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.

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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!

Winter Coat 1: Inside

Nothing finished to show today, but I wanted to post some details about sewing my first me-made winter coat. Last year I decided that this year I would finally sew a winter coat. Late November/early December is not the most fore-thoughtful time to start a winter coat project, but in my defense a) my cherry tomatoes were ripening on the vine a week into November, so clearly winter would never actually happen and b) I was scaaared. Mostly b. I haven’t all the way stopped being scared, but I did get chilly, and that’s a great motivator.

My first choice was the budget. It’s $212. If you’re thinking this seems arbitrary, then yup, that’s numberwang! But it was the amount of cash I had in credit card rewards when I committed to this project, and it’s been a helpful number to limit spending in some areas but also encourage me to splash out in others. With my financials handled, it was time to start gathering supplies!

The pattern

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Grainline Yates coat – $20.00 (picture from Grainline website)

The Yates wasn’t my first choice, at least not until my even firster choice was a sewalong that would lead me like a baby lamb to gentle pastures. Also, a collar that would keep my neck warm. So yes, my priorities, in order, were:

  1. The baby lamb treatment.
  2. Big ol’ collar. 

Yates it was! Also-rans were the Named Gaia (left) and the Schnittchen Joanna (right) (again, pictures from websites).

Both cool coats (and similar in some ways – boxy fit, wide lapels), but I really didn’t want a cold gust of wind smooching the back of my neck.

The shell

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Navy boiled wool/viscose, Mood Fabrics – 3 yards, $90 (picture from site)

This was the single biggest expense, especially sight unseen (I couldn’t find anything warm enough locally). I didn’t order a swatch – I knooow! – but luckily the wool is very heavy, with a nice drape, and a gorgeous spongy bouncy texture. Unexpectedly, it’s got a pebbly, fuzzy surface. Can you tell? Maybe you’re better at analyzing photos of wool than I am! Maybe you order swatches! Um.

The interfacing

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Pro Weft medium-weight fusible, Fashion Sewing Supply – 2 yards, $40.50 (picture from site)

This was my largest unexpected expense. Completely worth it, by the way! The Yates is fusible tailored rather than pad-stitched or anything like that so I thought it was worth investing in the nice stuff. And this stuff is nice – nicer than some fabrics I’ve sewn with, honestly. And at 60” wide, it’s not actually ruinously expensive. I bought this interfacing in charcoal to minimize any potential show-through. When fused it almost moves like skin. I know that sounds a little gross, but it’s really ideal – soft, smooth, moving flexibly with the wool. I promise this is not a banned French novel. It’s just really good interfacing!

I did a lot of internet searching to figure out the right weight and type of interfacing for my project, and I couldn’t find a definitive source. So while I’m not calling myself definitive, pardon a little SEO for other winter-coat newbies who might be making the same searches – best interfacing for winter coats! Right interfacing for wool! Medium-weight interfacing for heavy fabrics! Supple supple supple! (Eww.)

The lining

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Orange and monstera cotton sateen, Spoonflower – 2 yards, $19/$54 (picture from site)

Since I picked sensible navy for the shell I wanted to have fun with the lining, and these designs by Tasiania, available on Spoonflower, were irresistible. So big and bold and punchy! Technically the Yates pattern calls for a little over two yards of lining fabric, but I have navy bemberg in my stash for the sleeves, so I’ll save $27 thankyouverymuch. I chose the sateen because it was wide, smooth, and vibrant, and because while something slippery might have been a better choice I read one review that described Spoonflower satin as “sleazy” and could not unring that bell. Cotton it is! I don’t mind wrinkling and I don’t wear tights/hose often enough to worry much about static cling. Also, I had a $35 credit and got free shipping, so my two yards cost me $19 out of pocket (hence the two prices listed above).

This was my first Spoonflower order, and I had a minor freakout when the fabric arrived. The hand of the printed fabric didn’t resemble the cotton sateen in my swatch book, but the Spoonflower team was very chill and helpful and let me wash the fabric before evaluating it. It softened up a little and the colors didn’t lose any oomph. It’s definitely still not soft – I wouldn’t use it for a shirt, for example. The pattern is terrific though.

The interlining

I read about Thinsulate. I read about lambswool. I read about silk for trapping body heat and nylon for cutting the wind and Kasha for warmth. I bought two yards of black microfleece. What the heck, it’s warm and cheap! $15.56.

Muslining

I didn’t order a wool swatch but I DID sew a muslin ($8 for 4 yards of muslin), and it was a valuable exercise. I know this looks like a paper labcoat, but it put my two biggest fears to rest – would it pull around my hips (nope!) and are the sleeves long enough (yup!). And it alerted me to a huge issue, which was the narrowness of the sleeve. The size 10 sleeve as drafted is on my right arm, and the size 10 sleeve with 1” full bicep adjustment is on my left arm, and the difference in comfort is enormous.

I’m surprised at how similar they look in photos, but I needed that inch! I couldn’t fit a sweater-clad arm into the original version. And I’ma clad my arms in some sweaters this winter.

All the parts you won’t see later

I wanted to record the insides of my coat before they’re hidden forever, for similar coat beginners and of course for my own glory (*waves regally*). Despite choosing this pattern 75% for the sewalong, I haven’t had to look at it yet! Sewing the shell and the lining are both really straightforward. That’s even with added steps – the interlining, for example, which I cut and machine-basted to all the lining pieces within the seam allowances before construction.

Despite the thoroughness and clarity of this pattern and the instructions, I have one major bone to pick – the booklet asks you to pause after sewing the shell to try the coat on, and then sew the lining if the shell fits! Surely this is backwards? If you’re going to skip the muslin you should sew the lining first, right? Am I coconuts?

Thankfully my muslin was confirmed and the shell fits! I took narrower seam allowances on the upper sleeves, blending back to ½” at the armscye and wrist. Otherwise I just followed the directions.

Right side out shown, followed by inside out. Not only did I follow the directions, I made up more directions and followed those too! First, I catch-stitched all my seam allowances either open or in the direction indicated. No one said to do this but I figured it was so time-consuming, it must be the right idea!

I also sewed some homemade shoulder pads, but I couldn’t figure out how to adapt the sleeve head pattern piece, so I skipped that part. I wasn’t completely sure how to attach a finished pad, but I whip-stitched the relatively straight edge to the armscye seam allowance and then tacked it down at the other end to the shoulder seam allowance. The Yates coat doesn’t call for these, but I’m experiencing a kind of coat-related magical thinking. Do more stuff = better coat.

I also ran a small, not very tight running stitch along the edge of the interfacing, wherever it was applied on the bias, to attach it to the coat. It’s invisible from the outside and it gave me confidence that those crucial areas – the roll line and the back stay – would stay interfaced.

Wool is so fun to sew. I feel very loved by wool.

Here’s the lining, and lots more catch-stitching! I probably wouldn’t choose the cotton sateen substrate at this intensity again. Because of the tight weave and full ink coverage I could feel my needle punching through the fabric, and my stitches ‘float’ on top instead of sinking in, so something to think about if you’re ordering a very saturated pattern from Spoonflower. That being said: it’s fun, right?

I changed the back pleat to back gathers, as my lining + interlining combo was too thick to look anything but stupid with an inverted box pleat. It was like folding a cheese sandwich into pleats. I imagine it’s all very elegant in a single layer of shimmering silk, buuut New England. And I walk to work. So.   

Next: the facings, and then the bagging. OH THE BAGGING. It’ll be a first!

I hope my next post will be of the finished coat. I’ll include a time and cost breakdown there (sneak preview – lots, and lots).

Bye for now!