Introduction: Kali Hands and Body Tweaks

About: I re*make mobility devices and materials and give them new lives. I re*use often. And sometimes I staple drape.

Kali needs a lot of hands. Traditionally, she has 4 pairs of her own (at least) and a full belt made of 'em. Time to get started!
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 built hands samples. Hands are tricky, so I planned on using the first few samples for her belt. I also made a few alterations to her bust and torso.

Once I've got the pattern down I can make her hands with confidence.

Here are the tools I used:

An ironing board

Scrap muslin for a pattern

Quilting pins

Binder clips

Sharp fabric scissors

Kitchen shears (also called utility shears)

Fiberglass mannequin torso, arm, and hand

Leather torso and arm cover from the last tutorial

Leather from old jackets, skirts and pants

Sharpie and ballpoint pens

Clear plastic rulers

Sewing machine and a size 14 leather needle

Black polyester thread

A wooden spoon

A paper grocery bag

Scrap batting from old projects

A wooden chopstick

And a whole lot of willingness to make mistakes.

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: Patterning First Fingers

My first idea for Kali's hand was to pattern her fingers the same way as I did with the arms and torso, by draping over the form. Unfortunately, the fingers were so close to each other that there was no way to pin in between each of them. Fiberglass forms are not flexible and the individual fingers were not removable without breaking the form into little bits. That seemed like a messy choice.

I had a pair of spandex opera gloves left over from a costume event, so I figured I would try to use those as a pattern. I pulled the glove on over the form and it fit pretty well with minimal stretching. Hopefully, I could avoid the issues I had with my jumbo spandex pattern pieces for Kali's body! The leather I planned on using was thin and stretchy.

I spread out the glove over a piece of scrap muslin fabric and drew around it in Sharpie, adding a bit extra around each finger and on either side of the hand. I pointed the tips of each finger to make them look claw-like. After drawing the outer edges, I removed the glove and drew in lines on the muslin to make every finger into a separate piece. I cleaned up my lines, crossed out the ones I didn't want to use and cut the pattern pieces out, making notch marks at the base of each finger.

The plan was to use a different leather for each finger.

It seemed like a good plan.

Step 2: Fingers in Leather

I chose leather for each finger from the scrap bin and got to work. The thumb was thin weight rock and roll scrap and the next four fingers were made of burgundy, brown, green and silvery grey-blue leather jacket pieces. I added 1/4" seam allowance all the way around each pattern piece and cut them out, then assembled the fingers.

I used the notch marks on my pattern to let me know when to stop sewing each finger together. I wanted to keep my fingers separated so that Kali's hand wouldn't look like a lobster claw! The pieces were sewn together with a 1/4" seam allowance, and then the allowances were trimmed down to a scant 1/8". The seams were smoothed open with the back of a wooden spoon.

I test fit the leather over the back of the hand form. It looked like it would fit, but it was impossible to tell until I made the inside of the hand and sewed my pieces together. So I flipped my pattern over to reverse the pattern and cut each finger out of their respective leathers, adding a 1/8" seam allowance all the way around to make the pieces smaller. I sewed the leather together using a scant 1/4" seam allowance and trimmed and flattened out each seam.

My plan was to sew from the palm side, stretching each finger piece so the shorter pieces would line up to the longer ones. Since the fingers on my mannequin hand curled inward, I thought that making the palm pieces a little bit smaller than the outer pieces would help force the leather into the appropriate shape. The longer pieces would gather up slightly and form nice outer curves.

It was a good theory, but it didn't quite work out as planned.

Step 3: Palms to Outers and Oops

The first part of sewing the fingers together went pretty smoothly. I was able to stretch out the shorter pieces and sew them to the longer pieces with a scant 1/4" seam allowance. It worked best when I took each side of each finger at a time, sewing up towards the points. I started with the pinky finger, and then trimmed the seam allowance down to a scant 1/8".

When I sewed the fourth finger together, it didn't go so well. The dark green leather I chose was weak and the leather shredded at the seam. After some swearing, I tried to remove my stitching to take the pieces apart. This resulted in more tears. After yet more swearing, I decided to cut the fourth and pinky fingers off and start over. The other pieces were fine, so cutting the offending fingers off would only make the hand a little bit smaller.

I figured I could make up for that by re-cutting the fourth and pinky fingers as one unit. If I added a little bit more room into the pattern, maybe that would make up for the amount I cut off.

