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.
The ones that follow me on Instagram know that in November I spent a few days doing a lot of natural dyeing. I started with a cotton table cloth and a cotton/linen curtain; both old and stained / with some holes, which luckily wasn’t a problem for the project I was planning with it. Then I dyed pieces of the fabric in all the colours that I could find.
I don’t have a lot of experience with natural dyeing, apart from some indigo and avocado dyeing (like my Blaire Shirt), but I was keen to experiment a little. The whole dyeing process was very intuitive. I basically just used what I could find in my parents house and garden. Once a year they have a little natural dyeing festival, so they actually have some dye plants in the garden. I even was able to save some Madder root, that my mother was getting rid of, since it is growing like weeds. If you want more details on the whole process, I have saved everything in my story highlights section on Instagram.
I won’t go through the whole process, but basically I used soy milk on all the fabric as a mordant and prepared the dye bath in either cold or hot water. I played around with the temperature to figure out what worked best for each colour. Except for some iron liquor (home made) on eucalyptus (from our France holiday) I didn’t use any agents to change the colour. I also didn’t use any fixatives, since I found with my avocado dyed clothes that the colour keeps surprisingly well. We’ll see how well the other colours hold up.
The whole dyeing process was super fun and I loved creating a whole rainbow of colours. I’m by no means an expert in natural dyeing but I learned a few things along the way:
Make sure to spin out the soy milk/water mixture in the washing machine and don’t wring it out by hand, otherwise you’ll end up with uneven dye patterns.
Be patient. Some colours take more time to extract than others. Avocado skins and pits for example take a while to release the colour.
Start with low temperatures. Some colours (e.g. from the sunflower seeds) change colour when they come to a boil. In most cases the colours turn into a grey/brown, which you might want to avoid.
Start with little fabric swatches to get a feel for how potent the dye is. Once you know the dye is potent enough start adding bigger pieces. This obviously works best when you are doing a quilt rather than trying to dye lengths of fabric for a garment.
Accept that the colours might change with exposure to sun and that the colours will fade quicker than chemically dyed fabric. My avocado dyed shirt has shifted into a slightly warmer colour over time. I love the fact that the colours change, in exchange the natural colours have a lot more depth than anything chemically dyed.
Natural dye keeps very well if stored in a plastic container. I had some left-over avocado dye that I made in September, and two month later it still worked perfectly. Just make sure to strain it properly before storing, to ensure that no plant pieces are left in the liquid that could start molding.
Experiment! I was in such a dyeing frenzy that I just tried random stuff that I could find. For example with the bay leaves, I didn’t know that you could dye with them, and even less that they would give a beautiful pink, such a lovely surprise!
Once I had my stack of fabrics, I had to decide on how I would want to use them on the jacket. Originally I had planned to stick to a limited colour palette but then I got carried away in the dyeing process. Once I was done, I had grown attached to each colour and was unable to narrow it down. I was afraid I would end up with a crazy jacket if I used all of them, so I consulted Instagram. In the end most people supported the colourful jacket idea and I decided to go for it, it was for #sewfrosting after all!
Once I had roughly decided on a design (one front in cool colours, the other in warm and the back with a colour gradient) I started piecing the quilt. To make it all manageable to quilt and to avoid wasting precious fabric I decided to assemble and quilt each jacket piece individually. For that I cut the pieces in a lining fabric (a beautiful block printed cotton that my husband brought back from India a few years back) and the cotton batting. Then I arranged the dyed fabric pieces on top to roughly work out the design. For the piecing I worked with a mixture of machine quilting (for the larger pieces) and hand stitching (for the smaller accent pieces). Already in the dyeing process I had cut all the swatches on grain, so that I decided to fringe some of the smaller pieces and applique them on top. Finally I hand-quilted everything using a vintage linen thread that I had picked up at a flea market this summer.
I really enjoyed the whole quilting process; especially because I was working on it while the jacket was in pieces ,which meant that it was the perfect project to work on while travelling or in front of the television. In terms of quilting pattern, I decided to follow all the joining seam lines and add additional Boro stitching in different places. The linen fabric had a few little holes, so I focused first on adding reinforcing stitches there. The rest of the quilting didn’t follow a strict pattern, my only aim was to create a balanced design overall.
Once the individual pieces were quilted I assembled the Haori. First the fronts, back and the sleeves. The collar I slimmed down to remove the fold-over detail, which would have been too bulky in the quilted fabric. To finish the seams and the sleeve hems I cut strips of left over fabric and bound them by hand. For the bottom hem I decided to just fold both the outer and the inner fabric to the inside and close the seam with a blind stitch. You may notice, that I left off the big patch pockets of the original pattern. I thought they would have made the pattern too busy with all the quilting going on. Instead I decided to add one pocket to the inside.
