Pink Kelly

If late June seems like a weird time to share a midweight Kelly anorak: I do not disagree, but I have reasons! One is synchronicity, as I sewed this jacket in 2017 for a trip to England, and I considered making another version for my summer 2022 trip to England until I ran out of time (mostly I sew things; occasionally I go to England?). Another is preparation, since I’m also considering modifying this pattern to make a raglan-sleeved rain shell, and I wanted to get reacquainted with it first. Third is record-keeping, since I have at various times considered leaving this jacket outside a fire station in a basket. But actually I’ve been wearing it a lot lately.

Now take a trip back with me to 2017! Shimmer shimmer shimmer…wait, was 2017 awful?! Cripes almighty. Anyway, I made this coat, and it was the longest and most involved project I had made at the time. It took me 3 hours to assemble and cut the pattern, and 4 hours to cut the fabric (main and underlining). The outer is Kaufman Ventana twill in Coral, and the underlining is an old Cotton and Steel quilting cotton bought in a misguided flush of love with the vague idea of making curtains. Instead I quickly and comprehensively took against it, and then years later shoved it into this coat.

This was a mistake, as I continued disliking it, and it made the better butter bitter. Not that this Coral twill was best butter to begin with – I happened to be in New York before starting this project, and I combed through Mood looking for a non-stretch dark olive twill, but when I couldn’t find any I settled for this (it was the boom times for Millennial pink!).

So why then spend 3 hours prepping, 4 hours cutting, and a dozen hours sewing materials I didn’t like (22 ½ hours with today’s inflation)?? Because I wanted a raincoat to take to England.

And no, none of these materials is water-resistant.

And so yes, the flaws in the final product are my fault. I actually really like the pattern. It’s achievable without being dumbed-down, and owning nice dense patterns like this has inoculated me against buying some really simple ones (it’s hard to pay $16 for like a boxy shell top with 2 pattern pieces when I once paid $12 for a classic coat pattern with 19). I sewed a straight size 14, and while there’s nothing remarkable about the fit, there’s also nothing wrong or uncomfortable. The support materials are really strong and enabled the me with 5 fewer years of experience to sew a coat that nobody would blink at.

Unfortunately, that stops at the outside, because I really didn’t bring my A game to the innards.

I was sewing to a deadline, and to save a few hours I serged and topstitched the seams. It’s probably true that I couldn’t have flat-felled effectively with the added bulk of the underlining, but my messily-applied, inexpert-looking, mismatched-thread serging bums me out.

The fact that I’m still wearing this coat 5 years later really shows that it’s worth taking the time. Relative to its lifespan, it would have been trivial to add bias binding! Also cute! Again, this is a me-fault, not a pattern fault.  

My one complaint about the pattern re: pattern is the hood. It went in fine, but I just can’t use it. This might be true of every hood, but I wonder if a drawstring wouldn’t corral it a bit. Right now it blows off my head in windy weather and obfuscates it otherwise. I can pretty much only see my feet when I wear it, so if I put it up, I get hit by every car.

Separately, it feels like a lot of me-color right up around my face.

This biggest reason I am still wearing this coat is the hardware. This kit is the bomb. It makes the final product look completely legit. Even though my Kelly soaks through immediately and weighs a ton in a drizzle, even though the inside makes me wince with embarrassment, even though I don’t like the fabric and my hood is trying to murder me, I can’t quit those cord ends. Every time I’ve hesitated over keeping this coat, the quality of the hardware reels me back in.

And I’ve been having a Kelly renaissance lately due to another pattern: the True Bias Marlo. My apartment is always cold with a deep and abiding cold so I wear my long Marlos a lot. And if I want to dash out for an errand or a walk, and I need another layer, the Kelly anorak is the only jacket I have that covers a long Marlo (a foot and a half of sweater oozing out from under a cropped jacket is not a look).

Anyway, 5 years on and I still don’t have a raincoat! I saw a cute drawstring raincoat on a woman at a farmer’s market (I told her I liked it and she stared straight into my eyes and whispered “IT’S FROM ZARA”) that looked a lot like this pattern, but I feel like I could get there from the Kelly. Alternatively I could just sew another straightforward Kelly out of something water-resistant, since its proven usefulness is in the length. Or maybe I’ll make another cotton twill Kelly in a color I actually like, and just get wet.

Since I don’t have time to do this before my trip, I have plenty of time to think about it! We shall see!

Pattern: CC Kelly anorak

Pattern cost: $11.90

Size: 14

Supplies: 4 yards Kaufman Ventana twill in Coral, underlining from stash, $31.44; hardware kit, $34.50; thread, $3

Total time: 18.75 hours

Total cost: $80.84

Wear Your Greens

I made another True Bias Marlo sweater, pretty much the same as my first True Bias Marlo! Iseefabric was running a 20% sale for some American holiday (I’m not being coyly European, I just forget which) and I picked up 2 more yards of their lovely squashy waffle knit.

This color is called ‘Pistachio’, and on least on my screen it’s accurately pictured, a grey/blue/green rather than a straight sage or what-have-you. Pistachio was my second choice, but Oatmeal sold out. It’s a little more romantic than I generally like. Like, this sweater would go great with a broderie anglaise sundress and a flower crown, while my aesthetic is more thick socks and a tuna fish sandwich. That said, according to the economic theory of revealed preference, I DO like this color, because I wear the sweater all the dang time. It’s the time of year when the inside of my apartment is reliably freezing even on warm sunny days and I’m generally to be found inside a Marlo.

I tend to wear this one open, though, and I’m not sure why; some tiny quirk of button placement, maybe?

Speaking of: I recently became a nihilist *just* long enough to spend too much money on buttons, including these. They’re beautiful engraved shell buttons I ordered from this Etsy shop. They really are lovely but from any reasonable distance they read as solid white.

Continuing my pattern of using whatever elastic is nearest when I need elastic, this time I stabilized the shoulder seams with plush-backed bra strap elastic. I had the perfect amount and those shoulders are going NOWHERE. My only meaningful change from my first long Marlo was to serge the seam allowance edge of the neckband + body. First I hand-stitched the cuffs, but that reminded me that I got these seam allowance berms from turning under. I actually like the serged finish better from the outside even if it’s less pristine on the inside.

