Category Archives: Jackets

Alabama Chanin Jacket and Skirt

img_0559Yippee!  I’ve been working on this Alabama Chanin jacket and skirt since April.  They weren’t on my SWAP list but looked like a great challenge.  I was inspired by the prolific Ruth at Corecouture.  My plan was to stitch during my train commute instead of reading blogs and going down the Pinterest rabbit hole.  That part was a success but it crowded out my regular machine sewing as it’s quite addictive!  I sewed on the beach, at soccer games, at my mom’s, on the deck overlooking the lake….. It’s a whole new world once you’re not connected to the iron and sewing machine!

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For those of you not familiar with Alabama Chanin, it’s a high end 100% hand-stitched clothing line designed by Natalie Chanin and created by local seamstresses in Alabama.  The garments are all sewn from locally sourced organic cotton knit with various techniques such as appliqué, reverse appliqué, embroidery, beading, and sequins.  It often has raw edges and reminds me of folk art.  Natalie is happy to share her techniques with intrepid sewists and has written several books on her techniques complete with stencils and patterns.

THE PATTERN/SUPPLIES

Except for the peplum detail borrowed from a Marfy pattern, the jacket and skirt were both drafted from my slopers.  The fit is pretty good except that the front of the jacket doesn’t hang quite right.  It falls open at the waist and the bust feels bosomy which I am not.  I have several theories as to how to fix this but that will be another post.

The fabric and most of the thread (embroidery floss and ordinary button and craft thread) are from AC.  I also found some “hand quilting” thread at Joann’s which seems to be the exact same stuff as the button & craft thread except it comes in more colors.  The stencil pattern is Alabama Chanin’s Anna’s Garden.

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IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TECHNIQUE

This project had a lot of ‘firsts’ for me.  First hand sewn garments, first time stenciling, first appliqué, and first “embellishments” except for that denim skirt that I embroidered in high school.  I’ll try anything once.

I did a lot of experimentation with markers and paint colors and finally decided on Tulip spray paint.  The jacket is a teal paint on turquoise fabric overlaid on camel fabric.  This was originally supposed to be a reverse appliqué but after cutting out the shapes on several pieces I decided that I didn’t like the way the camel was working against the teal so I restitched about half the back.  The layers are connected using a backstitch with embroidery floss which takes forever.  Let’s say 6 to 8 hours per piece and I think there were 17 pieces.

Finally I added some sequins and beads around the front neckline.  I know, I’m a wild woman!  Oh and I almost forgot the snaps which have crocheted covers thanks to a tutorial on the Alabama Chanin blog.  I’m a newbie crocheter and this was amazingly tiny, done with thread like lace!  I just kept redoing it until I had three that looked similar.

The skirt is the opposite colorway with brown paint on camel fabric over a turquoise layer.  This was done with a running  stitch in a tan button thread which is much much faster.  It’s cut with a reverse appliqué and a raw hem that curls up ever so cutely.  The waistband is a foldover elastic sewn on with a stretch stitch.

THE MANY LESSONS LEARNED

  • Don’t spray paint outside, when it’s windy.
  • Have an excuse ready for when your husband finds a needle on the stairs.
  • Check the sofa throw for needles before sitting on it.
  • Use a the thickest mylar you can find.  Mine was too thin and would roll up when the paint was wet and stick to itself making quite a mess.
  • Needles travel well in a magnetic tray with a cover.
  • You will find tiny bits of fabric behind the car door handle, on the coffee table, in your tote, and in your bathrobe pocket.
  • Watch the thread tension on the backstitch.  I started with the back of the jacket which turned out a bit tighter than the front.
  • It pays to experiment.
  • This is not a race.  Savor the journey.
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Anatomy of an Etcetera jacket

I found this jacket in a local second hand clothing store called Second Time Around in Needham. Basically the only time I shop for clothes these days is when I sneak in there after my haircut every seven weeks or so.  I always have my eye out for unusual jackets.  The back vents were still tacked together so I am assuming that it was never worn – although I can’t tell you how many men and women I see on my daily commute with the tacks still in place on skirts, jackets, and coats. This epidemic requires a public service announcement!

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But I digress.  The brand, Etcetera, is one I had never seen before and it’s lovely. I have been fascinated by the construction and thought I would share it with you.

The sleeves have deep vents faced with the fashion fabric so you can fold them up.  It’s made of a heavy linen/cotton blend with a yellow and grey cross-weave.  (The first photo is actually the truest color.) It’s got a little bit of pick stitching in there too.

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Will you look at these cut-outs in the front? The top, middle, and bottom sections of the mid-fronts are each lined and then stitched into the front and side panels. The sections even overlap at an angle.  Brilliant!  Let’s look at the inside. The front is lined and the back has bound seams.

