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Studio/Skill Upgrade: Leatherworking

I’ve been putting this off for years.  I’ve always wanted to work with leather, but I have talked myself out of it over and over.  “You don’t need any MORE tedious crafts to do by hand.”  “You have never done this before.  It takes years and years to learn this craft.”  “You will mess up.  Leather is expensive.”  “Don’t kill the animals.”  etc…..

I love leather. I don’t want to, but I do.  I absolutely do.

I have quite the garment weight leather stash from years of collecting thrifted garments, friends’ worn out leather coats, scraps from other people’s leather projects, etc.  I started to actually use it by incorporating small leather accents into my designs.  It’s not enough.  I want to design with more leather.  I’ve decided to really jump in and order a couple leather sides in a harness weight and make some all leather items.  Fine leather goods.  Harnesses and hardware.  I’m totally in.

The problem?  My studio is set up for creating garments and accessories out of fabric.  I can handle garment weight leather from my stash, but I want to make things out of heavyweight leather.  Time to start collecting leather tools!

My first leatherworking tool: a round knife.

The other problem?  Yeah, so I’ve never actually made anything out of really heavyweight leather so there’s that whole learning curve thing ahead of me.  Luckily, I’m really used to being self-taught and trying things I’ve never done before (aka: almost the exact definition of my costuming career) so no big deal.  I’ll suck for awhile and then I won’t (fingers crossed).

Bridles from a friend to inspect, disassemble and use for parts.

I’m trying to get my hands on all sorts of leather items to see how they are made.  A friend gave me a pile of horse bridles to get me started.  I don’t *think* I’ll be making horse bridles, but I can see how the makers handled the leather and learn from their construction methods.

I’m creeping closer and closer to the day where I put in a big order for leather and I feel like it’s a big jump for my brand.  I am excited.  I am nervous.  But mostly I am excited because the worst thing that can happen here is my closet gets filled with a bunch of interesting leather pieces for me to wear.  NOT BAD.  The best thing that can happen here is all of YOUR closets get filled with my interesting leather pieces for YOU to wear.  NOT BAD AT ALL.

 

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Painting Studio Planking

With my new in-house photo setup next to my painting studio, there’s been an invasion of dressforms amongst my canvases.

Inverse planking in my painting studio.

 

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Danger! Danger!

Even though I KNOW it’s a really bad habit, I still put pins in my mouth while I’m sewing. I’ve heard so many horror stories about people swallowing straight pins, but I just can’t seem to break the habit. Hopefully, I don’t learn the hard way.

Danger! Danger!

 
 

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Comfort zone, where are you?

When I drew up my sketches for my monoprismatic clothing collection, all the figures had on these great big, stylized glasses.  I loved them.  At first, I thought that the glasses were just a visually dynamic aspect of my fashion illustrations and I’d leave it at that, but then I started wishing that they would come to life on runway.

Making a variety of templates.

I was brainstorming different ways to make this happen.  Regular glasses weren’t going to be stylized enough. and if I DID find oversized glasses that were cool enough, I didn’t know if my budget would allow me to buy enough for every model.  This idea was dismissed. As I reverted back to brainstorming DIY methods, I crossed several of my regularly used materials off the list: fabric, leather, interfacing, buckram, etc.  Nothing would produce the results I wanted.  I remembered I had a huge sheet of PVC signage plastic leftover from a previous creative endeavor, but it’s so far out of my comfort zone that I didn’t want to use it.  Eventually, I faced the fact that it was the only material that I had at least had SOME experience with that would create these oversized glasses that I wanted for my collection’s debut at Omaha Fashion Week.

Figuring out template layout to keep waste to a minimum.

Tracing templates.

The reason I was so hesitant to use this plastic is because the tools I’d use on it aren’t my normal tools. During  normal projects I use: a domestic sewing machine, an industrial sewing machine, an overlock machine, and iron, hand-sewing needles, scissors, and maybe some pliers. Tools needed for this project: a hot cutting knife, sandpaper, a power drill, sandpaper, more sandpaper……and zero sewing machines!  WHAT?!

Using the hot knife to melt/cut the glasses outline.

Turning non-functional sunglasses into non-functional reading glasses.

I think it wasn’t until I had a few fully completed glasses that I finally relaxed and thought “Sweet! These are runway accessories that are actually feasible!”

POWER drill. Using the POWER.

I already had to drill holes into the plastic to thread the elastic through, so I thought it’d be cute to add a button on each side for a touch of color.  Then each pair of glasses would match its corresponding outfit perfectly! Monoprismatic is very matchy-matchy.

Attaching the elastic cording and colored button.

