Saturday, April 24, 2010

My Very Own Project Runway Challenge

In one of my previous lives, I worked in a high-end leather store.  (No, not that kind of store, although we did sell North Beach Leather designer clothes, and I do have a petal pink Michael Hoban bustier in my closet.)  We sold top-quality briefcases, jackets, bags, wallets, shoes, and boots. One of my partners in retail misery was my friend Kim, who is now a wonderful teacher and educator, raising her first little one with a truly great hubby, in far-away Arkansas. We weathered the indignities of being hit on by scary bikers, fitting Birkenstocks on the dirtiest feet imaginable, and being emotionally abused by our hormonally-challenged boss. You could say we grew up together.

Kimmy sent me this package last week, with the enclosed note:

"Welcome to your very own "project runway" challenge. This came about because John was rushing up the stairs to his building and tripped. He was wearing the beautiful black leather jacket (I think it's lamb, don't you?) and had his hands in the pockets. When he quickly thrust his hand out to catch himself, he did not take his hand out of the picket, and tore the damn thing to shreds.  Oops.

I just cannot bear to throw this away,especially when the back panel is so large. But it is not suitable for the Salvation Army (Who wants a huge, ripped jacket?).

So, you came to mind.

Here is your challenge:

You can make (and keep) any piece of fashion you like with the enclosed leather jacket (something you wear, including purses, slippers, socks(??) shorts, skirt, etc.). Obviously, the project should represent your aesthetic sense as a designer. I threw in $11.35 (the cash in my wallet this morning) for your accessory budget. You are also allowed to use anything you already have in your sewing cabinet/stash. Set aside 2 hours for brainstorming your project. You may have 3/4 hour in the sewing supply store of your choice (any leftover cash is yours to buy coffee with ;-). Allow yourself a total of 20 hours for actually sewing the project (honor code - since you are a working gal, you may fit those hours in here and there, of course).

And remember, make sure to wow the judges, (the royal we). Or else, you might hear an ethereal Heidi saying, "Auf weiderzein"!

Seriously, just make sure you post the results on your blog so I can see them!

Have fun!

Kim (and John and Jack)"

Aren't I lucky to have such awesome friends?!?!  I couldn't afford to buy such a nice hide (and yes, it is lamb, which means it'll be a dream to work with and will drape beautifully, lucky me). I've been wanting a black bag, but I wasn't excited about having to make it in cloth, and now that I don't get an employee discount, I can't afford the quality of leather goods to which I had become accustomed. Now I don't have to settle for less, and I get to put the pockets exactly where I want them!! Oh, man, am I lucky!

I'm going to be able to get several bags, purses, and wallets out of this piece, if I think carefully about how to make the best use of the "real estate" of the hide. The first step, of course, is to lay the jacket out and take stock of our assets...

Um, no, Luna, not YOUR "asset."  (Luna checking out the jacket, before we start cutting.)

You can see the tear around the pocket area in the lower right corner, above.  (Wow, it's enough to make a grown man cry, eh, John?)  There's a lot of leather here, and also a lot of  "features."  There's a pocket welt on each side of the front, interrupting the expanse of leather on the two front pieces. There must be some cool way of making use of the lovely welts thought. There's a nicely finished gusseted sleeve opening at each cuff, with snaps. (Hm, how can I use those, I wonder?) There's a beautifully set zipper placket, with some nice long lengths of leather connected to them. There's an elasticized waistband that might be interesting to play with....

I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to use everything at this point, and if I cut before I know what I'm doing, I may eliminate some of my options. The one thing I know I can do without regret is to cut out the back panel in one piece:

The lining shows after removing the main back panel.

The back panel, separated from the rest of the jacket.

One sleeve, cut off and cut in half.

The shoulder and top part of the sleeve, which naturally looks like....

...a purse with a flap!

Of course, if Luna helped in the beginning, Fero has to help at the end!

So this is the first round of design/construction work for this project. I'm not actually sure how to count this time, since it was sort of both at once, but we'll play it by ear I guess!

Stay tuned for more pics of this project in progress. In future posts I'll be talking about structural issues involved in working with leather. It's not the same as fabric; you have to reinforce things a little differently. I'll have to think about what I know from my retail days; we didn't make anything at the store, but I saw lots of construction techniques in finished products!

A special thanks to Kim for sending me so much fun in one little box!


  1. Wow - you have awesome friends! Looking forward to pics of the finished work(s).

  2. Yeah, Kim is pretty awesome! and I can't wait to see what I come up with, too!!! ;-)

  3. this is a pretty awesome challenge!! Really creative!

  4. This is so cool! Can't wait to tune in for more posts!

  5. I'm going to enjoy watching the progress. I have about 5 million future projects waiting for me in a bin. Amazing you got right to it. I thought two years was the minimum procrastination time for starting a project like that.

  6. @The Baroness - It's a very clever project on Kim's part, made even more special by the fact that we're both leather aficionados!

    @Karen - Thanks, Karen! I hope I can do some work on it this week!

    @Anna - Ya know, I started this because I couldn't decide which of my million other projects I should work on! LOL. I have lots and lots of things waiting, but this sounded like more fun right now!

  7. Yeah! I'm very excited to see that you started on Jack's birthday! That's good luck, I'm sure. :)


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