This unfortunately won't be a very picture-heavy post, as the weather has not been cooperative for outdoor photos again this month. The snow is finally melting, but the winds are coldly biting and incessant, and made me very loathe to take my heavy wool coat off at the park, even for Mr Rat to get a few pictures of my new FolkWear Black Forest Smock. I've never posted about my winter coat on this blog, although it is a refashioned sewing project. I spotted it on the clearance rack of Decades vintage store in Salt Lake City last year for $5. One of the buttons was held on with a safety pin and the sleeves were outrageously long. But all the beautiful ribbon and ric-rac trim caught my eye, and I had to take it home and fix it. Now the lovely pewter reindeer buttons are secure, and I folded the cuffs inside the sleeves and stitched them up by hand, making them fit much better. This coat has kept me warm all winter so far, and I often get compliments from strangers when I wear it. It is so distinctive, and cheerful, too. I will have to try to imitate the way that it is trimmed on my own sewing projects at some point.
Back to the main sewing project of this post, my new Black Forest smock: my mom gave me the pattern for Christmas, and I've been excited to try it out. Even though it wasn't on my winter make-nine list, I decided to go ahead and make it anyway, since I've been struggling with my depression these past few months--especially this past month----and a warm smock made of flannel felt like just the thing I wanted to wear. And I was right, as I have worn it twice already since I made it, even though I barely finished the last bits of hand-sewing right before we took these photos on our Sunday afternoon walk. I was worried that it might be a hard pattern to sew. I've only made one Folkwear pattern before, as a pattern-tester, and found that it challenged me to learn new skills. This pattern took some new skills too, like learning to make many tiny pleats around the neck-line and cuffs. But it wasn't hard. It actually came together very quickly, with one day of cutting out the pattern and fabric, and another two days of sewing before it was finished. The style and sizing are so forgiving that there isn't any fitting to do except to make sure the neck binding will fit over your head (I used a very small seam allowance to make sure it would fit over mine, since I have a rather large head circumference). The fabric was easy to work with too. It is a blue and tan plaid flannel that I found while thrift store shopping with my husband and mother-in-law in San Diego this past Thanksgiving. I got a four-yard piece for $6. So far, it has pre-washed well, and is very warm and soft. The pattern instructions for the Black Forest Smock are clear and helpful, although I'm not sure that I got the tiny pleats quite right. But I think there is a lot of lee-way to adjust and change them, so I'm not too bothered about it----making pleats is a skill that I am still practicing. There aren't many size options to choose from for this pattern, as it is meant to be quite loose; I cut on the "slender woman" lines along the sides. I did a faux-french seam to finish the insides. I think I could have done a french seam, but I'm not very experienced with them, and I wasn't sure which seam finish I wanted to use until after I had already sewn the seams. Doing any kind of seam finish on a half-inch seam allowance was a bit of a challenge, so I ended up doing my faux-French seam mostly by hand, which worked well. The pattern doesn't tell you what sized buttons or button-holes to do on the cuffs, so I just chose two that I liked from my vintage button collection, and pinned out the positions myself, and then did the button-holes by hand, as usual. It is interesting making a garment that doesn't call for interfacing: it gives the smock a rumpled effect, but I think that adds to it's charm, and also makes it extremely comfortable. If I ever get tired of wearing it as a day dress, I can always use it as a nightgown. Or sew up another one as a nightgown. . . Or make a summer version out of linen or soft cotton, and learn to do the embroidery included with the pattern. . . I left off the pockets in this, my first version, but perhaps in the next one I will add them and decorate them too. . .
As you can tell, I do like my Black Forest smock a lot, and I am sure that I will make this pattern again.
As a side note, my mom recently trimmed my hair and cut off the layers for me. Even though they did make my hair curl more, I wasn't overly fond of that last hair-cut. Now it is short and light and one length, and I plan on slowly growing it back out again. It does make me feel a bit like an Edwardian child in these photos, though, to have cropped hair and a billowy smock. I just need a Steiff teddy bear named "Winnie-Ther-Pooh."
And as another side note, look at the bottom of the post to see what an interesting little creature Mr Rat and I saw while we were taking pictures. Mr Rat thinks it is a nutria, and we were both astonished to see it swimming in the icy creek in such cold weather. As soon as it saw Gia, though, it crawled into a crevice in the bank and disappeared.
This was a simple project from my winter "make nine" plans: my favorite skirt pattern, Simplicity 7880, sewn up in black flannel. Mr Rat and I made a small order from fabric.com last month, since he wanted to try out one of the Kaufman line of plaid flannels to make another version of his recent flannel shirt. I ordered a piece of Kaufman flannel, too, but in plain black. I've read good things about Kaufman fabrics on the internet, and wanted to see how different it was from the flannel I've bought before at JoAnn fabrics. Now that I've tried both kinds, I think that the reviews of Kaufman flannel are quite accurate: it pre-washed well, and is much firmer and stiffer and pills less than JoAnn flannel. It sewed and pressed well, too, with minimal fuzz loss.
I've made Simplicity 7880 many times. For this version, I did all the usual things that I do: pinked the seams, handpicked the zipper, made a narrow machine-hem, and used waistband interfacing for structure. The one thing that I changed was to widen the waistband by pressing the seam-allowances smaller before I attached it to the skirt, and sewing it over a wider waistband interfacing than I usually use. I think it gives the skirt a nice silhouette.
I've been in need of warm winter skirts, and I'm very happy with how this one turned out. It's versatile, simple, and fits in well to my wardrobe. I know that I will wear it until it is worn out.
I'm wearing my new skirt with my most recently completed blouse, a vintage Mexican silver and abalone butterfly brooch, some warm woolen socks, and a petticoat. I took these photos with the tripod in the studio the day before Mr Rat and I woke up to over two feet of snow. The last two photos show what our tiny yard has looked like for the rest of the week, as well as one of our favorite visitors to it.
I hope that all of you readers in the Northern Hemisphere are staying warm! And that readers from the Southern Hemisphere are managing to stay cool in the heat waves.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.