Wednesday, February 15, 2012

More sleepsack progress...

Got a little more done on the sleepsack today, including sewing in the shoulders.
Those seams get glued down...
...and topstitched.
The hood is up next to be attached. It has spent the night on the hood last, so it has taken on a more 3-dimensional shape.
I re-draw the seam lines if necessary before aligning the hood, as they can rub off a bit as the sack is being assembled. You want a clear guide to make sure these 2 seams are aligned properly before sewing.
Here the hood is clipped to the neck opening, ready for sewing.
I also attached the foot pocket.
Here you can see that my side panels are made to be a bit long so I have extra to trim off in order to ensure a perfect fit. At this stage, if a side panel was short, it would be a disaster!
I don't mind having a little waste to trim at the bottom of these panels, as it is always easier to trim away than to add.
I also want to be sure to leave a little flap at the place where seams come together, to make sure there isn't a gap when the pieces are joined.
Here I'm holding the flap back so you can see the straight-cut seam allowance underneath.
Now we're ready to attach the foot pocket bottom.
First with the clips, then the sewing machine...
At this point I also want to topstitch the seam along the hood's neck-body connection.

After sewing, the foot pocket is turned right-side out, and I use a hammer to gently to flatten the seam.

I'm really happy with the way this sack is turning out...
Up next: rear zipper and lacing panel, and the internal sleeves.
We're getting there...

Monday, February 13, 2012

This week's project...

In the workshop this week I'm working on a sleepsack with attached hood. I covered the making of the prototype a couple of weeks ago here on the blog, and since have received feedback on the fit from the client.

The cowhide I'm using for the project is just gorgeous. It's heavy but soft, and has a beautiful finish. It should make a very beautiful and restrictive piece.
This sack features both a zippered opening and a lacing panel in the rear, so I end up making 3 patterns for the back panels. One sized to fit perfectly, then one with the offset needed for the space between the panels when they are laced tight, and one with the 1.5 inch gap needed for the zipper and lacing strip on the other side.
Here I have all the pattern pieces cut out. With a 46 square foot hide, there isn't any room for error.
This photo shows all the larger elements, which I try to keep from having to piece together. You have the left & right front panels, left & right rear panels, the lacing tongue (which runs from the top of the hood to the bottom of the foot pocket), and finally the internal sleeves (in the foreground).
The smaller elements include the front and rear hood panels, the shoulders, and the bottom and sides of the foot pocket. The only other pieces I need are a 2.25 x 84 inch strip to create the lacing panel, a 2-inch x 84 inch strip for the zipper tongue, and a smaller 2 inch x 14 inch tongue for the front access zipper.
One of the first steps is sewing the left and right front panels together, and setting the front zipper.

Next, sides to the front panel.
Everything on this sleepsack is getting topstitched.

For the hood, I am making use of my new large hood form. It is great to be able to use the form when gluing down the seam allowances.
I am also using it to stretch and shape the leather to conform to the contours of the face. This is especially beneficial with the heavier leather.
The hood form also comes in handy when gluing down the front-to-back seam allowance.
I am happy with the results so far...
The completed bottom and side of the foot pocket:
More to come...

Best mummy wrap ever?

I had to share these 2 images as I just love the drool-worthy tightness of the mummy bondage. I came across the first image a while ago, the second image, with the rear view I found some time later. I just love how tight this wrap is, and how neatly the tape is applied. It's a truly beautiful wrap job. I noticed the feet tend to overlap when wrapped this tight, as it is something that happens on my sleepsack patterns as well. If it fits with the feet side by side, it isn't really tight enough. And for me it has to be tight! Anyone know where these are from?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Harness Hood

I have been wanting to make something like this project for a while now. It's sort of a cross between a hood and a harness, with wide-open cutouts forming strap-like lines across the face. The opportunity came about after discussions with Karen Hsiao about hood designs where more of the model's face is visible.

I started with a duct-tape wrap:

I used my wooden head form to create the design. I love the look of a strap around the forehead. Also, the harnesses with straps on both sides of the nose are very cool. This kind of combines the two ideas, with a hood as well. I have seen lots of bondage harnesses out there, but they often don't fit very well, especially with a petite model.
Once my wrap is done, and I'm happy with the way it looks, I cut it off and test fit on my model. After a few tweaks, everything looks OK, so I go ahead and use it to create the pattern.
I went with a split-chin on this pattern, to get that front piece to make the contour of the chin. It's a challenge to sew it and flatten it, as the dimensions are so small. But I am considering this design a kind of experiment anyway, so why not?
Ready for sewing:
The trickiest part of this hood is all the topstitching on the front straps. It is highly-visible, and the tolerances are very tight - because I want that stitching very close to the edge.
Front and rear panels complete...
Wow, it looks bad-ass (as my brother would say)...
I'm a little bummed that the strap on top isn't laying flat. But, for a first go at the pattern, overall it's pretty cool.
With some fine-tuning, I think this design has potential...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Red Patent Leather hoods