While I got pretty good at making these glasses by the twelfth pair, I’m no PVC plastic expert. It’s a material that I CAN use, but only when necessary. The glasses are wearable, but somewhat uncomfortable after awhile. My models are troopers.  I just wanted to share my experience of working well out of my comfort zone. As a costumer, I do this quite often, but I don’t normally document it and say “Look at me! I only kinda/sorta know what I’m doing here!” But really, I only kinda/sorta know what I’m doing here.

Finished glasses.

 

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In the studio.

Working hard in my studio. Making some red quilted denim coveralls.

Although I work in my studio ALOT, I have very few pictures of myself doing this. I thought I’d post one of these rare shots.

 
 

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Studio upgrade: Consew Industrial Sewing Machine

I’ve been wanting an industrial machine ever since I first used one 5 years ago. I’ve had a few different jobs where I sewed on them all day at work and then had to come home and use my little Janome for my own designs. It seemed so slow and weak when I knew what it felt like to sew with SPEED and POWER.  I never purchased one before because I never had enough extra space or money.  One day while patterning, I accidentally thought of a brilliant plan on how to rearrange everything in my studio that would make just the right amount of space for an industrial sewing machine table.  And, thanks to years of saving, a string of successful sales events in my etsy shop, and my super awesome (and super generous) grandparents, money wasn’t an excuse anymore either. I realized that NOW IS THE TIME FOR POWER!!! (Cue gong. Seriously, I need a gong.)

The Consew arrived assembled, bolted down, and plastic wrapped.

I had to use power tools to release the POWER from its cage.

My pups meet the machine.

And then I realized there was NO way I could get my machine into my studio myself. I recruited some helpful muscles, and awaited their arrival.

This machine is a beast.

Look at those MUSCLES! And look at that MACHINE! *swoon*

Consew 2053R-1

The machine I purchased is a Consew 2053R-1. I looked at pretty much every brand of machine I could come across and then narrowed it down to the 4 or 5 brands that I’ve sewn on before. So far, I love the machine I picked out. The manual is rubbish, so I’m figuring out all the settings on my own. It sure does look good in my studio.

 
 

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Francis Bacon Coveralls

When I was in the middle of making some fuschia denim coveralls for my monoprismatic clothing collection, I would just hang them up over a door in my studio. Whenever I walked by these half-finished coveralls, they reminded me of a Francis Bacon painting. They didn’t resemble the mood of the painting, but the shapes and composition just kept making me visualize his art. No offense to Mr. Bacon, but his “Figure with Meat” is one of my least favorite paintings ever.  Raw meat totally freaks me out.  So I quick finished up the coveralls so I wouldn’t have to picture raw meat whenever I walked by the Francis Bacon-esque art installation in my studio.  However, I did whip up this visual comparison for you:

Francis Bacon vs. Audio Helkuik

 

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Current Inspiration, or “my rainbow addiction”

I love rainbows.  I know I wear black/brown/grey/blue most of the time……but, seriously, I looooooove rainbows.  Real-life rainbows in the sky, rainbow ribbons, rainbow jewelry, rainbow shoelaces, rainbow belts, rainbow EVERYTHING.

I LOVE RAINBOWS!!!!!!

I wanted to show how my entire fabric stash is organized by color and when they all the color organized tubs are in a row, it’s a GIANT FABRIC RAINBOW!  (The best of all rainbows.)  But, my stash is too large to put them all in a row in my studio….so….use your imagination.   And cue: ” Ooohhhh……pretty……”

I do, however, have several other rainbow-ized items around my studio.  I love to organize things by color.  One, it is easy to find things.  Two, it’s pretty.  Organization + rainbows = happy

Rainbow-ized thread storage shelf.

Rainbow-ized embroidery thread.

DOUBLE RAINBOW!

Suuuuuuuper sneak peek:  my love of rainbows is heavily influencing my next clothing collection.  It’s going to be full of rainbow-y goodness.

 
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Posted by on 04.21.12 in Behind-the-scenes

 

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Apparently, my studio is a brunette.

As I was cleaning my studio, I noticed that there was brunette hair tucked into several shelves and nooks of my studio closets.

My closet doll. Don't you have one?

My stash of synthetic hair. My stash of human hair is all organized, sealed, and packed up tight…..not as easy to stumble across.

This is Rachel. I know this not because she told me, but because her name is unfortunately sharpied across her forehead. Rachel does many of my hat/headwear/hairpiece fittings for me. Thanks Rachel!

Apparently, my studio is a brunette.

 
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Posted by on 04.14.12 in Studio Life

 

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