Monday, 14 October 2013

By Hand London Victoria blazer - lambskin suede

Get ready for a long and detailed post...I have never spent as much time and effort on a project as this one and I tried to document it as I went along.

First of all thank Kim for the inspiration!  I found these lambskins on sale at Michael Levine's in LA.  The "on sale" means that they had about twelve sticky tags on them, and I couldn't use the tagged bits.  In my head, three skins was definitely equal to the back, sides...and one sleeve of the Victoria blazer so I already sensed a challenge.

In Auckland I got some advice about needles and heard a refrain that I'd heard before..."but you'll need a walking foot."  Crap what's that?  So the skins sat for a few more weeks while I thought about how I actually didn't want a short sleeved Victoria blazer.  And finally one night I had the strength of will to tackle this terrifying prospect, and start looking at the pattern pieces.

I traced the back piece flat so that I didn't have it on a fold.  By doing that I could maximise my space usage.  With very clever space use and...oh!  pins don't go through suede...I scavenged for some weights. At this point I understood something else the girl said in Auckland - double stick tape?  Why would I need that?  Ohhhh because I can't use pins!  Right.

I squeezed out everything except the front lapels and I thought they could be out of silk or maybe silk backed suede - I really wanted the cuffs and the collar to be suede though, and I fit those on!  And one sleeve had to be sewn together in the middle from two different pieces.

After that crazy cutting I had to take a break.  And buy a walking foot.  Pricey little bugger, so I threw in an invisible zipper foot just because.  Maybe I'll finally have awesome zippers now??  It took another half-week before I was ready to actually consider sewing the leather, but I finally got tired of the suspense.

 This is what happens when the double sided tape touches suede.
 Inside...leather is nice, it doesn't fray!
 After the dart/seam.
 Using double sided tape.
Applying the collar.

I would have been better off cutting out the lining right away and sewing it together first, to get a sense of how the pieces fit together.  I sewed my first pieces together wrong, and had to undo it.  It took awhile to get used to using double sided tape and not sticking it to the sewing machine as I sewed.  I used a normal needle - the jeans needle was actually too thick and the machine didn't mind a normal needle.  I did not even buy a leather needle because it was so much bigger than the jeans needle.  But this suede is pretty supple and thin.  When I had to go through 4 layers at the seam, it did hesitate slightly.

With the sewalong open at my side, I managed the big neck seam/dart but I had to do it in pieces, with the dart last, so that I could get all the sticky tape off first to maneuver better.  While I was working on the sleeves I realised that by completely ignoring the nap, I was putting some beautiful pieces to the inside, but there was nothing to be done for that.  At times it was necessary because of those sticky tags.  Any piece of double sided tape that I stuck to the jacket left a mark, so I placed them only in the seam allowance.

The first sleeve took a looooong time to ease in.  This was also because of some bad luck - my sleeve piece was thin and eased a lot, whereas the jacket piece was a slightly thicker and less stretchy leather.  So it was slow going but success at the end!  Also I'm not sure why I expected the lining to be easier to work is soooo slippery and I suffered trying to ease the arms in.  I did a full lining.  I made the lapels from silk and they are so pretty...but I didn't actually want the lapels to be out of lining material and when I taped them on I still didn't like the look.  So I made a second set of lapels that are leather front and silk back (I didn't have enough leather left for full leather lapels).  I interfaced the silk.  The walking foot was not totally marvelous here - when I sewed the leather onto the interfaced silk, it still slid forward some.  That luckily didn't influence the final size of the lapels and they fit fine.

 The hardest part was attaching the silk to the leather because the tape didn't stick to it as well.  That was when the walking foot was almost certainly necessary.
 Lining in!  I understitched the lining, but then also turned everything in and understitched the leather side too. It's not really visible when wearing the jacket.
 Actually not much trouble with the cuffs but there is a tiny gap.

 I haven't sewn the lapels down but I am tempted to.  Wanted to wear them out for a weekend first and see what I thought.

But now I have a set of pretty silk lapels.  What to do with them?  Any ideas?

As for finishing - I had some trouble getting the front corners tucked in and I had to hand sew them.  But really the less said about hand sewing leather, the better.  I have holes in my thumb to prove it...was very wishing for a thimble!  I didn't iron the silk seam up so I was guessing as I went and the lining in the back does fall slightly low when I wear the jacket, but I don't care!

My jacket is awesome!  I wore it all weekend in Auckland, including to the opera, and my fabulous friend Ellie took the photos posing in Newmarket station.


  1. omg how absolutely fabulous! you look like a high fashion model

    1. I know! And I felt like one in Auckland! Kind of weird, actually...but it gives me sooo much more confidence that my other sewing projects will succeed too : )