Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Care of your Boiled Wool

We have some lovely 100% boiled wools at The Drapery for this first time this year. The care of these fabrics was a bit of a mystery to us as well as to you, so we've done some investigation.

Will my boiled wool shrink if I wash it at home?

More than likely, yes.

That surprised us, too. One would guess since the fabric is called 'boiled wool' and has a felted, non-fray texture, that it is pre-shrunk and would not shrink further. Not so - please be well aware! Here's what we found:

We tried three kinds of gentle washing:
- Front loading machine wash 'wool cycle', 30 degrees, with wool wash liquid, rinse, spin.
- Gentle hand wash, warm, with wool wash liquid, rinse, press dry in a towel.
- Front loading machine wash 'wool cycle' cold, with wool wash liquid, rinse, spin.

In both warm washes (machine and hand) the wool experienced 10 - 15% shrinkage in length. There was little to no shrinkage in width.
The cold wash showed slightly less shrinkage (5 -10%).

The shrinkage did not cause any noticable difference in texture or drape of the fabric.

Will the fabric shrink further if washed again?

You're probably wondering then, if you pre-wash before cutting and sewing, will your garment be safe from further shrinkage? Well, we tried this for you too.

On a second (warm machine) wash, our fabric seemed to shrink a teeny bit more, but was easily flattened back to previous one-wash length. So while we wouldn't recommend frequent washing, it seems a pre-wash can save you from large unexpected shrinkages later.

Overall, here are our suggestions for boiled wool care:

 - Boiled wool, like most wool fabrics, naturally repels a lot of dirt and odours. So if you think your garment needs cleaning, first see if you can brush away marks, air the garment outdoors or hang it for a while in a steamy bathroom. Gently sponging marks would also be a good step to try before resorting to washing or dry-cleaning.
- Occasional dry-cleaning should be fine (e.g. once a year).
- If you wish to be able to wash your garment at home, buy 20% more fabric than you need, to allow for shrinkage. Then pre-wash in the gentle, wool-friendly manner you intend to continue. Dry flat and steam iron on wool setting.
- Do not wash in a top loader, which will agitate the fabric too much.
- If you need to wash your garment, try a gentle cold-to-lukewarm bath (an actual bath would be good where it can spread out and not need moving about much) with a specific wool wash. Avoid agitation or wringing. Carefully rinse and roll and press in a towel to remove excess water. Lay garment flat and gently pull into shape, and leave flat to dry. Once dry, iron carefully on a wool setting with steam.

Please note of course this is intended as helpful advice rather than any guarantee of exactly how your own boiled wool will behave. We hope your wool gives you years of warm, natural, low-care pleasure!

- Jane & Fiona xx

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Pattern review: Blueprints for Sewing - Geodesic top

We've had our eye on Boston, US-based pattern company Blueprints for Sewing for a little while now. We've admired the designer wearing her newest pattern the Geodesic top, on Instagram for 'Me Made May'. Then when our weather took a turn for the wintry, we were pushed over the edge into action!
The Geodesic is inspired by the architectural form of a Geodesic Dome, and you can find out more about it on the Blueprints for Sewing website here.
 The pattern is only available as a PDF at the moment, but may be in print by the end of the year. However it's not an arduous cut & paste affair, with only 20 pattern pages.

I made up Version 1 in our NZ French Terry in Oatmeal. (Please excuse the self-photography, done in the interests of producing a timely post!)
 On front and back the triangular pattern pieces come together in a neat central point, and if you are using a fabric with obvious grain or pattern, this adds to the pieced effect. It's a bit like quilting, actually!
The top is very fabric-efficient, with the mid-size ranges taking just 1.1m of a 160cm wide fabric. NB: my fabric had no apparent shrinkage and I just squeezed out all my pieces, following the clear layout in the instructions. If you suspect you may have shrinkage or would like a little extra 'just in case', I'd recommend you buy an extra 10 - 20cm.

