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Author Topic: Sewing leather for Klingon costumes  (Read 45980 times)
BuraD
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« on: 09 21, 2002, 05:44: AM »



The easiest thing to do that looks good depends somewhat on luck.  If you
can find a brown leather jacket/coat at a thrift store that has the right
cut and some interesting details, you can remove the sleeves, add new
sleeves from fur or one of those fabrics that looks like shorn fur, make
armguards out of the old sleeves to match the jacket, and add a belt and
buckle.  The new brown look we have seen this year on Enterprise is very
good when properly accessorized.    There is more you can do to make it
even better, but you have to have a pretty good machine to sew several
layers of leather.  
« Last Edit: 04 20, 2008, 12:26: AM by Spiderbot Scatologist » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: 09 21, 2002, 02:16: PM »


Sewing leather for costumes can be very dificult unless you have the right
kind of machine for it. Your average home machines can't handle it -- you'd
be best off with an industrial machine, if you can arrange to use one. Home
machines should be approached with great caution, especially borrowed
ones.

There are also specialty machines that are designed for working on tack and
can do things that most machines can't, such as sew through multiple layers
of leather while attaching them to other materials (i.e. wood, plastics,
some thin metals). If you have a lot of leather to sew it might be worth a
tiptoe through the local yellow pages to find a saddle- or boot-maker,
explain what you want, and see if you can't arrange to have them run a few
seams for you.

Otherwise I'd recommend sewing your leathers by hand. Use chalk to mark
where you want the seam to go. You can get special leather needles at most
sewing/fabric stores. Depending on how thick your layer(s) are a small-bore
awl and needle-nose pliers will help. Use the awl to poke through a bore
hole where you want your stitch, then use the pliers to pull the needle
through. The pliers will also prevent line cuts on your fingers (blood
stains are hard to get out of leather).

 - Kesvirit
« Last Edit: 04 26, 2008, 09:51: AM by Kesvirit » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: 09 22, 2002, 12:26: AM »

Quote
Sewing leather for costumes can be very dificult unless you have the right
kind of machine for it. Your average home machines can't handle it -- you'd
be best off with an industrial machine, if you can arrange to use one. Home
machines should be approached with great caution, especially borrowed
ones.

My family is Native American (Mi'kmaq First Nation) and my mother is
well-known for her custom made leather jackets and other clothing, so I
learnt a fair bit from her over the years.

In a pinch, you can use almost any regular sewing machine to sew leather;
you just don't use the motor! You almost use it as an old-fashioned treadle
machine, you manually advance the wheel on the far right side, with your
hand, that way it doesn't strain the motor, which is the big problem with
sewing heavy materials such as denim or leather.

Sure it is slow, but generally faster than hand sewing and the stitches are
more regular. And if you are like me and your hands are small and not
necessarily strong enough to pull needles through leather, it is a good
alternative to full manual sewing...

If you are not sure, try it with something heavy like denim fabric. The
important thing is to have the proper size of heavy duty needle -- they are
heavier and have a sharper point, to be able to "cut" through the fabric
better. If you are not sure what kind, ask at your local fabric store and
explain what you are sewing (bring an old needle from the machine so they
know what size/kind), they should be able to point out the appropriate kind
of machine needle for your needs.

Hope this tip helps some of you...



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« Last Edit: 04 26, 2008, 09:51: AM by Kesvirit » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: 09 22, 2002, 09:35: PM »

Quote
***In a pinch, you can use almost any regular sewing machine to sew leather; you just don't use the motor! You almost use it as an old-fashioned treadle machine, you manually advance the wheel on the far right side, with your hand, that way it doesn't strain the motor, which is the big problem with sewing heavy materials such as denim or leather.

I've tried this on several different home machines to no avail. No matter what size of needle I used I ended up with a lot of broken needles, snarled thread, scratched leathers, and punctured fingernails (ow!) Perhaps I just have bad sewing machine karma, like I do bad computer karma. I suspect them of staying up late at night, plotting against me. But if you can get a sewing machine to actually do what it is supposed to do, more power to ya!

Quote
Sure it is slow, but generally faster than hand sewing and the stitches are more regular. And if you are like me and your hands are small and not necessarily strong enough to pull needles through leather, it is a good alternative to full manual sewing...


This method seems to require several more hands than I've got. I guess I don't have the requisite coordination for it. For me it just goes a lot quicker to do it by hand and get it right the first time than to keep having to undo and redo everything multiple times. As for hand/forearm strength, that's what the awl is for, poking the holes in the leather ahead of time. Another approach may be to use one of those perforator things -- I don't know what they're called, but the general design is that of a pizza cutter with a wheel like spurs with very sharp, spiked rowels.

