Friday, March 29, 2013

Challis - A History of Our Chalet's Namesake

Hello Chalet guests, have a seat and lets talk a little bit about the history of our namesake, challis.

According to the dictionary is a lightweight plain-weave fabric of wool, cotton, etc., usually with a printed design. Which is all well and good, but doesn't really give us more information than that. So I figured I'd start with what a "lightweight plain weave" means.  Enter a text book from 1925*.

Click to embiggen.
"A plain weave" is where one weft yard passes evenly over one warp yard. This takes the least amount of material to make and is very inexpensive. The book goes on to say that challis is made from cotton and wool (rayon has not yet caught on).

Wool challis is light and soft and recommended for dresses and negligees. It will cost you (adjusted for inflation) anywhere from $13-25 dollars per yard (no wider than 39").

Cotton challis, however, is considered for inexpensive dresses and "comfortables" (lounge wear, I'm assuming).  This will run you anywhere from $2.50 to $24 a yard (also, no wider than 39").  

Now lets fast forward about 15 years, just before WWII was really under way. Chemists had been working on improving rayon, or "viscose" as it were to make it easier and more cost effective to manufacture. Somewhere around the 20's it started being called "artificial silk" and, as I looked, was not yet more than a foot note in text books but popular among households, until the 30's and the Great Depression.  But here's info according to DuPont's timeline.

About the time of the 1940's, DuPont started pushing rayon through what I can only assume are the original "infomercials".  I found an example from 1940 itself.

But rayon, and coincidentally, rayon challis, didn't catch on until the USA was fully embroiled in  WWII and rationing started.

After this country entered World War II practically no staple clothing fabrics of prewar quality were manufactured for the civilian. Some of the materials that homemakers used during peacetime in enormous quantities to clothe their families virtually disappeared from the civilian
consumer's market. No 80-square percale, no fine-count two-ply broadcloth or voile, and little gingham, chambray, muslin, nainsook, lawn, or poplin was available. These shortages were due in part to Government regulations which directed enormous quantities of textile goods to the armed forces. In order to stretch as far as possible the small amounts of fiber available, there was also a lowering of quality of textile materials made for home folks.
By the spring of 1944 the supply and variety of serviceable cotton fabrics were limited. The prewar backlog of materials of good quality was used up and the flow of these fabrics from the factories to the stores had almost ceased. In the small cities and towns, particularly those near military bases or camps, the shortage of staple materials was acute. Many of the few fabrics available, particularly the cottons, were so unattractive in design and color that they obviously would not have sold readily, if at all, in normal times. Rayons were generally more plentiful and more comparable to prewar fabrics than were the cottons, but some types of rayons were scarce. Wool and wool mixed fabrics were more plentiful than the cottons. Mixtures of wool and rayon were common, but few wool and cotton mixtures were on the market.
From early in 1944 until several months after the end of hostilities, homemakers in various parts of the United States found many of the available staple clothing fabrics so coarse and sleazy that they scarcely justified the money spent for 'hem or the time and energy used to make th jloth into garments. Many of the fabrics shrank and were faded by light and washing.

The relatively large volume of "too poor" fabrics might have been replaced by a smaller volume of materials of better quality if minimum quality standards had been set up for textile goods. Such standards under Government control would have prevented textile raw materials from being manufactured into inferior fabrics in this period of scarcity.
Before World War II considerable progress had been made in determining the physical characteristics of cotton woven goods such as broadcloth, chambray, gingham, and percale (5, 6,16,17).2
Federal specifications developed for the use of Government agencies in purchasing these goods have been in existence for several years (11, 12,13, 14). In these specifications for broadcloth and chambray differences in quality have been
designated. On the other hand, the quality of other classes of cotton and of various types of wool and rayon fabrics is not so generally known. The quality of various kinds of mixed fabrics composed of cotton, rayon, wool, and other fibers needs to be studied since they are becoming more and more common. Some of these fabrics are included in this study. Found here in Google Books, Quality of Fabrics Study in 1946
So, in essence, rayon and particularly challis, became popular because what else was there to use? Here are some vintage samples.

Source: viaLady on Pinterest

Source: viaLady on Pinterest

Source: viaLady on Pinterest

Well, that concludes today's lesson. I hope you enjoyed it and learned something new!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Challis Chalet Flickr Group

Welcome Dear Readers to your stay at the wonderful Challis Chalet!  (Thank You Ms. Grievances for that wonderful alliteration) Honored guests will find our amenities just perfect for your stitching delights. We have sewing rooms equipped with the finest machines and Colette worthy studio light. We also have breakfast and lunch nooks on demand with the finest culinary delights.

