Friday, August 13, 2010

Cinderella? Phoenix? Take Two?

Here are some in-the-works photographs of my experiments with reclaimed jackets! This one is crocheted, but the next one will be knitted and, if I live long enough, I'll make yet another one with free-form, knit-and-crochet sleeves. I just finished the crocheted parts last night at an hour I refuse to reveal (there is NOT A SPARE MOMENT in my life for ANYTHING). As a big bonus, you now have a glimpse of my close-to-heaven second-story deck. Up in the treetops. A very cool place to be, particularly when it's less humid than it's been in Michigan recently.

Here is what you do: Go to your favorite resale store. Find a jacket that fits you, or fits the person for whom it's intended. I went to a Value City (Value World?) where they have hundreds of high-quality wool jackets for both men and women; this jacket, which is about a size 4 women's jacket, was originally a hugely expensive, tailored blazer made of herringbone with a slight burgundy-blue stripe pattern. It's very strict and unrelieved in its lines. The idea is to give jackets a new lease on life by replacing the sleeves and buttons, and perhaps embellishing the piece here and there (though not too much). This is one of about six jackets that I bought for less than 2.50 each (!!!). Some were originally made for men: I've discovered that really cool , boxy women's 'boyfriend' jackets can be made from them.

First step: Carefully take out the sleeves. You'll need a seam ripper and a sewing machine. If you don't have equipment, take the jacket to a tailor. Once the sleeves are out, you have to zigzag or serge all around the armholes, taking care to reattach the jacket lining all around. I chose not to remove the small shoulder pads to preserve the original tailoring. You can take them out. But be sure to remake the arm scye (armhole) because the shoulder fabric has been cut to accommodate a pad. Do NOT throw the old sleeves away.

Second: open the underarm seam so that you can use the old sleeve as a template. You will need to get a sense of the old sleeve cap -- its height and width. (You also could eventually cut up the sleeve into bias strips and use them as part of the sleeve design -- I will try that with the freeform version). Make a paper pattern of the cap; and you might want to measure the sleeve length from top of cap to make sure the replacement sleeve is more or less the same length.

Third: Make up new sleeves! And I do mean, make them up. The sleeves shown here are very simple affairs -- pinned loosely into the armholes, but you get the idea...... Starting at the cuff, I crocheted a sleeve about 18 inches wide, straight up, in a trellis stitch. At the start of the armhole -- the placement of which can be determined roughly by referring to the length of original sleeve, or to your own measurements from center back down the shoulder to the wristbone , or both -- shape a cap. Leave an underarm shelf at each side of 1.5 to 2.0 inches and simply work up from each side of the shelf. For these simple sleeves, I decreased at each side on every RS row until the cap rose to its present height (about 4.5 inches). Wool is malleable; it can be smoothed into the armhole with steam and in the sewing process.

For these sleeves, I went back to the beginning and picked up another layer of fabric about 4 inches up and worked another layer of fabric downward. It's about an inch longer than the original rectangle. I then worked shells along both pieces of cuff fabric. The idea is to create a full ruffle at the cuff in two layers. The trellis stitch makes it easy to run a drawstring at the top of each cuff. But that will happen later.

I put the sleeves roughly into the armholes so that you could see them at this early stage. These are made of yarn from my stash (these are experimental jackets -- I did this the first time at LEAST 20 years ago, so I'm rusty) -- in this case, Noro Kureyon, which isn't as buttery as I'd like for the purpose (best to choose an easily molded wool). But the colors are wonderful, and they pick up on the burgundy-blue pencil stripes in the wool.

Clients at the studio are going to want a 'pattern' for all of this -- and I'm going to resist the demand. Part of what's good about this kind of project is the fact that you really DO have to feel your way along. That will be the whole point of the class I've organized to make these jackets.

Next step will be working a row of slip stitch all around the cap (to smooth it), and then picking up stitches all around the jacket armholes, first with blanket stitch (in sleeve yarn), then with single crochet. Gauge will have to be the same as the slip stitches around the sleeve cap. I'll insert the sleeves, sew the underarm seams (these could be done in the round, but they then become harder to insert -- you might need a tailor's ham), make and insert drawstrings to ruffle the cuffs, and sew on buttons. I have in mind mismatched tagua nut (vegetable ivory) buttons in five colors -- I've pinned the stack at the neck of the mannequin (see photos). They'll be deep orange, olive, blue, purple, and ashy gold. There are only 2 buttonholes on this jacket, but I will put on five buttons fairly tightly arrayed across from the holes -- I doubt that anyone will use the old holes anyway. I then will look at the resulting jacket -- I think I'm going to do a very discrete bit of surface crochet at the very top of the back basically over the neck bone, maybe with another small tagua nut button. But we'll see. It's possible to ruin this kind of thing by overdecorating and not knowing when to stop.

I'll keep you posted on the project's progress. We are moving the studio to St. Clair Shores over the next three weeks, and there is the small matter of my day job (!!!) -- THE SEMESTER STARTS ON SEPTEMBER 2. So. If I don't post for awhile, that's why!!!!!!!!!!!! svb

1 comment:

  1. Oh Sandra, this is gorgeous! What a fab idea! I love reworking parts of garments...I used to do similar things when I designed plus-sized clothing. I'm slowing getting back into it...I just have to wrap my brain around it again! But yours is marvelous...I LOVE it!