Unexpected bonus: the neckband is actually hugging my neck! I must have stretched a bit more vigorously this time.

This is a useful and functional piece, but I didn’t really enjoy sewing it because I rushed through the process. I didn’t make sloppy mistakes or anything – it looks the same as it would if I sewed it mInDfUlLy, probably – but instead of the process making my brain feel like it took a warm bath, it felt like a cold shower. And I hurried for such a foolish reason, too; because I was more excited to use my serger on the next thing, with black thread, but my serger was already threaded with white, so I banged this out so I could avoid switching the thread one time. Rethreading isn’t even hard once you’re used to it. The whole process takes about a minute and a half. So, to save 90 seconds, I made two hours less pleasant. Kind of a dingaling move.

But the thing I wanted to use my serger + black thread on? These pants!

They’re the MN Dawns I posted about a month or so ago. I had a wild hair to reshape the leg. I pinned the outseam, tried them on, and decided why not. First I cut a freehand curve from about knee height to the hem, then I unpicked the hem, serged the new fresh seam allowance, and finally refolded the hem along its original creases. I couldn’t squeeze any more length out of the legs because the missing corner I’m hiding in the deep hem is on the inseam side!

Since I didn’t adjust the inseam, the balance of the leg changed. Now it has this kind of bow-legged banana shape which I really kinda dig.

I really like balloon/banana trousers. The silhouette looks fresh to my eye. Plus, when picking a shirt, it’s easier to balance than a straight-sided wide leg pant. I might want to play with more extreme versions of the shape, too. Also in foot news I finally got the pair of combat boots I’ve been thinking about for ages! It’s not NOT because of this music video. I love ‘em. Other shoes feel like socks now. Anyway, I’m done poking at these pants now! Finito!

Ultimately this Marlo ended up pricey, but I glanced at my spreadsheet and I’ve still spent less than usual by this time of year, so I’m not going to sweat it. The Fabric Snob recently added waffle knits in some deep, rich colors (iseefabrics tends to focus on light beach-culty hues) so who knows what will happen next!

But hopefully something cozy. Happy Halloween, all!

Pattern: True Bias Marlo sweater

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 10 bust, 14 hip

Supplies: 2 yards organic cotton thermal waffle knit in Pistachio, iseefabric, $35.60; Agoya shell buttons, Etsy, $12.44; thread from stash

Total time: 3.25 hours

Total cost: $48.04

Amelia Bomber

I finally made this pattern!

I wasn’t feeling too thrilled to do so (I bought it several years ago) but I had sufficient useful scraps and the pattern was a bit spendy to rehome without trying once, so why not, right? And I like my finished SOI Amelia bomber way more than I expected. In fact I didn’t take it off during my waking hours for the first 2 days it existed, and I kept winking at myself in every mirror I passed, so that’s a good sign!

Let’s jump ahead: I love the finished piece. Let’s rewind: the sewing experience was incoherent. The draft had thoughtful details, plenty of notches, and perfectly matched seams, but the directions were garbage served caliente.  

I know there’s certain pattern companies that get bagged on a lot and others that get treated as Above Reproach; I think SOI ends up in the first category more often than not, and I’m not trying to take cheap shots at an easy target. Honestly, the pattern is great. And it has a fully illustrated booklet now – I wouldn’t mind a peek at it! – but I was working from the pages I clipped from the ex-magazine, and they were frustrating at best. It’s a whole lot of text with quite small photographs, and the sample is made from a busy fabric with a black background. While they’re more useful than no illustrations/photos/diagrams at all, they are baddy bad bad.

The sewing is also sequenced really poorly. I think it makes more sense to sew the outer, then the lining, then attach them to each other, but following the directions means sewing the outer shoulders, then the lining shoulders, then the outer side seams, then lining side seams, etc. And if that sentence made your eyes spin you will know how I felt about reading 54 steps presented without benefit from the enter key (so much text! So little leading!). They are basically sufficient, emphasis on basically.

The assist goes VERY much to Sewing and Slapdashery, for making it clear I should just buy a 16” zip, instead of yanking 6” of metal teeth off of the 22” zip asked for by the pattern. If you have the correct length, you can also go ahead and ignore the direction to fold over the ends of the zip tape. Buy a 16” zip. It’s strictly easier in every way.

A tip of the hat also to Deer and Doe’s double-welt pocket instructions. I borrowed the pattern pieces from my copy of the Lupin jacket and shifted the placement down about 5/8” down to avoid Amelia’s dart. They are silly dinky pockets for a silly dinky jacket, and they can fit either my stuff or my hands though not both simultaneously, but I’m  glad they’re there. The pocket bags are plain black cotton and the bottom edge is handily trapped by the waistband, so they stay put.

I topstitched my outer darts and shoulder seams because the wool was so springy. Then I rediscovered my I-found-a-piece-of-wood-style clapper and clappered everything else. I made a cape from this wool last year; I barely wear it (shocker) and I find it smells a bit sheepy, but I can’t smell this jacket. Probably I’ve gone nose-blind.

I shortened the collar for style reasons rather than fabric limitations (even though I have just bare scraps left, which is great). I cut it as directed and then spontaneously sewed it to be 1.5” tall finished just by pivoting before I was supposed to, then trimming the extra.

Aside from that and adding the pockets, this is a straight size 12. I even cut the waist elastic to the given length, no adjustment needed.

Actually I only had enough 2” wide elastic for the waistband and one cuff, so the other cuff contains 1” wide elastic zigzagged to itself. If you can spot the difference you’ve got a better eye than me.

My favorite detail of the draft is this elbow dart in the lining – the same area is eased in the outer – which just feels classy. I don’t know anything about coats really but I have a perfectly comfortable fit and range of motion, and this is a slim-fitting sleeve, so some of that credit goes to the elbow dart, I assume!

My least-favorite detail is the pleating I shoved into the waist edge of the lining. There’s quite a bit of handsewing in this project, but the only really inconvenient bit is that one. By the time the lining is meant to be handsewed into place, the waistband elastic is already added, so I had to stake the nearly-finished coat to my ironing board like I was butterflying a trout to stretch the waistband flat again. Plus the lining is supposed to be gathered to fit and then have the seam allowance turned under, all in slippy lining fabric. No thank you! I turned and pressed the lining edge, but bunging in a handful of pleats seemed more doable than evenly gathering a quickly-shredding fabric already attached to a jacket arranged like a ritual ironing board sacrifice. I wish I had just done one large pleat, but I don’t wish it hard enough to do anything about it.

