The making of a leather jacket
I somewhat foolishly said to Gemma that I could make her a leather jacket…I mean let’s face it I made one on the Sewing Bee in 7 hours right, well almost!
To be honest sewing leather isn’t all that tricky, you just have to be a little more careful is all and use some slightly different gear.
So when I first went to buy leather I thought that it all comes from cows…right?! Well not quite, what had never really crossed my mind was that of course leather can come from many different animals, goat, cow even pigs. In fact the latter is the one I chose, in a lovely dark smoke grey shade.
Also you buy leather in hides or skins, this means that they are…well…animal shaped, so they are priced in usable square feet (sq.ft) and not in meters or yards. Another point to note is that they were at one time wondering around fields, bumping into trees and fences etc. so they have to odd mark on them, but lets face it, that’s some of the character so don’t be put off by it, just work around or incorporate it where you can. Remember these points though for pattern placement as you may require a little more room.
If you imagine that leather is smooth on one side and like a suede on the other side. The main thing that you have to be careful of when joining two pieces together is that the on your machine the presser foot tends to stick to the leather on the top layer whilst the feed dogs happily pass the lower layer through, resulting in a very interesting curved seam…which would be great if you were making a bowl, but I’m not!
So in this case I’ve gone and got myself a walking foot, this little beauty walks (clever huh) the top layer through at the same speed as the bottom layer, giving you a perfect seam. Quilters use these for passing through multiple layers of thick fabric at an even pace.
It’s also advised that you swap for a leather needle, these have a scoop out of the back that ensures the needle doesn’t drag, plus the tip of it is like a blade rather than a spike, so it slices through cleanly. Another handy tool I’ve found is a metal roller, as you can’t exactly iron leather it’s good to roll the seams once stitched to flatten them.
I chose to make a biker style jacket with a diagonal zip, a full collar and fasten back poppers on the label.
To cut out the pattern pieces I use my trusty rotary cutter and mat, this helps me get a really accurate size with no creeping. In order to get the sizing correct I made a calico version first, so after adjustments had been made, I then dismantled it and used this as my template.
When it comes to holding the pieces together I like to use bulldog clips rather than pins, yet again it’s less marks on the leather and does the same job.
So after all this preparation and preamble I’m actually going to start stitching, on the back center seam I single stitch the full length, then press it open with my roller and top stitch either side of the seam to hold it open. This gives a great yet subtle detail to the jacket.
I continue by stitching the bust darts, and then make up the front parts, these are stitched right side to right side then turned through and pointed out into the corners. I then join the front parts to the back parts on the shoulder seams, again with a straight stitch, a press open and a top stitch either side.
The sleeves are attached to the jacket body itself, this is just done around the shoulder seams and then left open on the underarm, so that later the sleeves and side seams are then sewn in one go from the cuff all the way through to the hemline.
Next I make up the collar, this takes some concentration on my behalf as I really want this to look spot on, so here it’s all about the precision. This collar is made up of two parts, an upper and a lower, this is then turned through and pointed out into the corners. I join the collar to the neck edge of the jacket followed by a precise top stitch all the way up from the front bottom edge up the front, around the lapels and collar and then back down the opposing front edge. The pictures make more sense!
Next up is the zip, I shorten this metal zip to fit the length of the opening, this is a tad fiddly but very do-able. The teeth of the zip need to be opened up and taken off the tape along with the end stopper. This stopper is then reapplied and crimped in place at the desired length. I then apply the zipper to either side of the openings.
Back to those sleeves, as I stitch on the inside I go from the cuff all the up through the armpit and down to the waist hem.
As I said up at the start, I’ve lined Gemma’s jacket with a silver satin lining. To make a lining you basically make another jacket except this time you stitch it inside out. Also, to allow a bit more room for manoeuvring, it’s advisable you add in a little extra pleat or box pleat in the centre back.
For the hems and cuffs I use a faux leather bias binding. This works perfectly to join in the lining and the leather jacket. It gives a nice neat finish and holds the lining firmly in place. Although my machine did struggle a little as it tried to go through 6 layers!!!
Now for the good bit, I finally get to give it to Gems and it fits an absolute treat. Plus she absolutely loves it.
Bosh…done! If you fancy giving leather a go, why not start with my beginners guide to leather and make a simple clutch bag.