Anyone involved in either the Victorian or the Steampunk movements can tell you that sometimes it's the little things that make all the difference to a costume. Aside from being highly practical, a pair of spats also adds an element of authenticity to any outfit from this era and the variety of ways in which you can make and accessories them leaves you with an infinite number of ways to accent your outfit.
For those of you that aren't aware of just how fantastic these accessories are, here's a quick rundown.
Spats, short for spatterdashers, are short footwear covers, usually about the ankles and feet. As their name suggests, if you're a fancy Sir or Miss, the last thing you want is to get gods-know-what kind of common muck on your expensive boots while out taking some air. For a more thorough history, check out the wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spats_%28footwear%29
Gaiters are similar to spats in that they are also designed to protect the wearer from all sorts of muck, but gaiters traditionally extended the length of spats to under the knee so they could effectively keep both the boots and the pants clean. Who's pants smell like an emptied chamberpot? Not yours, sir. You're a clever gaiter-wearing chap. Again, you can find some more information on wikipedia about these awesome accessories: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaiters
So, without any further ado, I present to you this jolly good tutorial.
You will need:
- Scrap paper (either A3 or A4 stuck together) for pattern drafting
- Pens and pencils
- A pair of scissors
- A good cup of tea
- A craft knife (or leather cutting tools if you have them)
- A hole punch
- Sticky tape
- Lacing or buttons to secure. leather thonging is fantastic, but ribbon or shoelaces will work just as well.
- Whatever shoes your spats or gaiters are going over.
- For spats, you will need a piece of leather measuring roughly 15x17in (36x48cm)
- For gaiters, you will need a piece of leather measuring roughly 25x20in (50x65cm)
15 in / 36cm
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Step 1: Pattern Drafting
Pattern drafting is probably the most difficult part of this tutorial. Sometimes your pattern will require several revisions and you may end up calling it all kinds of obscenities before things work.
Lay your paper out. It needs to be longer than your pattern. Place your shoe sideways on the paper and trace around it. In this instance, I will be showing you how to make gaiters since spats are essentially a shorter pair and can just be cut down from this template.
Once you have your shoe outline, put the shoe aside and grab another coloured marker. This just makes it easier to see the progress. Trace over the line of your shoe. This is going to be the base for our template. Run a line across the sole of the shoe where you'd like your spats to end. See the green line for reference.
Now, grab another marker. Trace a line around the outside of your outline, leaving roughly a 1-2cm margin. This will be our 'allowance' as the end result is a 3-Dimensional piece, not just a 2D pattern. Now, bearing this in mind, we need to do something a little fancy with our pattern around the heel and toe. What we're after is a curved section to fit both ends of the boot, so you're going to have to play with the lines and work out a bit of trial and error here. You need to flare the lines enough so that when you put both halves of the pattern together, you get a curve that is enough to cover the toe and heel.
I'm not a dressmaker by trade, so I don't know if there is a more simple way to go about this. If you're really stuck, I've also provided a .PDF of my spats pieces at the end of this tutorial. The best advice I can give is to have some sticky tape on hand and cut out two identical templates. Sticky tape them together (toe to to, heel to heel) and see how it looks. If your toe is too big, bring the line in closer to the shoe. If it's too small, move it further away.
Once you have that sorted, draw down the middle of your pattern (see the black line) and work out where you want the side seam. I personally prefer curved lines so I can tell what goes where, but you might prefer straight edges. Mark out button holes or where you're going to put lacing.
Now comes the final part of the pattern drafting process. You'll need to trace your own pattern a few times. Once for the main (and whole) inside piece, once for the outside front and once for the outside back. Looking at the diagram, the outside back piece is coloured in blue (you can see where it needs to sit under the outside front) and the outside front piece is coloured in red. Cut them out and enjoy that cup of tea.
Step 2: Setting Out Your Pattern
As leather is a pricy material, I like to conserve as much as I can. I buy my leather in whole hides, though you can buy specific amounts from sellers. I have added two different pattern layouts. One is the most economic way to fit your pieces on an A x Bcm/inch piece of leather.
The other is how I've set them out on the offcuts I have here. You can see that with the square pieces, there is a fair bit of wastage, but a lot of people can't afford to buy entire hides. On the upside, don't throw those scraps out. They can be very useful for small projects.
Now, make sure all your pattern pieces are the right way around. Think of it this way - if you were to cut everything out right now, would your smooth sides and furry sides of the leather match up with the smooth side facing out? Messing this one up can be a rather expensive mistake.
