16 June 2017

35 by 35 no. 32: Frock Coat - !

32. Frock Coat.
This really deserves a post of its own, I'm so pleased with it.

One of the aesthetic perks of orthodox Judaism is that we've never entirely discarded the frock coat. Especially in Israel, many outstanding Torah scholars (and married men in the Ponovezh yeshiva) still wear them.

To me the acme of sewing is frock coats. They are tailored, lined, and beautiful; and to get a good one you employ all kinds of exotic techniques, e.g. ironwork -- shaping wool with an iron -- which is more sculpture than sewing. Sewing a frock coat is not even on my wish list.

Nevertheless, frock coats lately took on a certain urgency to me because of a discrepancy in children's clothing. It's not hard to find nice dresses for girls -- there will always be someone in the world selling full-skirted jumpers. But even formal little boy clothing almost always looks to me like loungewear - polo shirts and cargo pants, &c. So from the time we had a member of this family in need of little boy clothing (ahem! mazel tov), I have been thinking that this child REALLY needs either a smock or a frock coat; and since smocking is a delicate operation, I settled on a frock coat as the simpler project. Because in my head that makes sense.

I have the Laughing Moon pattern, #109, which came in very handy for understanding what shapes I needed and how to fit them together. A frock coat is really a beautifully constructed garment; there is a single pleat giving the whole thing its frockiness.

The victim was asleep. I laid a roll of tracing paper on him, hoped he was symmetrical (since I wasn't going to wake him up to get the measurements in back), and scribbled.

Lesson no. 1: Swedish tracing paper, which is almost a fabric itself, is a wonderful thing for drafting patterns for small children who think tracing paper is lunch.

Three Swedish tracing paper muslins later (Lesson no. 2: children are not symmetrical), I had a frock coat.
I left the back seam closed all the way down, since I thought tails might impede crawling. This is a problem roshei yeshiva tend not to have.
I used a single layer of cotton. We'll save ironwork for another lifetime, I think.
I sprinkled buttons all over it and off we went.

Of all my sewing projects so far, this might be my favorite. Frock coats are beautiful things. Frock coat construction is a beautiful feat of engineering. More than anything else, though, the entire time I was sewing, there floated through my mind the classes of my teachers in Israel who wear them -- Rabbi Orlowek, for instance.

Here are the HSF details:

The Challenge: To be honest, I didn't make this for an HSF challenge. It's just another foray into historical sewing. I'm sure no one ever dressed a baby in a frock coat.
Material: Navy blue cotton.
Pattern: Laughing Moon no. 109... sort of.
Year: The present, if you're Jewish (and an adult -- making a frock for a baby is just my idea of a good time), and 1870 or so, if you're not.
Notions: Ninety gazillion buttons.
How historically accurate is it? The shapes are all there but, you know, it's baby-sized and unlined and cotton. So... not very.
Hours to complete: about a week.
First worn: Purim. But he wore it every Shabbos after Purim until he outgrew it.
Total cost: just the buttons.

35 by 35 nos. 28-31: doll, doll, doll (do we see a pattern here) (no pun intended), skirt.

Sewing again

Today's discovery in the Wait, What? Dept.; also, Jewish utopian communities, farming and otherwise

"Jew Valley is a basin in Lake County, Oregon, in the United States.

Jew Valley was named for a colony of Jewish farmers who settled there in the early 20th century."
(Thanks Wikipedia)

Wait, what? I grew up in Oregon and I never heard of this.
Apparently the colony, founded by 25 families 'including a shochet,' experienced success for a few years before disbanding.

Speaking of utopian Jewish farming communities... there's a new one in the offing:

The "Frum Farm"

I spoke with the family behind it & it seems to be quite a serious endeavor.

Of course, to me one paradigmatic utopian Jewish community that I never got to see (born just slightly too young; nuts!) is Rav Bulman zt"l's kehilla in Migdal haEmek.
Here's one article that mentions it briefly: by Mrs. T. Katz.

And before that there was Frankfurt.
This is a wonderful, sparkling article about Frankfurt: Hermann Schwab's memoirs