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fiber arts – garment #2 re-fashioned

April 14, 2012

I had a second sleeveless shell of (woven) linen/cotton, in off-white, but I could no longer get into it. I cut it apart along both side seams, intending to add knit panels there. I didn’t like how I imagined it would look, with new side panels. I put the back in the front to see if that would hang better, which it didn’t either. But as I looked in the mirror with it on, to see how they should go, I realized I would also need to lengthen the entire thing. If I did that with knit panels as well, it was going to be so patchwork-y, why bother with the original bits?

However, I realized that when I was moving the back to the front — when the back side was on one shoulder, and the front side was on the other shoulder – it kind of looked like a capelet. Turning it into kind of a cape was more interesting than my original plan, so I decided to do that. Summers here in Maryland are very hot and sunny, so I like to wear minimal clothing, but I also prefer to protect my (very pale) skin from the sun with fabric, rather than messy creams. So I envisioned this capelet as something to wear over a tank top, to protect my shoulders, back, and the tops of my arms.

I like to use whatever fabric pieces I have on hand without cutting or trimming them ‘to fit’ (unless absolutely necessary). Limitations of that sort push me to create unusual design elements.

I rummaged through my fabric stash and found a remnant of seersucker in stripes of white, ivory, beige, and tan, which I pinned to the back of the new garment. I hand-sewed the seersucker to the linen/cotton, following the edge of the seersucker. I used thread of variegated shades of beige and brown. That created sort of a flap of the linen/cotton, running the length of the garment, below the neckline. Instead of securing the bottom hem to the seersucker, I decided to leave the flap, for air circulation.

I thought about how else I could embellish the garment. I considered a line of fringe or some kind of trim at the bottom of the seersucker (near my waist), but I don’t have anything like that. Then I remembered that I have a bunch of crocheted cotton lace – in fact, 3 different designs of it. I started pinning a length of 1 of them to the bottom hem, but that seemed so predictable and ordinary that I stopped. I looked up, at the horizontal edges of the flap (which correspond to the side seams of the original shell), and decided to try adding lace to one of those edges, to see if I liked it. I hand-sewed the trim on, using the same variegated-browns thread. I tried the garment on to see how it looked. I liked the lace trim, so I decided to also trim the other side of the flap, but used a 2nd trim design (so the lace trims are not identical).

At this point, the garment was a riot of related colors – the trims were bright (optical) white; the white of the seersucker was more muted; and the off-white of the linen/cotton didn’t match any of the other shades. Now, I don’t actually like to match colors together, but there was another tangential issue – I rarely wear either white or even off-white/ivory (despite their sun-reflecting properties) because they wash out my skin tone, and make me look sickly.

I machine-washed the garment, then started machine-drying it. Mainly because the bottom of the seersucker was really wrinkled, but I thought ironing it might mess up the look of it. Before it was fully dry, I took the garment out, for the next step.

I had decided to coffee-stain the garment, to tone down the bright white of the lace, and to visually tie the colors together. I added 3 pieces of metal, as mordants: a screw, a bottle cap, and something I can’t identify. I brewed a full pot of coffee: 3 scoops of coffee, 12 cups of water. I poured that into my stainless steel dye pot, then dropped in my garment, and squished it with my hands. It took the color so fast that I almost immediately started pouring the coffee back out.

I’m guessing I used too much coffee grounds, and probably too much water. But during earlier attempts at natural dyeing, I tended to not have enough water to go around. So I need more experimenting.

The garment now looks like it was tea-dyed. I could say it’s beige, but I won’t because I hate beige, and this is actually pretty (although darker than I originally intended).

Probably the sun will bleach the color somewhat anyway.

This turned out much better than my original ideas. I might be able to wear it tomorrow, as supposedly it’s going to be 86 degrees.

Further (possible) modifications:

  • Creating a (modular) panel for the front, in case I wanted to wear it as a stand-alone top.
  • Changing the front part of the neck, so I don’t have to slip it over my head.
  • Attaching a kind of hood-like thing (that I haven’t figured out how to make yet) to the neckline, that would protect my head from the sun. I envision something like a hijab, but with a visor.

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