Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Lederwams Construction [Updated: 08-26-2012]

This was originally posted to the GermanRenCostume Yahoo group on 27 July, 2011 by Robert, a member of St Maximillian's.  I wanted to post it here so it wouldn't get lost in the archives and I could find it again later. :D
Hi all- lots of info on the ledergollars (leder wams is more correct, I've been told~), especially on folks looking for a pattern. Guess what? There IS no pattern out there!

The main reason for the lack of a pattern is that this is a fitted garment, often made of a single piece of material, and fitted to go over the main garments. So- first off- if you take some time and look at the woodcuts, you'll see very few seams evident- almost always there are seams on the sides, under the arms. You see a few with a seam in the center back, a couple with seams on
the shoulder tops- and those same ones have an added shoulder cover as well. Note- in all of the 'cuts I've looked at, only a very few have the shoulder seams and added shoulders~

Now- on to materials. The leather of the period was typically much "softer" than what we get today, as a result of the processes. It wuld start hard as a board of wood, but would soften quickly. The slow tannage process is a discussion for another thread, maybe later! In any case, you would almost always have leather for these bieng from a cow or bull- a "buffalo". It was fairly thick, and usually split down to the "right" thickness. Full hides could be as much as 10mm thick, sometimes! However- for us, that would be a bit much, so we'll stick with one of the following leathers- an upholstery leather, usually @3 oz thick, a tooling leather, between 3 and 4 oz, or finally either a latigo or oil-finish (blacksmith or utility) hide- but those are hard to find in less than 5-7 oz.

With each leather, you will have some slightly different work ahead of you. For the Upholstery stuff, you'll need to de-glaze it. This is just using acetone to take the shiney finish off, or you'll look like some shiney fetish weirdo...  For the tooling leather, you will need to beat the heck out of it to soften it- you can do this before or after making it, buit if you don't it'll be stiff, and will not shape to you at all. FOr the nlatigo/utility hides, you'll als need to beat ot up to soften it- but you'll have a mich longer time doing it. A fast way to do so is to use your dryer, on air dry- NO HEAT!!! and throw in a couple a couple of clean sneakers. In an hour or 2 you'll have much softer leather!  You will need to pull it out and re stuff it a several times in this process, however.

OK- so now, the pattern. As I said before- "there is no pattern". Let me amend that by saying "there is no pattern, there is only DRAPE". By thi, I mean you must make the pattern yourself. This is actually easy, but you will need help, a good pair of scissors, a large piece of clother to make into the pattern, and well, yourself in your garb. What you will do is simply cut a head hole, and a small neck slit- (do not make it too big! Just enough to fit you noggin!).  Now, starting from your back, draw carefully (I use chalk or pencil- as sharpie may bleed through onto your garb~) where your back dags(half-circle thingys~) are going to be, and note the side seams, under the arms. I actually will pin it in place, over-sized a bit- then will cut the excess off. Be careful not to cut too much around the shoulder, as it starts down a ways on the back- again,
look at the woodcuts. O.K.- now it gets a little tricky. I make these with a single piece of leather- the finished pattern will look like a lumpy letter "Y", so the front is well... tricky...

For the front- start by slitting the poncho, which is marked and pinned to your sides, down the center front. Now, overlap the pieces, whichever way you wish-there doesn't seem to be any rule here, really. Turn the font pieces over now-if you intend to do so on the finished piece (kinda like a collar, you see several different kinds in the 'cuts). Now- for the sides- mark and pin them,
just like you did the back, again a bit oversized. cut the excess off, and then make you front dags- either the short or the long ones. For the long ones you see gunners wearing- I add those pieces with extra fabric and pins, so I can get the body fit better first~ also note that the long dags are on the OPPOSITE piece- so the right side of the lederwams has the attached left leg cover, and vice-versa, as they overlap. SOme of the long-dag lederwams also seem to have a
tie for holding the long front dag onto the leg. Up to you, though. Finally, and I know this sounds like no help at all- you kinda mark and cut the shoulder to look like you want. Make it big, going far down the front and back arm hole, as it looks like most modern reproductions make this too small, and it looks kinda different from the 'cuts.

Now- on to the scary part. First off- if the fabric doesn't look right, do it again. Buy flat sheets from Goodwill for like a buck for you patterns. Much less $$ than leather, and only a bit annoying if you flub it! Once the pattern is good- get you leather- and now tyou have one more decision to make- do you want your smooth outside or rough outside? It seems like all extant (later period, I know~) buff coats but one were done with the rough side out. I think this is so the leather and cloth can move over each other better, and it really does, I might add- but that is conjecture. What I Do know however- is that leather bleeds less color from the smooth side. Up to you, in any case- I'll not argue in either case, so you're safe there. Basically, just lay the pattern
on the leather, anc cut it out. You need about 1/4" or so for seam allowence-but ONLY on the sides, unless you needed to add seams elsewhere. I'm not going into that here, however~ ask if you need... To sew the sides together, you will use a "saddle stitch", where you pass the thread through each hole twice. I pre-punch the holes using as small a punch chisel asI can- which is about 1/32" for me- as I made the punch. You can get 1/16" from Tandy, but only in a set with replaceable heads. Still, not too bad. This seam is going to be just like a fabric seam, and "opens" to the inside. Do not over-tighten the stitches, or it'll pucker the leather. Also- use linen thread, as the synthetic types will will possibly tear the leather, over time. I'd rather re-sew the whole 10" seam than have to bodge it back together from a tear.

Finally- the last 2 steps! Yay! First- you'll ned to make your closures. Thankfully- this is easy. Attach a leather thong to where the overlaps are on the waist with 2 holes, then make corresponding holes in the right and left flaps of the outer portion. You may want to add a second set of thongs for if you wear it over your breastplate as well, sometimes. Second-decide on the slashing pattern you want, if any. You ought to be wearing the garment with all you stuff on under it- and use chalk, and another person to help. For leather, you may need to open the cuts a bit, but not too much. By opening the cut, I mean making it look like () rather than just /. Some slashes will not look right until it's been worn a while- so take your time. You can always add them later, or open them more after a while- but adding leather back is, well, not going to work.

So, there it is- my method of making a lederwams, as best as I can write it. If you have anyquestions, let me know, and I'll add pics as soon as I make my new stuff, as a lederwams will be part of it. And to Cherylynn- there!! See!! I wrote it down!


Robert in Reno

Update: Here is a photo reconstruction using Robert's instructions by Genoveva.

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