Repairing Biker Leather

Attempting to restore biker leather

A local man brought me a pair of riding chaps a while back. It was the hard black leather, meant to protect the biker in the unfortunate event of a crash. I found out that I had some learning to do.

Motorcycle leather is probably a niche in and of itself, and while I don’t intend to make it an exclusive niche, I do intend to be able to work on these items for the people who have paid so much for their products and want to keep them in good condition. In a small town like ours, there are fewer folks.  Specializing to the same degree as a big city area s isn’t feasible. My hope is to continue to increase my skill sets as  needs become evident to me, so that in our small neck of the woods, I can continue to meet those needs as they arise.

The thread used on the biker leather delivered to me for repairs was like a thin hemp used in jewelry making. Then there was the matter of how to stitch it! I wasn’t very equipped at that time. Since then, though, I have equipped myself for hand leather stitching. If hand stitching is a quality craftsmanship for tailoring, then why not for cyclist’s leather also? I found among some of my supplies, a sewing awl that a loved one gave to me. I ordered some supplies to go with it.

Leather Stitching Tools

Another family member is going to make me a leather workers clamp to hold the leather in place while I stitch.

Stitching Pony

Recently, my brother brought his leather jacket over to give me a sample of the size of the zipper teeth. The poor thing had suffered a heavy rain. It was stiffer than usual. I had his permission to experiment on it. It came out much improved! He will be able to wear it again soon, after I replace the pocket inside.

Attempting to restore biker leather
Cleaning and coloring my brother’s jacket, and attempting to leave a bit of a distressed look.

The hardest part of replacing a metal biker zipper, is coming up with the right size zippers in the heavy duty aluminum. I have found no pre-made zippers with the steel ring for the slider on the sleeve zippers. Though I haven’t yet found the solution to that, I did find a way to get any length zippers that I need. I found a place to buy yardage of heavy duty aluminum zipper on black tape, and the hardware that goes with it; (the slider and the little bars that keep the slider on the zip). Now I will be able to custom make zippers for biker jackets! I am very happy with that. If you know where to get the rings, please email me with info! I would love to know.

Refashion, Upcycle, Restyle

What are the differences between these terms? Not so much, really.

Sometimes those words are used in annoying ways. I personally don’t feel it should be a substitute for the word J-U-N-K, and the work junk always makes me think of this old song. 😉

I think it seems like recycling is new-ish. Truly the generation that is currently in their 90’s and above were amazing recycler’s. I think that the only thing missing from their recycling was the word “recycle”. They were excellent stewards of what they had. May I suggest asking someone you know in that age bracket to tell you about how they recycled back then? It would be a good topic to enable them to share and a nice bit of history to come down the pike. 😉

Recyling: How Does This Generation Rate?

I like the idea of selective upcycling. Not everything is suitable for some form of re-use, though with creativity a lot can be used for varying purposes. Some people truly like a grungy look! Others like a rustic look. For example, weathered barn wood. That has enjoyed such popularity! I have seen some very creative uses for old wood that are very tasteful. Honestly I never would have thought of it myself.

When it comes to fabrics, I view refashioning in two categories; things made of leftover bits of new fabrics that were previously thought of as unusable AND used fabrics that are having their life extended by being made into something different that is updated or that removes worn parts. In fact, in my Upcycle shop I start out categorizing items by those two criteria. I like people to know what they are looking at.

When people look at their own recycling, they can feel pretty good about all those plastic, paper, metal, and glass items that fill up the recycle bins and head off for re-use. With fabrics, people are also excellent at donating where things either become rags or re-sold.

5 Things You Need to Know About Upcycling Clothing

But what about making things into items you can use yourself? Maybe you might consider something along those lines. Before you donate that bag of clothing, take a look. Are there any items that you are drawn to? Whether it’s for sentimental reasons, or because you like the look of it, there are usually ways that they can be changed up for a different use. Use pinterest or Google images to try to find a way to re-make your item. Keywords can include the word upcycle and something about your item, such as “upcycle plaid”. Try switching out the word upcycle, for the word refashion, and later restyle. You will get some differing results. It could be that you will find something really interesting to use it for!

Embroidery Basket (1).jpg

Basket of Threads

In my home I end up with a lot of jeans that need new uses, whether it is from cutting shorts out of them or just no longer usable as a pair of shorts either. I have even tried to come up with uses for the holey knee part, and the tough seams that accumulate in my chop shop. 😉

Weak in the knees bag - Copy.jpg

Weak in the Knees Bag

Don’t be intimidated about re-making things. What have you got to lose… one item from your donation pile? GO for it! 🙂 If you really are attached to an item and fear trying to re-fashion it, get help. You are probably thinking that customization means expen$$$$e. Not necessarily true. It won’t cost you anything to assess whether it is worth it to you to pay someone for their help.