The pattern is super straight-forward to assemble, though I had to change the order of construction quite a few times. I chose to make a size M (which corresponds to my hip measurements) and I’m happy I did. While it is designed as quite an oversized jacket, I need the room to be able to move around in this thick fabric.
Phew, what a long post! For everyone making it that far, congrats!
This project definitely was a labour of love, and I’m not sure if I would have ever tackled such a big and crazy project if it wasn’t for #sewfrosting. So thanks Heather Lou and Kelli for initiating such a fun challenge! During the process it often felt more like working on a piece of art rather than sewing a garment, since it was so intuitive and the outcome so unpredictable. And I have to say, it was such a satisfying experience! I also decided to take it really slow and hand sew the majority of it. That meant my fingers had blisters at the end and I missed the deadline of the challenge by a month. But it was so worth it!
The first outing for this Wiksten Haori was my uncle’s birthday last weekend. He is an artist, so it was the perfect setting and such a great conversation starter too!
The one thing that I have taken away from this project is that I love working on projects where the fabrics and colours guide me and I don’t have to strictly follow instructions. I’ve never really identified as an artist (more as a crafter/maker) but this project really felt like art and I had so much fun! And yes, I do feel a little bit like a crazy lady in this jacket; and I don’t think I will wear it out a ton. But I love it nonetheless!
So here is to the new year, to taking risks, to making art and creating something crazy once in a while. Happy 2019 everyone!
After all the fun I had last year with my Summer of Basics (here the final outfit from 2017) I knew that I wanted to participate this year as well. I love the concept of focusing on making three basics over the course of the summer. I’ve already shared my plans for this year on Instagram (see here). Like last year I’m planning to make a full outfit. The first garment from my list (my June project) was a work wear jacket, and (spoiler alert) I love the final garment!
But let’s start from the beginning. I love sewing outerwear and wanted to make a casual jacket that I could easily throw over everything. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of workwear inspired jackets in the shops and after trying some of them on I was determined to create something similar. Here a couple of my favourites.
Looking for a pattern, the Tello Jacket by Pauline Alice Patterns immediately came to mind. I’ve been seeing some lovely versions popping up recently (e.g. Sara’s or Clare’s). While the design is slightly different to what I was looking for, I knew it would be easy to adapt it.
Regarding the fabric, I had ordered some natural bull denim from Empress Mill, originally to make some Lander pants. When it arrived I loved the texture but thought it might be slightly too thick and stiff for trousers, perfect for a jacket though.
To get the style I was after, I made a number of changes to the pattern
First I made a straight size 42, which corresponds to my hip measurements but is two sizes larger than my bust. Since I was going for an oversized look, I decided to size up slightly.
The front facing of the original is curved at the bottom but I wanted a straighter look so I squared it off.
I slightly widened the sleeves for a more relaxed fit, necessary with this heavy fabric.
The original collar is a lot more pointy. I sewed it up as is first, but decided it was looking too 70s; I however was going for more of a Japanese style look. At that point the collar was already attached to the jacket, so I decided to just opened the seam at the collar points, make them more square and top stitch them down. Surely not best sewing practice but I don’t think it’s noticeable.
Finally I changed the pockets. The original pattern has one zipped breast pocket and the lower pockets extend over the side seams. To match my original inspiration I decided to just stick with patch pockets. One of the upper pockets attached on the inside. This was a feature that I saw on one of the ready-to-wear jackets and really liked. It’s perfect to keep my phone secure. The pockets were all attached through the facing, which keeps the latter in place.
So that’s it. A long list of changes but all of them easy to make. I think this pattern is a great starting point for a jacket style like this. The instructions are great and it has lovely details such as the elbow darts. I finished all seams with bias binding, which gives it a clean look and a pop of colour on the inside. I also added a hook from bias tape, which I attached with bar tacks. The buttons are simple plastic ones from John Lewis.
While I was sewing the jacket, I wasn’t 100% sure if I would like the finished garment, it looked shapeless and in this calico a bit like a muslin. However, now that it’s finished I love wearing it! It’s such a great simple summer jacket, which goes well with a lot of my wardrobe at the moment. I was contemplating dyeing it (I already sewed it up with cotton thread so it would take the dye) but this off white is growing on me. So for now I’ll keep it as it is, I can always change my mind and dye at a later stage.
I hope you are ready for a lot of pictures. It’s the first time that we are taking pictures here in Colmar and there are so many great back-drops!
Oh and this? Just me casually walking along a colourful wall. I didn’t know that this was so difficult. How does everyone else make this look so effortless?