So there is this thing that is happening this month in my life that happens to many of us eventually, being a milestone birthday of the sort that women are supposed to be too embarrassed to mention in public. I am turning 40! Instead of being properly embarrassed, I’m a bit giddy about it. OMG I’m turning 40! How amazing is that! I get to be 40! What excellent justification for a month of self-indulgence! Well except that I still have the whole single-mom schtick, so it will be more like moments of self-indulgence mixed in with days of picking up toys, signing school forms and cleaning up after dinner. Ah well.
In any case I decided that finishing the leather skirt in time for turning 40 would be a good thing to do, and allow me to wear my new leather skirt that fits on my 40th birthday, thereby making it into a Fabulous Forty kind of thing, rather than jeans-and-a-shirt Regular Forty (which will be the day following).
So the brainstorm I had while making up the sweatshirt was dual:
1) It’s leather, dough-brain. Just do lapped seams instead of regular seams and you won’t need to worry about easing or slightly mismatched seamlines.
2) Also, true the damned curves. When you stretched out the pieces to account for your high waist, it probably messed with the curves so now they don’t match and of course they bubble.
So I trued the damned curves, and yes indeed, there were some serious mismatches on those very curved side seams, and then I cut out test pieces from the stretch faux leather and sewed them together using lapped seams. And while it was not perfect (mostly because it was a test and I didn’t care if the side seams matched up or not), it was FLAT.
Once this lovely, FLAT, assembled test piece was done, I compared it and the trued pattern to the skirt sloper I made up a month or two ago. Hallelujah, the waist and low hip measurements matched, and the high hip was if anything a bit on the big side, giving me some more space to fiddle with and flatten the curved seams in front of the dress.
I mean I only bought this leather in, what, August?
Next step: Cutting! Out! The! Leather!
Which I did! And then I took the little leftover bits from the edges and cut out some very, very curvy pieces and sewed them together, making sure I could make them FLAT.
Which as a process, looked something like this:
Very carefully draw the seam lines on both pieces. On the top piece, draw the line on the reverse; on the bottom piece, draw it on the top. You’re not going to wash this garment so plan on the marks being permanent and choose accordingly. I used white tailor’s chalk and a felt-tip pen. With the felt tip pen on the right side of the bottom piece, I drew the seam line at 1/2″ instead of 5’8″, so that I could lap and completely cover the marks with the top piece.
Cut out enough notches on the curved piece so that when the seam line is folded back, it lies perfectly flat. Test this before you start taping them together.
Start with a match point, and using a small piece of double-sided tape meant for leather and with a width of ideally 3/8″ (but 1/2″ will do if you can’t find 3/8″), begin taping the folded top piece to the flat bottom piece. Fold a segment of the top, tape it to the bottom, short piece at a time, all the way around the curve.
When you’re done, you’ll have a nice FLAT curve, all taped together.
Now edgestitch that curve outside of the tape so you don’t get your leather needle all gummed up from the tape. Leather needles do not like to be gummed up.
Assembling these pieces into front and back pieces was a whole new adventure.
There was lots of skipping of stitches when joining spots with more than two layers of leather , and a metric fuckton when I sewed in the zipper. Something about two layers of leather plus zipper tape equalled very unhappy janome machine. Because leather makes permanent holes, you do not ever want to go over the same section with the machine. So I did a lot of stopping, tying off threads, carefully placing the machine needle back right in precisely the same hole I stopped in, continuing from there, repeating as required, finishing the seam, and then going back with the hand leather needle and back-stitching pieces together through the holes that the machine made, where the stitches skipped.
I got all of the pieces sewed together into a finished skirt body, topstitching and everything. The topstitching is ok. You can’t tell from a distance, but the occasional bits of skipped stitches and then the hand-sewn replacement sections are not great. They’re not terrible. But they’re not as nice as they would be if I’d sewn them on an industrial machine that could manage to be more cheerful about sewing through multiple layers of leather.
The really key thing is this:
It does! It really fits!
The side seams are close enough to matching up that I’m happy. Maybe 1/4″ off in places, but they look like they line up when you look at them from a distance. I can pull it on, do it up; the waist hits me at the waist, the hips hit me at the hips, the knee hits me at my knees.
Pulling it on is a bit of a struggle as it’s not yet lined and the leather is very soft and ‘sticky’. So lining it is the next step. Leather tanning and dyeing agents are notoriously tough on natural fibres, so I went with poly for the petersham ribbon and the lining fabric, which is a bright multi-coloured floral that is slipper on both sides so it won’t stick to either me or the leather, fingers crossed.
Four days to finish it! Can it be done?
CAVEAT: I am not a leather sewing expert. This post is not intended to substitute for professional leather-sewing advice. In the event of a leather-sewing emergency, please consult with a leather professional.
My background here is one leather purse, put together as part of the Craftsy sewing a leather bag class, and reading some leather sewing books, and generally figuring things out as I went, otherwise. Sewing with leather is completely different than sewing with fabric and the same tools and practices that guarantee good results with fabric will give you shit with leather (and vice versa).
Believe it or not there’s a lot more to say about the Leather Skirt Adventure, but I’ll spare you those for this post.