Tag Archives: housecoats

Sewing to Exhaustion

I have a confession. I was bad. I sewed yesterday—pretty much all day. This doesn’t happen very often—in fact, I think this is the first time in months that I’ve sewed to the point where I was tired of sewing. 

We had planned to spend the day at the river, but Syo wasn’t feeling well, so I wound up dropping Osiris and Tyo off and heading home with the saddest child to ever miss out on a day of fishing (Osiris caught his first fish last week, so it is officially Fishing Season chez Isis). The upshot was, I bundled Syo up on the couch with blankets, hot lemonade, and H2O (ugh) streaming on Netflix, and headed downstairs to sew. Anything to escape the Australian mermaids.

And sewed.

And sewed.

McCall's one-shoulder top

I finished off another version of the off-the-shoulder kids top (McCall’s 4821)for Syo—she had cut out the pieces (BY HERSELF) weeks ago, but I had black thread in the machine for stitching the Pink Suit, and then I was busy with slips. This version is from her pink leopard spandex, and fits much better than the ever-growing thin knit of the first version. Which almost makes up for the annoyingness of the pattern, and, y’know, the fact that it was cut out by a nine-year-old. The combination of leopard-print with the one-shoulder style does give it a distinct, mm, “Me Tarzan, you Syo” vibe… I used my “athletic stitch” to topstitch the elastic around the neck/armholes this time, just out of curiosity—it worked fine, although I’m not convinced it’s any better or more “professional” looking than the triple-stitch. The hem isn’t the prettiest—I didn’t bother using any steam-a-seam, just folded over and stitched away. Can you tell I really don’t give a flying f#&$ about this little shirt? On the other hand, I have every confidence that Syo will wear the snot out of it.

Coat---PROGRESS!

And then I worked on Osiris’s jacket. Yes, that long-neglected UFO that’s been hanging over my head since before Christmas. I finished the fusing and got the entire shell assembled. I even (ZOMG) stitched sleeve vents (now I just have to figure out how to line them). But I didn’t want to get ahead of myself before checking the fit, so I called a halt before cutting the lining.

Syo's Snuggly

So I moved on to Syo’s current pet project. She wants a new housecoat, reminiscent of Tyo’s. Except, not a kimono. But with the applique and stuff. Last time we were at Fabricland, she picked out a white, not-as-thick as-I’d-like, but inexpensive, fleece. After some discussion, we settled on the directions described in Sew What: Fleece (which I won in a giveaway from the gracious Clio) draft the pattern. And, well, I suspect she’ll be happier with the finished product than I am, but anyway.

In fact, I sewed so much that I’m going to milk it for the rest of the week and dribble out more detailed posts every couple of days.

One thing I did do this weekend was go through the jackets, boots, and other outer-wear—ousting the worst of the winter stuff (so if it blizzards, it’s my fault) and bringing in more of the summer stuff. Unfortunately, this also brings to the fore the more painful side of sewing for your children—what to do with the handmades they’ve outgrown. Now, I’ve said before that I have an excellent hand-me-down chain, and I do, in the form of two little nieces, but we really hit a lot of style issues going from Tyo to Syo. This jacket, my first “real clothes” make, is now too small for Tyo. In fact, it never really suited her, but for some reason it looks ADORABLE on Syo (I think it may suit her darker colouring and broad shoulders better). Syo, however, would rather wear a potato sack. Similarly, she is unthrilled with wearing the first pair of jeans I made Tyo, and the jean-jacket I made Tyo. Although I’m hopeful that practicality will win out in the last case. Which puts a big hitch in my hand-me-down chain, because my stylish sister-in-law gets a little annoyed when I send her stuff that she’s going to have to store for years and years before it’ll ever remotely fit.

But I sewed! Helped by the fact that Osiris and Tyo didn’t want to be picked up until 8:30 that night (after Tyo’s bedtime, I’ll add). And for once, I’m ready to do something else…

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The Lotus Lady

So serene... so contemplative...

Perhaps “Lotus Lass” would be more apt, but it just doesn’t have the rhythm, y’know?

Kimono front. Pay no attention to the broom handle sticking out of the sleeve...

Tyo’s robe is finished and has been worn pretty much every day, so I’d say it’s a success. Although now she wants those loop-over-the-arms tie things that keep the kimono sleeves from dragging in everything, because, well, they drag in everything. Fortunately we’ve watched enough Miyazaki that she knows all about them.

Kimono back.

It’s really long, which is what she wanted, but quite narrow. Not so much it doesn’t close, but it certainly doesn’t stay closed while walking. This is the downside of rectangular construction, I guess. Godets at the sideseam might’ve been effective (if not particularly kimono-accurate).

Hem lotus

I quite enjoyed laying out all the applique, which I did after cutting the fabric but before assembling anything. There are two full lotuses, one on the upper back, one at the hem on the front right side. The sleeves and the front left are decorated with individual petals.

Back view---worn

The belt is a simple sash. I opted to stitch it down with an X on the centre back, so she can’t lose it. (I could’ve added belt loops, but in my experience that’s never enough to keep a kid’s belt with their housecoat.) Most of the time it’s trailing along behind her elegantly, but at least it’s there if she decides she needs it.

Front, worn.

The other morning she came down for breakfast wearing her cream bunnyhug* under the robe, which threw me for a loop as I couldn’t figure out how she’d gotten a hood onto the robe.

All in all?

1) new technique learnt (applique)

2) new construction methods

3) used up stash fabric

4) garment is getting lots of use and love.

WIN.

