Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Pattern That Nearly Broke My Spirit...

Before I start, let me just say that I LOVE the way this project turned out - it looks exactly how I pictured it, and it’s super cosy.  But the road from A to B was plagued with one rather large obstacle: namely the commercial pattern. McCall's M6656. (Is it any wonder that it's now out of print...?)

It’s true that some of the blame does lie with me, as I don’t use store bought patterns very often, but I have found that almost anything labelled with the word ‘easy’ (or its many variants) is going to be the polar opposite in practice.

I’ve made, and attempted to make, a fair few pieces of outerwear over the past few years. Some were successful
Ikea made this possible
My sister, BTW


 - others less so.

What the hell was I thinking????

But the one that should have been the most difficult (the vogue overcoat I made for my husband, pictured above) went together surprisingly easily.  The longest parts of the process were the cutting out of the pattern itself and hand sewing in the lining.

In stark contrast, the ‘easy’ McCalls’ pattern seemed to be written in a language I was not privy to, and the illustrations only led to further befuddlement. Hint to publishers, if the language is unclear, a slightly ambiguous technical drawing is not going to help!  There was I thinking that adding welt pockets was going to cause me consternation - turns out, that was one of the easier aspects; probably because I knew what I was doing before I did it.

Not many tailoring techniques were called upon (no pad stitching, collar setting, or even shoulder pads) but this project STILL managed to take me about TWELVE DAYS to complete.  I suspect that a vast amount of that time was spent looking from the pattern to the project, in bewilderment, until I finally figured out what I was supposed to be doing.

Once I got the outer shell sorted (back, sides and front), it became very obvious that I couldn’t follow the instructions for finishing. Again, they just seemed vague and (to me anyway) didn’t fully address all the raw edges, or the fact that there was very little to hold the garment in position when worn.  I had always planned to make a lining, as I rarely leave jackets unlined, but, to me, this pattern made it obvious that a lining was going to be needed whether I planned to add one or not!.  That itself wasn’t much of a problem, as I had managed to figure out most of the instructions by then, but I am still confused at how to finish the project without adding a lining!

Anyway, rant over!  This is how I turned an old army blanket into a cute little jacket…

Against the ‘dry-clean only’ instructions, I machine dyed the blanket to give it a warmer colour.  I discovered, while the fabric was hanging out to dry, that putting it through the machine causes it to shed like ‘Billy-O’, so I wouldn’t recommend doing the same.  It’s definitely going to be dry-cleaning from here on in…

As I planned to wear this just as I would any other jacket, I knew I would need to add pockets.  Because I wasn’t entirely sure how long the finished item would be, I followed the interesting trend of placing the pockets quite high up.  This was to ensure that I wouldn’t be trying to hem through a welt at the final stages.  In addition, I do use heat packs (like the ones I made for the snood) when I’m watching Ice Hockey, so placing the pockets where I planned would keep the heat close to my core.

I added the marks to the pattern and used a different contrasting thread to create the tailor’s tacks.  I was fairly confident that the pocket bags wouldn’t show, but I wanted to use a fabric in a compatible colour, just in case.

The orange thread marks one end of the pocket

I trusted my instincts when it came to purchasing the faux fur trim, and took a punt on some long haired ‘camel frost’ from CRS Fur Fabrics.  I don’t think I could have asked for a better match for colour, or a better feel, for comfort.

I knew from the get-go that I would need to create a thick lining for the jacket, as I was planning to wear it in a refrigerated arena, so I didn’t interline the the back or side front pieces, as I would usually.  The sleeve pattern, however, creates a very slender fit, and I knew that I would not be able to add the fake sheepskin and still be able to get my arms in: so the sleeves were interlined, then lined with the same satin type fabric.

The sleeve cuff is simply supposed to be more of the main fabric, but I thought it would be interesting to add a trim.  My initial thought was to have the long pile fur trim on the outside of the cuff, but soon realised that doing so could lead to me looking like I was wearing Ugg boots on the bottom of my arms! So I turned the trim to the inside, so that there was still an obvious link to the collar and facing without going all ‘cave woman’…  The thick cuff, however, proved to be too much for both my sewing machine and my overlocker, so they had to be hand sewed closed, using ladder stitch.

I made a departure from my usual method when adding the lining, and actually machine sewed along the raw edge of the facing along the sides and back; hand sewing only the very bottom edge.  I hung the jacket on the body form before pinning the hem, so that I could be sure that I wasn’t causing the fabric to fall incorrectly.

A little bit more ladder stitching (and some decent pressing), a couple of buttons and the project was finally compete.

Even though the pattern gave me such a headache, I do think I would like to make another one: maybe in a Stuart Tartan. Once you know what you're doing, it's easy ;-)

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