Restoring Stitching Color

see also Grease Pencils

Top-stitching and sole stitching are common elements to many boots. Historically, top-stitching served to keep the leather lining of the boot in place. Today, lining is often held in place with adhesive rather than stitching, but the practice of decorative top-stitching is common. Sole-stitching is commonly associated with the Doc Marten line of boots, but is also common in heavier engineer boots.

The striking appearance of yellow or white stitching against black leather is often dulled by the ongoing accumulation of dirt on the stitches. As well, polish and conditioner can soil the stitching. In both these cases, it is possible to restore the appearance of the stitching with a modicum of effort.

Central to this technique is the wax pencil, also referred to as a china marker or grease pencil. These can usually be purchased from art or office supply stores. Several colors are available, but the vast majority of boots will require a white or yellow grease pencil. In some cases, the owner of the boots may wish to subdue the appearance of the stitching. While this can be accomplised by the use of dye, a black china marker can be easier and produce less mess.

Wax pencils consist of a cylinder of wax (similar to a crayon) that is surrounded by a spiral of paper. The paper is scored and wrapped slightly askew, such that peeling one strip of the paper reveals a small amount of the wax and a tapered section of the paper, making the entire item resemble a slightly oversized pencil.

Due to the size and composition of the wax pencil, it cannot be sharpened with a standard pencil sharpener. Instead, most bootblacks use either a crayon sharpener or a small knife with which they whittle the wax to a point. It is important to sharpen the pencil to avoid getting the wax on the area surrounding the stitching, as the wax can be difficult to remove from leather.

Restoring the color of the stitching is simply a matter of tracing the path of the stitching with the tip of the wax pencil. Results should be immediately apparent. In some cases, it may be possible to run the wax pencil over the path of the stitching, but more intricate patterns or less accessible stitching may need the individual bare runs of thread to be colored with separate strokes.

Regardless of how much care one uses, It is inevitable that the wax pencil will mark the leather or sole material that is near the stitching. In these cases, it's most effective to immediately use a rag to wipe the wax off of the surface. Leather may prove resistant to this method, in which case a very small amount of rubbing alcohol can be applied to the rag first. This will dissolve the wax without significantly affecting the surrounding leather. It may be necessary to reapply the polish or conditioner in that area.