My first coat

This is a post about a coat, yes it is, but first I’d like to show off the skirt refashion. Altering the chubby Chinese dress turned out pretty well, I thought.

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There were diamond darts in the back, and I simply converted them to one-way darts, and added two darts to the front. I had to do no other alterations, except add a facing. Voila. It seems to me like such a sophisticated skirt. The shirt is McCalls 6649, minus the front vertical darts. It’s made from a sateen sheet. I’m not happy with it because the fabric isn’t crisp or stiff enough for this kind of basic button-up.

Okay, on to the coat, which is Vogue 8841. I came across a substantial length of pink wool crepe at My Social Fabrics and a small scrap of matt-back satin in rose. They were so cheap I couldn’t resist. And so, why not try a coat? What was there to lose?

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Although I didn’t see this as a hard pattern, there were so many firsts that I decided to take it really slow. It was my first time to make a coat, my first time to sew a lapel/collar, first time to make a whole lining, including sleeves, first time to make a back vent. But I took it so slowly that it really began to weigh me down by the end. All that zigzag stitching of the  seam allowances, sigh. I hand-hemmed the sleeves and the bottom of the coat. I started out using size 14, but added a bit to the sides for extra room in case I want to wear heavy sweaters or a quilted vest under it. I had to scale the shoulders and arm holes down to a size 12. And I think I didn’t need the extra at the sides either, but better too much room than not enough I figure.

I’m becoming friendly with the manager of a new fabric store in my hood, Fabrics, etc. Before starting the coat, I went to him for advice about the lining. I knew wool crepe would not stop wind, or hold in body heat, so I wanted a lining that would. I had a length of dark green,exterior microfibre, which I thought would be just the ticket, until I held it against the pink and discovered it showed, and muddied the colour of the crepe. He demonstrated the “blow test” for me. To find out how airtight a fabric is, take an edge, press it against your lips and blow. I’ve been doing it ever since, but I have to tell you I wonder how many other women are doing the same thing?? Hygiene, anybody?

He also showed me a kind of interfacing I’d never seen before. It stabilizes just the weft. He advised me to use it around the armholes and cuffs. I also used it across the shoulders. I used a regular woven interfacing for the satin facing.

I ended up with a 100% oxford nylon for the lining. Because it’s an oxford weave, it’s not as airtight as you might expect nylon to be (but it’s pretty good), but it has a nice drape and isn’t noisy. I’ve very curious to find out how warm this might be. Of course, an airtight lining is only going to do something if the coat closes up tightly. This coat is meant to be held closed simply by a belt.

Well, I made the belt, and I tried tying it around my waist and …. horrors! It looked like I’d put a housecoat on over my clothes. I had a horrible image of myself in curlers, fag hanging out of my mouth, reaching out the front door to bring in the milk. Ugh. Hideous. Now I’ve got to try to wipe that image from my mind! So, I tried making a button hole on a scrap of the fabric, and it doesn’t look good. I need bound buttonholes, and although I’ve read up on how to make them, I don’t particularly want to ruin this coat by trying my first bound buttonhole on it. So I’m going with a snap or two.

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Have I mentioned that I love hats? I have quite a collection, most of which I’ve picked up at thrift stores or yard sales. How could anybody give away that hat?? I love it, but I haven’t had the courage yet to wear it. It’s the kind of hat you don’t wear just to attend the opera — you have to be on stage to wear it.

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So then I tried to make an infinity scarf out of some gorgeous crimson fabric I had — a shiny fabric that used to be a dress, I think, lined with some organza that I also picked up at My Social Fabric. I just don’t understand what happened. I had four pieces of fabric, two of the shiny fabric, and matching pieces of the organza. I sewed them all together,right sides together, end to end and left an opening at the side to pull it right side out. I ended up with a tube ….

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If I were a little thinner, I could wear it as a strapless fully-lined sheath dress. Wtf?? (pardon my language) I guess I’m going to have to take apart one of the ends, turn it right side out and then sew the ends together? We’ll see. If anybody wants to make a strapless sheath, just sew a lined infinity scarf and leave an opening at the side to pull out your sheath.

