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.

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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!