  You shall find your rooms filled with champagne  chocolate, and a Jacuzzi tub to soak the tired and aching muscles that come with sewing the day away while chatting with you best sewcialist friends.

Challis Chalet invites you to show off what lovely choices you have brought with you, fabrics and patterns.  You can join the Flickr group here. Please feel free to open up conversations for knowledge you'd like to share in our wonderful "discussion lounge".

The staff here can't wait to see what you have in store for us! And don't forget to grab the badge for your blog. Just right click and save to your computer from here.

Monday, March 25, 2013

April Challis - A Focus Month

*see below

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for Spring. Here in The South the pear trees and azaleas are blooming but its not really Spring weather yet. At least for us. I mean, yes its been raining lots but its still getting *gasp* BELOW FREEZING at night. I'm sure that's driving the farmers batty.

So, anyway, this idea was thought up somewhere around the end of Jungle January. I was all bummed out about not actually sewing jungle themed fabric that month and wanted another one. Then I looked at the enormous pile of rayon challis in my stash and thought "Hey! April Challis! It kinda rhymes with 'showers'". Except, not, because apparently its pronounced "shall-eee" because its some crazy foreign word that doesn't pronounce all its letters (Don't start. I know English isn't innocent either. I'm looking at you, knife, knock, and eight). Then I thought, hey, this is America, we mess shit up all the time so I'm gonna say its pronounced "shallis". So there. Neener.

The best part is, challis is the perfect fabric for Spring because its soft, drapey, and comes in a million floral prints. But also, its good for Autumn weather, use muted colors and longer sleeves. Add tights and boots for winter. So really, its the perfect transitional fabric, that way both hemispheres of our little global community can join in the fun.

Do you want to join in on this stash busting theme of the month? If so, just right click on the image and save to your computer and then upload to your blog. Please link back to me in a post!

*I pulled this image off of Pinterest and tried to find the original artist with Google Image Search, to no avail. If this is your artwork please let me know in the comments so that I can give you credit. I am not aiming to make any money off of your work. Thank You.

**When I'm not pressed for time I'm going to attempt "grab code" buttons.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

This 'n' That

I'm not really sure where to start this post. Its a mish-mash of personal stuff that's vaguely related to sewing. More like it falls under the category of "domesticity".  I threw a fit of epic proportion in the last month due to the lack of consistent help around the house. We're slowly working on a system of shared responsibility that works.

 This was my long weekend week, but it felt short because the first two days were taken up by a day of liquid diet and then my colonoscopy. So two days of very much unpleasantness. I now have visual confirmation of diverticulosis and we're still waiting on biopsy results. Here's hoping for a clean report.  The doctor said he is quite sure that I do not have celiac disease, and that I might be gluten sensitive after I told him cutting back seems to help. And I have a life of no red meat and high fiber diet to look forward to. Not that hard for me.

Vogue 8701 Skirt Hanging Out

However, after those two days, Friday turned out to be an extremely productive day in the sewing arena. I managed to a large amount of prep work and I now have a pile of things to sew. About five, I think? Hopefully this weekend I'll have the sewing machines smoking, after I sleep in on Thursday.  This included cutting out a black version of the Candy Plaid dress and sewing up the skirt to hang during the week so I don't have to wait to hem it later. This is a rayon/wool gabardine blend (but drapes like crepe?) from Fabric Mart.

I also ordered the Laurel from Colette Patterns and started working on some ideas for the contest. This was one of them:

Please disregard the mess behind the dress form.

This was a drape approximate to the silhouette I hope the Laurel will provide once I change the darts to French ones. I have several pieces in my stash that could be just the right size for this. I do hope I can make this pattern work for me. I have many ideas and it would be easy for work wear. Win/Win

Other things I did this weekend included make laundry detergent, and re-arrange the linen closet so that it doesn't look like someone just shoved everything in there haphazardly. Out of this I now have a pile of mismatched/worn out sheets ready to be used for muslin or costuming. I also recovered my ironing board in fabric that makes me smile.

Fabric came to me from Mother's stash.

Oh! And I bought some water repellent cotton drill from Fabricmart to make the new Sewaholic trench coat pattern. I requested to have a copy put on hold at the local fabric shop when they come in. This stuff is beefy and will give me an excuse to break out Mom's Viking (beefy/viking... get it?). 

