Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cobalt Butterfly Straitjacket - Part 2

So where were we? Oh, yes: working on this sexy beast: 

Since we last spoke I glued down the seams where the hood and arm pockets meet the body. 

The next step is to glue and flatten the rear seam, and get it ready to take the zipper. I prop it up on the head form to keep it from getting stuck to the work surface while the glue dries. 

 When the glue sets up, the rear seam is turned under and gently set with the mallet. 
There will be a single zipper so I want to make sure the transition from the body to the hood is smooth. 
Before we set the zipper in, I want to add a reinforcement band along the bottom edge of the jacket to take the stress of the crotch straps. This leather is not strong enough to take that kind of punishment on its own, so I cut a 2-inch strip in the shape of the lower edge of the jacket from some heavy scrap. 
 The reinforcement and edge get glued up...
 ...and the edge is set in place. 
Now it's time for the rolled edge to finish the seam. This is clipped in place (good sides together). 
 Then sewn about 1/8" from the edge. 
 You want a little extra at the ends...
...so you can cut a little tab to tuck around back. The rest gets trimmed flush with the edge of the opening. These little tabs even get skived to make them gently transition to flat when seen from the front. 
You want to tuck the flap around and glue down the first part of the rolled edge, but not the backside yet. You want to sew in the zipper first, so it's sandwiched in between the reinforced edge and the rolled edge. 
It should look like this:
 Here's the view from the front side:

Lately I've been sewing the zipper freehand first, just feeding it in by hand for the first (in this case the left) side. For the second (right) side of the zipper, I'm using a combination of double-sided craft tape and clips to hold it in place. 

It's really important to get the seams to align, and that double-sided tape helps you do that - before you even start to sew. The clips just act as extra insurance, and back the tape up a bit. 
You can see the little bit of double-sided tape on the zipper in the image below: 

Now that the zipper is in, time to trim the excess zipper to size and glue the rest of the rolled edge seam. 
Roll her up...
And topstitch along the rolled edge to hold everything in place. I didn't take a picture of it, but this is where the tongue gets sewn in as well...

Next up: the straps. I have a tip to share, about glue. When you get to the bottom of the can, the glue starts to dry out a bit, and thicken up. It doesn't want to flow, and can be harder to brush on to your seam allowances. I usually move on to a new can. 

But instead of throwing the old thickened glue away, I save it for straps. It's ideal because you need a lot of glue and can use a larger brush when making straps. The old thick glue still holds perfectly well. It's a good way to use every bit that you can. 

At this point I'm not sure how long my straps are going to need to be, so I get the longest possible strips out of the remaining hide. Let's just say that there isn't a lot of scrap left over after this project...
 I cut about 2.25-inch wide strips to make the 1-inch final strap. 
 The straps formed, folded and pounded flat. 
That's it for now, as I don't have the hardware yet. But it should arrive soon...  But we got a lot done. We have the rolled edge complete. 
 The zipper and tongue are in...
We have a heavy leather reinforcement along the bottom edge, and straps ready to be (removably) attached. 
  You can almost see the finish line from here.
Take care for now...

Monday, March 18, 2013

Cobalt Butterfly Straitjacket with Attached Hood - Part 1

My latest project is actually a prototype - I'm trying something I've wanted to do for a while now: a butterfly straitjacket with an attached hood. This project is also a good excuse to try another design feature a client has requested recently: removable crotch straps. Eventually this feature may end up in the finished client design, but first I want to test it out to even see if it will work. 

The leather is a really soft beautiful cobalt blue from Tandy. I usually don't buy leather from Tandy because their pricing isn't the best, and I don't like a lot of the leather they carry. But this stuff was just beautiful. And on sale for $5 per square foot.

I measured it to be about 1.5mm thick. It has a great combination of thickness and softness - something important when making a jacket and hood out of the same hide. 

I'm using my recently developed pattern for a zip-closure hood. I tweaked the pattern a little from the previous version to make it fit just a little more snug. You can just make out the old pattern (in silver) in the photo below. 

For the butterfly straitjacket, I'm using the same pattern as the one below, but I plan to modify it slightly - adding length to the body so the straps don't have so far to go.  

I'll start by tracing the old pattern onto butcher paper, and working from there. I make a tweak to the neck opening so it matches the seam where the hood meets the body. 

 The bottom hem is extended about 3 and a half inches. 

Once all the adjustments are made, the parts are laid out on the leather. This is going to be a squeeze to get everything out of a 20 square foot hide. There's no room to spare...

 I won't go into every detail of construction, as I've covered the making of butterfly straitjackets elsewhere on this blog. But you get the idea: 
 Clip, sew, glue & flatten the seams. 
It's still weird to cut the breast openings out of the piece. It seems so wrong to cut a hole in the leather! But it's the price you pay for breast access. Trust me, it'll be worth it in the end...
Another weird thing is sewing on the rolled edge around the opening. 
 You pretty much have to freehand feed the edging as you turn the workpiece under the needle. It is scary, but take your time and it comes out just fine. Just go slow. Do a few stitches at a time. 
 Left side done...
 ...and the right. 
 Trim the excess length on the rolled edge. (This is one case where it's better to go long and trim to size than to not have enough and come up short!)
 Glue around the inside and outside of the openings. 
When you fold the edge back initially, it will look like this: 
 But then you cut relief notches so the edge can lay flat. 
 Pull and re-stick the edge, flattening it and shaping the rolled edge as you go. Left one complete:
 And now the right one:
 Once they look good from the front, you can topstitch around the opening and carefully trim away the excess in the back. 
 Be careful here, as you can easily accidentally cut through to the front side. 
 The hood gets the usual "hood-forming" treatment. Did I mention how soft this leather is? 
 Ready to sew with the front clipped to the rear panels. 
 Glue that seam up, and flatten 'er down. 
 So pretty...

 We've got all our sub-assembly done, now it's time to put it all together. 
 Arms first. 
I work with the body inside out. It helps to keep track of the pocket by marking the side you want to face the front of the jacket. As soon as you turn things inside-out it can get confusing. I also try to follow the line on the body when sewing, as that is most important. 
 If you try to follow the line inside the arm pocket, it may not match up with the body perfectly, and that would not be a good thing. 
Now for the hood. Clip in place, aligning on the centerline. 

 Lately, I've been stitching just an inch or so on either side of the center seam - making sure they are aligned perfectly. 
When sewing the two curved shapes together (the hood edge with the body opening at the neck), it was very easy for the pieces to slide and for the center seam to slip out of alignment. Whey you just focus on that critical inch or two around the seam, it's easier to get it aligned just right. 
 That's about it for part one. 
 See you next time...