Showing posts with label how-to. Show all posts
Showing posts with label how-to. Show all posts

Friday, June 27, 2014

Christopher’s Leather Care Tips

I get asked from time to time about the best way to care for leather gear. Here are a few things I've picked up over the years: 

Leather items can last for decades if properly cared for. Age and use can bring out leather’s natural patina, making it more beautiful. It should fit you better too, as it will stretch to conform to your shape over time. 

Dry dust with a soft cloth or vacuum in crevices inside and out before cleaning or conditioning. 

No, I don't actually have my own branded suede brush!

The inside of your unlined leather item (with suede-like nap) can be brushed and cleaned with a brass-bristle suede brush. Follow up with a vacuum to suck up the little bits of nap that may brush off. 

Lexol Leather Cleaner: the orange bottle.

Use Lexol PH Leather Cleaner to spot clean if necessary before conditioning.

Lexol Leather Conditioner: the brown one.

Use a conditioner like Lexol Leather Conditioner every 6-12 months. Be sure to test it first on a hidden area first to make sure it doesn’t discolor the leather. I like to apply with a soft cloth, then buff with a clean soft cloth and finish with a horse hair brush. 

Horsehair brushes are great for the final buffed finish.

Don’t over condition! You don’t want to clog the pores of the leather, or make it sticky, which can happen if you apply too much or too frequently. 

Note that a conditioner may darken the appearance of the leather. You may want to test a small inconspicuous area first. 

Protect your leather from direct sunlight, which can dry it out and make it fade over time. 

Wipe up spills immediately as they occur with a clean soft cloth.

If necessary, use a lightly moistened soft cloth with lukewarm water to clean a spill. 

Let any damp leather air dry naturally before putting it away. Don’t put it near a heater to speed up drying, as it may result in hardening the leather. 

Do not use soap or heavily soak the leather with water. This may cause more damage than the stain itself.  

Avoid cleaning supplies or soaps, detergents, solvents or bleach. Don’t use furniture polish, oils, varnish, abrasive cleaners or ammonia water. 

Butter and leather don't go together!

Be careful with butter, oil or grease, which can stain leather. Wipe off with a clean cloth, and leave alone. The spot should dissipate after a short period of time. 

Use a chamois to buff out minor surface scratches. 

Store in a cool, dry well-ventilated place, never in a plastic bag! Leather needs to breathe, and can grow mold if kept in a plastic bag. 

A dust-bag can help keep your gear clean, but make sure it’s breathable, natural fiber. 

Avoid strong perfumes or cologne when wearing your leather, as it is porous and will absorb smells quite easily.

Follow these tips, and your leather should give you many years of enjoyment. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

My 10 Favorite Leathercraft Videos

There are lots of great videos on YouTube about leathercrafting. People are producing and sharing some nicely produced, beautifully shot little movies, and the best of them have an almost hypnotic quality. Watching a craftsperson who has done something hundreds or thousands of times, you see the routines they develop, their personal ways of working. There are many great tips and techniques to be gleaned if you watch closely.

Here are my 10 favorite videos, in no particular order. 

First off, we have JnK from Korea making a camera case for Leica X1 half case in a beautiful red leather:

Interesting glue paddle... Particularly love the way he makes his precision cuts. The position of his hands. The pricking iron. And the steady application of edge coating. 

Number 2: A video slideshow of a Milanese handbag company Valigeria Beretta that has been making luxury items since 1947.

Love the large cutter which I assume they use to slice the boards that would be used inside the bags for structure. Also, it's cool to see all the patterns, cutting templates and tools they have accumulated over the years. The precious exotic skins, which you can see are carefully positioned to maximize yield. 

Next up: A handbag by Salvatore Ferragamo. You know you are in the luxury space when the craftsperson is wearing a lab coat. I love the way the video starts with him feeling the leather for any flaws or defects with his hands. You may be able to detect with your fingers something you can't see with your eyes...