Step 4: Second Try on Pinky Fingers

I took a second shot at the pinky and fourth fingers. I laid the pattern pieces out on thin black leather with the fingers spread slightly apart. I used the back sides of the pattern pieces, added 1/8" seam allowance all the way around, and cut the piece out just like I had before. It would be the palm side of those fingers.

I then turned the leather over to the suede side, placed my new piece over it leather side up and added 1/4" seam allowance all the way around. That piece would be the outer fingers. I sewed each new piece to their respective sides of the hands: palm pieces to palm pieces and outer fingers to outer fingers. After trimming the seams and flattening them out, I was ready to sew the full hand together.

Just to test things out, I sewed the pinky and fourth fingers together first and then tried to fit them over the mannequin hand. The leather tore right across the knuckle in the process.

Okay. THAT didn't work. After swearing a few more times, I set those fingers aside for later. I could fix the tear and use the hand for her belt. In the meantime, it was time for an entirely new approach.

Step 5: New Hand Attempt

Since some of my thin weight leathers had betrayed me, I chose a much stronger leather for my next attempt at Kali's hands. The olive green suede from a pair of thrift store Capri pants was just the ticket. It was thin yet strong and seemed pretty durable.

Pro tip: smooth finished leathers are not always that strong. They're usually calf or lambskin and are very thin. They drape beautifully but aren't made to stand up to much stress. That's why most thin weight leather garments are lined. There are plenty of thin garments made out of pig suede, which is much more durable. It tends to be stiffer than the smooth leathers, but it holds up well and doesn't need to be lined.

I also figured that using the stretch gloves might not have been my best choice. This time, I would trace around my own hand. Hopefully, that would make the pattern big enough to fit nicely over the mannequin's hands! I turned the suede over to the back side and laid my left hand down over the leather, and then traced around my hand with a Sharpie pen. I added a little bit around the sides of each finger and the sides of the hand and pointed the fingertips.

After taking my hand away, I added 1/4" seam allowance all the way around the hand. The leather wasn't quite wide enough for this, but it didn't matter. The plan was to turn this piece over and use it as a pattern for the outer hand. I did that and traced all the way around it, adding in a little extra where I had run out of seam allowance room on the first piece. I then trimmed off the drawn in seam allowance on the first piece. That piece would be the palm side. I also cut out the second, larger piece to use for the outer part of the hand.

I tried the spandex opera gloves on again to check their construction. On those gloves, there were strips of fabric in between the first- fourth fingers to give them a little bit of extra space. This seemed like a good idea, so I cut out a few 3/4" strips of the suede to use in the same way.

Step 6: Paper and Palm Lines

I had the pattern for my first try at Kali's hand, so I figured I might as well make one for my second attempt. I wasn't sure if either of the patterns would make great choices for her final hands, but both methods might work for her hand belt. There's also a feeling of security about making a pattern. It means that I can make a new piece with reasonable certainty that it will turn out like the old piece. It's also really easy to change a pattern, and not so easy to change something that's already sewn.

I took out a paper grocery bag and tore it apart along its seams to use as pattern paper. I laid it out flat on my work table and laid out both of my new hand pieces on the paper with the smoother leather sides up. I traced around each piece with a ballpoint pen. When drawing the lines around the outer hand fingers, I lifted up each finger to mark on the pattern where each finger ended.

After setting aside my pattern, I checked my hand against the mannequin hand. I wanted Kali's hands to curl inwards. The mannequin was perfectly smooth, but my hands formed creases as I moved my fingers in towards my palms. The most pronounced creases were the ones known as the life and heart lines in palmistry. The life line is the lower curve extending around the base of the thumb and the heart line is the upper curve extending from in between the first and middle fingers to below the pinky finger.

At least, that's how my hand lines look.

I marked lines on the palm part of the suede hand and sewed two curved creases. Those would act as the life and heart lines for Kali's hands, but would also help the hand curve inward naturally.

Pro tip #1: Ballpoint pens have thinner, finer lines than Sharpies, and they are less likely to bleed through the paper and stain your work table.

Pro tip #2: I love paper bag patterns. Craft paper rolls are kind of pricey, marked pattern paper is expensive and flimsy and tissue paper is infuriating because it shreds and floats around in the slightest breeze. Paper grocery bags make excellent pattern paper. They're durable, inexpensive and reusable. Good news all around!

