How to … wash a leather jacket

As you know, we’re big fans of charity shops but I am quite fussy about cleanliness (Ha ha, Mr Jane Makes would say, obsessional more like!).  Anyhoo, this does mean that I subject charity shop clothing purchases to a close inspection and sniff before I buy them and everything goes straight in the wash when we get home.  Mr J-M is less fussy and has been known to wear something immediately without sanitisation!

I’d been looking out for a black leather biker jacket for ages and when I spotted one in the Cancer Research shop I grabbed it straightaway, despite a slightly stale whiff.  When I took it to the dry cleaners the following day I discovered it would cost £50 to clean it.  I’m not that keen on dry cleaning at the best of times and I balked at spending that much with no guarantee of a good result.

I remembered I’d once had to handwash some leather gloves after they fell into a muddy puddle in a car park and weren’t discovered until I returned to the car several hours later!  I decided to throw caution to the wind and wash the jacket.  I found and ordered this product online.  It was cheaper on Amazon but seems to be currently out of stock.  It does say it can be used to wash leather in the washing machine but I decided that was a risk too far.

The bottle that arrived was a good deal smaller than I was anticipating and the instructions said to use between a third and half the contents for one wash.  I ignored that and just used a couple of generous squirts in a sink full of tepid water.  I swished the jacket around for a few minutes, giving the lining a good scrub.  The water turned a very murky shade but I think (hope) that was the colour coming out of the leather rather than dirt!

I gave it a couple of rinses in fresh water.  Again I ignored the instructions which said to rinse once to allow some of the conditioners in the shampoo stay in the leather.

Not surprisingly the jacket was soaking wet and impossible to wring out so I hung it on a plastic hanger in the garden overnight.  Once it had stopped dripping  I transferred it to a warm room for a day and finally popped it into the airing cupboard for a few hours.  The aim was to ensure that it dried slowly to avoid it turning crispy!

Once it was completely dry I put it on and performed a few contortions to stretch it back into shape.  The final step was to use some of this to feed and soften the leather.

We’ve been using this balsam on shoes for years.  It worked really successfully on the jacket.  The leather is lovely and soft and the smell has gone.

The shampoo was expensive but I’ve now passed it on to my sister who has three jackets to wash so the cost per wash will work out considerably cheaper than dry cleaning.  To be honest, now I know it is possible to wash leather successful I’d be inclined to use a gentle wool wash next time which would work out much cheaper.

I’ve also bought a new pot of balsam but the previous one lasted years so it’s pretty good value.

Hawaiian Vintage

This post is particularly relevant as it is Makers for Fashion Revolution Week, a campaign which asks the question “Who made my clothes?”  Whilst I make most of mine it has set me off thinking more about where the fabric I buy has come from.  I am sometimes guilty of succumbing to the temptation to buy lovely new fabric without too much thought about how or where it was made.

However, I do also buy secondhand fabric and we spend a LOT of time in Chichester’s charity shops, usually doing a trawl of most of them on a Saturday.  Our favourite, as I’ve probably mentioned before, is the St Wilfrid’s Hospice Retro & Vintage shop at Eastgate Square.

Over several recent visits I’d noticed a folded piece of fabric tied with string and labelled “?1960s vintage fabric”.  I picked it up more than once but the colours weren’t really what I would normally pick so back on the shelf it went.  I eventually decided that at £6 I might as well just buy it!   There turned out to be three large pieces – I’ve not measured them but there is at least enough for a dress and a skirt.

On further inspection I spotted the wording on the selvedge and did some research.

I discovered that a Conrad Von Hamm moved to Hawaii from Germany in 1890 at the age of 20 where he worked for a successful local businessman named Alexander Young.  He later married the boss’s daughter and he and his father-in-law set up the Von Hamm-Young Corp.

After his father-in-law’s death in 1910 Conrad took over and expanded the business and as well as selling machinery and automobiles he began to produce fabric under the name THC Hawaiian Textiles.  Apparently any fabrics with a VHY tag is from the 1950s – 60s, THC means that it was produced in the 1960s-70s so the shop label was correct.

Here’s the fabric in all its glory.  I’ve no idea what type of fabric it is.  When I visit Ditto Fabrics at the weekend I will ask for an expert opinion.

The design has started to grow on me since I posted the image on Instagram and had several positive comments!  I think I might try making a dress using Simplicity 1609 as this is a re-issued 60s pattern.  I’ve already made a bedsheet toile.

I would dispute the term Jiffy in relation to this pattern as there are a lot of darts to sew – neck, bust, back and seam – but miraculously the bodice is a perfect fit so no changes needed there.  I cut the 10 but did need to reduce my seam allowance slightly at the waist for breathing room.  Yes, I have put a zip into the toile – Mr Jane Makes is wonderful in many ways but not so hot on pinning someone into a toile to check the fit!  I’ve since waited a week to walk off a large Easter egg and it is still OK fit-wise!