Here is what one lady thought of to upcycle, and I LOVE the idea!

Refashioned Uniform

I would love to hear if you try to recycle in this way.


Continuing Education: Tailoring

I have noticed a particular absence of men’s tailor’s in my region. It might have something to do with supply and demand. 😉 This is, after all, the Northwoods area, right? However, there is still a need in the community. People still wear suits to weddings, and some professionals still need suits. We also have our Coast Guard service men and women in the region. Suits have been brought to me from time to time, but I noticed that sometimes the construction involves products and techniques that are different from those used in gowns. Much hand stitching can hide inside those lovely men’s fabrics and I have felt certain that it served a purpose, whose nature remained a mystery to me. In altering it, I have been careful to leave it in tact or find a way to make sure the ends of such hand stitching are secured if I should have to cut into them to resize a garment, though hopefully not. At such times, I had determined that there would come a day that I would undertake the study of tailoring. That time has come.

I have a secret to tell you: Tailoring. Tailoring IS the secret. It is so secret, that until recent years, you had to apprentice to a tailor in person if you wanted to learn the techniques used. Even during the advent of the internet age and beyond, this was the case. In fact, even five years ago, I was hard pressed to find information about tailoring online in an attempt to learn. Additionally, it was considered quite uncouth for a lady to be a tailor. The result? The tailoring industry had begun a plummet towards certain death. However, some wise people in its ranks began to not only see that plummet and but also to take a different tack. Classes are now being offered online for tailoring, and women can become tailoring students, even on Savile Row. The outcome of said changes has been that the plummet has just become low altitude. Slowly and steadily the tailoring business has leveled out and the immanent threat of losing the industry altogether has become a bit less alarming.

Happily, for me, that means that I can now take my sewing knowledge and apply it to learning specific techniques used in tailoring. There is a decided difference between the techniques used by a tailor and those of a seamstress. There is a lot for this seamstress to learn in order to have a basic understanding of the tailored suit. For example, I recently learned that the absolute best quality in men’s suit’s are 98% hand stitched!

Tailoring 1
Use of Tailoring Techniques at Threadz

Is it worth it? I personally think so. I am not concerned that there will be a sudden intense demand for tailored suits, since suits are not in high demand in this region. My primary concern is understanding what mysteries lay within the jacket and how to properly care for them when altering a suit. I want to know HOW to know when altering a suit will offset the proper balance of the garment. This is not all I am learning, however. I feel that the best way for me to learn, is to make one myself. I am no stranger to making garments from a bolt of cloth. I have been doing it for decades. Suits, of course, are more complicated than  most garments. First I will practice the techniques of tailoring, and then, when I feel that this skill set is ready, I plan to put the new skills to use in making a suit. The ultimate end is to improve my skill in altering men’s dress wear. This process has begun and I am looking forward to learning as much as I can!

Tailoring 2
Mitered corner at Threadz

Tutu and Headband Sets

tutu red

Anyone who loves fabrics would be able to identify with me. When I cut off a bit of fabric to shorten an item, if the fabric is cute it is SO hard to just throw it away! This is especially true when the fabric comes from formal wear. I did find a solution for this. I bought items so I could make the tutu/headband sets. This makes refashioning fabrics that were cut from ready-to-wear garments (that needed altering) so easy!

headband white red

The silky type flowers in varying colors are cut offs from some beautiful dresses that I worked on. The red and white set has a headband made from both ribbon and elastic.


The black and white plaid portion of the headband is made from the cut off section after shortening a really cute pair of capri’s.


The tutu’s are made from things that were bought specifically for the sets. I have more that need to be made. So many fabrics, so little time! 😉


Costume Pirate

Costumes are a lot of fun! They challenge me to be creative, at times, too! The young man in the photo needed a costume for a summer music camp. The shirt is refashioned from a blouse that I made. I used a pattern to make the pirate vest. The pirate belt is made of a very stiff pellon, and the buckle is made of it too, but is covered in a metallic paper.  Pellon and elastic were used for the eye patch.

Voyageur Costume

The voyageur shirt was a requested custom garment for a gentleman who does storytelling tours. Historical re-enactments and story telling walks are great fun and educational too! Check out, or use a search engine to find historical re-enactments near you, if you want some educational vacationing!



5 Things you need to know about upcycling clothes

Upcycling Fabric

Upcycling is on the rise in the United States. The UK and Australia have been doing it for quite some time. It takes a combination of conventional sewing skills and free spirited or even renegade sewing! It is definitely thinking outside the box, or rather recreating the lines of the box. The thing I love about it is taking something that is classic and changing up the way it is, customizing it to its new owner.

When it comes time to go through your clothes and weed them out, if you are interested in learning new ways to recycle, you may want to think outside the box, too. Recycling fabrics can be done in more than one way.

