Sashiko Happy Coat MAL: Yarn Experiment in Action

Updated: Apr 4


Welcome again!! Here is a mid-week blog to show you the Sashiko Happy Coat idea I have been working on in the weeks leading up to the MAL. I know it’s a question many of you are interested in from comments in the International and Dutch Facebook groups: What if the coat was made in an alternative Scheepjes yarn?

The key words in that question are “what if” because it is still an unanswered question. I have been weighing up the characteristics of various options....

Weighing up yarn choices - Lol

Yes, the very skilled Esther (I won't give her full name here) has made her second Sashiko Happy Coat with Whirligig/Whirligigette (and it looks amazing), but there is no officially tested alternative choice except Scheepjes Our Tribe with Alpaca Rhythm. Everyone is of course free to explore their stash, swatch and give it a go, but for any pattern the most reliable results will come from using the yarn that is indicated by the pattern document, and that is always my strong recommendation. Having said that, let’s put that notion aside and talk about something completely different. Crazy!

But.... This post is not about yarn substitution.

This post is about something MORE EXCITING than just a replacement yarn….

This post is about exploring a tangential idea – taking my coat in a new design direction, and at the same time simplifying the project!!!.…….. It's about launching in to unchartered territory, pushing boundaries, taking risks and forging ahead in an uncertain world!!!

Whaaaat iiiff…… My coat became a boucle-tweed-look sort of coat in black, without any embroidery? Think a Chanel-style fabric with crisp white trims to the collar and cuffs, and black buttons down the collar and front? I very much want to see that, and I figure why not make a fourth coat at the same as my third coat during the MAL and share how it develops? What could go wrong?

Well, there are a few problems to address: Logistically, this does mean more crochet to do and more blog posts to prepare, so the time I have to interact on socials etc will be affected a bit. Email responses could be a bit slow in order to keep everything on track, so there is that....


More importantly, there are technical factors to consider:

The trouble with changing the yarn used is that it can dramatically change the drape, elasticity, yardage, sizing and weight of the finished garment. Like, TOTALLY change things. The only way you really know how something is going to behave is to try it and see. One MUST do some swatching, blocking and larger piece testing before deciding if it’s even going to be worth the effort. Research! Research! Research! (Somehow this suddenly seems to have a bit less “brave new world” vibe, and a bit more “swatch, measure and weigh” vibe, huh?)

Anyway, I have taken one for the team, and this research is exactly what I have been doing for the past few weeks or see if a cotton-acrylic version is likely to work …. Drum roll please……..

…. Since I am writing a whole post about it, you have probably already guessed that I have decided that the answer is yes!! It is likely to work, but not definite. I am steaming on ahead, designing with you all watching, knowing it might fall short of the mark and at the same time hoping it will be something wonderful. Eeek. Either way, we will all learn something together, so that's a win!


Here we go: Check out this photo to show the concept of the boucle-tweed-look fabric I have in mind using Scheepjes Stone Washed and Whirlette.


I did try edging in the Licorice Whirlette first here, but I think white will be better. Some people might have noticed this looks suspiciously like the cowl that I was wearing in a recent Instagram post – and yes, it is that cowl - I made it to test out my idea for the fabric.


And here is a concept sketch so you can imagine the coat a bit better. I have drawn in some white trims, but I play around with where they actually go in the coat as I go - you know, decide "in the moment" - but this gives you the general idea. I haven't figured out how many buttons I want yet either, but that is easy to adjust because the button holes are made in the last few rows of the coat bodice - so plenty of time to think about that!

Concept sketch for my experimental Happy Coat

Now, before we go any further, I did also look at using Secret Garden when I first starting designing this garment, and you can read here in my previous post "The Design Story of Sashiko Happy Coat" why I ruled that one out.

I crocheted a bunch of swatches with Stone Washed (SW) single stranded and Stone Washed combined with Whirlette (SW/W) to compare their behaviour to double stranded Our Tribe (OT), and to figure out the hook size to use with these combos to arrive at a (blocked) gauge that is close as possible to that of my coat. I won’t step you through all of that, but I did block my first single stranded Stone Washed swatch simultaneously with an OT swatch so you can observe some interesting differences in how the largely merino fabric behave compared to the largely cotton fabric.