At 0:55 he puts the leather through a skiver, which takes the hide down to a specified thickness. Nice way to get consistency, but those things aren't cheap! At 1:05 he's skiving down the edge with another machine, which tapers the thickness just along the edge. It has a circular, bell-shaped blade (which you can't see in the video). At about 1:07 you see him sanding the edge with a power sanding wheel. It's great to see all the steps involved in building up the handle (starting around 1:30). See how he's working on a nice, thick marble slab? At 3:11 using shears to cut relief slits for folding the leather around the curves of the handle. Then using his bone folder to crease, coax and fold the leather into place. At 3:26 there's a telling detail. When mating the sides to the bottom, our craftswoman aligns the center point, and then the corner point, before working down the leather in between. A perfect strategy for maintaining the shape when joining two pieces with elastic properties, such as leather. Note the use of an edge guide at 3:47 when machine stitching. At 4:07 the "bag-within-a-bag" construction technique comes into play - a great strategy for creating an inner lining. 

Now for a pair of sexy red patent leather heels, another video by Salvatore Ferragamo:

This one starts with the digital sketch, rotating in a 3-dimensional rendering. Then they skip directly to a pattern being projected onto the leather on an automated cutting table. These things run over $100,000! Not for your average shoemaker... At 0:27 they are skiving the edge, thinning it down. At 0:35 you see the very careful and close-to-the-edge stitching along the upper opening, mating the lining and using a post-bed sewing machine with a wheel instead of a presser foot. Just look at how close to the edge that stitching is...

Next the counter and toe reinforcements go in place, before the workpiece is clamped into what looks like a Darth-Vader-like torture/stretching machine. That thing is putting immense pressure on the leather to stretch it into shape around the last. Even with all the specialized machines, notice all the hand work still involved, every step of the way. Notice the lining is kept oversized, so it can be nailed to the last? A way to stretch the workpiece without making holes in the finished shoe. 

Into another machine that helps form the heel of the shoe, pulling the leather ever more tightly over the shape of the rear of the foot. 

At 1:40, I'm assuming that the trip on the conveyor-belt is through some sort of oven. Many heat-set adhesives are used in shoe making these days, and that may be the part of the process where those glues are activated. 2:05 using a grinding wheel to taper down the leather at the bottom of the shoe. 2:44 the sole is lovingly hand-glued in position. 3:00 a specialized press, to make sure the sole is firmly attached. 3:18 those nails from earlier are removed, and the shoe is freed from its last. 3:35 I think this device is nailing the heel to the shoe. 3:46 edge coating the shoe opening. 3:54 hot foil-stamping the logo onto the insole. 

Video 5: Some classic hand stitching from Hermes.

This video is a great primer for those of you interested in hand stitching with 2 needles. All the steps are shown (except for the inital hole-punching, unfortunately). You see the stitching pony, waxing the thread, putting the needle through the thread. Watch closely to see how he uses the thread from the first stitch to help pull the needle from the second stitch through the hole. Notice how he uses the awl to guide his needle though for the first stitch. Observe how small the stitching awl handle is (and how well it fits in his hand). Also notice how short the blade is on his awl. No wiggling when he punches through the leather either, his holes are nice and tight. Probably a nice sharp edge on his awl. Flattens the stitching at the end with a mallet. Look at the beautiful finished stitches when he's done. Just look at them, and learn! 

And number 6: Some gratuitous handbag porn from Gucci. 

Love the hand-airbrushing at the 0:27 mark. This one jumps all over, showing a variety of techniques very quickly. Hand-cut fringe at 0:57 which become those awesome tassels. Note the use of the custom wood form during assembly (at 1:24). Hand stitching to reinforce the corners at 1:39. Using heat to from the bamboo handles at 1:52. Slow stitching of the nameplate on a cylinder-bed machine 2:02. 

A document case by Dunhill:

Not as detailed or as informative as some of the other videos, but still fun to see a master at his craft... Not sure if the whole thing is hand-stitched (they only show him stitching the handle), but it is quite possible. 

Video number 8: a craftsman from Hermes talks about the process of making a Kelley bag. Originally from NY Mag's the Cut. 