  1. We all already know to re-home things via give-away’s, garage sale or donating to a thrift or charity shop.That is usually our first go to way of saving the earth from overflowing landfills.
  2. Simple alterations can be done to make a garment fit a new owner or a re-sized body.
  3. There is also clothing that is stained or has wear beyond your ability to make use of it. These types of garments  can still be salvaged by making it into a smaller size, a child sized garment, pillow/cushion, scarf or a purse/tote. I have a blog page on one thing that I made recently for someone else; a military uniform re-made into an amazing purse! Here are some others I have done (bear with my phone photo’s).
    Financial Peace envelope system upcycle
    Budgeting Wallet
    FPU envelopes DIY upcycling
    Budgeting Envelopes
    upcycling upholstery
    Sewing chair cushion

    upcycling torn tshirt fabric
    T-shirt yarn infinity scarf
  4. They can be broken down into even smaller usable parts both for sewing or for crochet and knit projects. Quilting originally was a way to re-use good parts of an otherwise unusable item. Look at this tutorial on how to make t-shirts into continuous parts to crochet with:

Then you can look up “T-shirt yarn projects. There is an abundance of things to find. Here is one example:


Woven fabrics also can be made into yarn to use for crochet. In the short video below, it shows a very quick way to cut the strips. You would have to remove all seams before doing this, and make sure the fabric is evenly cut.

You can find many ideas for their use by searching “crochet fabric strips”.  You can also weave with it. There are rag rugs, baskets, purses and more. This provides an essentially free source for project materials, since you already own the fabric. The outcome of color is so different than the original look! You can also use smaller pieces to make a rag rug, using the very easy method of latch hook. This tutorial shows you how to do latch hook recycling or you can see the preview below.

Make: A Latch-Hooked Rag Rug


5. Finally, a great way to continue to use outdated garments is taking the fabric of the garment and giving it a complete make-over to where it is something completely new. There is a program that I would love to watch and wish I could find. It’s from the UK, called “This Old Thing”. It seems like it is referencing that old reply to a compliment on one’s clothing ; “This old thing? Why, I only wear this when I have nothing else whatsoever to wear!” The show’s host, Dawn O’Porter is a refashion sewer and she changes up vintage clothing that people bring to her. She does so because she has a love and appreciation for vintage clothing and has begun designing a new line of things that are stylistically vintage but have elements that make them more suited to today’s wearers, (pardon the pun). Check out this clip:

I so love this young woman’s reaction to what has been done. She can’t find what the hostess asks her, to find what is recognizable on herself. She totally cannot see the former, in the new item that she is wearing. 🙂

I find value in re-learning how to re-consider what to do with the things we weed out of our closets and drawers. Rather than just having convention give-away/garage sale pile, or a trash pile, perhaps we could add a couple of these new categories. Re-fashioning in order to fit ourselves without looking like we’re from another era,  or doing so to fit someone else is not a customary way of thinking but it might be worth your time and effort! Re-making items into something smaller, AND re-claiming the smaller parts of usable fabric from something for purposes such as quilting are ways to prevent total loss, and fully use that which is ours. Even if you are not a person who would get around to using the fabrics for craft purposes, maybe there is someone you know who would. If not, what about donating it to a local daycare center or other child care facility?

So next time you do a sort, try to think outside the box. What can be useful with what you have?

A Re-fashioned uniform

refashioned uniform

A re-fashioned uniform… a military wife asked me to refashion a uniform that she had into a new bag. Fun!! I was SO excited about this project. Sadly, I wasn’t able to start it right when I was ready to dig into it. I would have liked to! My already existing “to do list” prevented me from doing so. But onward, and forward! Here is what she gave me for the project.


The photo below shows a judicious purchase (a thrift store bargain), that was acquired expressly for the purpose of lining her bag.


From Military Shirt to Bag or Purse

She sent me a link to a photo of how it would turn out. It actually was part of a tutorial on how to make it, totally expediting my ability to make quickly the exact outcome she hoped for! Here is the tutorial. So, all I had to do was “commence” as my sewing machine manual calls it! lol I removed the pockets, pen pocket and sleeve tab. Wow, that is some industrial grade velcro on those pocket fronts!!


Next, I cut the front and back pieces from the shirt, and the olive dress shirt.


AND the straps.


The assembly process was next and the bag… oh the bag!! It’s a pocket lover’s delight!! Every pocket came with velcro tough enough to keep a small anxious pet inside it. Inside, there is the really big pocket from the camo sleeve, which has a strip of velcro to hold it closed. Nothing is getting lost! Next to it is the pen pocket, with three spaces for pens. On the other side of the lining, is the olive dress shirt’s front pocket. The button area was sewn shut.

lining of bag

This bag’s bottom strip is four inches wide. It will have plenty of room for personal belongings. the front has pockets that velcro shut, and also have velcro loop tape on the front. The tab that was once the shirt’s sleeve closure, is not the bag’s closure.