The lining was also given to me in the dim and misty past, by the way, so the boughten materials were the pattern, the thread, the elastic, and the zipper. Not to brag but I have ordered the HECK out of some zippers lately. Check out that inoffensive near-match, baby.

If I was going to make one more change I would add a great big wacky iron-on patch to the back of this jacket! Technically I still could. Maybe I will. In the meantime, please enjoy my discretion re: ‘this is the bomb’ puns.

See you soon! Happy October!!  

Pattern: SOI Amelia bomber

Pattern cost: $14.10

Size: 12

Supplies: leftover gray wool suiting, gold Bemberg rayon, from stash; YKK #5 16″ Antique Brass Jacket Zipper – Graphite, Wawak; 1 yard 2″ elastic, Sewfisticated; thread, Michael’s; total $5.13

Total time: 10.5 hours

Total cost: $19.23

Stroopwafel Marlo

I’m not tempted by some luxuries – like, as far as I can tell, a luxury hotel room is still a stuffy bland box and a luxury car is still a roll-y box that goes beep. And then some seem totally worth it – tea and chocolate, haircuts with good-smelling shampoo, the Petit Trianon. Happily my recent splurge showed me that nice knit fabrics fall into the second category. I got myself 2 2-yard cuts from iseefabric for my birthday, hoping to fill in some holes in my homemade wardrobe. The colors are beautiful, they’re squishy and warm, and they showed up as two wonderful fat rolls snuggled in a box. Budget-wise this is going to be a Sometimes Food, but I have no regrets!

This is the first of them, a waffle knit in the color maple. It’s quite possibly the power of suggestion that led me to pick this color (maple + waffle! Delicious!) but it’s a closet pal and gets along with most other colors. It was really fun to work with – satisfying to handle and sew, it even held a press well, thanks to 95% The Fabric of Our Lives (also 5% The Spandex of Our Lives). The drape is heavy. It’s warm. It’s soft. Basically, I love it.

Speaking of loving it, this is the Marlo sweater by True Bias, and uh…I love it also. This was the other part of my birthday gift to me. Basically I bought this sweater pattern and used it to blackmail myself into buying fancy fabric (“If you don’t buy fancy fabric you’ll be wasting $14 and untold cents of toner!”). And I used the fancy fabric to make myself buy the pattern (“If you don’t lay out the pattern and calculate the amount of fabric you need yourself, you might buy the wrong amount!”). It worked like a charm, I never saw it coming.

My size – 10 bust, graded to a 14 hip – called for 2.2 yards of 54” wide fabric, but I found 2 yards to be more than sufficient (this is mainly important when ordering online, especially since iseefabric only sells whole-yard cuts). Mine doesn’t have pockets, but I did cut the pocket pieces out, interface them, hem the tops and everything, only to discover I couldn’t turn or attach the rounded corners to my own satisfaction. I stitched one on before deciding that the stretch of the fabric + texture of the fabric + asymmetrical corners weren’t going to fly. Unpicking went almost flawlessly, but then I snagged one little thread on the back of the sweater front. It doesn’t seem to have run, so I’m hopeful!

I do have enough scrap fabric to recut the pockets as squares. I might. I feel the lack of them, but I’m not confident I can sew them as neatly as I’d like.

The fabric has a very relaxed recovery so this sweater definitely grew in the making. It will probably shrink back again someday (Spandex), but I don’t know when! I added grosgrain ribbon to the shoulder seams as suggested, which is attractive and functional (as opposed to clear elastic, which is just functional), but it’s attached to the back so you can’t see it anyway.

Because of the fabric’s lack of springiness/recovery, I cut the longer band, even though it stretched more than 40%. That’s probably why it kind of slumps at the center back.

Because I didn’t stretch the band much, though, I was able to hand-sew the inner edge. That’s right, I used the ‘fancy finishing’ method on the bands and cuffs, only more so. I felt mildly goofy hand-sewing on a knit but I didn’t think I could machine stitch perfectly on the first try, and I didn’t want to risk unpicking again! Also, I don’t have matching serger thread (I have two colors – black and white).

I was forewarned by Beck’s post that the last 10 pages of the print-at-home PDF were just the button placement guides for each size. I decided to print none of them, to avoid waste, so my buttons ended up sCanDoloUsLY low.

The buttons, by the way, are vintage leather from my never-ending flea market bag and are also arguably waffle-esque, which I enjoy. I like the brown tones together a lot (alternative color family name, “caramel macchiato”).

The elements of this project were expensive but the final sweater does feel truly luxurious, and luckily not like a sad beige bag. And I’m definitely going to make another Marlo! I want to try the cropped view next. think the success of this piece is due partly to a solid pattern, but a lot to the fanciness of the fabric. Now that I’ve had a taste of the good stuff, I want more grade-A maple syrup every day!   

Pattern: True Bias Marlo sweater, long view

Pattern cost: $14.00

Size: 10 bust, 14 hips

Supplies: 2 yards of organic cotton thermal waffle knit in Maple, iseefabric, $31.90; thread, buttons from stash

Total time: 6.25 hours

Total cost: $45.90

Quilted Jacket 3 (and done!)

IT IS DONE. I will now smile beneficently at Harrison Ford and crumble into dust. Actually, more realistically, I’ll spill tea on myself and then weep salty tears, but my QUILTED JACKET IS FINALLY FINISHED.

Thank you everyone for humoring me on this journey – I’ve spent so many hours exclusively on this one piece over the past month and a half, I think I’d pop if I couldn’t talk about it! This is the final stage, quilting + construction.

