Sunday, April 13, 2008

Almost Ready...

Between work, the internet outages and sewing, there hasn't been much blogging, knitting, or blogging about knitting going on at my place. Instead I'll discuss on my latest sewing WIP, which I expect to finish sometime this week.

This is my cloak for the medieval festivals I expect to attend in the spring/summer/autumn.
There's LOTS of them in Germany in general, and many of them within an hour and a half's train ride from where I'm living. I suspect this is due to the large number of well-preserved medieval castles in the Lower-Saxony and Hesse region. So my husband and I can buy a relatively inexpensive one day regional train ticket, go away and come back all on a Saturday! Sweet! I also think a cloak is necessady because of the variability of the weather here. Last year May was sunny and hot, but July was cold and wet. You never know, so I figure I'll be prepared just in case.

Now for the details...
The pattern... Simplicity 5794. This pattern gives 3 options, where view A (click on the view link) looks sort of Victorian, view B (the one I made) looks more Renaissance/Medieval because of the long pointy hood, and view C looks like an ordinary cloak. As much as these things can be considered ordinary these days!

My opinion so far? It certainly looks the part, but good fabric choices help. I will get to that in a minute. I am not a fan of the hood, even though it looks great in principle, it is difficult to wear.
It's very full at around my face and due to the weight of the material it flops off very easily.
The only way the hood would look good worn is to have it perfectly arranged in a mirror and stand extremely still so it doesn't fall off. I would only wear it up if it were raining, and no one looks good sopping wet! I also find it flops about when it's hanging down due to that fullness around the face. Not perfect but I can live with it. Others have this issue also as can be seen

I also find that the pattern leaves something to be desired in the finishing details. Personally I HATE it when a commercially lined hood has the lining puff up when the hood is worn down because the lining was not secured to the hood anywhere except where the lining was seamed to the hood (around the face region). It BUGS me beyond belief. This cloak suffers from this problem. I fixed it by catch-stitching (by hand) the lining to the seam where the lining was sewn to the hood. Problem solved. And my catch-stitching was reasonably invisible.

The final finishing step for this cloak is to sew the lining to the cape ALL THE WAY AROUND. side edges and bottom edge. No way I'm gonna do that! Typically the cloak material and lining material are different fabrics which will stretch differently over time. Instead I hand-hemmed both lower edges, and when I sew the lining to the cloak, I will only sew at the neck edge and side edges. If you look really closely at the pattern envelope, view B (the only visibly lined cloak on the package) you can see that the lining is a bit bunchy at the lower edge. My modification avoids this problem!

The fabrics... I bought the cloak fabric on eBay. It's a wool from Austria which was listed as a
light weight olive wool. The price was decent, and in the color range I wanted (green/brown/gray) so I bought it. Then it arrived.... It's heavy, scratchy as hell, and more of a forest green than an olive green. And it's textured! It has short wool pieces sticking out like a corduroy fabric! There was no close-up shot for the fabric on eBay. Grr...
But after looking at it for several days, and observing how it would wear by looking at one of the more well worn edges, I decided it would age nicely so I went for it. And after draping it on myself I decided it had the right weight/drape to be a decent spring cloak. I have grown more and more fond of it as this project progressed, but I really cannot picture this as a suit wool, which is how it was marketed. Now about the itchyness. Wow. And I have I high tolerance for scratchy wool. So I decided it needed to be lined. Off I went to the department store in search of a coarsely woven historical looking fabric.

I found loads more linen than last year, at a cheaper price than I paid last year in nicer colors too! Grr! But still 10 euros (or 15 bucks) a meter is too much for a cloak that needs a heck of a lot of fabric. Cotton? As expensive as linen! I resorted to looking in the imitation linen section and came away with a polyester-rayon-linen blend for 4 euros (or 6 bucks) a meter. It looks and feels nice, dosen't have the wrinkliness of linen but still looks like it. Now I have one question for the fabric retailers here; who wants to purchase a dressmaking fabric that looks like linen, is coarse like linen, but is 100% polyester? I know I would sweat buckets in it! I am bummed by the lack of and high price of nice natural fiber fabrics here.

Now for the edging/trim. I have seen quite a few commercial cloaks out there with embroidered motifs on the hem and side edges... like these. They are gorgeous, and an awful lot of nice things can be done with embroidery... by anyone but me! I can't embroider well!
Instead I decided to needle-felt designs on the thing. Needle felting? I never needle felted before last weekend but it's very easy. Go ahead and google it. I made some templates of Celtic designs (the prominent side edge shown in the photo was sketched from the Book of Kells) by making a pencil drawing on graph paper (can't draw either), scribbling in the lines to be thicker, then cutting all the way around the design. I then laid the template on the fabric and gently shook baby powder over the template. I lifted it up, and the unpowdered areas were a transfer of the design. Then I took some unspun wool pulled out into long strips and plaved over the design. With a few stabs of my felting needle, the design was loosely secured, and with repeated stabs, well, you get what you see. Needle felting is easy and fast! If anyone wants more detail on this process, I will document the creation of the matching bag in detail later this week, but ya gotta ask! Now all I have to do is finish the edging and sew in the lining...