Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Sweatercoat Chronicles - Chapter 4



After struggling through my first coat I had learned a couple of lessons.

The second (the purple one below) and third were much easier.

I put the ties into the waistband - no problem.

Sorted out the hood issue.

Even added zippers to the front.

Another thing I noted after the first coat and my constant mantra of "Wrong Sides Together... Wrong Sides Together..." is that the long strips on the bottom of the coat should be serged to one another (the short ends) RIGHT sides together. That way, I have a continuous strip - without exposed seams - to attach to the bottom of the coat.

This looks a lot better!

But are these coats too kooky? Does anyone really want to wear such brightly-colored coats? Hmmmm....

Also, the wool bodices are really warm. Definitely too warm for AZ.

Still washing and sorting sweaters. After completing three coats, I changed my needles and thoroughly cleaned and oiled my serger. There sure was a lot of lint in there!

My next coats will be a little more subtle.



Sew along with me - Katwise tutorial available here.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Chapter 3, The "Queen of Hearts"

"Queen of Hearts" Sweatercoat before washing...

This is my first coat. I was preparing for the "Retro Indie" show and wanted to finish in time to present it at the show. Because the show was the second weekend in February, Darlene and I were going for a red/pink/romantic sort of Valentine-ish theme. Since red and black sweaters were easy to find, I decided to make my first coat in these colors.

I started out fine following the first couple of steps in the tutorial and then I was stumped at the "attach the straps at the waistband" step. I wasn't sure HOW to attach the straps so I just skipped that step and thought I would figure it out later. MISTAKE! After attaching the skirt and the bodice it was to late to insert the ends of the ties into the waistband (as I eventually figured out I should do...) so I just made a sash instead. No big deal.... I'll get it right next time...

I should say that I am a very seasoned seamstress with decades of experience. I actually own three sergers. Like Goldilocks I have one that is "too crappy," one that is "too complicated," and one that is "just right." It is a Bernina 1300 DC. I am very familiar with my machine and can practically thread it with my eyes closed. So although I had to monkey around with the tension dials a little, I didn't really have too much trouble getting started on the actual sewing.

I also have a huge drawer full of serger thread and it has been really fun to select the color of thread to coordinate or contrast with the sweater fabrics. For this first coat I chose fuchsia thread. It looks great!

The next step that had me stuck was attaching the hood. Now, I have made plenty of hoodies in the past and I know how to attach a hood, but I was following Kat's hood instruction to "fold it in half and sew it." I sewed it all the way to the brim which gave me a "cone" shape. I know better. I know this is not how to make a hood, but I was following the instructions very literally. So then when it was time to attach the hood, I knew I had a problem. Anyway, I fudged my way through and it didn't turn out too badly but I made a note for next time to trust my instincts.

My hood was very long. Very. Long.

I finished the coat and took it to the show and put it on a dress form. While there I noticed that the hood continued to stretch. It was ALIVE I tell you. By the end of the day I think the hood was about 12 inches longer than it was in the morning. And not only that, but the coat was obviously longer in the front and shorter in the back!

(Although interestingly, when my models came to the house and tried on the coats, they actually liked it longer in the front!)

Anyway, when I got back home I had the crazy idea to put the coat through another wash cycle, Hot water, dryer, everything. I thought it might tighten up the hood and perhaps fix the length problem.

After washing...

Well that was interesting.

The coat did shrink up a bit, but the proportions are the same. Later, I shortened the hood with my serger. The coat is still shorter in the front and now it just has a LOT of lint on it.

Sigh... I am going through a lot of lint rollers....

So - here is what I learned from the first coat:

1. Get the waistband and ties right the first time.

2. Trim the front edges in a way that creates a shorter front.

3. Don't make such a long hood.

4. Buy more lint rollers.

Also, I didn't try to add a zip front or buttons or pockets. I'd like to try them next time.

Want to sew along with me? Buy Kat's tutorial here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Sweatercoat Chronicles - Chapter 2 - The Washing



The second coat I finished was this purple one. It was better than the first one but I still needed to work out some glitches.



Finally at the third coat, I was getting the hang of it. These were getting to be a lot of fun.

My lovely model is Julia's friend, Jeanne.




Anyway - on to "The Washing."

After thrift shopping I will leave the bags in the trunk of my car until I have accumulated "a lot" of sweaters.

When the coast is clear, I bring them all into the laundry room and sort by color, I try to have one load of "darks," (black, navy, brown, etc.) one of "mediums," (blues, tans, etc.) one 'lights" and one "reds." Red dye will run and I just prefer to wash the reds separately.

Kat recommends washing on HOT and it was just against my nature to wash all of those lovely wool sweaters on hot but I did it.

I was shocked to see how much some of the sweaters would shrink. It seems that the washer does the shrinking and they don't shrink much more in the dryer.

In the meantime I read another book about designing with thrifted sweaters and this author recommended washing on "warm." So, I tried that too. And the warm wash didn't shrink the sweaters as much. Surprise, surprise. Also, the author, Crispina recommended a shorter cycle.

Well, the less-felted sweaters just don't work as well. Hot is better for the sweatercoats.

