Tag Archives: fashion

Renovating a down coat

Finished!  Even though it's not really cold I'm determined to wear my renovated down coat.

Finished! Even though it’s not really cold I’m determined to wear my renovated down coat.

Twelve years ago I bought an ankle-length, black, Calvin Klein down coat at my favourite store, Winners.  It was a good price, $100, but it was a bit of a splurge since I didn’t really need it most of the time where I lived on Vancouver Island.  I got it mostly because I was doing a winter rail trip from Toronto to Vancouver and I thought it would be a perfect, light-weight coat for those times when you want to get off the train in the middle of the night on some lonesome, frozen prairie siding,  just to experience the cold.   A few years later I moved to Maine and it became my coat of choice for the morning walks with the dog in winter.

Drool stains the lower part of the original waterproof/breathable fashion fabric.

Drool stains the lower part of the original waterproof/breathable fashion fabric.

Fast forward to this year.  The coat still keeps me warm and is like walking around in a big sleeping bag but the outer fashion fabric was worn at the cuffs and

 no amount of washing seemed to be able to remove the dog drool on the sleeves where I get playfully grabbed or from the waist down where leaning occurs.  

I had two choices: replace the coat with a new one or make a new fashion fabric outer shell.  llbean makes a good substitution, a calf-length coat for $200.  I would recommend to a client that option since renovation is labour-intensive.  A new coat would have a removable hood, not a feature I really require, but would not have the extra tall collar that makes my coat perfect for wind-chill times.  I can pull it right up over my nose.  With a hat I’m toasty-warm.  And my coat is longer with zippers at the bottom of the side seams for walking ease.  I bought some dark brown polyester rain coating and started.

matching the new front placket with the old

matching the new front placket with the old

I opened both side seams from sleeve cuff to the zippers.  I have made vests from down jackets and re-covered vests as well so the optimum would have been to be able to remove the original fashion fabric, make a pattern from it and replace with the new fabric.  Alas, the fabric was sewn to the down casing making the channels so removal was not an option.  I made paper pattern pieces for fronts, centre back, side backs, side fronts and sleeves and assembled the pieces attached at the shoulders and draped on my form to see how the fit was.  I had to adjust a bit at the armhole, then I pinned the new outer shell to the coat at the collar and at all the channel stitching.

Pinning the new dark chocolate brown fabric on the partially deconstructed garment

Pinning the new dark chocolate brown fabric on the partially deconstructed garment

I decided to quilt the coat by hand for more control and so that I wouldn’t lose any loft with additional seaming.  I used some variegated silk thread warp ends that I got from the Sanderson Weaving Studio  on Granville Island.

The colours vary from taupe and dull purple to tan and pale green.  I started with  a sleeve, then quilted the adjacent front, then the other sleeve, it’s front and lastly the back.  I embroidered a decorative stitch around the pocket openings to strengthen that stress point.

While it was apart I replaced the walking ease zippers.  The originals never opened easily.  The main two-way separating zipper I replaced several years ago with a bigger sleeping bag-like zipper.  I also added reinforcement at the hems in the form of iridescent drapery fabric.  Hopefully that will contribute to longevity at the stress points.

Even using two thimbles my fingers are sore from all the hand sewing.  Except for the front zipper (which was basted then sewn by machine) and , the side seams, the new fabric was attached by hand for control and to maintain down loft.

Even using two thimbles my fingers are sore from all the hand sewing. Except for the front zipper (which was basted then sewn by machine) and the side seams, the new fabric was attached by hand for control and to maintain down loft.

It’s hard to tell from some of the pictures but the new improved coat is a dark chocolate brown.  The hand quilting  allows plenty of loft for the down.  I embroidered geometric lines and arrows down the front placket to obscure the places that covered the snaps.  I was going to heavily embroider around the lower zippers but decided they look fine without the extra embellishment. Besides, I was ready to be done and my fingers were sore from all the hand-sewing, even using my thimbles.

Hand pocket detaIl.  I wanted to reinforce around the pockets because there is so much wear there.

Hand pocket detaIl. I wanted to reinforce around the pockets because there is so much wear there.

Writing about this makes it all sound so easy, but making a pattern from a garment so loosely shaped is not easy.  Cutting out is always the worst part and I had a moment of wondering if I had enough fabric.  Usually I buy too much but this time I had just the right amount.  The bit of stretch in the new fabric worked well to help the new outer shell conform to the garment.  Overall I am really happy with the result.  Now if only the temperature would plummet again so I can wear my new brown down coat.  Looking good, because in my world, brown is the new black.

Styling in my renovated Calvin Klein coat.

Styling in my renovated Calvin Klein coat.

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Yay! Winter! and knitting! and new camera coolness!

New snow on rose hips

New snow on rose hips

Already this winter is better than last.  Just after Christmas we got a couple of dumps of snow, nearly two feet of powder, good enough for snowshoes.  Best of all it stayed cold for a while, but then , that dreaded warming and quite a bit of the lovely snow melted, alas.

