Saturday, November 7, 2015

WWII Era Reversible Japanese Souvenir Jacket Restoration

I recently was found a WWII era reversible Japanese souvenir jacket. If you don't know what these are, then they were highly embroidered satin baseball style jackets that soldiers would bring home when stationed in Japan during the postwar occupation. One of these jacket has been on my vintage wishlist for years, but they are becoming more rare as they are either in terrible shape, or several hundred dollars (seriously, do a search on Etsy or Ebay, whew!). When I found this one it had a fair amount of damage, but I was more than happy to bring it home and give it the tlc it needed to make it wearable again. In the process I completely restored it and thought I would share what it takes to do so. Read on below!

The damage as found was: Half the seams were popped and coming loose; there were tears, larger coin sized holes and pinholes; The original wool cuffs, collar and waistband were so shot through with moth holes that they were disintegrating as I touched them; the batting inside had come loose and was bunching up in places, making odd lumps; and it was so dirty and stained that I didn't think it was ever washed.

The restoration plan was: To carefully pick apart seams and take it apart; remove and replace the old batting, cuffs, collar, and waistband; while apart resew all seams and do hand sewing repairs to mend the tears, holes and pinholes; then carefully wash the two sides separately to prevent dye bleed from ruining it; finally reassemble. Read on below for the detailed step by step process!

All seams (the ones that weren't falling apart on their own) were very carefully taken apart with an exacto knife. What the coat looked like in it's separate pieces.

The gross old batting was carefully removed so that I could access the fabric underneath for sewing repairs. All seams were resewn with a machine and many tears and holes were hand sewn.

When I got the jacket open, I noticed wear that I couldn't see originally. When held up to the light, in some high friction areas (think shoulders and elbows) the fabric had become thin and would eventually give away. To prevent this, I reinforced those areas with Sheerweight fusible interfacing. This is an iron on backing that will help hold the fabric together. There are different weights of interfacing, and I have found that the sheer-weight provides stability without really changing the thickness, drape or flow of the fabric. Once all repairs and reinforcements were made, each side received a gentle hand washing in Synthrapol detergent to clean without dye bleed and hung to air dry.

With it now clean, it was time to gather supplies and reassemble. New knit material for the collar, waistband and cuffs, new batting, plus the old zipper, which I saved. I reassembled in the reverse order that I took it apart.

Yay! It's done! The whole process took about two weeks, doing it in my spare time and I believe it was well worth it. It not only was a good learning experience and exercise in patience, but I now have a beautiful jacket that is wearable for years longer! Enjoy!


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