The “fix and upgrade the leather jacket” project – part 1

I love to thrift shop.  I’ve been looking for a black leather jacket for a long time–it had to fit, the price had to be right, and I had to like it, too.

A few months ago, I finally found it.  I was excited until I got it home and realized that whoever donated it had cut off almost all the buttons!  What a crummy thing to do.  So I wore it without buttons until I could find some that were suitable.

tearOne afternoon, as I jumped into Bruce’s truck, the back of the jacket caught on the door, and it tore!  I was so upset, especially when I saw that the tear was in the leather itself, and it wasn’t just a seam that came undone.  I mulled it over for weeks trying to figure out what to do.  I thought I’d buy some lace to put over it, but it just didn’t feel right.

I have a friend who likes to sew clothing and dress up the occasional purchased garment.  The first chance I had to see her, I asked her opinion.  She liked my lace idea, and suggested I also put it on the front behind the pockets for balance.  Loved it!

So I headed off to the fabric store.  I looked at lace fabrics, but nothing really worked for me.  I wanted a heavier lace, and the ones they had weren’t completely black.  They were black with teal or purple highlights.  I wandered down the denim aisle and found a black denim with a flocked design.  I took it to the cutting table and laid out the coat with the denim over it, and decided it was perfect.  I bought 1/2 yard and a spool of heavy duty black thread.

So here’s how I went about fixing my jacket.

FullSizeRender 3First, I patched the tear.  I cut a piece of the denim large enough to cover the whole tear and then some.  Then I cut the stitching that held the lining to the hem of the jacket, folded out the hem, and sewed the patch in place, being careful not to catch the lining.

The back of my jacket is sewn in sections.  There are four sections across the back from the neck to my waist, and four more from waist to the hem.  All of them are sewn with flat felled seams, so my plan was to just undo one edge of the seam, tuck the fabric under, and top stitch it back in place.  Because of the placement of the tear, I decided to cover the entire width of the back from the waist down.

First, I measured the length and width of the piece I needed.  Then I checked for shape by laying my ruler along the seam and setting it parallel to the hem.  I found there was a slight curve through the waistline.  I also found that the side seams flared out from the waist slightly.


I cut my fabric just a bit bigger than the area I needed to cover, but enough that I had room to finagle if I needed to.  I didn’t want to have to go buy more fabric.  Next, I unpicked one side of the seams.  That turned out to be trickier than I thought.  The seams were originally sewn horizontally and then vertically, and I needed to unpick it horizontally.  So at each place where the horizontal crossed the vertical, I had to unpick the vertical seam for a ways, too.  Unpicking everything took a few hours.  Finally, I was ready to add the fabric!


First, I laid the fabric on the jacket and got a rough idea of the shape of the waistline.  Then I trimmed the top edge to that shape, tucked it under the seam, and pinned it in place, being careful not to catch the lining.  Since I was covering the leather, I didn’t worry about the pins making holes in the leather. I also added another pin near the center bottom to keep the fabric from rotating as I worked with it.  Once that was in place, I folded the sides back along the side seams and cut the extra off.


Then I tucked under the side seams and pinned that into place as well.  This sounds easy, but it was painfully tricky.  Just pinning this in place took several tries, and took well over an hour.  But once I was at this point, it was time to sew!  Yay!  First I topstitched the vertical seams at the waist, then I topstitched the horizontal seam.  Next, I stitched the side seams.  Then I trimmed the bottom of the fabric to match the leather, folded the hem back up, and topstitched about an inch from the fold.  And for some crazy reason, I didn’t take a photograph of the back of it once I was done.  I’ll add a picture to this post later.


One step done.  Next I needed to add the fabric under the pockets on the front.  And tonight I’m tired, so I’ll show you the rest later.


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  • Anna LaRae Killian

    November 1, 2016 at 11:11 pm Reply

    A small suggestion for Susan from March 3, 2016. A camel hide duster is extremely heavy. If you are looking for a camel color duster go to a “leather & hide’s” shop where they care, tan, & make speciality leather clothing. Elk hide is just as durable as camel is usually the same color or can be bleached to a fine cream color. Nancy, many time’s those of us that are biker’s & have ridden our leather’s hard you will find tear’s in the side seams. It’s sometimes cheaper for us biker’s to get new road gear than to “sit & wait” for our britches or coats or vest’s or some women have leather bra’s for extra protection. Sitting & waiting can spell trouble in some town’s for biker’s. We bike as a family & try to dispel the notion of “here come’s the Devil & his hound’s”!… Kind of like Dog the bounty hunter. …. Anyway just a couple of idea’s. & Nancy your work is beautiful. Keep teaching the world 1 clove hitch at a time….that tatting is awesome.

    P.S. When I said knots made pretty dollies some of my Scout’s learned tatting & macramé. Some even to sew.
    Thanks for all you do Nancy & Bruce. Your amazing.

  • Carmie Anderson

    March 30, 2016 at 8:37 am Reply

    Maybe they donated it because the button came off or were lost. Nice way to fix the rip!

    • Nancy Tracy

      March 30, 2016 at 7:58 pm Reply

      I hadn’t thought of that. I hope that’s actually the case!

  • Susan

    March 3, 2016 at 9:45 am Reply

    That is very nice. I want a leather duster and am determined to find one. I’ll settle for denim in the interim, but want leather. And I’m picky too…it needs to be camel as I look terrible in black, although I can always wear a peach scarf at the neck. But I looked for a Corningware electric percolated for 7 years before I found one. I have since gotten 2 more percolators that I love. We are using the same coffee pot so I take Randall’s coffee out, brew mine, then move it to the percolator.It is hotter and doesn’t burn. I also use it to keep my tea hot also?

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