I use regular detergent and a Shout Color Catcher in every load.

It is surprising how much lint is created. First there are little balls in the washer. This is especially true of certain fibers like angora and mohair. I very diligently clean these out of the washer and shake them off of the sweaters as I remove them.

Then I run them through a regular dryer cycle with a Bounce softener sheet. I just like the smell of Bounce.

I clean the lint catcher after every load. But no, I don't save it.

Just want to be clear on that.

Then I sort my lovely clean and fresh sweaters by color into piles in the sewing room.

"Mom the sewing room looks like an episode of Hoarders." (Actual quote from my daughter.)


Monday, February 20, 2012

The Sweatercoat Chronicles - Chapter One - The Shopping



I have been having a lot of fun making Katwise Sweatercoats. You can purchase the tutorial here and try it too!

I have just completed my fourth coat and I thought it would be fun to write about what I have learned.

This is my first coat. It is modeled by my charming and talented neighbor, Julia, Thanks Julia!



Anyway, after reviewing the tutorial - which is a link to a download so you don't even have to wait for the mail - woot! - I headed to the thrift store to look for sweaters. This coat is made entirely from thrifted sweaters. Isn't that great?!?! Recycling at it's finest.

I have never been a thrift shopper. If I did go into a thrift shop it was because someone else wanted to shop and I was stuck. I purchased some vintage fabric and craft supplies once - that was fun. I see all kinds of posts online about shoppers who find great things, but this never happened for me and I considered it a waste of time. So sweater thrifting is completely new to me and I am surprised by how awesome it is.

With a specific target in mind - 100% wool or cashmere sweaters - as cheap as possible - I headed to Goodwill.

Our Goodwill stores have the sweaters mixed in with the long-sleeved tops. So I started with men's because I figured I would get the most yardage that way. I also started with the largest size and worked my way to the smaller sizes.

I discovered that there are not very many 100% wool or cashmere sweaters in AZ! I also discovered that there are TONS of acrylic sweaters and they are always in the prettiest colors. Acrylic can mimic wool or cashmere so I always check the labels. Fiber content labels are often found in the lower side seam of the garment along with the care instructions.

Speaking of labels - sometimes the labels are completely cut out of a thrifted garment. This is because these garments have been donated by retail outlets and they want to be sure that the items are not returned to the store (or seller.) Sometimes the care and fiber tags in the side seam are still intact even if the brand and size tags are missing. Be sure to check!

I bring my reading glasses to the thrift stores because sometimes the labels are faded and hard to read.


There are loads of fiber blends. I trust my instincts on these. If it is 70% or more wool, and I like the color and the feel of it, then I will get it. If the first fiber listed is "acrylic" then it is vetoed. Mohair and angora (rabbit) fur are soft but they really shed. A lot.

I have just purchased my first alpaca sweater. We'll see how it goes....

After visiting a couple of Goodwills I figured out the "color" system. I'm sure I am the last one to know this, but there is a "tag color of the week." Say purple. So all purple tags are half price and on Thursday of that week. purple tag items are $1.00. So Thursday is the best day to shop at Goodwill as long as I am disciplined enough to stick with the "color tags." Which I usually am not....

About every other Saturday seems to be 50% off everything in the store. This is great, but always crowded. I have shopped a couple of times on these Saturdays and it is tough to get a cart. Next time I will be early.

Here in Phoenix, we have another thrift shop called Savers. Savers is great because they separate the sweaters from the long-sleeved tops so shopping is simple. However, Savers is generally more expensive than Goodwill. For instance - a man's cashmere sweater at Goodwill is regularly-priced at $6.99. At Savers it can be $19.99! WHAT??? Forget it. Savers also has color tags and regular 50% off sales. I also have a "membership card" for Savers which entitles me to early shopping on discount days. I did this yesterday. I was able to shop the "President's Day Sale" one day early. Everything was 50% off. But I still didn't get that expensive sweater!

There are tons of other thrift stores and although I haven't been to ALL of them, I have found that generally they all have regular sales and that's the best time to go.

Kat recommends "boiled wool" for the waistband of the coat. I have to remember to check the women's jacket department for these. I almost always forget....

Most important in the thrift store is to sniff every item for moth balls. I have purchased a couple of items that smelled of moth balls and didn't realize it until the items were in the wash. The stench just doesn't go away. Washing the sweater puts the smell of mothballs into the washer and contaminates the entire load. So, the first time this happened, I sniffed out the guilty sweater, threw it away and washed the rest of the load two more times.

Also check your sweaters for holes. I can usually cut around the holes, but this creates waste and I hate waste. Net time I will check more thoroughly and avoid the holes.

Here are some more tips:

1. Colors like black, brown, navy, and burgundy are easily found in the men's department and men's sweaters yield more fabric.
2. If you have time, search the dresses too. Sometimes long sweaters are hung with the dresses.
3. Unusual colors work well as accents. You don't have to use "matching" colors. Go ahead and purchase the odd one. It may be the contrast that your coat needs.
4. Thinner sweaters can be worked into sleeves, hoods, and the bottom rows. Also, felting will "thicken" the sweater.