Your robe fu is strong, but mine is stronger!*

*yes, I know Kung Fu is not Japanese. Hush.

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Kimonology

Making Kimono

Tyo wants a new housecoat. Her old one, to be fair, no longer reached her knees and was past due to be handed down to Syo. I had her almost convinced that she could take mine and I would make myself one, but I wasn’t really feeling it (I have a vision of a Lady Grey Sweater-made-full-length insane housecoat, which would be awesome but will require like six bajillion metres of fabric.) And then she found Simplicity 7640, the “kimono” pattern in my box of kids patterns.

This particular pattern has been in the “stash” for a long while. Once upon a time, c. 1988, my mother-in-law used it to sew Karate Kid Hallowe’en costumes for my husband.

Of course, I can’t just whip up a costume-grade Simplicity pattern into a housecoat and leave it at that. That would be too easy. Not when I have “Making Kimono and Japanese Clothes” by Jenni Dobson on the shelf.

This is one of a slew of helpful books I acquired back when we lived in a condo with a communal garbage-house.  Aside from the big trash bins, people were always leaving stuff for others to take—furniture, curtains and, on one notable occasion, a really good selection of books. I wasn’t sewing much at that point, but how could I leave something like this behind? Aside from lots of information on traditional Japanese cloth, decoration styles, and clothing construction, there’s pattern-drafting instruction for a number of garments including kimono. (Incidentally, while the Simplicity pattern describes the blue and white version as a kimono, I suspect Ms. Dobson would disagree. The short, jacket-like garments in her book, though similarly constructed, have their own names.)

I dutifully pulled it out, ogling the gorgeous designs and weighing how much energy I was willing to put into a housecoat for my eleven-year-old. Sashiko? Not happening. Shibori? Ah, no. Applique? … now that might be about my speed. Depending on the applique. Not terribly traditional applique, either.

Which brings us to another book scored at the same time.

I'm scared. Are you?

It’s, um, a little dated. But covers a variety of basic applique techniques, even if the projects make me want to scrub my brain. The big one I hadn’t tried yet? Using a fusible web to stabilize and hold the appliques in place until they’re stitched down.

Apparently this is a big deal.

So I swung by Sewing World on my way home one day, and upon asking for fusible web was handed a metre of 18″-wide Steam-a-Seam Lite.

Yes, the same stuff I’ve been using lo these many moons in my knit hems. Apparently it’s the bomb for the applique. Who knew.

Tyo wanted a lotus.

Lotus Layout (asymmetry and odd numbers are common features of Japanese kimono decoration, according to Ms. Dobson)

Even better. You can make a lotus out of just a bunch of spindle-shapes, which is a shape that I actually CAN zig-zag around without beating my skull in.

So, in a fit of zeal, I set to work one weekend afternoon.

I have to say, I think the White has already paid for herself in just this one project. Dude. First off, the wide-mouth zig-zag foot is EXACTLY what Ann Boyce (and, no doubt, everyone else who does applique) recommends. Win. And there’s no way my light, plastic Janome could’ve kept up the constant, heavy, top-speed motion of doing that much zig-zagging. She would’ve shimmied across the table and un-threaded her bobbin at least once per leaf.

Open-toed zig-zag foot

The White may not straight-stitch well, but she can zigzag like a trooper. The stitches are even and smooth. The bobbin-threading messed up once during the entire marathon applique-session. One other time, the sheer amount of vibration rattled the fly-wheel just loose enough that the stitches started losing power. Other than that—perfect. Smooth, even feed. No complaining about the continual, high pace. The heavy metal machine stays where she’s put, not moving around under her own vibrations.

Just so the Janome’s feelings aren’t too hurt, it was really handy having a spare machine just to wind bobbins. The bobbin-winder system on the White is pretty much the same one as on the Featherweight… i.e. a little primitive. And you go through a lot of bobbins doing applique…

So using  a fusible web totally does the trick. Well, at least for these simple shapes. I still have doubts about my ability to make the stitch turn tighter curves, but for this shape it was easy.

The one other bit of technique I learned from Ann Boyce was about making narrow points. When approaching the point, you start cranking down your stitch width gradually (doing this while still guiding the fabric one-handed is a bit of a trick…) to almost nothing right at the tip. Then you pivot the fabric, start again, and gradually bring the stitch-width back up to full (whatever your full width is. I like 3.)

This is not the most super-easy technique. Sometimes I got it, sometimes (maybe more often) I didn’t. But it was worth a try, and when it did work it looks super nice. When it didn’t, I have clumps and loose threads showing at the points.

Appliques and hem binding.

Still, I’m pretty proud of myself. The print fabric is a Japanese-inspired quilting-cotton that was perfect for the design, plus some black shirting with a textural stripe that looks great in real life but doesn’t show at all in the photos. I wish I’d had enough of the print to bind all the internal seams, but I only did the hems.

I could go on about the instructions, the points of difference (and similarity) between the Simplicity costume pattern and the “traditional” kimono (as described by Ms. Dobson, anyway), and where I screwed up and where I completely abandoned ship. But I think this post is already long and rambling enough, so I’ll end it with a quick sum up:

  1. Random scrounged books finally come in useful. YAY!
  2. Good job, White! (Don’t worry, Janome, I still love you too.)
  3. Applique fusible web for the win!
I’ll get full, finished pictures in a few days when I can wrangle Tyo into modeling. She’s got a bad cold this weekend and is VERY happy to curl up in the half-finished robe as much as I’ll let her, but is understandably unwilling to have photos taken.

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