Reworked Leather Jacket

By Mariana Kirova

​Still keeping your too small old leather jacket in the closet? Have some successful recycled sewing projects behind your back yet think it's too ​early for leather?​

​Keep reading ​to see how to upcycle your jacket today! ​

Follow the design details of a reworked leather jacket project, the best one I've done so far. I threw a pair of small size skinny jeans into the mix to reuse and ​finish off the stylish ​new look.

​If you like it, grab the pictorial. Just hit the Pinterest button ​on this page, choose it and save.

Reworked Leather Jacket by Eco Fashion Sewing

It is very exciting for me because this upcycle is my first artwear project published in my favourite US magazine Altered Couture - in the winter issue 2018 (from 1 November 2017). This is the first out of two big happenings for me as a designer and upcycler this year (I'll post for the second soon).

So, I have a good reason to celebrate and be proud of my achievements (I know my family sure is). :) In hope to inspire you to make your own I've written this article with a pictorial plus some more to get you started.

This post is not the published article from the Altered Couture magazine. Here you'll find more details, information on the materials, the design and a lot of detailed photos.

Upcycling Vs. Recycling

(A note to clarify the terms in case they are confusing you)

Upcycling is when you reuse unwanted, destined to the landfill materials in a creative way. Or you increase the value of the clothing making it wearable again. You can upcycle your own unused clothing; but also source it from a charity or other second-hand shop, from friends, yard sales and so on. Fashion designers also can source their materials like so and use to create their collections .

When you upcycle you increase the value of the item transforming it for a new life and keeping it away from the landfill.

Often people use the word ‘recycling’ instead yet mean upcycling. Actually, as a process ​recycling of clothing and textiles is when waste materials are reprocessed in special facilities. ​These facilities have different areas and machinery ​to do the different recycling stages like sorting, packaging, further distribution for shredding the materials and so on.

​Recycling in general decreases the value of the cloth, because materials are shredded, which makes the fibres too short ​and impossible to use for weaving or knitting new fabric. Therefore, after ​recycling most textile materials are destined for manufacturing rugs, insulation or similar non-clothing ​production.

Recycling process could be different depending on the fibres being recycled. Some facilities can recycle polyester textiles into new and thus ​supply material for manufacturing new polyester apparel. So far though very little of that fibre is recycled and then reused. Other recycling facilities reconstruct plastic bottles to make polyester for ​clothing or blankets and other soft synthetic textile goods.

​The Final Look

​Combined with small size skinny jeans that I thrifted a year ago for a couple of bucks, my old leather jacket looks more beautiful than ever! I love it, it's like a boutique designer wear. :)

If you think leather is too far advanced for your sewing skills, think again. Regardless my sewing experience, I haven’t done many leather transformations and continue to 'learn on the go'.

​That's the best way, and the most fun - to start something and learn on the go. I’m sure you will be great in that with leather!

If you don’t think so, I’ve got you covered. I did a good research, as well as picked from my experience, and put together all the information you'd need to get you started (and beyond). Together we can save lots of good leather material from the landfill, isn't that ​wonderful? I think, it is.

​So, if you've ever thought of tackling leather (or I got you interested now, ​Yay!), then

​Get the #21 Top Tips To Upcyle Leather Clothing and never doubt your skills again!

​All secrets, from ​tools and supplies, sewing tips and machine settings to troubleshooting tricks and what to do with the leftovers ​after - it's all FREE in a cute little file done for you.

​Check out your inbox, if subscribed. T​he tips are ​already there.

​Now, ​after sorting it out, ​let's ​have a look at ​the Reworked leather jacket ​in details.


​I'm preparing this project and article for some time now. ​My personal approach to upcycling is a bit complex, so I need some time to​ figure out ​how to ​reuse and transform gathered materials into a pleasing yet creative and practical way. ​​On top, all preparations and putting together an article of this sort ​for me means days​, sometimes a week or more when sum up all photo shoots, editing, writing, uploading, editing... So, it all takes time. But I do hope you will like it and it will serve you ​well.

  • Soft leather jacket or coat​ ​is ​​​the best choice for the leather material. Charity and op-shops offer plenty of it. You can sew it on a domestic sewing machine easy (​more details ​about the sewing below and ​in the #21 Tips file). For this reworked leather jacket I used the leftover torso of an old leather jacket of mine, with no sleeves or a zipper.
  • Any small size skinny jeans of your taste would be good for the sleeves. ​If possible, look for natural material, rather than blends ​or synthetic polyesters (mine was lightweight twill cotton, great on the skin). Test whether ​the legs fit your arm up to the shoulder before buying. It would be good ​to check the bargains on the sale rack, you know it is the best spot​ to source for cheap items that ​don't sell (small sizes ​rarely fit anyone, so lots available).

​Additional Supplies

  • ​​Front panel with buttons from a leather coat or jacket
  • ​​Buttons: self-covered (for the front closure); and same number 2-/4-hole small plastic (for inside the closure)
  • ​Snap fasteners (or bra-strap-holding snap accessory)
  • ​Basic sewing supplies – sewing machine, snips, scissors, etc.
  • ​Specialty sewing supplies – leather non-stick or Teflon presser foot; leather sewing needle size 14/90; upholstery thread
  • ​Optional: leather glue (variety of brands); dress form
​Some supplies us​ed in the project
Some supplies used in the project

The Design

To upcycle a leather jacket you’ll spend a good portion of your time, therefore it is worth to think of a piece that will suit most looks.

​I find achromatic is a good choice for leather, easy to find and later to match. The black-gray-white hues marry well with any other colour of clothing, which makes it an easy wear. You can make it prettier by adding floral print material. It makes the black body of the jacket to pop and softens the leather with a dash of femininity. ​

However, don't feel restricted at all. Any pattern of your taste will work well in this design.