I wavered over the size to cut... the pattern is designed for a B-cup (I'm a D) but it's meant to be a relaxed fit. So although there is a clever Full Bust Adjustment explained in the instructions, I thought I'd just go up a size and have a slightly oversized look, which I hoped would not swamp me because of its cropped length.
I'm really delighted with the result, but it has ended up a bit roomier than I expected. Mind you now I look at the sizing again I really did make a full size too big, sigh, I think I just live in fear of restrictive clothing!

If I made it again (and that's highly likely), I would go down at least one size (possibly two?) and make the full bust adjustment. I would like a narrower fit in the body and sleeves, but if I omitted the FBA it would definitely ride up at the front, as this larger one already does just a little.
One particular note on the fitting is that the hem band does not really pull the bottom of the garment in at all, unlike the neckband and sleeve bands which are stretched to fit. If I'd made a more fitted size this would probably not matter but in this oversized version, it makes the bottom a bit 'swingy' looking. In a perfect world I'd spend a bunch of time unpicking this hem band, shortening it and reatttaching it. In reality? Yeah nah, I'll just wear it and love it as is!

As with all knit garments, the choice of fabric will have a lot of impact on the final fit. My French Terry is quite stable lengthways, but has a reasonable amount of stretch across the width. As it's 100% cotton with no elastane, it has no immediate springy recovery. You can see the result of this in my finished garment measurements compared to those stated on the pattern: almost spot on for length (19.5"/20") and a bit larger for width (49"/45"). So when I make this again I'll certainly weigh the fabric factor against my sizing decision.
 My construction was done entirely on the overlocker. There are clear directions given for using a regular machine, which would work just as well.
Seam allowances are only 1/4 inch, which is not unusual for a knit pattern, but requires some care, especially with all the points coming together. I found this little corner, below, that had escaped stitching at one of the underarms. Rather than messing about further with the overlocker, I just used a zigzag on my regular machine, to take in a bit more of the seam at that point and ensure everything was secured.

The French Terry, by the way, is just delicious... even the name 'Oatmeal' makes me feel all snuggly.

PATTERN: Geodesic by Blueprints for Sewing
FABRIC: NZ 100% cotton French Terry in Oatmeal, 1.1m (I'd recommend a bit extra for shrinkage or cutting mishaps!)
SIZE: G/H, no alterations
COMMENTS: Highly recommended! An ingenious, fun-to-sew pattern for a super-comfy top with great visual interest. The instructions are top-notch, and even include valuable basic information on sewing with knits. I'd even recommend this to a beginner. It's important to follow the construction method carefully, including the pressing of seams, because this helps the joins come together accurately.
SPECIAL NOTES: Consider fit of hem band, and fabric requirements, as previously noted.

The Geodesic would be fabulous in any of our French Terries, or our Japanese Wool Blend Knits.

- Jane & Fiona xx

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Pattern Review: In The Folds Rushcutter Dress

Ah, black dresses. So hard to photograph! After three different attempts to take photos plus Photoshop tinkering, this is what we have... and I think it's time to step away and call it done. I'm sure you get the idea.

The Rushcutter is the first pattern release by Emily of In the Folds, and it's a good 'un. A round necked, raglan sleeved (or sleeveless) swingy, a-line dress with options for a belt and back fastenings. But the real star of the show is those pockets. Enough room for life's necessities and still room to keep your hands warm. So good!

 Overall this dress was a pleasure to sew. The directions are clear, with photos guiding you every step of the way. The drafting is spot on, to - there's plenty of nerdy seams-matching-up-nicely satisfaction to be had here. Both pattern and instructions have been thoughtfully prepared with lots of attention to detail, making this an appealing sew for an advanced beginner. There's stacks of information on Emily's website as well, like skill scales and sizing charts. But there's also a potted/condensed set of instructions if you'd rather not have your hand held.

The yoke and sleeve construction is really interesting. There's a little dart on the shoulder which gives the dress a nice fit, (kind of important in a dress like this which is so roomy everywhere else). The piecing around the neck is lovely and would lend itself nicely to a bit of colour blocking should you wish. (Apologies for just using the phase colour-blocking, argh). 

