Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tan leather hoods

I'm still busy working on some new pieces for Karen Hsiao, the super-talented artist and photographer I am current collaborating with.

The latest project for her is a pair of light tan colored hoods - one mouth-only, and one open-face. The color of the leather takes on an almost flesh-tone appearance if the lighting is right. My wife said "creepy" when she saw it... I think that was the desired effect! I love working with the lamb leather, as it is perfect for hoods: soft and stretchy, so it will conform to the wearer's face. The photos don't do this one justice - it's one sexy hood.
I have fine-tuned the pattern so that it completely matches the hood last I have carved. This makes a couple of production techniques easier, which I plan to share with you on an upcoming post.
I also have been experimenting with a different method for the tongue and lacing panel in the rear of the hood. My previous pattern had a one-piece tongue that was sewn all around. The problem was, to make the opening large enough to get your head in, the tongue had to be quite large. And large could mean bulky.

This new approach uses more of a half-tongue, which reduces the bulk. It also allows me to open the hood wide to topstitch the side seams, even after the back and front panels are sewn together. I use a mini-tongue on the other side to prevent hair from being pulled through the grommet holes as they laces are drawn tight. Don't worry, I'll explain it more clearly later!
I'll post new patterns, too.
For now, I'm off to bed...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Miu Miu inspired Sleepsack in black vinyl

The inspiration for this project is a pair of boots from Prada's Miu-Miu line from a few years ago - they were something I came across on eBay, at a price I couldn't pass up. They were stunning, black patent, lined in white leather. What can I say, it's a weakness. Plus, as I always say: "My wife can never have too many pairs of boots."

The contrasting white stitching against the black patent leather just pops - so graphic and bold.
Since I saw them I have wanted to make a sleepsack with the same contrasting topstitching.

Normally I work only in leather, but for this project I'm experimenting with a vinyl I found at Michael Levine's in downtown LA's garment district. They have a couple of stores, one for garment fabric, and one with upholstery fabric and findings across the street. This vinyl was about $15 per linear yard - so it's much cheaper than leather.

Usually the stock upholstery vinyl is just so-so, but this stuff was incredibly shiny and glossy - it looks like well-polished, shiny rubber. It's very sexy.
Most upholstery vinyls are too stiff as well, but this stuff was so stretchy and pliable - but not too thin. I just had to try it out.
It's sort of a prototype/experiment at this point. I am able to use my new hood last to stretch and shape the vinyl. I recently found out that some vinyls take to heat-forming - so that's something else I am looking into playing with. The problems are: it's not breathable at all (as leather would be). It doesn't take to glue, so making the seam allowances behave is a problem. I'm also not sure how durable it will be.
This is going to be a complete enclosure sleepsack - no access holes anywhere. Just a sleek, shiny frustrating enclosure. At the very least, this thing is going to look great in photos.

In progress...
More to come...

Making a sleepsack pattern from a duct-tape wrap

I have a current client that was able to provide me with a duct-tape wrap to use as a pattern for making his sleepsack. I was glad to work with this, as there are so many unique body shapes out there - this is one way to get hundreds of measurements without actually having to take hundreds of measurements...

Of course, not all wraps are created equal, and ideally I would be able to make the wrap myself, but in this case I felt it could still be of some use. It was of stiff tape (there are different kinds of duct-tape out there, and I think the cheaper, thinner tape can sometimes make a more close-fitting wrap). Also, it was only one layer over cling-wrap in most areas - enough to hold it together, but not exactly smooth-contoured, as you would get with 2 or three layers. Still, there was lots of great information contained within the wrap, so I was happy to have it.
My first step is to straighten and even out the wrap as much as possible, taping the shape closed. I then mark lines corresponding to the shapes of my master pattern. Basically, I look for the centerline from both the front and sides - so the 4 pieces are roughly equal in dimension. Next, I cut out the shoulders, again referring to my master pattern for guidance on the shape. Usually I will take the first one cut out, and use it as a rough guide for the second shoulder.
On a clean sheet of butcher paper, I have traced the master pattern in pencil first. Then I lay the duct-tape cutout shapes on top and trace the outlines - first one side, then the other.
I usually use the neck opening as the starting point - it helps to have a common reference point between the three shapes.
Here you can see the black pencil, showing the master pattern, and the green and orange outlines for the duct-tape pattern. I knew the height of my client was a couple inches taller than the master pattern, so I was glad to see this came through in his wrap.