Winter is  my favourite time of year.  No need to have excuses to be inside listening to music, creating, designing, or escaping in a good book with a cup of tea in front of the fire.  Meanwhile the necessity of dog walking means that I still get out twice a day, one early morning, before breakfast, down the road, and the other, afternoon, in the woods, up the hill.  I sense that, when I’m out at this time of year, that there are not a lot of others out, braving the weather.  Too bad for them; for me the feeling during the day is like late at night, tranquil, when most of the world is asleep.

Last week Murphy and I did a weekend road trip to Bonney River, New Brunswick to help my cousin with some computer things.  I brought my snowshoes but I couldn’t really let Murphy off the leash because the ice on the Magaguadavic  River (those who know call it the Magadavy) and the smaller Bonney River where we walked in the woods was not reliably frozen, so I trudged for miles in my big Sorel pacs.

THe preferred boot for slogging through two feet of snow, rated for -40.

The preferred boot for slogging through two feet of snow, rated for -40.

 It’s a good workout to walk behind a dog through the snow.  From Calvin’s we walked partway down the road, looking for a place to get off and into woods.  There is a good place a bit more than a mile or so toward St. George where the old railroad used to be, but in the winter there is not a place to park so we were limited to the nearby area.  I found a ATV trail at the back of a blueberry barren that looped to the near side of the Bonney River opposite the old railroad bed.  I almost let Murph off the leash but the moose tracks had me worried.  He kept stopping and gazing off into the deep woods and I had visions of him long gone on the trail of a cranky moose.  Not a good mental picture.
Murphy meticulously examining the tracks of a moose

Murphy meticulously examining the tracks of a moose

The not quite frozen Bonney River

The not quite frozen Bonney River

The Saturday of our visit was snowy all day.  I had hopes that there was also snow three hours south but it turned out to not be.

Sunday warmed up enough that under the snow was boggy melt, enough that Murphy could drink the water pooling in our footsteps.

My helpful data entry gig lasted until noon on Monday, then a last lunch and we headed back as the temperatures were going down, again.  Home in Maine, most of our snow was gone, the driveway a sheet of ice and so cold that my little woodstove could barely keep the temp inside above 15C.  Upstairs my thermometer read 9C, inside one morning.  A hot water bottle  helps keep my feet warm.

The morning walks are a challenge when it is this cold.  My extra long scarf wraps around my face but that means I can’t wear glasses because they steam and then ice up.  I wear long fingerless gloves inside my heaviest mittens, wool socks inside my felt pac boots, full length down coat and two hats.  Thus garbed, I can walk for hours if I want but my vision is a bit blurry and the two hat thing is not my best look, so I decided to make a heavier proper earflap Fair Isle hat.  I found a good pattern on ravelry.com, The Juneau Fair Isle Hat, by Jenny Dolan that I used as a starting point.  I liked the I-cord edge and I’ve done enough two-stranded hats and mitts that I thought I could come up with a decent, warm hat.

Meanwhile, I bought a new book at my LYS (Local Yarn Store, to non-knitters) about using up stash yarn.   A Yarn Stash, is like the the loot in the secret caves of the thieves that Ali Baba followed.  I have heard there are knitters who buy only enough yarn for a project at a time, use it, then get more.  Weird, I say.  I have yarn that I bought in the 70’s (I think that ‘s the oldest) and have accumulated enough that I could probably knit my stash for a couple of years (doing nothing else) before I needed more.  But there is always something more.

My LYS is the fabulous Heavenly Socks in Belfast, Maine.  It’s a dangerous place for yarn lovers.  I have the same affinity for yarn stores as for fabric ones.  (reference my post: A change agent, lamenting change, May, 2011).  Colour, texture, possibilities.  Best of all, most things you knit can be unravelled and knit again, changed, mistakes corrected.  It’s a most forgiving art and my default activity when I  have a problem to solve in another arena.  Knit for a while and suddenly the how of constructing a pocket that works from two sides, or some other problem, becomes evident.

The stash-busting book had a tip that I wanted to try.  There is a newish item in the yarn stores called a Zauberball that has long colour changes that fade into each other.  Zauber means magic, and the book suggested making a magic ball from coordinating colours of yarn, creating a variegated ball that would stripe fairly regularly.  I had just finished a fabulous pair of socks with yarn from Good Karma Farm so the small leftover ball was the inspiration.  I don’t have lots of sock yarn so I doubled anything that was fingering weight or sport weight to match the knitting worsted weight that is most of my stash.  I lined up the colours on my desk then started roughly measuring lengths and knotting them together.  The beauty is that if you knit plain, all the knots will go to the back.

I made a BIG magic ball.  First, to try it out, I knit a scarf I saw on Ravelry, Wingspan Scarf.  Of course, my yarn is thicker than most so mine is a bit like a long collar.  Because it is garter stitch the knots show everywhere but I sewed a shell button on every knot, used big shell buttons so that it can be buttoned up and beaded the pointy ends.  I also did the yo, lace-ish version; helps with the buttons.

Angora, mohair, alpaca, and a bit of acrylic chenille in olive, purple, taupe and gold.

Angora, mohair, alpaca, and a bit of acrylic chenille in olive, purple, taupe and gold.

It’s kinda old man, 1940’s colours but I like it.