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IMG_9921The configuration of the back stay is new to me.  It has two overlapping triangular panels stitched into the shoulder and armhole of the lining.  There is a small shoulder pad underneath.  In theory this should allow for flexibility but in reality it’s quite constricting.  Maybe the grainline is running in the wrong direction?  I may actually remove the stays.

Also the back vent is nicely mitered at the bottom.

I want to try the cut-out idea.  Now if only I had something to wear with it…  I’m thinking grey or navy skinny pants.

Who shops second hand?

Tracy Reese Vogue V1092 – Puffy-sleeved Jacket

I’ve had this suit made for a while now but wanted to work over the skirt first before photographing it. I plan on wearing it to a big presentation on Monday. I think it says “creative professional”.

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I know, you may need some sunglasses for my blindingly white legs! It’s their first day out.

Fabric
This is a wool/cotton blend that I got from Sawyer Brook fabrics. I’m lucky enough to live nearby so I got to pick this out in person. By the way, they have a swatch subscription service where they send you a sample of all of the goods they get in seasonally. That way you get to touch and feel the real thing before you buy.
The fabric is a cross-weave of black and off-white in wool, with a pinstriped pattern in peach and pale blue cotton.
It’s lined with Ambiance.

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Belt Detail with D-Ring

Pattern
I was drawn to the jacket, Vogue V1092, because of the puffy sleeves which are actually pleated. It’s collarless, fully lined, and has a partial belt and four pockets. I think that the pockets have an awkward horizontal proportion and ditched them as they just seemed too busy.

The pattern also includes an unusual skirt with diagonal seaming but I made a different one which I’ll post soon. I don’t think the diagonal seaming works well with the lines of this jacket, but I may make it someday.

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Construction
The pattern includes pieces for the lining and a full facing that extends under the armholes. The only issue I had with the directions is that they leave you with with a nasty raw edge at the armhole. I made a bias binding from the lining fabric and added that. The construction, including the sleeves, is not difficult since there is no collar.

I think my sleeves have the right balance of puffy vs. droopy, but different types of fabric might require experimentation with a sleeve head or organza underlining.

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Detail of Sleeve Lining and Binding

Lessons Learned
1. Be more thoughtful of button size. I followed the pattern recommendation but I think there is a faint reference to Pierrot here, not a good association.

2. Be more careful of button placement. I shouldn’t have followed the pattern. There is no button at the waist and so it gaped when I sat down. I added a hook and eye to fix it.

3. I feel uncomfortable in collarless jackets. I know this and should have listened to myself and added a collar.

Conclusion
Well it’s very distinctive so I I don’t think I’ll be making more but I do like the unusual sleeves. Other than the necklace I’m wearing in the photos I can’t figure out how to style it. All I can think of is a sleeveless collared blouse in a coordinating blue.
Wouldn’t this be cool in a khaki colorway for a funky safari style?

Burda Style 02/2011 #127 – Ultrasuede Jacket

A “suede” jacket was on my bucket list so I tackled this last fall. In typical Suits Me fashion I only got to wear it a few times before it was too cold. It’s intended to wear casually over a tee or sweater and has a close fit.

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Fabric
Luscious Ultrasuede from B&J Fabrics in NYC. Love, love, love that place! It’s lined with a flannel-backed Kasha lining. Pockets are faced with cotton shirting.

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Pattern
I started with Marfy F1447 (OOP I think) which is designed for leather or vinyl but the muslin got a thumbs down by my ASG buddies. (How could Marfy strike out?) The Safari jacket in Burda Style 02/2011 fit the bill for casual styling with two piece sleeves, two-piece collar, giant bag pockets, snaps, and cuffs. The upper pockets are made in two pieces so they map to the dart shape underneath. The pattern has two back vents which I omitted.

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Fit
I took a pattern designed for gaberdine, and made it in Ultrasuede with flannel backed lining intended to wear over a sweater. Well, it’s a little snug at the upper arm and chest with a sweater underneath but fine with just a tee. I did compensate for the extra fabric but not enough.
The pattern is designed for petites. I thought the length was fine but when I look at the photos I see I really could use another 2″ in length. At 5′-5″ I’m not a petite.
I also need to work harder on the shoulder slope issue.

Construction
Working with Ultrasuede is easy! I followed the construction techniques in Sewing with Ultrasuede by Palmer-Pletsch which worked out fine. I even used a bit of linen for the sleeve head which eased the cap perfectly when installed. There is even some glue stick involved which was fun in a kindergarten kind of way. For the topstitching I used rayon embroidery thread in a similar color and gives it a subtle sheen.

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Lessons Learned
Don’t underestimate the thickness of the final fashion fabric and lining when fitting.

