before you put your seat belt on. Be observant when you put your gloves in your pockets. Don’t wad them up and jam         them in the pockets or your jacket my tear at the corners of the pockets.

When zipping your jacket, make sure the pin is seated well in the box before you pull on the zipper pull. If it is not, it’s not going to zip and each pull will put unnecessary wear on the tape at the pin. There is a picture of a zipper worn at the pin on our Shipping page.

 Keep it moist.  Use a good leather conditioner on a regular basis. We think the Urad products are the best made!  After you condition your coat you can seal the moisture in and help to keep the elements and dirt and oil out with a good water repellent spray. Our pick for conditioning.

If your jacket gets wet, wipe off the surface moisture with a clean dry towel and hang it up in a well ventilated area, but not where there is a hot air vent blowing on it. Let it dry naturally.

If it tears, get help right away. Never put tape on a tear, as it will pull up the fibers when you take it off and make the tear worse. And never use those tear kits, you can see the disastrous effect at the bottom of our Tears page.
It’s a good idea to clean your leather leather jacket before storing. 
Clean and moisturize and then make sure it’s dry before you hang it up. Remember leather needs to breathe, so avoid plastic bags unless it will be for a very short period of time. Place squarely on a padded hanger. A natural fabric drape to cover it with is a good idea. An old sheet and with a hole for the hanger will work if you don't have something made for this purpose. Covering prevents dust from settling on the shoulders. Hang in the closet, or away from sun and dry heat vents. Make sure it is not packed tightly between other hanging items.