This Rushcutter was made from our Hemp/Organic cotton in black  which holds the a-line really well. It's a light-medium weight fabric with a little spandex (the stretch is surplus to requirements for this frock, but it's a nice stable fabric so made no difference whatsoever here). The sleeveless summer version would be nice and drapey in a light voile or rayon.

From the back. Looking super creased after a day in the shop. Keeping it real!

  Side view. Pockets!  

I'm a big fan of Emily's size designations: she uses letters A to K, so no meaningless numbers or value-laden words. The size range is great too, from  bust measurements 76cm/30" to 131/51.5" (bust is the only fitting point you really need to worry about with this dress - it's very a-line)

I fell in between sizes, but measured the pattern pieces and saw they included a lot of ease, so chose the smaller of the two. Toward the end of this make, Emily suggests you try the dress on before inserting the zip. At this stage I really wanted to get it finished so foolhardily forged ahead. Next time, I'd take an inch or two out of the back before inserting the zip. It's not unwearable, but it is VERY roomy - however for an Autumn/Winter frock that will always be worn layered, I've decided that's a-ok.

I made the round neckline a little more boat-shaped by taking out an extra 1.5cm at each shoulder and scooped down the front of the neckline about 1cm because it was feeling very high on my short neck. I also cut an inch off the length of the dress and took a very deep hem because I'll almost always be wearing this with leggings. I also put in a lapped zipper instead of an invisible one. Small, personal preference stuff.

The Rushcutter pattern is available here as PDF download only at this stage, but it does come with the very handy copy shop option.

- Fiona + Jane xx

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pauline Alice Ninot Jacket in Garnet Wool

The adorable Ninot jacket pattern by Pauline Alice has been calling my name for a while. When this 100% wool in 'Garnet' arrived in the shop, I'd found the perfect match.
 (Long project = long blog post so grab a cup of tea!)
Making a jacket can be quite a process, and I wanted to 'skill up' and take my time with this, learning some things along the way. Welt pockets and bound buttonholes were a first for me. The instructions for these were quite good, although I could have used a few more diagrams. I took my time and used a lot of hand-basting to hold things in place.

The buttons, by the way, are gorgeous vintage ones from Our Beautiful Pieces on Unley Road. Quite a dangerous place to visit for the vintage button lover!
The jacket has a lovely swingy back pleat. There's an optional back button tab across the pleat, which I made. To be honest I ran out of buttons so didn't attach it! I'm still toying with the idea of removing the sleeve tabs - which are purely decorative - and putting the back tab on.
 During construction, I found it useful to set up a 'project basket' for all the pieces, and I kept the cut fabric pinned to its paper pattern pieces as long as possible to help identify them. On fabric like this wool I find tailor's tacks (loops of contrasting thread) to be the best way to mark things like buttonhole and pocket placement.
The collar construction was a little different to any collar I'd made before. First there was a steaming process to shape the under-collar.
 Then the under collar is attached to the jacket body, and the upper collar is attached to the neck facing (that goes inside the jacket) and the whole collar/jacket and collar/facings are sewn together around the edges. This leaves the neckline edges of under and upper collar pieces unattached to each other and a whole bunch of untamed seam allowances inside there.
I also wrestled with the corner where the collar joins the neckline.
There's a lot of fabric there, because at this point there's also a shoulder yoke seam joining in the fun. Eek! I snipped, and graded, and snipped, and graded, and pressed, and pressed, and eventually topstitched everything into submission. At this point I was wondering if any of the steam-shaping of the under collar would have survived all this brutal handling. It looks fine, but I would suggest if you have a different, favourite method of attaching this style of collar, that perhaps you try that instead!

