How to Repair a Leather Jacket by Hand




I had this leather biker jacket for years that I love it more then any other article of clothing I will ever own. It was one of the first presents given to me by my husband. Over the years, the lining and pockets began to deteriorate and was in need of repair. I thought about taking it to a tailor, but the thought of how much it would cost made me think it wouldn't be possible. So I figured why not try and do it myself!? If I screwed it up, then I would suck it up and send it off.

I had all the materials on hand except  the shoe polish. So cost was next to nothing.

Please keep in mind, all sewing was done by hand, as I do not own a sewing machine.

This is the first time I have taken on such a huge sewing project. And this took me 3 months. I wasn't confident I could do it, but when I tore the jacket open and noticed the horrible stitching job the first time around, I figured I couldn't do any worse.

This is also my first time posting here. Any comments and suggested ideas welcomed. I'm not sure I have the pictures in the right order, the computer was giving me a hard time. Please let me know if you have any questions or if there is something more I can add to help explain this process more.

Step 1: Demolition Process

First thing first, you need to remove all traces of cloth off the leather. This will also included pockets in this case since those went to hell too.  Make sure you save leather flaps attached to the pockets. I suggest using a pair of small scissors (manicure size) to cut into the stitching and to pull out old thread.

Due to the age of the jacket, you can see where there was insulation that rotted away though time. (All that orange powder like stuff). I had to vacuum and brush most of it away. Not to mention, all of the dirt and years of receipts that became trapped within the jacket over time due to holes. 

Step 2: Pocket Creating - Inside Pockets

For the pockets, I used an old dress shirt that got ripped and was no longer wearable.

For Inside pockets, I used the sleeves. This way, I could make them as long as I wished. It's now a lot more roomie for your cell phone, cigarettes and/or flask. Not to mention half the work is done for you.

Cut the sleeve to the desired length, and pin openings together, The place you cut the sleeve, allow pinning about a half inch from end. Sew openings together leaving cloth right side out. Do not sew the side that will be the opening of the pocket, which is where you cut the sleeve.  If possible, if you have stitching row already in the shirt, use that as a guide lines as to where to sew. This way, you have a path set out for you, and you are not creating added stitch lines. Repeat process for other inside pocket.

Once you have the pockets created, you now need to sew those leather flaps I told you not to throw out.

Use the opening and line up the flaps and start pinning. There are going to be two sides to the flap. One side, has a longer piece of leather then the other. The side with the longer piece of leather is the back side of the pocket. take your cloth pocket, and line it up to the inside of the back flap.

Take the other side of the cloth pocket and sew it to the outside of the front leather flap.

Sew the back side by following the previous holes that were already created.

Sewing the front side requires a different kind of stitching called overcast stitching since you are working with less and you don't want it to fray. For added measures, I put the needle though the loop before pulling down to make sure it would stay strong.  Sadly I did not take video of this because I didn't think of it at the time. But you can follow the link here and get a basic idea of it. You need to go though the leather stitching, gab the cloth, dip the needle though the loop you made and pull down.

The last thing you need to do is make sure your leather flaps are sown together on the sides if they wore out. And for this, I serious recommend a thimble. Despite you are still going though all ready created holes, you are still going though several layers of leather. Not only have I broken needles, but sent the needing right though my thumbnail. Be careful pushing the needle though, if it resists, try wiggling. 

Set pockets aside for now.

Now you need to add your inside pockets to your lining. Part of my lining  was a satin like spring jacket given to me that I never wore.

All you need to do is lay the jacket flat and mark where you are going to place the pockets. Then carefully slice just the first layer of the cloth, you don't want to go though to the other side of the jacket. Slip the pocket into the hole and sew one again the same way or each side into the satin.

Step 3: Pocket Creating - Outside Pockets

For the inside pockets, I lined up what was left of the old pockets to get and idea of the size and shape to make them. I cut the about inch more then the original, for extra room and a bit more slack. Worst case if I made too much, It could be cut. I also lined them up with the leather I will be attaching them on, to make sure it wasn't too much.

Sew up the sides and the bottom, leaving the top open. (the top should be the part you lined it up on with the jacket. Make sure you leave about a half inch of space when sewing the ends). You can cut about half of the slack you created so you won't feel that inside the pocket as much. Then flip them inside out to be the correct side. Repeat each process for each pocket you have.

Attach the pockets the same way you did the inside ones by lining up previous holes.

Step 4: Jacket Lining

The lining in the jacket came from two materials. The satin jacket and and old thermal shirt that has seen better days, but at least wasn't filled with holes.

Laying the thermal as flat as I could on the floor, I cut it in the middle on the front in a vertical style as to make appear it could be a jacket.

