2.18.2013

the king's speech


a couple weeks ago, puu ("the ringleader") sent a shout out to me ("the drunk") and clio ("the one with the husband that likes to judge people and give them snappy titles") about another new york hang out.  the debonair and ever entertaining kenneth king shared his knowledge of working with leather and suede with a group of sewists in a class at Mood's NY locale, and we we happy to listen.  what.  a.  TREAT.  leave aside the fact that i could listen to this man talk about cardboard for ninety minutes.  he covered enough about this enormous topic to make us all feel like paying dmitry in leathers a visit straight after. 



i had no idea leather was so...manipulable.  is that a word?  i don't feel i should call it manipulative, as i don't think it's trying to control my actions behind my back.  unless you count the fact that the mantra I MUST HAZ LEATHER is now on repeat in my head, that could possibly be considered thought control.  there are so many ways to mold and shape this material.  for example, the dart.  you can slice that jammy open and slide it over rather than folding it.  besides making up samples right there and then, kenneth had a glorious handful of leather samples with different seam finishes--just look at that slot seam.  i want a full length leather duster, slot seamed from shoulder to floor.  how cool would that be?!  

several times, kenneth suggested using an acid green contrast leather, peeking out of a white bodice.  and how about a blood red leather paint on the edges of the seam?

GET OUT OF MY HEAD KENNETH KING.



you can hammer this stuff.  glue it.  tape it.  shave it.  (seriously... with a callus shaver.  hello tools!)  and oh, so many new notions to play with...my sewing desk would be like a mechanic shop!  mechanics, they hold a special place in my heart.  my dad owned a gas station, and taught me, to the point where i could diagram it, how a combustible engine worked.  i floored my 7th grade english teacher by presenting this information in a paper, and then lecturing the class on it without looking at said paper.   ah, mr. schultz.  he knew how to push my feminist buttons, and i knew how to wreck his chauvinist view of the world.  but i digress. 


he brought his droolworthy vintage bernina, and his hyper organized kit.  this is where the magic of the rolling chalk pen was brought to my attention!  (and if you want in on the giveaway, jump on that, yo.  tomorrow's the day.)  as my cohorts noted, every time he pulled out a tool, it went back in exactly as it was.  i can only imagine the order of his studio.  one brave attendee asked to borrow a pencil from his kit to make notes.  i almost fell over as i watched her grab a red waxy pencil with which to scribble, before the words of permission were barely (and haltingly) out of kenneth's mouth.  i have to wonder what would have happened if she'd asked to touch his bernina... 



now that coat, i DID touch.  that's the lining you're looking at.  THE LINING.  the outer shell is made from... wait for it... hair weave.  the leather collar is handstitched with great big thick diagonal swaths.  it's glorious.  clio was wholly unsurprised at my lust.

i've worked with leather before, in fact i had a successful etsy shop where i sold a bunch of very wacky, free form leather obis and belts like the one below, with weird descriptions having to do with the music i listened to whilst hammering them out.  i say successful; if you count success as selling all the wares you had in said shop (which was 18), then call me trump.  awoohoo!  i don't know what possessed me to make them; they weren't my style. but that helped me sell them--i liked them, yet didn't mind seeing them leave when they were scooped up. 



i've gone back and forth over the use of leather.  those belts were made with remnants (which i've since learned, via kenneth, are truly the discards of the hides.  but so cool!)  somehow i felt that since they were scraps, it was okay.  but look.  the shoes in my closet, at least the quality pairs, are leather.   as are several jackets.  and they weren't made from remnants.  i probably won't go gung ho and sew up a leather wardrobe, but, i'm okay with using it for a chic tank top or a skirt.  hell, i'm not vegan in the kitchen, why start in the closet?  and, i do very much believe in using every part of your source.  so i guess even back when i was feeling mildly guilty, i was sticking to my principles.

what say you?  would you work in leather?

i was Mood's guest at this class, with no expectation of review or mention. obviously i had a great time!

45 comments:

  1. Leather seems so intimidating to me! I guess I need to get one of those special foot doohickies with the roller that allows you to sew with leather...I think it's called a Teflon foot? But if I get over my fear of working with leather, oh, the wonderful handbags I could make!

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    1. teflon tape, girl! kenneth talked about it, i think they're stocking it at mood. turns any foot into a teflon foot!!!

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  2. It's counter intuitive that leather would be easy to work with, isn't it?!

    I am so intrigued, but alas... the price of the blumming stuff is terrifying!

    I'll stick with weave and thread until I find something that I adore! It will probably be on your website, hahahaha...

    Bundana x

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    1. yes, the price is crazy high. how i miss my remnants supply!

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  3. i would love to work leather at some point! it's a little intimidating considering the fact that i know nothing about how to do it and i'm pretty sure i would stare many minutes before cutting into a costly hide... it's firmly on my "someday" list!

