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Mr. Smooth   (Part 1 of 3)
Details of how Jim made his own custom leather straitjacket and hood.
31 Jul, 2005 - article by Jim and Mark, photos by LT-Switch
This article spans three parts which can all be accessed on the Articles page.
rom time to time we have all have entertained the idea of making our own bondage gear at home. How fantastic it would be to make the bondage gear we fantasize about - gear that fits perfectly,
and doesn't cost us an arm and a leg like if would if purchased in a retail store.
Within the following article, Jim (aka Mr. Smooth) will show us some eye-popping gear he made at home, and how he made it. Be warned however, that making bondage gear at home isn't as easy as it may sound - it requires a substantial commitment of both time and money as you will see.
As you will see, the workmanship of Jim's gear is on par with a professional taylor. This is because Jim has experience in making clothing, which he will describe for us down the page. Jim isn't employed in the garment industry, however he had the prior knowledge to guide him through making and altering patterns, buying garment leather, and sewing reinforced seems - which is not easy when working with leather.
Click HERE to enlarge photo
The photo above-right shows the gear Jim has made. The items include a form-fitting hood and industrial strength posture collar, and beautiful taylor-made straitjacket. Like many of us, Jim believes that more is better so he also created a custom gag and blindfold, and additional arm-binder straps (shown further below).
Mr. Smooth is Jim's nickname on the Ballroom Dance Floor, obtained from his years of experience as a social dancer. If Jim's dancing is as good as his leather skills it's no wonder the women call him Mr. Smooth!
The following text was written by Jim himself, and the photos were a result of photo shoots spanning two days. This article is divided between three parts. The link to Part-2 can be found at the top and bottom of this page.
Mr. Smooth
I first had thoughts about making a straight jacket sometime around high school. I knew I had an interest in tying up women, or the other way around, but didn't find out about the whole world of bondage until later.
I can remember getting turned by the bondage scenes in movies and other shows on TV. Just about all of the fantasies were along these same "damsel in distress" lines. The details vary, but at the core is a bound and gagged woman struggling desperately to escape some dire fate. For a while I thought that my interest was in extreme S&M, but soon came to realize that it was the bondage that was the real interest. While the squirming and struggling are a part of the turn on, I have found there are lots of other fun ways, besides torture, aka pain play, of inducing that reaction.
Most of my bondage fantasies have been, and still are, from a male top perspective, but I have found that
Click HERE to enlarge photo
when actually playing, bottoming is as much, if not more, fun. In either case it is the physical experience of the bottom that is a significant part of the turn on. The bondage should be very immobilizing. In addition, the restraints or the position, should create a physical presence, so that even if you relax you will still be aware of it. It is best when all the slack has been taken out, creating a slight scene of being squeezed or stretched. I sometimes think of it as deep tissue sensation play, since a lot of the sensation comes from the muscles and joints rather than coming from the skin surface. There is a balance between getting things tight enough to produce these sensations, but not so tight that the duration of the scene has to be cut short. Then just top it off with something to produce that, almost non-consensual, desperation to move, to escape.
I am not that attached to what is being used for the bondage. Rope will do as well as anything. It does take longer to do though (a plus if the players are in the right mood) and requires more skill to be done well. However, leather restraints are probably my favorite. I find them much faster and easier to use, generally more comfortable, and they have a nice fetish look about them. Metal is OK too. The hard, absolute inescapability is nice. However, most of these restraints aren't as immobilizing as I like.
Straight jackets have a nice combination of features. They can be very restrictive if they fit and are fastened tightly. They are comfortable, so you can struggle all you want. The leather ones have a high fetish quotient. And, given my likes, I prefer the arms crossed behind my back, over the more traditional crossed in front position.
Click HERE to enlarge photo
I have thought about making a straight jacket off and on, but didn't think it would be possible to do with a home sewing machine. I have done some serious sewing over the years, but hadn't applied it to kinky projects until recently. All of the toy making I had done, mostly back in the early eighties, involved riveted belt strip construction. It was one of Mark's programs for the Society of Janus that got the latest binge of toy making started. By that time I had been hanging out long enough with some of the costumers I had met at the historical dances in the area to have an expanded idea of what was possible. It was from that same group that I got the first exposure to some of the techniques used in these latest projects.
The first try at kinky leather sewing were a pair of helpless mitts, not shown here. I thought these would relatively easy. As I learned, when you are doing projects that expand your knowledge and skill levels it is not going to be that easy. However, they eventually turned out to be all that I had wanted. I was now inspired to go on and try some bigger and more ambitious projects. That's when the thoughts of doing a straight jacket came up again. Part of it was because I had always wanted one. Part of it was, hay I can have a really nice custom fit leather one with out having to pay those high kink and fetish store prices.
As a switch there is always the choice of making something that will fit only me, or to try and make it flexible enough to also fit any potential play partners. For the jacket I decided to focus on something that would fit me, and not worry that much about who else it might fit. I wanted something that would have snug confining feeling. So, the decision was to go with a closely fitted body. I also figured that, even if it wouldn't fit someone I may want to play with the same way, I could still get her into it and it would be an effective restraint. The size and the buckle closure also allow some flexibility when putting it on someone of a slightly different size. So far it has worked out that way.
The hood was a different mater. I wanted the "fits like a second skin" look and feel. Something that small that fits that closely was is only going to fit one person period. So here there was no need to think about having any size flexibility.
The process to development the patterns and make both of these items was pretty much the same. Any of you who have done any serious custom sewing or costuming will recognize the steps that follow. Since Simplicity or Vogue don't happen to have patterns for straight jackets or discipline hoods, a gross oversight on their part I think, I was going to have to develop patterns myself.
Step one was to produce a shell that was very close to the size and shape of the finished garment and cut it apart where the seams will go. You put on something that is form fitting, usually stretchy. Have a friend cover it with duct tape to stabilize it. Mark all the seam lines. Then cut one of these lines to get it off. Make any additional marks and cut it apart to give you the beginnings of the pattern pieces. For the jacket I used a second hand sweat shirt. A tee shirt is more common for this, but I needed long sleeves and I wanted something with raglan sleeves since that was what I had planned for the straight jacket.
Click HERE to enlarge photo
Here we see a couple of pieces of the duct tape shell
Raglan sleeves are not what is usually used on these jackets. However, I felt they would be easier to sew than set in sleeves and have stronger seams. One of the sources on leather sewing also said that raglan sleeves worked well with leather. However, because this leather was on the heavy side I ended up having to take out some material under the arm with darts in the front and by bending the seam line in the back. These were some of the extra markings that needed to be made before cutting up the duct tape shell.
Here is a detail of the sleeve dart markings.
I actually had to go through the duct taping process twice. The first time, the person doing it stretched the tape as she put it on so the resulting pieces were too small and distorted as well. The second taping was done by a friend in the scene at a local play space. Some people are still trying to figure out what kind of a scene we were doing with all the duct tape. For the hood I used duct tape over aluminum foil to produce a head mold. I then used a combination of draping and a partial duct tape shell to get to the first pass pattern.
The next step was to take the cut up pieces from the duct tape shell and use them to draft the paper pattern pieces. Clean up any rough edges and differences between left and right sides. Add the seam allowances. In most cases you would also add ease, which is the extra material to provide room inside the garment for movement. Since I wanted both of these items to be form fitting no ease was added in this case. The actual pattern pieces can then be drafted based on the cut-up shell pieces with the above adjustments.
These pictures show some of the cut-up shell pieces along with some corresponding pattern pieces. Additional pieces for facings and other additions as needed are made to match the main pattern.
The next step is to test the pattern for correct fit by making a test garment out of some cheep material. These are called muslins since they are sometimes made out of old sheets. If there are any problems with the fit you then make the required adjustments to the pattern. Repeat this process until you get the fit the way you want it.