Step 7: InterFinger Strips

I took the palm leather piece so I could add strips in between the fingers. I knew I wanted to shape the strips a little bit but figured that I could get away with tapering the points afterwards. Sewing the straight strips was the easiest way to get started.

I took one of my strips and lined it up with the tip of the first finger. I sewed the strip to the finger, keeping my seam allowance at a scant 1/4". When I got to the point where the first and second finger met each other, I made tiny snips with my scissors around the curve so the leather would lie flat. I then sewed around the curve. The finger leather didn't quite line up with the edge of the strip, but it was pretty close. I kept sewing until I reached the point of the second finger, cut my threads and laid the glove piece out on my work table. I trimmed the seam allowances down to a scant 1/8" and took a look at the tips. I cut shallow, angled tips into the strips at the finger points. Hopefully, that would make the strips a little bit longer on the outside edges so they would line up better with the slightly longer fingers of the outer hand.

I then sewed my second strip in between the second and third fingers, tapering the strips at the points. I reversed the leather on that strip without meaning to but didn't worry about it. I planned on making many more hands. If this one wasn't ideal, it would get used for Kali's belt of hands. I trimmed the seam allowance on the second strip down to a scant 1/8" and used my fingernails to press open the seams. I liked the way it looked, so I pressed open the first seam in the same way. I then sewed in the third strip between the third and pinky fingers and went through the same steps.

So far the palm area looked good. Time to sew it to the outer hand!

Step 8: Outers to Inners

I laid out the outer hand underneath the pal to see if the interfinger strips matched the outer fingers. They looked like they fit well, so I started stitching. I sewed the outside of the thumb first, using a scant 1/4" seam allowance and backstitched at the thumb tip. I then sewed in between the thumb and first finger tip, clipping the curve in between the fingers so I could sew the curve smoothly. I had to re-sew the curve a couple of times, but it turned out pretty well. I then sewed the other side of the first finger all the way to the second finger tip and trimmed my seam allowances down to a scant 1/8".

I tried to test fit the thumb and first finger over the mannequin hand, but I did not succeed. The seams made the glove fingers a little bulky, and it was hard to shove the leather in between the mannequin's fingers. Not to worry! I could use my own hand to test the fit. I deepened the curve a tiny bit in between the fingers by sewing down a little further than I had before and trimmed those seams allowances down. I then test fit the fingers on my left hand. It worked pretty well, so I continued to stitch the rest of the hand together and trimmed down all of the seams.

After test fitting the hand again, I noticed some bulging around the sides of each finger. I didn't like the way it looked, so I pinned out the bulges. I sewed along the pinned lines, re-trimmed down the seams and test fit the glove again. This time, it worked! It looked like a pointy fingered glove and fit like one too.

Step 9: Wrist Join Test

I tried once more to put the glove over my mannequin's hand, but it didn't work. This wasn't a problem. After all, I was only using the mannequin as a form. I planned on stuffing the hands and arms later with soft batting, so I didn't have to worry about the fit.

This begged the question: why did I bother trying the leather over the mannequin hand in the first place? My first pattern was probably fine! Oh well. No hand sample would be wasted. Kali would need a lot of them.

Instead of banging my head against the wall, I decided to drape the back of the hand over the back of the mannequin's hand. That way I could mark where the arm leather matched up to the hand leather without attempting to shove the glove over unyielding fingers. I peeled up the arm leather, placed the back of the hand roughly where I wanted it to be, and then pulled the arm leather back over the glove. I checked where the arm leather overlapped the glove and then folded the arm leather over 1/4". I would use that 1/4" as my seam allowance.

Using a Sharpie pen, I made little dots along the folded leather line onto the glove. When I reached one of the seams in the arm leather, I folded back the new piece at 1/4" and continued to make the markings on the glove. I then peeled the arm leather away from the dotted lines and "connected the dots" with my pen, making a clear seam line.

After the back of the hand was marked, I turned the arm over to check the palm area of the glove. It looked good, but I wanted to add some thickness to the hand shape before drawing in any more lines. It was time to dig out the padding.

Pro tip: if you're working out a difficult area on a piece, all your efforts are helpful. It doesn't matter if the first few attempts fail. If you can, start out with something that requires multiple versions of similar objects. If you can't, start with someplace that's a little less visible. Maybe start at the mid back, the rear foot or the back of the trailer. Practice time is useful. I grumble and swear frequently when things don't work, but the information is usually very useful.

Even if sometimes it means I really need to take a break. I may do that just now. Pardon me for a few!

