Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Part 5: Rey's Split Leather Belt

There are many reference pics available online, but unfortunately they only serve to add confusion to the pattern drafting process as the belts in these images are all different dimensions and designs! Rey has worn at least three different belts from the images I have found.

One belt she wears has the belt flattening out from the TOP rather than the bottom. However, there are many more reference pics available showing the flattened section on the bottom.

One pic shows Rey with a very skinny top belt, though many more seem larger on the top. The same pic also depicts the belt with a light color. But many more show the opposite.

Therefore, I decided upon using the widely available Division6 pattern online as a reference point and then made many modifications to try to be as accurate as I could to most the available online images.

Modifications I made to the available Division6 pattern:

(I followed quite a few of the recommendations in EmeraldB's amazing tutorial)
Division6's original pattern

  • I adjusted the thick portion of the belt to 6 inches across (before it splits) and 3 inches high.
  • I adjusted the top belt to 1 ¼ inches high.
  • On the top belt I used ¾ inch square buckles (2 required)
  • I adjusted the bottom belt to 1 ¾ inches high.
  • On the bottom belt I used 1 inch square buckles (2 required)

Drafting my pattern:

In drafting Rey’s belt to fit my body, I had to cut and expand and retract so many times that I learned a few things:

My body type is much different than the pattern available online. My hips are a good 10 inches wider than my waist measurement, so it took many tries for me to figure out where all those inches would need to go on my pattern. The best guidance I can offer is that the belt buckles are basically meant to hit the middle of your side. Adjust things accordingly.

The reason Rey’s belt has certain features is so it fits the actress’ body perfectly. If you are investing a chunk of change into your own belt, you should use the same principles to ensure your belt fits you like a glove, namely:

Make sure the split belt does NOT bend away from your body at any point. If it does, the fit is not correct and you should splice your pattern piece and add or subtract pieces to help it lay flat.

The REASON the belt flattens out on the bottom is so it can:
a) straighten the belt out enough so the front of the belt meets the back of the belt in a straight line, not an angled one
b) so the belt can lay flat against your hip, NOT bend away from it

If you are buying leather that is already dyed (like a belt or a finished/dyed piece from a leather store), you should not expect to be able to dye the leather to a darker shade. Leather dyes are only effective on untanned leather. They will come out blotchy on preexisting dyed leather.

I made the mistake of buying a finished piece of leather first, thinking I could darken/weather it somehow. I was wrong and realized I should have just bought the less expensive piece of untanned leather instead. Luckily Tandy Leather let me exchange my piece even though I scuffed it up a bit transporting the original piece home. They have an awesome 100% guarantee return policy!

Materials and Supplies:

Cutting the Raw Leather:

Cutting out my pattern with an X-acto knife was a bit challenging, resulting in me making two belts (after I got a little carried away with slicing too far on the first one).

I used my plastic ruler to help guide my knife and put some cardboard underneath as I sliced.

The only fun part of cutting out this thick 7/9 oz leather was seeing it removed from its cut-out! Other than that it was really not enjoyable for me.

I did a few things to smooth the rough cut edges.

First I simply sanded down the rough bits with whatever sandpaper I had laying around.

Then I attempted to "Burnish" the edges by wetting a cloth and rubbing it across the edges to smooth them. I liked the resulting slicking effect immensely!

Finishing the back side of the belt:

First I marked the belt locations with a pencil.

Then I used my X-acto knife to cut out the channels where the belt would have loop back through.

Then I used a seam ripper to poke holes where I wanted the decorative twine X to go.

I used an awl to make the holes bigger, but I really wish I had a leather punch! My thick leather was very difficult to work with!

Since the leather I chose was far too thick to be friendly, I ended up having to skive the flesh side of the leather with my X-acto knife in order to get it to be more supple and also to fit easily in and out of the belt channels.
Fun, fun, fun.

This is after skivving extra flesh off of the back side of the leather. It still didn't play nice. I ended up wetting the leather and clamping it down where I wanted to train it to bend back over itself. This helped immensely.

