Saturday, November 2, 2013

Leather Weather

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

One thing you're likely not to find in the stores (or even online) is leather wear for dolls. Not only is it prohibitive in price, but working with leather is a bit of a challenge. While you can more easily work with leatherette or stretch vinyl (technically a fabric), I personally love the warm look and feel of leather for outerwear and so do my dolls.
A number of fabric stores now sell scraps of leather for a small amount of money, thus making the challenge of creating real leather goods that much more titillating. Nonetheless, there are a few things you need to consider.
Most leather is too thick for the scale of the doll, not to mention, hard to manipulate and sew. If possible, choose the finest leather or suede available. Sewing with it will be just as easy as fabric. If you have any problems with your machine not pulling it through, place tissue paper underneath the seams and tear away afterwards. Of course, you can always hand stitch (using the back stitch), but I highly advise your using a thimble to keep from punching a hole in your fingers.
Ahhhhhh......if things were only that simple!!!! Of course, you are going to give into temptation when you see a gorgeous leather swatch no matter the weight! If you try to use the sewing machine, it will most likely skip stitches even with the tissue paper. Impossible to hand will take you forever to complete! So for this dilemma we must treat it as a crafts project and use glue to construct our garment. This, my friends, is the case of my lovely Hermes-orange leather car coat featured at the top of this post.
1. Choose a simple pattern for your garment. The fewer pattern pieces the better. For the oversized orange coat, I used the menswear shirt ("Shirt Tales" 7/13). First I cut it out in muslin, stitched it up, put it on the doll, then cut it down a bit, restyling the front but leaving the volume of the original sleeves. Mark all seams. Once I got the look I wanted, I took the muslin apart to use as my new pattern.
2. Draw the pattern directly onto the backside of the leather. There is no "grain" per se. however, respect the stretch of the leather. In other words, the pattern pieces should lay top to bottom in the direction where the leather stretches the least. The sides of the pieces will have the stretch from left to right. You cannot use pins because they create holes. Instead, tape the pattern directly to the back of the skin. Use chalk to draw on the pattern.
3. Use sharp scissors to cut.
4. Start at the shoulders. Cut the shoulder seam allowance away from the front bodice. Then glue it to the back, overlapping front to back.
5. Exceptionally, we will close the garment at the sides before adding on the sleeves. Again. Cut the side seam allowance away from the front bodice and overlap, placing the front over the back side seams.
6. Glue each sleeve along the underarm seam. Overlay front seams over back. Clip the sleeve around the armhole. Turn the edge in and glue the edge down. Let dry. Now, stick your finger through the armhole of the jacket, then slide the sleeve up your finger

7. Put a line of glue on the outside of the armhole. Gently slide the sleeve in place and press to secure. Tape in place until the glue is completely set. 

8. Now add the collar. The rectangle stretches from CF, around the back of the neck to CF on the other side. The wrong side of the collar at the neck edge will be placed against the inside of the jacket neckline. Once you get it lined up correctly, fold the collar back, glue and tape in place until the glue has dried. When set, the collar will fold over the neckline so that the right side of the leather will lay against the right side of the jacket.

I have also used the princess line bodice successfully using a thin leather for a slimmer look.
Be warned: test a strip of leather out first should you decide to top stitch the seams. In any case, you cannot iron the seams flat. You will have manually open the seams open and glue them flat.
Also, I don't try to turn the hems under. It's okay to work with the cut edge.
The suit featured here is velvet flocked leather. My collar is simply the front edge of the bodice turned out. The leather will not stay put. You will need to use a spot of glue or tack it down with needle and thread as I have.
Feel free to add patch pockets, belt loops.
One last point. For my skirt, I have used the 1 piece skirt pattern ("In the Buff" 2/10). Don't try to stitch the darts. Instead cut half the dart away then overlap the edges and glue in place.

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