How to Remove Patches on Leather Jackets

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Leather jackets are a common place to put patches. Sometimes a jacket will become completely covered with patches and the jacket will reflect the memories and journeys of its owner.

Other times you must remove a patch either to install the patch on a newer, better fitting jacket or to remove associations from a patch that are unpleasant. Remember that sewn-on patches will always leave needle holes in the leather, but you can cover them with a new patch or use a leather repair kit to hide the holes.

Examine your leather jacket. Most jackets are built with linings. Some have internal venting systems to assist in cooling a rider. Do not disturb venting liners unless you have the skills and tools to rebuild the system. For simple liners (fabric liners) determine if the patch has been sewn onto the jacket through the liner. If the patch has been professionally applied, it will be sewn only to the leather so that you can remove and replace the lining of the jacket.

Open the bottom of the liner where it is stitched to the jacket. Use a utility knife to cut just the thread of the stitching. Open the liner the full width of the back of the jacket.

Lift the liner to the shoulder area of the jacket, and expose the leather. You should see stitching and thread outlining the individual patches. Note that some patches may have been applied using a heat/adhesive system.

Cut through just the thread of the stitching around the patch with the tip of your utility knife. Use your seam ripper as well, but be careful not to pull the thread against the leather as this can expand the needle holes. Once you have cut through 3 to 4 threads or about 1/4-inch of stitching, turn the jacket over with the patch side up.

Cut through each stitching thread individually, and peel the edge of the patch away from the jacket to better expose the sewing. You can often use a seam ripper to unthread small sections before cutting the thread, which is rather like unlacing a boot. Remove all of the stitching. The patch should come away easily. If it doesn't, it may also have been glued to the jacket.

Take the jacket outside, and pour a small amount of MEK into a disposable non-plastic container. Dip cotton swabs into the MEK, and work the end of the cotton swab between the jacket and the patch. The MEK should release the adhesive. Try to work quickly, and try not to inhale the MEK as much as possible. (Keep the lid on the container.) It has a very strong sweet odour.

Remove all remaining threads. Clean and condition your leather, and determine if you intend to cover the patch area on the jacket with a new patch or if you need to use some type of leather repair to reduce the visibility of the holes and any dye discolouration. Remember that your lining will need to be sewn back into place once you have completed your work.