The same idea for the shoulder. I know the overall shape of my master pattern will work, it is just a matter of integrating the size differences without compromising the shape.

Now all the pattern pieces have been re-drawn with the new sizes, and the shapes are cut out. Here we have the hood, shoulder, foot pocket bottom and side...
...and the large panels for the front and rear of the sleepsack.
At this stage, I want to proof the pattern before making the final in leather. It's better to catch any mistakes or problems in the pattern now, as it will be a much more expensive proposition later.

I just finished reading a great book on custom shoemaking, and was suprised to find that they make test-fit shoes as well - to proof both the last and the pattern. Our test will be in vinyl, and should give us a good idea of the overall fit.
Here we have all the pieces cut out, and ready for sewing.
A few hours later, and we have the prototype ready to send off to the client. Since I have already covered the process of making a sleepsack on this blog, I won't go into all the details again here.
It is a lot of work to go through just for a prototype, but it will be worth it to know that the pattern is good, and that the leather final version will fit like a glove.

Until next time, take care...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Butterfly SJ Hogtie on Captive Kink...

I just had to share this really nice set of images by Captive Kink of a lovely young lady in a beautiful butterfly straitjacket. Not one that I made, but it looks very well-done. The link to the full set of images is here. There is even a video of her wiggling around in this hogtie position, with her hood chained to her legs - the poor thing. She's not going anywhere!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Karen Hsiao - F-suit beauty

Another cool shot courtesy of Karen Hsiao, this time of a beautiful Asian model wearing the f-suit squatting on that incredible chair. I'm so loving this series... just stunning!

Ballet boot last - done for now...

I wrapped up the lasts for the ballet boot project I was working on, and wanted to share a couple of pictures of the final steps. Actually, I have more to do on these to fine-tune the fit, but I have to set these aside for now, as I have other projects pending.

I ended up taking the left foot shape almost to completion, and then I had to play catch-up with the right. As I got closer to being finished, the final shaping around the instep and heel really made the last look like a foot. I wanted a tight, anatomically correct fit, but also didn't want the final shape to be too literal - I still want a sleek, stylized form as well.

You can see by the image below how much wood had to be removed to get the final shape.
From the front, the last took on an even straighter shape.
Below are images of the final form (for now, at least)...
I am really looking forward to making a pair of boots from these, but it will have to wait for now.
Stay tuned for more...
Until next time...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Karen Hsiao - open face and puffy hood pix

I have some more great images to share taken by Karen Hsiao - an incredible artist and photographer I am currently working with. She was kind enough to allow me to post these photos here, for which I am most grateful - thank you Karen!
If you follow my blog you'll recognize the recently completed puffy-hood project in use by the model. This hood is made of a soft lamb leather, and is fully lined with a layer of foam in between.

I love the way these pictures capture the altered mood a hood can create for the person wearing it. It can be quiet in there closed off from the outside world, a calming and almost meditative experience at times. Of course, it can be erotic, stimulating and sensual as well. I love the way the pony tail is pulled out at the top of the hood.
Until next time...

Friday, January 6, 2012

How to make a Locking Posture Collar

This is a fun and relatively easy project that doesn't even require a sewing machine if you don't have one - it can be hand-stitched.

I came up with the original pattern for this posture collar a number of years ago, and I really love it. The posture collars on the market at the time didn't fit very well, so this was my attempt to make one that fits better. I like this one because it does fit extremely well, and it is nice and tall and restrictive. You could always modify the pattern to make it shorter, or to fit a larger neck.