There is a front seam too but after a conversation with @vintage_charity (who has made this dress up several times) I think I may eliminate the seam allowance and cut it on the fold to avoid the need for pattern matching on the front.

Autumn Plans

I’ve been rather absent from the world of blogging recently!  Regular readers will know that my summer was rather taken up with supervising Mr Jane Makes’ post heart attack diet and this will be the final update.

  • Total weight loss : 23 kgs (3 stone 6lbs)
  • Total inches off waist : 17.78 cms (7 inches)

I’m pretty stunned (and pleased) that he’s achieved this with only one transgression when he was left unsupervised at a party for a short while and was faced with what I can only describe as a wall of tiny, delicious cakes!  I took one as I ran out of the door to fulfill my daughterly duties and to be honest if I’d stayed longer I’m quite sure I would have stuffed my face!

When I posted this before and after image on IG as part of this year’s #sewphotohop (entitled Wow!) I think I got more likes than I’ve ever had before!


The before is him looking pretty fed up in hospital faced with a very uninspiring salad.  The after is him in his Lycra about to take his new bike over the Trundle at Goodwood.  He’s still not looking very cheerful but I can assure you that he does smile!  He’s lost even more weight since the after photo was taken.  We’re now working on an entirely new wardrobe and a huge pile of clothes went off to the charity shop the other day.


Talking of entirely new wardrobes …. I’m working on mine too.  A by-product of the diet has been some unintended weight loss for me which I’m actually really pleased about, except that pretty much everything I’ve ever made for myself no longer fits!  I’ve done one or two alterations but am taking the opportunity to start again.

I have a number of favourite patterns which I know work for me and I enjoy wearing so my starting point is to re-trace and re-make them using fabric already in my stash.  My inital plan was not to buy any more fabric until I’d made heavy inroads into what I already have but I met up with vintagerockchick yesterday and we visited Chichester’s finest fabric emporiums!  More on that in another post.


First out of the packet was the Esme Dress from Lotte Jansdotter’s book, Everyday Style.  I’ve previously made two versions which I’ve worn regularly but are now too big.  I’ve altered the blue and white one since this photo was taken but I’m not 100% happy with it.

I traced off a smaller size and made a quick toile from an old bedsheet (my new source of toile fabric having had a clear out of the airing cupboard) to make sure I could get in and out of it (it has no fastenings) and made it up from some cheap and cheerful denim-type fabric from Fabworks.  I washed the fabric before I started but it still turned my fingers blue while I was sewing and the first wash of the finished dress has resulted in some fading.  I’m not too fussed about this – better that than me turning everything I sit on blue – but there was a bit of shrinkage too, although it seemed to stretch out after wearing it for a while!  I love this dress.  It’s so quick to make and this time I added the patch pockets which I really like.  I incorporated in-seam pockets on the original pink version which isn’t part of the pattern but also worked well.

Here’s the finished dress, photography credit to Mr Jane Makes.  Very comfortable to wear, especially when sitting all day at work.

I’m wearing it with a striped top underneath because and my frog brooch which I bought years ago from Accessorize and only recently rediscovered in a drawer!  Also appearing is Erika, the 1960 East German typewriter we found in Oxfam recently.  She’s in great condition and has a new ribbon from Ebay.  She is currently being used to leave each other messages – much more fun than texting.  Just have to remember that she has a German keyboard so the Y and the Z are the opposite way round!

Next up were a new Annie A-Line Skirt, a great little free pattern from Sew this Pattern, and View D of McCall’s 3830 which I’ve made numerous times before.

McCalls 3830

I used another denim for the A-line skirt, this time from Clothkits.  It’s a reversible Railroad Denim which has some stretch in it.  I’m not sure what came over me as it was quite expensive but I got the skirt out of a metre so I can live with it, especially as the fabric is so lovely.  The pattern is straightforward and I really like the bias binding finish on the facing.

I used a heavyweight wool, I guess it’s a boiled wool, from Ditto for the McCall’s pattern.  It’s been on the shelf since last winter.  The jury is still out because I used the same fabric for the waist facing and the result is possibly too chunky.  I’m going to try wearing it and see, I can’t really face unpicking it all now!  It has a lovely shiny red lining and will be very cosy with thick tights when the weather gets cold.  There are one or two previous versions of this skirt that I’m going to refashion to fit me, including this one because I only got around to wearing it a couple of times and this was a special piece of vintage fabric that I’m particularly fond of.


The best bit about making the wool skirt was discovering a new (to me) way to finish the back seam after inserting an invisible zip.  I’ve always sewn from the bottom of the zip down to the hem but often end up with a bit of a bump at the base of the zip which drives me bonkers, often leading to an unpicking and re-sewing session which usually makes things worse.  I remembered reading somewhere about sewing from the hem up and, hey presto, it worked brilliantly.  I will always do this from now on.