First, quilting! As I mentioned last time, I was worried about the stress of hand quilting, but I made two significant discoveries: 1., I didn’t like the look of machine quilting on this. Commenter Elizabeth suggested checking if my machine could mimic hand stitching. Brilliant idea; sadly it doesn’t have that functionality, and the one-thread stitching looked kind of wimpy, while the idea of double-stitching all those lines (what if one wobbled!!) also made me want to cry salty tears (this post co-hosted by salty tears). Still, I machine quilted the whole back panel before jumping ship. Luckily I then discovered:

2., I had been hand quilting wrong. Not horribly wrong, but I had been working on my lap instead of a table. It was much more comfortable and sustainable at a table! I usually worked in 15 minutes – 1 hour increments, which was a little challenging because it turns out hand quilting is pretty hypnotic and more-ish (especially with TV on). There is now a little flocked pattern where I gouged our soft pine table with the needle over and over, so maybe throw down a magazine or something first if you’re trying this on an Ikea Ingo.    

Some of my knots are definitely secured better than others. I confidently expect having to re-do some lines as they work themselves loose, but I have plenty of extra thread. Also, only a small proportion of my stitches actually show on the backing, so I guess despite the table scarification I wasn’t sticking the needle through enough. That said, I’m super happy with the final look! It’s wrinkly and uneven but it plays so much more nicely with my imprecise piecing than the machine stitches. And the doubled thread is punchier.

Also, I decided to keep my second belt! Redemption!!

You know people who are like “Oh I’m much more comfortable in stilettos, something something arches”? I’ve never really felt in my bones how that could be true. However, I’m ready to believe now that I’ve melded with my thimble. At first it felt ungainly, but I got to the point where I forgot I was wearing it and only noticed when I went to do something else and felt it clack against the oven handle or a doorknob. I nabbed one at a local swap (well over a year ago now) and it’s just been sitting. Why was I ever hand-sewing without it?!

After the quilting, the jacket was practically done (which is different than actually done, as it turns out). Still, I let the pieces sit for a while as I thought about how to handle the shawl collar/back neck junction, and eventually I decided to figure it out on the day. It’s obvious in retrospect but without a facing the bound center-collar seam shows at the back! I had a belated “duuuh” moment, but in a garment with so much visible binding, I wasn’t going to quibble about a little peek at the neck.

I couldn’t figure out how to bind the shoulder and neck seams so I just shoved them under a yoke-ish facing – it’s machine sewn along the back neck, and hand sewn along the shoulders and bottom hem. I had to clip into the corners of the front panels and clip away the corners of the back panels to fold them down but everything is nice and tucked away inside.

I also had to ease the back shoulder seam to match the shorter front shoulder seam but I’m not sure if this is a pattern feature or a me-adding-a-shawl-collar bug.

I forgot to show you the pockets last time! They have a batting layer and are lined with the background ‘Putty’ cotton. My only serging is inside these pockets – the top edge is sewn to the lining right-sides-together, then flipped and understitched, but the other three sides got the zoop. These are indeed machine-sewn in place, but there’s a non-zero chance I’ll go back and sew them invisibly instead. We’ll seeee.

I made oodles of bias tape that was a little skinny so I bound seams separately as much as possible, which led to a slight sequencing issue at the side seams. Ultimately I sewed each side seam from the underarm to an inch above the pattern notch (so on my version, to the top yellow horizontal stripe), bound everything, and then sewed the rest of the side seam, including sewing over the finished binding. I deeply covet the squared-off binding finish used by Studio Quirk used on her drop-dead-beautiful Tamarack, but I couldn’t work it out (and oddly I can’t leave a comment on her blog to ask, I always get an error message). I sewed one edge of the bias tape by machine, and the other by hand. This involved further television.

I had enough binding fabric left to cut two extra-wide strips to go around the armscye seam allowances – 2” wide, as opposed to the 1.25” wide I used elsewhere, which had no chance of covering all the layers there – and then – I was done?!

A mere 48 or so hours of sewing later. I could have cried salty tears – twist – OF JOY!! This is the only thing I worked on in February and part of March. I think it might have been worth it. I learned a ton and I really enjoyed myself, and the time was going to pass whether or not I used it. I can see errors in the quilting, the piecing, wrinkles in the construction, and why why why did I not use neon green binding, but I really don’t care. I intended this as a warm stylish house jacket but I am definitely going to take this show on the road. Jacket, prepare to get worn everywhere!

Also, I’m not sure if you can tell, but I’m slightly favoring one arm – I got my first vaccine shot! No side effects except for a sore shoulder. I’ll be fully vaccinated in mid-April!

Thanks for reading!

Pattern: Grainline Tamarack

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 12, with added shawl collar

Supplies: .5 yards binding, 2.5 yards backing, 2 yards batting, 5 1/3 yards various cottons, Gather Here, $108.49; thread, Sewfisticated and Michaels, $5.39

Total time: 49 hours

Total cost: $113.88

Quilted Jacket 2

When last we met I had my supplies, my plan, and some unjustified optimism. As a reminder, my goal was to make a shawl-collar Grainline Tamarack with the pieced design below.

Part 2 starts with fabric. I stay-stitched the cut edges of my yardage before pre-washing – I don’t usually bother, but I don’t usually buy quantities 1’ at a time, either. The Ruby Star “Denim” cotton frayed and wrinkled noticeably less than the others, by the way. Nice stuff!

I cut the stripes first to make sure I had enough long, continuous fabric pieces, and everything else I cut as I went. The tutorials I relied on were this, for stars and triangles (sawtooth stars and flying geese, as I learned), and this, for stripes and grids (nine patches). I drew my pattern on fresh paper so I could mark my piecing design on that and measure what I needed to fill each space. As much as possible I used nice round numbers so I could consult the measurements provided by the tutorials. The drawing isn’t super easy to see here, but hopefully you can make it out; I drew lightly because I had an asymmetric design, and I wanted to use the front and back of each pattern piece instead of tracing them twice.

I launched in with the bison face quilt block. As I mentioned already, I thought I would be able to size it to my design, but I instantly realized: hell to the no was I scaling anything. Measurements provided or bust. The first thing I had to sacrifice was pins, since the pieces were too small and too many for pinning to make sense; the next thing to go was my illusions. I was following the directions and saying yes ma’am thank you ma’am and even that might be beyond my skill set.

So yeah, the bison face came out bigger than I planned, and as a result the framing stripes are all closer to the edges of the pattern pieces, and everything ended up slightly skew-whiff. Even the long straight seams, aren’t. The colors look alright IMO, though. It meant a lot of muttering “Right side – wrong side – right side – wrong side”, but I used both sides of my brown printed fabric for the bison fur and it turned out a bit rad.

