26 December, 2015

The Pendleton coat's lining: dare to try!

Whenever I can, I try to use a fun patterned silk to line my coats and jackets.  But for this one, I didn't have any silk charmeuse in the right colour way.  So I grabbed a light-medium  warm grey bemberg rayon during a members' sale at my local fabric store.  Bemberg is usually expensive, so this was a great grab.

When I got it home, it became apparent that the tone of the rayon's greyness was a tad too warm for the grey of the fashion fabric;  more beigey than grey, in fact.  Lesson:  always  take a swatch of your fabric when shopping for matching fabric.  Head shake at self here....

You'd be completely justified to roll your eyes in my general general direction, and say:  get over yourself, woman!  for pity's sake, who looks at lining?!

Well.... I do.  Every time I put the garment on, and then every time I take it off.  And we sew for ourselves, right?

You already see what's coming here:  another dye job, right?  Right!  But this one, with a difference:  rather than just plain stove top immersion dyeing, I decided to try for a pattern.  I've long been reading about shibori techniques, but have not yet dared to try any.  I've never done anything patterned before, in fact. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to attempt a never-before-tried experiment:   whatever the aesthetic effect, the lining will be wearable, since it'll be quite invisible to the world at large. Indeed, a very safe experiment.

To connect with the pattern of the fashion fabric, I decided on a rectangularish-squarish-patterned tie dye.  I concertina-pleated the lining and then tightly tied narrow bands across the pleats.  Both the pleat widths and the tie intervals are about 6", or 15 cm.

I then soaked the tied fabric in a warm solution of soda ash and salt - this improves the dye molecules bonding with the fabric.  Squeezing out the solution, I placed my wet, tied fabric roll on an inverted aluminum cookie sheet in the sink, and squirted dye over it from a squeeze bottle.

I used two dyes:  Rit liquid dye in navy as the main player, and black instant set Colorhue dye as a finishing touch.

After applying the dyes to my fabric roll, I placed it in a glass bowl, wrapped the lot with thick plastic, microwaved for a total of three minutes, waited for it all to cool, rinsed in the sink, then machine washed in cold water with plenty of soap.

I had no idea what to expect.  But I hoped that the navy dye will at the very least cool down the beigey tone of the lining's original colour, and thus bring it a little closer to my conception of how the colour of the lining ought to play with the grey of the pendleton.  And I knew that the result will be rather subtle, being dark navy on top of mid-tone beige. I like subtle.

The result?  I'm delighted!  Tickled!  Amazed!  I got an unexpected, regular yet very organic pattern, with colours that are mainly cool purplish blue on top of the beige.  It also appears that the Colourhue dye reacted with the aluminum pan and gave some greenish-tealish tones to the final result. The edges of the pleats absorbed more of the dye and created dark horizontal lines, while the ties across the pleats (which prevented the dye from reaching in) created soft light coloured vertical lines.

I'll be very happy to have this unusual wacky lining inside my very regularly patterned coat!

It's so easy to say to oneself, I wish I could, but I don't know how, I've never done it, therefore I can't.

And that's why the last word today belongs to Gary Trudeau:

Amazingly, I remember reading and loving this strip when it was first published:
 21st February 1974.  
Even then, its message resonated with me:  dare to try.  
Dare to aim higher!
   Dare to be bold!    
Just do it. 

22 December, 2015

Invisible sewing

We all do it:  sewing that isn't  "pour moi" - isn't "couture" - and typically, isn't (and isn't supposed to be) visible to the world at large.  Stuff that's too pedestrian - quotidien - even yawn-worthy to some - to blog about.  And yet, it's basic and needful sewing that improves our daily existence and grounds us into the world we live in.

For example:  during the last six months I created: 

- a Canadian winter-worthy king-sized duvet.  I started with the shell of a former double-sized duvet, and added 7" wide channels of new ticking on three sides of the original.  Four (yes, FOUR!!!!) pounds of duck down from an Ontario supplier later.... and....  I now have a super-warm king sized down duvet that one simply cannot buy anywhere, no matter the price.....   It's unique... and amazing to snuggle under..........

- four king-sized pillows.  Starting with new pillow ticking from my local Fabricland, I made four king size (20" x 30") cases, and then filled them with a pillow-appropriate down/feather mix from the same supplier.  About 1.5 lbs per pillow:  perfect!!!

New duvet and pillows, and several fleece and cotton pillow cases

- fleece cases for above pillows:  during the last couple of years when I was temporarily bald, I couldn't bear to sleep on a plain cotton pillow:  just too c-c-c-cold!!!  My bald head needed the warmth and softness of fleece.  This year, though I now have hair again, I made a gazillion fleece pillow cases for me and mine.  They make yummy winter bedding..... and perfect little Christmas gifts.

- cotton pillow cases for the above pillows, from a re-purposed cotton sheet:  when a high quality, high thread count fitted sheet unexpectedly developed a rip in one tiny spot, I cut it up into five king-sized pillow cases, instead of throwing it out.  How thrifty of me!

