I'd just like to say thanx to all of you who have left comments here, at the Wardrobe Refashion blog (http://nikkishell.typepad.com/wardroberefashion/), and sent emails. A few of you that I don't know, and have no way of contacting you, have asked some questions. I thought I'd take this post to answer a couple and start making a list of the things I'm learning as I work this leather.
As I mentioned before, I've never worked leather before. Ooops, lying again.....this one time at band camp......um, that's a stretch, I never went to band camp, but I'm pretty sure in Brownies I made one of those coin purses with the pre-punched holes laced together with cording. Doesn't everybody?
Having never actually worked leather, doesn't mean that I haven't thought about it, read stuff about it or stood fascinated watching the artisans work at various festivals and such. Granted, as all of you know, wishing, thinking, and watching hardly ever transfer into really DOING, but I'm foolish enough to always jump right in and say why not regarding most anything.
Disclaimer: "most anything" is defined as anything that I don't think is scary, and won't hurt me very much. There are LOTS of things I think are scary I'm not as devil may care as that disclaimer sounds. Leather, needle, and thread? Not a problem. Something that IS scary? Anything past the second level of the step ladder.....well duh, why do you think I married 6'5" Joe!?! :-)
To answer a few of you.....No my sewing machine is nothing special. I bought it a year or two ago at Walmart on a whim. My beloved Thrift Store iron horse circa early 60's- late 50's had finally given up the ghost a couple weeks before. I had been hunting for a replacement, but wasn't having much luck. I bought a Brother XR-65 (I think that's the model number) more bells and whistles than I'll EVER use. I'm not after much, all I want in a machine has the ability to lengthen the stitch, oh, and reverse is a nice feature but not necessary. I think I've zig-zagged maybe twice in my life!
I used the standard all purpose needle that came with the machine when I made the book. It didn't snap like I thought it would. I was impressed. I used that very heavy Perle cotton (size 10 maybe) through the needle, AND in the bobbin, and had no problems. Honestly, I was quite surprised. I have since gone to town and bought a leather needle.....I don't want to thumb my nose at the sewing gods for too long.
Beginner's Tips for Working Leather Couldn't be anything else but beginner's tips cuz they are coming from me!
1) Never use pins. Pins are bad. Pins are no no's. Pins will put a hole in your leather that will never ever go away. ~Use hem clips, those kitschy 6 inch long strips of folded metal with the inches notated so you can make an even hem.....does anyone really use these for that purpose?? ~Use office binder clips. I used the tiny ones. They aren't too tight and won't (haven't so far) make dents, which may or may not go away*. They are great for seaming knit/crochet items too. ~Use those giant clips from the beauty parlor. You know the kind, they are metal, come in a variety of Easter egg colors (pink, blue, green, golden yellow) The beautician uses one or two of them to hold all your wet hair out of the way when she's cutting it. Just make sure that the edges are smooth.
I digress: Beauty parlor? Beautician? Sorry those clips a nostalgic to me thus the outdated nomenclature. I don't even know if they still use them in the salons today but you can buy them easily enough at Walgreens and such places. I just remember them as a kid waiting in the beauty parlor, holding my grandmother's pocketbook as she got that weird blue rinse put on her hair. Funny how today some people are scorned for having not as nature intended colors in their hair, when as a kid, almost every woman over 60 had blue hair.
2)Never leave anything "clamped" for a long period of time. Ever. It will make a dent. Even if you use some of the really gentle methods of holding the pieces together that I've mentioned above. If you leave something clamped just over night, or maybe just a couple of hours, you run the risk of denting your leather. The only way you know if you've clamped something for too long is when it's too late. ~I know there is multitude of factors each playing their own part in why leather will dent. I'm not going to expound on them. Let's just do this.....pinch and pull up a fold of skin on the top of you hand. Hold for about 30 seconds to a minute.....let go....nuff said? Any of you out there that have done this and then said I don't get it, well, then, go ask your mother.
3)Glues and adhesive. Oy! Never could I have conceived of world with sooo many ways to stick stuff together!!! I know NOTHING about adhesive. I stick to the old stand bys. (ooo nice pun lol) I have read about, and I have used good ol' rubber cement on leather before. Slather the stuff on, wait bit, enjoy the fumes, slap it together and weight it down. I haven't used rubber cement on this leather yet, and my only experience with it and leather so far, is fixing my son's watch band, but if the need arises I will stick with the rubber cement. The obligatory disclaimer....try it in an area that won't show first. I don't know if would discolor the leather. The watch band was black.