Literally almost nothing lines up. There is however one perfect junction, where a white stripe meets a blue square –

So beautiful! Also so unique! But as Professor Boyfriend pointed out, better one really good place and lots of wonky places than the other way around. That would be the worm in an otherwise perfect apple (as opposed to what I have, which is a bunch of laid-back worms hanging out around a tiny apple slice).

My final design had to evolve as I sewed, because I didn’t always have the space I planned. Most noticeably this affected the left front (pictured on the right). In real life there was too much vertical space above the star and not enough below the stripes, so I moved the small vertical element I had planned for the bottom above the star and turned it sideways, and ended up with a slightly horrible anti-coincidence.

So close! I just won’t look down while wearing the finished jacket.  Also that black piece near the shoulder was unplanned, but the power of an asymmetric pieced design is that I could just pop on a scrap when I cut the light blue fabric a bit too small, and call it good.

I sewed the sleeves second-to-last and by then I was sensing improvements in my own work. They’re pretty tidy! They’re also pretty small and simple, so the butterfly effect of mis-matched piecing didn’t get much scope.

I’m planning on wearing this tied shut, or maybe buttoned and tied, so the actual last thing I sewed was the belt. Well, two belts.

For the first, I saved all my scraps and trimmings and extra geese and sewed them into an arbitrarily long, 5” wide rectangle, which I then folded in half lengthwise. The result is far too busy and distracting and untidy but HOT DOG it was fun. I would just grab a piece and see if it fit and it did, I’d sew it on, and if it was too small I’d sew it to a buddy and try again. It was organic and intuitive and I really loved the process, even if the finished belt makes me say pbbt.

For the second belt I cut and sewed rectangles from my scraps. Here’s where you can see me working out some thinking in real time.

To hand quilt or not to hand quilt?! Originally I planned to machine quilt the jacket panels, as I did with my first Tamarack. However, after my piecing turned out so messy, I was concerned that the precision of machine stitching would highlight those imperfections, so I decided to hand quilt. With that in mind I basted the pieced panels around the edges to the batting and backing fabrics (I bubble cut those with a rough ½” extra margin). I wouldn’t have done this if I was machine sewing, but I thought I could control wrinkles and tucks with hand-sewing pretty easily. Then I went ahead and hand-quilted the belt.

.

My stitching wasn’t great, but more importantly I’m not sure I can afford the strain. I used a thimble and a nice sharp needle but I was cramping after just an hour and my hands are my money-makers. I try to quit drawing or painting when I feel physical stress, and this counts as unnecessary wear-and-tear. So maybe I’ll machine stitch after all?

The only things I know for certain: I want to use simple diagonal lines, and neon green thread is a neutral. Oh, and which belt am I going to use? Um, neither. I think I’m just going to stick skinny binding straps in the side seams. So that’s where I’m at for now! One major decision left, followed by quilting, one way or another, and construction. Woof, we’ll see what I decide soon. Thanks for reading!

Quilted Jacket 1

 “I love making jeans, even though there’s sooo many pattern pieces!” an intermediate sewist told her friends.

A shriek of laughter splintered their conversation. They turned to a see a woman, alone in a shadowed corner, with a gaze as sharp as a 14/90 Microtex and a hollow laugh on her lips.

“Don’t go over there.”

“Just ignore her,” they advised.  

But the intermediate sewist, braver or perhaps more foolhardy than the rest, approached the strange woman.

“What are you laughing at, old-timer?”

“You, garment sewer!”

“Me?”

“That’s right.” The old-timer cackled. “You think you suffered, because you had to cut a waistband x 2 and interfacing x 2? You think you’re tough because you slashed open a welt pocket? You added a gathered skirt to a tank top, so now you can hack it in the wilderness?! What do you know…” her voice dropped to an intimate rasp. “About piecing a quilt block?”

A chill ran up and down the intermediate sewist’s back. “Not much,” she admitted, frightened but compelled.

“The pieces! So many! So tiny! All with perfect 90° corners! I’ve seen things…I’ve done things…I’ve cut 1” squares without a quilting ruler or a rotary cutter.”

“Why don’t you just buy a quilting ruler –”

The old timer slammed the table with her fist so hard that spools of thread jumped up and rolled away. “Why don’t you just grow wings and learn to fly!!” She surged forward suddenly and held a seam gauge to the intermediate sewist’s neck, so close that the foolhardy sewist could feel its metal edge with every pulse of her carotid artery. The intermediate sewer didn’t dare to move or even speak.

“Do you know what it is?” The old-timer hissed. “The space between life and death? Between right and wrong? Hope and despair? Between a quilter and a garment sewer?! Do you want to know the seam allowance?!”

The intermediate sewist closed her eyes. There was a clatter and an abrupt sense of emptiness, and when the intermediate sewist looked again, she was alone, with nothing but the abandoned seam gauge on the table before her. Her eyes crawled irresistibly to the slider. The distance between her and a shattered woman.

Only a quarter-inch.        

Through some mysterious process (I’m not even on Instagram!) it recently became a priority to make myself a pieced, quilted coat. I made a whole-cloth quilted Grainline Tamarack in 2019, but I don’t (well, didn’t, now) have any piecing experience. WELL. If you want to learn something new, it’s gotta be the first time sometime!

It’s true that I don’t have a quilting ruler, or a rotary cutter, or a big cutting board. This is mainly because I don’t like buying things and I’m not wild about owning stuff either. But if I was going to go back to the beginning, I would strongly consider adding a ¼” foot to my toolkit. A ¼” seam allowance is NOT 3/16” or 9/32” or 9/40”, which I learned to my dismay; an imperfect seam here or there on a not-so-fitted garment will barely show, but I’ve been making such an accumulation of small mistakes while piecing that the results are wonky indeed. My progress so far looks like what it is: a first effort by a beginner. But actually I’m finding it terrifically fun as well. Let’s talk.

Thing 1: pattern! I decided to make another Tamarack, but for better coziness than the oddly wide neck provides, I added a shawl collar. Using this article from Threads, I made the center front 1.25″ wider, chose a breakpoint 12.75″ up from hem, and drafted the shawl collar to be 5″ wide when finished. After thinking about it before falling asleep every night for a while, I decided against using a facing. My plan is to bias-bind everything as the pattern instructs, including the seam where the shawl collar meets the back neck. We’ll see if this is realistic in practice. Now that Pinterest knows I’m interested it’s been showing me a ton of quilt content, including, rather late to the game, this article on designing a quilted coat, which recommends a separate lining; maybe next time.

