I joined ASG during Covid, having been motivated by a rediscovered ASG flyer. I had been given the flyer some years prior at the ASG booth at the Sewing and Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, WA where I had been wearing my WA State winning Make it With Wool (MIWW) garment and was approached by the chapter President who strongly recommended I join. Covid’s isolation gave me the impetus to seek out an avenue to engage with others sharing a common interest. The Silverdale, WA chapter was the perfect fit and I joined 3 Neighborhood Groups and soon was Zoom meeting with a fabulous and talented community of sewists.
It Started With Wool
My primary interest is garment sewing, especially with wool fabric and fibers. Wool is a wonderful fabric and fiber to create with. I crochet, knit, felt, needle felt and sew with wool. The wool coat and dress described in this article were specifically made for this year’s Make it With Wool contest, an annual competition that promotes the beauty and versatility of wool by showcasing wool’s unique qualities in a variety of garment designs and details.
Inspiration: A tribute
The inspiration for the coat came from the beautiful coat created by designer Gabriela Hearst and worn by Jill Biden at the inaugural ball. The classic double breasted princess seam design, color, and theme set the foundation for the vision of the coat. Taking this example, a Vogue pattern (7144) was selected with a similar design.
The coat and dress feature varying design details and a variety of calla lily embellishments, a symbol of both sympathy and promise. The garments hoped to recognize and give tribute to the loss of so many to Covid and the promise of recovery by all the heroic efforts of our first responders, medical personnel and caregivers.
The decisions in bringing those details together into a coordinated and cohesive ensemble required exploring and experimenting with possible options. The process started with inspiration, settling on a detail, and then producing samples to determine their appropriate application in the garment. Many samples were prepared that never made their way into the final garment: boned interfaced bodice support, a lace collar, crocheted collar, a beaded crochet collar, felted calla lily, knitted cording, bobbin embroidery to name a few.
Making the Coat
Felting the Wool
The calla lilies embroidered on the coat are an original graphic, digitized, and designed to repeat the pattern along the hem and upper back. The calla lilies on the coat’s lapel were created from felted worsted wool, sewn, shaped and hardened to closely match the specie’s flowers and leaf. The spadix, the center detail, was knitted with wool yarn, it’s stable shape made possible by utilizing feather quills from my geese. The 100% wool coat fabric was machine felted in several 2 yard batches. To lessen the fabric’s distortion and stretch during the machine felting (top loader only), the 2 yard fabric pieces are zig-zag stitched along the cut edge into a cylinder. Several pairs of flip flops aid the agitation. The smallest hot water setting is selected and a very small amount of wool fabric soap as well as baking soda is added to the tub. Three cycles are generally required to get the desired thickness and degree of felting. The spin cycle is stopped each time to again lessen distorting the fabric. The fabric was then air dried and shaped to accept the pattern layout.
The silk piping accents the princess seams and aids in the shaping and fit of the coat. The brocade lining is edged with a binding of the same silk fabric adding interest and detailing to the coat. A calla lily silver charm was added at the inside collar to further the theme of the coat. The coat hem was weighted at the front opening and at the back vent to result in a better hang at these openings. Bound button holes were used to add interest and a favored technique for quality garments. Vintage dome shank buttons adorn the double breasted closure. A valuable couture technique outlined in Claire Shaeffer’s new book, Couture Tailoring, A Construction Guide to Women’s Jackets was used to secure the non-buttoning shank buttons, resulting in their holding firmly and not flopping. The upper lapel fabric matches the fabric of the accompanying dress. The many details and embellishments are subtle, requiring closer examination and appreciation for their added value to the harmony and cohesion of the coat.
Making the Dress
The dress is my original design. The coat required a fitted dress to comfortably adhere to its silhouette. The bodice was the starting point. I find that for my body type, princess seams to be more conducive to a good fit. The bodice has a dropped waist to promote a more vertical line. I envisioned a simple but elegant silhouette with subtle intricate embellishments and design details. The dress is 100% Italian Super 150 Double Faced wool. In a self drafted design that required repeated fittings and numerous handlings, the off-white color of the fabric proved challenging to keep from soiling.
The extended cap sleeves were a new detail I wanted to incorporate into the original design. They required precise drafting and fitting to the bodice, since nearly no ease is offered in the sleeve cap. The grain and hang of the sleeve and their precise rotation in the armscye was critical for a proper fit. The 2-piece sleeve seams are also piped, accentuating the detail and adding structural support. A sleeve head was used between the sleeve cap and the extension.
The front reverse pleats and the back “skirt pleats” were added to allow more movement while still maintaining the dress silhouette. They provided a subtle interest and animation in the carry of the dress.
The piped and 7-piece collar brings attention to the neck line and invites inspection of the subtly appliquéd 4-piece calla lilies below. The 4 piece appliqué is fashioned after a stained glass design. The appliqués are layered and applied on both the front and back bodice. The calla lilies appliquéd on the back bodice span the invisible zipper, requiring both sides of the exposed appliqué be finished. A clear plastic snap securely holds the tip of the calla lily in place once the zipper is closed.
The dress is underlined with cotton voile. BIG MISTAKE! Normally, I use silk organza as an underlining but because the fashion fabric was so lightweight, I wanted more structure to support the bodice and front and back panels. Both the cotton and wool fabrics were washed prior to their laying out and cutting. The issue was the added shrinkage of the cotton underlining when the dress seams were pressed. It resulted in the wool fabric hanging or bagging between the vertical seams. The fix required removing all vertical seams, lessening the cotton voile seam allowances to remove the pull and bagging of the wool fabric. Removing all attachments of the cotton voile to the dress hem resulted in a smoother panel and seam. It was a major remake while being major lesson learned. The dress is now fully lined with silk charmeuse. The lining has a 3″ hem and is attached with thread chains to the same seam in the dress.
The final dress design was a progression and evolution of its details. The individual details, the piping, the extended cap sleeves, the front inverted and back skirt pleats, the pieced and piped collar, the buttoned cuffs, the calla lily appliqués and their extension over the invisible zipper all coalesced into a cohesive and harmonious well fitting dress.
The coat and dress ensemble won at the Make It With Wool National Adult Division competition that was held January 20-23, 2022 in San Diego, CA. Twenty one state contestants competed in the contest. The top 6 placings were:
Adult Winner – Kim Vogley, Washington
Adult 2nd place – Becky Piette, Wisconsin
Adult 3rd place – Kelsey Clear, Michigan
Adult 4th place – Brenda Richardson, Arizona
Adult 5th place – Erin Hyde, Florida
Adult 6th place – Diane Spain, Oregon
Learn more about Make It with Wool at https://makeitwithwool.com/welcome
~Kim Vogley, ASG Silverdale, WA Chapter