This is a very messy process. Not friendly to carpets, that's for sure. 

Dying the Leather:

Upon the recommendation of the Tandy Leather saleswoman, I taped the flesh side (the back) of the leather with painter's tape before dying so my white tunic would not be at risk for getting stained by the dye when I wear the costume. It had the added benefit of making the back look nice! I left the parts that would wrap around exposed so I could stain those.

Unfortunately, the flesh side of leather absorbs dye much darker than the skin side does. For this reason I actually ended up painting it over with some watered down light brown acrylic paint to balance out the color.

To stain the leather I used the Antique Dye and a soft rag to apply it in circles around the belt. The tricky part was the edges which I had to used a small paint brush in order to apply the dye. This sometimes resulted in extra dye getting on to the front of the belt which didn't wipe off, resulting in more dye being needed to mask those messups. It took some work but eventually I was happy with the coat. After the dye is applied you can use a cloth to wipe off the excess in uneven ways to weather the belt.

Attaching the Hardware: 

After I attached the 3/4 inch and 1 inch buckles, I used contact cement and clamps to hold the leather together before I handsewed the Xs with the twine.

The Finished Product:

Follow me on Instagram (@chelseabees ) for more
in-process photos! 

Please check out my other Star Wars posts:

Part 4: Rey's Pants and Tunic

Tunic Fabric: 3 yards of rugged linen-like fabric from Walmart (it was better than anything I found at Joann!) - $6
Pants Fabric: 2 1/2 yards - Olive European Linen/Cotton Blend Fabric - $31


I sincerely believed the tunic would be easy to recreate. It looked like a simple draping project and then I would be done with it but I was very very wrong.

I know now that my biggest mistake was using a linen-type material rather than a stretch-friendly knit. My fabric choice did not hug my body the way that Rey's does and it resulted in some less-than forgiving photos.

Another issue was how transparent the fabric was. This resulted in the cross-crossed front being very obvious at the point where the two pieces overlap since that bottom portion was opaque rather than transparent. For this reason I decided to double-layer each piece of the tunic fabric so no area of the fabric looks any more transparent than another.

I used this blurry reference image to help me sculpt the curved back. I made sure to clip the curves so the piece connected beautifully.

Here you can see the interior clipped curves of the back seam.

Before handsewing the exposed "raw edges" I first needed to hand baste on the collar. (See below)

I was nervous to make the final cut to the collar because of the variation between the two reference photos seen here.

The top collar (from a behind the scenes featurette) is longer and the bottom (from the Vanity Fair photoshoot) is more of a short mandarin collar. Which one will The Last Jedi actually feature?!?

After posting the montage to the left, all of my Instagram followers voted for me to cut it longer and more dramatic, so that's what I did!

The first cut is the deepest...

I attempted to recreate the knobby appearance of the garment's edges by following this process:

1) First I trimmed all the seems to a little over 1/4th of an inch.

2) Grading the seams (paying special attention to the interior seems so they would be tiny enough to later become enclosed within the whipstiched seams.

3) And then handsewing a whipstitch across all visible seams. It was tricky to get the spacing right so the fabric would pull tight enough to get that knobby appearance. I tried for around 3/8 inch distance between each stitch.

I wish I would have cut the top layer longer than I did so it would better enclose the shorter trimmed edges.

 The collar doesn't seem to photograph well but I really think it looks beautiful in person!


There aren't a whole lot of reference images for the pants as The Last Jedi has not yet opened. 

Therefore, the main images I used in order to make my pants are the few you see on the left and the Vanity Fair photoshoot below.

I started drafting the pants by making a mockup of this Burda 6811 pattern. I then drastically altered the pattern by removing the pant creases, fitting it completely to my leg, drastically shortening the legs and then cutting the new pattern in two (to create the knee pad section) and adding additional seam allowances for each of those two pieces. I also switched the zipper to an invisible zipper since I had no idea how Rey's pants close from the lack of detailed reference photos. The new pattern was complete unrecognizable from the original, but since I have never successfully made my own pants I needed to at least see how they would come together before I created my own.