Video number 9: the making of a Louis Vuitton bag with embossed monogram:

Starts with feeling up the leather (as in several other videos), and at 0:25 one of the cooler things to see: the giant embossing plate that presses the logo monogram design into the leather using a giant press. How cool is that? This video skips all the making, and jumps right to the sanding (0:36) and edge-painting (0:43-0:50) which is accomplished through a unique machine. The last part of this video seems to be all about inspecting the final product, measuring stitches, and looking for blemishes or defects of any kind. 

And last but not least, number 10: a quick video of hand-made high heels by Koronya shoemaking school:

I hope you find something inspiring or helpful in these, as I have. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fetishcraft book by John Huxley

I recently received a beautiful book by John Huxley titled: Fetishcraft. It's the best book of its type that I've ever seen: a great primer on making your own custom fetish gear in leather. 

Mr. Huxley starts out talking about the tools you will need for production, and if you've been reading this blog for a while much of this will look familiar. I agree wholeheartedly with his statement: "When the fit should be precise, as is generally the case with fetishwear, making ones own garments is ideal."
I really like that it's more than just a how-to manual. The chapters begin with the author discussing different aspects of fetishism and the BD/SM sexual experience - almost a philosophical overview that frames the projects.  

Production processes and techniques are spelled out clearly. The level of detail and the variety of projects makes this book a treasure trove of information. 

Each project comes with a measured drawing, into which you can plug your own measurements for a custom-fit. Some unusual garments are covered, such as robes...
...and even zentai suits made of spandex. 

There are patterns and tips for making bondage-style hoods in leather. 

(I always love seeing how different people approach the problem of making a tight-fitting leather envelope for the human head out of what is essentially a flat material.) Many of the projects covered in the book could be adapted for latex construction as well. 
Lots of creative ideas to get your mind going when it comes to customizing your designs to make them truly your own. 
Some of the projects are more simple, like the fist mitts,
a ball gag, 
and a cock sheath! 
There are some pretty complex projects here as well, including a very thorough description for making weighted, plaited floggers - from cutting the strips of leather you'll need, to the turks-head knot used to finish the end of the handle. 
Overall, I'd highly recommend this book for anyone interested in leathercraft, making their own gear, or even making things for others. It's detailed, thorough and organized, offers a comprehensive overview of tools, equipment and techniques. 

Available at Amazon, or check out the book's website here

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Make an Armbinder from the New Pattern!

The armbinder pictured above is made directly from the free pattern. 

Today I'm going to take you through the making of an armbinder using the pattern I posted a couple of days ago. The downloadable pattern can be found here

This pattern has all the pieces you'll need to build the armbinder, including all the fussy little bits: reinforcements, keeper loops and even a couple of templates to help you position your holes correctly. Just print it out at 100% (you'll probably have to tile the pieces together like I did), make any necessary adjustments, and you are ready to go.
I am actually making 3 armbinders at once, so don't be confused. I'm making one straight from the pattern, and 2 modified versions: slightly tighter and with tweaks to the size of the hand pocket. Your first step should be to make any necessary edits to the size of the pattern before you begin so it fits you (or your lucky slave).
The good news is all the little elements should remain the same size, even with different fit options for the sleeve itself. The one exception is the long straps. For anyone over 5'2" tall, you may need to make the straps a bit longer than the 29 inches called for in the pattern. I would always recommend making a test of the pattern before cutting leather. You can use vinyl or some people use denim or muslin. Better to find out on something cheap, rather than the expensive, beautiful hide you just (almost) wasted!

Step 1: Cut out all your parts. Below you can see the three sets of small parts cut out: one for each armbinder I'm making. 

