I have been working a lot lately on the pattern for what I call the "square armbinder". This restraint holds the arms folded behind the back in a sort of pocket. This has been a challenging project because it it composed of only 6 pieces, and any change to one part of the pattern ripples through the others with sometimes unpredictable results. So far I have made 3 prototypes in vinyl, and 1 in leather - and at this point I'm still not happy with the result. I'll take you through the making of the 2nd leather prototype below. The fit of a piece like this is so important, not only for aesthetic reasons, but for function and comfort as well. Ideally this form-fitting restraint would be wrinkle-free and fit like a glove, encompassing the shoulders, neck and both arms in gleaming black leather. For this prototype, I'm using a piece of old leather I have lying around. It is not something I would use for a real project, as it is rather thin, dull and cheap looking. Perfect for a prototype! There are certain characteristics of leather that you just can't get with the vinyl. The leather stretches some, but not as much as the vinyl. This means something that fits in vinyl might only be fitting because of the stretch. When you make it in leather, you find it is too small.
We begin with all the pattern pieces cut out: 2 pieces for the front, 2 for the back, one panel for the bottom of the arm pocket, and a piece for the collar. The first step is to sew all the darts. They look like this on the pieces: I use the clips to hold the darts while sewing. Here are the darts after sewing. It's one thing that makes this project tricky: There are 6 darts, and they all need to align perfectly. I have also sewn the left and right rear panels, and the lower part of the front panels together. Now it's time to glue down those seam allowances and darts. Here's a little trick: When cutting and folding the darts, I keep a flap at the seam allowance on one side. This keeps a gap from appearing when joined to the other piece. If you cut the seam allowance right at the dart line, there will almost always be a gap - kind of hard to explain, but if you make stuff in leather you will know what I'm talking about. Gaps are a bad thing... Once the seams are glued down, it's time to attach the bottom of the arm pocket. I align on the centerline of both pieces, and use the clips to hold everything in place. This is one part of the pattern that continues to evolve, with the more boxy shape I started with becoming more smooth and rounded. In general, leather likes rounded shapes. Once that's done, I'll sew the front panels to the back, once again aligning on the centerline. Here she is all clipped up and ready for sewing: The last major piece to attach is the collar, which also starts at the center, and is clipped the rest of the way from there. Now the major sewing is done. The next step is to flatten and glue down the seam allowances. This part is time consuming... Here's a detail of the interior of the arm hole. You can see I cut some slits to ease the leather around the curve. Here's the rear panel all glued down. It actually looks pretty cool inside-out, don't you think? And right-side out: Here's the back: A closeup of the dart. At this stage, the only thing left to do is attach the zipper. I use tape to hold the zipper in position while sewing. I used some heavy copper colored thread to topstitch to really make it pop. I forgot to put in the tongue, which I usually would sew in along with the zipper. Fortunately this is just a prototype, and I just ran another line of stitches. Sewing leather is less forgiving than fabric, because you are perforating the leather as you go. You can't just rip out the stitches and sew again, like you can with cloth. The finished zip trimmed to size with tongue in place. And now for the moment of truth: how does it fit? Right away I was a little disappointed in the fit along the front opening. There seems to be too much leather between the armpit and the zipper, which created a loose, slack line - not the effect I wanted! I'm happy with the overall shape of the arm opening, and the collar looks good. Also, the contour of the shoulder is fitting pretty well. It's important the weight of the arms is borne by the shoulders and not the neck. That part of the design is working. The arm pocket itself is a bit long, although it is hard to see in the photo. I plan to tighten that up on the next go so it fits a little closer to the elbow. Tighter is always better, but not too tight! From the back, it looks like I can tweak the rear darts, and flatten them out a bit - that should eliminate the puckering and smooth things out. It will also look smoother in the heavier leather I will use in an actual production piece. Well, we're not there yet, but I am getting close. I think the pattern is coming along nicely, and the problems can be ironed out in the final version. Thanks for following along, and see you next time.