I turned to the wisdom of Instagram sewing friends, and was informed by the lovely and highly accomplished Nicole that this style of collar attachment is common in vintage patterns (which made me feel kinder towards it). She recommended I press the neckline seams open, try the jacket on, fiddle around with the collar until I was happy with it and then do a bit of 'stitch in the ditch' at the neckline seam to join the upper and under collar together. This worked well; I hand-stitched it for accuracy and easier unpicking if necessary.
I'm not a big fan of shoulder pads on me, but I felt that a little support in the sleeve head and shoulder could help the jacket sit well and look more tailored. I found this post about sleeve heads at Gertie's New Blog For Better Sewing and used the pictures and descriptions to fashion two light shoulder supports from quilt batting and bias-cut cotton voile. They're attached to the shoulder seam allowance and provide the subtle, non-bulky support I was after.
I must confess now that I did not make a muslin (shame!) and had taken an educated guess at my sizing. Figuring the swingy shape of the jacket was fairly bust-accommodating, and wanting to fit my narrow shoulders, I used my upper bust measurement to select my size. The shoulder fit is great but I hit a little snag with the sleeve linings. The sleeves are quite narrow and I had chosen a cotton lawn for lining, which is not very slippery and has zero 'give'. The result was sleeves that were difficult to put on and a bit uncomfortable to move around in. Once again Nicole came to the rescue by recommending stretch satin as a sleeve lining. Arm movement restored!
Actually I wouldn't rule out replacing the rest of the lining with something slinkier, because I think it would make the jacket sit more smoothly. Much as I adore this Cotton + Steel lawn and the way it looks inside here, it is a bit 'grippy' for this semi-fitted style of jacket. See below? A bit rumpled? Lesson learnt, and not unfixable.
 Also, I probably ought to have made a full bust adjustment. Will She Ever Learn. 

Eye roll at self.
Nevertheless, I love my new jacket and I'm looking forward to wearing it a lot this winter, and for many winters to come.

PATTERN: Pauline Alice Ninot, View A plus button tabs of View B

FABRIC: 2 metres of 100% Wool, Garnet. I wholeheartedly recommend this beautiful wool. It takes a steamy iron like a trouper, although for the first time I found myself wishing for a clapper to hold in that steam and flatten it, because the wool just wants to bounce right back.
Lining: Cotton + Steel cotton lawn (very pretty but not ideal), stretch satin from DK Fabrics.

SIZE: 40, no adjustments. NB: I am 163cm/5ft3 and anyone taller or with a longer torso may wish to consider lengthening the body of the jacket.

COMMENTS: A lovely style and a pattern that encourages you to take your time over details like optional bound buttonholes, collar steaming and hand-finishing of the hems. The instructions are not quite as thorough as my only previous jacket, the fabulous Grainline Cascade, but with the help of the most excellent online sewing community, I made it to the finish line. Hooray!

Other recommended fabrics: woven wools & wool blends from our selection here (not boiled wool or knits), mid-heavy denim, twill or canvas here.

- Jane & Fiona xx

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Fabric Friday: sturdy 'Old Navy' 100% Linen

Welcome back to our occasional Fabric Friday series!
This 'Old Navy' mid-weight 100% Linen is an absolute beauty, and since our first bolt of it sold out in no time, we nabbed all the remainder from our supplier. It's unlikely to be repeated since it's a remnant from clothing manufacture.
'Old Navy' refers to the colour  (in case you're wondering whether it's related to the US clothing store, it's not). It's really a deep blue-ish toned charcoal.

 The 'right' side of it has a bit of polished sheen, while the back is matte.

Old Navy Linen is a pleasure to work with. It's extremely tightly woven and stable so all your pattern pieces will match up beautifully. The thing to watch out for is that the tightly woven linen has little to no 'give'. Bear this in mind if making a garment that requires a little breathing room, e.g. with a fitted waistband! (Speaking from experience....)
 This pair of Deer and Doe Chataigne shorts has been worn, washed and ironed so you can see how the linen relaxes a bit with wear.
It creates beautifully crisp edges and is very well suited to women's and men's garments that require a bit of weight and structure, but can also handle a bit of casual linen rumpling. A-line or straight skirts, jackets and blazers, wide-legged pants, overalls and pinafore/apron style dresses would all work well.

Being a manufacturer's roll end, this fabric is priced extremely well for such quality and classic style. Grab some before it's all gone (or we decide to keep it all for ourselves)!

Old Navy 100% Linen
150cm wide, mid-weight
in store and online

- Jane & Fiona xx