Monday, November 12, 2007

Behold, the Woolly Mammoth (Or, BWOF 8/07, #112B)

It looks like a technicolor sheep exploded in my workroom. The boucle that I’m using leaves fuzzballs and puffs and strands every time I cut it. The bowels of my sewing machine are rumbling with yarnish indigestion.

There was no plan to make this coat. I bought the fabric in August when I visited Kashi at Metro Textiles. It was the end of the roll, a fact that influences many of my purchases. I love roll-ends; somehow I always end up with more fabric for less money. Kashi was also very enthusiastic, although I don’t always understand his enthusiasm. But I agreed at the store, though Mario raised his eyebrows. (That also probably had something to do with why I bought it). When I got the fabric home and spread it out, I was mystified. The orange was more orange; the shiny aqua thread was even shinier. Of the two sides, I still liked the one Kashi said was the wrong side – he said that the darker side was the right side – but I didn’t have a clue what it would be. Kashi said obviously it should be a jacket, and I think he meant something Chanel-ish, but all I can say is that a Chanel jacket in this fabric would make me look like one of those knitted toilet paper cozies that my Aunt Betty handed out for Christmas in the 1970s.

A few weeks ago I was sitting and going through all my old BWOF magazines because I couldn’t get the most recent issue, and this coat jumped out at me. It wandered into my head in conjunction with the boucle, and a small voice said, “It would look like a sweater coat.” I can’t say that I’ve ever yearned for a sweater coat, but hey, you shouldn’t ignore the voices on the chance they might be right.

Best of all, since I’ve just finished fighting two linings for the outfit for my friend Adam’s wedding (otherwise known as the Dress from Hell and its accompanying Jacket from Hell), I was pleased as punch to find out that this has only a partial lining. I had some tan moleskin around that I was planning to donate, since I got over my liking for it shortly after it arrived in the mail from, and decided that the glossy (wrong) side of that would make a perfect lining, and the moleskin side would cling nicely to the underside of the boucle. Voila, coat.

The least fun part was the tie belt. The hard part was realizing that my dinky 12” long tube turner was more or less incapable of turning a 5' long tube. I inserted the turner from the top, snagged a piece of yarn and just kept pushing/pulling gently from the wrong side until I could finally reach the loop. Then I pressed the crap out of it to flatten it. That would be the technical term for leaving the iron on the fabric until you can smell singeing wool (or cooking mutton), but it wouldn’t behave any other way. Of course all that gentle pushing/pulling stretched the belt, so it ended up a nice bit longer than its original too-long length.

I had problems with the collar, partly because the fabric is so chunky. I didn’t use interfacing on any of this coat because it already had enough body and I was actually afraid of losing what flexibility there was. The directions say to interface the collar, facings and the hems, which I can definitely see if you used a normal woven fabric. I didn’t understand what they were talking about re the darts in the front where the collar and the facing meet up, but eventually I did something that worked. I’m not actually sure it’s right, but I couldn’t pick it out and try again because it was starting to fray. And anyway, that’s the bright side of fabric like this – busy, busy patterns hide flaws. I had a suspicion that I was going to have a hard time with the collar, so just to make it more confusing to the eye, I flipped the fabric and did the collar and facing in the wrong side fabric. Which of course means I should have done the belt in the wrong side, but I’m not remaking that tie belt!

The two-part sleeves are possibly the best fitting BWOF sleeves I’ve ever run across. They needed minimal easing, and between my wonderfully malleable fabric (notice I’ve changed my tune) and the joy of using my new pressing ham, I got a shaped sleeve in no time at all. Minimal shoulder pads, just to ad a little more shape, and then I sewed in the partial lining.

Turns out I would have preferred a full lining. By leaving it only partly lined I had to put seam binding on all the visible seams, of which there are many. I didn’t remember until I put binding on the pocket bags just how much I hate seam binding, and at that point I had several miles of the stuff left to go to cover all the raggedy edges below the lining. But of course there wasn’t enough fabric left to make a full lining, and I decided to just to suck it up and bind the seams. It took 7yards, and I cheated and didn't do the seams that were hidden by the lining.

I topstitched the collar and the entire front length of the coat. It’s not visible because of the colors of the fabric, which is fine, but I wanted it to cooperate, and it wasn’t, and because I hadn’t interfaced the facing, it was a little soft and the line between front and facing kept blurring. This way it’ll stay put but won’t look like I sewed it there.

I managed to finish this in time to wear it to NYC on Saturday for PR Weekend. Several of the lovely ladies complimented it, a few petted it, and Deepika hauled her tired bones upright in a Starbucks to try it on. Seeing it on her made me realize I had to cut about a foot off the belt. The best PR Weekend addition to this coat came from Pacific Trims, which is a store I could spend days and weeks in without a repeat buy. Mimi pointed out this amazing brown velvet ribbon trim with pink and orange beading. How perfect (and perfectly ridiculous?) is that? I knew I had to put it around the sleeves, and it became one more reason to ditch the belt – I only need so much going on near my middle at the same time.

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