Step 10: Finger Stuffing and Palmistry

My next step was to stuff the fingers of the suede glove. I pulled out my bags of scrap batting, kitchen shears, and a wooden chopstick and got to work.

I used the sheet batting to get started. Sheet batting is the padding that's used for upholstery and quilt backing. It is compressed into sheets, instead of being loose and fluffy. I had both sheet and loose batting left over from old projects, but the sheet variety was easiest to cut into strips and shove into the fingertips of the glove. I cut strips from the sheet batting and used the end of my wooden chopstick to shove the strips into the fingers. The chopstick allowed me to get the batting almost all the way to the finger ends, with a tiny flattened area right at the tips that looked a little bit like fingernails. It was looking good!

I then checked the curve of the hand. I wanted the hand to curl inward like it was holding something. Traditionally, Kali holds several tools, weapons, and a severed demon head. It's hard to hold those things when the fingers are out and flat! I wasn't quite getting the curve I wanted, so I pinned a little extra out of the life and heart lines on the palm. That did the trick.

I removed some of the batting so it wouldn't get in the way of my stitching and took the glove to the sewing machine. I re-sewed the palm lines along the pins. The hand was still a little bit flat, but it was better. I trimmed the seam allowances on the palm lines down to a scant 1/8" and set the hand aside.

I wasn't sure about this hand pattern. It looked a little bit lifeless. I preferred the different colored leather fingers from the first pattern but liked the fingertips and the side shaping on the second pattern. I really liked using the palm lines to help accent the curve, though. Okay! I had enough information for the time being. I could use a combination of both patterns for my next attempts. In the meantime, both of the hands could be adjusted and used for Kali's belt.

Step 11: Body Alt Prep

Since I was done making hand patterns for the time being, I moved on to the leather cover for Kali's torso. I pinned the body to make it smoother a while ago and wanted to sew in the alterations so I wouldn't keep poking myself with the pins.

I removed the pins holding the right shoulder together and then moved down to the right side seam. Some of the pinned alterations weren't looking so smooth, so I adjusted a few pins while the leather cover was on the form. I then unclipped the binder clips holding the right side together. This freed the cover from the form so I could lay it down on my work table. I took a good look at the many alterations before deciding which ones to sew first.

I knew I would need to leave one side seam and one shoulder seam open. Otherwise, the cover couldn't get back on the form! Adjusting the bust and right side curves seemed like a good choice for the first seams. I checked out my pins and brought the leather torso cover over to the sewing machine.

Step 12: Body Stitching

I sewed the right bust alteration first, using a straight stitch set to a #2 stitch length. I then sewed the dart at the center of the chest and trimmed down both of my new seam allowances to a scant 1/8". The right side alterations were sewn and trimmed in the same way.

After sewing, I flattened out all of the new seams with the back of my wooden spoon..When the body was smooth, I matched up the front and back at the right side seam. I sewed them together with a 3/8" seam allowance, stopping every so now and then to make sure that all of my seams were staying pressed open. It took a couple of tries, but it went together nicely in the end.

I moved up to the right shoulder seam, laid it out and sewed it together with a 3/8" seam allowance. When all the threads were clipped, I trimmed the shoulder and side seam allowances down to 1/8" and smoothed the seams open as best as I could with the spoon.

I wasn't sure if I would need to add more into the side seam later on. Kali looked a little too slender for a Vedic warrior goddess. For the time being, though, it was fine. It would be easy enough to cut the seam open and add in a strip of leather later on.

Step 13: Back on the Torso

I unpinned the left shoulder seam and put the leather body cover back over the mannequin torso. The fit was so much smoother than before! Using the binder clips, I clipped the left shoulder seam and side seams together. The body looked good, but it still bunched up a little bit at the hem.

To solve this problem, I got out a piece of scrap 1 1/2" wide elastic and turned the mannequin over onto its front. I tugged the leather down towards the bottom of the form and pinned the elastic to the bottom edge of the leather. I then turned the mannequin over and pinned the opposite side to the bottom edge of the front. That made the body nice and smooth.

After pinning the elastic, I decided to exchange the binder clips with safety pins. The clips were slipping while I moved the mannequin back and forth, and I knew that would drive me crazy later on. I had avoided the pins before because I didn't want to make holes in the leather. Since the fit was pretty good now, I figured I could risk a few holes.

Safety pins are much more secure than binder clips.

In my next tutorial, I'll show you how I made a pattern for Kali's face.