4)As you all know, when refashioning anything, one of the major things you have to think about is where the original seams are. With leather you can easily cut right through a seam with little worry about the seam coming undone or the edges raveling. BUT you do have to think about how they will effect (affect?) the drape. Yes, leather does have drape, and the seams from the original garment, and the new seams you make will affect? (effect?) it. (noticed how I changed that up? I'm equal opportunity dumb!) So how do you deal with the existing seams?? Try to have them placed in your new design with the same orientation of the original garment, so they behave in the manner they were intended. Don't try to reinvent the wheel if you need a yoke, or a collar, or a sleeve cap for your new design, try to use what is already there.
5)Cutting leather. Scissors are ok....very, very, very, sharp scissors, but personally I rather use a new blade**. I haven't tried a rotary cutter yet, and I won't until I get a new blade in it. You'll run into more and more trouble the thicker the leather is when using scissors. The weird edge you get from scissors as opposed to a blade is caused by some of the same reasons the leather will dent when clamped too long. (see #2 above) Also when using a blade (or a rotary cutter) the material your are cutting is stationary, it's held in place and cannot (hopefully) slip, slide, or stretch, like leather just laying on the table can, and will do.
6)Trying to get the optimal amount of yardage. Never just start cutting the garment apart (at least I don't. As you can see in the past posts I change my mind sometimes.) Remember, you have a very limited amount of available material. It's a vintage coat for crying out loud, it is one of a kind. Even if you do find an identical vintage coat, by some freaky stroke of luck showered upon you by the Thrift Store gods, it won't be the same. The hand of the fabric as well as the color will not match. How could they? They've been living all their lives under different circumstances, in different houses, on the backs of different people, and prob'ly (most assuredly) cared for differently. ~Try to incorporate original seams and garment sections in your new design (see #4) ~Use the best tool known to all recycle people, the almighty seam ripper. (bow your heads and genuflect) Don't cut it a part you never know when you'll need just a fraction of a inch more. You can always cut way excess, you can't match it, or make it grow. ~Hand sewing a seam using the holes from the original seam that was ripped out by the almighty seam ripper is a piece of cake.....Talk about even stitches while hand sewing!!!
That's it for the tips today. This post is long enough already. I have a few more and I'm learning stuff each time I pickup the pieces. BTW most of #6 aptly applies to anything you want to refashion, whether it's leather or fabric. I've disregarded those tiny little cautions way too many times before and have been very sorry for it.
Thanx for reading! Thanx for the really nice comments and emails! and Thanx for asking!
*I'm sure you could prob'ly do some light steaming or something like that to get rid or a dent, but I've never tried it and I'm not going to tell anyone to steam their leather. I just don't know if it would be a good thing or not.
I have the book and wallet done. I understand (relatively speaking) how to work this leather. I've got a list of possibilities, and I have this much yardage:
Ooops, there are 1 1/2 sleeves and some misc pieces that aren't pictured here.
I've gone through the list of things to make. I've got their requirements organized. Ur, what does that mean? Well, it just means I've placed them in a sort of hierarchy that takes into account, how much I want to make the item, how much yardage it needs, what size pieces it needs, and how do the seams and detailing already present in the coat work with the designs I have in mind?
For example, I want to make a bag really bad. I also want to make a base ball cap just as badly. The bag obviously takes lots more yardage, and I really rather use pieces that are as big as possible. On the other hand, the cap, doesn't take that much yardage, the pieces are small and could conceivably be cut from scrapes. I know I can get at least one of the sections (gores?) of the cap out of the piece of collar left from the wallet. I also have a another project in mind that is going to need some long very thin pieces. I have to ask myself where can those long piece come from and not take away from the big bag pieces.
Then I throw the next thing on the list into the convoluted mess in my brain and it sounds like this:
I want this...I have this....but then this...it needs that....but then so does that....if that then what about this....if that is this then this is that....that there...this there...that and this here...looks good.
Then the I think about the next thing on the list and it sounds like this:.......never mind you get the picture, just increase it exponentially.
So I do this in my brain until all the pieces fit. No, that's a lie. I do it until all the MAJOR pieces fit. Major pieces are defined as those that I HAVE to have. I don't bother with the list of it would be cool to make pieces. They get the scrapes. Some will work some won't and will have to wait for another coat.
