Thread Theory

Welcome to the new era of menswear sewing. Go ahead and create something exceptional!

Natural Fabric and Leather Care


Uses for Otterwax (1 of 27)

We have some new supplies in the shop today!  Let me introduce to you three new Otter Wax items (and then I’ll share the details on this waxed bag).

Otter Wax is a line of natural, environmentally low-impact fabric and leather treatments.  They are created in Portland, Oregon. We’ve carried their Fabric Wax in our shop for quite some time now (it was the very first item that we added to our supply shop aside from our own patterns!) and I felt it was time to expand our selection…especially since I was eager to get my hands on a few of these items for my own projects!

New Otterwax Items (4 of 4)

To accompany the fabric wax, our shop now includes Castile Soap Canvas Cleaner.  This is a very gentle cleaner that can be used to wash waxed items (such as jeans or Matt’s waxed Jutland Pants) by hand in cold water without stripping off the wax.  So far, I’ve washed Matt’s waxed Jutlands by hand a few times with just a touch of laundry detergent.  The wax layer has become considerably thinner than when I first applied but it still manages to repel water.   I think I will touch up his pants with a bit more wax for the first time and wash them occasionally with this Castile Soap from now on!

New Otterwax Items (3 of 4)

The next Otter Wax item we now carry is their Heat-Activated Fabric Dressing.  This is a pot of wax that can be melted in a pan of water on the stove.  It performs the same waterproofing task as the rub on bar of wax that we have always carried but with a couple distinct differences.  The extra step of melting the wax before applying it creates a smooth finish that is more “Factory Finish” and less “aged” in appearance than the rub on bar creates.  Also, melting the wax allows you to saturate the fabric more fully.  You might prefer to use this wax over the rub on bar if you want both sides of your fabric waterproofed.

I haven’t tried out this version of Otter Wax yet but I will be sure to report on how the application process differs from the rub on bars when I have!

The next item I want to show you is something a bit different for the Thread Theory shop – leather care!

New Otterwax Items (2 of 4)

This Leather Care Kit includes everything you need to care for, polish and waterproof leather – naturally!  These soaps and salves are void of petroleum byproducts.  They all smell heavenly…

New Otterwax Items (1 of 4)

… and work wonderfully!  I tested them out on Matt’s loafers yesterday afternoon.  He got these leather shoes at Winner’s (the discount brand name store) about 6 years ago and I’ve been hinting they should head to the trash for about 2 years now.  They haven’t been cared for and they are absolutely tatty.

Uses for Otterwax (13 of 27)

I rubbed on the saddle soap with a damp rag first and used a horse hair brush to whisk off the dirt.  It darkens the leather considerably but this is temporary.  Now that the shoes are drying they are becoming lighter again (lighter than you see in these photos which were taken 10 minutes after polishing).

Uses for Otterwax (19 of 27)

I then rubbed the loafer over with Leather Salve and was absolutely shocked at the transformation.  The salve sunk right into the leather and within moments most of the major cracks were completely gone!  You can especially see this along the toes in the photo above.  It also felt really nice on my hands that were dry from gardening yesterday morning 😛

Uses for Otterwax (22 of 27)

To finish off the shoe I added boot wax (this waterproofs the leather using lanolin and beeswax) and then I gave the shoe a quick buff of boot oil to create a gleam.  I didn’t buff for too long because the shoes were a matte finish originally and I wanted to keep them this way.

Anyways, as you can probably tell from these photos and my glowing review – I really love this leather kit (far more than I expected to!).  Here’s to shoes and leather bags that look as fresh and cared for as the home-sewn outfits they accompany!


That’s it for the new products in our shop but now I have a new project to show you that suits the Otter Wax theme of the day:


You’ve likely seen our Bag Making Supplies Kits in our shop before – they have been one of our best sellers ever since we launched them in honor of Father’s Day in 2014.  I’m showing it you again because this winter I made a new project using this kit and I’m so thrilled with how it turned out!

Uses for Otterwax (3 of 27)

This is my Mom’s daily tote.  She’s a principal at an elementary school so she uses this bag to carry huge loads of textbooks, laptops, other electronic apparatuses (she has MANY), and lunch to and from school each day.

Uses for Otterwax (5 of 27)

I made the bag using the Burnt Orange colored canvas and all the notions included in the bag making kit.  I added lining fabric to the inside and the pretty antique brass rectangles (not included in the kit) to the handles to match the kit’s antique brass metal zipper.

Uses for Otterwax (4 of 27)

I sewed the kit’s garment tag to the handle since I know my Mom likes to proudly display the Thread Theory brand on items that I make her. 😛

Uses for Otterwax (7 of 27)

I used the Chicago Screws on the bottom of the bag to hold a cardboard insert to the base and to act as little ‘feet’.  I forgot to take a photo of these and I’ve already returned the bag to my mom for use at school today…sorry!

I waxed the bag with the regular size bar of Otter Wax (also in the kit).  It is a huge bag and used all but a tiny nubbin of wax.  I gave it a VERY thorough waxing.

Uses for Otterwax (11 of 27)

My Mom has been using the bag daily since I gave it to her for her birthday in November and reports that it sits in the (sometimes) dirty trunk of her car, is always on the floor of her office, and is often thrown atop her muddy winter boots beside her desk.  She is impressed by how clean the Otter Wax has kept it!  The dirt brushes off easily and the bag still looks brand new.

