A Jacket to Give a Dress a Second Look

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In a mentoring session with Sarah Veblen last month, we talked about a planned business trip to Brazil. I know the weather will be quite warm, but I need to look polished every day that I’m there. I simply don’t have enough warm weather clothes that fit the bill. One of the suggestions Sarah made was to make a white cotton jacket to wear over the dress I had made for the Spoonflower fabric challenge last summer.  It just so happened that I had two different white piqués in my collection as well as some gray buttons with a white stripe that blend well with the print of the dress.

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All I  needed was some white Ambiance lining and I’d could get started, or so I thought.

The plan was to use the bodice pattern pieces for the Spoonflower dress to make the body of the jacket, with an adjustment at the shoulder to make room for a pair of very thin shoulder pads called “Angel Wings.” The sleeves could be made from either my master jacket pattern or my master blouse pattern, whichever worked. Both are two-piece sleeves. However, I discovered that I no longer had all the pattern pieces for the Spoonflower dress. I started the dress to enter in the October 2015 ASG Chicago Chapter fashion show, but when I couldn’t finish it in time it remained unfinished until last summer. In the interim, I used the pattern as the starting point for my Little Black Dress that I wore in last spring’s Haute Couture Club of Chicago fashion show and to a wedding last June. I didn’t expect to like the Spoonflower dress as much as I do and so I didn’t think I’d want to make another dress from the pattern. So, instead of copying all the pattern pieces to make the modifications for the LBD, I made the changes on the existing pattern pieces. I’ve since decided that I do want to make new versions of the original dress again and I really regretted not taking the few extra minutes to copy all the pattern pieces when we were developing the LBD. That’s a mistake I won’t make again.

So, my first task was to reconstruct the original Spoonflower dress pattern, then copy the bodice pattern pieces adding an extra inch beyond the modified Empire seam of the dress. Because that seam is so curved, I needed to make a faced hem, which required new pattern pieces and interfacing.

I kept everything else very simple. The neckline is the same as the neckline of the dress so that it sits under the dress collar and the top button is hidden. I lined it to the edge and just made interfacing pattern pieces to interface the lining where facings might otherwise have gone, including at center front to support the buttons and buttonholes.

Of the two cuts of piqué that I had in my collection, the traditional birdseye weaves is a bright white and the less traditional one is a softer white. That’s the one that goes better with the dress. In looking at the weave, which looks like a honeycomb, I decided I wanted the elongated pattern to go in a vertical direction in the garment, even though that is the cross-grain.

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In this picture of a sample buttonhole you can see the fabric’s directional honeycomb weave

I also decided that the fabric needed to be cut in a single layer to achieve some degree of consistency at the hemline of the adjacent pieces. That meant making a full pattern for the back piece and remembering to cut mirror images of the front, side and sleeve pieces. I ended up labeling each piece “left front”, “right front”, etc. I didn’t want to leave any room for error.

After doing the pattern work and cutting, I wanted to get sewing, so I put off cutting the lining . This turned out to be helpful, because when the jacket was constructed and I needed to attach the shoulder pads, I went ahead and did all the hand sewing that had to be done on the fashion fabric. That cut down on the amount of hand sewing I had to do at the end and made it less daunting.

After trying on the jacket and determining button placement, it was time to test the  buttonholes. The buttonholes themselves were fine, but I was having trouble getting them placed exactly where they needed to be. With white fabric I didn’t want to take a chance on using a Frixion pen or even a chalk pencil and pin marking was hard to see. So I decided to try cutting painter’s tape to a width that matched the space from the finished edge of the jacket to exactly where I need to sink the needle at the start of the buttonhole.

I marked the horizontal lines in pen and attached the tape to the sample I was working with. I found I could sink the needle in so that it just brushed the edge of the tape and lined up exactly with the pen marking. I’m definitely going to use this technique again.

The other breakthrough in this project was that the lining jump hems didn’t trip me up. I serge finished and pressed under the cut edges, attached them to the serge finished edges of the fashion fabric hems (for the sleeves) and hem facings (for the body), hand stitched them in place and lightly steamed the lining. Done!

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In the Sketchbook – November 2016

Welcome to In the Sketchbook, a monthly look at fashion design sketches that we are working on for ourselves. Sketching garments on a personal croquis is a great way for the individual couture enthusiast to move beyond the use of commercial patterns and into a world of personalized design! It can be intimidating at first, but with a little bit of practice it becomes something you look forward to. Join us for a look of what we have going on In the Sketchbook! Brought to you by Wendy Grossman of Couture Counsellor and Steph King from Siouxzeegirl Designs.

I’m pretty sure everyone who undertakes creative projects hits a wall or goes through a dry patch from time to time. I’m painfully familiar with writer’s block, and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that something similar has been happening with my sewing and personal design efforts.

While working my way out of this slump with a project that should be completed in a few days, I’ve been giving some thought about the French jacket that I started in a workshop more than three years ago. When something has been sitting untouched for that long and the only emotion it evokes is guilt, you have to wonder what’s going on. The fabric is very nice, the fit is great. So what’s the problem?