Pocket Lover’s Delight!

re-fashioned uniform

The view of the other side.

Other side of bag

The pockets on this side were on this piece when I cut it off.  It was previously the shirt’s front. I also took some velcro from the sleeve and sewed it on here for the closing tab. THAT was a fun project! Many thanks to my friend for asking me to do this for you! Beyond that, many thanks to our military men and women for your service to our country, and to those who have paid the ultimate price for freedom. We appreciate you and are thinking of you all this Memorial Day weekend. You have our prayers.

Woven bag 2: project for a trip out of state

Woven Bag

A woven bag is one of the things I currently have going on.  I am also in the middle of my ongoing hand quilted, recycled denim project. I was going to cut out pieces of it to take with me on a trip out of state earlier this month, and quickly realized that all the blocks I have left need white denim. I was fresh out and had no time to look for some. I had to think fast about putting something else together to take along, besides reading. I decided on weaving another bag from re-claimed fabric. This one will be called the “Jeans and T-shirt Girl” bag. It’s nearly done. The weaving part takes the longest. Here is the humble beginnings with my humble phone camera:



Woven bag: jeans and t-shirt



These woven bags have been selling faster than I can stock them. 🙂  I am not sure when Jeans and T-Shirt Girl bag will become available, but watch for it in the products portion of this webpage. 🙂



Recycled denim quilt

Recycled Denim Quilt

I had decided to make a recycled denim quilt. At some point, after finishing the only project that I have worked on during rides in the car for twenty years, I decided I wanted to undertake another one; sewing this time! That pretty much put it into the hand quilting category. But why not? I had made several machine quilts already. I mean, yeah, they were simple four inch blocks, arranged in a pattern that suited me.

coruroy quilt

The quilt above was for a loved one who is cold easily. I chose corduroy remnants and reclaimables for it that my mom had been saving for years. In fact, the rust colored fabric is from a project I made when I was first learning to sew from a pattern. The middle is cotton batting, and the back is hunter green flannel. It is decidedly warm! Notice the crocheted blanket at the end? That is my Mom’s lovely work. 🙂

Calico quilt

The above quilt was made with calico remnants from my leftovers boxes. The person receiving it gets hot too easily, so it was made to be a lighter weight. The middle layer is a lightweight recycled blanket. The back is a lightweight cotton. The squares in the middle are indeed lighter than the rest, it’s not your eyes. 🙂 Notice the crocheted blanket at the end? That is my Mom’s lovely work. 🙂

So yes,…it was about time for me to learn to do quilt blocks. My mom had given me a magazine quite a few years ago, that taught quilting one block at a time. I told her then that I felt like I had too much when my children were little, but that I would do it later…in time. I pulled that magazine out. My new quilt work would be made for someone who likes to sleep with weight over top, so I chose denim. I will be on the lookout for just the right blanket to recycle for the middle. TBA on the backing. Here is the first ones. recycled denim quiltThe bone colored fabric is actually a light weight pinwale corduroy. I have one more block done since that photo was taken. Six blocks to go. I am looking forward to giving it to its new owner. 🙂

You make me weak in the knees bag

Weak in the Knees?

My “Weak in the Knees” bag, was what I came up with to find a use for ALL parts of denim jeans that need to be recycled. The holey knees were the only part I hadn’t found use for until this. Being that frayed denim is somewhat popular, I knew I *wanted* to create a use for them, but it just wasn’t happening.

My good friend Kelly likes to create… and is very creative. She designs fabric prints from home, using a website called Spoonflower, (link to her designs). She prints up samples to offer them for sale and shares some with me!!  After cutting up some jeans and having the square with the holey knee in it sitting around, I happened to notice that they bore some resemblance in size to the samples. That was the inspiration I needed as the impetus to work out what to do with the frayed denim.

Pi fabric wild aztec fabric fabric pine cone fabric broken tv fabric Van Gogh inspired fabric

I also tend to buy up sewing supplies at resale shops. It sometimes lends itself to more interesting outcomes. Such was the case for this item. I had a pretty hip zipper that was perfect for the bag.

hipster zipper

Around the same time, I was altering casual dress shirts for one of my sons. The guys in my house prefer the “slim fit” over the “muffin top” look.  It just so happened that one of the shirts to be altered was in a color similar to faded denim. Soooo, I used the cuffs to make pen pockets atop the existing pocket that I added into the center of the bag.

I really wanted to use some of the original hems from the bottoms of the jeans for the top edge of the bag. As depicted in the picture above, some, but not all of the top seams worked out that way. For the remaining raw edges I used bias tape.

It is large. I almost wanted to call it a portfolio, until its current name came to me. The resulting bag is pretty exciting to me!

Weak in the knees bag