Making my own chore jacket – final part!

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Greetings once again from the lab of sewing ones own clothes, or the den of slow fashion as it may more accurately be called. This instalment is part three of attempting to sew my own workwear style coat, using the “Foreman” pattern by Merchant & Mills.

Previous parts:

At the end of part 3 I was at the point where the arms needed to be assembled and inserted, step 14 of the full 17 steps. I’m pleased to say that apart from actually attaching the arms, from this point out it’s plain sailing, or whatever the seamsman term might be. Straight stitching?

The arms are each made of two pieces, top sleeve and under sleeve. Assembling them is entirely straightforward, just pin frontside to frontside and run a seam along the seam allowance. Afterwards (or in my case before) run a zigzag along the edge to stop it fraying. I did wonder why the instructions say to first sew parts together and then zigzag edges. It seems very much more logical to zigzag first, while the parts are more manageable.

Then again, I’m not an experienced seamsman, so when I proudly showed by assembled arms to WDW, who is very much more experienced, she pointed out that my zigzags were not actually doing much at all. I’d just run them up the fabric with no regard at all for where they were placed in relation to the edge. For them to stop fraying they actually have to be on the edge, binding all the stray threads in place. I did concede that she had a valid point, and then zigzagged all the edges again. Not just the arms, but all of them. It didn’t take all that much time, but it is annoying to do a job twice.

Arms assembled it’s step 15, setting in the sleeves. This was another one where the description of the task is trickier than the actual job, and also a point where if you weren’t paying attention right at the start, you have to look back and redo a little. When you originally marked out the pieces for cutting, there were a number of “notches” on the paper pattern. I think the intention is to actually cut these in the fabric, though I’ve had more luck just marking them with a pen (less fraying, more happiness). In any case, I hadn’t noticed these notches and hence not marked them onto the arm pieces or the front and back body pieces. So out with the pattern again, orient the pieces the right way and mark the backside. The notches are important as there are 4 markings on each piece to ensure the arms sit right.

I may have been really tired every time I went to put the arms in place, but I found it quite challenging to work out which arm went in which hole. Seriously, I’ve worn armed garments for most of my life, I’d finally marked the notches and I was still trying to work out which arm was left, and the right one was no easier. Still, it helps when you find out that the jacket has to be inside out, but the arm not inside out. I’ll never forget this process, as on the inside of my right arm is the text “Definitely left”.

This is where the ease stitching mentioned last week comes in. When the arm piece is to be set into the arm hole, the circumference of the arm is greater than the circumference of the hole and needs to be shrunk a little. Not a lot, but you want the shrink to be evenly distributed, not all in one big bump. I did link to a video that showed how it worked and I did use the technique showed there. Only, it didn’t work for me. It may have been the thickness of the fabric, or maybe the steps in the stitching, but I ended up doing the ease stitching by hand, and there wasn’t that much that needed adjusting, so the end result turned out ok.

In fact, the hand stitching became useful for the next step as well, as after placing lots and lots of pins round the edge to be sewn, it became obvious that with the bulk of the pieces and pins poking everywhere, it was pretty hazardous to manoeuvre it all into the sewing machine, let alone sew around the edge with any elegance. Not only that, but at some points the fabric is layered three deep and the machine was struggling to work it’s way over all the pins. So I spent a few minutes basting (wow, I sound properly Savile Row now) the edge, as in with a needle and thread I quickly stitched along the edge. Cleverly, using a contrasting thread and doing this along the seam allowance, I also had a nice and visible marking to sew along once I’d removed all the pins!

Once the sleeves are in place it actually looks like a proper jacket! Step 16 is just the simple matter of hemming the sleeves, and here you have a lot of scope for getting it right for you. It’s also just a simple run of stitching so even if you want to adjust it later, it’s easy to do. The final tasks to do are making the buttonholes and sewing buttons in place. Getting the buttonholes right was not entirely straightforward as I’d reduced the length of the jacket by 3 cm, but the intention was clearly that there was to be 13 cm between buttons, so starting from the top and measuring down carefully let me place them accurately. I put the buttons in the middle of the centre front, i.e. 3 cm in from the edge. The buttonholes were set the same, but 2.7 cm in from the edge.

I think every even slightly modern sewing machine, and even an old one from the 50’s with the right attachment, can sew button holes, so I’ll not explain in detail. Do practice though until you can do it with confidence as unpicking moody buttonholes is a sure way of eating up your fabric and it’s a shame to mess up when the end is this close. I received a tip to do an additional run of narrow and tight zigzagging along the edges of the buttonholes, and have tried to do this. The intention is to strengthen the holes and add extra lifespan.

The buttons I sewed in by hand, though there is a mode for this on my sewing machine as well. My reasoning is that every time I’ve had to sew a button, it’s been first sewn by machine. Very rarely do I replace one I’ve sewn by hand. Machines are ace, no doubt about it, but they’re not that good at sewing buttons in place. Sadly.

And that’s it really. The jacket is all done! Was it difficult and did it turn out well? I think that once I’d worked out the tricky bits the sewing itself is very straight forward and if I was to start making a new one right away it would take a lot less time. It would also be a lot more accomplished than this one, which isn’t as perfect as hoped, but better than I expected. Apart from where I missed up and did things a little out of order, it’s as the pattern dictated. Oh, apart from my little personal touch, the pocket inside the front pocket. As two were to be cut, it seemed a shame to let one go to waste!

Previous parts:

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1 Comment

  • Deanna Cummings 09/07/2017 at 15:59

    Thanks for these posts. They are very helpful. I’m planning to make one for myself in the fall, with blue cotton velveteen (a moderately girly version). Given how fabrics with that much nap tend to creep, I’ll be doing a fair bit of hand basting or using double stick fusible tape.

    Reply

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