We start with the pattern, which is available here as a PDF. Please ignore the writing on my pattern in the photo below - the collar is actually 3.5 inches tall in front (not 2-1/2").
Unlike most of my projects, which are made of garment leather, this one is going to be made out of what is called vegetable-tanned leather. It is stiffer, heavier, and used for making belts, holsters, and basically anything that you want to be tough, strong, and to last forever. This hide is a 7-8 oz weight, and I ordered it from the Hide House in Nappa Valley, CA.
Because I'm not too worried about leaving marks on the edge (as it will be rounded off later), I just use a ball-point pen to trace out the pattern on the leather.
Next, I use my straight-edge knife to rough-cut out the workpiece. This blade is by Osbourne tools, and can be easily resharpened. Leather, especially this heavy-weight veg-tanned stuff is very abrasive, and will dull your blade quickly. It is way too heavy and tough for the scalpel or scissors I usually use.
Rough cut complete...
Next up, time to pull out the x-acto. You should use a fresh blade, as ideally you will cut through the entire thickness in one stroke. You can pull the knife more than once through the cut, but will need to keep the angle you are holding the blade as consistent as possible so you have a nice, clean, square edge. This can be extra hard to do on the curves, so a sharp blade is vital.
Now we're done with the finish cut stage. You can breathe again.
Next up, is the edge-beveller tool. This will round off the cut edge, and you will want to use it on both sides all the way around the piece.
Here's a closeup. See the cutting edge between the two guide posts? It forms a little channel to limit your cut, keeping it consistent all the way around. It's almost too easy.
Action shot!
And, here's how we look after that:
Normally, to finish a raw edge like this, you would now "slick" it using a burnisher and something like gum traganth. This smooths and polishes the leather fibers along the edge. But, initially I was planning on putting a rolled edge on this piece - so I didn't go through with that sort of edge treatment.

Next up, time for the patent leather that will go on the outside of the collar.
Because of the thickness of these 2 pieces of leather, you have to make sure your outer layer is longer than the inner layer - as it will take more room to cover the inner piece once you start to from the curve. Think about a racetrack: the outer car has further to go than the car on the inside lane. Same principal applies here.
Once I have my outer piece cut, they both get glued up.
At this point you can see the two pieces stuck together, and they are taking on the curved form.
If you glued them together flat, you would never get them to take on the shape of the curve. Once you have them curled and glued, they will have no chance of laying flat.
Once the glue has set up, I trim the outer patent to match up with the inner veg-tanned leather carefully with the x-acto knife. It's a tricky cut, as you don't want to cut into the veg-tanned leather if you can help it. Also, you need to cleanly cut the patent, as any mistakes will show in the final piece. There's no "undo" button.
This is the part where I go for the sewing machine. The cylinder bed is perfect for this curved collar shape, but if you don't have a sewing machine, you could always punch holes along the edge and hand stitch the two pieces together.
Stitching complete...
Now it's time for the hardware. I was looking around forever before I located a source for the little locking hasps I'm using on this project. I couldn't find them anywhere, partly because I had no idea what they were called which makes it difficult to do a google search. Well finally I discovered a place that has all kinds of hardware for leather craft - and not the usual tandy-type country/western conchos and stuff. More modern, chrome (and even some S&M style) hardware too. It's called Ohio Travel Bag and the part is a 1-1/8 inch welded chrome staple plate! I can't explain to you how happy I was to find that stupid part... STAPLE PLATE, STAPLE PLATE!

Anyway, first we need to mark a position for the staple plate to be attached, and because marks won't show up on the black patent leather very well, I use masking tape as a temporary surface.

Once the tape is down with the center marks, I can position the staple plate and mark the hole position.
Next, I punch out the holes and check for alignment. Looking good!
I am going to attach the staple plate with another new piece of equipment, this time from Weaver Leather. They have a little-wonder benchtop riveter that does a great job on projects like this. It's a bit snug because the holes are so close to the staple, but I just manage to set the rivet without a problem.
The trick with the rivets is selecting the right length. You need to be about 1\16" longer that the material you are setting through so there is enough room for the rivet to deform inside the cap. This "deformation" is what holds the cap in place.
All four rivets set:
And here's the view from the back side, with the rivet caps.
Next, it's time to cut the slots for the other side of the collar. I use the tape method again, so I can see the placement marks for the slot cutter.
I use the pattern with holed punched at either end of the desired slot position to make the guide marks.

Using those marks as a guide, I use the slot cutter to make the holes. I think I used the 7/8-inch slot cutter, which created a nice, snug-fitting slot for the staple to fit through. It fits like a charm!
That completes our posture collar project. Initially I thought of doing a rolled-edge at the top and bottom of this collar, but I really liked the look of it without. It's very sleek and clean with the black patent on the outside, and the contrasting fleshy-tan inside was just cool looking.
I decided to stop while I was ahead, and am happy I did. This collar will provide many years of play-time fun.
Until next time, take care...