Given the weight of this fabric I think the zip went in pretty well, although I’ve just realised I took this photo of it before I pressed the skirt.

Now lined up for re-tracing and re-making are the following.  The Simplicity skirt will be without the frill on the pockets of course as I’m definitely not a frilly person and I make the top from the Cynthia Rowley pattern rather than the slightly odd shorts!  I’m always put off by the strange illustrations on Hot Patterns but the three-quarter length sleeve top is a good shape.

These will be followed by a first attempt at the new Kitty Dress by Maven Patterns.  There will definitely be a bedsheet toile of this one!


Very glad to be blogging again!

An Overall Success

I’ve just realised that this is my 100th post on Jane Makes.  A blogging century!

We have a brilliant charity shop in Chichester run by St Wilfrid’s Hospice called Retro & Vintage.  W and I usually make at least a weekly visit and rarely come out empty handed.  Amongst a treasure trove of china, clothes, vintage board games, jewellery, hats and more there’s usually a good pile of vintage dressmaking and knitting patterns as well as some fabrics and notions.  They also have an annual sale in the Assembly Rooms which is well worth a visit if you don’t mind a crush.  The next one is on Friday 26 August from 9.30 am – 3.30 pm.

I don’t have much experience of vintage patterns, although I do pick them up in charity shops when I particularly like the illustrations.  This one for example.  I’d love to make W one of these and perhaps when he’s completed his diet regime the medium size will be the perfect size.

Dressing Gown

The image for these little dungarees/overalls is just so adorable I couldn’t resist buying this one.  I’m guessing the pattern is from the early 50s but perhaps someone with more knowledge of such things can enlighten me.

Weldon’s Patterns were the creation of Walter Weldon, a journalist turned scientist who founded Weldon’s Fashion Journal in the late 1800s.  I believe the paper patterns came into being around 1879. He was also responsible for the Weldon process for recovering manganese dioxide for re-use in chlorine manufacture, which seems a world away from sewing patterns!

This one, which cost me £1, doesn’t have a separate envelope, it’s just a sheet of paper folded into three with the instructions printed on the back and the pattern pieces placed inside.

The pattern was complete and very neatly folded and to start with I thought it was unused.  However, when I looked more closely I could see evidence of tiny pin holes so I’m hoping that Mrs Parker, whose name is pencilled on the front, did actually make them up.  The pattern pieces have no printed markings on them, just a series of punched holes which indicate the pattern piece number, notches, grainline, pocket placement etc.  It’s a one size (age 4) pattern.

I decided to have a go at making up the dungarees as my introduction to sewing vintage patterns.  I used some floral fabric I’d picked up in the same charity shop and had already made a bag from (and have a skirt cut out waiting to be sewn).  The instructions were pretty straightforward and easy to follow.  There were no fit issue either as at that point the project was entirely experimental.

The pattern instructs you to face the front arm holes with binding and I decided to use some floral bias binding along the edge rather than as a facing so I could to add to the overall floweriness.  I continued the binding across the top of the bib as I didn’t like the way it looked when it was hemmed as per the pattern instructions.   I also bound the edge of the back facing and understitched it to give a better finish.  This fabric frays quite a lot as it’s a loose weave so I zig-zagged the seams and if I make this pattern up again I would probably follow the alternative suggestion to use French seams as this would give a neater finish inside.  This fabric is a bit bulky for French seams.

I started with pattern matching on the bib and the straps match each other where they button at the back but I gave up after that and the little pockets are so sweet I wanted them to show up (that’s my excuse).  The repeat on this pattern means that pattern matching requires far more fabric than I wanted to use.

I rarely do buttonholes but was pretty pleased with this one.  I never fully believe my machine will actually do this all by itself!


As the dungarees came together and I realised just how cute they were going to be I started to look around for a suitable four year old to try them.  Luckily one of my colleagues has a little girl who is almost four and when I showed him a picture of the dungarees in construction he said he was pretty sure she would love them.

I finished everything but the final attachment of the straps at the front and the hem.  I just tacked them so they could be adjusted if required.  Ruby was getting quite excited about her assignment so off they went for a fitting.  She loved them and apart from the length they were a great fit.

I’ve now finished them off and here they are in all their glory ready for their new owner.

I’m hoping to get some photos of Ruby modelling them – if I do, I’ll post them next time.


Latest statistics in Mr Jane Makes’ reduction programme :

  • Total inches lost (waist) : 3
  • Total weight lost : 9.6 kilos

He’s pretty pleased with himself!




