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Leatherwork: Making Appliqués

Updated on February 23, 2012

A Custom Leather Applique

A friend of mine was visiting and one of my chairs ate part of his favorite leather jacket! It tore a long strip on the back. It wasn’t like I told the chair to do it but I still felt bad. I thought about my previous leather repairs using glue and a marker to hide the glue spots, but that was not going to work this time. So I thought of covering it up in some way, putting on a patch. Lots of jackets have appliqués on them, but this was leather so it made sense the appliqué had to look good and be made from leather.

Making The Pattern

Fortunately, selecting the design was easy since there is a custom logo that he uses for his work. I measured the space I needed to patch and made a plan. The first piece was going to be the base, which just needed to be measured. I then inserted the logo into a Word document and enlarged it. I printed it out several times until I was satisfied with the size. I cut out each colored piece of the lettering and logo and had my pattern.

Gathering Materials

I had multiple colors of leather to acquire and needed mostly small pieces. After inquiry, I discovered that there were a few places in town where I could purchase scrap leather. The first was a furniture restoration shop, the second was a cobbler. I first visited the furniture shop and found all that I needed, however their price for scrap leather was a little high, so I haggled a bit.

Preparation & Assembly

There wasn’t a leather piece large enough for the base, so I sewed two pieces of the same leather together using a strong needle on my sewing machine.

Then I cut all the small pieces of colored leather and laid it out onto my base. I trimmed each piece as needed until I was satisfied with my final layout. I also placed the smaller pieces so I could avoid the seam on my base leather.

Next, I used special adhesive, applied it with a disposable paint brush, and glued all the pieces of smaller leather onto the base. While some adhesives may be excellent and especially designed for craft work, I still decided it would be best to secure each small piece to the base with stitching. I selected a thread color to match each of the leather colors and sewed. Since they were already glued, I did not need pins to hold them in place.

Application of the Appliqué

Most high quality jackets have lining and layers. It was not going to be possible to disassemble the coat, install the appliqué and reassemble it. I had to sew the appliqué to the coat through the layers. It isn’t an overly puffy coat, so it worked without giving the coat a “quilted” look.

I measured the coat on all sides and the finished appliqué to calculate the exact position of the patch onto the coat. I pinned the patch to the coat about an inch inside of my stitch line and re-measured the positioning.

When working on these types of projects, the leading potential for wreckage is the sewing machine causing the appliqué to slide while being stitched. Once the pinning was secure I began the final step of sewing. I worked slowly and held the project firmly to ensure there would be no slippage. After completing two sides, I stopped and restarted at my original point to work in the other direction, again to reduce my chances of error.

The finished product resurrected this special coat! Even if a jacket weren’t ruined, this would still be a fantastic way to give a handmade present to someone. Especially, if someone has a favorite picture or design and it were not readily available in stores.


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    • bborrello profile image

      bborrello 5 years ago from Oregon, USA


    • imatellmuva profile image

      imatellmuva 5 years ago from Somewhere in Baltimore

      Glue, or what's referred to as cement is your friend when working with leather!

      I have tried various adhesives and the one I absolutely love is Barge All Purpose Cement. This provides the best bond I think. So much so, that I asked local stores to carry it just for me.

    • bborrello profile image

      bborrello 5 years ago from Oregon, USA

      Thanks for the input! Double sided tape would have been great for the applique to the jacket - but I had to use glue on the small pieces.

    • imatellmuva profile image

      imatellmuva 5 years ago from Somewhere in Baltimore

      Another option to prevent the leather from sliding is to use double-sided tape between the two leather surfaces to be sewn together.

      Depending on the type of leather and the point of the pin used; permanent holes can be left where you don't want a hole to appear.

      I will say however, that your Mosaic Nation applique' looks fantastic!!