Patience is a virtue they say so I will refrain from gnashing my teeth and ranting about the delivery performance of a large internet bookseller. I am poised on the edge of a deep, deep rabbit hole and the one thing that is stopping me from flinging myself into the depths of a new obsession is that I’m waiting for my book on tailoring. I have the idea, the pattern, the fabric samples, a book on pattern fitting, a sheet for the muslin and a waiting husband. What I don’t have is the book on tailoring that I ordered on March 27th. “Delivery in 9-12 days” my eye.
I left the jacket pattern where it was seen by other passing males and things quickly escalated from “you could make one of those for me if you like” to specifying the number of buttons and the colour. I’m reluctant to make things for my son firstly because he’s still growing but mostly because he has absolutely no idea of how much work is involved. I’ve been calling in at the local charity shop in the hope of picking up a suitable sports jacket that I could alter to fit him and this week I struck lucky. I found a lightweight wool suit that I thought would be about the right size, when I got it home it fitted perfectly. The pockets still had the threads where they’d been sewn up when new, there was no wear at the hem where it would have rubbed on shoes and it had the look of something that had been worn twice. The downside was that on one of those occasions someone had sat in crumbs of chocolate and it was the wrong colour (his preference being for purple or lime green). I ignored the dry clean only label and washed the trousers on the wool wash to see if I could wash it without it shrinking because I was hoping to dye it in the machine. The trousers were a 30″ inside leg when they went in the washer and a 30″ leg when they came out so I was confident enough to wash the jacket too. I tacked through all the layers before I did that so that it would come out the same shape as it went in. The chocolate stains came out after a fashion, there were still some faint marks on the back but you’d need to be me to find them.
I had hoped to throw the lot in the washer with a dye designed for use in washing machines but all the machine dyes say that they must not be used with wool. Having already ignored “dry clean only” I would have ignored this too but I watched my machine wash on the wool cycle and I suspect that it wouldn’t have worked well. There’s very little water in the drum and it’s a short programme so I don’t think that there would be enough time for the dye to take or enough water for it to colour evenly. I don’t have a big enough pan for the suit to go on the hob so that was out, to get an even colour it would need to swim in lots of water. Patchy yarn is appealing when knitted but I can’t see a patchy jacket being as desirable. At this point I was stuck and then I remembered the solar dyeing I did for the first pair of stealth socks that I made. After seven years and countless wash cycles that yarn is still orange and yet it didn’t get much in the way of heat. Sitting in a jam jar in the greenhouse worked as well as simmering in a pan on a gas ring so maybe I could get away with using hot water rather than a heat source?
This is where I feel there should be a flashing sign like the ones on the television “Caution, these stunts are performed by professionals under controlled conditions. Do not attempt anything you see here at home” except that I’m not a professional and I was attempting it at home. Seriously, what’s the worst that could happen? The suit cost all of £10 and if I learned something and got some nice felt out of the process it would have been cheap entertainment. I dye a lot of wool so unlike tailoring I’m not reaching for the stars from a zero skill base. I knew that the lining and stitching would probably stay grey as they were not going to be silk or wool but I could live with that.
I bought a sixty litre storage tub rather than a barrel because the spare bedroom looks like the wardrobes have exploded so I have an immediate use for another storage box. (Next week’s job – tidy wool room) There was a chance that it might leak so I stood it outside near the drain so that I could empty it easily when I was done. I took the buttons off so the fabric under them would dye evenly, soaked the suit in warm water and then gradually added water firstly from the hot tap and then from the kettle so that it came up to being bath water hot without a sudden temperature change. Many of the dyes you can buy for wool have the dye and the acid combined. That’s not what I wanted for this. As soon as you have heat, dye and acid the dye will start to bond with the fibre and what I wanted was for the suit to become evenly saturated with the dye stock before it started to strike. I added the dye when the tub was about half full and then after I thought the suit was thoroughly soaked in the dye stock and I’d turned it several times I started to add the citric acid solution. After that I just l left it to cool, moving the clothes about every ten minutes or so. The magenta didn’t exhaust (does it ever?) so then it was back in the washer on the wool wash.
The result is evenly coloured, it’s still suit shaped because of the tacking and the added bonus is that the zip on the fly and both of the linings took the dye as well. The stains on the back have vanished altogether and the inside leg measurement is still 30″ so there was no shrinkeage. I forgot to take the buttons off the trousers as my focus was solely on the jacket so I know now that it’s not worth trying to dye the buttons. I will be consulting over button selection, I need eight small ones and three big ones so there’s a chance that it will double the cost of the jacket. I don’t expect him to ever wear the trousers and I doubt he’ll wear the jacket more than twice but then I will have proved beyond doubt that he’s not a jacket wearer without the effort of making him a jacket or the expense of buying one.
I am beyond pleased with the results and would certainly attempt this again although I would not be saying this if I’d done the dyeing inside because the storage box did leak. I’ve looked on Ebay and light coloured wool jackets are cheap and plentiful so if he does wear it there’s a good chance that I might do this again some time in the future. I think I struck lucky with this in that it’s a very light weight wool, I think that a thicker fabric would be harder to dye evenly and it would certainly take more drying.
There will be modelled shots once it’s dry/I’ve pressed it/it’s got buttons.