Tag Archives: leather

This is Forty, In Leather (Vogue 8750)

It’s finished!*

This series called "faces I make when talking to my daughter while taking pictures for the blog and getting ready to go out to dinner."
This series called “faces I make when talking to my daughter while taking pictures for the blog and getting ready to go out to dinner.”

And I wore it out to dinner with my best girl on the evening I turned 40.

I even dragged out all the cosmetic crap I’ve accumulated over the past mumble-many years and used it. There’s, like, goop in my hair. (Am I the only one this happens to? Remember silicone shine sprays? I have a bottle of silicone shine spray. I bought it fifteen years ago or so, when these were A Thing that people bought. I have used approximately 30% of it in fifteen years. I should throw it away, right? That’s not even the goop I used here.) I have two layers of stuff on my face, one layer of which is supposed to help the other layer stick better. I have stuff on my eyelids that’s supposed to help the eyeshadow stick better. And I am wearing a new lipstick, which is actually kind of nifty, I think. I even bought it at Sephora instead of the drugstore, when I was out buying the tights I am wearing, because I had no tights without holes in them with which to wear my leather skirt. And it’s still cold here.

Here Is The Back.
Here Is The Back.

Plus, yes, that is my silk-cotton voile floral blouse. It matches the skirt smashingly.

I love the pattern. It has really interesting seam lines that provide a lot of shaping and are quite flattering. I did two muslins, one in a woven and one in the faux leather, so I could work out the waist length and the grading, and you’ll need to as the pattern is not super straightforward due to all the seams.

But it makes a very nice, flattering skirt. If you’re looking for a pencil skirt pattern that’s a little different and you have the patience to go through the muslining process, I highly recommend it.

So, the rest of skirt construction:

-partway through making the skirt, I decided having some leather sewing references on hand would be a good idea, and bought two leather books. The postal service took forever in delivering them to me, so the skirt was mostly done by the time they showed up. The good news? Most of what I remembered was correct and the books reassured me greatly. The bad news? The exception to this is the *cold rubber tape, which I’ve never been able to find here, and which you are supposed to apply to seams as a stay tape to prevent the leather from stretching out. … Ooops. The other book recommends linen tape for the same purpose, which would have been a whole lot easier, but much much much too late as it needs to be sewn in. You can’t open up leather seams without weakening the leather, so my plan is to find some cold rubber tape or equivalent and apply it to my leather seams on the inside after the fact. It should still help.

closer up, for seam details
closer up, for seam details

-for the lining, I used the skirt sloper I made with the aid of Suzy Fuhrer’s Craftsty class, rather than duplicating the skirt pattern (which comes unlined). It was a whole lot easier and I knew it would fit. An online leather resource suggested cutting the lining on the cross grain with the hem on the selvedge, and that’s what I did. The lining is just shy of the top of the rear slit.

-there’s also petersham ribbon between the lining and the leather to keep the waist from stretching out.

closer up from the back.
closer up from the back. note that it’s not the waist that’s uneven, but the shirt blousing over the back that makes it look so here.

-pounding the seams with a little mallet was a ton of fun. I may need to do more pounding near the zipper–it’s just not as flat as I’d like. There were some good suggestions on zipper installation in the books but, well, they got to me after I’d finished it. It’s still ok, though. What I did was baste the zipper in along the leather edges so they matched up, sew the seam between the slit and the zipper, then topstitch straight down from the waist to the hem to get the zipper/seam/slit all in place and behaving. It worked, mostly, and it made for (mostly) even (except around the bottom of the zipper) topstitching, which is important.

-the hem is not sewn. I measured where it needed to fall, folded it up with binder clips, pounded it with the mallet to make a nice crease and line, ran double-sided tape along the line on the inside, and then used the mallet to press it into the tape nice and flat.

more faces I make when I'm talking to Frances, taking pictures and getting ready to go out.
more faces I make when I’m talking to Frances, taking pictures and getting ready to go out. The skirt looks nice, though.

-apparently, according to the leather books, I made this unnecessarily complicated for myself by picking a pattern with so many pieces. I’m glad I did. It looks really nice, and the pattern provides a lot of shaping without darts. It’s basically a 3D skirt, when finished, which is very cool. Some of the side seams do not match up perfectly but I think from a distance you can’t really tell. Nevertheless, next time I’m picking a skirt pattern with fewer pieces. Current plans are to adapt that skirt sloper into a six- or eight-gore skirt with a bit of an a-line. This time a proper waistband, and waiting for the cold rubber tape.

OMG, the leather skirt!

In leather!

