Checking In

Hi! Hello! I’m still here! So tell me…how did I manage to skip the whole month of November? Sigh. Somehow, between the Thom’s damaged knee, dreary weather (not inspiring for photos), the Making Space Project and sewing with my granddaughter I just haven’t felt like there was anything concrete to post about. We haven’t been able to walk very far, though the knee is finally improving so we can go on some of our usual grocery trips. But not much more than 4 kilometres every few days which is a lot less than our usual 30-40 km per week. And yes, I’m noticing the difference in the old body! Hopefully we can up the distance over the next few weeks if the weather doesn’t foil our plans.

It’s not as if I’m not getting some exercise though, if you count deep house cleaning as exercise. I certainly feel it, especially in my hands. I’ve had to rest my poor sewing and knitting fingers as a result so not much progress in that area. I have so many UFOs! They are starting to weigh on my mind since I usually prefer to keep the numbers down by actually finishing things. So not happening right now. Oh well. I can pretty much guarantee that most of them will get done eventually.

Making Space has been going quite well anyway. We are very satisfied with the cleaning, decluttering and small changes we’ve made so far. We finished the bedroom, hall linen closet, bathroom and are mostly done in the kitchen, which has been the most time and energy consuming room. Every single cupboard and drawer has been gone through and sorted. It took days and days! The counters, windows and walls have been washed down. The microwave, stove and fridge have been thoroughly cleaned. We’ll be getting a new replacement window installed on Friday. Now all that’s left is the floor to clean and the kitchen chairs reupholstered. Unfortunately the chairs are going to be a big deal! There are 4 chairs, not all the same but all antique oak. The last upholstery job was mine and included replacement padding and my own handwoven fabric. It actually lasted quite well, apart from damage caused by our late lamented cats. But it’s way past it’s best before date now! And I don’t think I can talk myself into weaving the fabric this time unless I can’t find something suitable to purchase. The foam padding will need replacing as well. I need to see if I can hunt down the original paper patterns that I’m sure I kept from last time. Once I have the materials, the actual upholstering job isn’t difficult.

As for the granny/granddaughter sewing project, it’s done! Yay! The Beast, as we began to refer to the duster coat, took since July to finish but it turned out so well.

Wearing her grampa’s Barmah hat.
Showing off the back.
Testing the twirl factor.
I think she’s pretty darn pleased!
I made her a tag to celebrate her accomplishment.

The pattern we used is McCalls 7644, a cosplay pattern by Yaya Han. The envelope only shows the shorter length coat but you can see the details better on the line art.

We made the longer View B version.

This is a very nicely drafted pattern and includes A/B, C and D cup sizes. There is some tailoring, with shoulder pads, sleeve heads and lots of topstitching. The instructions are quite detailed and it all went together pretty easily (apart from one mistake that was my fault but luckily fixable). The main fabric is a lovely warm dark brown wool/cashmere but I really think we could have done better on the lining fabric instead of settling for rayon but didn’t see anything else that appealed. Oh well. I was rather glad I had made the peacoat for Thom last winter/spring so that some of the tailoring I learned was fresh in my head. This one isn’t quite as well-armoured but there’s still plenty of interfacing so it should hold its shape. If I was to do this all again (noooo….) I might add a back neck facing and a centre back pleat in the lining which this coat does not have.

This was definitely a joint project! By the end it took both of us with me supporting the weight and granddaughter feeding The Beast through the sewing machine. Apart from the weight issue though, her little mechanical Brother machine held up really well to this coat. There was quite a lot of hand-sewing as well which she actually quite enjoyed. I think she learned a lot but was happy to have me step her through and show her what needed to be done or leap in myself when things got difficult. We’re both glad it’s finished but a little sad about not having our weekly sessions! I think she’s planning to ask her grampa for a woodturning project next. But not until after the Holidays. It takes her an hour and a half each way on public transit to get here and I’m not surprised she wants a break.

It’s already getting dark at 4:30pm. The weather was sunny and fairly cold for a good portion of November. We spent a lot of that time raking lots and lots of leaves and it was nice to have them dry instead of soggy. Now it has warmed up somewhat and gotten rainy which is more like our usual end of autumn/early winter weather. We shall see where it goes from here.

