Now that I've replenished my leather bin, I have plenty of leather for another Kali arm.
I'm re-making an old aluminum walker into Kali, the multi-armed, three-eyed Hindu goddess of time and empowerment. Kali is the feminine form of 'Kala', the Sanskrit term for Time. Her "skin" is made out of leather remnants and pieces of old jackets, skirts and pants. In this portion I'm building one of her right arms and making a few body adjustments to her torso.
Here are the tools I used for Kali's arm and body alterations:
An ironing board
Scrap muslin as a press cloth
Muslin sleeve pattern of Kali's left arm
Leather from old jackets, skirts and pants
Office binder clips
Sharpie pens in black, blue and red
Clear plastic rulers
Sewing machine and a size 14 leather needle
Black polyester thread
A blue store mannequin torso and arms
Padded bra and extra bust pads
And the back of a wooden spoon.
Check out my other Instructables if you'd like to make some mobility art of your own. Or take a peek at Opulent Mobility if you want to know why I make such fancy scooters, walkers and wheelchairs.
The call for submissions for Opulent Mobility 2016 is now open, so please send in your art and inventions dealing with mobility, disability and accessibility! I'd love to see your ideas!
Step 1: Flipping the Pattern
I pulled out my muslin pattern of Kali's left arm and both of the arm forms. It looked like I could flip the pattern and use it for the right arm, but I wanted to check out any differences first. The elbows were bent in very similar ways, but the top of the arms were a little different. While the left arm was pretty flat from the armpit all the way up to the shoulder cap, the right arm had a little lip that extended out about 1". Good news! I could reuse my pattern with just a few additions.
I made a note on each side of the underarm seam to add an extra 1/2" seam allowance. That way, I could adjust for any slight differences in thickness or elbow bends. Then I flipped the pattern and re-pinned it to its cardboard backing. I made notes to add an extra 1" to the shoulder and armpit edges, which seemed like enough to accommodate that extra lip on the right arm. As long as I used each pattern piece on the flip side, I would be able to make a clean right arm for Kali.
Step 2: Pieces 6, 8 and 9
I cut out pieces 6-10, adding the extra seam allowances as noted. On the edges without notations, I added my standard 1/4" seam allowance. In order, piece 7 was cut from the olive green suede capri pants I dismantled in the last tutorial. Piece 10 came from scrap rock and roll leather, piece 9 from remnant green leather, piece 8 from old leather pants and piece 6 from the maroon blazer. I placed piece 6 over piece 8 at the proper notch markings and stitched them together on the sewing machine using a straight stitch and a 1/4" seam allowance. I trimmed the seam down to a scant 1/8" and test fit the patterns over the leather. They fit well, so I pinned the pattern pieces back to the board and moved on to the next piece.
I tested the placement of piece 9, sewed it to piece 8 and trimmed down the seams. Then I went over each seam with the back of a wooden spoon to smooth them open.
Step 3: Adding in 7 & 10
I checked the placement of piece 10 against the notches on pieces 6 and 8, and then pinned the patterns for pieces 9 and 10 to my board. I sewed piece 10 in place, keeping the seam between pieces 6 and 8 as flat and open as possible. I trimmed down the seam and flattened it out, and then took out piece 7 to check the placement. I pinned that pattern down to the board, sewed piece 7 to pieces 6 and 10 and trimmed down that seam too.
This series of pieces had a lot of curves and it was a little difficult to keep the seams smooth. So I did the best I could with the back of the wooden spoon and then turned the entire section over to its backside. Using a scrap piece of muslin as a presscloth, I ironed out all the seams from the back. I regularly pulled the presscloth up to make sure I wasn't pressing in creases and adjusted the leather so I could make the seams as flat as possible. After that, I turned the segment back over to the front side. The seams were looking good! I could move on to pieces 1-5.
Step 4: Pieces 1-5
I cut out pieces 1-5, adding in the extra seam allowances where noted. Three of the leather pieces came from the garments I dismantled in the last tutorial and the other two came from older scrap. Piece 5 came from the silvery grey-blue jacket, piece 4 from a pair of suede pants, piece 3 from the brown leather jacket, piece 2 from green leather jacket scrap and piece 1 was once the black suede skirt.
As I dealt with each piece, I pinned its pattern back onto the board. That helped remind me how they all fit together. I sewed pieces 4 and 5 together with a 1/4" seam allowance, trimmed down the seam to a scant 1/8" and smoothed the seam open with the wooden spoon. I then sewed piece 3 to piece 4, trimmed down the seam and smoothed it open. I used the tip of my ironing board to smooth the seam open, since this part made up the curved top of the sleeve cap. Pieces 2 and 1 were pretty simple to sew, trim and smooth, but some of the other curves were looking a little bumpy. I turned the segment over to the backside and pressed it out carefully with my press cloth and iron, working my way from the bottom to the top so I wouldn't crush the shoulder cap curve.
Step 5: All Together and Test Fitting
Sewing pieces 1-5 to pieces 6-10 took a little time because there were so many little seams coming together. I took my time, flattened each seam open as best as I could and re-sewed the seam from the opposite side when the stitches skipped.