If you bring some details from the sleeve material as an accent here and there, depending on the initial design, you will ensure the integrity and the good float of the designquality of any good fashion wear. ​So, think of the design details as much as needed, and then, follow up by taking time to execute those details at your best. The design is equally important, as is the quality of sewing to finish it off.

Make your upcycling sustainable by (1) using what you already have or thrifting (2) locally for (3) second hand.

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​Sewing Level

We all face sometime the thought “But I’m not at that sewing level yet!”. The reality is that this only leads to no action. As so many other things, with sewing, the only way to learn how to do it is by doing it.

Therefore, believe in yourself. If you already have some successful projects in your sewing history, then you are totally ready to tackle leather! Take this inspiration and don't look back.

With the help of the #21 Top Tips To Upcycle Leather Clothing this could be your answer to any of the inner doubts and holdbacks.

​Reworked Leather Jacket Details

​The Front ​Panel

​Working with black will give you plenty of options to ​source good soft leather material. In my case, the leftover front of a woman leather suit coat I kept for a while was now exactly what I needed. I used the buttonhole side of the front to upsize the small jacket and extend.

For each one size up – add across horizontally about 5cm (2in). Or put the jacket on and measure at the bust, waist, and hem to ensure correct width of the panel. Add another 2cm (3/4in) for seam allowance too. ​Or use a zipper closure instead, if that's in your stash. Both closures should work.

Extending only the front of a small garment is by no means something they’ll teach you in the fashion school. There, it is a basic grading rule to spread the added measurements to the front and the back pieces of the garment.

​​All the same, along with aiming a pleasant design, fashion upcycling should be practical. And easier so more people can do it, I'd add. Therefore, when looks great on you, ignore the rules, be unique, utilise wastage, and stay eco-fashion-friendly. :)

​I'm curious to know, are you too particular when upsizing and follow the rules or prefer to create ​rather ​freely?

The Sleeves

​​Use the old sleeves or other similar to trace around. You can also make the sleeve head by using the armhole of the body as in this project (some setting in the sleeve info there as well).

To ensure sleeves sit ​properly ​attach them temporary (preferably with ​a leather tape or just a few pins) and put on the dressmaker stand.

​​The sleeve is set ​correctly when curves very slightly towards ​centre front. At the end, the idea is your arm to move freely ​along and bend in front of your body, right? Hopefully, that makes sense ​and explains what I mean by 'properly' and 'correctly'.​​​​

​There is no need of lining inside the sleeve. For a clean finish, I overlocked/serged the lining armhole, and then hand stitched to the leather armscye seam allowance to hold in place.

​​Gathered or with a folded hem, I finished off the sleeve ​by adding a leather tab. ​For seamless look first I stitched the snap on the right side of the tab, and then just folded and glued the end.

​​In fashion, the beauty is in the eye of the viewer. Natalie Chanin, founder of Alabama Chanin

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The Accents

​Some accents on the body made from the sleeve material will ​give a ​complete and stylish look.

​Use 4 strands of upholstery thread to attach the self-covered buttons. ​Sew them with just a few stitches and back up with 2- or 4-hole plastic buttons. That will prevent cuts in the leather from the thread.

​​You can cover worn out edges with bias binding made from the sleeve material and make it an intentional feature.

​The Collar

​The challenge to incorporate as much as possible leftovers of the skinny jeans led to making a decorative collar from the belt-waist part (this is what I meant 'on the go':).

To make it more versatile I made it detachable by using bra strap-holding snaps from my stash (you can find them in craft stores). Stitched them on the inside of the collar (​the offcut belt piece). And on the jacket I sewed chain loops. Loops are easy to attach to the seam thread of the jacket where the collar meets the main back pattern piece. It ​is easier ​and does not poke the leather ​avoiding any unnecessary holes.

Of course, the collar can be ​left loose, without sewing snaps and loops. Just make sure it won’t be lost when you take off the jacket.

​The reworked jacket without the collar

​The reworked jacket with ​the collar

​Some Useful Links At The End

I hope this project will be that extra bit you need to start your own. Below are included some other links that might be useful.

Look inside or order Altered Couture magazine, Winter 2018There is so much inspiration in this magazine. (And don't forget, no inspiration is worth it if doesn't give you well spent time and/or lead you to create yourself!)

If you are dealing with leather that needs freshening up or a good clean, ​check out the amazingly helpful Top for cleaning thrifted leather from Sheri of the inspiring, packed with great information blog Confessions of a Refashionista (she’s amazing and so eco-conscious!).

​​Despite made from new leather (please, do not buy new!), I admire the dedication and great results that the creator and founder of Live Free Creative Miranda shares in her leather jacket project. If you think of making a whole leather jacket yourself, ​her article explains in details the whole process and things she had to overcome. Keep it eco-friendly and instead of buying new leather, ​thrift it second hand from  ​the local op-shop or from friends.

Now it is your turn.

Have you ever reworked a leather jacket? If so, what things you had to overcome? 

Or you just think "you are not there yet"? ​Your old leather jacket or thrifted beautiful small size skinny jeans are waiting ​for you to tackle them one day?

I say: "Get rid of all the holdbacks. You can start and upcycle that leather jacket today."

​Have fun creating from within,


Mariana Kirova

Mariana is passionate about garment upcycling and helping others to make their own upcycled clothing. Graduated with Award in garment construction from WAIFT, Perth WA, Mariana is not a main stream eco fashion designer. She makes unique eco-friendly garments from unwanted clothes and materials and believes that small fashion professionals and DIY sewers can embrace sustainability in garment creation, thus changing the fashion world for good.

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