Saturday, 11 February 2012

Brown Stuff

My clothing colour for February is brown.  As I pulled out all of my brown clothing I noticed two potential problems:  a) I had only one brown (black & purple print) skirt and no brown trousers and b) most of my brown tops were short sleeved or very light weight, so not great for winter.  I chose brown for February (when was it? one or two years ago when I started this game) mainly because it is a dark colour in keeping with cold weather. 

This shortage is interesting as in the past I've always had a fair supply of brown clothes right back to childhood days.  I liked the colour because it was unobtrusive and I was very brown-mouse-like as a youngster.  Brown looked OK as a contrast to my blonde hair.  Brown doesn't show dirt so much as other colours; in fact, the first wall-to-wall carpet I chose and paid for was the closest shade I could find to the ground outside (as opposed to the off-white someone else was proposing we buy). 

Sixteen-year-old trousers

Fortunately, I have a couple of tops that combine brown and black (one is a tiger print) and so I could use black skirts and jeans for a while and of course I could always give up the idea of 'creating a column' and just wear jeans and brown tops and sweaters.

So, the first week of this month I did several things.  I finally sat down and turned under the sleeve-ends of my brown wool cardigan from Edinburgh Woollen Mill.  I think of it as an old-lady shop, but it sells excellent, if a bit dowdy, wool sweaters at reasonable prices.  I think I paid all of £25 for this and each of the two other (navy and plum) cardis I have from there.  I get eight to ten years of wear from them by early attention to any snags or pulls, turning under worn edges and by hand washing and line drying.   I also stitched a small area where the patch pocket had come loose.  While I had needle and thread in hand I examined the buttons and judged they were doing OK.  So of course I lost one a week later, and though I have a large jar of brown buttons (courtesy of Mom and Aunt Rita, plus a few of my own) I don't have six of the correct size.  I shall investigate the large button collection at the sewing group next week; fortunately I spent several sessions last year sorting buttons into general colour categories.

Another thing I did was to take my beloved flat brown boots to the cobblers for new soles and heels.  I paid about £100 for those boots six or seven years ago and the soles were almost gone.  However, for only £11.25 I should get another seven years' wear if not more.  While I was waiting for the shoes to be done I visited a couple of thrift shops looking for a long-sleeved brown t-shirt.  I bought two new white ones back in December from Marks & Spencer, but they had no brown t-shirts in that price range.  I found an M&S brand tee for £1.99, but I made the foolish mistake of not trying it on.  The charity shop tag said it was the right size, but it's at least two sizes too large. 

Cutting away worn fabric

Another thing I did was to pick up a project I started several months ago.  I had a brown suit (slacks, skirt, jacket) that I bought at a US department store on one of my first visits back after moving to the UK in 1995.  The pieces were lined and well made in a lovely brown wool.  I decided the skirt was a bit shorter than I liked, but the jacket and trousers served me well for over ten years when I decided they were showing their wear.  After I retired I decided the jacket didn't suit my casual lifestyle and sent it to a charity shop.  However, I wanted to play with the fabric of the trousers, which were a dated style and the cloth at the inside thighs was worn and pilled.

I made a paper pattern based on an A-line skirt I liked with an elastic waist.  Then I unpicked the zipper, hems, waist band,  pockets and inside leg seam of the trousers and turned them upside down, pinning the outer seams to the edge of the pattern.  The triangular bit missing at the hem on each side is where the pockets used to be (remember when women's clothing had pockets?)  Then I cut away the damaged fabric and left a rather free-style asymmetric gap to be filled with patches from my brown fabric stash. 

Ironing is an important step in sewing well
(and all that stuff is waiting to return to the landing)

This has been tricky, as I wanted it to hang right and so I cut, pinned and basted each patch individually , working with the garment hanging up.  I'm rather clumsy at this so it is slow going.  I have now finished the front patchwork and am using bits of the plain brown wool to make an unobtrusive backside.  After reading all about jeans with large pockets being more flattering than jeans with small or no pockets, I may decide to add some (large) patch pockets, but that can be done last.

I may have to do some patchwork sort of towards the bottom if I run out of plain wool, but I plan to make the hem all plain brown wool because I don't want the skirt to call attention to my legs (it's also going to be a mid-calf length) even though I'll be wearing this with my brown flat boots.   I've done my best to make it non-bulky around the waist, but if the elastic plan doesn't work well, I can always add a zipper and some darts.  It's been great fun, and very absorbing, to play with this project and to try to use my limited understanding of design factors, not to mention undeveloped sewing skills.  I realise that it will look handmade because of the patchwork, but this is part of the goal.  My worry is not whether it will look handmade, but whether it will look well made.  Given this is my first attempt that this sort of thing, I realise the odds are stacked against me, but I have to start somewhere.

I'd hoped to have finished this all before showing it to you, but other things have intervened including that I lost the use of the doors for a while (they were being painted) and haven't got back to the skirt yet. When it's done, I might even model it for you...maybe.

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