Thing 2: pieced design! I have no particular claim on bison but I wanted something punchy for a central design for the jacket back, and I found this free quilt block, and designed outwards from there. At this point I thought blithely I could scale a square design to any size so I ignored the fact that the measurements given were for an 8” or 16” square. I used Illustrator to draw a design and color it a few different ways; all my angles are 0°, 90°, or 45°. This seemed achievable (based on no experience or knowledge, but hey).

Thing 3: Color! I had a vague notion of what I wanted, having already bought the backing fabric. It was terrific luck, actually – I described my perfect fabric (while walking to the fabric store, no less) to Professor BF as “white or off-white with grey or grey-blue stripes, but organic stripes, not perfectly geometric” and I didn’t so much find this fabric as recognize it from my dreeeaaams. So that meant any blues would have to have a nice relationship with that quite cool blue, and I also wanted the pieced side to have an off-white background. Here’s a few of my experiments:    

I landed on the fourth palette, which I labeled somewhat ambitiously as “modern”. Once again, If I Knew Then What I Know Now, I would probably just pick a fabric collection or fat quarter bundle I liked and fill in my design with a pre-curated set of colors, but I didn’t. Instead I separated out each color individually (using Select, Same: Fill Color for you AI fans) and put them into a new document. Then I threw myself on the mercy of a lovely Gather Here employee and was like “How much each buy please!?”  

Pink, white, dark blue, yellow – 1/3 yard each. Black, rust – ½ yard each. Light blue – 1 yard. Cream for the background – 2 yards. I had the brown already. Oh and binding – ½ yard also, but I picked that on the fly.

I mostly used Kona Cotton (named beautifully Ochre – 1704, Pepper – 359, Spice – 159, Fog – 444, and then disappointingly PDF Bleach – 1287 and Putty – 1303), but the pink with yellow dobbies and the dark blue are both Ruby Star Society (Warp & Weft Wovens Dots Lilac, and Speckled 52M Denim). The binding is Folk Friends Linework Cream by Makower UK. The brown is leftover Essex cotton-linen from my Morella pants, and the batting is some mostly-cotton kinda-poly stuff that was cheap and wide. I had a 20 minute shopping appointment and a hope that maybe I’d add another print or something and then I went into a fugue state and came out with these 35 minutes later. And next the real work begins!

This is getting super wordy, so I’ll stop here for now. More soon on my wobbly journey to a quilted coat! I’ll do the time and spending round-up at the end. If I ever get there!

Stay safe, don’t talk to strangers in shadowy sewing bars!

Corduroy Jacket

Hellooo I am happy and warm. It took a while to get this project started, but once I did I got hooked. I really really wanted to wear my finished corduroy jacket!

The pattern is the Alina Sewing + Design Co Hampton jean jacket, and I bought it the moment it was released in 2017. Around the same time I grabbed a denim jacket from a clothing swap, which I never wore, so I back-burnered the pattern until this fall when I heard corduroy whispers (and spotted this gem) and it was ON.

I ordered some Robert Kaufman 14-wale corduroy in Cider from fabric.com, but while waiting for it to ship, two things happened; first I learned that fabric.com is owned by Amazon, and then they canceled my order. I don’t knowingly spend money on Amazon retail (I know I can’t totally avoid their web hosting services, but it’s usually very easy not to buy anything from Amazon; I just buy it elsewhere or don’t buy it). I had set my cap at a Cider jacket, but all I could find in stock elsewhere was Gold.  

Cider is a cuter word than Gold. On the other hand…

Here are the swatch images from the Kaufman website. They’re practically the same color! Which is which? I don’t know, I’d need to check the file names! So even though I technically used Gold I’m calling it Cider, dammit! This is my cider jacket! 

The pattern is pretty terrific. Putting together the PDF was actually dare I say it fun! Everything lined up effortlessly and while there are a ton of pieces, none of them are very big, so I didn’t have to manipulate giant floppy continents of paper; mostly I could cut as I went. It sewed up really well, too, with matching seamlines and all the layers (like the pocket bag and placket self-facing) falling right into place. I cut my pocket bags from a contrast fabric – strong light cotton twill, scraps from an old project – to reduce bulk. 

However, the inside of this jacket, under the lining, is a mess. We’re talking a new-season-of-Bakeoff-cake-bust-showstopper-level mess. It was my choice, not due to the pattern or directions. There’s at least four different shades of yellow thread in play; some of the seams are serged, some aren’t; one seam is partly serged because I broke a needle halfway through and never went back. I heartily endorse lining.

I had my heart in my throat when I went to match my lining to the coat shell, though, because I sewed the lining first. Ideally I would have sewn the coat body and then traced the lining from that for a perfect match, but I had to make sure I had enough of this flannel left over from one of Professor Boyfriend’s shirts (which I barely did), or make a different plan for the seam finishes than the Wild West I ended up with. I merged the paper pattern pieces and hoped my math was good. Happily, math was a pal, nothing stretched or shrunk, and the lining fit. I added it before sewing the front plackets, and after the side seams and shoulders, basically moving the last part of Step 4 to after Step 5.

Here’s the seams where I had to piece the flannel. Worth it! I can be a bit of a perfectionist over topstitching and this way the body seams only had to look good on the outside, saving me a lot of angst. I hand-basted the free edges of the cuffs, collar, and waistband in place before topstitching those to keep them even inside and out, though. And I had to do the waistband twice, because I didn’t grade the seams the first time and there was a horrible lump like a berm or a bowling alley bumper where all that bulk was. Thankfully because of the way these are attached, I only had to undo the topstitching over the seam allowances and my hand-sewing, leaving the bottom part of my topstitching and the button hole intact. I graded aggressively while I was in there the second time. It’s still lumpy, but I have nothing to reproach myself with!

