Monday, December 27, 2010

Butterfly Straitjacket in Patent Leather

Today I'll be taking you through the making of a butterfly straitjacket in a heavy black patent leather. The original pattern is from back in 2003, but I've made a couple of modifications to the collar and the arm pockets. In the picture below are the patterns for the back panel, front panel, arm pocket sides and the old and new collar. The leather I'm working with is a heavy black patent cowhide, which should look really sexy and be nice and restrictive. The heavier the weight of the leather, the stiffer and more restrictive it is for the wearer. Of course, you have to find a balance, as the stiffest possible leather would be uncomfortable, and wouldn't conform to the wearer. If you use a leather that is too light, it won't feel restrictive and could be easily ripped. This patent leather offers a happy medium. Or, let's say medium-heavy. =0) Now it's time to trace out the pattern for the sides of the arm pockets. I have marked the pattern so I can orient the pieces correctly when assembling. There is a contour to this piece, so the arm pockets taper at the wrist and get wider at the elbow. I also need to flip the pattern, as it is not symmetrical. Here I have all the pieces laid out; arm pockets, front panels, rear panels and collar. Time to get the clips out... I start by assembling the arm pockets. Using the shaped front panel as a guide, I clip the side strip along the entire edge. I make small cuts to allow the strip to follow the contour of the arm pocket. I try and stop just short of the sew line, so I won't end up with the slits visible on the outside of the finished piece. Yes, I use a lot of clips!! (If you ever need a Christmas present for a leather crafter, these things are great. You can never have too many.) I also clip the front seam together for sewing: Here we have a finished seam: The next step is to attach the back panel to the arm pockets. More clips. Once these are sewn, it's on to the first glue-ups. To glue the seam inside the arm pockets I have to rough-up the shiny surface of the patent leather. Otherwise the glue will not stick, and the seam will not be held flat. I used a coarse sandpaper to rough up the surface. I also glue down the seam allowance on the front panel at this point. Here I'm waiting for the glue on the arm pockets to set up. Once the glue is ready, I can flatten the seam. It's hard to see in the photo, but here's the front seam flattened from the outside. Next up, I'll sew the rear panels to the front panel at the shoulders and side. Once those seams are sewn, I can glue down and flatten the seam allowance as well. The next operation involves setting in the arm pockets. At this stage I want to turn the arm pocket right-side out. The arm pocket is placed inside the jacket body, right side out. I align the center top of the arm pocket to the shoulder seam, and clip in place. This is one time where I wish I had a cylinder-head sewing machine instead of a flat-bed. It would make this type of thing much easier. Here is the jacket with arm pockets attached: Now to attach the collar. The center mark of the collar aligns on the center seam of the jacket body. Working from the center out, I'll attach clips along the way. Now we have the collar attached! It's starting to look really great at this point. At this point, the collar is unfinished. I'll turn the seam and sew it down. I want to check the rear opening at this point, to make sure the collar is even on both sides. I want the height of the collar to align properly, and now is the time to make any necessary adjustments. That looks just right! OK, at this stage, we have all of our seams glued down. Just a couple more things to do to wrap this one up. I need to cut a couple of 2-inch strips: one for the jacket's bottom edge, and one for the tongue that will protect the skin from the zipper. For the bottom edge, I'm doing a rolled edge. I'll attach the good side of the patent to the good side of the jacket, aligning both edges and holding with clips. Once this is sewn, I trim the strip to align with the edge of the jacket opening. Then I run glue along the entire bottom edge, both on the strip and the inside of the jacket. The strip is folded up, and top-stitched along the edge of the rolled seam. I love the polished look this gives the edge. Plus, it reinforces and strengthens the edge as well. Now it's time to set the zipper. I use a YKK #5 nylon coil separating zipper, and will use masking tape to hold it in place while sewing. The most important part is to align the zipper properly at the bottom of the opening. Here's our zipper ready for sewing (well, the first half, anyway...). And after. Now, using a combination of tape and clips, I'll hold the other side of the zipper in place for sewing. Patent leather and slick vinyls can offer a particular challenge when sewing, as the slick surface can make feeding the material through difficult. I want to make sure that the other half of the zipper doesn't go anywhere, as if if moves it won't align properly. OK, now we have the second half of the zipper attached. I want to trim my zipper to length, but before I do, I need to make sure the pull won't come off the end of the zipper chain. I'll use heavy waxed thread to make a zipper stop at just the right length. Just a couple of turns on each side will be enough the keep the pull from going too far. Then I trim the zipper chain and singe the edge with a lit match to keep it from unraveling. Finally, we come to the last operation: the tongue. I want to run this along the zipper using a second line of stitches. As with the zipper, I'll use the masking tape to hold the tongue in position while sewing. And there we have it: tongue complete! Jacket complete! Front view: And back view: And on it just looks amazing. I'll have to take better pictures, as it's rather hard to shoot.

That's about it for this project. I look forward to making more projects in patent leather in the coming year. I could see a full F-suit or sleepsack in heavy patent, can't you? Thanks for visiting, and see you next time...


  1. I was wondering... I've seen mummy sacks/bags with d rings all around outside edge. They can be used to hang the "bound person" Have you tried, or have you seen where someone added d rings to the top of an F SUIT? Hanging a bound person that way, in an F SUIT might be quite interesting. Would like to thank you for your blog as it's very informative, I can only hope some day I could actually own a "Christopher" as I can see the excellent workmanship that "goes" into each one of your fine products! Thanks for dreams/ideas!

  2. Dear mrslivkiv6,

    Thanks for the comment, and always glad to hear when you are getting something out of the blog. I haven't tried suspension designs yet, as there would need to be a lot of reinforcement to make it safe, but I do have a couple of ideas for suspension restraints I hope to undertake soon, so keep checking in.