The kneepads took me two attempts to successfully create. The first version was far too narrow to be accurate and so I started all over again to make a thicker version.

The best advice I can provide is to mark your topstitching channels with a disappearing ink pen before you pin and sew all the layers together. Otherwise it's a bit tricky to get an accurate measurement on top of the rather puffy kneepad. Below is a pic of the kneepad sandwich layers.

It took me awhile to figure out the order of the sandwich. The two olive green layers must be touching each other, right sides together. On top of that, I piled two low loft natural cotton batting layers and one high loft synthetic batting to give the knee pads some bounce. After sewing around the edges with 1/4 inch seam, I trimmed the seams to 1/8 inch and then flipped the sandwich right side out.

I sewed the bottom part of the pant leg inside out and finished the raw edges in the same way as the tunic to mimic the knobby look of reference photos.

Here's a pic of it all put together! 

Please check out my other Star Wars posts:

Part 1: Drafting Rey’s Resistance Jacket
Part 2: Sewing Rey's Resistance Jacket!
Part 3: Rey’s Resistance Bag
Part 5: Rey’s Split Leather Belt (in process)
Part 6: Rey’s Gauntlets and Arm Wraps (in process)
Part 7: Rey’s Blaster (in process)
FINALE: Skip the tutorials and see the FINAL PICS of each piece all in one place (continually updated as each is completed)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Part 3: Rey's Resistance Bag (Rucksack)

I cannot recommend enough the amazing tutorial that EmeraldB has put together in creating Rey’s Rucksack. Please check it out as it served as my starting point for this project!



$14.99 ** 1 - Enfield Rifle Sling in Olive Drab Green from Amazon
$21.99 ** 1 - Olive Drab Top Load Duffle Bag from my local Army surplus store.

First I washed and dried the green duffle bag which helped fade the dark green dye and also resulted in some nice faded lines from the wrinkles in the bag rolling around in my washing machine.

Next I cut out all the pattern pieces using EmeraldB's measurements with some slight modifications:
  • I cut 4 "Top Flap Sides" to the slightly smaller measurements of 3 1/2" x 3 3/4"
  • I combined her "Sides" into one long piece measuring 3" x 43"

I also broke off the gold hardware from the Enfield sling in order to give me as much length to play with for Rey's bag strap as possible… I’m tall. Then I tried to let my hot 110° weather help me in aging and distressing the materials: I left my pieces outside for three days! 

I mixed together some water and black acrylic paint to darken the sling and canvas backing. I used an even stronger mixture to paint the strap included with the duffle bag for Rey's bag front as well as the two small canvas loops that attach the hardware to the top and bottom of Rey's bag.

The problem with using acrylic paint to darken fabric is that it becomes pretty hard to sew through. This happened… twice:

Hardware and Paints:


$3.99 ** A 1" D-ring black plastic carabiner from this 6-pack
$11.00 ** A 1 1/2" metal side release parachute buckle in matte black from Amazon
$0.00 ** A 1 1/2" tri-glide silver buckle (I was lucky enough to have one in my stash)
$6.65 ** A roll pin buckle from Ebay
$7.38 ** 1 - Rub 'n Buff Metallic Silver Leaf Finish from Amazon
$4.49 ** 1 - Rust-oleum Flat Black Spray Primer

Using EmeraldB’s hardware and paint recommendation, my kids and I had some fun turning plastic into metal. 

I sprayed flat black primer onto the D-ring carabiners and then we worked together to coat all 6 of them with the Rub ‘n Buff Metallic paint. I figured one of them would have to turn out okay!

Here's how my plastic D-Ring 

compares with the original. 

Rey's bag is on the left
and mine is on the right.