Pro tip: when sewing a seam made up of multiple seams, it's pretty normal to get skipped stitches. The seam gets a little thick and sometimes the needle doesn't punch through all of the layers. It's okay. Re-sewing the skipped spots from the back side usually corrects the problem. If not, try replacing your needle and re-sewing again. Dull needles are the usual suspects for skipped stitches.
After trimming down the seam and smoothing it open with my spoon, I test fit the leather over the right arm form. I used binder clips again to hold the underarm seam together. Working from the wrist up, I clipped the sides together and checked the fit as I went. The leather fit smoothly over the hand, wrist and forearm, but got a little bumpy around the elbow. That's because the elbow bend on the right arm was just a little bit different than the left. I left that area, clipped the rest of the underarm seam together and went back to the elbow.
Using long quilting pins, I pinned out the excess at the elbow. The pinned crease extended through pieces 1, 2 and 3 but faded out to nothing as it reached the underarm seam.
Step 6: Altering the Arm
Taking off all the binder clips and setting the arm leather free took almost no time. I took the leather to the sewing machine and sewed the crease right along the pinned line, backstitching at the beginning and end. I trimmed the seam down to the usual scant 1/8" and smoothed it out with my wooden spoon. After that, I fit it over the right arm form once again. Excellent! The elbow crease was gone.
I took out both arm forms to give the leather coverings another look. First, though, I pinned the last pattern piece to my board so I wouldn't lose it. The pattern was good, and I planned on adapting it to use for the next set of Kali arms!
The top curve of both shoulder caps were a little bit loose, so I pinned out some small alterations. I then set the arms aside. The next time I got back to arms, I would sew those alts and make the shoulders extra smooth.
Pro tip: all jobs have specialized language (or jargon) that they use. Sometimes it's only there to make sure you fit into the group. Television and film have a standard set of terms that are nothing but shortened versions of the original word. Alterations, for example, become alts. Craft services, the folks who provide food on set, are shortened to crafty. Script supervisors, who check the script and make sure that each scene is shot consistently, are also known as scripty. A "go-fer" is a production assistant who "goes for" things, like coffee runs and trips to the hardware store.
Step 7: Torso Removal and Adjustments
I took out the store mannequin torso to check over the leather covering, There were a few alterations and seams to pin out, but before I could get to that point I wanted to get rid of all the criss-crossed elastic. The elastic and safety pins I used to hold the leather to the form was bulky and the bra wasn't fitting all that well.
The right bust area was a little lose, so I pinned out a small alteration before getting started. I then unpinned the front shoulders and side seams and laid out the leather front on the work table. I then unpinned the elastic straps holding the back in place and laid that out too. Once the torso was free, I could re-fit the bra. The back strap was way too loose, so I safety pinned it closed and checked out the front. It needed a little more padding, so I put in some extra bust pads and was ready to re-fit the leather.
Pro tip: multiple fittings are not a sign of failure. Leather stretches out, things shift and sometimes the under structure has to be changed. If you're working with real live human bodies, things shift, weight changes and people have holiday desserts and cocktails. Take the time to re-fit as often as needed!
Step 8: Re-fitting the Torso
Once the bra was properly fitted, I put the leather torso pieces back on the mannequin. I draped them over the body form and pinned the left shoulder seam together. Once that was in place, I pinned the right shoulder seam. I then took out the binder clips and clipped the side seams closed, starting with the top of the left side. It fitted pretty smoothly all the way down, so I finished clipping the seam and moved over to the right side.
The right side seam was much more curved than the left and the front side was longer than the back. I clipped the seam together from the top edge, where the fit was good, and worked my way down to where it got messy. Time for another alteration!
The benefit of using binder clips on leather is that they don't poke holes or scar the surface. They're easy to remove. If you have a seam that doesn't look quite right and is fitting strangely, clips are a great way to test the seam and figure out where to make adjustments before stabbing it with pins.
Step 9: Tweaking Shoulders and Sides
The waist area of the right side was the part that didn't fit well. The bottom edge was fine, so I clipped the seam together from the bottom until I reached the problem area. I pinched out the excess leather, decided where to put my pins and pinned out the excess. The side seam fit much better after that.
I moved back up to the shoulders and repinned them to take out a little looseness in the body. The front sagged a little bit, and repinning the shoulders took care of that issue. I had a little trouble shoving pins through the thicker leather pieces, so some of my pins bent out of shape. Not to worry! Sometimes pins bend. I made my lines as smooth as possible and moved down to the bottom of the form.
There were a couple of places where the leather flared out from the body at the hem. I pinned out the excess on those parts so they fit smoothly. My plan was to make the entire body a little wider than the form, but I would do that later by adding extra strips of leather into the side seams. For now, all I wanted to do was get the leather to fit nicely over the mannequin.
Step 10: Bust Adjustment
The final alteration to the torso was in between the breasts. I used the binder clips to figure out where to pin out the excess. Once that was set, I pinned out the extra leather and gave the torso a final look over to see if any more pins needed adjusting.
Excellent! The fit was pretty good. I left the leather on the torso and both arms to stretch over time. When I got back to them later on, I would sew in all the pinned alterations.
For the next tutorial I'll show you my first 2 attempts at Kali hands. She has a lot of them.