For the ultimate in thriftiness, I re-used the topstitching thread I unpicked from the waistband! I was running low on stash thread (hence the different yellows), and I used these saved pieces to topstitch the cuffs. It wasn’t quite enough to keep the wolf from my door, and I ran out of coordinating thread and topstitching thread with just the back tabs left! So I had to buy some. 😦 It felt good to use every usable piece, though. I probably would have just squeaked out enough topstitching thread if I hadn’t tried three sample buttonholes before deciding regular thread was best. Oh, and if I hadn’t sewed the tabs three times. I sewed a worst pair and a bad pair first of all, then set them aside to see if I’d like them better later; I didn’t. None of three attempts were perfect but these were best. I had to rotate the grainline 90° to play nice with the ribs of the corduroy. I thought about just skipping them, especially once everything else was already done, but I really wanted an excuse to add hardware to the back!  

Here’s a fun fact: I put the hanging loop on the wrong side of the collar. Here’s a fun fact, part 2: there it remains.

I made that ‘change’ (read: mistake), added an additional button to the jacket front, and shortened the sleeves. Otherwise, this is an unadjusted size 12. I sized up (my chest measurement puts me somewhere between an 8 and a 10) because I wanted it to be a little less fitted and a little more masculine-of-center.

Don’t be like Lia, friends. Listen to the nice pattern and sew a muslin. I didn’t, and it’s fine, but around hour 14 I started thinking “I’m going to be really peeved if this doesn’t fit the way I want”. The sleeves are shortened by 1.5”. Originally I shortened the sleeve 2” but thankfully I got cold feet and added ½” back. I love that the pattern includes finished sleeve length, though it’s from the sleeve cap, not the underarm seam. You know what’s not easy, is measuring your ideal sleeve length from the edge of unknown-width shoulder seam. UGH I should have just whipped up a muslin, I officially qualify as a lucky dog!

I changed the order of sewing a bit, mainly sewing buttonholes on the cuffs and waistbands before they were attached, and sewing the placket seam of the sleeve first. I think you’re supposed to sew the underarm seam first to make it easier to flat-fell, but I’d rather have ‘raw’ finishes on the sleeve seams and an easier time sewing the sleeve placket. I did consider flat-felling the underarm seam (I do it all the time for Professor Boyfriend’s shirts), but eh, if they’re not both going to be completely enclosed, why bother for just one (incidentally, I couldn’t picture how to flat-fell any seam in a tube until one day I came across the phrase “sewing in the bottom of a bucket” which made it suddenly totally clear). I serged the underarm, ‘complete’ seam, and zigzagged + pinked the placket seam.

The hardware is from Gold Star Tool. I bought 100 gunmetal jeans rivets, bent 2, and ultimately successfully installed 15. That’s an acceptable rate. They feel really firmly attached. My buttonholes began a bit stiff, but they loosened up. I ended up with the extra on the front because I sewed the buttonholes before attaching the waistband and then discovered I had space for one more; I don’t mind the cluster there, especially since it echoes the pairs on the back waistband.

I topstitched one armscye but it just didn’t look terrific, so I unpicked that and skipped the other. Either I have some puckers there because I skipped the topstitching, or I omitted the topstitching because the puckers made it look uneven. Tomato tomato. I’m just glad my wrists are covered and the sleeves fit over a sweater!

So, I’m happy! I don’t feel like this jacket expresses my deepest personality or adds anything original to the world – I just plain like it, and I’m going to use it a lot. I’ve worn it on a couple sub-40 days (including in wet snow) and stayed cozy, hooray. And I hope you don’t mind it too much because you’re going to see more of it next time. You’ve probably spotted some stray buttons and already guessed, but next post, how to add a removable collar!

See you there!

Pattern: Alina Sewing + Design Co Hampton jean jacket

Pattern cost: $12.00

Size: 12, with the sleeves shortened 1.5”

Supplies: 3 yards of Kaufman 14 Wale Corduroy Gold, $45.00, Gather Here; thread, Michael’s, $5.58; rivets, Gold Star Tool, $12.97

Total time: 22.25 hours

Total cost: $75.55

The Cape

I know Edna Mode said no capes…

But counterargument…

Maybe capes?

I know the timing of this post is suspect but this really wasn’t intended as a Halloween garment. I somehow convinced myself that I would casually pop on a cape. As one does. The pattern is question is Vogue 9288 and the utility is…doubtful.

Here’s a list of V9288 ‘can’ts’:

Can’t carry a bag.

Can’t wear a backpack.

Can’t hold hands with a companion.

Can’t move my arms above the elbow.

On the ‘can’ side, there’s items like swish, twirl, menace, flap like a crow, etc. So I guess you do the math?

This is view B (because view C would just be impractical, amirite?) and truthfully its only real purpose is that it’s fun to wear. I’m really torn – this satisfies, at best, half of my ‘quality and sense’ goal, but if you had told the me in high school who was obsessed with LotR that I learned to sew and DIDN’T sew myself a cape I would have kicked your butt from the Iron Hills to Far Harad.

It’s not even particularly warm, though! And because it’s wool (the price said ‘probably not’, the sheepy aroma says ‘but it is’) it gets stinkier in the rain. So I can wear this on dry, not-too-cool days when I’m overcome with sartorial daring. So yeah, that’s been twice in the past 6 weeks. Not my best ROI.  

But rather than litigate its very existence – it’s here now! – let’s talk about construction. As I said, I used wool, a subtly gridded wool suiting that moves really nicely and smells a bit. Unlike other sewists who have blogged this cape, I elected not to line it, due to an admixture of cheapskatery and urgency (if I waited to find the perfect lining, I would possibly lose my momentum to make a cape at all). I used my regular lightweight cotton interfacing for the facings and collar, but it can’t quite stand up to the weight of the large buttons.

They’re from a Ziploc of leather buttons I bought at a flea market many years ago. It cost $5 and it turned out to be one of my greatest sewing investments. I only need to undo one collar button to get in and out of this cape. It goes over my head though, which you might find disarranging if there’s more to your hairstyling than mine (shampoo and a declaration of “Let the wind take it”). All of the buttonholes are functional. If I undo the bottom buttons, my range of motion VASTLY increases; if I was redoing this from the beginning, I’d shorten the placket to the top four buttons only.