I’m outta here 🙂

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Refashioning chubby Chinese dress

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This is not a post about a coat. You may have noticed that from the title. My next post was supposed to be about a coat, but I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting to finish the coat so that I can blog about it and this morning when I read the remaining instructions I realized that although I’ve sewn up the whole coat, and the whole lining, there are still about half a dozen steps and they’ll take me daaaaaaayyyyyyys to finish. I’ve been dying to write a post. I realize I could write a WIP about the coat, but it’s kind of too far along for that. So I was gloomily pondering how to write a post about a non-existent garment as I took my daily stroll this late afternoon.

I stopped into a second-hand clothing store, not to buy anything, but who knows they might have something that I might like for its fabric, I thought. It was late afternoon and a staff member was vacuuming around my ankles when I saw a pretty nice looking sweater. I’m allowed to buy a sweater, I figure, since it’s still uncertain about whether I’ll tackle any knitting this winter and if I do knit a sweater, it’s a toss up as to whether it’ll be wearable.

So I was looking for the label to find out what it was made of when I saw a “TOPSHOP” label. I wouldn’t know anything about that, except that I’ve seen my British blogging compatriots occasionally mention “going to the High Street and stopping for a look at Topshop”. I’ve never been entirely sure what that sentence means. So my pulse starting racing a bit because it reminded me that I blog internationally (we all do, of course, but doesn’t that sound just so ‘wow’?) and if only I could write a post about something ….

Well. I tried the sweater (jumper to you Brits) on and it felt fabulous but was too big overall, and too short in front. But it felt fabulous. It’s a great wool fabric. A brilliant colour. And it’s from Topshop. So I began to think that maybe it was charmingly oversize, you know, maybe it was the “boyfriend look”? I bought it. For $12 CAD —  about 4 pounds British I should think — I could wear it indoors when the house is chilly.

Then I really wanted to blog about the sweater, but this is a sewing and sometimes knitting and refashioning blog, not a “what I found at the thrift store” blog, so I considered what I could put with it that involved sewing. Then I remembered the  pair of Chinese dresses that I bought a few years ago at a thrift store sidewalk dollar rack. They were both obviously handmade out of fine British woolens, with China silk linings. For a woman about my height but somewhat chubbier. Possibly never worn, smelling a bit mothballish.

I wondered what had led them to their sad fate in a rack of ragged, worn-out, desolate cast-offs. I wondered if the previous owner had had a few fine dresses made in Hong Kong before immigrating to Canada, but once she got here, decided she’d rather purchase a brand new wardrobe from Holt Renfew. I imagined her in flashy high-end labels smoking cigarettes in an ivory holder at the mahjong tables. Or else she died. Relatives, cleaning out her house, boxed them up and brought them to a thrift store. Either way, there’s a story to those dresses and I didn’t want to leave them to the sidewalk trash. It seemed to dishonour whoever they belonged to to leave them there.

I made a sleeveless jacket out of one of them, but the other has been hanging on a closet hook, waiting for inspiration.

IMG_1016 There’s my cat, finding inspiration. I’ve tried to get her into pictures before, but forgot that all I have to do is lay some fabric on the floor, and she climbs right on board. Way to go, Holy Smoke.

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Earlier in the summer I slid the dress down my hips and discovered the wider tummy part fit my hips, and the narrower part just below the bust fit my waist. I could cut in just above the side zip, right under the underarms, put in a facing and have a skirt. I put it aside for a winter project, and yesterday, with the new sweater under my arm, I pulled the dress off the hook, laid it down and took the scissors to it.

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I haven’t done any of the sewing yet. There’s enough extra at the waist for a few darts, but that, plus making a facing is all I need to do. I still don’t know whether this fabric is black, or blue and black. In my youth I would never have worn the blue of this sweater — I wasn’t really a fan of jewel tones and blue was my least favourite colour. Today I love it. Maybe it’s the greying hair?

I’ve tried on what remains of the dress, by the way, the sleeves and shoulders, and I think that with the addition of a bit of trim, I can wear it as a shrug. Then I’ll have used the entire thing, wasting nothing.

What kind of store is Topshop anyway? We’ve had Marks and Spencer here in Canada, but that’s the only British chain I know.