I use a lot of studding on some of my Gotham Division Clothing designs, and it is probably one of the things I get asked about the most. I consider most of the hand done metalwork on my pieces to be “studding”. Whether they are screw backs, nailheads, rivets or even eyelets, the amount of work required when placing more than just a few of these is pretty significant.
I don’t intend on making these posts tutorials, since I try to design and sew as much as I can, and because of that I can’t do justice to tutorials. There are some very talented people providing the step by step process.
It would be hard to cover all the different kinds of clothing studding that I do in one post, so I’m going to break it up into maybe 3 posts covering my thoughts and techniques for each. I’ll talk about the screw back spikes I use in this post, and in particular a studded corset I recently finished that has almost 300 spikes, done one by one by hand.
Here is a shot of the corset in progress, most of the spikes already in. Screw back spikes seem easier on paper, and in some ways I guess they are, but technique and practice are important. knowing the fabric you are working with, making sure they stay in, not just for construction, but for long term wear. I consider some of my designs as wearable art pieces, but I want them to wear well, especially if it’s a stage piece worn by a performer who will be wearing this for 200+ shows. Screw backs can definitely ‘UNSCREW’ and then you’re ‘SCREWED’ The only real strategy you have to combat the unscrewing, is first of all making sure you screw each spike tightly. As an extra safeguard you can apply the strongest epoxy you can get your dirty hands on, such as Loctite blue, to the screw once you are ready for the final construction. It’s no promise of the spike living through the life of the piece, but I recommend you do it for each spike. In the case of this piece, that was 300 times. There are other techniques you could use to make sure they stay, for example you could solder them I may try that one day – when I have some extra time
So what kind of fabric are you using? Most times, fabric does not lead me to a particular spike/stud type. Meaning nailhead vs. screw back etc. Truth is, if you are a working designer/seamstress, you use what you have, or what looks right for the piece. For this corset, I knew I wanted spikes, and most spikes are screw back. With screw backs and also with other studs eyelets or rivets, fabric thickness dictates a lot, both for usability and technique.
This corset was done with a relatively thin faux leather fabric. so the screw backs that were about 1/4 inch screw worked pretty well. If you were doing a thicker fabric, like a genuine leather piece you might be able to use the same type spike, but not the 1/4″ screw. This makes things a bit difficult from a purchase perspective because it’s likely you will need to find the right size screws yourself, adding cost and additional pain searching for the “right” length screw.
With thicker fabric, the right screw length and plenty of epoxy you will likely get a really good result from a “setting” perspective. Setting, meaning the clean placement and “stay” of each spike. Your goal with spikes like this is to have them stay STRAIGHT OUT… and not face in some random direction This is not always easy based on the fabric and spike placement, but it should be your goal. When you place spikes at certain natural body contours they sometimes have a mind of their own.
Thinner fabric can be a more challenging road. The spikes unlike studs or rivets, tend to move, or “point” more to contours. You may also find that even very short screw lengths, tend to go wherever they want so with thinner fabric, always reinforce the area you are going to spike either with heavy weight interfacing or even doubling up the fabric. Do what feels right for the amount of “padding” you need.
No matter what, always have fun and do things that inspire you. Part of my inspiration is extreme heavy metal and rock music. Is that why I stud some of my pieces? Probably … and because I love how it expresses how I’m feeling while working on a particular piece. But I don’t think about it too much. I want to let art and creativity be my master. I hope you do too. There are so many great designers that have inspired me, and studs and spikes are just a part of the expression of who I am as an artist, designer and seamstress.
A few more things about extreme studding …
- your hands will hurt, and take beating
- plan on spending hours … at least
- there is no machine for screwbacks … it has to be done spike by spike.
- map out your pattern
- practice on scraps before you start on your piece to make sure the fabric holds the screws
- commit to your vision and don’t stop or compromise
- fight through the pain
- use good tools, and quality products
For screw backs, to me the most important tool is a leather hole punch, and if you can afford to, get a good one. I purchased a lot of crappy ones, and ultimately spent more on those than one good one. I would suggest the Herm Sprenger hole punch It will make your life easier, and save your hands a bit. It can also be difficult to find a quality supplier of spikes, studs rivets etc. at reasonable prices. I’ve pretty much bought from everywhere… from eBay to Aliexpress, etsy…. If you are just starting out I think its better to pay a bit of markup and order from Studs and Spikes they are reputable and pretty consistent quality.
If you have any questions about screw backs, or studding, please feel free to leave a comment and I will try to answer as quickly as I can. Until then, follow your heart, stay true to your path, and create, create, create.
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