Friday, March 1, 2013

Making of the Strappy Body Harness in Red Vinyl

I wanted to share the process behind the vinyl body harness I made back in November, in case anyone wants to give it a try. It was the first time I had tried to make a strappy body piece, and I definitely learned a lot along the way. It was much harder than I thought it would be, and I came away with a new appreciation for the amount of work involved with making such a piece. 

I started off with a duct-tape wrap, giving me all the dimensions I needed in order to get a nice close fit. Ideally I'd have a girl to work on the entire time, but since it took me about 12 hours to make this, that wasn't a realistic option! (My girls aren't that patient.)

I marked up the wrap with a Sharpie, showing the centerline, side lines, and junction between the collar and the body. I also indicated contour lines which I would follow if I wanted to make a fitted leather bodysuit instead of a harness made of straps. Whenever you go through the trouble of making a wrap, it's great to be able to re-use it for different things. 

My main division in most patterns is the centerline, which I try to get as close as possible. There are always variations in the symmetry, but these are cancelled out when making the pattern from the pieces.  I usually trace both halves out, and average out the differences between them. This keeps the pattern (and the final piece) symmetrical. 

At this point in the breakdown I have four rear panels, two front panels and a crotch and collar piece. 

Rear pattern pieces: 

And front:

All of the duct-tape pieces are transferred to kraft paper, and I then use these to create the parts of the pattern I'll need for this harness: collar, crotch piece, arm and leg openings. The rest of the harness will be made of individual straps. 


Now I'm ready to cut out my shaped pieces. I'm working with a nice heavy upholstery-weight vinyl. It should give the harness a nice amount of body without being too stiff. 

Here we have the collar, arm holes, leg openings and crotch pieces cut out. 

For the collar and arm holes, they fold back to create curved shapes with smooth openings. 

The leg straps are connected to the front and back of the crotch. 

At this point, I'm ready to begin connecting things together. I'm starting with the shoulders, and taking measurements from the duct-tape wrap from which the pattern was derived. 

You can just make out the duct-tape body piece in the photo below (with a pillow inside to help keep it's shape). I am taking measurements along from it as I go, and using the dimensions to cut the straps to the correct length. 

Here we have the front center strap riveted to the collar and crotch panel. The side straps are clipped in place, and ready for riveting. 

I know, it looks like boob-holes, right? But those are actually the arm holes...

I start working my way down from the collar, and up from the crotch, using the duct-tape body to measure every step of the way. 

Now it's time to start on the straps that will go all the way around the body, so I need a lot of straps to work with, and also need to create what will become the rear opening. 

One thing that surprised me was how much vinyl it took to make straps like this. Because the vinyl wraps around, it takes a little more than twice as much material to make a strap of a given size. My strips were 1.625 inches, and my finished strap was right around three-quarters of an inch. 

Because I have no glue that works well with this vinyl, every strap is sewn along both edges to hold it together. With leather, this step would be completely optional, as the glue would easily hold it together. 

I ended up coming up with a shape for the rear opening I thought would work. I wanted it to be the smallest possible width that would accomodate the rivet (to secure the strap) and the grommet to reinforce the lacing hole. 

I tapered the strap as it approached the collar, although at this stage I wasn't even sure how I would make the collar close. It could be snaps, a buckle, or a continuation of the lacing... 

Once the opening panel was in place, it's time to start riveting the straps to it. 

One strap at a time, I'm working my way up. Each length determined by the guidelines on the duct-tape wrap. 

I start each horizontal strap by riveting the center to the front vertical center strap. Next, I rivet the strap to the sides using the measurement from the duct-tape wrap. Finally, each end of the strap comes around and is riveted to the rear opening. 

As I got to the shorter pieces connecting the arm holes to the rear opening, I was using bunches of clamps to hold everything in place. 

I initially thought I'd be able to assemble almost the whole thing with tape first, and sew everything together, but ended up usually doing only one strap at a time. Otherwise it was too easy to have things slip out of place as the piece was being moved around while being sewn. 

The final piece uses probably about twice as much leather as it would have if it were just made of solid panels. And the amount of time it took to make it was probably 3 to 4 times greater. 

I'll never take it for granted next time I see anything made with straps like this: it's a lot of work! 

 It was kind of cool how it takes on a rib-cage kind of aspect...

I still need to punch holes and set grommets for the rear lacing, but I don't have any photos of that part. 

Hope you enjoyed, and see you next time...

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