Because leather is so pliable, (especially wet leather) you can change its shape and size. The basic principal is to make the leather moist (not soaked) and apply heat or cold.
For example, leather specialists will use extreme heat followed by extreme cold to coax torn leather back to its original shape and position before they apply adhesive when repairing tears. A commercial stripping gun and a decent size of metal that has been in the refrigerator are recommended, no kidding! Find out the proper technique first before attempting this maneuver.
If you have shoes, for example that are a bit small, you have a couple of different options for stretching them. You can take them to a cobbler and have them stretched with an industrial strength leather stretching shoe device, or if you want to risk it you can stretch your shoes on your own.
Home Remedy Leather Stretching
I've heard stories that some boot salespeople recommend wetting your shoes with rubbing alcohol and while still wet, putting the shoes back on, as almost any wet leather will stretch. The alcohol evaporates quickly so there should not be any spotting with this leather stretching technique.
Another thing I have heard is that some people have successfully filled a quart bag with water and placed it in the shoe. Put the whole deal in the freezer and as the water freezes, it will expand right along with the shoe. You might want to try this with an old boot first to see what happens.
If home remedy solutions make you nervous, you can buy your own leather stretching shoe device. Type "stretch shoe" into a search engine for some ideas.
Sizing a Hat
If you have a leather hat that feels too snug, consider buying a hat form or wig stand that is the right size and then placing the hat on it so the hat can dry to the right size. You could also wear the hat after getting it nice and pliable, but it may not dry while on your head because of your own natural moisture. So consider the humidity and temperature that day if you try this method
If the hat is big enough to fit even though it might be tight, wait to see if regular wear creates new memory. You can always take the hat to a cobbler since they have the equipment and should be able to stretch it out for you. If you are not sure where to look, start with your local yellow pages to see if you have a hat maker locally.
One of the best ways to break in a new pair of shoes is to wear them around the house for short periods of time. Just remember that since the leather is stiff, if you walk around too long you'll develop blisters. However, the natural moisture produced from your feet helps to soften and break in the boots or shoes without using stretchers.
One option that should be a last resort before heading to the cobbler is to lightly wet them with a damp sponge inside and out, taking care not to soak them. After all, leather and water are not the best of pals. Wear them for a couple hours that way.
Just keep in mind that wearing new leather boots or shoes on a regular basis will keep the leather supple and help them form to your feet. If you don't use them for a long period, wear them for a couple of hours on occasion to keep the leather soft and pliable.
As your boots begin to break in, you will see two creases - one right behind the toe of the boot and the second higher up on the foot, but below your ankle. If the boots dry out from disuse, you may have to take it easy for a couple of days when you put them on again.
You can also hand break boots by bending them back and forth a bit. Lastly, you can buy boots that do not require a long break-in or painful break-in period. Having to break-in a boot is compensation for the boot being hard.
These days, most high quality boots are made in leathers that are strong without being crippling. It is possible to buy a pair of sturdy boots that will not cause pain every time you wear them. Ask the retailer about the break in period and the quality of boot in their line.
In reality, leather stretching can be relatively easy if you take your time and think it through.