Quote
If you are not sure, try it with something heavy like denim fabric. The important thing is to have the proper size of heavy duty needle -- they are heavier and have a sharper point, to be able to "cut" through the fabric better. If you are not sure what kind, ask at your local fabric store and explain what you are sewing (bring an old needle from the machine so they know what size/kind), they should be able to point out the appropriate kind of machine needle for your needs.


The moral of the story: Whatever method you ultimately go with, practice on scraps first to work out the kinks so you don't ruin your costume before you even get a chance to wear it!

 - Kesvirit
« Last Edit: 04 26, 2008, 09:57: AM by Kesvirit » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: 12 03, 2002, 03:34: AM »

If you have a good machine, you can sew leather.  Good machines don't have to be 'industrial'.  I have a Viking 55-30, for instance.  It has a special low gear you access by pulling out a knob on the right. It will even sew through a yardstick.  With a leather needle I have sewn through five layers of leather with no problems.  Yes, I break needles sometimes, usually when sewing through something that is several layers folded over; but by and large i am extremely happy with the machine. 

« Last Edit: 04 26, 2008, 09:58: AM by Kesvirit » Logged
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« Reply #5 on: 12 20, 2008, 02:25: PM »

Cheers for the heads up on the no motor thing, The last time i attempted to sew leather it was with a Toyota overlocker and i very nearly took my hand off whilst running a seam. Then again i frequently nearly amputated bits with that thing
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« Reply #6 on: 05 23, 2009, 09:10: PM »

Last month I finished and posted a short fan film playing Klingon Hamlet, and for it, I wore a leather doublet that I made. For a first full sewing project, I just HAD to learn working on leather (-crazy!) It took a good bulk of time from my project to sew on leather, but I learned a lot- the hard way. I borrowed my mom's 80's Bernina, which worked quite well with leather (garment weight). The first time I put the leather needle in and sewed a test patch, I was so relieved when it went through. To be sure, I used a lot of leather sewing machine needles, at least 2 packs (~8-10). I learned the hard way just what the limits were to how many layers of garment leather I could sew (4). For seams connecting different pieces, I finished the connects by hand with a sharp loose leather needle as well as a curved/hooked one (both with the aid of a thimble, of course.) I had originally intended to make a Klingon-style doublet (ala Kor's) out of microsuede (faux suede) but then last Christmas, A friend gave me a great black leather park that she found at a thrift store(!), but was too big for her. It fit me great! Not ideal for how a parka should, but for a tailored doublet? Perfect. I cut the sleeves off, leaving an inch or so past the shoulder for eyelets for lacing. I cut the hood off and used the material to cover up the hip pockets. Then I used leather scraps I got cheap at the discount fabric store to added to the shortened sleeves as pseudo-bracers. All in all, I'm proud of the work I did and learned. I don't exactly know how to embed pics here, but pics of my Klingon doublet are up on my myspace page: www.myspace.com/klingonhamlet
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« Reply #7 on: 01 10, 2010, 06:38: AM »

Kesvirit  you may need to adjust you tension I find I need to run the tension looser when working leather or I snap needles. and make sure you are using Leather working needles

"sewing machines" The words to look for are "All Steal Construction"  some of the newer low end machines have plastic parts and well leather will "trash" them

"Hand Sewing" I would dump the needles and go to a Tandy Leather (tandyleatherfactory.com) they sell a "sewing awl" for  $17.99. If you have to use a needle get a nail and a scrap 2x4 and pre-punch your holes the needle alone is OK for short term but will kill your wrist over time. but really if you want to work with leather go to tandy they have stores everywhere and if you bring your project in the people their will be glad to help you out.

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« Reply #8 on: 07 13, 2016, 01:23: AM »

Hi I have worked building saddles and repairing vintage clothing for years, my recent costume was a bit different. I was in the MIS Klingon pageant and was portraying my self as an assn that worked in night clubs to get close to her hits. well this was a bit different . so any way one must use a Leather needle on their machine available at  most better sewing supply and craft stores, they now have clips instead of using needles that work great with working with leather. Glue down or double stitch the seams .  I had gone through up to 6 layers of 2-3 oz leather attached is the location of the photo at Treklanta 2016
https://scontent-atl3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/13620785_1204587672899014_2828586335372009731_n.jpg?oh=cf38062a20fe6c47053879c5246fc5df&oe=57E8ED61
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