Recycle the 80s

It’s big. It’s very wide. It’s a bit whiffy (on the nose). It’s from the 80s. It’s textured leather. It was $20. It’s my first recycling project. It could have been owned by a tall, dark, handsome man with very little dress sense who hung out at discos. Mmm. I’ll take it!

When I unpicked this jacket, the glue on the seams was still good but I could rip it apart without tearing the skin. Twill tape was used on the sleeve joins to the jacket, in the hem and in the side seams. The buttonholes were reinforced and the self cover buttons had a small button on the wrong side to hold them in place. It’s a big big jacket so it would suit a ‘simple’ straight skirt.

After using leather reconditioner (leather balsam), the colour became a deeper grey than green. I spoke to a leather expert and her view was that because the leather has already been treated, she said it would be hard to recolour. Then the question was, should I still use this? Yep. This is now a ‘no fear’ leather practice piece.   It’s still smells whiffy.

Since making the eyelet Derby Day Peony, I felt this skirt could do with an exposed separating zipper. I’ve used the original hem for this skirt so the real challenges are:
– make this skirt fit around the waist
– get the hem length right
– line the skirt properly with thick lining fabric.
– use a separating zipper that enhances the look of this skirt
– finally sew with real leather using real leather seam tape and glue!
I bought the leather double sided tape and leather glue from Birdsalls Leather at Botany. I got some useful leather sewing advice when I phoned and then visited the store.
And they have lots of leather saddlery things to look at in awe. Well I did anyway. They stocked buckles and pre-pressed leather for the belts you see worn at the Easter Show or on spaghetti western movies.

Prep work
I used a leather needle in my machine and replaced the sewing foot on machine with a teflon foot. I also eased the feeder pressure and used the longest stitching thread to sew the seams.

I used the darkest pieces of leather because some pieces had started to yellow. The hem was noticeably yellow so while I did want to reuse the hem, it was too obviously yellow, so I cut this off.

I love this red lining but for your purposes, this is a closer view of the insides of the skirt after sewing on the exposed zipper.

On the front, I’ve added extra seaming to give the waistline shaping without using darts. The hem also has a binding piece to make it long enough for my zipper. The zipper was a stash piece as was the lining.

Hooray. The back zip is now straight because I resewed the back seams and evened them out!!! The jacket McCalls 6292 was made earlier this year to test out the jacket style for a future pleather jacket with the matching gloves. Next step is to make this jacket from real leather – one day.

By the way, I did iron the leather with a cloth on the leather but learnt real quick to move my hand away when the steam hits to avoid some serious skin burns. The next version will have the glue and double sided tape. I didn’t want to pass out from the glue smell in my sewing room while making this skirt. I was sewing to a deadline to enter the PR refashion contest.

Better online leather bloggers to really learn about leather sewing are the sewing lawyer, Kbenco, Clio and Phineas, Ann’s sewing studio, Gorgeous Ann and  LyndsayT. It was Lyndsay’s post that started my quest to sew leather. These are some tips for sewing leather on a normal sewing machine too.

Peony update:
Sarah of Rhinestones and Telephones and featured my Derby Day Peony with Erin’s version. And I found out that Erin of Miss Crayola Creepy loves Hawaiian print fabric, so she featured by test Peony. They’ve been hosting a Colette Pattern sewalong with Rochelle of Lucky Lucille. Love your Halloween Peony Rochelle. Thanks ladies. I’ve really enjoyed your sewalong.
And I’ve switched off anonymous again. I got lots of laughable spam so once the joke wore off, I switched anonymous off too:)


  1. Brilliant work! I have a big bag of thrifted leather coats, so it is good to see one reworked into a great skirt. Maybe it's time to have a go.


  2. KC, If the leather coats are thrifted, there's less stress on you to have a go at sewing leather.
    Lena, have a look at your sewing machine's manual and see what setting they suggest for sewing leather. I guess you have an industrial machine. For domestic, I've lessened the feeder, lengthened the stitch length and then used a leather sewing needle. I'll use glue on the next version 🙂


  3. Fabulous leather skirt! What a wonderful refashion 🙂 I am impressed with your skills at sewing leather too. I have some faux suede to try in winter but it is more like fabric, so I'm guessing not as challenging … We'll see 😉


  4. What great use of an undesirable jacket!
    We have something called 'Febreze' here in the UK – spray on whiff remover! If you used something like that(inside)it could help remove the smell. You are absolutely right that learning to sew leather (or fur) in these sort of circumstances takes the fear out of it.
    Well done!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.