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  4. I have been in the middle of writing a post on sewing with leather for a while, but it always comes off as defensive so I haven't finished it.

    I'm also not a vegetarian or vegan, and I do like leather and using every part of your source. I love sewing leather and wearing leather. It's just so awesome!

    My solution is to buy secondhand and salvage the material into something new. Not a great solution, but it makes me feel better.

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    1. i totally get you, it's impossible to write about it without feeling a bit defensive. i love your refashion solution.

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  5. I loved my one experience working with leather - I made a clutch out of a Hot Patterns pattern. It ended up black and brown with a big leather bow on it. I was very proud. I actually think after that experience that leather is actually easier to work with than many other fabrics, especially things slippery or drapey.

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  6. Malleable... that's that word I think to describe the leather :) ?
    I love how organized Kenneth sounds too - I'd love to snoop his studio LOL!

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  7. i would be totally star-stuck... I really want to make a leather skirt.. lol maybe i glue one

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  8. Squee! I have the exact EXACT same type of Bernina not 3 feet from where I am sitting. My all time favourite. And I love leather - we sell it in our craft store, and it comes in so many different weights and textures, from fine, soft lambskin that you can sew up like a suit weight fabric, to heavy thick deer that is so squidgy and cuddly it's hard to imagine it being enough protection for such a large animal. And kangaroo - tough, crisp and fine - toughest leather in the world (available commercially) and so on.
    I am not a vegetarian but I do feel strongly about animals being looked after - the end does not justify the means, and all the leathers I see come from animals that are either farmed and then used to the max, or that are wild trouble makers culled, then used to the max.

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  9. i should call that king here to organize my house.. home alone for a week, and dunno where my head is anymore..
    even if i'm sort of vegetarian, i would totally work with leather (have big plans for that, that might one day come to life.. have pretty much big plans for everything imaginable, i'm just too damn lazy to do something about that)..
    loved your school episode, btw.. sister oona kicks ass in all stages of her life

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  10. I would, but related to what you said about using every part of the animal, I would have to put much thought into the piece before making it. I wouldn't want to hash it out then decide after a year that it was fun to make but not worth wearing.

    I feel bad enough sometimes about eating meat (Yet I continue to do it. I am sometimes surprised that I am not a vegetarian, and friends have commented the same. But then bacon graces my plate and once more and.....mmmmmmm bacon.), I would feel bad making something and either tossing it to goodwill or scrapping it if it turned out like poop.

    Having said all that, I think it will be quite a while before my skills are up to leather working ability. I bet you'd look awesome in a little leather wiggle dress of some sorts. Oona could pull it off!

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  11. This class looks so amazing! I have not had much luck working with leather so I would love to get some tips.. Your belts are so awesome and creative!!

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  12. Hmm a bit intimidating at this stage.. but would love to see you make something gorgeous! :)

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  13. Personally I'm a bit nervous about leather just because of my lack of knowledge!

    Your little aside about ethics reminded me of a girl I know at (fashion) school who's super into ethical fashion--which, so am I, organic cotton & fair wages and stuff! But it turns out when she says "ethical" she means "no dead animals at all." So this is a girl who wears only vegan shoes--but would eat a McDonald's burger. (Meanwhile, I know plenty of vegetarians who will buy leather new if it's a product they believe they'll use for a long time . . .)

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    1. ?! that's what i don't get. to each their own, but if your high horse includes no leather, how yo goin' eat mickey d's?

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  14. I am a vegetarian, but wear leather shoes and carry a leather bag. I am vegetarian because I was never a big fan of meat anyway. I guess people eat meat and use leather, but when I buy meat for my boys I buy grass fed, free range, ethically treated, etc. Not only because I believe that we should be cleaner and treat living creatures with respect, but also because it is better for them because it lacks the added hormones and antibiotics. I guess what I am saying is that we have a problem with how we treat our food source and people are very judgemental about others choices (on both sides). I guess people should just live and let live and only be judgemental when someone is doing something wrong like not treating living creatures with respect. I guess that I respect that it is a food source for some, but don't agree with the industry and their treatment of the living animals we use as a food source :) That being said, I do wear leather and have no idea where it comes from or how those animals were treated, but if I did have a way of finding out I would probably stick the the leather coming from a source that treats the animals ethically :)

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    1. that makes a lot of sense to me-- i am a full on meat eater, but to the best of my knowledge i'm going for grass fed, well treated animals. i'd like to know my leather supply (if ever i go for it) is of that ilk.

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    2. My son's are big meat eaters too! I had to learn to cook the stuff for them because I had no clue and decided that I wanted my kids to make their own choices. I did not want to push my eating habits on them since I had the whole meat thing pushed on me my whole life ;) Maybe there will be a way to know how the animals have been treated at some point in the leather industry. With all of us thinking and talking about it, it is more likely to happen so kudos to you for bringing it up!!!