Without Further Ado

I’d like to present The Peacoat Project:

The man asked for a peacoat like Jimmy Perez on the murder mystery series “Shetland”. Neither of us had any idea how much work this was going to be! Nearly a month and about $200 worth of materials later, his dream became a reality. He gets his coat while it’s still cold enough to wear it and I get sore fingers and a whole lot of new appreciation for tailoring. My goodness it’s a lot of sewing! Of course it’s partially my own fault. I couldn’t just follow the instructions that came with Thread Theory’s Goldstream Peacoat pattern could I? No, I had to do it PROPERLY! Hah.

I’ve done coats and jackets before of course. Back in the day I didn’t realise that the interfacings were so important to the shaping of garments and help to give it body and firmness that you can’t get otherwise. I was always a little – or a lot – disappointed with my makes. But this time I decided to learn all the heavy-duty stuff, like hair-canvas, chest shield, sleeve heads, basting, taped roll-line, hand-made shoulder pads, steam shaping, hand-stitched buttonholes etc. This is Hard Tailoring, in both meanings of the term. Thom helped me pick out the really nice wool blend Melton cloth in a dark olive green and had a blast choosing the coordinating quilting cotton lining featuring a cabin in the woods, canoes and a whole lot of forest animals. Then there was all of the interfacings, threads and buttons too. Lots of parts to put together. Oh, and if you’re ever wondering – Melton cloth is woven and then fulled, brushed and sheared so it sort of looks like felt but has an underlying woven structure. Unlike felt which is just fibres interlocked together randomly. Melton does have a right and a wrong side. The public (right) side is slightly less fuzzy and you can just barely see the woven threads whereas the wrong side is more felted-looking. I don’t know if it’s critical but I cut the coat out with-nap, everything facing one way, just in case it showed in the finished garment. I don’t think that was necessary though.

It was kind of daunting, I’ll admit. I started off with a lot of “analysis paralysis” and dreamed of sewing all night long for a week! I did a lot of research in the two tailoring books I bought and also online photos, tutorials and videos. Once I settled on how I was going to proceed it went a lot better. Just concentrating on one part at a time. All of the hand-sewing was actually quite soothing and much easier than when I had to wrestle the beast under the sewing machine! It’s approximately one-third machine and two-thirds hand-stitched.

So now that it’s all over, I’d like to thank my cast and crew of this endeavour: Janny the sewing machine, Loopy the serger and of course Debbie Double my dressform without whom this would have been impossible. Even if the coat didn’t actually fit her shoulders very well she held up under the pressure! And speaking of pressure, Chi-Long the steam iron and the rest of the pressing tools did their important part too:

Iron, sleeve board, ham and clapper/point presser

And let us not forget the little things that made the sewing a whole lot easier:

Small but necessary sewing tools

Clockwise from the top-left. This project was the first one where I needed to use the small wonder clips when pins were just not adequate. My wrist pincushion now needs replacing with a better version (I stabbed myself right through it a few zillion times) and I need to sort my very fine pins which tended to get bent in the thick coat fabric. It was fun to use this vintage silk thread for basting. It just pulled right out when it was no longer needed and didn’t leave a mark if you ironed over it. My little Clover leather thimble is the first thimble I’ve ever had that I actually use properly. It’s comfortable on my middle finger, stays on (unlike metal ones) and I forget it’s there after awhile. Judging by the wear it also saved my fingertips! The wee box of Thread Heaven is a treasure since it’s not being made anymore. It has a different effect on thread (preventing tangles) than the wax (strengthening). All depends on where the thread needs to be used. And the water-soluble marking pencil holds up under ironing but disappears with a little dab of water. Turns out I like it (and it’s pink and blue siblings) better than other markers of which I have quite a few. I can tell because it keeps getting shorter. Not shown are the several different hand-sewing needles that I made copious use of daily.

Today I’ve been taking a much-needed sewing break in order to get all of my notes finished. I cleaned up the studio all ready for the next project. I already have 2 more warm pullovers cut out for Thom using the patterns I’ve done before, the North Star from Love Notions and the Finlayson from Thread Theory. Yes, I’m sewing for him again! He’s definitely sew-worthy! And not to worry, I’ll be back to selfish sewing and other things too before long.

You’ve seen this before but…now it’s finished!

Quick Catch-Up

Still plugging away at the Goldstream Peacoat. It’s been a big job! Bigger than I expected going in anyway. I’ve ended up hand-sewing a whole lot more than I originally planned both because I have more control over the stitches and because it got pretty darned hard to get this beast under the presser foot! I ended up having to move a bunch of stuff off my sewing table because it all kept ending up on the floor as I wrestled the coat around on the sewing machine. I have to say that Janny the Janome held up very well to this thick fabric plus layers of interfacing. As long as I could get the thing under the presser foot it would sew through it. I only ran into an issue (bobbin thread nests) as I was doing the topstitching on the fronts and around the collar. Probably because I was turning the whole coat around with the needle down. Not perfect but done.

