The Challenges of Sewing a Faux Leather York Pinafore by Helen's Closet Patterns.
I have made quite a few York Pinafores by Helen's Closet Patterns (see my review of the Pdf Pattern here). Its a very simple design: a front piece cut on the fold, a back piece cut on the fold and pockets. There are two neckline options but I prefer the higher neck. The cocoon shape is flattering - the sides are scooped out which makes your waist look narrower. It is designed to be worn with something underneath and depending on your fabric choice can be worn in warm or cold weather.
I started to think about a 'leather' version a while ago but couldn't find the right fabric. I am limited to online shopping at the moment and it can be difficult to choose fabric without feeling it first. There are plenty of online shops selling 'Leatherette' or 'Faux Leather' but it comes in different weights and is sometimes more suitable for upholstery. The upholstery Leatherette seems to have a stiff woven backing that would be uncomfortable to wear against the skin and is wipe clean only. There is also a type of Leatherette that is very thin and stretchy, sometimes with Lycra, that is more suitable for making leggings or tight fitting dresses such as body con.
I eventually decided upon 'Pleated Faux Leather Fabric' by Minerva.com. They have a good description of the product on their website but what really helped me was that there was a blog post by a customer who had used this Faux Leather to make a jacket. When the Faux Leather arrived I was really pleased with the feel of it - not too thin and not too thick. The reverse has a satin feel to it so it feels very smooth and comfortable against the skin. I contacted Customer Services at Minerva.com to check if this product was washable and they assured me that I could wash it at 40°C. I washed it before cutting out the pattern pieces and it washed well but it does come out of the washing machine very wet so I had to lay it out on towels to soak up the excess water. It did, however, dry very quickly.
So...... there are issues with sewing Faux Leather!
you can't pin it
you can't press it
you can't make mistakes (needle holes will show)
it may drag on your sewing foot and plate
The first issue of pinning was solved by using clips - however I did find that if I left the clips in for too long they left indentations - maybe these will go after washing. It was also helpful to use wash-away tape to hold the fabric in place - particularly for difficult areas like the curves of the pockets which had to be folded over and top stitched in place.
I found that I could press this Faux Leather if I used a very low heat and protected the area with a piece of cotton. I had to be careful though as too much steam could affect the pleating in the fabric.
I wasn't sure if I would need to use a Leather Needle but because this fabric was quite lightweight with the smallest amount of stretch I used a Stretch Needle which worked really well.
I have quite a basic domestic sewing machine (Brother XL-5021). It doesn't have a walking foot or teflon coated foot. When I tried to sew the Faux Leather, it dragged against the foot and plate creating very small and tight stitches. I tried covering the seams with masking tape. My sewing machine did then glide over the seams and sew satisfactorily but I found it very difficult to remove the masking tape without pulling out some of the stitches. I settled on using tissue paper. I found that it was easy to clip to the seams and sew through and could be pulled away after sewing without compromising the stitching.
My serger definitely handled sewing the Faux Leather much better than my sewing machine so I used that to join the side seams and shoulders. I used my sewing machine to sew the pockets and also the bias binding which goes around the neck and arm openings.
The York Pinafore is usually a very quick sew but I enjoyed the challenge of using Faux Leather and trying out different methods to get it to work. I'm pleased with the overall look and finish and feel that I will get plenty of wear out of this Pinafore in the cooler months. Using Faux Leather has given my York Pinafore a completely different look and feel to my other versions - something a bit edgier from this versatile Pdf Pattern.