Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Custom Leather Gratification

Here's another example of a project I may not have posted at all because it was so simple, but I like how it turned out. Not so much with the pictures because the colors are all wrong, but the theme of this post is instant gratification, so I'm not going to fuss with it. (The leather is a nice warm greige and the stitching is bright orange. For the record.)

Recently, a coworker gave me a 15 gallon bag full of leather scraps. These "scraps" ranged from credit card size to almost a half-hide, so I was thrilled to get 'em, even though I'd never really worked with leather before. I've wanted to, I just... didn't really know how. Or what.

This past Saturday, I was loading up my pockets on my way to check out some architectural salvage (does anyone have a pedestal sink they want to move?). For some reason, this time, it made me a little nervous to stuff my iPhone in my jacket pocket with my wallet, even though I'd done it a hundred times before. (Wait, have I even had the thing a hundred days yet? I don't think I have. License!) So I decided to look around real quick for something to use as a case. If all else failed, I figured I could whip up a small pouch out of some spare quilter's cotton, or whatever was around. What happened to be most around was that bag of scrap leather, sitting under my cutting table.

I'm pretty sure it was the first piece I pulled out which happened to be a long rectangle, just a little wider than the iPhone and about 2.5 times as long. I slapped it on the table, laid the phone down and wondered, okay now what? Stitch up those edges, okay, I suppose that would be fine, just kinda seems like a waste... If I could just get the leather to kinda... mould to the phone. That would be way cooler. I tucked the leather around it a little and gave a thought about whether I'd have to get the leather wet for it to shape that way, although it seemed to be perfect as long as I was holding it. Maybe that was the answer. If I could hold it in place...

I brought it over to the mechanostitcher which was already threaded with bright orange (why?), installed one of the leather needles I just happened to have on hand and snapped on the zipper foot. Holding the edges with the iPhone still wrapped, I straight-stitched tightly up one side and then the other. Then I trimmed the edges where the bottom layer was now extending beyond the top layer. I was going to trim it all the way up the flap, but then I looked at those punched holes -- which were already in the rectangular scrap -- and thought the trimmed edges could actually come in handy.

So, five minutes from concept to completion, and back into the pocket. I didn't find a sink, but at least I have a custom leather case now. And I know Nigel can handle it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Craftster's Best of 2007

File this under "self-promotion" or "easy to make happy," your choice.

The venerable this week posted their Best of 2007 list. And what do you know, my skulls and roses dress made the list.

It's one (really awesome) thing to actually get complimented on a project while walking down a street in Toronto. It's entirely another to have it noticed and singled out by people who actually know what they're looking at.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Mephistuffoles Presides Over Beanie Hell

If you have extreme Beanie Baby sensitivities or tend to over-anthropomorphize the inanimate, you may want to look away. However, if you're only mildly sick in the head, you may find this as funny as I did.

I almost never dress up for Halloween because if I were to do a costume the way I want to do it, I would be way overdressed for any occasion I might be invited to. Then I'd either feel like an idiot or like a superior jackass. Either way.

This year, though, I decided to work the pun-as-costume angle, and also managed to work in something I've been wanting to do for years.

I admit, I had done the top a while ago. I was in a second hand store one day and came across this really hilarious devil Valentine plushie, complete with fuzzy red hair and a nice big red flaming heart on his chest. I walked around with that thing for minutes thinking, "What on earth would I do with a stuffed devil?" But I couldn't put it down. So I devised a plan.

He became bisected vertically and hand-stitched to a store-bought black top, with a little bit of padding for his body and keeping his arms and legs free. His giant feet flop around when I move, and grabbing his hands is rather irresistible, if in dangerous territory. ("Watch it, buddy.")

For this year's costume, I decided to take the concept one step further -- well, actually, about 10 steps, as that is how many teeny beanies gave their lives for the project.

Let me tell you, those things are sewn together like crazy. To represent the tortured beanie souls, I picked each one apart, bear-rug style, removed the guts, and hand-stitched them all over a store-bought black skirt. I used red embroidery floss and intentionally made the stitches rather ragged, in an Ed Gein inspired way. And you know, it took me twice as long to sew sloppily as it would have to sew evenly. Damned OCD.

Below that whole mess I wore flame-printed tights and some nice Cenobite buckled boots and became... Mephistuffoles and the pits of Beanie Hell.

No, no one really got it. Even the ones I explained it to. Genius is so rarely appreciated in its own time.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Tale of Two Footies

Get ready, it's sewing geek time!

I like narrow hems. I hate sewing narrow hems. I like bias tape. I hate basting/sewing bias tape. Specialty foots* to the rescue!

I have a Husqvarna Lily 550, a beauty little quilting machine I've mentioned before, officially named Nigel. ("We're only making plans for Nigel. We only want what's best for him." He likes being sung to.) Being the schmancy machine that it is, I knew there would have to be some awesome life-affirming options available to spare me the infernal drudgery. The company website confirmed this. And ebay informed me that a Husqvarna-approved narrow rolled-foot hem could be had for the low low price of... glurk $25! Plus shipping!

Upon learning this, I did what I usually do -- put it off and continued to suffer. And suffer. And suffer some more. Then, while making the foresty party dress, I was stricken with the dread realization that not only did I have all those hems to roll, but I was going to apply bias tape to the neck edge as well. Oh the tedium. But wait! This is an opportunity for research!

Nigel is the only sewing machine I've ever owned, and it seemed perfectly reasonable to me that each manufacturer would have proprietary foots. Turns out... not the case. There are essentially four different attachment methods and basically any machine since 1980 uses the same snap-on method. Well, that's good news! It means that someone else probably makes the foot I want for a less twitch-making cost (especially since I ultimately wanted two). Enter Ultimate Sew and Vac!

Turns out I could get a 6mm rolled hem foot and the adjustable bias tape foot of my dreams for $25 total. With shipping! I ordered them right away (too late for that dress, of course).

They arrived today and I was so excited. And such a dork. I wanted to try the rolled hem first and huzzah it snapped right into the ankle, just as I expected it to. I grabbed a scrap for a quick test and klonk the machine stuttered, startling me. The heck? It's not complicated, and the foot is on... I turned the wheel by hand and discovered that the needle was colliding with my sweet new foot. Dammit dammit dammit! I snapped on the bias tape foot and... that one, too! What the hell! Okay, so, do I send them back or try to sell them on ebay or maybe someone I know wants -- no, wait. Eh, what have I got to lose? I grabbed a small file and went to town.

It actually seemed like a long shot because those little footsies are surprisingly heavy and the metal seems pretty hard. But "Project Runway" was on, so I wasn't going anywhere for the next hour anyway. After a few moments I noticed the shavings and knew I was on my way. Had to move quite a bit of metal, but eventually, clean, snap, test... success!

6mm rolled hem is going to be great for most medium weight purposes. Which, for me, means pretty much all the time. I also tested the adjustable bias tape foot with the skinny and the wide purchased tape and it worked great with both (after the filing, of course). This, I believe, is a foot that is going to get much usage.

Oh geez. I just realized I now have 13 machine foots. Granted, about 8 of those came with the machine, but... I have a sickness, verily.

*We can have the discussion later whether the plural of foot in this context is foots or feet. Actually, no, let's not -- "foots" amuses me, end of discussion!
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