First off, pre-blocked:


During blocking: - the OT is very relaxed!


and post-blocking:


You can see that the OT enlarges quite a bit more than the cotton in the water, and overall, pre-blocking to post-blocking: the OT merino/nylon fabric gets bigger, and the SW cotton/acrylic fabric stays pretty much the same. Merino has some elasticity and cotton doesn’t, so this makes sense.

As you can see in the post-blocking photo, I started with a 4mm hook to closely match the pre-blocked gauge, so I could see how the different fibres behaved with blocking. The blocked gauge was well off with the Stonewashed single stranded, and I rejected that option for the coat fabric. You would have to use a significantly larger hook to make the gauge match, and the fabric would end up with quite large holes, becoming flimsy. I think the SW/W combo makes a far more sturdy and visually interesting fabric anyway!


Leaping forward a few more swatches, I found that a 5mm hook with one strand SW combined with one strand of W was the best option to match blocked gauge. (Preblocked gauge was 16 sts x 14 rows to 10cm, and post blocked was 15 to 15.5 sts x 14 rows to 10cm - very close!) I made one collar piece in OT and another collar in SW/W with lots of weighing along the way.

Here is a photo of the 2 stacked up - both are POST-blocking (you even get a sneak peak of my collar embroidery ahead of schedule):


This looks very promising - they are the virtually same size! But look how the dimensions of each collar changed before and after blocking in my table below. As worked (pre-blocking), they actually started out quite differently, and I included the previous swatch photos to highlight why this happens.

This is my summary of findings for my YARN EXPERIMENT so far:

Note: here is my math behind estimating how much SW and W would be required so you can see how I came to these conclusions:

(total weight of Our Tribe) X 100/78 = total weight of combined SW and W.

(total weight of combined SW and W) X 0.65 = total weight of SW

(total weight of combined SW and W) X 0.35 = total weight of W

For example: size Small, 1 kg of yarn is required if double stranded OT.

1000g x 100/78 = 1282g total (SW & W) yarn, which will be 65% SW and 35% W.

1282g x 0.65 = 833g of SW is required, so I will need to order 17 x 50g balls = 850g to have enough yarn.

1282g x 0.35 = 449g of W is required, and since this comes in 100g balls, I will need 5 balls.


Now those of you who like to cross-reference things will notice that my post-blocked dimensions in this table are not the same as I note in the Pattern Supplement calculations that I provided as a guide to the size of each coat piece before and after blocking. Hmmm. Hang on – is Susan saying that Susan did not achieve gauge for her own coat!!? Surely not!?? (I am sure dramatic music would be good here...)

No, I am not saying that and I will explain....

Two factors: Firstly, the video I have made for you here is to show why (in my opinion at least – I am sure there are other valid opinions that differ from mine), concentrating on gauge rather than an exact dimension is a good approach. Pinning down an exact measurement is actually pretty difficult because the fabric can change shape while still being the same size. Depending on where tension is applied (and the structure of the stitch pattern), a draped fabric may pull and stretch in one or both directions, and when the fabric is worn as a garment, your body and the garment’s joining seams are applying tension to the fabric in multiple areas at once.


The fabric will have a natural “rest” position when tension is not being applied – the gauge will determine this, and how much it will (or won’t) stretch when it’s worn. If you have matched or almost matched the gauge, then the “performance” of the garment when worn should be reasonably consistent, and this is more functionally important than being centimetre perfect.

The second factor at play here is that my supplement uses gauge to extrapolate how big a piece should be if the gauge is consistent over the entire piece, but the edge/turning stitches always sit a bit differently (pull inwards) to the body of the fabric, which is why you measure the gauge from the middle of a swatch and should never include the edges.

SO - big question - HOW WILL THIS AFFECT COST?

After checking the price in AUD (Australian Dollars) per ball of each kind of yarn, and plugging it through an excel sheet to get a general feel for it – the price of making the coat in Our Tribe is about the same as making it in Stonewashed/Whirlette – there is only a few dollars in it, so no, making it in this SW/W cotton combo is not a cheaper alternative.