This is a skirt! Almost! Made out of leather!

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.bloggish-19-5


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.

So close, and yet so far: leather skirt muslin #2

I had such high hopes for this skirt.

Goofy poses taken from Women In Clothes (ref. in below photo)
Goofy poses taken from Women In Clothes (ref. in below photo)

One of the high hopes that I had was that it would be a fun holiday skirt. But this thought, this “wouldn’t it be great to get all gussied up in nice shoes and tights and everything at the end of December?” idea, comes strictly from a determination not to know myself and the laziest inner leanings of my winter heart.

No, actually, what sounds like fun at the end of December is to put on a pair of comfy blue jeans, an old worn-in sweater, make a huge pot of english rose or dorian grey tea, put my hair in a ponytail and spend the entire day sewing, while wearing fuzzy socks. Getting gussied up and wearing a skirt and tights and nice shoes and everything means, for at least a short period of time, being cold; and I have no interest in that. (I was very cold taking these pictures, which is why I took three of them and went back inside.)

A second high hope that I had for this skirt was that the material, a lovely bright copper faux leather with a bit of stretch, would be good for muslining out my leather pencil skirt again, if only to practice leather sewing techniques on something similar. And in terms of getting the fit right, it certainly was. This pencil skirt fits. And thanks to the rayon lining, I know it’s not due to the stretch.

Not just the lighting.
Not just the lighting.

But thanks to the stretch, all those lovely interesting curvy seams bubble and hiccup like a drunk man at 2 am on a Saturday.



So while I’m pretty sure the fit is fine, I’m going to have to try it again without stretch. Before I do, I’m going to take another closer look at the seamlines on the adjusted skirt pieces, because truly fixing the bubbling probably means finessing those quite a bit as well, to make sure the curves match as much as possible.

Today's crazy pose courtesy of the poses shown on pp 233-239 of Women in Clothes, which I am still very slowly making my way through. As you can see, the bubbling doesn't go away when I wear it.
Today’s crazy poses courtesy of the poses shown on pp 233-239 of Women in Clothes, which I am still very slowly making my way through. As you can see, the bubbling doesn’t go away when I wear it.

However, I did lay out my lovely leather and make sure that these pieces will fit on the skins that I have. And they will, just barely. So once I get the curves figured out, Dear Readers, I am off to the races on making a gorgeous leather skirt, that I am pretty well certain not to wear until April at least, because it is Canada in the winter time and it’s cold outside.

Leather Again

One of the things I really, really wanted to do during my Day In Toronto was stop in at Perfect Leather.

After my bag-making adventures, I wanted to expand my leather sewing experiences, but with softer leathers made for different kinds of garments, and I knew that I was not likely to find them close to home. Actually when I bought the bag leather locally I was directly told by the store owner that if I wanted a good garment leather selection, I should go downtown to someplace like Perfect Leather, and with that kind of inside information all you can really do is nod and agree.

So imagine my disappointment to learn that Perfect Leather is not open on Saturdays.

At all. Period.

Boo Perfect Leather! Most people aren’t available for shopping M-F 9-5:30. What are you thinking?

However … King Textiles also has a garment leather selection, as well as fabric and notions and a good reputation. And they’re open on Saturdays. So that’s where I spent my money.

And did I ever. I bought  wool and a lining in there to make up that suit I was talking about, but there is also this:


A very soft taupe-y lambskin suede, picked up for less than $1/square foot, coming to about $10 total. Ten square feet is just about what I used for the work bag I made previously, so I know it’s enough for a decent sized purse or tote. And just imagine: it will cost less than the equivalent bag out of cotton canvas. Now THAT is a good deal.

And this:


A gorgeous plum/maroon lambskin leather with a lovely sueded back, a birch-tree print, and an absolutely fantastic silky drape. It was more expensive, at either $4 or $5/square foot–I forget–but still a very reasonable price for such a nice leather, and I bought enough for a good pencil skirt for about $100. (Incidentally, while their selection is I’m sure more restricted than Perfect Leather’s, it was still pretty decent and a lot of fun to look through. There were a few pieces of metallic gold calf skin that I am still thinking about. Not enough to make the trip back to buy it, but enough to think wistfully of the Projects That Might Have Been). While $100 is a lot to pay for fabric for a pencil skirt, when you think about buying a leather pencil skirt with a lovely drape in a beautiful colour with a nice print, it looks a lot more reasonable. This is how I rationalize my purchases.

However, there’s some internal pressure now to make this the Most Perfect Pencil Skirt of All Time, and this is where you come in.