I wasn’t entirely happy with the gunmetal color of the metal parachute buckle I bought so I also lightly (and purposefully unevenly) coated the buckle in the flat black primer. It made the metal look more aged and less modern than the gunmetal color did. Instead of purchasing the buckle from Amazon, I would recommend just buying a metal parachute buckle from Joann Fabrics or Hobby Lobby as I later discovered they are much cheaper there.

And here's the Parachute Buckle comparison:

Rey's is on the left
and mine is on the right.

 I really didn’t want to spend 12 bucks for a simple tri-glide silver buckle for Rey's front chest strap so I search thrift stores high and low for something that would work. Unfortunately I only found plastic buckles which I attempted to coat with the silver Rub ‘n’ Buff. I wasn’t happy with any of them and finally found a suitable buckle in my stash! My husband broke off the center prong for me (the thing that usually goes through your belt buckle holes) and I was a happy camper!

The side-by side comparison shows that Rey's buckle on the left is more rounded and shorter than mine. I found a more similar one to Rey's on Amazon but it's expensive to ship and I might have to use vinegar to remove that more modern-looking coating.

I also now realize I need to distress my Enfield strap some more to match this side-by-side... oops! I'll get right on that!

Also based on EmeraldB’s recommendation, I purchased my final roll pin buckle from Ebay. After plopping it in some vinegar to remove the gold color I felt it appeared a bit too shiny and new. I fixed this by dropped it in some very-watered down black acrylic paint to make it appear that some “dirt” had settled into the grooves of the piece.

Here's the fun side-by side!

Rey's roll pin is on the left
and mine is on the right.

The Brown Mesh Pocket:

I researched every kind of brown mesh in existence and couldn't find any with the "King Mesh" circular pattern seen in the original Rey bag.

So I made do: I searched my house high and low and found this yellow mesh bag which was in the exact measurements I needed for the pouch! I used both layers so it would be sturdy enough to realistically be a pouch on Rey's bag; This had the added benefit of allowing me to punch distressed holes and tears into the top layer only of the mesh.

Don’t stress yourself out trying to find brown mesh fabric; Just go to Joann Fabrics and get yourself a foot of whatever color they have in stock and paint it!To change the color of my mesh bag, I mixed some water with some light brown acrylic craft paint with a touch of black acrylic paint to darken it (I didn't have any dark brown paint, so I just made my own). I was worried the synthetic mesh wouldn't absorb the paint, but everything worked out perfectly!

EmeraldB recommended keeping the bag flap as a rectangle until it's attached to the bag and you can see where you'd like to cut it. I am very thankful for this suggestion as it helped me see how the bag's shape was coming along before I cut into it.

Here's a preliminary cut of the bag with my yellow chalk outlines of where I wanted to curve the top bag flap and double-layered mesh pouch. Chalk was a nice non-committal way to test out the look of things before cutting the curves.

I double-layered the top canvas flap and the small canvas flap side pieces to add some strength to the top of the bag. I then top stitched around the curved top piece to keep the flap pieces together.

Later, when I used my seam ripper to distress the bag I only cut through the top layer of these pieces. This keeps the strength of the bag in tact for all of my… missions?

Buckle Placement:

If you are like me,  you're probably trying to wrap your head around the placement of the four buckles as well as the distressing marks seen in reference images. Well, I'm not sure if my chicken scratch notes would be any help, but I'll include them anyways!

The top image shows the Back and Front sides of the bag.

And down here's the Top Piece as well as a layout for the placement of the distressed holes. 

And now... here's the final product!

I'll definitely be taking some more pictures in daylight as these came out so dark that it's hard to see what the bag really looks like!

Next up: Part 4: Rey’s Gauntlets and Arm Wraps (in progress)

Don’t miss any of these other blog posts:

Part 1: Drafting Rey’s Resistance Jacket
Part 2: Sewing Rey’s Resistance Jacket
Part 5: Rey’s Split Leather Belt (in progress)
Part 6: Rey’s Resistance Pants and Boots (in progress)
Part 7: Rey’s Blaster (in progress)
FINALE: Skip the tutorials and see the FINAL PICS of each piece all in one place (continually updated as each is completed)