Usually when I take on a project like this, I just go this far and then begin. But this coat has a bit more to it than other coats. First off it's leather.....the absolute WORSE material to make a mistake with. If that seam is off, you better just live with it cuz if you rip it out and re-seam well, all you've succeeded in doing is making a lovely perforation along your true seam......honey it ain't gonna last. The other unique thing about it is the detailing it has. (There are closeups of the details in part 2, and you can see them in the pic above also.) Sooooo, now that I've started this project, and I've told the world about it (the Wardrobe Refashion family and anyone else who stumbles here) The pressure is on! No mistakes!!
So I did what any sane person would do. I made some crayon rubbing of the coat!
I made a rubbing of what I determined in my convoluted hierarchy are the main pieces. My hierarchy also told me that the bag was to be the next piece made. One side out of the center back, and the other made of the section from the the right and left fronts.
Lower center back.....didn't the crayon rubbing work great!?! The detailing, stitches, and seams are easily seen. LOL if you look close enough you can see the weave of the rug too......btw estate sale, hand woven, random pieces of women's wool suits and coats (1940's? 1950's)....love it. 12x9ish...how much was it Tim? $65?
Center back piece and right front piece to be used for bag, you can imagine the what the left front pieces looks like right?
Yeah the bag is almost done!!!!!!
Then the phone rang and I draped it around my neck.
Ooops......it could be this:
Egads! If I do either of these will I have enough for my bag??? Yes, OK hierarchy still intact , bag design altered to first design filed in brain that does not use the detailing. Everything is cool and still on track. Looking, looking, adjusting.....I just don't like the fit of the neckline on the second style. Hmmm the upper back has a similar swirl what if.......
Yeah, I'm liking this one. Obviously I'll make it a bit longer in the front it barely covers the boobage right now, but the back is just about right. A nicely fitted scoop neck tank, with a low back and crossed points on lower edge. Easy to get in and out of, not a lot of closure/button/zipper things to think about!!
So far so good. I've only changed my mind 14,726 times BUT I haven't ripped any seams I shouldn't have.....yet.
Vivian has to wear this all day tomorrow while I work on something else.....prob'ly a new bag design!.....And that item I have in mind that needs the long thin stripes....I have to do some internet searching. I don't know how to do it. I've seen it. I've read the directions years ago, I don't remember it though. I might get around to making the pattern pieces for the ball cap, maybe not. I've got some knitting that has to get done. I need to finish a few pieces in the next couple of days so I can take them all to my sister's house and use her wash machine to felt them. I'm calling them my "NEW bags", cuz my hero inspired me to make them. And I have GOT to get some "Nuff Stuff Folds" made. Those design have been burning holes in my brain for a week now!
The upper collar not including the lapels, the piece you see below, was used to make a simple no frills wallet.
There are 2 pockets on either side.
I considered sewing the wallet by hand, but then just went ahead and ran it through my machine. I used regular office binder clips and a few hem clips to hold it all tightly together......leather does have a tendency to stretch and slide as it goes through the sewing machine.
I'm having sooo much fun doing this. I really am the kind of person that needs to be given a problem or a challenge. In the next post I'll go a little bit more into how I do/did things and what's going on my head while I do it. I promise not to make it too scary for you. I'll tone it down and only relay the pertinent thoughts! :-)
I realize the book and the wallet aren't that exciting as far as designs go, but I made them first for a couple of reasons. The first is I've never really worked with leather before. I wanted/needed to get a feel for it. I needed to know how it would behave under the foot of the sewing machine, and how easily it was to hand sew it. Notice also that I used a heavy Perle cotton on the book and "regular" thread on the wallet. I also now know how the leather behaves as a single layer, doubled, or tripled. The second reason is cuz I didn't/don't know what all the future projects might be. I had to make a couple of things that used small pieces of leather, or pieces that I wouldn't be sorry about using and no longer having them for something else. The wallet used the otherwise mostly useless, oddly shaped collar, a piece of leather that wouldn't be missed. The book used half of the sun bleached sleeve, I wouldn't be using that sleeve for any future designs....at least not as a sleeve!
Now I have a fairly large list of things I COULD make. I have the maximum amount of yardage still at my disposal. And I've got a pretty good idea what the leather will and won't do.
As I mentioned yesterday. This coat has some detailing that needs to be considered before I can settle on what's next. Here are some close up pix of those details.