Uses for Otterwax (12 of 27)

You can see the original color of the canvas (pre-wax) inside the pocket that I added to the exterior of the bag.  I love the burnished effect that the wax gives!

You might be interested to know that my thick coating of wax and the damp, west coast winter air led to a VERY long cure time for the Otter Wax.  It usually cures in 24-48 hours but this was not the case for this bag – I waited two weeks and it was still tacky!  Also, big chunks of wax were stuck in the zipper teeth and the hair dryer that I normally use to work the wax into the fabric was not enough to melt these chunks.  I ended up putting the bag in the dryer with an old towel so that it would be ready in time for my Mom’s birthday.  It worked wonders!  The wax sunk into the fabric with no effort on my part.  I think I’ll use this method from now on!

I haven’t read any other tutorials where people suggest using the dryer.  The latest tutorial that I’ve come across uses a heat gun to the same effect. I like that there are so many ways to work with this fabric wax – you can combine all sorts of tricks to come up with the system that best suits they way you like to operate (I like to avoid heat guns near fabric since I’ve accidentally browned cotton in the past, for instance).



All the new items in our shop are perfectly suited for the Spring rains that are in our near future here on Vancouver Island.  I hope that they will fit into your climate and project plans as well as they fit into mine!


23 thoughts on “Natural Fabric and Leather Care

  1. Pingback: The Qualicum Bag – The Backstory | Thread Theory

  2. Actually, the Great article you shared. Leather products care is important. Leather products are expensive and if we do not take care of them, they can get worse quickly. When the leather product starts to get deformed, we see white rashes on it and it happens because of not taking care of them. You share the information is really very helpful. Thanks for the great information shared with me.

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  5. I would love it if you made a tutorial/pattern on how to make this bag! If you ever decide to make a messenger bag pattern that would be amazing too! I love the classic aesthetic of your designs. 🙂

  6. Great products, fab bag. It’s amazing the transformation of the canvas!

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  8. I was just wondering about waxing things and how to clean them once they were waxed. It’s like you read my mind! I also have a leather bag that needs some care, and for which I’m considering a few options. Thanks for the helpful information!

  9. I would love a total for the tote! Seems to be the perfect size and the fact that you can fit all the pieces in the fabric included in the kit… may just be reason for me to pick one up! 😉

  10. Oh my gosh!! I love this bag! My SIL is also a principal and she’s been asking me to make her a sturdy, big bag, but I haven’t found the right thing yet. This is it!! I will order the kit shortly. Her birthday is in May. Perfect!!

  11. That bag looks gorgeous! Would love a tutorial on how to make one – may have to purchase a kit in anticipation!

  12. I had a lot of saga adding wax recently, so I am curious about your dryer technique. Was there any wax residue left in the dryer?

    That leather care kit looks amazing.

    PS you can see my waxed bag here

    • I didn’t notice any wax residue in the dryer and the towel I used (an old one that we use to dry our dog off after rain walks) didn’t seem waxy either. The bag had cured for at least a couple of weeks before I tried drying it though and I had also used the hair dryer when applying it so it wasn’t as tacky as it would have been if the wax was freshly applied.

      Wow, your bag looks so cool! I never would have imagined brown paper to be strong enough to create a bag. Has it held up well? You aren’t kidding about the saga you had with your wax – it must have been very difficult to clean up once it spilled!

  13. The bag is super gorgeous! I love the texture! I want/need to make a bag myself, and I think you’re an inspiration! I’m going to copy your bag, if you don’t mind! 🙂

  14. Thanks for this great post about fabric and leather care. I am sure I will refer back to it.

    However, what I am interested in is that bag you made for your mom. It’s gorgeous! Did you use a pattern for it, or did you just make one up? I am tempted to make something for myself.

    • I just made it up! The kit comes with 1m of fabric so I set out to use every scrap of it. I cut two big rectangles for the bag body, one long rectangle that formed the side and bottom panel, two rectangles for the handles and I used the remaining fabric to create a rectangular pocket on the front of the bag. To add the zipper I cut the pocket in half and sewed in the zip (with little folded fabric scraps to cover both ends of the zipper). Then I basted the pocket to the bag front and sewed the main tote seams. I topstitched the handles to the bag before lining it and then I lined the entire tote with two rectangles of heavy twill poly lining. I added a cardboard bottom between the self fabric and the lining which I screwed in place with the Chicago Screws. Once the bag was finished I applied Otter Wax and stuck it in the dryer to cure :).

      I hope this quick overview of the order of my sewing steps helps you out a bit! If there is enough interest I might make a tutorial to accompany the Bag Making kit. Ever since giving the tote to my Mom I have wished for a similar one for myself. Making a tutorial might be a good opportunity to make a second one!

      • Please consider this comment an extremely enthusiastic show of interest in a tutorial! The bag is beautiful, and your tutorials are always awesome. I always do a happy dance when Friday comes and I remember you probably have a new post 🙂 Have a great weekend!

      • Thanks so much for telling me about your happy dance :D. That makes me eager for Friday to come so I can share another blog post!

      • I would love to see a tutorial!

  15. Love that bag! thanks for the tips in how to keep leather clean with the Otter Wax.

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