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I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon

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Sunday, October 28, 2018

A jacket project

A few posts ago I showed you a reversible straight skirt I made from some suede knit with a rayon knit backing.

I decided that I wanted to make a jacket to go with both versions of the skirt for my travels. I was hoping for something that would look sort of suit like, despite the fact that my daughter has told me about two million times to stop matching things.

I figured that when she was around I could switch the skirt to the grey side and I would be O.K.

In addition to clandestine suit wear I also wanted a jacket that could double as a sort of spring/fall jacket, meaning that it would not be so fitted that I couldn't wear a sweater under it if I wanted to.

This is the pattern I chose, a new season Butterick from Katherine Tilton, B6596:

I liked the asymmetry of the zipper placement in the jacket and the fact it called for a knit. I usually don't like unlined jackets but in a knit that's just fine and in a two-sided bonded knit even better.

I am very happy with this jacket and will probably at least another one, it is that comfortable.

That said there were some definite surprises in this project.

First is fit.

Going by the back of the pattern envelope, I am between a size 16 and 18 bust, a size 22 waist and between a 16 and 18 hip.

Because I always choose pattern size by my high bust, I cut out a size 14, and added two inches to the hip and two inches to the length (these patterns are drafted for 5'6" women and I am 5'9".)

This meant of course that I was sewing a jacket that was drafted for someone with a bust 3" smaller than mine and with a waist 6" smaller than mine.

Here is how that size 14, with additions only a hip and length looked like on me:

Really not tight at all is it, in fact I might even have gone down a size, although this is fine for an over something else jacket. Next time I make it I will not add anything at all to the hip area and not add to the length.

Can you imagine what this would look like on me if I had made it in a size to match my measurements?

No wonder so many sewers have given up on the Big 4 and gone Indie.

And this is another case study of why I always work off my high bust, rather than my full bust when using the big pattern companies.

I have a pretty clear idea what happened.

The first clue was simply that the instructions were so nuts for a for knit pattern. 

If you read them, all the stay-stitching and clipping and turning and pressing and easing, a person would swear that this pattern was drafted for a woven fabric and that the instructions were written in an 1968 home ec class. 

No mention of sewing a knit with a serger (or finishing with a cover hem or twin needle) or even with a stretch stitch or small zig zag on a sewing machine. It is as if the last 50 years of knowledge in how to sew knits never even happened.

Most weird. This sort of breaks my heart for the new sewers out there who are diligently following pattern instructions and not understanding why they are a struggle, or why they produce garments that look home made.

It really makes me wonder how much input the designer has into these patterns or if they do a sample and the team, at say Butterick, just cuts and pastes in stuff that they have in the generic instruction bank.

Even more odd is that there are two distinct voices in these instructions. 

Most of the steps are as I have described above, textbook woven techniques, and completely ignoring the fact that this pattern was supposed to be sewn in a knit, but then suddenly there are some really wonderful, detailed and quite original instructions for sewing in the invisible zipper pockets. That section seem totally out of character with the rest of the text.

It was as if the pattern editor couldn't find any way of explaining these rarely atypical pockets and asked Tilton herself to write something and then dropped that particular text into the middle of the guide sheet.

Here are the pockets BTW:

A demo of how to put your hands in a pocket

A demo of how to unzip a pocket
Speaking of pockets the pattern calls for four, the two you see in action above and two more internal pockets.

These internal pockets are sort of pattern envelope size and are to be set up high, about three inched below the armpit in each side panel.

I actually made up these pockets and was about to put them in when I realized what I was doing - getting ready to sew in some big pockets to go one under each armpit.

I reminded myself of Miss Heidi when she was asked to stand on a balance beam in gymnastics "Why?" (actually what she actually said was "why do you want me to stand on a piece of wood?")

What is a person supposed to put in these pockets?

Conceal and carry sandwiches? Library books to read on the bus? A cell phone under the right armpit and a pack of cards under the left? Passports for the whole family and the plane tickets home?

Nothing about these pockets made any sense so I left them out. Maybe you should too, unless their purpose is clearer to you than it is to me.

Not all details were this unusual.

The zipper front was easy to install but I did have to work with the zippers I had locally. I really wonder sometimes if it s within my rights as a mother to ask my son, who is happily living his life in Berkeley, to move back to New York for the sewing notions - zippers in particular? Wonder if he would go for that?

In the end I was pretty happy with how the jacket went with both sides of the reversible skirt as hopefully you can see in the shots above. Ignoring the pattern sizing and instructions were worth it.

This is a very wearable garment and hopefully the shots show that.

Speaking of photography I will end this post with an out take just like they do at the end of some movies - all the things they leave on the cutting room floor.

I have to saw that neither my husband or I would say that these photo taking sessions are the high points of our martial experience. I generally want to know why my husband holds the phone in such a way to make my head look small and my stomach look fat and my husband wants to know why if I want the top of my head in the shot I don't tell him.

I also know that my loyal husband thinks I am not helping him reach his creative potential. If for example you are wondering how I actually look when the suggestion is made that we shoot my sewing projects from the drone in the sky - so my readers can see the garment from all angles - well wonder no longer:


Anonymous said...

I love the jacket! So to summarize, I should chose the size by my high bust, add a little at the waist, skip two of the pockets and ignore the instructions except for the zippered pockets. Got it.

