Saturday, June 5, 2010

F-suit Arm Pockets

Today we're working on the arm pockets. Arm pockets are simple enough - sort of shaped bags to restrain the arms and keep them out of trouble. Each consists of three pieces: a front, back and side strip:
I've marked the Right Front and Left Front pieces to make sure the best looking leather is towards the front of the suit.

We're ready to start sewing, and for me that means it's time to break out the bulldog clips.
I start at the shoulder and clip the side strip to the front panels for both arm pockets.
I have had some requests for information about the equipment I use, and I will have a future post dedicated to that in detail, but for now I wanted to show you all my work horse beast of a sewing machine, Betsy:
She may not be pretty, but she's strong and she's tough and doesn't mess around when it comes to sewing. She's an industrial walking-foot sewing machine designed specifically to sew light to medium-weight leather.
She's from ArtisanSew and really took me to new places in terms of the types of work I could do and the quality of the results. Using her made the Singer portable I used to use seem like an under-powered toy.
I was doing research into other brands before I bought her (including Juki and Consew), but the thing that swayed me was a comment from an old gentleman who used to run an industrial sewing machine shop in Long Beach, CA (since closed down, unfortunately - I think he might have passed away). He said to me (while I was checking out an expensive Consew) "If I were you I would get an Artisan machine - they are really great." and about $500 less than the Consew. Great advice, and it's been a great machine since day one.

It's a lockstitch machine with variable stitch length and a reverse-bar.
Betsy just powers through the thickest leather, and the stitches are tight, even and never miss.
She has a dual-bobbin setup so you can be constantly winding new bobbins while pulling the main thread from the large spool. You will never run out of thread on this machine!
I have sewn with her for years and it seems like the amount of thread never goes down...
These industrial machines are strange animals compared to the dinky home portables. For one thing, they weigh a ton. The head on this machine weighs about 100 lbs. It also sits on top of a reservoir of oil, which is pumped up into the machine as it works. It's a messy pain in the ass to move.
And yes, you have to change the oil occasionally, like in your car.
Here you can see the bobbin winder. It's very quick, and you can have bobbins winding constantly while you sew.
Underneath the worktable, you can see the motor and the knee-pad that lifts the presser-foot. This allows you to lift the foot while keeping both hands on the workpiece.
The motor is huge, sweet, powerful and quiet. Made for a production environment, it hardly breaks a sweat with my projects.
Here's the bobbin, because why the hell not?
It's a good large-capacity which helps when you are sewing with heavier thread. Plus it sucks to spend all your time changing out the bobbin because you ran out of thread. Bigger is better.
OK, let's get back to our sewing... Put that baby on Betsy and let her rip!
Side panels connected to the front panels...
Now we clip the rear panels to the sides, just like before... and sew...
...and voila! We have pockets.

Now it's time to break out the glue and fry a few brain cells... And the disposable brush as well, of course.
Glue up those seam allowances...
I used a little rigging to let the glue set up without laying the pieces down. It was necessary because these had glue on almost all sides. Didn't want them sticking to the table...
After the glue sets up (you can tell because it turns clear), it's time to fold down the seam allowances. On the arm pockets, the side panel can fold down without trimming, but for these inside curves on the front and back panels you need to trim off the excess...
Like so:
You can tell if you neighbor is a kinky crafter: just look for little triangles of black leather stuck to his shoes. It's a dead giveaway...

Time now to break out the mallet, and genly tap the seams flat. This helps the glue to adhere everything together and coaxes the leather into taking shape.
Here's the pocket inside-out with seams flattened:
And turned outside in:
That's it. We have completed the arm-pocket sub-assembly!
Here's the pair, ready for flight...
I'll just put these aside until we are ready to connect them to the body...
Next time we'll tackle the leg pockets, which are a bit more complicated because they contain zippers (cue dramatic music). Of course I did the easy part first - wouldn't you?

See you next time!

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