Monday, March 30, 2009

Space Helmet: It Ain't What it Seams

I have now cut and stitched together the four main parts of the helmet, and then shaped the wet leather over the yard sale plastic original. The toy astronaut helmet serves not only as a pattern source, but also as a shaping form. It reminds me of the underwater helmets worn by the crew of the Nautilus, with its roundedness.

At the end of yesterday's blog I decided that the plain exposed seam I had tried (and was planning for the entire helmet) wasn't the best choice, so I ripped out the one seam that I had done, and restitched it.

I replaced the side seams with overlapping seams, and for the center seam I chose a butt seam (since an overlapping seam has to favor one side or the other, and won't be symmetrical).
There are three different types of handsewn seams that I use in my leatherwork: Overlap, butt and plain. Below are the three types illustrated.

The plain seam can add structural strength and really emphasize the seam line, as can be seen on my firemaster's helmet. It is the historically traditional seam for firefighter's helmets, but it requires more effort to shape. On my steampunk gas mask you can see examples of the butt seam and the overlap seam.
Once the wet-formed helmet has dried, I will figure out the removable front piece that will cover the mouth, and also design a piece with a lense to cover the eyes.


  1. What type of stitch do you use for a butt seam, Tom? How strong is it, say compared to a plain seam?

    Helmet looks great, as always -- can't wait to see the finished results.

  2. ...I just got the pun. I'm a little slow today. It looks great so far.

  3. I absolutely adore watching your work unfold. What a treat!

  4. Anvil, a butt seam works only on thick, stiff leather. The pictures show it on the outside, and the inside is a series of X's. It is not a very strong seam as the thread is really exposed, but it works fine this way.

  5. Hey Tom, what weight of veg tan is that? Do you use a casing solution or just plain water?

  6. Stephanie, I used 5-6 oz veg tan for the helmet, and just water for the casing. Once I've sewn and riveted on the other pieces I may reshape it with a solution or heat to make it stiffer.