Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Finally, It's Finished

My leather jacket is finally finished. Am I happy with it?  With reservations.  

If you'll remember I used the center panels of one Burda with the side front, back and sleeves from a jacket I made a few years ago, that fit well btw.  I made two muslins for this and thought all of the fit issues had been resolved.  I still have sleeves that bind at the armscye. I scooped out the front armscye and lowered the underarm a bit.  I was afraid to do too much of this, so I left it. This is not the jacket that Kenneth King fit for me, but when I told him that my sleeves always bind at the front he added ease to the biceps.  I added ease to the biceps and it seemed to fit well in the muslin.  The only thing that I can think of is that I interlined the lining with cotton flannel for warmth and that that and the leather were took up too much of the ease I had added. Anyone with suggestions please chime in. I always have this problem with woven fabrics.  This is one of the reasons I signed up for the sleeves and collars class with Kenneth King. We are to draft sleeves and collars  for the slopers we created in his  moulage class. Hopefully, finally getting a sleeve that fits me.  Unfortunately the first class is this Saturday and it's canceled.  KK takes the subway to a bus to get to Queens.  The subways are not running and there's no date for their reopening. They will delay the three session class a week.  If they reschedule the last class on December 1st, I can make it, but if its on December 8th, we are going to be out of town.  We're going to spend Chanukah with our grandson Jake. My son's birthday is that Monday, so for the first time in years we'll be with him for his birthday.  He wanted to know if I was going to make him his favorite pie.  Well, naturally.

But back to the jacket. Other than that,  it fits pretty well and it has the extra warmth that I wanted. If this winter is as warm as last year I'll be able to wear it all winter.
I had 5 lamb leather skins from a Fabric Mart sale last year.  One more skin would have been better.  The skins were uneven in quality and for all this work I'd have loved having better quality and better matched skins.  Live and learn.  The two previous leather garments I made were from skins I picked in NYC and they were much nicer.  More money of course but a bargain is not always such a bargain.
The lining is a rayon acetate from Emmaonesock and the interlining is red cotton flannel from Joann's.  The zippers are my favorite Riri from Pacific Trimmings in NYC.  I love the two way zipper I used. It works better than any I've ever owned and I can unzip the bottom when I drive so the jacket doesn't get bunched up.  You can now order them to custom size on their finally working website.  

I used regular Gutterman polyester thread and a leather needle. I've heard conflicting information on whether to use a leather or a regular machine needle and I've done both. I thought I'd see how I like the leather needle and honestly, for thin skins I didn't see a difference. I did use a  size 14 leather needle in my Viking 6010 for topstitching since it did work better on multiple layers.  I have used black jeans topstitching thread on this machine for many layers of denim with perfect stitching but it shredded on the leather. I switched to some Gutterman nylon upholstery thread which worked perfectly.  I did have to tighten the tension, something I don't have to do on with other fabrics,even denim.

There are lots of tutorials around right now on sewing exposed zippers, including a very nice one the last issue of Threads magazine, but not one of them shows a good way to install an exposed zipper in a seam with the tape underneath.  Treina was nice enough to point me to Tany's blog for a great tutorial.  I had to adapt it for leather since you can't hand baste but glue and tape are a good substitute.  I used blue painters tape, mostly on the wrong side since it's low tack, easy to remove and if you take it off promptly doesn't leave residue.  

I made lots of samples for the pocket openings and found that just stitching around the opening and cutting and pressing it to the wrong side worked the best.  On fabric I'd use some bias silk organza for this but leather doesn't fray and the corners were clean. I edgestitched to hold the zipper in place.

This sample is sitting on my granite remnant and is the perfect place for pounding edges.  I also used both my wooden June Tailor board for the curved seams and my well used point presser clapper for pounding straight seams.  I used barge cement to hold seams that I didn't topstitch.

