Designs on Denim: Part 1

Oooh, another mini-series! This one is going to be about refashioning using denim.

For my first denim refashion in this series (I have earlier denim refashions here and here), I’m  working with a denim shirt. I picked this up at Thrift Town in San Francisco for $3.99.

To make this a bit more interesting, I’m adding some…. LEATHER. I put this in caps because it’s the first time I’ve worked with LEATHER and it was rather daunting…

I bought 10 leather scraps from a man at Spitalfields Market a few weeks ago for £1 each. They vary between very thick and very soft and I chose the most vibrant colours I could find from the pile.

To go with the denim shirt – how about this turquoise blue?

With a design idea in mind, I first removed the pocket.

Now you see it…. now you don’t!

The plan was to make a new pocket out of blue leather. So I drew around the original pocket on a piece of paper to make a pattern, adding a small seam allowance. If you try this at home, you may wish to make the new pocket slightly bigger than the old one, just to be sure any stitch lines/non-faded areas are completely covered.

I drew around the c0llar too. I was going to leave the original collar attached and just add leather over it, but in the end I decided to remove the collar and replace it completely.

Here are my leather pocket and collar pieces! The collar had to be cut in two pieces.

The pocket had to be topstitched to the shirt. Not having any glue to hand… I used SprayMount, which I have to say worked a treat. I applied SprayMount to the back of the pocket to stick down the seam allowance (which was cut slightly wonky because there wasn’t quite enough leather).

Here’s the right side:

Being covered in SprayMount it stuck nicely to the shirt, no pins needed. In fact, pins can’t be used when sewing with leather as they leave holes. I read many top tips on the internet about using kirby grips or hair slides to hold it together, but in the end I didn’t need them. I also read about selecting the right sewing needle and thread in many places (including the wonderful ‘More Fabric Savvy’ by Sandra Betzina, of which I am lucky enough to own a copy), and then proceeded to ignore all the advice completely, as I didn’t have the right needle, and only had one type of thread in the right colour, and I was itching to get this finished. So the pocket was stitched on entirely badly.

Sewing the two pieces of leather together for the collar was easy enough, as was sticking the seam allowance down with more SprayMount.

Sewing the leather collar to the undercollar, which was cut from a scrap of some grey wool tweed-like scraps I had lying around, was an entirely different matter. The soft leather stretched like crazy, making the whole lot out of shape, and at this point I was extremely skeptical that the result would turn out OK.

After a little stretching by hand though, it was fine. Here it is right side out.

Final step was to remove the collar and attach the new one, very carefully of course. (Note the original wearer’s name bleached into the shirt near the label)

I have to say I am thrilled with the way the collar turned out. Just the right amount of tweed is showing and the leather falls beautifully. The seam at the back is not as visible as I’d feared. This was more by luck than by design, but I’m happy.

The pocket however… not perfect, but good enough to the untrained eye.

Here I am modelling this – note the ‘double denim’!

I wore this recently for a lovely day out at Camden Market with my friend A. It was a gorgeous summer day and I will definitely be heading back there soon!



  1. Alex in California

    Beautiful. I would have like to have seen a tweed pocket with a 1/2″ leather top of the pocket border.

  2. Charity

    That is cool! It turned out really fun, and the collar looks great! I wouldn’t have thought of adding a leather collar, but it’s a great idea. =)

  3. Shelley

    Love the leather / denim combo! The leather was a great buy–I see many more posts with leather. Great job.

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