One thing may be that these jackets are all about the embellishments and I’m not much of an embellisher. Another possibility is that I’ve come to see that collars are an important element of garments for me and French jackets are usually collarless. Usually. Not always. When I mentioned this to Sarah Veblen, she immediately started playing around with the spare fabric I have and suggested a collar for my unfinished jacket. I’m not convinced about putting a collar on this one, partly because I’m not sure it will hold up well when the jacket itself has so little structure and it’s progressed beyond the point where I could build something supportive into it. But that did get me thinking about adding a collar to a future French jacket made from some fabric in my collection that I absolutely adore.

It also got me to thinking about the skirt I’d make to go with the unfinished jacket. The designs I sketched earlier have a lot of pleats and seem to be too heavy or too bulky, but a small pleat inset lower down might be just what I need. Here is that skirt with some possibilities for collared French jackets.

 

I haven’t decided whether I like them better with self-fabric or contrasting fabric.

6Then there’s the possibility of using lace as a collar.

None of these ideas have embellishments yet, but they might be a start.

Be sure to check out what my dear friend Steph King of Siouxzeegirl Designs is up to at 10 Sewing Machines & a Serger. And, we’d love to see and hear about what you’re sketching too.

Frankenpatterns – Cute Name, Wrong Vibe

Frankenpatterns is a word that some sewists are using to describe projects they make by combining elements of two or more patterns. I have some issues with the term. First, this isn’t anything new. I know there are some experienced sewists who never deviate from a pattern, but many of us have been pulling details from one pattern and grafting them onto another without thinking we were doing anything out of the ordinary. A case in point is this two-piece dress that  I made by combining my sloper, or basic fit, bodice pattern and the neckline and collar from Vogue Pattern 8667. V8667, Misses'/Misses' Petite  Dress

IMG_0003FYI, the collar is just a rectangle cut on the bias. The pattern doesn’t say to interface it but I always interface my collars and I think it helped with this one.

I also used the same neckline for a black silk two-piece dress with no sleeves and no collar. Black 2 pc dress

The other problem I have with Frankenpatterns is the name itself. When patterns are combined well, I don’t think the results are monstrous at all. As an example, here is the first jacket I made from my sloper.

Asymmetric JacketThe pattern I used is out of print, Butterick B5292.

untitled This was my first attempt to apply my sloper to a pattern in a way that required more than just a bit of tweaking. I have to say that when I first placed the sloper pieces on the main pattern pieces, I was intimidated.

Here is what one of the front pattern pieces looks like with my jacket sloper on it.

Sloper Front to Original 2Here is the back.

Back Sloper to OriginalI made this jacket before I made the basic jacket pattern you see here so the contrast was even greater at the time. I also didn’t have a full set of helpful landmarks on my bodice sloper at the time. All I had marked was Center Front and Center Back, which I knew I had to line up with the corresponding landmarks on the commercial pattern. Since then, I’ve added a bustline and waistline on every piece by marking them on the front and then walking the adjoining seams to get them to connect at the same level all the way around. Had I done that to my sloper at the time and made corresponding markings on the commercial pattern, I might have felt more confident.

Because this is an asymmetric jacket, there was a lot to be added beyond Center Front. I used my own side front and side back pieces and my own sleeve pattern, so I didn’t have to worry about any of the differences on the other side of Center Front.

I don’t have a tapered back seam in my bodice or jacket patterns, but the commercial pattern does. I wanted to lay out the back piece on the fold, so I lined it up with the marked Center Back and ignored the tapering in the pattern. So, I was able to ignore everything that was going on on either side of Center Back. I just needed to use Center Back as a point of reference.

As you can see, my sloper is quite a bit shorter than the pattern. I’m average height (5’5″ and a bit). Pattern grading increases both horizontally and vertically. If only that were true with changes in people.

Basically, the only things I needed to figure out were the distance between the shoulder point and a line extending up from Center Front on the front piece and the corresponding distance from Center Back on the back piece. Then I needed to draw in my shoulder seams at my correct angle and stop where I needed to stop in order to come out with a neck seam that was the same length and shape as the neck seam on the commercial pattern. I also needed to make sure that the shoulder seam is the same length in the front as it is in the back.

Here is how my drafted pattern looks overlaid on the commercial pattern.

Front New to originalBack new to Original2I was a little concerned about how short the shoulder seams are, but I wasn’t feeling confident enough to change the neckline and create accurate corresponding changes to the collar stand. When I was sewing the jacket I thought that was a dumb decision because my bra straps might make unscheduled appearances. The next time I make this jacket, I’ll bring in the neckline just a bit and make the corresponding change to the collar stand.

If the seamlines in these pictures look narrow to you, it’s because I like to use 3/8″ instead of 5/8″ seamlines. Only recently I’ve switched back to 5/8″ for sleeves and armscyes because of the method I use for setting sleeves. Yes, it does seem my sewing gets unnecessarily complicated sometimes, but I really do have reasons for these choices. The other odd marking you see on the back pattern piece is the extra Center Back foldline. This is actually a shortcut so that I can use one pattern piece for both the fashion fabric and the lining and still get that pleat in the center back of the lining.

Here is what my pattern for this jacket looks like when compared to the jacket sloper.

Left Front Sloper to NewBack New to Sloper Detail

And here is the finished product on my dress form.

Blue Asymmetric JacketThe fabric is a silk suiting that was lovely to work with and is a delight to wear. But, the jacket could have used more structure. I lined it to the edge in a silk charmeuse print, but with the hidden snaps leaving impressions on the fabric, a front facing would have been a better choice. Still, I love wearing it. And I don’t think it bears any resemblance to a monster.