Then Hat or another pair of mitts?  I went for the hat so I could stop the two hat madness.  I knit the hat in 2.5 days, using my magic ball and natural worsted from Briggs and Little  in NB.  I started with the ear flaps and figured my gauge from them, calculated how many stitches to add and unlike the pattern, I moved the earflaps back a bit.  I also made the earflaps longer because they didn’t seem long enough by themselves, so now they are super long.  Because of my stitch count I used a 16 stitch repeat pattern that was 15 rows for the main pattern but it was getting too deep so I started decreasing with the pattern, lost six more stitches in the plain rows then did regular decreases with a tree pattern.  Someday I’ll make a plain hat (Hunh!) I finished the top with a flower, purple with green mohair leaves.  the flaps and a head band are lined with purple stretch velvet.  I paired purple mohair with a purple worsted for the cord edge and made a loop and button closing at the points of the earflaps.  The flaps are too long to have ties.  And I think flaps always look cooler, loose.

Somehow I have once again channeled my inner Mongol horde ancestry with my take on the ancient warrior of the steppes hat.

I used the timer on my new camera for the first time today.  What a revelation!  It has a face recognition feature.

Modelling my Mongol Warrior, Fair Isle Hat

Modelling my Mongol Warrior, Fair Isle Hat

The countdown to snap doesn’t start until you look at the camera.  How amazing is that?  No more rushing to get in the pic .  I wanted to take a picture of the back and had to look at the camera before I turned around.  The only hard part is figuring out where to stand so that I am in the frame.  Murphy participated as well because he was jonesing for his second afternoon walk and wanted to make sure I did not forget.

Hey, Supreme Leader, remember that patrol thing we do every day?   You walk your loop and I occasionally surprise you on the trail, remember?  Then there's cookies....... isn't that NOW?

Hey, Supreme Leader, remember that patrol thing we do every day? You walk your loop and I occasionally surprise you on the trail, remember? Then there’s cookies……. isn’t that NOW?

So now I have a super warm hat and scarf that is sort of matching, and still enough magic ball to do another…… and that didn’t even dent the stash, so  much for stash-busting.  Still I  put the idea to good use and learned more about my camera.  Now to stash bust my fabric…… that might take a decade!

MY chaotic studio; in response to’ I’ll show you mine’ by Pattern Pandemonium

I dream of a warehouse space with lofty ceilings and huge cutting tables, bins for fabric sorted by colour, type…….

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What I have is less space than the house I sold several years ago;  the back of the garage.  Skirt in progress is on the near chair.  Pieces for a vest are on the big sewing machine table and possible blouse fabrics on the far chair in sight so I can think of them, subliminally.

Yet another view of the surfaces, disappeared under fabric.  I admit I have a fabric addiction.  I could sew for years without ever buying another yard…… except that there is always another interesting design or texture that suggests something wonderful.

It’s hard to tell, but I recently did a re-sort of my attic storage area.  This is just what can be seen from the door.  Visible floor is an improvement.  One of my interior lights is broken so I will have to get an electrician here soon……

So, back to the machine and the gypsy/steampunk  skirt I’m working on.  Then I will dare to cut fabric; always the hardest part.

Aside

garb(e) \ gärb\ noun  1. obsolete: fashion, manner  2. a: a style of apparel  b: outward form : appearance Origin:  Middle French or Old Italian; Middle French garbe graceful contour, grace, from Old Italian garbo grace. First use: 1599 garb transitive verb: to cover with or as if with … Continue reading

And so it begins….

garb(e) \ gärb\ noun  1. obsolete: fashion, manner  2. a: a style of apparel  b: outward form : appearance

Origin:  Middle French or Old Italian; Middle French garbe graceful contour, grace, from Old Italian garbo grace.

First use: 1599

garb transitive verb: to cover with or as if with clothing  First use: 1846

Apparel, array, attire, bedeck, costume, clothe, invest and robe are just a few of the words we use to describe the  activity we undertake every day (unless we style  ourselves ‘naturalists’ the latest euphemism for nudist).  What we wear is a simple way to express oneself without lifelong commitment to any one image.  I have ever been a bit envious of those who had a singular style;  in my mind they never stand in front of the closet jammed with a rainbow assortment of skirts, vests, jackets, pants, dresses in various lengths and weights and agonize about what to wear, having nothing just right to wear.

That dilemma grew and became a further complication for me in my what-to-wear quest fourteen years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a modified radical mastectomy.  Suddenly I was no longer bilaterally symmetrical and my clothes hung differently.

The ironic part is that I’d only just started feeling comfortable with my boobs and then The Highlander, as I called my surgeon, lopped one off.  (‘There shall be only one!’)

The fortunate part is that having developed a fashion maven demeanour and a clotheshorse propensity I have always made most of my clothes.  This blog will, I hope, explore my journey to design for  the one-breasted figure, consider what makes a woman womanly and hopefully be an example of one who is comfortable in her own body.  I feel that the Amazon Warrior Look can be a powerful statement of triumph over tribulation.  (Legend has it that the Amazons cut off the breast on their dominant hand side to better handle their bows.)

And so it begins……..