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small tears & wear on leather jacket

Jeanette | Posted in General Discussion on

Dear fellow sewers

I have a few leather jackets that are beginning to look a little tired and I was wondering what advice you can offer me.  There are 2 specific problems I want to try and fix. 

The first is that at the cuffs and some other edges the black colour of the leather has become worn and it has lost its black colour slightly.  Would you apply shoe polish to fix this colour problem? I am a little hesitant as I don’t want the shoe polish, once applied, to mark anything else.  How would you try and fix the worn look of the leather?

The second thing is that the jackets have scratches and small rips  in the leather.  What is the best way to fix these?  I have thought about glue but some of the cuts are very small and I don’t know if I could put glue under the cut.  I also have on the shoulder of one jacket a small area about 1cm long by 4mm wide where the top layer of the leather has ripped off leaving the under layer (also black) exposed.

If you could give me any suggestions I would be most grateful.

Jeanette  in Japan




  1. Pattiann42 | | #1

    Black dye for leather would be a better choice vs shoe polish.  For the torn areas - rubber cement is used when working with leather.  Try a bit under the torn spot where there is still a "flap" of leather left to cover the mend.

  2. ineedaserger329 | | #2

    They make a vinyl patch for car upholstery....I would imagine that would work on the tears....ask around first, I've never tried it. Shoe polish is not a good fix, but they make this quick drying shoe stuff that looks like a bottle with a sponge on top, I'd be willing to bet that would work. I would spot check an inconspicuous area for both....good luck.

  3. Teaf5 | | #3

    Shoe repair and automotive dealers offer really great products and services for repairing leather garments, and they know precisely which ones to use for which types of garments and leathers.

    More than once, a shoe repairman or an auto upholstery person has just taken the garment from me, touched it up with the perfect polish or cream, and handed it back to me for no charge--they just can't stand to watch people mess up beautiful skins, and it spreads goodwill for their business. Other times, they carefully match the product for me, explain how to use it, and charge me just for the product.

    If you can't locate a professional, make sure to read the product instructions and applications very, very carefully and test on an inconspicuous part of the garment.

    1. Jeanette | | #9

      Thank you all so much for giving me some ideas on what to do.  This forum is a wonderful resource.  I will let you know how I get on fixing the tears.  I think I will go with the leather dye rather than polish as you suggested.


  4. krichmond | | #4

    Dear Jeanette:

    When I worked in a tailor shop, we often repaired small tears in jackets by stitching them closed.  The leather has to be fairly stable (i.e. not fragile or deteriorating) along the damaged edges.  The resulting repair is not invisible; it will look like a scar -- the severity of which depends largely on the location and extent of the damage AND the meticulousness applied to repairing it.  It works well on black leather and will stop additional damage from occuring; often an existing tear is in a prime location to get caught yet again and further damage will result.  Our clients were usually quite pleased with the repairs, but we always explained about 'the scar' before taking on the job.

    Select a strong thread that exactly matches the leather.  Do not use cotton (may rot), or a heavy thread as the stitching will be visible.  Knot a single strand through a leather hand-sewing needle.  Start at the wrong side of the leather (you may have to gain access through the lining for some repairs) and poke the needle straight up about 1/8" ( or less) from the damaged edge starting at one end.  (Tiny stitches are less conspicuous, but stitching too close to the torn edge may result in more damage - strike a balance).  Dip the needle BETWEEN the sides of the tear and poke the needle up through the wrong side (of the OTHER side of the tear) tighten the thread to draw the edges close.  You are trying to create a 'figure 8' kind of stitch pattern.  Repeat, using tiny regularly-spaced stitches.  This technique works best on small straight cuts, but will work okay on jagged cuts (within reason).  Finish off by ensuring the edges are butted together nicely (but not too tightly) by knotting the thread on the last stitch and drawing the thread inside (or, if the lining is open, secure by knotting on the inside).  Fish out the needle by poking it through the lining and trim the thread (leaving a bit of tail inside). 

    Small tears do not need stabilizing, but you may want to back larger tears.  Use the thinnest leather available and cut to size.  Use rubber cement  on the wrong sides of both garment and patch (the rough edges tend to adhere better).  Allow cement to dry slightly before adhering patch to garment.  Smooth with brayer (or similar smooth-surfaced tubular object.) 

    Apply a tiny amount of good-quality  matching shoe polish to repaired area (outside of garment), dry slightly and buff lovingly with soft brush.  Shoe polish, if buffed well, shouldn't transfer, but if it's used on areas of garment that are subject to a lot of rubbing, it won't last long enough to make application worth it (i.e. cuffs).  I've tried it on a favourite old purse, and it looks good for about 1 or 2 uses.  It's better to invest in leather dye.  I've seen aerosol spray-type dyes for shoes in repair shops that look interesting.  I've never used them myself, but they seem really quick and convenient to apply.   I've heard that the Japanese take much better care of their shoes that we (in North America) do so there must be good leather-care/renewal products available over there.

    Good luck with the tecnique if you decide to employ it.  It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn't and it's worth it if the rest of the garment is in good shape.  If you've any questions, feel free to contact me.



  5. tmorris1 | | #5


    All of the above are excellent pieces of advice to fix the tears in your leather. I would like to suggest getting a little more creative with it. I once had a leather jacket with numerous holes in it. What I did was cut several shapes around the holes and inset a different color of leather behind it. It is like doing an inset applique if you are familiar with the procedure. I made vines and flowers up a sleeve and across the front of the jacket, and it looked brand new.

    hope this helps

  6. SAAM | | #6

    Thanks for starting this discussion. My favorite black leather jacket got caught on a door knob and tore near the pocket. I thought I would have to throw it away. Thanks to all of these suggestions I now know I might be able to salvage it.

  7. Susan -homedecsewing | | #7

    Good morning, I used to have a biz called " Leather to Lace " and repaired many jackets, one I recall had been cut completly thru do to a motorcycle accident,where the paramedics had to get it off in a hurry. I zigzaged the 20 " cut back together and it worked well. I've also used Fabri Tac glue to mend tears,using a pin to apply. I  have re dyed a jacket , then oiled it buffed it , bringing it back to life after it was balled up in someones rear window for a year ! Have fun, Also leather dye can be found at the " Leather Factory" on line.I like the leather lotion as it's not greasy, and helps keep the leather soft.Good luck, Susan

    1. spicegirl | | #8

      The Hobby-Lobby has a few dye and condition products (not Tandy, can't remember brand - leather is my husband's hobby). 

      I have some white "wedding" leather that I was going to cut and dye for a picture, but can't bear to cut it up.  Don't know if crafting is your thing, but I bought a book on quilting leather and saw the picture there.  However, buying six different colors of pigskin suede shot that idea down in flames!


      PS:  I think we are discussing this among ourselves - where in the world is Jeanette?

      Edited 5/12/2007 11:46 am ET by spicegirl

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