Fixing up an old leather jacket: Part 2

This post is continued from “Fixing up an old leather jacket: Part 1” where we replaced the zipper. Part 2 will cover how to replace the lining.

As I mentioned in Part 1, 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. Here I’ll show you what I did to replace the jacket lining.

Remember, click on any of the images to enlarge in a new window, if you’re following along.

I also sized the images slightly larger than Part 1, for easier reference.

What you’ll need:

  • old leather jacket
  • 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.
  • thread
  • seam ripper
  • leather foot for your sewing machine OR baby powder

Here’s what I did:

First, unpick the old lining from the leather jacket. What we’re going to do here is use the old lining to make the pattern pieces for the new lining. No drafting required!

Choose a place to start (I started at the hem), and work your way around the whole seamline. Try and keep the lining as intact as possible.

Continue until the lining is completely removed from the jacket. This stage is kind of cool, as you can see the inside of a leather jacket! Mine had writing and felt markings all over the inside. Maybe I’m just a dork but I thought it was neat to see.

Back to the jacketĀ  – now you should have two completely separate pieces. One unlined jacket…

and one lining shell…

Next, I marked my centre back line. Measure from sideseam to sideseam, divide in half, and mark. Do this at the hem, at the waistline (eyeball it if you can’t tell exactly where the waist is) and between the shoulders.

Slice the back lining piece up the middle. Now, you have a half jacket. Choose the half with less rips and holes to use for the next step. (But keep the other half, don’t throw it out yet.)

Bring out the seam ripper again, and carefully unpick the rest of the seamlines: sideseam, armhole, shoulder seam.

Once you’re all done, you’ll have lining pieces like in the photo above. These will be used to recut new lining pieces. Give them a quick press, and tape together any holes or shredded areas.

Lay out your new lining fabric. Using the old lining pieces as pattern pieces, lay them out on the lining.

Pin the centre back lining piece along the fold of your lining fabric. Remember slashing up the middle of the back? We’re aligning that edge now along the fold.

Pin the balance of your lining pieces to the lining fabric.

Now, it’s likely that your lining pieces don’t have much seam allowance left. Mine were serged, plus I may have been a bit tired of seam-ripping and ripped some of my seams instead of carefully unpicking. Do as I say, not as I do! But if you must do as I do, it’s OK. We’ll just add back the proper seam allowance to our edges now.

From the holes where the seam was stitched, measure 5/8″ (1.5cm) and mark. (Or if you ripped it along the seamline, measure from the ripped edge.) Continue along the edges, marking your new cutting line.

Cut along your marked lines.

Repeat for all lining pieces.

Now, we’re going to rebuild the lining. This is where the other half of your lining comes in handy as a reference.

Start with any darts or pleats, then sew the shoulder seams and sideseams. Sew the sleeve seams, then set them into the lining body.

Press under the hem allowances on the sleeve hems and body hem.

Once you have a lining shell and a jacket shell, it’s time to join them together.

Attach the lining to the jacket, along the facing, neck edge, and hem. Use paper clips or binder clips to secure the edges.

Because the leather seam allowance isn’t a full 1.5cm, I’ve lined up the holes from the previous stitch line along the imaginary seam line of my lining. It should match the size of the old lining piece before I added seam allowance.

Sew along the edges, aiming for your stitches to fall into the holes from the previous stitch lines. The picture below illustrates how to line up your edges better.

Also, if you sew with the lining on the bottom, you don’t need to baby-powder your machine. The lining is slippery enough!

Sew along all of the edges, leaving a 4-inch opening somewhere to turn the jacket. Turn the jacket right-side out through the opening.

Hand-stitch the opening closed, working the needle through the existing holes in the leather. Sew the lining to the cuff hems by hand as well.

AND… we’re finished!

Here’s the numbers for this project:

  • Jacket cost: $24.99
  • Lining, thread, new zipper, leather needles: $16.27
  • Time spent from start to finish: 6 hours
  • Injuries: 1
  • Broken needles: 1
  • Total cost for my semi-new leather jacket: $41.26 + a weekend afternoon

Thinking of doing it yourself? Just remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It would be nice if it was, but it’s just lining. No one will see it, and making your jacket new and clean is the main part. What I mean is, if the cutting is a little off, it’s OK. Lining is meant to float around in your coat anyways, a perfect fit is not required.

Would I do it again? Honestly, probably not. It was more work that I thought and it’s one of those things you do once, are REALLY glad you get to wear the finished garment, and never want to do it again! I’m happy that I did it and that I know how, and that I took enough pictures to write a decent how-to guide to share.

But now, next time you’re thrifting and find a great jacket, you have the resources to save it. You won’t have to pass it up if the lining is ruined or the zipper’s broken.

Happy thrifting and good luck!

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19 Responses to Fixing up an old leather jacket: Part 2

  1. Suzie July 5, 2010 at 6:35 am #

    Wowza – so impressed that you are able to do that! Such a great tutorial….you are inspiring me to go op-shopping for a leather jacket!!!

  2. Wanett July 5, 2010 at 8:01 am #

    Thanks for this! I actually have my own old leather jacket to makeover. So no additional cost to buy one! I spent enough on it in the first place ;o)

  3. Thislightgetsin July 5, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    So cool! Thanks for documenting it so clearly, I love that about your posts. I would never have thought of attempting a rehab of a leather jacket otherwise.

