Question: In the old movies, pilots wore snug-fitting leather hats with straps hanging down in front. The straps, of course, were for securing under the chin after the pilot said, "Contact!" Alas, I lost the one I've worn for years and now need a replacement. Can you help?--L.M.
Answer: The people at the Banana Republic call the aviator's helmet illustrated here "a menacingly true reproduction of the notorious Red Baron flight helmet in soft, glove-weight lamb's skin." Available in brown only, this $59 helmet has a cotton flannel lining. Sizes include Small (6 7/8), Medium (7 1/8), Large (7-7 3/8) and Extra Large (7 1/2-7 5/8). Snoopy would love it. To order, write to Banana Republic, Box 7737, San Francisco, Calif. 94120.
Q: Are there any special secrets to sewing leather? Please print any information that might be helpful.--J.Q.
A: Leather skins are sold by the square foot, and there is a formula for converting pattern yardage to square feet. It works this way: There are 11 square feet in a yard of 45-inch fabric. If the pattern calls for 2 yards of 45-inch fabric, multiply two by the conversion figure of 11 and add 15% for piecing. This means you will need a little more than 25 square feet of leather. If the pattern gives yardage for 35-inch fabric, the conversion number is 8 3/4. Do not use 54- or 60-inch widths for estimating leather. The most common tools needed for sewing leather include:
--Interfacing. Lightweight hair canvas is good for collars or turn-back lapels. BanRol is best for waist bands.
--Glue. Rubber cement is the old favorite for gluing seam allowances flat on conventional seams, but it is messy and difficult to remove if some dribbles on the right side. Sobo or a glue stick are safer.
--Double-face tape. This is used for holding the lapped seam edges. It must be placed carefully in the seam allowance. You cannot sew through the tape.
--Paper clips. They take the place of pins for holding seam allowances of conventional seams. Hair clips also work.
--Needles. You'll need No. 14 leather needles for the machine and possibly No. 16 to do top stitching. A package of assorted glover's needles makes any handiwork quick and painless.
--Markers. On the wrong side of the skin, use anything that shows clearly, even a ballpoint pen. On the right side, check and recheck that anything you use, including tailor's chalk, can be removed without a trace. A marking wheel is helpful.
--Thread. Mercerized cotton, silk or long-staple polyester all work.
--Pounding block. A block of heavy wood is used to pound seams and seam intersections flat. They also are called clappers and are sold in good notions departments. If you can't find one, wrap the head of a hammer in several layers of heavy cloth. It will serve the purpose.
These tips all come from Rosalie Lemontree's now-defunct Fashion/Sewing Newsletter.
Q: I am a nurse looking for panty hose with cotton soles. As you can imagine, I'm on my feet a lot and have heard that cotton soles are much easier on your feet than nylon. Can you help?--D.R.
A: Andrew Barry Associates, 565 Potter Road, Framingham, Mass. 01701, makes white panty hose and knee-highs with cotton lisle soles. They're called Sweet Soles, and they're available in cotton-crotch panty hose in three styles: Lycra support styles with reinforced toe at $5.95, Lycra support in the panty part only for $3 and queen sizes with sheer legs for $3. Knee-highs are available in sheer nylon with reinforced toes at $1.50, Lycra support with reinforced toe at $2 and queen size with shadow toe at $1.75--each, of course, with cotton soles.
Postage and handling charges are $1.25 additional.