- an instrument case:  if you looked at my quickie blog bio, you might have noticed the word "musician".  Woodwinds are my thing:  flutes, recorders, clarinets.  In this instance, I created a soft travel case for four of my larger (tenor and alto) recorders.  I pieced it from cotton velvet remnants, and lined it with the softest fleece in my stash.  With its multiple jewel tones, the case has a nice renaissance-baroque vibe to it.  Very musically appropriate!

- several simple fleece shells for my small external hard drives, and one for my hard flute case.  A double-padded fleece case for my little point and shoot camera so it's protected from the other denizens of my purse; as an added bonus, it's a nice bright rosy red, which makes it easy to spot anywhere.  Basic black has its place, but a little colour makes for a fantastic exclamation point in one's life.

- re-fitted clothing:  I'm doing this a lot these days.  As an example, my darling mom, who lives not very far away, recently gave me a pair of slacks and two yummy wool sweaters.  We're nearly the same height, but I'm the skinny-minny of the family, so all of her hand-me-overs have to be sized down a lot to fit me.  She pin-fitted the slacks on me, and then basted the new sides and  new (much lowered) waistband placement.  In the case of the sweaters, I reduced the shoulder width by removing the sleeves and moving them in towards the shoulder and then narrowed the seam lines of both sleeves and sides.

- a warm fleece interlining to my coral cashmere coat.  For some inexplicable reason, I left my brain on the bedside table on the day I was creating the lining for this garment, and made it without appropriate winter insulation.  What was I thinking???  nay, I clearly wasn't thinking at all. As a result, though stylish and a favourite to wear, it was never quite warm enough.  So, with winter almost here and the need to wear the coat again fast approaching, I pulled out the pattern, and created an interlining out of a thick poly fleece, using the back, side panel, side front, and top of the sleeve pattern pieces. I then flipped the lining inside out and hand stitched the warm interlining to the sewing allowances of the back neckline, front facings, and sleeves.  In the next few days, I'll also move the snaps over a couple of inches to snug it up a bit.

In other news, I'm already working on my new pendleton check wool coat.  I'll post on that in a few days.

And, since it's almost here, let me wish a very Merry Christmas to everyone!  Most unusually, it'll be a green one here in the capital of the Great White North. 

09 December, 2015

The AA jumpsuit - a successful knockoff!

AA? Sure! except in this instance it refers not to the evil brew, but 'Murrican Apparel.
A jumpsuit isn't the sort of thing I'd ever think of for myself.  And yet....

The backstory here is that my daughter modeled for me a new garment she'd just bought.  And she looked deliciously adorable in it.  So, being that we're very close in size, I tried it on.  Better than that, I examined it inside and out, and... you guessed it:  decided I too could not only wear one but make it too.

Copying a garment typically involves tracing each part, sometimes with cling film (plastic food wrap, whatever you call it these days - the stuff used to be called saran wrap back in the days).  Instead of doing that (with one exception*), I simply sketched the garment and then described its dimensions. In  four pages of excruciating detail.

Then, based on these measurements, I drafted the pattern pieces.

*The exception is the pants leg:  I traced the outside pants leg from waist to hem and the inside leg from crotch to hem.  I still had to describe some of the dimensions, but this gave me a very good basis for the overall shape of the trouser part of the garment.

Pleats abound in this suit, front! back! top! bottom!  So in describing it, I was careful to note not just the placement of each pleat but also its length, depth and direction.

For example, three deep and long pleats on each shoulder - front and back.  Bodice pleats at the waistline.  Four front pleats on the trousers.

Three long and deep pleats at the back shoulders, and shirred back waist. 

Two deep side seam pockets; the top of each is caught in the front waist seam.  

The left side seam is one long zipper, all the way from the armscye to about mid-thigh.  The zipper runs behind the side seam pocket.  Figuring out how to put these things together was quite a trick of mental gymnastics ... the pattern I drafted obviously didn't come with any assembly instructions!

I made a few small but important changes to the garment that improved its fit and overall proportions:

I shortened the bodice by 1 cm and the trouser crotch length by 2 cm, but lengthened the trouser leg.

I narrowed the outside shoulder line by about 2 cm and shaped the armscye. The original had a very unattractive straight armscye that created excess of fabric puddling around the armpits, especially in the back.

I oriented the front pattern pieces so the CF diagonal crossover is on the straight grain (i.e., no bias stretching or rippling) , plus I took out a gape dart, shifted to the bottom of the pattern piece, from the CF diagonal.  This really improved the fit of the CF in comparison with the original, in which the bodice noticeably gaped open. The original was also a bit too long waisted for me and my daughter - we're borderline petites - so that also contributed to the original's gaposis.

There's no gaposis in my bodice at all

I'm just about ready to tackle my new coat now.  So stay tuned...