Turquoise Jeans Jacket – Jalie 2320 Frankenpattern

This jacket has been in the sewing room for eight months now and I was on the verge of pitching it several times.   It’s not like me to have UFO’s hanging around. Things will often come back for changes or alterations, but nothing has ever sat here and taunted me, unfinished, like this one.

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Pattern
Wanted! Jeans jacket with curvy feminine fit, interesting style lines and details, a yoke, and fitted sleeves. There was an article in Threads #123 on jeans jackets and they compared the fit of several brands. This led me to make muslins of the following:

  • Silhouettes jeans jacket – too plain/simple, boxy fit.
  • Burda Young 7018 – too plain/simple, no pockets!
  • Jalie 2320 – nice style lines with inset front panel, welt pockets and pocket flaps, but a boxy fit with shallow sleeve caps.


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For the final pattern I used BurdaStyle 02/2011 #127 (soon to be posted) for the two-piece collar, two-piece sleeves, and shaped fit.  I then redrafted it with most of the style lines and details of the Jalie. I also made a contoured waistband which none of the others had and I think that makes a big difference.

Fabric
The fabric is an inexpensive home-dec fabric, a cotton twill with ZERO give. Mistake. I think I got it at Osgood’s in Western Mass.

Construction
Except for adding a matching lining, most of the construction techniques follow the Jalie instructions. I still wanted the pockets to be accessible from the inside like the Jalie pattern so I did some special sequencing and made it work with the lining. You can see I added a plaid binding to the pocket edge on the inside.  The buttons are typical metal jeans buttons.  I really don’t like the way the collar, cuff and waistband are put on.  It’s all traditional jeans jacket construction with all the visible stitching but I couldn’t figure out a better way.  I added a sleeve head too; I know, don’t say it….

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What got me hung up for so long was the topstitching, especially at the collar and placket which was nasty. I ended up doing it four times and it’s still not up really up to my standards. My original plan was to find a heavy top stitching thread that matched the fashion fabric but it was nowhere to be found. I also tried a triple stitch and different needles. I tried a darker thread to see if it would be less noticeable and ended up with a cotton thread a shade lighter than the fashion fabric. Grrrr. My machine just doesn’t like anything over three layers of this stuff. I haven’t had trouble with denim in the past so I thought this would be fine.

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Fit
Hmm.., looks like I STILL need to slope the shoulders some more, and possibly do a tiny FBA. I can still see some horizontal wrinkles just below the arm on the right side. I could take in the sleeves a bit and narrow the back.

I will definitely be making another one of these now that I have the pattern and fit mostly worked out, but I won’t be using the heaviest fabric in the world. (I think this one could stand up by itself!) I’ve got some linen and am thinking of quilting the yoke. I am also on the hunt for some brightly colored denim, or corduroy.

Lessons Learned: Don’t use heavy upholstery fabric for anything other than upholstery.

Have you had success with heavy upholstery fabric?

Vogue 7975 – French Jacket

A few years ago I made this boucle jacket following the techniques illustrated In Susan Khalje’s article on Chanel jackets in issue #121 of Threads magazine. I bought the boucle from J&G Fabrics in NYC. The pattern is the popular Vogue 7975 which has both front and back princess seams. I made view C, the short version with three quarter sleeves.

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I wasn’t terribly happy with the original fit, and altered it several times AFTER completing the project. With thicker fabrics I seem to over or under compensate when I move from the muslin to the fashion fabric and this one was too snug everywhere.

Changes: The original has no closures and meets at CF so last year I added vertical strips to the front so it now overlaps. I also added buttons an inseam buttonholes. I have also decided that jewel necklines are not for me and changed it to a vee neck. I keep thinking that the jacket makes me look matronly. One reason is that the length of the sleeves aligns with the length of the jacket creating a wide horizontal line. I omitted the pockets as they were adding too much bulk.

Construction: I love the channel quilting technique and will most definitely try this again. There is a certain zen nature to the hand stitching that is very satisfying. The hand stitching also makes this project portable so I was able to do much of it on my daily train commute. After reading A Challenging Sew ‘s blog about the making of her French style jacket, I think that my make could have benefited from batiste or organza interlining.  Although it’s super soft and sweater-like it seems to sag and droop a bit at the neck. I’ll have to experiment with the configuration next time.

I did experiment with all kinds of trim and never found anything I liked. I like the trims I see on other similar jackets but when I see it on myself I think it’s too much.

Next time: Lucky me, I just happen to have several pieces of Linton tweed in my stash that will be perfect. Jealous? Thanks Mom!

 I’ll be using Marfy 3182. I find Marfy patterns easier to fit than the big four and they have a closer fit. It’s got a nice sleeve/armhole detail and I’m also digging the collar.

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Lessons learned:
1. Look at interlining the jacket next time.

