Meeting new people and running into current friends at like-minded festivals is always fun, but sometimes not as much fun as finding the photos later. I’ve known Paul Cory through con circles and other people, and I always love his work. He’s taken a few shots of me that I adore, so I’m a little biased. He’s always around North Carolina sci-fi and fantasy conventions, and sells sessions for reasonable fees.
I also wanted to show off the suede cloak.
About 2 weeks ago, that cloak started out as six pieces of soft pigskin suede. I used every single bit of it, with only tiny scraps left over. The cloak is patterned roughly after a fleece version that a company in UK sells. Their cloaks look hand-serged, and nice and full and flowy. My friend wanted one that was real leather suede, and through fortunate timing, we found a pile of it on sale at our local Tandy Leather store. We inspected and unrolled around 10 pieces and chose six that were closest matched in tone and color. I gleefully took them home, petted them, then hung them vertically to let the skins stretch naturally for a few days. I knew the cloak was going to be heavy, and it would stretch on its’ own and possibly pull any seams I had done if I didn’t let them hang first and pre-stretch.
I made one mockup of muslin following a simplicity pattern. We weren’t totally happy with the results, so I cut off the sleeves and skirt, and made a new bodice using McCall’s ‘snow white’ pattern. The sleeve holes were better fitted for movement, and I used the bodice pattern pieces 1-4 and the upper arm, cut in half along the upper curve, then cut the pieces so the top curved in and removed the need for any sleeve ease. You really don’t ever want to try to ease a leather sleeve. This bodice fit better under the arms and in front, and I was able to fit a hood to it and the existing bell sleeves and skirt with no problem.
The biggest change ended up being the fullness of the coat. The cloth mock-up had 8 panels, but we reduced it to 6, because a leather coat didn’t have to be as full as the dress pattern, and we would have had to buy another hide to fill it out.
The suede sewed together like a dream. I really didn’t expect it to just zip through my machine so well, even using my non-digital ‘heavy duty’ machine (I also own a digital machine and 2 sergers, and an embroidery machine). It was thick, but easy to work with, no worse than any other dense, slightly stretchy fabric. My machine does worse with vinyl and breaks more needles.
I learned something important while stitching embroidery on real leather suede. The sewing needle gets hot, very fast. I could only embroider around 6 inches at a time, and that was pressing my luck. I had to clean the needle regularly with nail polish remover. When it overheats, it melts the suede and the needle becomes sticky with seared animal proteins. The thread broke often, but not in ways that hurt the leather, and the Coats embroidery thread is working well so far. The leather is backed with non-fusible interfacing, then the extra was cut away after stitching. It took me 8 hours of sewing to embroider the middle back, sleeve back and shoulders. It will probably take me another 12 to do the bottom edges and front. Fortunately, I found that I can prop open my laptop and have re-runs of Buffy running on Amazon Prime. I have to stop often to clean and let the needle cool off every five minutes anyway, so it was a nice distraction.
I’ve only used about 3-4 leather needles so far, which is pretty good, considering. I have more embroidering to do on the cloak, but I got as much done as I promised I could within a 2 week period. My customer is thrilled with her product.