Hi all, Here is another questiuon I recently received that I think a lot of you can benefit from:
I just finished a buckskin hoodie that fit pretty perfect, just snug when I finished it initially. I then dyed it with Oak Galls and it feels like it shrunk a lot from that dying process. Its now incredibly tight. Should I just keep wearing it as is and struggle in and out of it, or would it help to get the whole thing wet again and possibly wear it wet as it dries to help stretch it a bit that way?
Any thoughts are helpful. It seemed like it was going to fit just perfect because it was starting out snug but man is it hard to get on and off now!
Yipes! Bummer, I am all too familiar with that experience, it is a common one. The short answer is, there are some things you can do to help the situation, but a lot the change is, unfortunately, permanent. So sorry. The problem is the most of the dyes that work really well in cold water and that are lasting are those that have natural tannins in them. It is the tannins that provide the color. Unfortunately, these tannins are just that- tannins. Left too long or dyed too strongly, they start to actually tan the hide, which necessarily involves a sucking up and shrinking of the length of the protein fibers as bonds are formed between them. Things will always be a little smaller, a little less flexible, and a little less stretchy aftet they have been dyed with anything containing tannins, and the darker the color the stronger this effect. Oak galls have some of the highest tannin content of any plant material, and while many dyes are even in tannin quality and dye quality, galls in particular have more tannin than coloring agent. This effect of tannins is part of why I always recommend dying hides first, then making your projects out of them. Unfortunately, the chapter covering dyeing isn't finished yet so I haven't sent it out. I think that I mention this in one of the chapters in part 2 though, maybe the layout or hide selection chapter? I am not sure, I should check and make sure it is in there!
In terms of what to do, I would recommend washing/soaking it in warm, not hot, water both to relax the fibers and to get as much of the unbound tannins out as possible. Then I would work it and stretch it as it dries. Not as intensely as pulling a hide to tan it, just moving it and stretching it every so often as it dries, pulling in the direction you want it to stretch in. You could also wear it dry once it gets to being just damp enough to be wearable, not slimy soaking wet. Another side effect of the tannins is that they tend to make hides dry and a even a little squeaky (creaky sounding when stretched, a sign of being over dry). You could condition and soften it a little bit by adding a little bit of olive oil (less than a tablespoon! You don't want it to get it actually greasy!) to the final rinse water, with just enough liquid soap (like Dr. Bronner's) to emulsify it. Beat these really well into the water so the oil is broken up, not a slick on the water's surface.
If this all fails, the only thing to do is to re-tailor it a bit, adding in some panels here and there to expand it. This can be done in an artistic and attractive way so that it will look like you did it on purpose to give it extra flair. I hope it doesn't come to that though.
I hope this helps and that it will still be wearable. Such a bummer, but sure a good way to learn this lesson and remember it forever, huh? I still remember when I turned my favorite buckskin bra into a small, stiff dolls bra,oops!
Good luck with it!
I helped Kelly put together this skirt at a class at Saskatoon Circle, 2015. A great design, with a barktanned yoke in the back and buckskin dyed blue with indigo for the sewing thong.
When she had it all put together though, the waistband wasn't really functional. It was lower on her hips than she wanted and was sitting away from her body not doing much to hold the skirt up. I am sure others have experienced similar problems, so here are my two cents on dealing with this issue.
First off, one of the most important things is to make your skirt on the small side, rather than just right! It counter intuitive, because with cloth sewing you are better off making it too big as it is easy to take it in a bit. With buckskin though, it is going to stretch on you. It being just right to start with, rather than too small, is definitely part of what is going on with the skirt. I think it can be fixed with some waistline altering in this case, though, which is great.
Another important factor with waistlines is that, while people tend to think of them as straight across from hip to hip, they really aren't. Everyone's shape is different, of course, but most women's butts stick out more than their bellies. This means that to fit nicely and give the appearance of straight across, the waist of the skirt should dip down a little in the front and rise up a little in the back. See the little wrinkle under the waistband in the picture at the right? My guess is that this is from the skirt bunching here to make for a dip in the waist. She made a scoop at the bottom of the skirt, but not enough of one at the top of the skirt.
Another issue is that if the skirt doesn't have a way to open up enough to let the skirt slide easily over the hips when pulling it on, it will stretch out until it ends up their width. This means it is going to be wider and sit lower than you want it to. She made the waistband able to open up with the buttons at the side, but it could use a bigger opening that goes further down the side seam. Ideally, it would open from the narrowest part of the skirt (wherever you want the waist band to sit) to the widest part of the hips. For her, this would mean opening another couple of inches down, not just at the waist band.
She has already taken in the waist a bit by moving the buttons further in and taking little darts out of the side of the waistband. To really solve the issue and make it the skirt she wants though, I recommend pulling the waist band off and scooping the waist a bit more. She asked also about scooping the back, but this would only exacerbate the problem! Butts up, waists down! Take a look at a pair of jeans when they are off of your body and you will see this rise in the back, scoop in the front. Just scooping the front is usually enough for skirts though!
Another huge factor with waistbands is making them hug the hips by making them more of a cone, not a cylinder. To do this, you either need to pucker them a bit at the top with a tight runing stitch or make them in several pieces so you can sew the hip hug into them. by making a diagonal junction in the waist pieces. (see illustration below) I like to do both, and that is what I would recommend here.
So Kelly, I would pull the waistband off of the skirt. I would pull out a few inches of the side seam and put buttons there so it can open up wider to pull on. I would add a little more scoop to the waist of the skirt pieces (say an inch or two lower in the front, curving up to the current sides). I would make the waistband a little smaller, plus cut it in the middle of the back to put in angles there, plus deeper angles at the sides. I would then sew it back on, in pieces and compensate for the fact that it is now smaller than the skirt's waist by making little subtle puckers in the skirt as you sew it up. This mean each stitch will take in a little more length of the skirt piece than it does of the waist piece. These puckers will be visible at first but will dissapear as it wears in, so long as they are small, regular, subtle puckers. Then I would play with the angles where all of your waist band pieces come together, adjusting the overlap until they hug the hips just right. Finally, i would sew up the top of the waistband with the running stitch, and pull it noice and tight so that it puckers a bit, thus hugging the hips even more.
Hope this helps and please report back on how it all works out and ask more questions as they come up.
Big thanks to Kelly for being willing to be my guinea pig with my first tailoring blog post!
Keep the questions coming, everyone!
Chapter 15: Tank Tops and Vests has been released and editing for the book has begun! Now is the time to give any feedback you may have about the chapters you have seen so far so I can include it in the final version.
I am opening this page as an invitation to folks who would like to write in with comments or questions about their adventures in buckskin sewing. I am hoping to start a dialog with others who are passionate about wearing and working with buckskin, so please join in!
For those of you who asked me how and when you can get your hands on some of the information in the book before it is actually printed, I have finally given in to your requests and am now distributing pre-published chapters of the book as part of my fund raising efforts.
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