2. Take into account fabric thickness when fitting.

3. Sleeves should not be the same length as the jacket.

Shirtmaking and Shallow capped Sleeves

My ASG group is learning about shirts and blouses this year so I picked up David Page Coffin’s Shirtmaking originally published in 1993.  Wow!  Now I know why this is a classic.  It’s well explained and illustrated  and, well geeky me, I’m reading it straight through.  I’ve only made two blouses before, but they did not have any traditional details like collars and cuffs so this is all new to me.
His description of how to fit starting with a straight level yoke on a model or mannequin is spot on.  I have uneven sloping and slightly forward shoulders that are notoriously difficult for me to fit and Bam! The shoulders on my first blouse mockup fit well the first time.  Yeah!
There is also a wonderful explanation of the relationship between the angle of the sleeve and how this relates to both the height of the sleeve cap, and comfort and reach range.  Conceptually a sleeve with a shallow cap projects out fairly horizontal and will therefore need to be fairly wide to connect to the bottom of the armhole.  A  sleeve with deeper cap will project down at an angle and will therefore be narrower.  This means that there is also more fabric under the armpit in a shallow capped sleeve which allows for a greater reach range.
Aha!

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Most shallow capped sleeves drive me wild because of the excess fabric below the armpit and the drag lines from the shoulder.
Check out this fleece which has fairly shallow caps.  See the diagonal wrinkles coming down from my shoulder point when my arm is down?  I admit that this is super thick and therefore quite bulky under the arm, but you get the same drag lines with lighter fabrics.
(The fabric pooling on the bodice under the arm is because I didn’t slope the shoulder down enough, but I know how to fix that now, and yes the sleeves are too tight for the Fleece.)
I don’t need extra reach range in my daily commute and office life thank you, and I wear sweaters and jackets over my tops 90% of the time so I don’t want the extra bulk.
No wonder I keep finding these shallow caps in patterns for casual garments.  They are “easier to fit” and more comfortable, but sometime they just don’t look that great.
Do you prefer shallow capped sleeves or those with a deep cap?  Do you consider this when selecting a pattern?

Vogue 8301 – Military Style Jacket

This is another early make, published on PR in 2009.

I selected this pattern because I was looking for a summer jacket with princess seams and a peplum. I was initially interested in the shield, but later decided that I just needed a ‘basic black’ jacket.  It’s made up in black linen.

Vogue Patterns 8301

I made the view on the right, but eliminated the ‘shield’ on the front. The shield is actually a separate panel of fabric stitched to the jacket along the center front seam and attached at the sides and top with buttons.  The two sides are designed to be fastened at the CF with hooks & eyes.  It’s not a bad feature, but I just wasn’t in the mood.  I also added an Ambience lining from the waist seam up. The peplum is lined in the fashion fabric as are the cuffs and collar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the first jacket where I tried to insert a sleeve header, but I used the wrong fabric and it failed. I also inserted one of the sleeves three times and still couldn’t get the puckers out.    Grrr…

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I used bound buttonholes and I am starting to like them a lot. They look so much better than my machine holes.

Yes, there are two types of buttons. Between the time I started the jacket in the summer, and when I finished it six months later I lost a button, so I found a cool one in my stash for the top.  This is what we call a “design opportunity” in the office.

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Lessons learned:

A) Don’t keep making big four patterns unless I am prepared to spend serious time on the fit.  In general, this pattern had too much ease at the shoulder, arms, and upper bust.  Study the mockup closely Margaret and remove excess ease in sleeve cap and sleeve width.  Also probably should have raised the underarm seams.

B) Study the mockup closely and don’t over fit the bust.  Don’t think I needed that SBA.

C) For cryin’ out loud, don’t make any more black garments.  It’s not my color.

White Jacket – Marfy 9636

As part of my record of makes I’ll be including some things that were made a few years ago and posted on Pattern Review.

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I am a big fan of Marfy jackets. I made this when I really had no idea how to properly fit myself or properly interface, etc. I had an image in my head of an off-white jacket that I could wear in the summer when it’s cool in the early morning and cold in the office. After studying the Marfy options, I went for this one because of the collar design, princess seams, faux pocket flaps and peplum. It’s OK for a first pass, but I am itching to do this one again in another fabric.

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The fabric consists of two coordinating cotton upholstery fabrics, one smooth, and one textured. I fell in love with the textured fabric but won’t use an upholstery fabric again. Promise. This jacket practically stands up by itself.  The lining is a basic Bemberg, but it has a bit of show through.

Check out the Marfy sketch below. It has a companion stole with it so you can’t even see the front of the jacket!

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The red in the sketch above shows how I was studying the style lines.

Lessons learned: Don’t sew jackets from upholstery fabric.