By the time you then add some contrasting Catona (imagine those crisp white fabulous glossy trims – YAY!!!) to the collar and cuffs, (I estimate 2 x 100gm balls for simple trims is likely enough – BUT this is a guestimate), the cotton coat experiment comes just out in front as the more expensive version.

Having said that, if you are allergic to animal fibres, or now that you have tried the embroidery on your swatch and you have decided that you are allergic to the embroidery technique (haha) …… then this might be a great option to consider!!

The other thing that really excites me about making my coat in SW/W is it becomes a classic every-day wearable coat and it can now have buttons all the way down the front (as there is no bodice embroidery to avoid), whereas the embroidered OT version is a statement special occasion kind of piece! One pattern – two completely different coats!!!!! (Yep, I am that excited).

Having said that, there is nothing stopping you embroidering some areas if you have the urge - its just that the smooth cotton threads for embroidery will be much harder to hide if its on an area where you will see both sides. Here is a pic of my cowl - I have used Catona in 105 Bridal White for a touch of embroidery.



COLOUR COMBINATIONS:

Now as much as I love my classic black and white thing I have planned for myself, think of all the gorgeous Stonewashed or Riverwashed colourways mixed with Whirlette colours you could use! After all, Riverwashed and Stonewashed are the same fibre composition and are designed to be used together......Start combining all those thumbnail photos of the yarns together and it could keep you busy for hours!


Here are a handful of options to get you thinking, and I couldn't resist coming up with some names for each one. Good luck deciding on a contrasting colour of Catona for the trims - there are like, soooo many choices! #stayhomeandchoosecolours

"Royal Flush": SW in Blue Apatite 805 with W in Blueberry 854
"Green Envy": RW in Po 955 with W in Avocado 861
"Cloud Rose": SW in Rose Quarts 820 with W in 859 Rose
"Plum Feather": RW in 949 Yarra with W in Grappa 855
"Hello Sunshine": SW in Yellow Jasper 809 with W in Banana 858
"Coco Black": SW in Black Onyx 803 with W in Licorice 851

OKAY……. Now that I have you all revved up, and a kaleidoscope of colours is turning in your head..........I would normally describe what comes next as the “fine print”, but instead I am calling it the BIG PRINT – because it's super-duper important:

DISCLAIMER:

I am making a fourth coat using Stonewashed combined with Whirlette and Catona (bridal white 105) as an (exciting and intriguing) EXPERIMENT – I DO NOT KNOW THE OUTCOME YET. This has not been tested before, and it might fail! My yardage estimates might be slightly out by the time the Whirlette wraps around the Stonewashed differentially over the large piece of fabric. There is a risk that it will feel too bulky or heavy, or that the weight of the coat will make it stretch a bit over time (whereas I know the merino springs back with its inherent elasticity).

Mind you, there is also a serious risk of it being like, the most fabulous every day coat that you never want to take it off!!

So, I welcome you to join me on this adventure if you feel inspired, but you must also be prepared for extra risk. I will be explaining my adaptive choices (if I make any) as I go along, and hope for the best. Fingers and toes are crossed! I am feeling optimistic and excited to see how it looks and functions in the end, but if you don’t like risk or uncertainty, then I would encourage you to sit back and see how it all pans out first before considering this option.

There is no rush (except mine – I am dying to know how the story ends)!

You can source whichever yarn option tickles your fancy at Scheepjes retailers worldwide.

Please consider supporting my blog and shop via these affiliate links:

Wool Warehouse (in the UK)

Caros Atelier (in the Netherlands),

It is no extra cost to you, and helps me to continue designing as I receive a small percentage of the sale.


Other handy shops:

Black Sheep Wools (in the UK)

Jimmy Beans Wool (in the US)

Knotty House (in Canada)

& shopping at Yarns For All helps to support a small Australian business in my local city of Perth Western Australia (a good option if you live in New Zealand - they can still ship worldwide).


That’s it for now. More prep information soon on how to customise your coat for your body, then most of the heavy duty technical stuff will be done!

I hope I haven't given you "analysis paralysis" with all these options....

Susan (Peppergoose)


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