Monday, December 7, 2015

2014 Father Christmas Project - Part 2

As I promised I was going to give you construction details about the Father Christmas Project. I have been criticized for wanting to share my journey on this project because of the fear that someone can steal my design and make the coat themselves instead of buying it from me.  What I have to say is, "If you have the time, skill, funds and drive to make it yourself, then go for it."  When I make things while I may use the same pattern they are always unique to the person wearing it. I learn something each time I make something.  If I didn't share my knowledge with people, who would others learn from my mistakes?  Half of what I learned was through the suggestions and failures of others.  One of my favorite tutors,  Jim Acheson, (Look him up, he is a 2 time academy award winner.  VERY talented) a thing he bashed into our heads over and over again was "NEVER stop learning! Never stop gaining knowledge that you can use later!"  Others ignored him and lived in  the moment, and now nearly 10 years later they are desperate for that knowledge his was giving freely. Thankfully I have taken his words to heart and much of what he taught I have kept and shared with others.  Others have passed along knowledge in trade.  In our world we should always be wanting more knowledge.

Anyway , back on Father Christmas.  I will tell you about each piece and my trials and tribulations with each.   The first thing people see is the coat, so I will begin with the coat, then shirt and pants, and finally boot covers.


 There were two patterns that I actually used to make this coat.  The first was  McCall's 5550 View C.   The second was Out of Print (OOP)  McCalls 3789, which I used for the hood.   I have used this hood piece for a variety of projects and it has worked amazingly well.  If you don't have access to this pattern look for a cloak/robe pattern that has a deep cowl like hood. It will allow you to get the look you will want.  

There were two main alternations done to coat pattern it's self.  The first was a full abdomen adjustment (FAA).  What this alteration does is allows the front of the coat to lay smoothly from chest to waist.  Santa has a natural "bay window" and this takes this into account.  The standard flat pattern does not take this into account as it was designed for a very tall lean Santa similar to Pere Noel or the Swedish Father Christmas.  The British  Father Christmas, Ghost of Christmas Present, and even Russia's Grandfather Frost all had a little tummy on them.  This pattern doesn't take that into account; therefore if your model has a tummy himself, or is planning to wear one,  Make this adjustment.
** Please note because of the FAA, the hem and center front are effected which will require additional adjustments to the bottom hem trim piece and the center front trim and facings.  

The second adjustment is in coat length.  The coat is suppose it mid calf on whoever wearing the coat.  The patterns standard size believes the man wearing it is at least 6 feet tall.  I love my DH but he is not 6' tall, therefore the length was shorted at the hem, which is noted on the pattern.   What this alteration will cause is  a cascade of other alternations.  Because there is a pattern piece that makes up the bottom hem of the coat you will need to make a new piece so that it matches with the new hem line.  Also because you shortened the length of the coat you will need to make/ shorten the center front pieces to adjust for this.  Also please note, if you did the FAA, you will have already needed a new piece anyway.

Design Changes:  The big one was adding the hood.  With the M3789 hood it should fit will onto the neckline, however you might need to put small gathering or pleats in the center back.   The other thing we did was add a removable cotton lining.  Using the coat body pattern as a base we added 2 inches to each side which we turned in to make a sturdy facing.  We then sewed buttons 4 inches appart up the inside of the front facings of the coat, with matching buttons on the coat.  The neckline, and hood was done with snaps.  The reason for this was simply, buttons catch on hair.   If someone has ever gotten a shirt button tangled in their when taking off their shirt, it is not fun.   When placing the snaps, make sure you place at center back of the neckline and around hood.  This will help things stay in place.  Now why did I put that lining in the coat?  Simple fact...sweat.
This coat is heavy and warm.  When I say that I mean that my DH has worn it out in 35 F degree weather with snow and he was still warm.  If he wears at any event where the temperature is over 70 degrees he is pushing heat stroke!  I keep him hydrated and a fan on him when he is in the full coat.   When this was taken to the Texas Renaissance Festival the temperatures were pushing 75-80 degrees.  The poor boy was sweating buckets! When we got home that lining stunk to high heaven. 
If the lining had been part of the coat we would have had to take it to a dry cleaner after every wearing which would have cost  $$$$$.  With the removable lining,  we take it out and throw it in the washing machine, fabreeze the inside of the coat, and let everything dry.  Once dry, lining goes back in for another event. Easy-Peeze!   At the end of the season, we can take the coat to the dry cleaners for a full cleaning.  Less expense that way.
The only suggestion I would make is to put snaps around the cuffs as well. I forgot to put the snaps in the sleeve lining and sometimes the lining creeps up during wearing.  It is a relatively small fix.

Resources: This is my most expensive project to date simply because of the materials used.  Yes I could have made the coat out of Panne and cheap cuddle fur but it wouldn't look as nice.  I even thought about doing a high end silk velvet and the high end fur.  My DH wanted the full Grandfather Frost/ Russian/ Victoian/ Father Christmas in his Sleigh look, so far it was for the coat.
The DH  had found the vendor Mendels  when he was looking for  muppet fleece for his puppets he makes.  Got fabric from them and started a working relationship.  When this project came up we turned to them.  As each for the furs we were looking at ran $25-50 per yard, simply going off the website to pick was not an option.  We decided to order swatches.  Mendels charges $6 for 5 swatches, or $16 for 25.  We went with the 6.  There was no charge for shipping.