Yes, you!

I need a pencil skirt pattern.

For those of you newish to leather sewing, here are things I keep in mind:

1. Generally, you don’t want too many darts. Leather is not like fabric. It doesn’t press, you don’t iron it, and there’s bulk. It’s possible to deal with this, but the fewer and smaller darts, the better.
2. You also generally want patterns that use lots of small pieces rather than a few big pieces. Yes, bigger pieces are easier to sew together, but they are harder to cut out in leather because it has irregular edges and may have imperfections from the skin of the animal. I mean, if there’s a mark or a small hole smack dab in the middle of the hide, it’s hard to work around when you have big pattern pieces. Small pattern pieces can just be placed around it.

So I’m looking for a pencil skirt pattern that has a fair amount of structure, and where the shaping comes from the construction rather than darts. I’ve googled for inspiration, and was gratified to see that most RTW leather pencil skirts are both a) insanely expensive (cheapest I saw was $400, and that was on sale; there were a number well over $2k) and b) boring as sin. Lots of black. Some brown. One orange, one red, and two bright yellow (encouraging). $100 for this particular leather pencil skirt is looking better and better. However, this didn’t help with inspiration.

But, ok, patterns. Current contenders include:

Vogue 8750
Nice seam details and few to no darts. I think if I used lapped seams and let some of the suede from the back show through, it would add a really nice detail.
Vogue 7937
I love the flouncy bits at the back of the skirt on the left, but I’m not entirely sure how the leather would handle them. I’m also not entirely sure that I have enough leather for it.
Butterick 6060
Kind of bland, but it’s an option.
Butterick 5566
The yoke’s cool, isn’t it? I’m not sure about those big pieces in the front and back, though.
Style Arc Etta skirt
Flounces (cute!) and lots of nice, narrow pieces. This might work.
Style Arc Zoe skirt
I love the shaping on this and think it would look fantastic in leather, but I’m not at all sure that the hides are long enough to accommodate the pattern pieces.

So, if you were two pieces of lovely soft lambskin in a deep maroon with a birch print on you, which of these skirts would you most like to become? Or none of these? Right now I’m thinking the first one way up at the top is my best bet: lots of smallish pieces, a good shape, good seaming details, and calls for less than 1m of fabric, which is about equivalent to how much leather I have. But I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise.

leather, part 2

bloggish-15-8In short: the bag looks great, but I picked the wrong leather.

It doesn’t look wrong and goodness knows it should be very sturdy, and when it was only two or three layers under the needle, it sewed up fine. But whenever it was any thicker than three layers (which happened more than once), and even using the biggest leather needle I had, it would jam up something fierce and sometimes strip the thread. What this means, from a practical perspective, is that I’m not entirely sure of the sturdiness of my seams.

Time will tell, I guess.


1. It has lovely flat handles with d-rings, making it look more like a professional bag, and also allowing the handles to rest flat when I put it down. The tabs holding the d-rings to the bag should really have had studs to reinforce them, but I didn’t think of it until it was too late. If it comes down to it and the tabs start looking like they’ll rip, it should be a pretty easy fix.

bloggish-21-122. It has an outside pocket that I lined with leftover nylon from Frances’s raincoat, and is the perfect size for a little umbrella.

3. It has both an inner pouch pocket and an inner zippered pocket. Sadly, I found this pocket very very exciting. I made a zippered pocket! I know how to make them now! Yay! I now must make another purse so I can have a zippered pocket on it! Zippered pockets for everyone forever!

bloggish-19-114. I added a little key fob to attach key rings to. One of my pet peeves is having to muss around in the bottom of a bag for my keys, thus panicking myself every time that I left the keys somewhere or they’ve fallen through a grate. Little key fob means keys always stay in one place.

5. And I added purse feet to the bottom so it can stand up properly and the bottom will stay out of the dirt when I put it down. Also, it makes a very satisfying little chink when I put it down on a hard surface.bloggish-22-13

I’m also very pleased with the recessed zipper top. I like bags that can theoretically be closed altogether, especially when it’s raining or snowing. Plus it’s big enough to hold all of my work stuff, including dayplanner, book and lunch.

bloggish-17-9If any of (the three of) you have ever wondered, the Craftsy class I made this for was pretty good. I definitely feel like I got my money’s worth. Like those lovely zippered pockets, and what kind of thread to use, and that the inside of leather acts like sandpaper and will erode the fabric lining if you don’t interface it. But next time–goatskin or lambskin, not cowhide.  Something that can theoretically pleat and will fold without being beaten with a little hammer (yes, really).