For the jacket muslins I used a medium weight fabric with a fusible interfacing to simulate both the stiffness and thickness. The first muslin proved to be too small because of the previously mentioned problems that I went all the way back to the duct taping for the second pass. These photos below show how the muslin test garment was made from the paper patterns. This process refined my patterns as an actual test garment is made from the patterns.

The muslin test pattern actually allowed me to try on the jacket to test the fit. I opened it down the front so I could get into it easily, but the actual paper pattern still reflected the opening in the back. Only one of the sleeves needed to be made the full length.

For creating the hood I first asked a friend cover my head in duct tape. This provided me with an extremely accurate model of the shape of my head, as well as many probing questions from my friend... From there I was then able to measure the taped replica and create a pattern. From the pattern I was able to cut and sew heavy non woven interfacing for the first muslin to simulate the stiffness of the leather. For the second muslin I used corduroy to simulate the thickness. This second corduroy test hood seemed to fit snugly they way I wanted it.

The last step is to take several deep breaths and prayers to the deity your choice and then cut out and sew the leather. Leather can be sewn on a good home machine, if you use the right techniques and it is not to heavy for the machine to handle. The hood is made with a lighter weight leather and was not a problem. The leather I used for the jacket, on the other hand, was on the edge of being too heavy for my machine, and at times I had my doubts about a successful outcome. The sewing actually ended up not taking that long once all pattern layout and adjustments were complete. Taking all the time you need up front does pay off in the end with this kind of project.
If you ever consider trying a project of this size and complexity, be prepared to invest many hours of your time. You only have one shot at sewing your leather; if you make a mistake and think you can simply pull out the stitch , think again. Once the leather is punctured my the sewing needle, the hole in the leather can't be covered or closed, so sewing mistakes in the garment are painfully obvious after the project is finished. Same goes for the rivets. In the photos below, you can see the 400+ rivets in the straitjacket.
 
It was the belts that ended up taking more work than I had expected. Even more than the fit, it is the riveted belting that gives this jacket it's distinctive look. I knew that the machine I had wasn't strong enough to allow me to form the belts from the garment leather and then sew them on to the jacket. On the other hand rivets are not a good way of attaching things to garment weight leather. The rivet hole both weakens the leather and puts a concentrated load on it. The belt pattern was designed to carry most of the load within the belts and transfer as little as possible to the material. The belts at the hips, waist, and chest go all the way around the jacket and fasten to themselves. The crotch straps and the vertical straps that hold the arms down at the front, sides, and back, tie into these three horizontal belts.
The strap and buckle attachments at the end of the sleeves were designed to spread the load over as many layers of leather with as many rivets as possible. As it turns out, with all of the other straps fastened across the arms it isn't possible, as least for me, to put much load on the sleeve end connections.
The waist belt turned into a mini project by itself. Since it was going to go completely around the waist, I thought having a nice wide 3" belt would feel better. However, I didn't want a big 3" buckle in the back, so I would have to taper it to 1 1/4". I also wanted to notch the belt at the sides so It would carry the load from the "D" rings in all directions. All of this thinking ended up with the belt getting a lot fancier than originally planned and taking longer than planned. However, in the end, I think the effect on the final appearance made it all worth it.
It took me around 5 months from the beginning to end of this project, completing a custom hood, posture collar and straitjacket that I'm extremely pleased with. And now for what you have been waiting for - a demonstration of the finished product! Click below for Part-2. (This article spans three parts which can all be accessed on the Articles page)
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