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  15. I would love to sew leather, but I don't think my machine is cut out for it. Maybe after I come into some money and buy myself something that can handle a little thickness...

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  16. What a fun workshop! The hair jacket belongs on Tyra's next weave show. I haven't sewn with leather, I have a bag'o'scraps I will get to One Day and a packet of Schmetz leather needles. It'll happen. Totally. Any Day Now.

    I'm a use-it-up person too (ask me about organ meats!), and I happily eat meat that's ethically raised and slaughtered. I prefer leather for shoes and belts etc because they last. They are also biodegradable. Although... the chemicals leather is treated with... going back into the ground. just occurred to me now that might not be so great, plus whatever is leached during the curing process... hmmmm...

    A vegan acquaintance told me about the horrors of leather... harvesting? in India. She said that its the biggest producer of leather in the world and that the process is particularly cruel, and that rather than the leather being a by-product after the carcass is used for food, its the other way round- the cash item is the leather, and then they've got this carcass they might as well use for meat. I have not investigated further for myself to see if this is true, gonna go do that now.

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    1. tyra has a weave show? WHERE.

      i'd love to know what you find out about harvesting. well, not love, but you know what i mean...

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    2. If you youtube search tyra weave show you should get some clips, she did a couple shows on them! Full of fun weave facts, such as how to tell if someone's wearing wefts- if they jump up and down, the hair will bounce differently, all the way up the shaft, not just on the ends. Not sure the effect with a coat...

      Now, another thing to google, not so pleasant, is peta + india + leather. You'll need a strong stomach. Had I plans to sew with leather I might investigate where it could be humanely acquired, but as I think the scrap bag I have may last me a lifetime, I haven't gone further.

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  17. I just found a stack of "muted tangerine" calf hides that my sister sent me (fifteen years ago!) when she was working at Vogue. Not sure what on earth Vogue needed a stack of "muted tangerine" calf hides for. I'm dithering about what to do with them. Luxuriously soft but the color - oh my!

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    1. AAAAAAAAAAACK. I KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH IT.

      and so do you! you are living in color now, aren't you??? :)

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  18. What a great class! I would love to sit at the knee of Mr. King and soak up a smidgen of that knowledge.

    I once purchased a hideous leather coat at Goodwill for salvage material. I used portions to fix the handle on a beloved purse, elbow patches, and I made several jewelry rolls for gifts. I had no clue what I was doing, but I thought everything turned out well.

    When may we expect the pictures of the first Kalkatroonian Leather Confection?

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  19. I've honestly never had any interest in working with leather, but your post just inspired me. I would love to attend a leather sewing lecture. Can we expect a green leather motorcycle jacket sometime in the near future?

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    1. oh, that would rock my world. chartreuse, please.

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  20. What a fun workshop, love learning new stuff. Yep I've sewn with leather, loved the outcome on both garments.

    I found an ex-handbag owner/maker who lives near by, she has a shit load of the stuff in her studio, she's my supplier, lucky me. I can just see you Oonafying a leather jacket or skirt.

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  21. I am so rigid with jealousy, I can barely type. That looks absolutely amazing! You lucky, lucky thing. Your belts are awesome!

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  22. oona, maybe we should be "sewing buddies" on a leather project after this. what do you say? acid green leather piping, here we come! :-)

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  23. As soon as I saw that coat, I thought the "fur" looked like hair weave. How brilliant.
    I love leather.. the smell... everything.
    I want to say I have worked with it before but might have been a long time ago. I would do it again, depending on money of course.

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  24. I love it! "I'm not vegan in the kitchen, why start in the closet." Beautiful. I, too, love the idea of using the WHOLE beast, but I'm not about to go out and slaughter some beast so I can use the whole of it.

    I'm impressed Oona. Very impressed.

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  25. I've tried working in leather and it was a complete disaster, BUT I did find leatherworking/shoe making classes here in Chicago and I think I could definitely be persuaded to try my hand at it again :) I would love to see what you made with leather - I think the results would be magnificent!

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  26. Interesting post! All winter I've had this image of a mint coloured sleeveless top in my head...would love to try something in leather. Cool belt by the way!

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  27. I would love to have a play with leather!! Many ideas floating around...

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  28. Hell yeah I'd work with leather! I agree, not vegan in the kitchen, and I'm not in the closet either... about leather... wait... what? Did I just come out of the closet? Anyway. I'm always rolling ideas around in my brain about garments I could make with leather. I just wish the climate where I lived was more conducive to WEARING leather!

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i thankya truly for taking the time to comment, i love a good conversation-- and hope you know my thanks are always implied, if not always written!