Kali's front is ready to smooth!
In case you didn't see the last 4 Instructables, I'm re-making an old aluminum walker into Kali, the multi-armed Hindu goddess of time and empowerment. Her "skin" is being made out of leather scraps.This segment is about smoothing the many seams that make up her front. This technique works for all kinds of light weight leather and doesn't require toxic glues or special equipment.
Here's the tools:
A fiberglass store mannequin torso
A padded bra
Leftover scraps of elastic (about 6 yards)
Kali's leather back piece
Kali's leather front from the last Instructable
Step 1: Elastic Crossed Back
I laid Kali's leather front piece over the mannequin, and then pulled out the elastic scrap bin and safety pins. I pinned a wider piece of elastic to the left side seam, right at the armpit. I put the mannequin upright, pulled the elastic across to the opposite armpit and pinned it securely.
Next I put the mannequin down on the table on its right side. I pinned a long, thinner piece of elastic to the left side seam at the waist and turned the mannequin over onto its front. I pulled the elastic across the back to the opposite waist, pinned it in place and then pulled the elastic back across to the left side. I pinned it down again, maybe 4" below the last pin, and continued to crisscross the back with the elastic, pinning on both sides. This kept an even pressure across the body and let the leather stretch smoothly over the mannequin's front.
This technique is similar to lacing a corset on a person.The idea is to apply pressure to both sides evenly so the corset will fit smoothly over the body. The main difference is the nature of the materials. Corsets are usually rigid and bodies are soft and squishy. In this case, the leather is pliable and the mannequin is not.
Since the leather has some natural "give" (meaning that it stretches a little), pulling it over a rigid form helps shape it to that form. Leaving the leather stretched over the form for at least a couple of days lets the leather "skin" remember the form's shape.
Step 2: Elastic Base and Shoulders
When I reached the bottom left side of the mannequin, I still had a bit more elastic left. I pinned it down to the bottom of the left side seam and then pulled the elastic across the base of the mannequin to pin it to the bottom right side. That kept the side seams relatively smooth.
Notes on elastic:
I used many different types of elastic to stretch out Kali's leather. The long, thin piece was lingerie elastic, a thin, lightweight variety usually used for the edges of underwear and brassieres. The piece I pinned from armpit to armpit was a lightweight 1 1/4" ribbed elastic, which is typically used for waistbands in pajamas. Most of the other pieces were heavier duty 1" ribbed elastic which is sturdy and long-lasting. That type of elastic gets used for anything from suspenders to waistbands to mascot costume rigging.
I used whatever scraps I had on hand. The elastic was going to be unpinned and put right back in the bin, so it didn't really matter what type I used. If you're using elastic for other reasons, check it out to see how sturdy or thin it is. Choose elastic based on what it needs to do. Are you putting a nice finished edge on a project? Maybe you want lingerie elastic. Does the piece have to stand up to a lot of tugging? If so, you probably want the heavy duty stuff.
It was then time to concentrate on the shoulders. First I pinned a piece of elastic to the left shoulder at the neck, then pulled it across the mannequin's back to the right armpit. I pinned another piece of elastic to the outside edge of the right shoulder and pulled that piece across to the left armpit. At the inside right shoulder I pinned a third piece of elastic and pulled it down to the left waist. The left outside shoulder elastic was pinned to the bottom right side.
Pulling and pinning across the body to opposite sides kept the shoulders under constant, even tension. It took a little time to figure out where to attach each point, but it was immediately obvious when it didn't work. If it was in the wrong place, the leather buckled. If not, it was smooth.
Step 3: Final Front Smoothing
When the shoulders were secured, I took another look at the body. It was nice and smooth across the bust and middle, but the leather was a little wrinkly at the bottom and at the right shoulder. Since the right front shoulder overlapped the right back shoulder by at least 1 1/2", I wasn't worried. I figured I would deal with it after the front stretched out for a while. The bottom edge, though, needed a little work.
I put the mannequin on its back and looked at the wrinkles to see where to attach the elastic. I tested this out by pulling the leather down at different seam points. When I pulled on the seam joining the nubbly blue leather to the black pant leather, all the creases smoothed out. I pinned elastic to the bottom of the seam, then pinned the elastic across to the back of the form's base. I set the form back up to check it all out.
Voila! It was nice and smooth. It could sit on the form and stretch out for a while.
In the next tutorial, I will pattern one of Kali's left arms.