Today we're going to make a couple of hoods in red patent leather. I am going to detail a new approach I'm using on the tongue that makes it a bit easier to sew this type of hood together, and reduces the bulk of a one-piece tongue. We start out with a patent pig hide. Patent leather can be from a cow as well, but it's much heavier, and doesn't stretch much - so I prefer to use the pig for patent leather hoods. Also, because these hoods are to be used for photo shoots, it is important that they fit skin-tight. These hoods will almost take on the look of rubber, they are so shiny... they should look fantastic. Here are our pattern pieces, including the new 2-piece tongue, the rear panel (which is the same on both hoods), the open-mouth and open-face front panels. It's kinda' hard to see, but here's the pattern traced out on the back side. And all the parts cut out. The first sewing we'll do is on the front-halves, and the tops of the rear panels. I've loaded up the red thread to keep the stitching tone-on-tone. I wanted to share with you a little tip that has helped me out. Even though my machine can backstitch, I find it hard to control sometimes, especially when sewing on a curved seam because it can be hard to see where you are placing your stitch when sewing towards yourself. So instead, I start my backstitch by flipping the workpiece around first. Like so: Now I can backstitch towards the end of my seam (just 6-8 stitches) with a clear view, and move the workpiece away from me. Once I get to the end of the stitch I swing the workpiece around (180º)... You'll need to lift the presser-foot and use the needle as a pivot.

...and now proceed with the stitching along my outline. If you are wondering why the backstitch is necessary, it traps the thread to keep it from unraveling. Even with a reverse-feed, I find this method sometimes makes getting perfect alignment easier. When I get to the end of the line, I do the same thing: flip the workpiece 180º, and "backstitch" going forward. I have been using this one trick a lot lately. Now our fronts and top rear seams are sewn, it's time to clip out the seam allowance and glue and fold those seams flat. Remember, you just snip little V-shaped pieces for outer curves, and straight line snips for inside curves. I end up doing lots of cuts at the mouth to ensure a smooth shape for the mouth opening. Once the snips are cut, apply glue and wait for it to set up. Also, time to glue the tops of the rear panels, along with the edge along what will become the rear opening. On the open-face hood, the opening seam is glued and folded down. Same for the mouth-only hood. It can be tricky to deal with this relatively thin leather. It wants to curl up, and generally misbehave. Once the rear seams are folded over we can topstitch along the edge. The open mouth and open-face edges and front-seams can all be topstitched as well. Our next step is to set the tongue in the back panel. I am starting to like this new 2-piece tongue instead of a larger one-piece that I used to use. This is easier to sew, allows for the hood to open wider, and uses less material, and therefore creates less bulk at the rear of the hood. The mini-tongue keeps the hair from being pulled through the lacing holes, and the larger tongue covers the rest of the rear opening when the hood is laced on. The first step is to set the mini-tongue in place. You can see the shape has been contoured to fit the rear panel precisely. I use a couple of pieces of tape to secure it. Next, the larger main tongue, which is shaped with a notch at the top. The idea is to have the notch align with the center-seam. This shape is also contoured to follow the edge of the rear of the hood. Both pieces have enough overlap to make room for the lacing grommets between the edge of the stitching and the rear opening. With the second tongue taped down, we're ready to sew. Into the machine for a careful topstitch - following along the first row of stitching, but leaving room for the grommets to come later - right around a half an inch.
And there we have it, topstitch complete. Now we can remove the tape, and trim the excess leather from the seam we just completed. Now we're ready to join the front and rear halves together. Align them on the center seam at the top of the hood... ...and use binder-clips to hold the pieces together for sewing. Back to the sewing machine for stitching. Looking good... Next up, time to trim the seam allowances as before,

then glue... and fold-down the side seams. This is where the ability to open that rear panel wide comes in handy. It makes the topstitching of the side seams much easier, as the hood can be laid flat on the flatbed machine for stitching. Now that is done... At this stage, we're ready to close off the bottom edge. Because leather can stretch as you are sewing it, you may have to fine-tune the pattern line along the bottom edge so your pieces line up correctly, and you have a symmetrical, even finished result. I just draw a new line if necessary, and trim the new seam allowance making sure everything is even. Then, it's just glue & fold, and we're ready to sew. This leather is so thin, I am sewing very close to the edge and using a finer stitch length than I would with a heavier leather. Now with out bottom seams closed up, we're done with the sewing. Only the grommets are left. I mark out the position with a sharpie and the tape measure. These were spaced 1.125" apart. Punch the holes... ...and set the grommets. Our 2 hoods are complete! I lace them each on to the hood form overnight, just to break them in a bit, and help them take on the contour of the head. These are going to the artist Karen Hsiao to work with, so I'm looking forward to seeing what she does with them... She has been shooting this past week with these hoods and several other pieces I made for her. If possible, I hope to share images when they are available. For those of you that are interested, I will be posting the patterns for the new 2-piece tongue and the open-faced hood variation shortly, so stay tuned... And thanks for visiting!