This weeks challenge at Sew Weekly was to do something using inspiration from a book or story we read as a child. Below is the post I did, along with construction details and a couple extra pics at the end : )
Fabric: A whole pile of sweaters from Salvation Army
Pattern: Katwise coat pattern
Notions: Not a one!
Time to complete: 11 hours?
First worn: August 2012
Wear again? Yes !!!
Total Cost: Pattern $9.00 Sweaters – didn’t keep track. Around 14 sweaters, a couple were free, some were $3 each, some less…best guess would be around $30.00 or so.
Originally I didn’t even consider the Prydain series by Llyod Alexander although that was one of THE most influential sets of books I read as a kid. A close family friend was very into kids books so I had a steady supply of the best of the best. I was a voracious reader, I’d read anything in front of me even at an early age I remember reading Life magazine and the newspaper just because they were there…doesn’t mean I always understood what I read but I read : ) And if it had won a Caldecott or Newberry award we owned it thanks to Jerry. There were LOTS of books that I remember, most of which I still own like “Harriet the Spy”, “Are you there God? It’s me Margaret”, “Caddie Woodlawn”, most everything by Roald Dahl and the Oz books (my dad owns ALL 80 some-odd of them!). Of course there was also my beloved Judy Bolton mystery series but I already channeled her in the button challenge.
So what to choose? Harriet and Margaret wore red hoodies and jeans and t-shirts respectively. Blah. I briefly considered making a Professor Diggins outfit from “Professor Diggins Dragons” but that was striped pants and a blue suit coat and that seemed only slightly more exciting than a red hoodie. I kept coming back to the works by Lloyd Alexander – he not only wrote the Prydain series but also “The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian” and was a regular contributor to the children’s periodical “Cricket”. I immersed myself in his written world of the land of Prydain (most likely Wales) in the Dark Ages. Gwydion, Taran, Fflewddur Fflam, Gurgi and Princess Eilonwy became my second family. Keep in mind that this was 1969, YEARS before Harry Potter, this was my equivalent. I wanted to be like Eilonwy and at one point I convinced my mother to make me a “princess dress” (in pink and white since princesses wear pink…right? What princess, in her right mind, who tromps about the kingdom fighting evil wears PINK??) but she was HORRIFIED at my desire for a pair of “waffle stompers” to complete the outfit (hiking boots!). She MADE me wear patent leather shoes and as far as I know ONE picture exists of me in my outfit, on a slide that is in a box somewhere in a closet and if I have any say in the matter it will never ever see the light of day again…ever…
So what would my 10-year-old self LOVED to have worn back then? I may be a girl but I’m a fairly tough girl so I’d want something pretty but ultra cool and not fussy. At a small get-together at Sue’s a couple months ago Barbara said to me “Have you heard of Katwise?” No….. “Oh, you should check her etsy store out. She does really cool stuff with old sweaters”. So I came home, typed in “Katwise” and as the images scrolled across my screen I fell in love : ) I decided to buy her “pattern” just because she is SO COOL and I wanted to see how she works her particular form of magic. Her “pattern” is a 71 page document that made me smile from one end to the other. When she puts items up for sale on her etsy store, about once a month, the 50 or so items sell out in 12 minutes. THIS is what my younger self would have DROOOLED over because my older self is smiling from ear to ear : )
And that’s what I did. I made an Elf Coat.