The next step was to slip it onto the outside of the satin jacket and pin seams, collar and cuffs to keep it in place. This part was a bit tricky and I needed a second person. Luckily, my 12 year old who is almost the same size as me, let me use him as a mannequin. It is best to start and the top and work your way down. This way the extra thermal would be all on the bottom and can easily be removed. 

Sew thermal and satin jacket together starting from the top and working your way down. For the collar and cuffs use the overcast stitching. Follow the path of the already made stitching in the satin and thermal.

For the sleeves, make sure you sew down the whole arm and around. For the middle, sew up to the stitching where the zipper is sewn on.

For the bottom, I had only sown where satin and cotton met, since trying to sew though the leather on the bottom later, would of been murder. Not to mention, the satin and leather didn't quite meet at the end.

Cut off remainder when done.

Step 5: Leather to Liner

This part is very much like the previous step.

Place liner into jacket and pin up. You may want to grab your handy dandy assistant for this again.

Sew again from top to bottom. (I left the cuffs for last because I wasn't sure how to go about it at the time.)

I discovered at this point, that I found it a lot easier to use an upholstery needle to get it where I wanted to go. The best way to sew this step is when following your already made path, send the needle though leather side. Send the needle back though the same hole back to leather side. You don't have to worry about your previous stitch coming undone, it's almost impossible to get it to go though in the exact same spot. The on the leather side, go to your next hole an repeat the process. I found this way to be the easiest way to make sure I wasn't skipping holes, since some stitching still existed and it was easy to get confused.

When sewing front zipper, I matched it as best I could. I got a bit confused where the leather folds and I think I lined it up wrong, but I managed to make it still look good.

For sewing the bottom, that was a bit of a pain as well, since I  got hung up when the liner met the leather in a place they did not quite work out. But then again, I managed to make it look passable.

The cuffs were my biggest problem, I went down 3 different routes before I figured out which one would work. For this step, match up the leather cuff to the seam where cotton fabric meets the satin fabric. I started sewing and the back seam (opposite of cuff zipper) then went to the zipper. Then I did the other half. The side to attach where the zipper is, all I could do is fold in the fashion it folds itself when it's zipped up. Again, not really that obvious unless you point it out

Step 6:

The final step is a little mink oil for a very thirsty jacket, and some shoe polish to hide the worn leather areas. And TA DA!!!! Now you have a new leather jacket that even the Fonz can be proud of.



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    18 Discussions


    5 months ago

    I have a leather jacket that was my dads that looks just like that that you have in the picture and it needs some sewing done to it it got some holes in it and the zippers need fixed


    Question 5 months ago on Introduction

    Hi I got a leather jacket it was my dads kinda like that that you have in the picture so I was wondering if you could sew the holes and fix the zippers on it for me and can you tell me where you are located


    2 years ago

    Hey there, i don't really know the solution to my problem right now. if i should stick the print on with glue or sew it by hand. The thing is I ordered this jacket online but it seems that it's been in their stock for a really long time that the print started to cleanly peel off. Can you help me? I don't want to barrage the store owner with complaints since she's been very nice to me. Here are some pics. If you can help me, it would be really appreciated. Thanks!

    2 replies

    You can always try fabric glue first and see how that works. If it doesn't stick you will have to stitch it. If you stitch it, make sure you go around the whole patch so it looks even.


    2 years ago

    If you're going to keep working with leather like this, and you don't want to keep breaking needles, I would recommend utilizing a diamond shaped stitching awl. It helps with making a hole before you pass the needle through. It's especially important if the leather is thicker than the cloth you're applying to it. A lot of these manufactured clothing articles are typically done with a special type of sewing machine (super expensive) so even though there are holes there already....the awl can help make them a bit larger to fit the right kind of needle. I like using a cotton thread coated in beeswax for hand stitching leather, myself. Standard thread has a tendency to not hold up well to the toughness of the leather, and the wax helps strengthen the thread, as well as protect your stitching. All in all, hell of a job, and it looks very fine indeed. Also, a set of diamond chisels can really help make straight lines if you're working with a blank piece of leather. Makes the lines straight with minimal effort.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you i will keep that in mind if i decide to pick up leather again. I think right now im just going to stick with cloth and get more practice


    2 years ago

    Its just getting broken in after 20 some years. It gives it character.

    1 reply

    2 years ago

    This is Instructables Jack. Thanks for the info. My girlfriend has a Leather jacket that needs a new lining. Its seen better days but her Parents gave it to her on her 18th. We will try. :)


    3 years ago on Introduction

    nice tip... but if your jacket is old then you should buy a new one.

    1 reply

    4 years ago

    I need help i have a white a leather jacket hundred percent leather

    1 reply

    5 years ago

    Very nice I have the same jacket with a worn out liner that I need to fix

    1 reply

    6 years ago on Introduction

    My motorbike jacket looks just like this and it's my favourite!