I considered swapping the patch pockets for welts, but my fabric was springy/bouncy and it didn’t press neatly or stay pressed well. I suspect a high polyester content, but it didn’t mind high iron heat, so it’s a bit of a mystery. I didn’t want to fight it, so in the end I chose patches, but rectangles instead of the curved pockets called for. My trusty random piece of scrap wood (a.k.a. my clapper) was handy here.

I didn’t make any other changes to this pattern. It’s a straight size M, the largest size in my envelope. I actually cut the tissue paper!! It’s the right size for my shoulders and bust, and obviously my hips fit inside. However, I failed to account for the center panel – it’s its own piece, and in a perfect world I would have graded it wider at the hips, because my flank coverage is a little dicey.

I used my serger sparingly – just on the long edges of the main cape facings, which I serged, turned once, and stitched.

The center back seam and edges of the front panel facings are all on the selvedge.

The back of the cape could probably be cut as a single piece, view and fabric width permitting. I French seamed the side seams. The finished cape is tidy and will probably age well, especially if I wear it as infrequently as I have so far.

Depending on that someone’s style, this pattern could be someone’s entry-level project into outerwear. It’s mostly straight lines, there’s no complicated fitting, no sleeves – just buttonholes and hemming a curve. The directions were great and the diagrams were clear. Way to be, Vogue!

But I don’t know yet if this will be a permanent fixture in my closet. It did wake up my cape appetite – I’d like to try a more modern one next, like the Seamwork Camden. Two capes, though, when this one gets limited wear? I try to only sew clothes I intend to wear but I love the idea of being a swishy confident cape witch. It’s a conundrum.

In the meantime, though it wasn’t intended as such, there’s one approaching occasion where it’s sure to come in handy…

Happy Halloween!

Pattern: Vogue 9288

Pattern cost: $15.98

Size: M

Supplies: 4.5 yards of gray wool suiting, Sewfisticated, $31.46; thread, buttons from stash

Total time: 9 hours

Total cost: $47.44

Winter Coat 2: Outside

Are you ready?

Are you sure?

I GOT A HAIRCUT!

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Haha, just kidding – I mean, I did get a much-needed haircut, yes, but what I mean is I FINISHED MY YATES COAT! And just in time, as you can see.

First of all, bagging a coat is amazing and I want to do it again. Like, immediately. I don’t have projects planned or even anticipated that will use this technique, but it made me feel like James Herriot delivering a calf in a Yorkshire farmyard except the calf is a coat and the momma cow is that same coat and I’m a good bit drier and warmer and better-rested and more indoors, but either way I want more!!

 Bagging was also the first time I used the Yates sew-along. The diagrams just weren’t cutting the mustard for this step, but the photos worked like a charm. It’s a funny loop, then a goofy-looking mess, and then pow, a coat, just like that!

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Okay, fine, there’s pressing and topstitching, too. I found a small block of smooth wood when cleaning my hall closet and pretended like it was a clapper. It worked really well, in fact! I have Julia-Child-style asbestos hands so the lack of a handle didn’t bother me, but watch out for your fingers if you give my found wood technique a try. 😉 There is shine where I pressed too enthusiastically, despite using a presser cloth, but none too serious and mostly on the inside/wrong side.

Oh, and thread chains! I nearly skipped the thread chains because I was getting impatient to reach the finish line, but that’s a false economy. They take ten minutes and are shockingly fun to make. Mine are almost too long because I kept thinking “One more knot! Okay, three more knots! Three more after this one!”. I couldn’t work out how to reach inside the coat and join the sleeves on the side without the bagging opening, so I opened that sleeve lining seam a few inches, too, and did it locally. I don’t mind a little extra hand-sewing to save a lot of head-scratching.

I didn’t do my topstitching in one fell swoop, either. I topstitched the hem with the lining side up so I wouldn’t catch the lining pleat. I sewed the lapels and coat front with the coat side up so they would look as nice as possible. I also skipped one area of topstitching – the back neck curve along the collar. I couldn’t get it to look nice no matter which side I sewed from, and plenty of coats seem to omit that line of stitching.

The pile of this wool covers a lot of sins! I don’t think you can tell that I stopped, started, unpicked, restitched, unpicked, sewed again…

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And for a final touch, I didn’t cover the snaps! Aw heck, they’re black, it’s all gravy. 🙂

New England fall is generous with colors, but New England winter is very sparing. It’s beautiful too, but one year I saw a photo of a budding Australian garden in the middle of my Northern Hemisphere winter and immediately burst into tears, so I thought a very bright lining might be a wise pick to feed my color-hungry eyes.

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My one week review: I’m very, very happy with the finished coat. It’s not perfect, but I feel good in it, it looks reasonably professional, and I’m confident that the guts are well-constructed and hopeful it will last a long time. I’m a little nervous about the pocket openings stretching out, but I don’t want to borrow trouble.

If the narrow size range works for your body, I think the Yates pattern makes for a good first winter coat sew. The directions were clear and supportive. The supply list was not obscure. Also there were about a thousand pattern pieces, which feels like good value, ha!

I’m happy with my additions, mainly the shoulder pads. They definitely move the coat further towards a masculine silhouette – not that far, but farther than I could accomplish without shoulder padding – which works nicely with my winter wardrobe.     

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There’s quite of bit of melting snow on my lapel in some of these photos. I blame attempted whimsy.

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Darn you, whimsy!

Oh, and as mentioned last time, I still owe a breakdown – thanks to the above-average spending of time and money I did this in a more detailed way than usual, and you can see it here! I came in about $10 under budget, but without gift cards/credit I’d actually be about $60 over. The abbreviated version is still below.

If I made another Yates I could save money in a few areas – of course the pattern cost wouldn’t be debited next time, and I’d get something cheaper for my lining fabric, or possibly use kasha so I wouldn’t have to buy underlining separately. If I shopped around for wool a little more or hit a sale, I could probably get the costs under $150. But I’m not going to worry about that. Right now I’m going to focus on protecting my investment and taking good care of this coat, so it can keep me warm for a long time! Even when I hit myself in the face with wet snow!

Oh did I mention I MADE MY COAT?!

Pattern: Grainline Yates coat

Pattern cost: $20.00

Size: 10 bust/sleeves with 1” full bicep adjustment, 14 hip

Supplies: see spreadsheet for details – out-of-pocket cost of supplies, $181.80

Total time: 31.75 hours

Total cost: $201.80