Sometimes you’re given a day. It’s always a normal day for me, routine in every way. I still get up at 7 am. I still commute. I still know that terrible things are happening, I know that people hate and fight and die. It just so happens that on that perfectly usual day, the past doesn’t hold weight and the future doesn’t scare me. Everything in the world is golden, a birch’s leaves falling all over the place. Dying, maybe, but oh, so brilliant.
Every now and then* I get a little over-ambitious.
*all the freaking time
Last month my ambition led me to think that I should absolutely, completely, whole-heartedly sew a coat for my son for the winter. I had about a yard of dark gray wool in stash, and I pictured an adorable little double-breasted dress overcoat. Instead, after about half an hour of Googling, I settled on this Little Goodall pattern.
Can I tell you the saga of this coat? Let me tell you the saga, please please, please. There are a few useful tips at the end, but if you want the full feeling of living through punchline after punchline of sewing mishap, read happily onward.
First of all, I impulse-bought the pattern.* I called Joann’s, and yes, they had it in stock, and they set it aside for me. I swung by on the way home from work, and also picked up the contrasting colors for the fox’s face, and a flannel lining fabric (not pictured above for reasons that will become obvious), and buttons and thread based around the gray wool. I also picked up some wool batting, because I thought it would be smart** to quilt some extra layers in there for extra warmth.
*I know, I know. Never impulse buy! **trying to be smart results in more crafting-related deaths*** than any other single reason ***project deaths, that is
Then I got home, put the new fabric in the wash, laid out the pattern, and realized that I didn’t have enough gray wool. Like, not nearly enough gray wool. I also realized that the smallest size of the pattern is 3T, and, as you may or may not know, my kiddo isn’t even 2 yet.
OK, well, we’ll roll up the sleeves and he can wear it for more than one winter, I thought. That’s smart, it’s going to take a lot of effort to sew a coat. And he can layer sweaters underneath. It’ll be fine. Right? It’ll be fine?
Lack of outer fabric was a problem, though, a true-blue serious roadblock. I know our Joann’s doesn’t carry any 100% wool that I could use for the outer layer (and my knitter’s snobbery was kicking in. Wool is the warmest. I wanted all wool, not 10% wool felt). I hopped online. And realized that it would cost another $40 to buy and ship the kind of fabric I wanted. I love my son, but an $80 coat? Even spread over a couple years’ use and counting in the fun I would have making it? It seemed like a little much.
So I put the project in timeout (this happens a lot in my studio). And then I had a brainwave – I got the gray wool from Lancaster Creative Reuse a few years ago. Maybe I could get some more wool there!
Lo and behold, LCR came through for me. They had several options, in fact, all under $5. I settled on the thicker, camel-colored, herringbone weave you see in these photos.
Now I had gray thread, gray buttons, and lining fabric that didn’t match my camel-colored wool.
Back to Joann’s. Return the buttons. Return the thread. Buy the right buttons. Buy new thread. Buy three times as much thread as you will need, because you think the quilting will use a lot (spoiler alert, it doesn’t). Excavate a new lining from stash (super cute doggies, no?).
Then let’s line up all the layers (outer wool, thick felt interfacing, batting, and lining fabric) and realize oh cuss, just quilting these layers together will max out the height of the foot. What am I going to do when it’s seam-time?
Well, I’ll figure it out, I thought. And started to quilt. This turned out to be a secret stroke of genius for keeping my edges roughly even. There’s actual useful piece of information #1: quilt your layers! It’s good!
Let’s skip ahead a few days to the actual seaming: yes, the many layers are a bit of a problem. I get the body constructed, though. I even get the hood put together, the eyes and nose appliqued on, and the hood attached to the body. Tip #2: go ahead and use the longest stitch length your machine has. There’s no other way to go when you’re dealing with this much stuff.
Setting in tiny sleeves, though? Not gonna happen on the machine. I sewed them in by hand. This took days. But it is sturdier than you might think. I doubled my thread and used a back-stitch, put on pretty music and took my time.
The lining is added separately, at the very end, and I decided there was simply no way I could manage that on the machine, either. Plus, I always meant to learn how to do more than whip-stitch things. Here before me, I had the perfect opportunity to improve my slip stitch.
OK, OK. Let’s get to the very last punchline. I did finish the coat, over the course of a month. It is super cute. It is also super big. And last year’s down winter coat, the one I was sure would be too small? The one I was in such a rush to replace? I decided to put it on S, you know, to make myself feel better about all that work.
The day, almost the hour, after I received my new birthday tools, I put them to good use: steaming the swatch for my Knittin’ Little submission.
And then remember when I made Greg that new pair of jeans? A huge part of why they look so good are my new birthday tools. That, my friends, is a new iron to replace the travel iron I’ve been using since 2004. And a sleeve roll to iron on top of (perfect for sticking in jeans legs, too, when you press your seams).
I super love them. Good tools make everything easier. I couldn’t resist sticking them on some lovely hand marbled paper and styling them up like queens and kings.
What’s your favorite tool? Do you also harbor an unhealthy love for your iron?
Remember when I told you I had a new pattern in the works, my first submission for a magazine (the super adorable Knittin’ Little)?
Here is the yarn – Sueno from Skacel. It’s extremely springy & soft, with a 20% bamboo viscose, and the rest superwash wool (perfect for Littles!). I enjoy knitting with it in the extreme. I have a hunch it would make beautiful cables, too.
There is a little problem with the colors as a group – have you spotted it yet?
Yep, the blue and purple are actually pretty close in value. It’s a lot more obvious in grayscale.
My design incorporates these two shades into a stranded colorwork band, and the two colors just aren’t different enough to look good. When you get yarn support from a company, you don’t always have full choice of what gets sent to you. This yarn, while a very pleasant surprise in terms of how it feels and knits, meant I had to do a bit of trouble-shooting in order to meet my submission deadline.
Turns out, I love that part, too. An excuse to sit on the couch and knit for six hours straight? And watch movies? And think about stranded colorwork variations the whole time? It’s my jam.
Oh, wait? Are you curious about the solutions I came up with? I hate (love) to leave you in suspense, but… I’ll tell you soon. Same time, same place.