Step two is to clip and sew along the first 4" of the hand pocket.
You don't want to stitch too far: on one side you need the opening for the laces, on the other we'll be inserting the D-ring. Start and stop at the marks indicated on the pattern.
Step 2: Glue in the reinforcement tabs (#5 on the pattern).
Cut reliefs, glue and fold down hand pocket stitching and along laced opening.
Use mallet to flatten.
Keep the transition from stitched to non-stitched part smooth.
Topstitch along laced opening 1/8" from edge. 
Glue, flatten and topstitch top edge of tongue.
(The folded edge on the tongue could be optional, but I think it looks neater that way.)
Use double-sided tape along the edge to hold the tongue in position while sewing. 
Peel off the backing and place the tongue in position:
I usually turn the piece over, and check for symmetry. Adjustments can be made at this point, to make sure it's just right before sewing. 
Now topstitch with a 1/2" gap for the lacing grommets (a stitching guide can come in handy here).
After sewing, remove double-sided tape and trim excess from tongue.
Now it's time to glue up all your straps.
I find it handy to use a 2" disposable brush to spread the glue on the strips.
Wait for the glue to set up (about 5 minutes)...
...then fold all of your strips to create your straps. 
You could always use vegetable-tanned leather belts, or whatever else you like for your straps. I tend to like having the straps and keeper loops all made from the same hide so the color and texture matches perfectly. Plus, straps made like this are soft and slightly stretchy, which makes the armbinder feel a bit more comfortable when you are wearing it.

You can also glue up the straps for the D-ring. 
I reinforce these with strips of nylon webbing.
These get glued together, ready for sewing into the end of the hand pocket.
You insert the D-ring facing in...
...then fold the pocket up...
...and clip together for sewing. Not shown: I usually trim off that bit of tab extending beyond the edge of the seam allowance, so a binder clip can hold the D-ring in place.
Now, sew up the rear seam of the armbinder.
Run an additional line or two of stitches to reinforce the D-ring connection.
Now cut reliefs, glue up and flatten the rear seam.
Glue in the tabs for the rear-seam reinforcement (#9 on the pattern).
Here are the reinforcement tabs:
Glued in position:
Time to finish the belts. Trim to length, using a 1" rounded strap-end punch.
Each long strap (pattern #3) gets paired with a long strap reinforcement (pattern #6).
Sew these in place.

Time to work on the buckle-end straps (pattern #4). I put a little template into the pattern (#11) to help you position the holes correctly on these straps. 
Use a 1" strap end punch to round the corners and cut the straps to length. 
Use a .625" slot cutter (also called an oblong punch or bag punch) for the slots.
And a 1/8" hole punch comes in handy for the pilot holes to attach the buckles with rivets.
Next we fold down the seam along the top edge of the armbinder. 
Cut away the corners from the seam allowance.
Cut reliefs in the curved seam allowance to allow it to lay flat, and fold it over. 
Last, fold down the top tab. 
Now you have the top edge folded down. But before we topstitch, we're going to sew the long straps in first. 
I use the double-sided tape to hold the long straps in position. 
Align with the marks from the pattern. 
Now topstitch the long-strap tab in place, following the D-shaped contour of the strap. Finally, topstitch along the top edge (and across the strap). 
It should look like this when you're done:
An inside view:
The stitching should come around and meet up with the lacing opening stitches we did earlier. 
Now it's time to work on the buckles. First, cut the keeper loops to size. For this thickness of leather (1.3mm), 3.125 inches long is just about right. 
I use a staple gun to close the loops. 
Wrap 'em around the wood wedge. 
Staple them across the gap. 
Then pry them off, and turn down the prongs to hold the loop closed. 
We have all the buckle-end parts ready to go: straps, buckles and keepers. 
Use the template to mark and punch pilot holes in the armbinder tab. 
I use short nails to keep the belt in position on the tab while I set the rivets to hold it in place. 
The buckle straddles the tab (one leg on either side). 

I use the "little wonder" riveter from Weaver to set the 5/16" cap rivets. 
You could use jiffy rivets, or even sew this connection if you don't have the tools to set rivets. Just punch 4 holes and used waxed thread. 
Use the pattern to mark the location of the grommet holes. 
I punch 3/16" holes to fit the size #00 Osborne grommets. 
Once the rivets are set, time to lace her up. It takes about 92 inches of lacing. 
I like making the X pattern with the laces. 
And that brings us to the end... Congratulations on your new armbinder(s)! 

Once again, the pattern is here if you want to give it a try... Good luck!