When Minerva Crafts contacted me to be part of their Blogger Network I had one of those moments of looking over my shoulder, sure they were speaking to the blogger behind me. Their goal with this network is to break down some people’s sewing barriers and inhibitions by having bloggers make clothing using their patterns and fabrics to show how it can all come together in a much more stylish, inspiring and practical way than the pattern envelopes usually depict. It’s a great idea and I love seeing what everyone makes!
When given this challenge I felt a little bit like Clyde in the children’s book Cowardly Clyde. Do you know the one? Basically, Clyde was a warhorse – he was meant to be fearless and strong, but, in reality, was a coward. He decided that even if he’s wasn’t half brave enough to do something then he would pretend to be brave. So, here I am pretending to be ‘that’ blogger who can help breakdown some sewing barriers.
When given free rein to choose anything from Minerva’s vast (and I mean VAST) selection of patterns and fabrics I was totally overwhelmed by the amount of choice and needed a strategy to help me narrow things down. The things I knew I wanted: a coat or jacket made in a wool that felt very English (I will soon be living ‘behind the hedgerow’ in England, don’t cha know?!). The fabric came first – a poly/wool blend with an olive-y, tweed-y feel. Now to match that to a pattern. Originally I was thinking of blazer-style jacket but when I saw this pattern, Vogue 8794, the collar sealed the deal. It can behave by lying down nicely out of the way or it can stand up, wrap itself around you and function almost as a scarf.
Now, as you might imagine, I did spent an awful lot of time trying to conquer the sewing of this jacket so, as a consequence I have quite a bit to say! If you’re considering making your first outerwear garment then I hope this will help. I’ve added lots of headings and bold throughout so feel free to skim and take away what you need. Oh, and one other treat, you get to see pictures that are NOT taken in front of my white garden wall! We actually made it to the forest for some photos.
Pattern: Vogue 8794, Ladies Jacket from the Very Easy Vogue Patterns range. ”Loose-fitting, unlined jacket [with] collar, extended shoulders, front bands, flaps, pockets, back pleat, stitched hems and snap closing, topstitching.” I made view A (the yellow one in the pic above).
Exterior Fabric: Ex Barbour Olive Green Check Wool/Poly Suiting Designer Dress Fabric. ”Gorgeous quality Ex Barbour 78% Wool, 22% Polyester blend suiting fabric. Beautifully soft, with a lovely drape and body. Suiting fabrics are perfect for jackets, trousers, skirts, waistcoats and more!”.
Lining Fabric: 60″ Wide Anti-Static Dress Lining Fabric, Ginger.
Size: 14. This is a nice, generous fit (easy to wear with layers underneath).
What I did (in brief)
- Followed instructions for overall construction but,
- Omitted patch pockets
- Added two single welt pockets
- Added a lining
- Added a fabric tab for hanging
General tips for Vogue 8794
- It is true that non-indie patterns don’t teach you as they go but, having said that, this jacket is surprisingly easy to sew if you follow the instructions as stated. There are no complicated closures (zips, buttonholes, etc), the fit is quite forgiving, and the instructions are clear.
- Choose your fabric carefully. If you’re not lining your jacket then you want to make sure your fabric has enough structure to stand up as a jacket and not become all floppy. Also, consider the pattern on the fabric. About half way through this make I started wondering if I should try to match the plaid and/or cut some sections on the bias for added interest. I decided against both (time restraints more than anything) but I suppose I could have taken the time to consider all of this from the start.
- Take your time to transfer all your markings. Like all patterns, these markings will save you time in the end. For this pattern, make sure to transfer your snap placements carefully (and that they don’t rub off – like they did on my muslin version).
- Give yourself enough time for the hand-stitching. The downside of no buttonholes to sew or zips to insert is that you have to hand-sew all those snaps in place! It takes longer than you might think. Also, it took some time to stitch the collar onto the neckline. None of it was difficult, just time-consuming.
Adding single welt pockets
The first thing to say here is welt pockets are NOT difficult! I promise, they really aren’t! What is difficult however is figuring out the correct size and placement for your particular garment. In other words, if welt pockets are already included in your pattern then more than half the battle is done! Yes, there is that fear factor of cutting a big slash in your fabric for your pocket opening but once you get past that it’s just some straight stitches.
