One of my favorite sewing hacks is to transform a leather coat into a handbag. If you find yourself with a coat that is out of style, or no longer fits, you can still make the most of the leather itself, not to mention some of the coat’s original design elements, like the pockets, closures, belts, and sleeves. And of course, your new handbag will be pre-lined, assuming the lining is also still in good condition. It’s an idea that was churning in my mind for months, and finally I took the time to execute it, resulting in a handbag and a short bolero-length jacket. As with any repurposing project, you should only begin with an item you aren’t attached to, then to surrender to the creative process, knowing that it might or might not work as planned.
The basic steps…
Examining this particular jacket, I decided to cut off the bottom, taking advantage of the front pockets, the fully intact lining, and the belt, which became the two shoulder straps. The top part can become a “bonus” bolero-style jacket, only needing some darts in the front and back, a hem, and maybe an inside pocket added. This grade of leather is fairly soft and pliable.
After cutting the main sections, I experimented with different needles, machine settings, etc. on a couple thicknesses of scrap leather from one of the straps. I liked the results of my size 14 Universal needle over the leather needle, so I used that – the leather needle seemed to be more useful on a harder leather, as it actually pierced the hide, which I didn’t think was necessary for this project.
I then cut off the front zipper from the bag section, sewing up this seam to close the center front of the bag. The front welt pockets of the jacket now became front pockets on the bag. Next, the bottom seam was sewn, right sides together sides. I then sewed across the bottom corners to create a lower bag width of about 4”.
The belt sections of the jacket were cut to the desired length to create ready-made straps, and these ends were stitched to the insides of the bag, below the point where the zipper would be sewn in.
The final steps included hand-basting the zipper in place along the upper edge, right sides together, then machine stitching the zipper tapes to the jacket edges. See what’s possible for your leather jacket, and begin your own leather remake adventure!
NOTE: After completing these basic steps, I also added a zippered inside pocket, as described in my book, ON THE GO! Designing Accessories with Cultural Style. In addition to the 22 step-by-step projects, the book includes lots of tips & tricks to employ for any handbag style, whether you’re starting from scratch or designing a remake like this one. COMMENT BELOW for a chance to win a free copy!