I’ve tried to make note of how long each step took in case anyone else wants to try this. It took me about 40 minutes to find the sweaters, I may have lucked out, and then I spent the next 4 hours washing and drying everything! When Kat says she strongly recommends using wool she’s not kidding. She says things like cashmere can be fine, cotton isn’t bad, silk maybe and never, never EVER use Acrylic. LISTEN to the woman for she is wise : )
Most of my sweaters are wool. There are a few cashmere and a couple cotton thrown in because I liked the stripes or the color (red). All are prewashed and thrown into the dryer for two reasons. First, washing and drying felt the wool, which makes it nicely stuck together. Second, unless you’re single and living alone, at some point someone else may grab your clothing to wash trying to be “helpful” so you might as well shrink that crap out of everything now. I washed everything together and it all came out GREAT! The base of the coat, the “top”, is a felted Merino wool sweater with a designer label. I cut up Ralph Lauren sweaters, Banana Republic, Valentino, Dana Buchman, Calvin Klein…
Everything was overlocked together, no machine sewing at all! The skirt panels are made from the sleeves, the bottom bands took 2 sweaters each for the black and grey and one enormous men’s sweater for the red band. There are 31 skirt panels, because I followed her instructions to the letter! Next time I make one of these, and there WILL be a next time, I’ll cut that down to about 25 or so.
And I have a pixie hood : )
It’s a *little* longer than I originally planned because I decided I liked that long striped panel. I REALLY wanted to make some Kazz pompoms, one for the bottom of the hood and another few to do a headpiece but I had no yarn of the right color : (
It took about 2 hours to cut everything out and another 2 hours to overlock the skirt pieces together. I giggled the whole time. The top took a whopping 10 minutes to cut and add the striped button panel. At the time I thought I was being clever but it’s really one of the few elements I’m not crazy about. It looks like some yuppie sweater trying to escape. Meh. In the future I’ll do a couple things different with the waistband that the skirt attaches to. First, I’ll underline it in canvas. It’s carrying a lot of weight and needs reinforcement. Second, I’ll make it smaller, and not add as many panels to the skirt to cut down on the weight. Third, I’ll add ties to the back so I can cinch it in. It “grew” to be about 6″ too big. And the red cashmere sweater that I so carefully saved to be the base of a red/orange sun coat? I’ll use it for skirt panels. It just wont be strong enough to hold the skirt. I also want pockets. I’m going to add a pixie pocket this week but next time I’ll insert pockets in the skirt as I sew the panels together.
The skirt does swirl well –
I really wanted to put together a gif with showing the swirls but didn’t have time. My daughter did do a short instagram video that, when she’s back from canoeing, I’ll see if I can post on my blog. As long as I don’t look like a dork I’m happy to share.
We took a little trip into the Berkeley hills for the photos this week. I wanted foggy/woodsy/magic and we got it, although my daughter had a brush with poison oak a few weeks ago so anytime we saw it she’d jump back like it was a striking snake : ) The misty quality to this pic is real fog –
Some of the flora around this log is poison oak, the really pretty red leaves : ) My daughter was horrified I went down there but gamely took pics! I just wanted to play in the trees…
I found a better tree to climb. And you’ll notice that I’m once again wearing the red and black patent leather Doc Martins. I finally got my boots : )
Now I can be Princess Eilonwy with my kick-butt cape/jacket. Here is one of my prized possessions:
Jerry got my copy of “The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian” autographed by the King himself : )
IF I took out the “cat factor” I could have cut several hours from this project time!
STUART decided that what I was doing was THE MOST FASCINATING THING EVER.
This is him sitting on the pattern as I’m trying to cut the skirt panels out.
And this is him curled up with his favorite grey cashmere sweater! I ended up unable to use that sweater in the coat since he WOULDN’T MOVE! I figured he could sleep on it an hour or so, that he’d eventually wake up and wander off but no…he slept on that thing for SIX hours! Why didn’t I move him? Does the phrase “Let sleeping cats lie” ring a bell?
No? Move a sleeping cat, a cranky sleeping cat. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
How’d that work for you?
It was easier to let him sleep : ) I don’t think the coat suffered for it and I ‘ve got a grey cashmere sweater for another project!
When you’re hiking around the hills like we were you are bound to see some native fauna. This slug was about 8″ long and spotted like a leopard. I’m not a big fan of slugs but this one was kinda cool.
The Gatsby picnic is coming up! Plans are being made for one fabulous day : ) Next up is the Back to School Plaid challenge and I’ve got one cute pic for inspiration.