I wrote a whole post on pockets (including welt pockets) and I still stand by what I said there. I have, however, discovered even more information. The most useful tutorial I found for the actual sewing of the pocket was from Kristin’s (Skirt as Top) guest post for the Oliver+s blog. Her words and photos do an excellent job of explaining each step. I managed to do pockets on both the muslin and real version without a single mistake! *big sigh of relief*
The only change I made from her tutorial was the shape of the pocket bag. Since my pockets are at an angle I didn’t want rectangular pocket bags but more oval, hand-shaped bags. Does that makes sense? As a reader suggested I simply traced generously around my hand and used that as the basis for a template.
Adding a lining to a jacket
Requisite flasher photo
I took lots of advice on this part of the project and did lots of reading/watching online. As with most things, there are many (sometimes conflicting) versions of how this should be done. Here is what worked for me.
I used the original pattern pieces to cut sleeves, front and back (taping the yokes on to the front and back pieces before cutting out). I then constructed them by sewing shoulder seams, attaching sleeves and sewing sleeve and side seams. This meant I had a kind of jacket made out of lining fabric.
The most difficult part was figuring out the best way to attach it to the jacket. After much consideration, I sewed the front raw edges of the lining to the raw edge of the front band of the jacket, right-sides together, before turning it right-side out and top-stitching the front band in place. I then basted the lining neckline to the neckline of the jacket. This raw seam was enclosed by the hand-stitching of the collar.
For the bottom and sleeve hems I simply folded the hem of the lining of the wrong side and slipped it into the fold of the hem before stitching it in place (making sure to leave a little bit of extra length on the lining for ease).
Sounds ok, right? Well, I did make one glaring error. When I cut the back lining piece I omitted the back pleat because I decided I didn’t need any more ease (based on the fit of the muslin). Buuuuut, by omitting that pleat it meant that I didn’t have enough lining fabric along the bottom to do the hemming. I swore and shouted for a while and then started thinking about a solution.
In the end I had to keep the back pleat closed (I top-stitched it down so it looked slightly less weird) and then just attached the lining as stated above. I know this is less-than-ideal and it does change the look of the back but luckily the sizing was generous enough that it didn’t impact the overall fit. I *may* even prefer it less flared (or perhaps I’m just convincing myself!).
Lesson learned – mistakes don’t have to be disasters that ruin a project completely.
Top tips for making a jacket
- Make a muslin. Yes, you’ve probably read that about all sewing patterns but I think that for something like a coat or jacket you will be glad you did. Jackets and coats get a lot more wear than a top and any small imperfection in construction or fit can drive your crazy after a while. I made mine a wearable muslin so now I kinda have two of the same jacket! Anyone want a jacket for Christmas?!
- Choose a simple pattern to start with. I got lucky with this one – I didn’t know it was part of the Very Easy Vogue range until it arrived.
- Don’t get too hung up on how the jacket looks on the pattern envelope. Fabric choice and personal touches make all the difference to the finished look. I find it much more useful to look at the technical drawings of the pattern.
Summary and next time
The sewing of this jacket has been a journey and I honestly think my sewing has improved because of it. Yes, it’s taken much longer than I anticipated (especially with all that Christmas sewing just staring up at me waiting patiently for my attention) but I am so pleased I tackled in the considered way that I did.
I already have my next version planned! I want to make a navy boiled wool jacket, going down a size for a more streamlined look. This photo doesn’t do it justice but I think this would be divine! (And to read more about the virtues of a boiled wool jacket then check out this post at Flossie Teacakes).
This time I would not line it but enclose the seam allowances with Liberty print bias binding. Something like this.
I think this would be the perfect Christmas present to myself, if I could just find the time!
I hope this post has inspired you to try your hand at making some outerwear or has at least encouraged you to stretch yourself and try something new. If you like exactly what you see here then you can buy the whole kit – pattern, fabrics, snaps, thread – over at Minerva Crafts. And, if you do take the plunge, please don’t be shy about coming forward with any questions or comments as you sew. I’d love to help!
This particular sewing journey of mine is over and, again, like Clyde, I feel more able and confident at the end. I may not have had a part in the demise of a monstrous ogre but by getting on and pretending to be an established, capable sewing blogger, I feel that I am now on the road to achieving it.
Had to squeeze in one picture of the wall!
Thanks for reading,