What would I change?
Other than the armscye sleeve fitting issues I wish that I'd fitted the princess seam under the bust a little bit more. It's a little too boxy; a closer fit would be more flattering.  I also am not happy with all the topstiching. I used the low gear on my Viking but it isn't perfectly even, which wouldn't bother me in the back, but the stitching on one lapel isn't the same distance from the edge as the matching one.  In fabric I'd have ripped it out. Obviously I didn't have that option.
While I've made a lot of jackets over the years, I don't make that many and my skills are rusty.  Before I make any other leather projects I need to up my skills  to be truly happy with the results.  


  1. This looks wonderful you should be really pleased with it. Thanks for the link to Tany's tutorial.

  2. Ease, particularly in thick fabric:
    It does look very good though, but I understand being annoyed at the binding.

  3. It looks wonderful on you. I know the long journey to the end result and hope you will start loving the jacekt more after a while and wear it with joy.
    Glad to read you were not badly hurt by "Sandy". I haven't read papers or seen television for 2.5 days, so only tonight are getting a picture of how bad it's been.

  4. Nancy your new leather jacket looks amazing! I know you are very close to it, and you know the minor imperfections, but it really does look just perfect on you. I learned a lot reading about your experience. Some day I will tackle a leather garment, too.

  5. It really looks wonderful. Don't tell a soul all that you told us and they will think it is just fabulous, which it is. Glad you survived Sandy with all in tact.

  6. What a great looking jacket! It looks so nice on you. Thanks for sharing your experiences with working with leather. I admire your fortitude in sewing it!

  7. I want to know if it's a real leather. i have bought a real Womens Designer Fox Fur Coat in can you give me some idea.

  8. This moto jacket looks fabulous, Nancy!

  9. It looks fantastic! And all the details are sharp and well done. It's impossible to see the leather quality differences in the photos, but I know what you mean. The fit looks good in the pictures, but of course it has to feel right. Since leather stretches a bit, perhaps you will "wear it in" and come to love it. It does look good!

  10. Fantastic job, the zippers look especially professional, I'm sure any reservations you have about it will go away when you start wearing it.

  11. Love it. Love everything about it. The zippers are terriifc and my prefered look of an 'exposed' zipper.

  12. Nancy, I'm so impressed! I want to make a leather jacket one of these days...

  13. Well done! Making a leather jacket is quite an achievement and it looks fantastic from here :)

  14. Nancy, I have that binding problem as well and the fix I used was to alter the sleeve cap curve while leaving the armsyce alone. The book I use is "Fitting & Pattern Alteration: A Multi-Method Approach". It's a good book because it illustrates every alteration using several methods (pivot-slide, slash-spread, SA spread) and I highly recommend it. On my blog is a photo of me in a shirt that pretty clearly shows the badly fitted sleeve and today I'll shoot and send you a photo of me in the corrected sleeve. It was a small alteration that made a huge difference.

    1. I actually have this book. When I've used it to solve this problem I didn't interpret the issue correctly because it didn't work. I will go back and take another look and see if I can figure out how to change the sleeve cap. Kenneth Kings class on drafting sleeves and collars is a go for next weekend so maybe I'll solve my problem.

  15. Oh good! The fix I used is on page 322 (#77 Forward Arm Joint). Also I should add the other part of the fix was to make sure the bottom of the armhole was higher and it looks like you already did that.

  16. Dear Nancy,
    you did a great job. The jacket looks wonderful on you. Here in Germany we say "you are lamenting at the highest level". The result is very good. But your skills are so perfect that you only see some not so importent details.
    My Englisch is not very good, I hope you understood what I mean.
    Have a nice Sunday

  17. That jacket looks fabulous. Hopefully, it's comfortable enough for you to wear. I've worked on sleeves a lot. I finally got a good fit, and intend to do as PeggySagers suggests and use that sleeve and armsythe for every garment. KK will steer you in the right direction. Lucky you!

  18. I saw the jacket in person and it is really fabulous. She pointed out all of those little things in person and to a non-sewer it still looked perfect. I would steal it in a heart beat. My mom has a way cooler fashion sense than I do. Using the high quality fabric for the lining really makes a difference in the over all finish effect. It looked and felt very high end. Definitely something that I'd see on a rack at Neiman Marcus.