Here is a close up of the upper back.
Lower back and side.
Front yoke and lower front.
Now I have to decide just how, if at all, I want to incorporate these gentle curves into the next creation and beyond. I'm pretty sure I'll be making a bag, cuz well, vests aren't me, and I have plenty of leather skirts.......technically how many leather skirts should one girl have??? Me?..... I have waaaay too many and rarely wear them. I just can't seem to pass them up when I see them at the Thrift Store. :-)
I removed the leather collar today and I'm making a small wallet/credit card holder thingy out of those pieces. I'll post step by step photos when it's done.
I'm kind of stumped right now regarding the bag. Aside from the aforementioned curves, I have to judiciously cut the pieces for the bag to ensure enough leather yardage for the NEXT thing that this coat will spawn.
Hmm...a halter maybe? Wonder if this leather is up to the task of reining in these mid-aged boobs! Wonder if these mid-aged boobs have any business in a leather halter!!! LOL
I'm also considering a ballcap. Just don't know where to go with this just yet.
I joined the Wardrobe Refashion group. I took the pledge for 4months. It's certainly no hardship for me, it's a way of life that always has been a part of me. I only took the 4 month pledge cuz, well, if you've been TRYING to read this blog with any regularity, you'll know that regular it ain't. I just didn't think I could or would want to commit to anything for longer than 4 months, and if it means that I have to upload posts in a timely fashion, well, that's just not me either! So 4 months it is, and already into the 2nd month, I haven't posted anything yet...go figure!
Anyway, I decided to step this wardrobe refashion thing up a notch and make it the driving force of a special project. That special project being this:
I bought this coat at an estate sale for $7.00. Yep, $7.00 for this fox collared, butter soft leather coat. And when I say butter soft, OMG, do I mean butter soft. It's incredible. I want to touch it.......I want to touch it ALL the time!!!!!
Aside from being a coat that it is just not my style, it does have a major flaw. The right shoulder and sleeve have been bleached out by the sun.
Yeah, doesn't that bite!
So first things first......off with the collar!
Then off with the sleeves!
I used the sleeve that was not sun bleached to make this:
Waaaay tooo cooool. 600 pages!!! LOVE IT!!!
I know there are tutorials out there on how to make a books, but I didn't use them. Perhaps I'll check them out next time, but I'm pretty pleased with how I did it and how it turned out.
I used 3 pads of 4 x 4 grid paper. Folded 6 sheets of paper in half and ran them through my sewing machine that was threaded with a heavy Perle cotton. The machine was set at six stitches to the inch with a fairly loose tension. After all the paper was folded and stitched I stacked them together making sure their bottom edges and "spines" were flush. Using a much thinner but stronger nylon thread I sewed the spines together by hand running my stitches through the spine stitches of each folded group of papers.
To help make a sturdy cover I glued pieces of the cardboard cut to size onto the the first and last page. (cardboard came from the original pad of paper)
To reinforce the spine, I cut a 6 x 6 inch piece of silk (from and old scarf) and glued it to the front cardboard, around the spine and to the back piece of cardboard. I also glued in my ribbon book markers at this point.
Next I cut a piece of leather from the sleeve that was approximately 1/4 inch bigger than the front + spine + back. I cut two other pieces that were 1/4 inch bigger than the front only. I sandwiched the leather pieces around the front and back and sewed them in place by hand using the same Perle cotton that I stitched the pages with.
Oh BTW, in the pic of the book you can see that open edge of the book has some unruliness to it. That's cuz my stitching on the machine was off here and there. No problem though. I clamped the pages together good and tight and use my dremel with a sanding stone and one of those sponge sanding blocks to even them up nice and neat. I think with the next book, I'll make a gig for the sewing machine to get that stitching arrow straight.
Leather Coat part 2 ........ Contemplating the details.
OK cut me some slack I'm not a floral-arranger-person, nor am I a photographer, but you get the picture........sorry....
Tons and tons of stuff happening around here, and I have managed to get a few things over to the FO side of the equation, but that still isn't saying much. It's not like that equation is ever going to be solved either!
I have a basketful of blog fodder and I promise to bring you all up to date in a timely fashion, but I'm not going to just start blithering on and on in one enormous post. So today, I've started several posts, and each will be uploaded in it's own time.
Since I have begun this post with the gratuitous pretty pictures, I'll close with the gratuitous cute picture.