Friday, September 6, 2013

Warm Leatherette

NOTE: This tutorial has been updated to reflect working with finer leathers and a more sophisticated output. See Leather Weather 2.0

The days are getting shorter; the nights more chilly, everyone's hard at work and's time to break out the leather gear!

Richard has been sending me pix of menswear he'd like to see for Ken including the inspiration for the Ken doll "leather" outfit featured today. It's made from a faux leather I recycled from an old soft belt. You can also buy "leatherette" (as it is sometimes called) but go for the thinnest available. Stick to simple patterns like the ones I've used here. But don't hesitate to recycle things you find lying around the house or "finds" from the neighborhood Salvation Army (or the equivalent).

If the leather or leatherette is thin enough, you should have no difficulties putting it together on your sewing machine. Stay away from thick leathers. If you end up with something slightly difficult to sew, put the garment together by overlapping the seams against each other. I liked the idea of "recuperation." So when I began making clothes for my Barbies, I used anything I could get my hands on, including an odd, old glove of my father's. So, let's get started.

Ken's jacket is simple. I used his coat pattern (which is essentially an elongated version of the shirt) as a base minus the collar, but cut it down to hip length. You cannot pin anything to leather or leatherette, otherwise it will leave holes. So, one by one, I trace the pattern directly onto the backside of the leatherette. (BTW...There is no fabric grain to respect.) You cannot really "press" the seams, which is why leather garments are either topstitched along the seams or the seams are held flat with glue.

For the trim, I didn't have nylon fabric as indicated by the original garment, so I used nylon tights which I cut into strips. Stitch each strip about 1/4 away from the jacket edge, then folded it over to the wrong side and tape. Turn back to the right side and topstitch.

The trousers are low-riding, low crotch pants. Flat pattern drafting would require too much guess work, so I chose to drape my pattern. Normally I would drape 1/2 the pants, but I wanted to get a sense of volume, so exceptionally, both sides are present. I start out with two pieces of fabric (1) which I pin together on the side and along the inseam into my desired silhouette. Next (2), I cut a slit down the Center Front. I adjust the pins on the side so that I can overlap the seams in the middle (3). Turn the doll to the back and repeat (4). Keep adjusting the pins until you have the look and fit you want then trace off your markings (5). Again, turn the doll over to the back and make any needed adjustments (6). Once you are pretty happy. Mark your placement of the pins (7). Remove from the doll. Compare the two legs, adjusting the seam placements. Take one leg then make your pattern (8). Cut out of muslin or cheap cotton, sew and check again for fit.

Note: the boots are a part of the look, so I will try on the muslin with his shoes. In able to get the pants to "crunch" up, I cut the pants a bit longer than normal. My pants are a bit looser than those in the picture because I'll need to be able to get them on and off of the doll. Once you are happy. Lay out your pattern and trace it off directly onto the backing of the leatherette.

The pants pattern looks like this.

Fabric stores often sell small remnants of leather for a few dollars each. If you can find a remnant large enough to make a complete garment, all the better. If not, consider marrying the leather with knit (sleeves, for example.)

This is exactly the same basic jacket we did in tangerine linen in our post "Coat Closet: The Basic Jacket" only we've done it in leather and changed the collar. If the leather is fine enough, it should pose no problems sewing. Because leather will not have a backing, I use chalk to trace the pattern piece onto it. Note: you do not have to hem anything since leather does not fray. On this jacket I've turned down and topstitched the center front opening of the coat. The collar is an odd piece of leather attached to the inside of the jacket which turns over at the neck.

Now it's time to really have some fun. What to do when you've lost a glove? Make dolly an outfit, of course! In this case, I've used on old, paint-stained leather glove belonging to my father. The interesting thing about streetwear trends is that the helter-skelter, right-out-of-the-trashcan spirit can be easily translated into some very interesting and original gear for the doll. Her basic jacket pattern is cut to fall just at the hips. You'll need the front and back bodice to lay onto the glove. Remember, there is no grain.

The back of the doll's jacket was cut from the back of the glove. I used the middle two fingers as sleeves. Stitch or glue the jacket at the shoulders and sides. Cut the fingers away from the gloves. Carefully take apart enough of the seams near the fingertips to fit within the armholes. You will hand stitch these in place. Don't worry about how it will look because the "artisanal" look adds to the "urban" look of the outfit!

The back of my jacket is placed on the back of the glove to utilize the "vein" stitching. The sleeves are hand sewn in place.

And yes, I did a skirt. I patched together enough of what was left of the glove and assembled them into a mini skirt, constructed directly onto the doll. For any area that bulged away from the doll's body, I made a small vertical slash, overlapped the two edges and glued them in place. Again, we can get away with this in the spirit of urban wear.

I've even left the paint stains for "effect"
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  1. Replies
    1. Thank you. I will be updating this post with new information very soon. Stay tuned for more!

  2. Great idea. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise and techniques. ������


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