Here’s a couple of teaser photos so you can see the lining. Debbie Double is wearing the coat inside out!

Coat lining with inside pocket
Back facing with my label

Lots of critters in them thar woods, eh? I edged the lining with flat piping made from the sleeve lining fabric and I think it looks pretty neat. Now I’m sewing the sleeve linings which are the last pieces to assemble and sew in. By hand. Of course. All that’s left after that are the buttonholes and 3 buttons. Also by hand. Of course. It’s still going to take a few more days before this thing is completed. I’m kind of ready for it to be finished now.

One other thing I did was to begin a new pair of socks to try out my wee ChiaoGoo Shorties. They work quite well for me, at least on this simple basic sock. I used some DBG Confetti yarn that I totally love because it wears really well but is now discontinued. Boo-hoo. Self-striping socks are so old-fashioned now, aren’t they? I still like them though. What I don’t like is the stitch marker! The thickness leaves a bit of a ladder in the knitting which you might be able to just detect there above the pink marker. Changing it out for a thinner one now. Besides pink is my least favourite colour.

Self-striping socks on a 2mm tiny circular


Deep Coat

Oh. My dears. I am down and dirty with this Thread Theory Goldstream Peacoat for Thom. This beast is armour tough! Seventy-gabillion layers of interfacing: hair canvas, fusible weft insertion. Roll-line stay tape. Lining. Basting. Tailor’s tacks, for crying out loud! I feel as if I’ve been cutting out pieces for an eon. Fusing…

Let me tell you right now – do not believe interfacing bolt labels that state “No need to preshrink”. They are very wrong.

See the white paper showing? That’s how much the fusible interfacing made the front shrink.

I don’t think it was the fault of the dark olive green melton cloth fabric (a wool blend) because I ran it through 3 separate steam cycles in a hot dryer to preshrink it. When I fused the whole front pieces with the weft-insertion interfacing, they shrank again approximately 1/2” in length and 1/4” in width. I can work around this but luckily it didn’t shrink any further after I added another layer of fusible hair canvas to the top and front sections and yet another “chest shield” piece to the shoulder area. Whew. Major construction zone here! I also fused bias cut hair canvas to the collar pieces but they only shrank about 1/8” in every direction. I haven’t completed the front facings yet but I’m expecting some shrinking there too. Note to self: next time preshrink all the damn interfacing in hot water first! Roll in a towel to remove extra moisture and air dry. Easy peasy, right? (Coulda-shoulda-woulda-didna!) I ended up using 3 metres of the hair canvas and over 2 metres of the weft insertion in this thing. This is not a trivial part of the construction obviously. However, notice how I managed to avoid pad stitching? Fusibles are useful that way.

So even though I’m feeling as if I’ve spent forever on this coat so far, I’ve only gotten this far:

It’s backless!

Yes, Debbie Double is wearing Thom’s peacoat. Well, the front anyhow. We’ll pretend she’s not adding any chest bumps, okay? He actually has almost the same chest measurement as I do. Heh. I have wider hips though! The collar is just sitting there. And I pinned one of the pockets on to check the placement. I had to imagine the roll-line placement where the collar and lapels fold back since this pattern didn’t include it. I pin-basted the under collar on and tried it on Thom to see where it naturally broke. I marked both the fronts and the collar and hope I got it more-or-less in the right place. It looks a lot stiffer here than it will be after the seams are stitched and pressed. I hope. I really do want this coat to have some shape anyway though. No slouching on my watch!

It’s been a really hard job figuring out how to do all this “correctly”. I guess not traditionally correct because of the fusible interfacing but functionally correct. After all this work I’d like this peacoat to look good, fit properly and wear well. Hopefully that’s not too much to ask?

Meanwhile I haven’t accomplished much else. The socks are up to the heel turns finally. The Grey Coopworth has nearly a second bobbin full. Haven’t touched the Deciduous Pullover or the Fernwood yarn at all. The weather has gotten a little warmer and some of the snow has melted in the rain. We had sun today too which helped a lot in the studio to see what I was doing. I almost didn’t need the lights on. Walking outdoors isn’t pleasant right now in the sloppy mixture of ice and slush so I don’t feel too bad hanging out inside sewing instead. More Goldstream Peacoat details coming soon.