Once you're certain that your pieces are the right way around, carefully cut your pieces out with a craft knife. Make sure you use a cutting board underneath.
Step 3: Putting Things Together
By this point you should have three pieces of leather per leg/foot. Tidy up any rough edges on the leather and lay them out on a flat surface, smooth side up and place one set of pieces aside.
Arrange your pieces so that they form the spat/gaiter and take a ruler to the back edge of your main piece. What you want to do is to mark a point in the leather every centimetre down, from the top edge to the bottom edge. This is where we'll be lacing our pieces together.
There is a nice little cheater's way to make sure that all your holes line up. Once you have marked out all the holes on one side, punch them out and reverse the leather. Place it on top of the same pattern piece from the other set, smooth sides together. Using those holes, mark out the placement of the new holes on the opposing piece. Punch those out.
Step 4: Holey Moley...
By this point you should have your two main inner pieces with holes along one edge.
Every good overlord needs some minions. While I was punching the leather out, my two little helpers decided to come along and inspect the work. They gave it their approval.
I use an industrial lever press for my hole punching as my hands can't actually deal with the strain of using the hand held ones, but they work just as well for this project. You can get hole punchers at any major craft store.
Now, back to the cheating bit. What you essentially now have is a punching template for your rear pieces. Just match the curves up to the appropriate side and mark it out. Just remember, smooth sides are always together!
You'll have to mark and punch out the holes for the front of the main inner piece and the corresponding outer pieces. This will take a little bit of time. Don't forget to take a break if your hands are getting sore.
Step 5: Wrapping Things Up
Now that all your holes are punched, it's time to line your pieces up and lace them all together. Because of how many holes there are and my choice to use flat ribbon, it took me a fair bit of time. I'm sure it would be much faster if you used thick twine or something similar. I found it quite satisfying to watch the work come together.
Now comes the fun part. Try your spats/gaiters on. Bear in mind that they may fit a little awkwardly as you can't hold them together along the whole length at once. Make a note of where the sides comfortably overlap around your legs. Mark the leather at points down the length of the spats/gaiters, remembering to mark both flaps.
Now, I've laced my pair of gaiters up for the sake of ease, but they work just as well with buttons and I'm sure with slight modification, you could also use velcro or even a zipper.
If you're going to use buttons, attach the button to the bottom flap and cut a corresponding slit in the top one.
If you're going to lace your footwear up like I have here, you'll need to make two holes for each tie, and on both flaps. Grab your piece of ribbon and use a reef knot to tie it to the bottom flap, though both holes (see the picture) and to lace your spats/gaiters up, simply thread the ribbon through the top two holes and tie a bow.
Once everything is nice and laced up, give your set a once-over to make sure everything looks right, then give yourself a pat on the back. You've just completed your fancy footwear! Now's a perfect time to give them a try out and go for a strut down the shops.
Step 6: Suppliers and Notes
- For those in the US: http://www.tandyleatherfactory.com
- For those in Australia: http://www.tandyleatherfactory.com.au
- Australia only: http://birdsall-leather.com.au/
My personal preference for this project is oilskin. It tends to be a soft and supple leather with good waterproofing qualities and is easy to cut and sew. Of course, there are several other very good options as well and there are usually hides to cater to any budget. Ultimately what you're after is a leather that is comfortable to be worn (avoiding hard hides, obviously) and something with a closed grain to avoid collecting all that muck we want to keep off our shoes.
What this means is that one side of the leather will look fuzzy. That's the inside. The outside should be smooth and free from 'hairy bits' . Wrinkles and lines are okay, but you want to avoid anything that will allow moisture to soak in.
This pattern can also be adapted to a sewn pair of fabric spats. Simply leave a seam allowance of 1-2cm around the outer edges and follow the applicable steps.
If you're lucky enough to have a sewing machine capable of sewing leather, follow all the steps and simply substitute the steps involving the hole punching and lacing for sewing the pieces together.
You'll find the pattern pieces for spats attached to this part of the tutorial. Each image is designed to be printed at A4 size and to be cut around the OUTSIDE of the black line.
These templates are for personal and educational use only. Please do not use them to make and sell products as you will be stealing directly from small artists like myself who's income relies directly on items like this.
To see if I have any in stock presently, or to put forward a custom order, please go to www.thetatteredtower.com