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?