Carol Alayne

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Archive for October, 2009

L for Leather

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

CorsetWhat do  Lou Reed’s jacket, the waistcoats for the UK’s Olympic shooting team, and our latest commission (a corset) have in common?

All are orders that used leather.

Genuine leather is one of the oldest and most luxurious of all natural materials and can be both functional and decorative.  It is made from the hide of an animal, including birds and reptiles, by a process of tanning; the word comes from the Latin for oak bark, tannum, and it is from this that the tannin used in the process was originally extracted.

Tailored garments initially bring to mind wools, cashmere, silks, cottons and linens. These all go through a similar process of cutting, padding and pressing to make the traditional fitted clothes with which we are all familiar.   So, there is a certain degree of uniformity throughout, irrespective of the fabric type.  Leather too can be used in a similar fashion, although it requires a different set of skills and tools because of its unique properties.  Hides come in many different shapes, sizes, textures and colours, and much care has to be taken in selecting and matching them, particularly if more than one is used in the same garment.

A leather needle is essential for both machine and hand work.  Its 3-sided point enables one to cut or pierce the skin instead of puncturing it.  Weights are used for pattern layout, and prior to sewing, the parts of a garment are set in place with clips, glue, or sometimes even a stapler.

The process of sewing too has its own peculiarities.  Depending upon the weight of the leather you may have to use a heavier thread or a longer stitch, so it is always worth testing the settings on the equipment first.  A teflon or  “walking” foot on the machine is a necessity, and seams should be glued and flattened with a dry iron or a small roller after the loose ends of the thread have been tied instead of being back-stitched.

Over time a you will need to apply a little after-care to your garments, and for this be sure to keep a tin of dubbin or a bottle of neat’s foot oil to hand!

Almost any item can be made from leather, and  it will be suitable for most seasons or occasions: check out the corset above!


Recognised as a pioneer of bespoke tailoring for women, Carol Alayne has over 25 years experience of creating striking garments for arts, sports and media personalities and business wear for professionals and executives.



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