If you’ve been around here before, you know I’m a huge fan of both upcycling clothes and making bags. I often combine the two, and this upcycled leather jacket to leather bag tops the list of best upcycle projects. My mother-in-law gave me my late father-in-law’s leather jacket to make an upcycled bag. Of course, I wanted to make her something special from this leather jacket (no pressure, right!?!?).
In January 2020, my father-in-law lost a very short battle with the C word. My mother-in-law asked me to go through his things and take anything that I would want to take for upcycled sewing projects. His leather coat stood out and I knew I would make it into a bag for her.
Due to the worn areas and construction of the leather jacket, there was some challenging piecing that went into putting the bag together. But those unique traits make it a one-of-a-kind handmade leather bag.
For this bag, I wanted to use a pattern vs drafting my own. We poured over several handbags and purse sewing patterns. She picked the one that I was hoping she would.
We discussed hardware finishes and she immediately gravitated to the rose gold/copper hardware.
She wanted the lining to “pop” and she chose a floral watercolor fabric.
The contrast turquoise thread was a last-minute choice.
She’s a tassel girl, so I added a tassel charm that’s backed with the interior fabric.
While I even impressed myself with the outcome of this project, most importantly I was able to gift my dear mother-in-law a sentimental gift that she will cherish. It still smelled like him when I stuck it in the mail to her.
Read on for some notes about upcycling a leather jacket into a bag, plus the pattern, hardware, fabrics, and other materials used.
Leather Bag Pattern
This upcycled bag was created using the incredibly talented Sue Cheek’s Maggy55 5th Avenue Handbag pattern. This bag pattern is an intermediate bag sewing pattern. The pattern includes very detailed videos of every step to make this bag that are extremely helpful. You will not only get visual instruction to every step of making the bag, but you will also learn some invaluable tips from Sue herself. I have used her methods repeatedly since making this bag.
Bag Hardware, Materials, and Other Notions
The hardware from this upcycled leather jacket bag comes from several sources. Here are where to get the exact hardware I used.
- handles, grommets, and gate rings come in a kit by Bringberry Handbag Hardware and Designs
- zippers, zipper pulls, tassel cap, zipper end, purse feet, and rivets from My Handmade Space
- “handmade” label by Emmaline Bags, can be purchased on Etsy
- Size 69 / Tex 70 nylon thread from The Thread Exchange
- swivel clasps from KraftHausSupply
- lining fabric Swavelle Indoor/Outdoor Brigida Marina found here
- custom sew-in labels from here on Etsy
Upcycled Jeans + Dress Shirt Backpack
Turn an old pair of jeans and a dress shirt into a small backpack. Free backpack pattern plus tips for a great upcycled denim bag.
Turning a Leather Jacket into a Bag
The most common question I get about this bag is how to deconstruct a leather jacket to make the bag. Since this isn’t my first leather jacket upcycled bag, I had a few tricks to ensure I get the best use of the leather jacket. I don’t recommend just start cutting into the jacket. There are seams that came from the original jacket construction that stayed as part of the design of this bag, and it took some initial planning.
Once all of the paper pattern pieces were cut out, I laid the jacket out and started moving the pieces around to decide where each pattern piece should come from. Some areas of the jacket were more worn (elbows, lower back, and edges). This was taken into consideration before cutting. Once I had a general idea of which pattern pieces would work best for the different areas of the bag, I sketched it out. Doing this made sure all of the pieces were accounted for.
Then cutting began. I cut out the jacket lining (and hope to have that as its own upcycling project soon). Next, I cut out the biggest areas, taking into careful consideration my sketched-out plan and the necessary pattern pieces.
The largest pattern pieces were not able to be achieved without some piecing together. The vertical and diagonal lines are not part of the pattern, but because I needed to piece some leather together to fit the pattern, they became a well-thought-out design element. And I’m so glad they did! I cut several large pieces that would take up the needed space, sewed them together, then topstitched along the seams.
After that, I cut out the pattern pieces according to the pattern. The front and back were pieced together to fit the needed pattern piece as well as match each other. As the leather in a leather jacket can vary in thickness and texture, I did my best to match all areas that come in pairs.
As a modification to the pattern, I stabilized the back of the leather with Decovil light,
After that, everything else is following the bag pattern.
Sewing the Leather Jacket into a Bag
The second most popular question I get about this bag is about the stitching. I will agree that the stitching came out pretty outstanding, it’s some of my best work. My mother-in-law had originally mentioned contrast stitching and I silently cringed at the idea. While contrast topstitching can really elevate the look of a bag, it can stick out like a sore thumb if it goes poorly.
As I was about to thread up my machine with black thread, a spool of turquoise thread caught my eye. I gave it a test stitch. There was no question that the turquoise thread was the only choice. Especially since it also happens to be my mother-in-law’s favorite color.
What made this topstitching come out so good is a combination of my sewing machine, quality thread, the right needles, and the presser feet used.
- Made using my Janome HD9
- Size 69 / Tex 70 Nylon Thread from The Thread Exchange
- Teflon 1/4″ compensating foot
- standard Teflon foot
- leather sewing machine needles
I held my breath for EVERY stitch of this bag. The key is to take it slow and use the right thread and needles. Always do a test stitch on the same materials with the same thickness.
Leather Handbag Handles
Another popular question about this handmade leather bag is those handles by Bringberry Handbag Hardware and Designs. They are show-stoppers!
You don’t need any special equipment to install these handles. They are screwed in from the inside of the bag. The videos included with the pattern will show you every step on how to achieve great looking and sturdy handle installation.
Upcycled Leather Bag Lining
This pattern normally calls for quilting cotton interfaced with woven fusible interfacing. Since I used a medium/heavyweight indoor/outdoor fabric, I did not need to interface the lining fabric. Outdoor fabric is a great choice for a bag-lining fabric.
The watercolor floral fabric has a rainbow of colors, making it pair well with just about anything.
DIY Leather Wristlet Pattern
Make your own leather wristlet using one piece of leather. It’s perfect for date night with a zipper and slip pocket inside, plus a wrist strap for carrying. Free PDF and SVG files.
How to Make a Fabric-Backed Tassel
Adding fabric to the back of a tassel brings the lining of a bag to the outside of a bag. Before cutting your tassel, add a layer of HeatnBond UltraHold in between the layers, then cut.
Here’s a video on How to Make a Tassel by Kelley Rao. In the video she cuts by hand and glues the fabric to the back, however, I know since she made this video, she has switched to using HeatnBond between the layers and a Cricut to cut her tassels. I used HeatnBond UltraHold to bond the fabric and leather together, and cut by hand. If you have a Cricut Maker or other cutting machine, I highly recommend cutting your tassels on there. The outcome will be perfect every time.
Other Tools and Materials for Leather Jacket to Leather Bag Upcycling
All of the tools and materials for this leather handbag pattern are listed in the pattern listing. Here are links to the exact products I used when making this bag.
- Kraft-tex Fabric Paper – unwashed
- Decovil Light
- Eco-Flo Edgeflex
- Bontex Bag Stiffener
- Eco-Flo Leather Weld
- Loctite Threadlocker
- HeatnBond UltraHold
- leather pen
- leather hole punch
- rivet press by Buckleguy.com
- sewing clips
If you like this handbag pattern, I highly recommend checking out the other Maggy55 patterns.
I hope this has helped you decide if you would like to upcycle leather jackets into bags. If you have any questions, please comment below or send me a message.