Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Leather Head Case - Part 2

I finished up a couple more molded head cases over the weekend, refined the process a bit and had some fun with the paint. Having completed the brown distressed version, I wanted to do one in a classic black, and one in a deep, rich blue - my model asked for me to match the color of the dress Lea Michelle wore to the Met Costume Institute Gala on one of them. It was a good challenge...
For the black hood I used Fiebring's USMC black dye. It goes on with the leather slightly damp, and you can get a real deep rich black if you keep applying a lot of coats. I applied about 2 or 3 coats, and wiped down between each to keep some transparency and give the finish an aged look. I wanted it a bit antique looking, but subtle.
Once dry, I buffed the leather smooth with a brush and applied a light application of "bag coat" for a subtle sheen.
I actually still need to glue down the seams, but am still toying with the idea of hand stitching the entire piece in a heavy tan thread.
For the blue hood, I used Angelus brand water-based acrylic paint in sapphire. The photo doesn't really show the color accurately - it's actually a pretty dark blue.
I applied 2 coats of the color, then for the third coat I mixed in some "pewter" color - which has little silver metal flakes. It added sparkle without diluting the color, and gave the hood a deep, almost automotive finish.
The acrylic paint dried with a pretty high level of gloss, and I didn't really need to add anything on top, although the instructions say you can add an acrylic finisher if you want a higher gloss or scuff protection.
These are very different from the hoods I normally make - they are so heavy and stiff they hold their shape all on their own. They're more like a gun holster or binocular case.
Based on the results I achieved with the paint, I am thinking of so many things I want to try with the vegetable-tanned leather. These experiments have been very inspiring, to say the least. I want to make about 50 of these, just so I can paint each one differently.
On the first version below, I trimmed the seams after assembling the hood completely. But I think it is better to trim as the seams are sewn, and while the piece can be laid flat. It is much easier than trimming once the hood has been stretched on the form. Also, it is easier to cut the leather when it is wet from soaking.
I don't know how practical these are to make for others, as the hood form is so specific, and I couldn't possibly carve one for each custom order. I don't even know how wearable they are, as I haven't even tried one on in my size. I suppose I should make one to find out...
Until next time...


  1. these look great ...especially the distressed leather. It would be interesting to make an oversize version that allowed for a lining of some sort - something that is more forgiving for different profiles ... maybe a foam ... or ( for my interests ) fur od sheepskin ...

    Great work.

    1. Thanks, mittens,
      I think you are on the right track, re: the oversize with lining. I just finished up the male version last night, which I was able to try on, and the feel is completely different than a "soft-leather" hood. Suprisingly it was easy to breathe, but there seemed to be lots of space between my head and the hood. Also, the sound of breathing was very loud. I immediately was thinking how cool it would be to line with a thin layer of foam and leather - to complete the feeling of enclosure, muffle the sound and tighten up the fit...

  2. Hi Christopher, I can't begin to tell you how helpful this blog has been. The quality of your pictures and instructions is second to none. I'm about to try a third attempt on a leather hood for my slave. The first two attempts were done without the aid of your patterns and it's obvious how important the measurements are. I'm going to start with the basic female hood (no eyes or mouth, 4 panel plus the tongue).

    Now that I've taken her head measurements, would you suggest that the patterns be adjusted at the seams that run along the side of the head, or the seams that run along the front and back of the head? Or both? Her neck and forehead measurements are slightly larger than those on your pattern. Her chin/crown measurement is slightly less.

    Thankyou again for the great blog!!

    1. Dear BindHer,

      Glad to hear you are getting something out of the blog! The basic female hood pattern is a good place to start. If there is a slight adjustment to the size, I would just add to the part that becomes the side seam (where the front and rear panels come together). I usually try to add an equal amount to both pieces, as the most important thing is to retain the shape (the angles at the top for example). And also, you need to make sure not to alter the relative size of the panels, or you might end up with one too long or too short.

      The chin-to-crown is probably the most important to get right, as if it's too small you'll have trouble getting into the hood. You want that part to fit, but not too tight. The forehead and neck have a little more play, as you can adjust the fit of those areas with the rear lacing. I usually aim to have a half-inch gap between the rear lacing panels - sometimes less. It depends on the look I want, the stretch of the leather and the thickness of the tongue.

      One more thing to keep in mind: if you want to add an inch to the pattern, that's only adding one-quarter of an inch added to each front and rear panel piece - small tweaks can add up quickly, because each addition is multiplied by 2. Keep me posted, I would love to know how your hood turns out.

  3. These head cases look very restricitve... more hard than the latex hood we could see everywhere.
    It's a impressive leather work! :)

    1. Dear Hitomi,
      I just finished a male version, and it is a real different experience than a soft-leather hood. I could feel pressure points where the wood form is not in the same exact shape as my head. I could also hear the sound of my own breathing very loudly - a "head in a bucket" kind of sensation. This made me want to create a thin foam and leather lining, so the fit on the inside is tight, combined with the hard outer shell I think it would make an intense psychological experience. As it is, it's a very sculptural piece - as it retains it's shape whether you are wearing it or not.