Saturday, May 29, 2010

Waffle Baffle

I think the hardest part of stitchin' is buying fabric. Not that the spending is itself hard, of course, but getting the right texture, weight, drape, stretch, recovery and colour all together is quite a challenge. Also things that seem OK in the shop do not always turn out as expected. I must try to spend more time in fabric shops!! :-)

This garment is the latest in a saga that I have not blogged before. James has a casual top made from fabric sometimes used in jumpers used for hiking. I'm not actually sure it it is a knit or woven. I'd thought it was a kind of fleece, but now I am not so sure. It is beige, lightweight for a jumper (spring-weight), with only slight stretch, and with a textured pile on the right side. The texture has, for some reason, made us give it the name "waffle baffle"! The colour and style suit James very well and it has had a great deal of wear.

The waffle baffle has been old for some time. It has holes in. So I have been trying to make a replacement. At first I bought 100 weight polartec and went for a different design - a hoodie, but by the time it was sewn up, it turned out to be too hot for spring. By the time I got round to having another go, I was less scared of copying pattern features from RTW garments, so I bought a knit in the right colour that I thought might work in Swany (in Kamakura). It also tuned out too heavy, and being wool, it subsequently felted and shrunk massively in the laundry, even though I had pre-washed it. After that I researched how to treat wool properly, so it was certainly not a wasted experience. The next time I took James with me to Swany to choose a better fabric. We chose a textured knit that seemed the right weight and colour.

The colour and texture look fine but as soon as I got it home and inspected the fabric I knew I was in trouble. It is not really a very heavy-weight knit, but it has a lot of stretch and very poor recovery which makes it hang quite heavily and also, of course, makes it just awful to sew with. Experiments on scraps showed that, without extra support, every seam would have stretched completely out of shape. Inspired by the classes by Sarah Veblen on Pattern Review, that anything is possible as long as you have control of the fabric, I decided to sewing this up anyway, mostly as a learning exercise. I used interfacing in the cuffs, hems and collars, and sewed all the seams with tear-able interfacing between the fabric and the feed-dogs of the sewing machine. This was all quite time-consuming - in fleece this would have sewn up form start to finish in a couple of afternoons, but it has taken me a couple of weeks. But, wonderfully it actually seems to have worked and the seams are not very stretched at all. The disappointing thing, however, is that it seems highly likely that the garment will quickly get out of shape with wear. It is also considerably heavier (in weight although not necessarily in warmth) than the original waffle baffle. The search for a more suitable fabric therefore continues.

To make this I adapted the collar and used KS 2439 View B, which I have used previously to make a zip-front jumper for James (here), to match the waffle baffle. Or so I thought. Actually I made a big mistake, making the slit of front opening at the centre front, rather than the middle of the placket. Luckily the top is so baggy and the fabric so shapeless that it doesn't show too much. Also, as in the original, I made a (interfaced) slit in the side hem, and the back hem is an inch lower than the front with just a 1.5cm turnup at the hem. This worked fine with the original pattern, as it was the right length at the back. I just had to turn it up an extra inch at the front and the cut off the excess. The cuffs are narrower than on the original pattern, and I also had to reduce the arm length and width at the cuff somewhat at the fitting stage.

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