Butterick 6169: DIY Black Leather Collarless Biker Jacket
Today is a picture/ information heavy post about Butterick 6169, which I made using real leather. Yep. I made a jacket from REAL leather. I got over my fear of wrecking the most expensive “fabric” I have bought to date, and of sewing leather, and today I am going to share my experiences with you.
The leather was purchased from a shop in Newcastle called Le Prevo Leathers. I highly recommend these guys. I went into the shop thinking I would buy nappa leather, because isn’t that what all leather jackets are made of? But the guy in the shop told me straight away that nappa isn’t the easiest leather to start out with and on reflection he was probably right. Instead I walked out with 2 cow hide skins, each of around 20 square feet. I took my pattern pieces with me and we laid them out roughly to determine how much leather I would need. He also sold me some specialised leather sewing thread. I wish I could tell you exactly what this thread is, but I don’t know what it is called. All I know is that it is much, much stronger than even a heavy duty topstitching thread and gives all the top stitched seams a very professional finish.
In terms of sewing leather, there are a few rules you should follow:
- Use leather specific needles. I used Schmetz. I only ended up using 2 needles for this project (first one bent).
- Use the right machine foot. I used a walking foot throughout. I started off using a teflon foot but the lower piece of leather next to the feed dogs was stretching out too much. The walking foot eliminated this problem.
- Use a longer length stitch to sew and topstitch. I used 4.3 on my Janome machine.
- You can use heat on leather. But use with caution. Test first and always use a press cloth.
- By the same token, you can interface leather (and should where appropriate). Again, always use a press cloth.
- You cannot pin into leather. I bought 20 of those quilting clips and they were perfect for holding the leather together whilst sewing. See below.
The part of this jacket construction I was dreading the most was the setting in of the sleeves. You cannot ease in a leather sleeve using the traditional gathering of the sleeve cap method. I used the “sleeve head” technique from Jackets for Real People (an invaluable text IMHO). Essentially this involves sewing a bias strip of, in my case, linen, to the sleeve cap to take up the ease before sewing the sleeve into place. The result was a painless easing in of the sleeves. Check it out below.
I treated the inside of this jacket a little like a tailoring project. I added a backstay, interfaced the hems, interfaced all of the front of the jacket (the pattern does not tell you to do this), catchstitched stay tape (to the backstay) around the back neckline and made my own shoulder pads.
As you can see I ended up topstitching virtually every seam. The jacket is fully lined with a bemberg twill lining. It is a little heavier weight lining which is a good pairing with the leather. I also added a leather hanging loop. In retrospect that was a little bit of an error. It is a little bulky, but the leather has already softened down and I think it would have been more of a mistake trying to remove it (remember, leather shows any unpicking you do!) I bagged the lining out: again, hand sewing leather…nahuh.
*EDIT: if you are picking a pattern to sew in leather then make sure you can complete the pattern with NO hand sewing and also consider if there are any areas where they are lots of layers. My janome handled this project with no fuss, but the one part it didn’t like was topstitching the front edges through all the layers/ zipper tape etc. It did it…but just something to watch out for.
Semi-fitted, lined jacket has shoulder pads, seam detail, welt pockets, exposed zipper, and two-piece sleeves. Loose-fitting, pullover dress (semi-fitted through hips) has bias neck binding, self-lined yokes, princess seams, side-front pockets, shaped hemline, wrong side shows, and narrow hem. B: Attached belt.
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Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Were the instructions easy to follow?
Yep although I did a lot of my own thing.
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
This review is only for the jacket. I love the finished jacket. It is simple but classic whilst still on trend and very well drafted. I love the two piece sleeves. If I made this again, say in a boucle or a linen, I would definitely add in zippers to the sleeve openings. Nothing to dislike.
Garment cow hide leather. I used 2 skins of 20 square foot each. The jacket is fully lined with a bemberg twill lining.
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
- 1 inch sway back adjustment, adding the length back in to the lower hems
- Added 1 inch to both back and side back seams to give an extra 2 inch coverage over the high hip at the back
- Did 0.5 inch full bust adjustment
- Shortened sleeves by 0.5 inch
- 1 inch full arm adjustment
- Dropped bust points by 1 inch
- Used a 20 inch zipper rather than the recommended 18 inch
- Interfaced all the jacket front pieces (not suggested in pattern)
- Interfaced back hems
- Added back stay
- Catchstitched stay tape to backstay around back neckline
- Made shoulder pads from fleece using pattern pieces
- Used sleeve head method to take up ease in sleeves before setting in the sleeves (as you cannot ease in leather sleeves using the traditional method)
- Topstitched almost all the seams
- Added a leather hanging tab
- Bagged out the lining
One thing I should point out: the front of this jacket (where the zipper is) should be slightly longer. Somehow I messed up when sewing in the facings and so this part of my jacket is maybe 0.5 – 1 inch shorter than it should be! Yes, annoying, but that’s the consequence when you are working with an unforgiving fabric like leather.
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Maybe and yes.
Sewing this jacket was a little like giving birth: when you hold your beautiful new baby in your arms you forget the horrible pain you went through to bring it into this world and 6 months later you are all like “shall we try for another one?” Lol. Sewing this jacket was perhaps not that painful but now I have “given birth” to it, I am just going to enjoy wearing it and perhaps I will try leather sewing again….in a while…