I think I’ve settled on my next project: a cashmere coat.
Let me start by explaining that I work from home in an unheated garage. The garage is part of the house, so it gets some warmth from the rest of the house, and it faces the sun. So on most days, it’s actually warmer than the rest of the house. (Heaven knows what I’ll do when it hits high summer.)
The last few days, however, have been cloudy and in the mid-forties, which is just about as cold as it gets in San Francisco. As a result, the garage has been pretty darn cold. Cold enough that I’ve been wearing a jacket and shoes (which I don’t normally), and have been coming back into the apartment at regular intervals when my fingers get too cold to type. I’m seriously considering moving my “office” indoors for the week.
Needless to say, I have been thinking a lot of warm thoughts. Like coats. I have been lusting after a nice coat for some time – currently I have a jacket that works OK, but has one defomed snap that won’t close. This annoys me every time I wear it, so I am thinking that something else might be interesting.
Then, as I was browsing the great deals at Sierra Trading Post, I came across this coat:
Needless to say, I fell in love with it. But even at 75% off, it was still $200, more than I really wanted to pay. Also, while I’m not the radical vegetarian I was in my youth, I’m really not big on the idea of fur.
But I liked the idea of a nice, elegant coat in luxury fiber. And I’m still freezing my tush off in the garage. A coat would be just the thing, I thought.
So I went to my box of patterns (figuring I could try designing it, but why not see if something would suit?) and found this Vogue pattern:
I love “C”, the ankle-length coat. I’ve always dreamed of having this style of coat – which is, probably owing to the materials involved and the generally dressy style, almost always exorbitantly expensive. With the pattern calling for 10 yards of material, buying cashmere or even a nice wool for the coat was out of the question, budget-wise. But I was still thinking warm thoughts, and really wanting a coat like that, so…
…I decided to weave myself one.
At this point I had to choose what to use for this putative coat. I shortened the pattern pieces to fit my height, and found out that the pattern required 15 yards of 22.5″ wide fabric (which is as wide as my loom will weave). I added 2 yards in case I cut out one of the pieces wrong, making 17 yards. Assuming 15% shrinkage (I haven’t made samples yet) gets you to about 19.5 yards, which you might as well round up to 20 yards. That, at least for me, is a LOT of fabric.
What to do? I wanted to use stuff from my stash, which is currently close to overflowing. With 11 pounds of silk soon to arrive from Laos, I needed to clear some space. But I don’t buy for 20-yard projects; I didn’t have enough on hand in any given fiber to weave 20 yards of anything.
On the other hand, I did have quite a bit of “thick” (by which I mean about 2500 ypp) silk yarn that I had been longing to use up. It’s beautiful stuff, six strands of 60/2 silk loosely twisted together, that I had bought long ago thinking I would dye it and use it as silk embroidery thread. But I gave up on embroidery long ago (too time consuming), and it had sat in my garage for literally about ten years. I had about 4.5 pounds of it – not quite enough for a 20 yard warp at 24″ wide, but close enough if I added some 12/2 silk that I was also trying to use up. So I decided to use a silk warp.
I also had quite a bit of cashmere/mohair yarn that I wasn’t sure what to do with. I haven’t had a chance to weave samples with it, but cashmere/mohair strikes me as a fairly unlikely combination: cashmere is a very soft fiber, whereas mohair is typically fairly coarse – even the softest kid mohair is nothing like cashmere. So, despite having bought it cheaply on impulse, I didn’t think I was going to use it in my shawls. And I had four pounds of it, more than I had of any other fiber. Plus I had a 2-lb cone of beige merino that I wanted to use up. 6 lbs of yarn would, according to my calculations, be enough for 20 yards. I could strand the two yarns together to get a weft about the right size.
I am still debating the exact yarns (I have a gorgeous mohair loop that I might use instead), but this seems like a fairly good plan. I have wanted a coat like this for ages, and it’s a good excuse to clear out stash.
I haven’t thought about the pattern yet, but as the expected twill sett for this yarn is probably around 24 epi, and I want relatively small patterns, it will probably be threaded up straight draw to give me maximum flexibility. I will put pinstripes of 12/2 silk every half inch (two threads in each stripe) to stretch out the 60/2 bundled yarn, so the pattern must be compatible with that. Other than that I don’t know…yet. Next step is sampling!
This will be fun! It’s going to be a lot of complex planning, but I love planning and designing almost more than weaving.