  4. Fourth Daughter July 5, 2010 at 4:45 pm #

    Excellent documenting.. I need to learn from you in that I’m always enthusiastic about a project and forget to document it. I just finished adding a leather trim to a jacket and it was a real challenge… once I’ve finished the rest of it I’ll put a post up, but way too many mistakes and tricky stuff along the way for it to be a tutorial!

  5. Tasia July 6, 2010 at 9:21 pm #

    Thanks everyone! So glad you found it interesting and perhaps useful.
    @Fourth Daughter: Oh man, there are so many things I forget to document. I have to pause and think “would anyone find this interesting?” and if the answer is maybe, I take pictures just in case!

  6. Kathleen October 8, 2010 at 8:48 am #

    Is it possible to alter a leather jacket? Found a great one at a thrift store, it fit in the waist but was HUGE through the shoulder and upper back. Would have had to take all that in. Any thoughts?

  7. Tasia October 9, 2010 at 10:26 am #

    Hi Kathleen!
    I’m sure it’s possible but altering a leather jacket is something I would never attempt myself! It’s one thing to replace the zipper, but altering the body seams, especially the shoulder, is incredibly difficult.
    To replicate the stitching on the original seams, you’ll need a heavy-duty machine and strong thread. You can’t make any mistakes, or the stitching-holes will show! And altering any jacket for a better shoulder fit is very tricky. Shoulders are the one area that should fit on a jacket before buying it – the waist, hip, and length are easier to fix but the shoulders are hard (and perhaps impossible, depending on the cut of the jacket, and how far off it is from the desired fit!)

    Sorry for the disappointing answer, if you’re more confident than me in your ability to work with leather and make alterations, then go for it! But if it were me, I know I would end up with the jacket all taken apart and no way to get it back together in a professional-looking way. Even this jacket could have used some nips and tucks but no way was I going to mess with it! The thread is a very thick coarse thread, and even just sewing in the zipper and lining was hard on my machine.

    I hope this was helpful!

  8. Tenuki Handcrafts August 20, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    Your wonderful tutorial has inspired me to re-line my favorite Ann Taylor jacket that I’ve had for about 10 years. Thank you so much!

  9. Jade April 15, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    I can’t tell you how excited I was to find your tutorial! Clear with great pictures. Done and Done.

    My hubby has a leather jacket He is ready to toss (donate) because the lining is so shredded. I found *really* nice lining fabric for $2 at the thrift store – but it has been sitting on a shelf for over a year now… because I’ve been too chicken to try.

    The only other directions I’ve found have clearly been for professionals, not an ambitious amateur like myself. I’m gonna try it, you’ve shown it’s possible.

    Thanks for sharing your project, I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  10. Anna October 21, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    Hello, this is very interesting, thank you so much for it!
    I recently purchased a very soft leather jacket, biker style, but from the 80’s, I would like to take it in a little.
    May I ask what type of needle did you use to sew this jacket?

    BTW, great job!

    • Tasia October 24, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

      Hi Anna! I think I used a leather needle, they’re sold in sewing shops with the rest of the needles but are labelled ‘leather’ on the packet. Hope this helps!

  11. Angelika May 3, 2013 at 4:05 am #

    Hi Tasia,

    What an excellelent tutorial. Very detailed, with brilliant photos to guide you through all the steps. It gave me the courage to re-line one of my leather jackets which I have had for years.
    I went for a really bright fabric which has changed the whole style of the jacket. It has upgraded it from a standard jacket to jacket with vow factor. A BIG THANK YOU!


  12. Sarah October 7, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

    Thanks, Tasia – my favourite 70s op shop jacket needs relining and this will be so helpful. I can’t wear it at the moment as the sleeve lining on one side has detached from the armhole!

  13. Karen December 1, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    Great instructions, and pics.

  14. helder October 19, 2014 at 5:13 am #

    if i sent you a leather jacket, could you fix it for me? its a 70 jacket and he needs a quite extensive work

  15. Marion February 17, 2015 at 4:43 am #

    Thank you for such clear instructions and pictures. Need to re-line a 70s leather jacket for my son and wasn’t sure how to start. Please can you tell me what sort of thread you should use to stitch the lining to the leather. I will probably go for an acetate/polyester mix lining.

    Thanks again –


    • Tasia February 17, 2015 at 11:28 am #

      I’d use all-purpose polyester thread, that’s what I use for most things! Good luck with your jacket project. :)

  16. Linda April 18, 2015 at 11:42 pm #

    It’s a sunny Sunday morning here in south west England and yesterday I got two-thirds through re-lining my favourite old leather jacket with some gorgeous printed satin. Got a bit stuck on a couple of points regarding actually attaching the lining to the jacket, but then, over breakfast this morning, I found your tutorial and all the responses, and managed to find out everything I needed to know. So pleased that I can now finish my project and get to wear my lovely refurbished jacket later today!

    Thank you Tasia for your excellent, clear instructions. I will check out your website again when I next need help or inspiration!

    • Tasia April 20, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

      That’s wonderful to hear! I’m so glad the tutorial was helpful. It’s a bit of work to re-line a jacket, but worth it if you love the jacket and want to extend its life!