Me-Made-May 2016

This is certainly leaving it until the last minute …. I can’t believe it is the first day of May tomorrow!  April has been a difficult month and my sewing and blogging activity has been pretty much non-existent.  My darling daddy who has been struggling along with dementia for several years became very poorly almost overnight and after five weeks in hospital has had to move into a nursing home.  I shan’t dwell on it here but it has been heartbreaking.  I’m just thankful that my parents were able to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary before this happened.

Me-Made-May is the creation of the lovely Zoe from SoZoWhatDoYouKnow? It would be overly dramatic to say that participating last year changed my life but it certainly made me think very differently about the clothes I wear and where those clothes come from.

Me Made May

I’m honestly amazed to be able to make the statement that since last May I have bought only two items of new RTW clothing – a sweater I’ve worn a lot and a t-shirt I’ve now refashioned/chopped the bottom off.  Both my winter coats were charity shop finds, I refashioned several men’s shirts as part of The Refashioners 2015 and everything else I wear has either been from a charity shop,  me-made or already in my wardrobe.  The only exceptions are shoes and undies.

There was no question about getting involved again and this time round I have committed to wearing something me-made every day throughout May.  Last year I went for three days a week because I wasn’t confident I could manage every day but in fact it was much easier than I anticipated.  I’m not entirely sure I have enough clothes suitable for spring and at the moment I definitely don’t have much spare time to sew so there will have to be lots of repeats.  However there’s no point in going for a challenge if it doesn’t actually challenge you!

To that end I’ve also committed to trying at least two new patterns during May.  I have a tendency to stick with what I know to avoid stressful fitting issues but I could do with getting out of a rut – although don’t expect anything too dramatic!

I, Jane, of, pledge to wear at least one me-made or refashioned item every day and to attempt at least two new-to-me patterns during this year’s Me-Made-May.

I’m planning to post on Instagram during the month to document my efforts, although I can’t guarantee it will be every day.

Giveaway Winner and a Celebration

Sorry for the delay …. the draw did take place at the allotted time but I didn’t get a chance to make an announcement straightaway!


Instead of a hat for the draw I used the voluminous pocket of my lovely new apron from The Stitch Society in Yorkshire.  I heard about them through an Instagram post by Claire Montgomerie, a yarn guru and Editor of Inside Crochet magazine, who I met when she taught at West Dean College.  I was lucky enough to be able to buy a sample apron named Doris which my Doris is modelling here!  The fabric is a very sturdy pinstriped denim which I think will last forever.  The Stitch Society guarantees its products and will carry out repairs if they are ever needed.  They even shortened the apron for me – and it came in its own bag with a little badge and a needle case.  I’ve decided this purchase definitely doesn’t breach my unwritten pledge to limit the purchase of new RTW!

Anyhoo, back to the important business.  There was quite a lot of interest in this giveaway and I always wish there was something for everyone but the winner this time is ……. Sheila from Sewchet.    Sheila is the organiser of #stitchingsanta which was a great success so I’m pleased to be able to send her something, although the shirt is destined for her daughter.   Sheila – you already have my email address so let me have your home address and the shirt will be on its way to you.  Otherwise DM me on Instagram.

It was a busy weekend as we’ve been celebrating my parents’ diamond wedding anniversary.   I think they looked gorgeous in their wedding photographs!  It was a freezing day with a smattering of snow on the ground and my mother eventually had to resort to a coat!   Her outfit looks like a suit but was actually a dress in a pink textured fabric.  I’m pretty sure she still has the little sparkly bag somewhere.

All this is helping to distract me from the fact that for some reason I seem to be without my sew-jo at the moment.  Not sure why but I hope it returns soon!











Charity Shop Finds & a Vivienne Westwood Giveaway!

I had a really successful tour of Chichester’s charity shops last week.  The first discovery was a boiled wool cardigan/jacket by Edina Ronay from the Cat Protection League.  I managed to see past the hideous (in my view) embroidered butterfly in the front executed in thick black wool.  I forgot to take a photograph I was so keen to unpick it!  Thankfully the holes left behind disappeared when it was washed.


Next up was a Ralph Lauren cotton cable knit from Oxfam.  According to the ticket this was shortly destined for their textile recycling centre and I’m assuming this was because the sleeve seam on one arm had come apart.  It took a couple of minutes to fix!

The final find was in the Cancer Research shop.  I was pretty sure from the start that this wasn’t going to fit me but I just couldn’t leave it behind!  It’s a (hopefully genuine) Vivienne Westwood Anglomania blouse in a crisp striped cotton with a nice collar and an interesting sleeve construction with ties.  It has washed and pressed nicely.  The size appears to have been cut out of it but I guess it’s an 8.  The top half fits me but once we get down to the fifth button it is somewhat corset-like making breathing/eating/sitting out of the question.  If I had a rib or two removed it would be fine!  I’d love it to go to a good home so if it would fit you or someone you know just leave a comment below by midnight on Wednesday 3 February and the winner will be picked out of the hat on Thursday morning.