The Shacket

Hello everyone, I’m back.

Are people still writing blog posts? Whenever I open my blog reader app these days I only see posts from businesses and rarely any hobby sewists anymore, which is a shame. I love reading detailed blog posts on garments, Instagram can’t fully replace that in my opinion. The other day I had a conversation with someone on Instagram who told me that they and their mother had been long time readers. They even remembered my second blog post ever (it’s this one from the Refashioners in 2015)! Messages like this make me so happy and even if there are not many people out there reading it, make it well worth keeping up this little blog.

So what have I been up to? The obvious really; I gave birth to my little son Theo early in August. It’s been a crazy and fun ride! Giving birth in times of Corona is scary. In the end we were relatively lucky with the hospital rules at the time. My husband was able to attend the birth and even visit us for a couple of hours each day. The birth wasn’t the easiest (he was a very big baby, as predicted) and recovery was slow. It’s all well now though and little Theo is bringing us so much joy! He’s growing up so quickly though, I already miss my little newborn baby.

Getting back into sewing happened relatively quickly. I’m lucky enough to have a husband who is on parental leave with me until the end of the year. This means he can look after Theo between feeds, which gives me good chunks of time to work on my projects. In between the baby sewing (I just got started on my first cloth diapers, so fiddly!) I even managed to make a few things for myself.

The latest project was this wool shirt-jacket / “shacket” (such a weird word!). Shackets are everywhere right now and I love it! They have the same work wear vibe that I’ve been loving lately but made winter suitable with thick wool fabrics. I also had a perfect fabric in my stash to make one, a deadstock wool from Brora, that I picked up at their Oxford shop ages ago.

It took me quite a while to settle on the design (if you want to see the process, check out the story highlight on my Instagram). In the end I decided to go with the Paola Workwear Jacket from Fabric-Store. This pattern is free and I had seen many great versions online, so I was intrigued to give it a try. It has the perfect classic workwear shape. I did make some changes to it though. From all my inspiration research, statement pockets were the one thing that I got really excited about, so I drafted breast pockets with flaps and angled hip pockets (similar to the ones on the Elizabeth Suzann Harper tunic, but slightly less dramatic). I also added roughly 9 centimetres to the length. I made a size 12/14 based on my current hip measurements, aiming for a good oversized look. I’m happy how it turned out; wide enough to layer a jumper underneath. Best of all, it is big enough to also fit my husband, I love when we can share garments.

The construction of this was slow going (baby breaks) but uneventful. I took my time with pattern matching, to do this fabric justice, and really enjoyed it. The seams are flat felled except for the armhole which I just overlocked to avoid bulk.

You may notice that the jacket doesn’t have buttons yet. I didn’t have any suitable buttons in my stash, but being back in lockdown, going to the shops wasn’t an option and shopping online for only a few buttons I didn’t want to do either. So no buttons it is, for the foreseeable future. It doesn’t stop me from wearing it though, since this was always intended as a cardigan-like middle layer to wear around the flat when I get too cold.

We took these pictures at an abandoned airfield turned nature reserve here in Karlsruhe. It was the perfect back drop for this jacket. Together with the grey and stormy weather I felt like being in Scotland (where this fabric is from) only missing a flock of sheep to look after.

Unexpected Leopard Print Love

Oh wow – This post was supposed to go live months ago. I completely forgot about it and just now found the draft. While I’ve had my son over three months ago (more on that in a future blog post), I really want to share this dress since it was my absolute favourite dress during pregnancy.

This dress started with a trip to Paris over my birthday last December. Remember those times when we could just jump on a train to visit other countries? Ok, to be fair, it wasn’t that easy either. At the time a big strike was going on in France, my train was cancelled and I had to take an overnight bus to get there. But I managed and met up with my husband and friends only half a day late. That weekend also was particularly special because it was the first weekend that I suspected I could be pregnant. As soon as I realised it might be the case, I felt completely different and we spent quite a surreal weekend with the prospect of having a baby (I took the test only when I got back from our trip).

I had been to Paris a few times before, so we didn’t do the typical sightseeing. Instead we spent a quiet Friday to explore the fabric shops around Sacré-Cœur. There are so many shops in that area, but you really have to sift through a lot of ugly/bad quality fabric to find the good stuff. In the end I only bought fabrics in a shop that Saki (@sakijane) had recommended to me: Sacrés Coupons Au Gentleman des Tissus et Cuirs. They really have a great selection of beautiful wools, viscose and silks. I settled on a mohair wool fabric for a coat (which I haven’t touched yet and probably won’t until next winter) and this viscose leopard print fabric.

I’ve never been one to wear animal prints. But with every trend that sticks around for long enough, I’m slowly changing my mind and was intrigued to try it.

The Roscoe Dress by True Bias was the obvious choice for this fabric. I had made the blouse version in a linen before (see my blog post here) and was interested to see how it would work in a more drapey fabric. I also had plenty of fabric, so I decided to try the long dress version.

