Friday, 11 November 2016

How to make a sew-on duffle coat toggle closure - tutorial

Duffle coats are all the rage, back from 1970 (and 1990s, and... well, they ARE practical and men love their casual sporty air). Today I am going to show you how to make a complete sew-on closure for a duffle coat, using toggle buttons and leather. We will also need some leather straps or similar.

First you need to decide on the shape of the leather pads. They may be square (that's the easiest to cut) or triangular and rounded on the corners. This is my favourite, though I prefer elongated triangles personally, like those you can see in the pictures above. If you are not inspired to design your own shape, you can use the measurement from the picture below to trace them onto your leather.

Once we have chosen the style and colour, and also decided if it is going to be made of genuine leather (I buy mine from a remnant basket, and one such piece is usually more than enough) or faux leather (a cheaper option, but perhaps not as durable), we can copy the shape of the pads onto the wrong side of the leather. Faux leather works with pencil and colour pencils, but for genuine leather you will need to use a pen. Make sure you are ON THE WRONG side. You can also draw the pads directly on the piece of leather. I traced my triangles using the dressmaking copying paper and traced them the same way as I do with fabric.

I like to use best the space and use up all the leather, so I copy the pattern pieces very close to each other. This also saves time and work when cutting them out.

Once we are ready, and we have enough pieces (just make sure you have drawn a few extra pieces in case anything goes wrong while cutting), we can start with the rotary cutter. It is very useful as it cuts well through any leather (and also your skin...). To finish, we can use a smaller cutter or very sharp scissors. These will not work, though, with thick leather, but on the other hand, will be great for faux leather.

Now we will need the straps. It is really up to you how long they will be. Make sure you take into account the size of the toggles or buttons you are going to use, as sometimes extra length is needed. I will use 11 cm - 4 3/8" long straps. Cut your leather strap into even pieces. You can also make them from leather, for better matching. These should be wide enough to prove strong, but thin enough to go through the holes of your buttons! I used 4 mm - 3/16" wide straps.

I made the straps for the off-white colour closures
and bought a leather thread of 3 mm wide for the black ones. 

The next step is to glue the straps to the pieces of leather. This is temporary, so you do not need to use a very strong glue. Glue gun is OK as long as you use just a tiny bit of it, as it may create bulk you do not want. If you are using super glue, make sure you apply just a bit, and towards the center of the pad, as it hardens and you still need to sew the closure to your coat. The best is of course a special glue for leather. Then I use pegs to make sure they are pressed well and long enough. Remember to thread the buttons BEFORE gluing, and also, make sure they are all facing the same way.

Make sure you have made one the same number of loops as you have buttons. Now we are ready to sew them onto the coat. My advice is to glue the closures temporarily to the wool - otherwise who know how they will end up. Here, machine-sewing is as good as hand-sewing. If your closures are made of genuine leather, it is advisable to make holes beforehand for hand stitching. If  you are machine-sewing them, remember to set the stitch length to 3, for example, as to short stitch will make the closure prone to breaking. I use special needles for leather, which I do recommend.

Et voilĂ !

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Boot buttons

Nowadays, most footwear is designed to fasten with Velcros, zippers and snaps, some have shoelaces, and some even have parts made of elastic to minimize the fuss with fastening and unfastening. But in the olden days, especially women's boots had a row tiny buttons on metal loop shanks. They were popular until 1940s, when other closure systems became more widespread.

The boot buttons above are quite a luxury compared to most of the kind, made of glass and painted in beautiful colours, like mint green or pale pink. Most boot buttons, however, were made of enameled metal, and the colours were far less exciting.

The last few of the boot buttons here are made of lucite plastic and metal. Really small pieces. No wonder women took a long time to get ready, when they had to fasten all the buttons up the calf, even if they had ankle boots. Nonetheless, in mid-19th century, someone has come up with a very clever idea how to speed up the process and a button hook was conceived.

The button hooks were useful also for waistcoats and gloves, which usually had planty of tiny buttons.

As you can see, the buttonhooks came in all possible shapes and sizes, with the handle made of various materials. The collection above, from Bedford Museum, shows hooks with wooden and bone handles. I can also see some antler handles here, and below, a few luxury silver ones.

Button hooks were so ubiquitous that some companies used to give them out for free as a form of promotion, with the brand name of the company engraved on the handle. I guess these were really useful! You can read more about the history of this unusual invention on this website dedicated to buttonhook collecting.

Nowadays, boot buttons, if they are sewn to boots and not glued, are usually only for decoration, with an alternative, more practical closure concealed somewhere else.

These boots are no longer for sale
but you can find plenty more on etsy!