Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Flannel 101

I was determined to make matching outfits for my little ones for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

So off I went to my favorite fabric store. It's a small, family owned drugstore that also sells fabric. It is not much to look at on the outside and is located in a really sketchy part of town, but inside, it has a very nice selection of quilting cottons. And you never know - you might want to grab some aspirin while you're buying a few yards of gingham, especially to get you through the long nights of sewing.

I dashed in to look for some inspiration. Sewing winter clothes in Florida is tricky. The fabric needs to look wintery. I refuse to dress my family as though we're on a Hawaiian vacation in December, even if the temperature may be in the 70s. There is nothing fun about looking summery all year long. Let's pretend we have seasons. And as important as wintery-looking fabric might be, the fabric cannot, I repeat cannot, feel very wintery. Or we will die of a heatstroke. And all of my nights of hard labor will be in vain.

I stumbled upon the loveliest kelly green cotton flannel with a tiny navy blue plaid going through it. It looked ever-so-Irish schoolgirl, which is exactly the look we are going for. Fuzzy enough to say winter, thin and cottony enough not to cause a heatstroke. Perfection! It was on sale, it was kelly green, and it was MINE. Unfortunately, there were only 1.5 yards on the bolt. I could have cried. Every other flannel in the store was too plain or had snowmen and pinecones on it. Not the look we're going for. So I bought the green flannel, and decided to see if I could make it work.

I agonized over cutting the fabric, afraid I'd get started and not have enough for three whole outfits. After a great many hours of sewing, here is what I came up with: a pleated green skirt for my eldest daughter, a jumper with a bit of navy piping at the yoke for my middle daughter (there wasn't enough fabric for a dress with sleeves, so a jumper was my only option), and a longall for my baby boy. It was not the most fun I've ever had sewing. But I did finish (in the spirit of full blogger disclosure, I finished a week after Thanksgiving. Finishing all three outfits before Thanksgiving Day was physically impossible). And here is what I learned:

1. Never, never, ever be lured in by even the loveliest of flannel. It stretches, it gives, it will try your soul. If you do give in, be sure your flannel does not have a plaid pattern on it. If it does, then every time your fabric stretches, there is a very obvious wavy line across the outfit to point out your not-so-exact sewing.

2. Flannel does not pleat well. At all. It is soft and squishy. It wants to be made into a quilt. It does not want to be ironed flat into crisp, delightful, Irish-schoolgirl pleats. And if you do iron it into such pleats, they will just come back out again by the end of the day.

3. Sometimes it is more important to finish a matching set of three outfits, even if they are not as perfect as you had envisioned, than to have a matching set of three half-finished outfits in your stack of unfinished projects. The workmanship on these outfits is not what I would like it to be. But they are, indeed, matching outfits, and they are on the three little ones I love the very most, and they still look sweet running around all green and lovely and soft, even if their pleats do not hold and their seams are not straight.