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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Coat of Many Colors

Well... I was warned that starting a blog was a commitment to regular postings that I might not be able to maintain, but I will resolve to improve the regularity... though likely to be on a weekly basis or less.
Life at Outback Fibers has been busy with the birth of a new grandson, Grant,

and the imminent arrival of another grandson, yet to be named.  At the same time, husband, Mark, has transitioned out of his HR position to become the other half of Outback Fibers.  So if a masculine voice answers the phone now and then, rest assured I have not been taking testosterone pills and growing hair on my chest!

In the midst of this I planned to run a booth at the Houston Quilt Festival in early November and decided that a coat was a great way to educate the quilting public about felting.
Starting with a base of a single layer of black ProFusion, ...
ProFusion prefelt with slit cut for pocket
Vintage Port Merino roving

I thinned strips of hand-dyed merino in Vintage Port to create the surface design layer, allowing strands of the dyed merino to extend beyond the base to create the "fringe". Between the strips of dyed merino, I interspersed thinned strips of tussah silk in the same colorway.


The coat was to be made by felting a single back panel, two front panels and separate sleeves -- assembled by sewing to complete it.  Allow approx. 40% shrinkage overall.  Continuous gradation of the colorway is retained by thinning the fibers without allowing them to completely pull apart.  A single layer is sufficient when ProFusion is used for the base layer.
And because I just had so much spare time on my hands (hah) I decided to also make seamless pocket inserts in the front of the coat.  The beauty of the ProFusion is that it can be stitched on the sewing machine prior to felting.  Thus two pockets were cut 40% larger than the desired finished size and machine stitched around 3 sides.  The open edges of the pockets were placed inside a carefully cut slit in the base piece of ProFusion, with plastic bags both lining the inside of the pockets and surrounding the outside with the exception of the open edge which was basted into the slit with black thread.  The dyed merino strips were placed either side of the open slit creating an almost invisible pocket opening.

After wetting out the fibers and rubbing the surface to connect all the layers, I used my trusty sander to stabilize everything and put a good skin on the felt.  Then off to the front-loading washing machine (best investment yet for making large yardage), a short run on the express cycle produced a nice piece of finished felt.
The felt is a light garment-weight fabric suitable for Texas winters, and easy to machine stich without creating bulky seams.  For northern climates, I would suggest a double layer of the ProFusion for the base.
The solid black sleeves were made from a single layer of ProFusion, well-fulled in the front-loading washer, cut in standard sleeve pattern, inserted into the coat and sewn in place.
Needless to say, the Quilt Show arrived before the coat was completed so it was displayed as a project "under construction".  Current cooler weather may doubtless prompt me to make a decision about the lapels and the ultimate completion of the coat.