Off I trot yesterday, during my lunch hour, to a local leather distributor. I explained to the woman there that I was new to leather work and that I make little fabric baby shoes. I explained that in the size 5 shoes (12 to 18 months) I had been using vinyl for the sole… she quickly interjected and whispered to me “vinyl is a 5 letter word we don’t use around here… once you use leather you’ll never go back”. Well, she was right.
After getting a workout shifting skins to find the prize skin that took my fancy I paid my fee and was given a swift overview of how to handle the goods. The lovely woman told me I would need a walking foot for my machine, and a leather sewing machine needle – the weight of leather (I don’t think that’s the professional term) I had chosen was fine for my (amaze-zing) NS30 Brother sewing machine.
So I rolled up my skin (not to be folded) and headed back to dreary ol’ work (I don’t mean that colleagues x). My mind wandering away, dreaming of the full handmade leather wardrobe I was going to sew for myself, and fearing certain rejection from my vegan friends Once home I went to bed with a headache… maybe it was the tannery, or work… but then I woke, fresh as a daisy at 4am, I raced down to the sewing room full of exuberance ready to kick off. I tortured myself with a snappy online lesson in sewing leather desperate to just get sewing and then it was go time…. first project, convert my next pair of size 5 Mary Jane shoes into having a kangaroo leather sole.
In hindsight this was madness, I should have chosen my first project more wisely because this was prized fabric (prima ballerina I call it, shown below). Prima Ballerina has been sitting in my stash for years waiting for the perfect project, for the perfect person who will love it just like I do. I was unsure of the fabric’s origin, and had just resolved to the fact I would probably hold onto it forever until last week I spotted 2 fat quarters in my local fabric store, Russells of Sandgate, Queensland 4017 (if you ever get the chance to visit… they still wrap your fabric in brown paper, it is SO damn charming). I quickly snapped them up and told Michael how much I loved the fabric when he told me that he had tried to get more from the supplier but it was no longer available. So here I am, my most prized fabric, no longer available, negligently using it for my first trial sewing leather (that’s me, nothing in halves)….
So, I commenced by sewing up all the outer shoe and lining in the standard way and then simply replaced what is normally a “v!#yl” sole with the leather. As I began I prayed I would not hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet down the hall or the call for Becky to assist with ironing or something equally hum-drum as I pinned sole to shoe – I was just so excited to try out this new medium. The leather was hard to press through as anticipated, and I was careful not to pierce the skin because it doesn’t heal. It was surprisingly pliable – well, more than I had expected.
Without the recommended leather needle or walking foot I excitedly (hindsight = stupidly?) just went for it. As I sewed I was furiously removing pins when I clean pulled the head off a pin… that’s never happened before, just shows the strength of the leather! Once finished sewing the product is looking pretty good, I trim the edges knowing they won’t fray like fabric, turn the shoe right-side out and begin to hand sew the opening closed to FINISH… I wish almost immediately I had of been more patient with the online tutorial, but little pitter patters are looming so I excitedly press on. I sew again without leather needle or beeswax using the table to push the needle through the tough leather, forgetfully at one point using my finger and drawing blood
Band-aid applied I finish the product and honestly I am simply chuffed with the results. How lucky! I now have a product which is easy enough to use and it provides a durable sole best suited to the adventures of my little toddler friends. The whole experience has actually left me lusting over hundreds of lovely projects to try… the range of leathers, textures, colours and weights (?!) – the next item must include one of those lovely big metal teeth zippers I think. I’d love to make myself a fold-over or envelope clutch… and then maybe an iPad/Nexus cover, business card holder, a bracelet… oh my the list is endless.
But c’est la vie, I have just started a new job, I have little shoes to sew and my (mostly) lovely family to enjoy… leather will wait for me. V!#yl is now a 5 letter word and I will not go back.