Back in May, I promised to share my tutorial on reviving a thrifted leather jacket, the one seen in my Me-Made-May outfits here, here and here. Thought I’d better write it up while it’s still (somewhat) fresh in my mind…so here it is!
I found a fantastic leather jacket at Value Village for a reasonable $24.99. The leather was in great condition, it fit me well and the style was quite classic.
The only problem was the ripped lining and broken zipper. If I could fix it up, I’d have a jacket to wear for years, decades even.
Because the tutorial is so picture-heavy I’m splitting it into two parts. Part 1 will show you how to replace a jacket zipper, plus how to shorten a metal zipper. Part 2 will show you how to replace the lining in a coat.
Click on any of the images to enlarge them, if you’re following along!
What you’ll need:
- old leather jacket
- new zipper: measure the length of the jacket’s old zipper, and find the closest zipper. If you can’t find the exact length, go slightly longer. I used a metal zipper for durability.
- new lining: measure the length of the body plus the length of the sleeve, to calculate how much lining to buy. Or, wait until you’ve removed the old lining, and either lay it out to calculate how much fabric you need, or take it to the store for more accurate fabric requirements.
- paper clips OR binder clips
- leather foot for your sewing machine OR baby powder
Here’s what I did to fix it up:
First, I unpicked the old zipper. This works best if your seam ripper is fairly sharp – as mine was not!I started by unpicking on the top surface, and once I could pry the layers apart, I started ripping the stitches in between the layers, as shown in the second picture.Once that’s all done, remove the zipper from between the two layers.
You’ll end up with a little pocket of space, like a sandwich. That’s where you will insert the new zipper, sandwiched between the jacket front and the jacket facing. The picture below shows the pocket-like opening.
Then, remove the metal stoppers with pliers. These should come off fairly easily – you can see what they look like when they come off the zipper tape. Save these little bits, as you will add them back to the zipper once it’s shortened.
It’s hard to explain exactly how to do this. It isn’t pretty or graceful, just grab hold of the zipper tape with one hand, and with your other hand, use the pliers to firmly grip the zipper tooth. Pull hard with the pliers, and yank the tape in the opposite direction, and the tooth will come out. (Is that correct? One zipper tooth, lots of zipper teeth?) The zipper tape will get a little mangled where the teeth have been removed, but that’s OK. It will be hidden in the jacket seam allowance.
Once you’ve removed all of the teeth necessary, reattach the zipper stoppers. Wrap them around the edge of the zipper tape where the teeth stop, and give them a squeeze with your pliers.
Secure the zipper in place with paper clips or binder clips. You won’t be able to use pins as the layers are too thick! And even if you could manage to jam a pin through all of the layers, the pins would leave holes in the leather.
Now, we’re going to stitch the zipper into the jacket. Ideally, I aimed to stitch exactly into the holes left from the previous stitching. Aimed is the key word, as once you get going, it’s hard to stop or even see what you’re doing. The best tip is to test on a swatch, to figure out the approximate stitch length that would match the existing holes.
Also, leather doesn’t slide smoothly under the presser foot, but rather sticks to the machine. If you don’t have a leather foot for your sewing machine, like I don’t, then we have to improvise. I wasn’t planning to sew a lot of leather in the future, so I didn’t invest in a leather foot. Instead…
sprinkle a light dusting of baby powder on your machine’s surface! I was hesitant to do this as I love my machine, and didn’t want to gum it up with baby powder. Don’t worry, it didn’t cause any damage. Plus, the powder is necessary for the leather to move as you stitch.
Slowly, and using the hand wheel if necessary, stitch in the groove of the previous stitching. Slow down over any thicker areas where there are multiple layers – like where the extra panel is, in the photo above.
Backstitch at both ends.
Repeat with the other side of the jacket and zipper using the same technique. Re-apply the baby powder if necessary – think of it like flouring your countertop when baking. When you’re done, I used one of those air-duster cans to clean out the leftover baby powder from my machine.
Stay tuned for Part 2 next week, where I’ll show you how I re-lined the jacket.