If I have the energy during my work days, I may cut out another Tiramisu in a lovely lavender rayon knit in my stash. My thinking on this is that I won't have to change thread after sewing up my lavender TNT blouse. Its all about efficiency.  And I have a muslin of Gertie's pencil skirt cut out. That one should be a fairly easy fit and sew.

Then I may be ready to tackle pants (trousers). Felicity wants the yellow jeans I promised her, too. And some super simple curtains for Simon's room. AND, I still have a friend's RTW jacket that I offered to repair oh... months ago.

So that's all that is on my plate. What have y'all got going? Sewing or otherwise, I want to know! Make me feel like I'm not the only one with crazy busy work load, please?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cake Projects

Wow, where to start? Well, first of all I had a very rough week at work. My daytime coworker moved to another department so I'm doing a double load of work. I've done this job long enough that I can do it but it stresses me out like mad. People are being interviewed so I'll have a trainee soon. Again, I mostly like my job and as rough as the 12 hour days are I like that four days off every other week (work 3, off four, work four, off three), though I'm still wearing the house wife hat on my days off. I know I don't normally talk about that stuff, here, but its a major reason for my lack of posting. I'm attempting to get into a frame of mind where I schedule my days off to be more efficient so I can have time to spend with family and friends. I'm thinking that Thursdays will be my "I'm sleeping in" days (think 10am). Though getting up at 8am is sleeping in when you get up at 4am on a work day.

But hey, you probably want to know what I've been working on. Well of course I've been talking about Vogue 8747.  I finally finished it and I'm wearing it now as I type this (at work... shhhhh, don't tell). I didn't get photos of me in it because hamming it up in front of a camera wan't on my list of things to do. I did take a photo of the finished product.
Front Vogue 8747
I should probably pick my socks up off the floor. And vacuum. Meh.

Front Vogue 8747
 The back of this blouse fits me better than the dress form. See previous rants about my shoulders.

Buttons and Fabric Vogue 8747 
So, I love this blouse enough I already have a second one cut out. And I'm using these pretty buttons from the stash I inherited from my mother. I love that I have things like this as a constant reminder of her.

Even though I cut out the fabric I didn't feel like something so intense, so I threw together a few items for Felicity. First up was a raglan T-shirt. I made the pattern from a defunct RTW shirt, and she loves these things even though they are like totally easy.

Mom, really?

Next up was the PJ pants I cut out a couple weeks ago. They are PJ pants so I' not sure how much else I can say about that. She was happy about them, too. And the kitties are wearing bowties, cause bowties are cool now.

Goofy Girl 

Sassy Girl
She was wearing this when her Grandma came to pick her up, apparently they had something to do at church in the morning.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

This is Not A Real Post

I have all manner of cool ideas to write about but I keep getting side tracked, or feel guilty for sitting down to write when I should be doing something constructive, like MAKE things, or clean things, or.. I dunno. DO ALL THE THINGS.

all the things... 
So there's that.

So instead I'll fall back on Instagram photos you've probably already seen. One is of the very solid CAKE TNT I'm working on, a work blouse.

I can't really recommend this pattern Vogue 8747 enough. A-D cup sizing, princess seams in front and back, a very elegant button placket. Once fitted its very slimming. It also points out the serious ratio difference between my shoulders and ribcage. O.o

And this was a package from the wonderful Katie. We had a little exchange, but I'm fairly certain I got the better end of the bargain. Sewcialists are so freakin' awesome. This was the perfect thing to come home to after a pretty rotten Monday.  Also, see that swimwear pattern? There's something special planned for y'all come May!  ;)

Ok, signing off.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Spaceship Earth

OVERVIEW from Planetary Collective on Vimeo.

By now, most of you have heard of or read about "Overdressed" and the impact fast fashion is having on the environment.  As a self-professed sewcialist I want to spread the idea of thoughtful consumption of clothing because this IS our home. IT IS our spaceship through the cosmos. And while the big ball of rock might be here until the sun goes nova, if we don't take care of it we'll kill ourselves in the process.

Should that happen, the spaceship will still be here, but we won't. And that would be kind of sad.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Even Celebrities Have Fit Issues

Rachel Weisz in Michael Kors
This is a fabulous dress until you see the side view. Then all I can think is "SWAY BACK ADJUSTMENT!" "BAD ZIPPER PLACEMENT!!".

When our illustrious Oona makes her way down the red carpet, I'm confident she'll never let this happen. Because she'd run it by us, first. Right darlin'?

This is why we need educate the public about getting your clothes tailored properly. Eesh.