I decided to make the same adjustments for this dress as for my previous blouse version, i.e. grade out from a size 6 at the bust to a size 10 at the hip. The pattern has a lot of ease as drafted, but especially with the pregnancy, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to have the extra space.

The one change I made to the pattern was to introduce a centre front seam on the bodice. This seam will give me the possibility to unpick part of the front top and add some hook and eyes to make the dress breastfeeding friendly. For now though I have kept the seam closed. This was a tip from Alyse (@maeandbjorn) who you should definitely give a follow on Instagram. Her wardrobe is amazing!

Not having sewn with animal prints before, I was very hesitant whether I would like the print for a whole garment but once I put it on, I was completely won over. The dress looks elegant and is super swishy to wear. To emphasize the baby bump, I also made a quick tie from the remnants, which gives the dress a little bit more shape. Though I like it untied too.

So all in all, this dress was a big positive surprise. I’ve loved wearing it, even if it is just to sit on our balcony and enjoy the beautiful spring days we’ve been having. It also helps that the bump finally looks more like a baby bump and not just extra weight due to all the quarantine food. It is finally time to emphasize it. I’m really excited to make more maternity friendly clothing like this. It’s so comfortable but still looks put together.

Hope you are enjoying the sun, wherever you are!

Thoughts on Maternity Clothes

Let’s talk maternity clothes. This is my first pregnancy and this topic is completely new to me, however, I have been planning and researching a lot in the recent weeks, so here are my first thoughts.

Originally I had great plans of going to charity shops and flea markets for clothes that I could alter for maternity. However, this whole Corona situation put an abrupt halt to these plans. Since me and my husband have quite a pared-down wardrobe, there wasn’t a lot of potential to find things for alteration either, and I don’t really want to sacrifice any of my self-sewn garments for maternity wear. So now I’ve caved and ordered some maternity jeans, tights and leggings online. Everything else, though I am planning to make myself.

I’m not the biggest fan of sewing clothes that can only be worn for a short amount of time. So my plan is to only sew stuff that is not dedicated maternity wear and could easily slot into my wardrobe afterwards. Luckily I am very much into oversized blouses and dresses and since I will be most pregnant in summer, I’m hoping that I can get away with not too many new maternity clothes.

Everything I now sew, I also want to be breastfeeding friendly, so I’m planning to make a lot of tops and dresses with button plackets and other sorts of fastenings.

My first two pieces that fit the bill are a BurdaStyle blouse and the In The Folds Peppermint Wrap Top.

I adore the drafting of this BurdaStyle blouse. I haven’t been very inspired by Burda patterns lately but the 04/2020 issue was amazing! So many great patterns! And this one was my favourite: ruffles on the side, a button placket and balloon sleeves. What’s not to like? The only drawback is the massive amount of fabric this eats, so I was quite limited in terms of fabrics that I could use from my stash. Luckily I only recently sorted my fabric stash and realised that this checkered wool shirting fabric from Brora (picked up as a remnant at their Oxford shop) would be an interesting match with this pattern. And I was right, this fabric is a joy to wear. It barely wrinkles and the shirting fabric in combination with this feminine blouse is perfect.

To have some room to grow, I chose the size based on my hip measurements (a 42) and I love the oversized fit! There is definitely a lot of width and length for a baby bump.

The only change I made to the pattern was to switch out the covered button placket for a normal one. That made the process simpler and I was able to show off the buttons rescued from one of my husband’s old shirts.

The instructions were typical Burda, very short and not that detailed on the finishing. This isn’t an overly complicated garment, so the construction was fine, only the corners where the sleeve pieces meet the ruffles at the bodice were a bit fiddly and I had to do some hand sewing to make it look neat.

I’ve been wearing this blouse non-stop since I finished it. It’s so comfortable and the fabric is perfect for the spring. The design really is spot on, so I’d highly recommend this pattern. I really want to make myself a version in a plain fabric soon.

The second “maternity” piece I made was the In the Folds Peppermint Wrap Top. When the pattern came out, I wasn’t that excited about it but in the meantime I have seen so many amazing versions of the pattern sewn up by the Instagram sewing community that I wanted to give it a go. And it is a free pattern after all.

The instructions for this pattern are impeccable. Everything is finished with french seams and while that takes some time it looks beautiful on the inside. I used a gingham double gauze that I had bought at Tomato in Tokyo and I’m really happy with the pattern/fabric match. I also had exactly the right amount of fabric to make this work.

I made a size D without any changes and the fit is good. It’s relatively loose but that gives me some flexibility for growing further into it.

The final product is a cute little blouse. I do struggle a little bit to tie it in a neat way though. Somehow there is just too much fabric in the front pieces and the hole to thread the tie through is very large so it’s a bit difficult to make it look neat.

I’m imagining wearing this with skirts that just sit under my bust. Which could be quite a cute look. While swapping my winter for my summer wardrobe I realised though that I only have one skirt that actually still fits, so I will have to make some skirts next.

So, what are your tips for maternity sewing? Do you have any suggestions for patterns that could work for maternity and beyond? Let me know.

Trying to show off these sleeves.