Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Not-so Mass Production

I just finished watching every available episode of "How it's Made" on Netflix, something achieved through weeks of binge-viewing in which I consumed 3-5 at a time. Afterwards I could mentally picture most of the items I'm surrounded by every day in a kind of 3-D explosive disassembly/re-assembly animation.

I kind of love those programs that take you through how things are made, and have since I was a little kid. There used to be a show on public television called "Hot Dog" (I think) and it really blew my 7-year-old mind to see things like bowling balls being constructed out of raw materials. I was also keen to take apart and attempt to put back together whatever I could get my hands on. Most of the time I was successful, with minimal "leftover" parts. I don't take as many thing apart nowadays, but I definitely still love to know how things work, or are put together.

I was also looking closely for any unique, unusual or helpful tips that I could use when making my fetish gear. Now, the show didn't have a whole lot of information on making pervy gear in general (although there were segments on chains and leather), but I could glean some insights from some items which are made of leather (such as footballs, western saddles or firemen's helmets).

Unfortunately for leather gear, the only real time-saving steps are related to mass-production techniques, such as cutting out 50 (or 500) copies of the same part at one time. When you are making things "made-to-measure" as I do, the mass-pattern cutting doesn't help - each pattern piece is usually unique.

Another thing you see is assembly-line specialization, where one person only rivets the blade to the bottom of the skate, and that is all they do, all day long. These people often had to slow down to clearly show what they were doing on the program, but all I could think about was what a horribly boring job most production work of that type must be.

I had some other take-away thoughts from that show, like the realization that most of your processed food is never touched by human hands. Factories are so automated now, machines and robots do a lot of certain types of work. The way they bend the brass tube to make a trumpet is ingenious...

Some items are interesting in how much hand work there is in them, such as fly fishing reels, airplane propellers and winter jackets.

So the segue into my own workflow, which this past week included 3 hoods made at the same time. This is unusual for me, but since the same pattern was used (as they were all the same size), I decided to see how much this actually sped things up.

There were to be 3 hoods total: one for a client in off-white lamb, a second for me in the lamb, and a third hood in a gray leather to match a couple of butterfly stratijackets I am going to make.
Certain steps aren't any quicker when doing multiples, like trimming out notches in the seam allowance...

Things like gluing-up aren't that much quicker, although by the time you glue up the third hood, the first one is usually dry enough to work with. That's a little less time waiting around.
Turning over, stretching and topstitching all take a bit for each hood. For most steps, there are no real shortcuts.
There was a kind of groove or swing of things you get into, and overall the time to make 3 hoods was about 50% more than just making one... So there definitely could be some time savings with multiples.
Someday we'll probably to purchase or download plans to our in-house 3-D printers and have custom-made fetish items of all types a just a mouse-click or finger-swipe away... But, until then I'll keep doing it the old-fashioned way.


  1. I love this hood! It's nice to some leather item that are not black. I know there is limited number of colors leather is available in but it seems there is to much (sometimes) usage of black! Beautiful Job!!

    1. Dear mrslovkiv6, the photo doesn't even do it justice. I will always love black leather, but somtimes making things in different colors gives it a whole new dimension. I just got some new sample cards, and there are definitely going to be some new color projects in the future.

  2. Christopher...

    Just started following your blog, and am astounded at what you can produce. I have worked with my hands all my life, but the sewing machine baffles me. My wife has asked me to create some things out of leather, but I am without appropriate skill in this area. Do you sell your patterns, or offer advice to the (very) novice would-be crafter? If so, how can I get in touch with you?

    1. Thanks, djsynn34, I do have a few patterns available as PDF downloads here:


      And am currently working on some others to come shortly...

    2. Oh you can also email me at christopherfetish(at)gmail.com...