Your daughter is right. Stop matching things. Color blocking by garment is more up-to-date. Of course this is not so easy if one follows the philosophy of cutting and sewing from a length of fabric in one session until it is used up. I always seem to end up with tops, pants, and a matching dog jacket and I don't even have a dog.

Birdmommy said...

Love the jacket! I’d seen this pattern and ignored it; the skirt made the whole thing look frumpy. You make it look wonderful with the Jalie skirt.

Jacq C said...

That is a great jacket but I suspect I’d never have accomplished a finished garment with the fit and instruction issues you’ve outlined! It really is so frustrating. A friend is just embarking on her first garment, a simple shell top. We made a muslin yesterday and she’s left the pattern with me to make fit adjustments and rethink the instructions which are illogical/sparse and would never give her a garment she could be proud of. She said if she’d been on her own and produced our test piece she’d have abandoned any attempt to sew a garment ever again, I am going to direct her to your blog immediately - for priceless guidance and a good laugh. Thank you x

EllieMae28 said...

I had a similar experience with a Marcie Tilton top recently. A knit top, and no mention of using a serger! What? I ended up ignoring the directions completely since it was a simple sew. And the difficulty with trying to decide what size, if I followed the package measurements I would be wearing a tent!
The jacket looks great on you. Enjoy your blog.

Kansas Sky said...

I love what you wrote about the Big 4 instructions ---- so extremely frustrating and needlessly sad. I have dozens of patterns that I've accumulated [$1 sales at JoAnn] with good design lines but no hope of getting a good fit and quality construction with information provided. Every pattern from these legacy companies requires research into modern techniques --- a full library and a fast WiFi are needed to get them fitted and sewn. .... YOUR JACKET is lovely despite the fitting challenges and I'm glad you shared it with us.

MaryEllen said...

I love this post. You always manage to find humor as well as being practical in your reviews. The jacket is really pretty but I loved your honest review ! I’m so surprised/disapppointed to hear that a designer wouldn’t catch all these challenging “mistakes” .

Vancouver Barbara said...

Your jacket looks great on you but only because you knew how to deal with the fitting issues and constructions issues. Brava. What's wrong with matching? More tyranny. We can do what suits us.

Vancouver Barbara said...

Love your grey boots and grey legs.

sdBev said...

Love your interactions with your DH. Just goes to show that two disparate individuals can get along and help each other.

Let your daughter wear her style and you wear yours i.e. go ahead and match.

I sometimes think the Big 4 have lost all the truly knowledgeable staff; people who sewed; people who knew how to draft patterns and design clothes. They have enthusiastic staff but not the deep seated knowledge needed to create and sell patterns to/for the home sewing market. JMHO

AJW said...

I had this pattern on my list but took it off. After reading your review, it will go back on the list and a search for appropriate knit fabric will commence. Your version looks fabulous and your comments, as always, are spot on. I too wish pattern manufacturers would stop and ask themselves just what they are trying to accomplish by selling patterns that feature out-dated, poorly drafted instructions? How will a new audience of home sewers grow with this level of frustration ahead for them? Thank you as always for generously sharing your results and wisdom.

beckster said...

I love the jacket, Barbara, but you have outlined my dilemma exactly. How on earth is a beginner supposed to know the instructions are crap? It's really discouraging and maddening. Why on earth would these instructions make it to the finished envelope? By the way, I want to know what pattern you used to make the black top in the first picture. I love a v-neck top that hugs the back of the neck. Please don't tell me you just mocked it up on a whim - LOL!

Barbara said...

Beckster that top is Jalie 2682, one of my all time favourite patterns, super easy to sew. As to the destruction sheets, many Indies, like Love Notions and Patterns for Pirates are better for the how-tos. But really so many of the Big 4 patterns are not achievable as instructed. Kind of why I wrote the book and might di another one some time - so many techiques need easier explanations.

Unknown said...

Actually the Tilton sisters just sew using a regular straight stitch on a sewing machine for t-shirts and the like. I was surprised to discover this in their Craftsy classes so those Vogue instructions actually represent what they do. Personally, I love Vogue patterns and have sewed with them (especially their designer patterns) my whole life and I find that if I pick my size using the high-bust measurement, the fit is usually pretty fine. I'm small so I don't go in for their unfitted boxy patterns. Maybe those are where the excessive ease comes in. And I pick other pattern lines (not just Big 4) by the high bust as well, so that's nothing different. I have found the Vogue instructions to be fine by and large (although I sew more woven or stretch woven fabrics than knits, other than the odd t-shirt). (Of course the other line I sew most is Burda, and the Vogue instructions are far more detailed and informative compared to the minimal instructions of Burda!)

sewingkm said...

Great jacket, Barb. I experienced your same issues sewing Marcy's V9244 to be sewn with knits. Why oh why are the instructions tailored for wovens? As you stated goofy inappropriate instructions drive new sewists to total frustration! When will the Big 4 get with it? Karen

badmomgoodmom said...

I really like the jacket and have an alternate interpretation of the sizing. I often have to size UP in Jalie by 2-3 sizes just so that my shoulders fit. Big 4 fits my shoulders pretty well if I go by bust size. Could that be the difference?

I am intrigued by the pockets. I was just in Rome, and pick pockets are so common. Really secure interior pockets for cash and passports would be useful (and take up some of that ease.)

Also, the pattern picture uses a thicker fabric, which also eats up ease.

James William said...

Hello! I like the pattern and the stuff seems good, the you design and dress it makes the jacket more prominent. Thank you for shearing with us. Euro Jacket