High tech sewing

So I’m making this Burda coat. Very slowly. I might have it done by Christmas if I’m lucky. But I’m enjoying the process because I really, really like the design. One of the things that originally appealed to me about it is the closure; it uses snaps. I love the clean lines they give. Also: not having to make buttonholes. But mostly it’s the minimalism.

White Burda coat 104-12-2012

The pattern says to cover the snaps with lining fabric before attaching them to the coat. This struck me as odd and likely to come out looking messy. Other people might be able to make a neat job of that, but not me. And I couldn’t help thinking the lining would interfere with the working of the snaps.

Then it occurred to me that maybe Burda meant the coat to have magnetic snaps. You’d have to enclose the magnets in some sort of fabric bag to attach them to the coat. This would explain the instruction about covering them with lining. It wouldn’t matter how messy the covering was because the snaps would be sewn between the outer fabric and the facing. And I like the slightly scifi element of magnetic closures.

My local sewing shops do not carry such things, so I went to Klein’s last time I was in London. It seems magnetic snaps come in a couple of varieties: the sort with prongs on the back that you push through the fabric and fold in, which are for handbags, and the invisible or sew-in variety. I had to ask for the sew-in sort. Here they are. That’s a 5mm grid they’re sitting on.

Magnetic snaps from Kleins

Here’s what they look like separated. The side with the bevel is the strongly magnetic side.

Separated snaps

These things are fascinating. I can’t get over how strong they are. According to my googling they’re most likely to be neodymium magnets, which are a type of rare earth magnet. Neodymium is one of the rare earth metals. There’s something undeniably appealing about anything called a ‘rare earth’. (Rare earths aren’t actually rare but it’s still a compelling name).

Neodymium magnets are made from a compound of neodymium, iron, and boron, which was only discovered in 1982 – within my lifetime! Most things I use in sewing have been around in some form or other for a very long time. The zip, which always seems like one of the more modern things in sewing, is over a hundred years old in its earliest form. Overlocking’s been around since the 19th century. I haven’t been able to find out exactly when fusible interfacing was invented but it was certainly around in the 1970s.

What’s the newest technical development you’ve used in your sewing?

18 thoughts on “High tech sewing

  1. Oh that is cool. Very cool actually. Hopefully they’re not so strong that on a super cold day when you forget your gloves you can get out of the coat!

    I think the newest thing I have in the sewing room is probably velcro (1940s tech), disregarding innovations in sewing machine technology ‘n all.

  2. Oh great idea! I’m looking forward to reading about how these work out in practice; I have covered the usual kind of snaps in lining fabric and got a reasonable job, but its fiddly, and also makes getting them pressed together harder. I’ve also tried painting them with nail varnish to approximate match. That kind of works, but also tends to flake off in time. The other way of having an unencumbered front is to do a fly front piece with the buttonholes behind it. Works well, but an effort.

  3. How fabulous. I love nerdy stuff like having a rare earth magnet, not just a common or garden variety magnet. I don’t have anything more modern than velcro either.

  4. Very cool notion! It will be interesting once the coat is done to hear if they feel as secure as a snap or zipper. I’m sure will be very secure but they might just feel different, if that makes sense…

  5. That is a beautiful coat and you are going to look wonderful in it. I am a tad older than you and have been sewing for over 40 years. In the “olden days” it was very common to cover snaps in a luxury garment using a lightweight lining or cotton fabric. The fabric “makes room” for the part that connects. And, yes, it could result in a sloppy mess when done inexpertly. Here is a Threads article about it: http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/9484/how-to-cover-snaps-for-that-touch-of-couture

  6. like Shams, I read that article and tried to cover snaps. I thought it was difficult and would only work on a large-ish snap – or that was all my fumbly fingers could manage. But for evening wear I could see the usefulness. I tried to find the strong snaps for a jacket, now I know what to look for, thanks.

  7. How incredibly cool is some new-fangled sewing notion!? I’ll be reading with interest to see if those little lovelies actually are strong enough to keep your coat closed during wear. I’ve always wanted to try magnetic closures, but have hesitated because I don’t think they’d actually hold under the strain that a button would, but maybe that’s because I don’t have garments that fit properly….

  8. Really cool with the magnets but contrary to your statement that the rare earths are not really rare – they are!

    The many uses of magnets is of great concern within the scientific community as these elements are becoming harder and harder to find and mine. An enormous amount of high tech equipment requires the use of rare earth magnets and what has become normal life would be altered if they are unable to find more. See the New Scientist if you are interested in reading more.

  9. OMG the lady in charge of first year teaching got super magnets for the whiteboards (to stop the posters falling off) and every single demonstrator has injured their fingers on them XD Not me -cuz ma magnetic personality repels them hahahaha (actually it’s because both Carl and I muck around with industrial/ super magnets so we’ve learnt how to be careful with them). Seriously though make sure you have a non-magnetic backing/fronting (?) between the button and the fabric because otherwise everything (keys, bus bars etc) will fuse (not to mention your phone/ anything with spinning drives in it will be f*cked. I figured out how to magically turn off laptops by hovering my industrial magnets in their vicinity Turning it back on again is the real problem tho’.. the Lab tech at Uni had some strong words for me about the effects of magnetism on human brains following that incident).) XD
    No tech in sewing yet-although I have these two books(1, 2) and the stretch pleather for my Tron costume (that’s by the author of the first book) ready to go. I think that’s how I actually found your blog-looking up Sci-fi wear XD
    Also..I’m putting together a basic 3-D body scanner system for pattern making. I already blarged about it on Twitter so you can check the links there (I honestly don’t bookmark anything anymore sorry XP) I think Joost may be working on something similar as he is mucking around with Blender. Or maybe that’s just work..

    1. Magnets also blank train tickets. I got through 3 season tickets before I realised storing them in the ticket pocket of my Orla Keily bag killed them instantly. My Mum replaced the magnets with standard snaps and no more problems.

      1. That’s the manufacturer’s fault for not putting a non-magnetic backing on the snaps-all field generating electrical/ computer parts come with that stuff as a standard.. XP

  10. Oh yes! I went searching for this exact thing a few coats ago… but never found them. Thanks for the link – looking forward to seeing how you incorporate these and how well they do justice to the finished garment!

  11. I love the idea of magnetic closures, but image myself ‘going off’ everytime I go past a security barrier. And don’t even mention airport security (I travel a lot for business)…

  12. WOW! I have never heard about those things! I am thinking about doing the same coat but I was wondering about the snaps, that’s why I searched in google and I found your blog, so, I REALLY would like you share with us the process of doing it, just I am not sure if I would find those magnetic snaps here, I live in México and live in a small town and hardly find supplies, but I’ll look for them when I go to a bigger city.

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