We selected possible options of Red, and Rhubarb 'Punky Muppet' for the main red portion, and then either, white 'Punky Muppet', a realistic wolf, white tipped fox.  The final decision was to go with the Rhubarb Punky Muppet, and the White Tipped Fox.  The Rhubarb  has a 1 1/2" pile so it is long and lush, and has slightly dark tips.  This adds a slight shading to it.  As we needed 5+ yards for the project we were able to get a discounted price. The White Tipped fox is the most expensive fabric I have ever purchased and it was $40+ per yard.  It had a 2" Pile, so extremely thick and lush.  When ordering this stuff, know by the INCH what you need!

The lining fabric is  100% Country Cotton found at Joanns in the color, 'Brick Red'.  The notions including thread, fur hooks, buttons, and snaps were purchased from  Cleaners Supply Company.  They have a tailoring section which allows seamstresses and tailors for buy supplies in bulk.  They have great pricing including $4 shipping for orders up to $100.  I prefer getting my thread there as I can get  1000 yards of a color for $2.50 from them, vs 25 yards for $2.50 from Joanns.  I also can get certain base colors in  6-8K yard cones.  One spool of white I have used for 10 years, and I am just now running low.  Trust me for base colors, well worth the $8-12 for a cone.

Trim was slightly tricky. The trim needs to be at least  1 1/2" wide, no more than  2 1/2".  We selected ours for a simplicity trim found at Joanns.  This was done by personal preference but we did look at a variety of sites across the web.  One thing I will recommend is taking a photo of the spool the trim comes on.  This will give you the necessary codes that should you need to to order more, or look at another store, you have them handy.

Necessary Techniques:  The big one is knowing how to work with fur.  DO NOT attempt this project unless you are confident in your fur skills.  The best way to practice is to make teddy bears.  I know seems silly but if you don't know how to trim the fur to remove the bulk for the curved seams of a teddy bear, doing this tailored fur project will take you to tears.

When laying out fur you can't do it like you can with regular cotton and cut two pieces at once, it won't work for a good project.  You have to have space to lay the fabric out flat.  I had to use a very clean floor to do mine.  I also use  2 inch long quilters pins.  Regular pins have trouble dealing with the bulk of the fur.  When laying out the patterns I got a white marker pen.  Chalk might work, but you need it accurate.  You will need to mark what each piece is, and if it is the pattern side up or pattern side down.  I can't tell you how many times I saw on news groups where people were in tears because they didn't note that and cut out two of the same piece.   Just mark it and note it,  save yourself tears.  This will also be handy when you have to do pieces on folds. You can trace the piece, then hinge it to the other side, and trace.   Do not try to cut from just the tissue paper it will easily slip while cutting.   When laying out and cutting go from the back side of the fabric.  The pile will easily slip during this process and you will have problems.   When doing your cutting cut only the backing not the fur.  You want to keep as much of the pile in tact as possible.  If you cut the fur with the long pile it could cause look problems in your garment.  Take your time!

Speaking of the fur,  it will get EVERYWHERE!  Soon as there is a cut edge it will start shedding from those edges.  After you cut each piece, carefully remove into a trash bag any loose fur.  If you have access to it, go outside and shake the excess fur from the pieces,  CAREFULLY!  When you are not putting fur in it, keep the trash bag twisted shut.  This will prevent too much fly away.  Also do NOT have fans going when cutting the fur, it will only spread it further.    Have  lint brushes and sticky tape handy because it will go EVERYWHERE!   This is important if, like me, you use your dinning room table to sew and cut things out.  It is possible for fur to get into things you don't want it to if you don't clean/ dust after yourself.   When you are done sewing for the day, clean and dust so it doesn't get away.  Even with all these precautions, you will still have fluff, but  not as much if you didn't take precautions.  When I cut out my fur I wore jeans and a long sleeve tshirt.  Soon as I was done with fur cutting, they went into the dryer to remove as much as the fluff as possible before they were washed.  I didn't want to track it across the house.

Now that you have the pieces cut from the main fabric you now you get to the "fun" part.  You can not get accurate seams if have alot of bulk due to the pile of the fur.  With as dense as the good furs are , there will be alot of bulk if you don't trim the seams.  What I mean when I say, trim the seams is this.  Everywhere that there will be seam you trim 5/8" away from the edge.   This includes where the white turns up to cover the bottom hem of the robe, this means under the trim on the center front and cuffs.  This is every single place where there is a seam.  Yeah, it's a lot.  So how do you do it?   I used my measuring tape which is 5/8" wide as my guide and I used small thread snips.  Why didn't I use my large 9" long shears?  Because I couldn't control them. This is fine cutting where I needed to stay with in the 5/8" space never cutting the pile past that, and never cutting the backing it's self.  It is time consuming and exact work.  If you want it done right it has to be done this way.  There is a reason why this is considered advanced work.  The pattern itself is easy it is the fabric which is the challange.
You will read elsewhere that you can use a beard trimmer to do this, which is true.  Just like with the scissors you will need to be slow and accurate.  It does work, but I would recommend using it only in areas where you have large space.  For example under the white trim on the hem, or cutting the paths for the trim.  The paths for the trim is tricky.  I cut the paths on my Mrs Claus cape but didn't on the father Christmas.  Both had their perils, but the decision is up to you.

Times up, looks like I will need to save the shirt and pants for part 3. :)