Of course I have 20/20 tunnel vision when I am thrift shopping. I have never looked at any furnishings, accessories, books, or anything else. I just go straight to the sweaters.

However, one time while quickly breezing through the jackets I spotted a brand new paisley corduroy jacket (Isaac Mizrahi for Target Collection) that I had to purchase for Kaitlin. It was only $3.50. She loves it. That really opened my eyes. There are some great finds at thrift stores!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ken at The Great Wall of China



He is returning tomorrow afternoon.

This means I will be able to purchase his valentine candy tomorrow morning at 75% off.

Perfect timing.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Vintage China and Silk Pincushion



Many times I will see these with the fabric shattered or worse - replaced. Other times an arm is broken.



I was fortunate to find this darling about 25 years ago, in original condition. Not perfect, of course, but pretty nice.

What do you think?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

More Vintage Valentines!

Vintage valentines displayed on a pretty pink birdcage.




Random Vintage Valentine Sentiment:

No one else means much to me,
It's yours alone I want to be.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Romantic Handkerchiefs



Okay, I have a LOT of vintage handkerchiefs. I have pulled out a few of the reds and pinks to share with you.


Random Vintage Valentine Sentiment:

Your voice is like a singing bird,
Sweetest thing I ever heard.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Perfect Pink Lace Vintage Dress and Hat

What does a vintage-loving girl wear on Valentine's Day?

Maybe something like this!



I wish!



Thursday, February 09, 2012

Vintage Red Wool Pincushion Heart




This design is so charming and so current, it's hard to believe that it is vintage!

I made my own version of a stuffed wool heart...



It was a kit from Bird Brain Design. Easy!

Random Vintage Valentine Sentiment:

You really are so very sweet,
So charming and so clever,
I hope you'll be my Valentine
And love me just forever.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

A Gift from Grandma Moe



My precious grandmother (now in heaven) gave me this little cup. She told me it was her "hot chocolate cup" when she was a little girl.

Vintage Valentine Sentiment:

Just a little sunshine,
Just a little yearning,
Just a little heart-throb
Once again returning;
Just a spark of memory,
Just a rosy ember,
Just a little greeting
Saying..."I remember."

I Have Completed my First Sweatercoat!



Thank you Katwise!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Vintage Valentines

Of course this is only a fraction of the collection.




Yes, it is a problem. I am a vintage valentine hoarder!


The sentiments are so sweet on these! (Click to enlarge.)


Monday, February 06, 2012

A Hint at Tomorrow's Featured Collection!



Random Vintage Valentine Sentiment:

I like the little things you do
That happy loyal way of you.
Your tender smile, your words of cheer,
Because I love you, love you dear.

Ken is in Beijing!



My husband is working in China where it is freezing cold!

Meanwhile, here in AZ, the boys are enjoying blue skies and perfect weather at The Phoenix Open.


Sunday, February 05, 2012

Vintage Reds and Whites

Another collection!


Mostly red and white crocheted potholders - the little dresses are my favorites!



Do you love the vintage "Tom's" store display? The little clips were designed to display lunch-sized snacks. So cute, right?



Random Vintage Valentine Sentiment:

I made a little Valentine,
All lovely lace and colors fine,
I thought of you to send it to;
Sweetheart, will you be mine?

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Making a Katwise Sweatercoat



After seeing Kat featured in the current issue of Belle Armoire magazine, I purchased her tutorial on etsy and have started my own coat.

It's been fun!

First there was finding enough wool sweaters at our local thrift shops - then washing and drying them all. (Each coat seems to require about 20 sweaters!)

I threaded the faithful serger - not totally confident that she would sew through the heavy layers, but she is a champ!

Right now I have the bodice, skirt, waistband and two strips sewn along the bottom of the skirt. Not sure how many more I will add...

Then it is on to the sleeves, finishing the front edge and the hood.

These are a lot more work than necktie skirts!

Vintage Rose Tablecloths


Just another vintage collection. So sweet!



Random Vintage Valentine Sentiment:

Maybe you are bashful
But it's the proper day,
To say you'll be my Valentine
And turn your face this way.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Valentine Candy for Stitchers

Over a hundred spools of vintage Belding Corticelli Silk Buttonhole Twist!





Random Vintage Valentine Sentiment:

I am sure that you will be
Safe right from the start,
If you will be my Valentine,
And let me have your heart.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Vintage Heart Pincushions



A little vintage inspiration for Valentine's Day!




Random Vintage Valentine Sentiment:

Though, dear one, thou be far away,
And space forbid our meeting,
Yet in this joyous happy day,
receive my loving greeting.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Vintage Valentine Shadowbox



This project was a lot of fun. The background is gingham-print paper. Can you find the handkerchief? The little square item at the bottom right is a box of vintage valentine seals.

It was hard to get a good photo because of the glass (and the reflection!) but I hope you like it!

Happy February!

Random Vintage Valentine Sentiment:

Of course you may be bashful
But think how much t'would please me
If you would be my Valentine,
And try no more to tease me.