A reconstruction project

First, let me say that I am not a seamstress by any stretch of the imagination. Prior to this project, I had articles of clothing that were missing buttons lying around the spare room for at least a couple of years. So, it is not in my nature to pick up a needle and thread. However, I like a challenge, and that’s what this project was.

It all started a couple of weeks ago when I had a successful day bargain hunting at Goodwill, my favorite store. I found a Coldwater Creek sweater, a new carryall bag for my “homework” that was the perfect configuration for me, some socks with which to make sock puppets (they will make an appearance here in the future) and … a brand-new motorcycle jacket!

This jacket is a women’s size small, and looked to be barely worn. I can never find a jacket that fits me, and this one fit perfectly. It hadn’t even faded, and it was raven black. I ended up paying $47 for it, a jacket that normally goes for around $140 or more, and I was happy with it. At least until I got it home and started looking closely at it. There were no shoulder armor pads in it, which I thought was weird, but when I looked carefully at the inside of the jacket, I could see why. Someone had slit the pocket on the right side that used to hold the armor. Instead of just taking the armor out through the bottom where the velcro opening was, they slit the pocket. Duh, I thought. Then, I looked at the left side. Not only had they taken the armor out, they cut the whole liner out of the shoulder. I wondered how I could be so stupid to not look at it before I bought it. Duh, I thought again, but this time about me. You know the old saying, “if it looks or sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Well, I thought, maybe I can save this somehow. I have some old armor in a worn out jacket, but I don’t know what to do about the rest. It was a nice jacket, after all, and I had been wanting one like it. It was just weird that it appeared as if by magic. I put it aside for a couple of days, put it on the “back burner” while I did other things.

My next course of action was to take it to an alterations place, but the woman there, who has previously done great work for me, said that she doesn’t do hand sewing. Then, with that small push, I found my solution. It had been lingering for a while just at the edge of a full blown thought, but now it became apparent what I had to do. I was going to have to reconstruct the liner and hand sew it myself.

I took the jacket to a fabric store so they could help me match the material of the non-mesh parts of the liner. It was nylon, so I bought a length of black nylon, some regular black thread, and some heavy black thread. My plan was to reconstruct the interior of the jacket in the left shoulder and sleeve area by making a pocket out of the nylon in which to place the armor. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to attach it, but figured that once I started looking at what was left of the liner I could figure it out. This is what it looked like before I started:

You can see the bare outside material of the jacket

The more I looked at it, the more work I saw I would have to do. Whoever cut up this jacket really did a number on it.

Somebody cut the whole armor pad out of it

Now that I had the fabric, I made a pattern from measuring the somewhat intact pocket on the right side of the coat. I used a piece of paper towel because I knew copy paper would be crinkly and inflexible to work with. Then I pinned that pattern to the doubled up piece of nylon so I could cut out both sides of the pocket at once, and they would match perfectly when I was done.

I had to make a pattern using the pocket on other side

I cut the fabric to match the pattern, and I had my pocket. All I had to do was sew it together. For this step, though, I asked my colleague at work to use his sewing machine and stitch around it twice to ensure it would be strong. I had left enough room to do this, and I made sure the armor would fit properly before I had him sew it. (I really need to learn how to proficiently use a sewing machine! I have one, just am not good at using it.) I also found some velcro for the bottom edge, which I also had my colleague stitch in with the machine, so I could get the armor out if I wanted to, but I made the opening small enough so it would not be easy for the armor to slide out in a crash. This configuration was worked into the pattern I had made from the other sleeve.

I cut the shape out of the material

He did it for me right away, and I had my perfect little pocket. Now I had to figure out how to attach it to the jacket, and I also had to figure out if I had to reconstruct part of the lining as well. I was lucky that most of the inside of the sleeve was there to attach the pocket to. Some of it was mistakenly sewn to the outside of the sleeve when the previous owner attached a patch, and there were various holes in what was left of the liner that had to be sewn up first. Also, by the time it was over, I did have to make and sew in a little patch of nylon. All in all, though, I thought I had done a pretty good job of piecing it all together, in a jigsaw-like fashion, especially since this isn’t normally something I would do. Remember, I wouldn’t even sew a button on!

I had to hand sew the whole inside

I put the pocket in with a few loose stitches first, pulled the sleeves right side out, and tried the jacket on before I did all the final stitching. I wanted to make sure everything was in the right place, and that it fit properly.

Almost done!

When I was done, I was amazed to find that the two pockets for the armour matched, both in size and position! I know it was dumb luck, but it turned out pretty well. After I was sure things had gone together correctly, I turned the sleeve inside out again to do the fine stitching. Well, I say “fine,” but it was more to make sure everything was anchored completely. I would not say the workmanship is “fine,” it ain’t pretty, as they say, but it is functional. I am glad it’s all inside the jacket and no one will see it!

The finished jacket. The shoulder armor pockets are symmetrical!

The very last thing I did was re-attach the patch on the outside of the sleeve. I like it, but I’d had to cut its anchoring threads so I could free the liner and work with it when I was working on the inside. I also put the elbow armor back into the sleeves. I’d had to remove it to pull the sleeves inside out so I could work on the reconstruction. Finally, the jacket was intact!

I still can’t believe I actually did it, and that it turned out. It’s my jacket now, and I probably put 8-10 hours of work into it, mostly because of all the figuring out, and the hand sewing. My bargain is still a bargain, because I not only got it for a low price, but I successfully constructed and made something that I probably wouldn’t have if I hadn’t been given this opportunity. It’s always good to have all kinds of experience doing many different things.

Pretty good for someone who couldn’t even sew a button on, huh? 🙂


4 thoughts on “A reconstruction project

  1. Congrats on the bargain finds (that’s right. Finds. Not only did you get a deal on the jacket, you found that you can sew). Maybe you can repair those pants that you burned on your bike.

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