Friday, October 16, 2009

Stay-Dry Techniques, Part 2

Featuring the Boutique Narelle Rain Skirt

I love walking in the rain, but others have told me they hate it. I discovered they have good reason. Utterly devoid of rain repellent, they arrive at their destination completely saturated. I'm sure you'll agree that puts a damper on things.

Last week I discussed rainwear for those with active intent. The suggestions were not without shortcomings, so I sent the stay-dry technique to the workshop.

I knew my skirt hem was going to get soaked in a downpour. I figured I had three options.

1) Change into a skirt that I wouldn't mind getting wet, which still wasn't ideal because my full length chemise under that was likely to get hem-soaked, and what Kiwi [stout of heart but unacquainted with central heating] is keen to strip down to the basics in the middle of winter?

2) Change into trousers and wear waterproof trousers (easily purchased) on top. Er, there's still that chemise to deal with. Ever tried stuffing one into trousers? (While wearing both, I mean.)

3) Figure out how to keep a skirt dry all the way down.

I set to work on Option 3. Have you ever heard of a rain skirt? Modern stores haven't. I remember back to my very youth when my mother wore a rain skirt when she cycled. It was made from shower-proof parka fabric and had a split worn down the back for ease of movement. However, I don't want a split flapping about when I'm walking, letting in the rain (something that isn't such a problem when you sit on a bicyle).

1st CHALLENGE: How can I make a skirt that is easy to get on and off when wet, but doesn't gape or flap?

2nd CHALLENGE: Where to find waterproof fabric my sewing machine can handle? Spotlight sells the polyurethane type. Not what I'm looking for.

In the winter of 2008, I purchased 2 meters of waterproof fabric from, at a cost of NZ$35.50 including postage and packaging. The fabric is available in a range of pretty colours and several different weights. I chose aqua PUL for my prototype.

The Boutique Narelle Rain Skirt

I used a regular skirt pattern, leaving the side seams of the yoke open so I could get in and out of it. I fastened the waist with velcro strips, meaning there was room for me to expand should I put on weight (unlikely)(sigh of frustration) or to add more layers underneath. It also means someone not quite so bean-pole-ish as myself can borrow it. When it's dry, I can step into it or drop it over my head, and when it's wet, drop it to the ground and step out of it.

TO MAKE RAIN SKIRT: Stitch side seams up to a handspan from waist. Pin, tack, and then top stitch the two sides of the openings.

Topstitch curved hatband tape or Petersham ribbon to form the waistband.
Leave a portion of tape sticking out each side.

Turn under ends of tabs, place velcro strips, and stitch.

Add cotton tape hanger loop/s if desired (below).

The piece de resistance is the fabric -- what sew-it-yourself women use to keep their babies dry. Yes, it's nappy (diaper) fabric. The fabric is soft on one side, shiny and waterproof on the other. Babies need to be dry on the inside; I need to be dry on the outside. I cut the skirt with the softness inward and the shiny waterproofness outward. It drapes nicely, has a leather-like appearance (trendy!) and is reflective (a wise feature to have when out walking in dull, stormy weather).

I'm very happy with my creation. It's superbly practical and attractive, which is more than I can say for a lot of wet weather gear. Looks like I'd better buy more fabric to make a practical and attractive coat to match!

Extra Stay-Dry Tip for Feet

Water descends to the lowest common demoninator and nobody likes leaky boots, so here's another way to help prevent unauthorized liquid filtration. Chunky knit pure wool leg-warmers from Norsewear are great for keeping out upward drafts and downward drips, and they may be dried by the fireside (which boots should not). See Part 1 for other stay-dry tips.

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