I’ve only been skiing three times in my life. 3 weeks out of (almost) 44 years. The first week was a total disaster. Having been a professional dancer (in another life) everyone assumed I’d be amazing and pick it up immediately. So with this in mind, they decided to not teach or show me anything, take me to the top of a mountain and ski off into the distance. Believe it or not, this was the first time I’d actually watched anyone skiing. I’d seen the jumps on telly, but never just recreational skiing. Needless to say I didn’t pick it up immediately. It took me a long time to catch up with them; they hadn’t even taken the time to explain the zig zagging down the hill, I was like an alien from Mars. I somehow managed to mimic the other skiers as they went along and turned left. But every time I turned right, I fell over… EVERY TIME.

I finally caught up with them in the cafe at the bottom of the mountain. They were just finishing up their meatballs and chips and were eager to get going so we headed straight off to the ski lift to go again…

I won’t go on about it, but in summary: after 3 days of torture, a (totally ignored by everyone else) cracked rib and (similarly ignored) broken thumb, I refused to go back to the slopes until someone explained at least the very basic principles of what I was trying to achieve. Confidence shattered, by the last day I’d managed to claw my way back to where I should have been by day two.

Ski trip two:
Beginners Adult Ski School… Every day. AMAZING. I earned my Penguin badge (which I am still very proud of although I did feel a little short changed when the instructor told MrA & I on the last lesson that we were skiing like level two-ers … He wouldn’t let us collect level two badges (no more animals, just snowflakes from level one and up) so it was a compliment and a disappointment. Equally cursed & blessed).

Stay with me, I am going somewhere with this. It is a sewing blog, I promise…

Ski trip three: Perfect. A nice quiet village in Italy. A couple of friends. A private tutor for two hours of the first three mornings, lots of Aperol Spritz and a big surge in skiing confidence. I finally managed to ski (a bit) without using every single muscle, tendon and sinew in my body. I could begin to relax, just a little, and start enjoying my surroundings; marvelling at the fact I was hurtling along down a snowy mountain with two planks strapped to my feet and life felt good.

Skiing is fun (eventually) and I recommend it to anyone (who’s willing to spend a fortune to crack a rib, break a thumb, lose the will to live laying on their back on a foreign mountain, in the snow as children whizz past like it was as easy as skipping).

So now I was getting some moves on, I needed to seriously re think my skiing outfit!

Each year I was in borrowed trousers and a cheap TKMaxx jacket. These jackets served their purpose, but we’re so damn ugly you wouldn’t even wear them to walk the dog… At midnight! I’m usually happy enough in my outfit if I’m comfortable and don’t stand out too much. But these massive jackets were making me stand out for all the wrong reasons. I bought two and borrowed one, all size small, and they were really big on me. Now, I’m slim, I suppose, but I’m not skinny. Skiing’s a sport, right? So why would I want to wear two duvets with sleeves! I was BOILING! As you can see on the picture above of ski week three, I pared it down and wore a thin nylon rain jacket with a uniqlo micro fleece top and thermal sweater underneath. I was still boiling while I was skiing, but much more comfortable with less fabric bulk around me. And the thin layers were easier to take on and off. It’s not so much how I look, but how I feel. I need something warm (ish) and more streamlined. Something I could move in and take off when I was dripping with sweat. So I decided; I had to make myself a skiing jacket (… & probably trousers too!).

Here comes the sewing bit…

So I found Vogue 8842. A nice jacket, lined, with a hood. I’m still looking for something a bit more fitted, but it’s a start. So I made a small without any adjustments to see its shape & size. Also to see how hard it was. I did add a yoke pocket and cuff pockets to keep ski passes/Oyster card in. I picked up some lightweight rip stop nylon from a market in Bristol while visiting family. Just £1.50pm. … The only drawback; it is bright orange. I got the mesh online for about the same price.

This was a while ago. I’ve only sewn with rip stop & mesh a couple of times, this was the first. I thought it would be really tricky, but with my walking foot, a little bit of seam glue and (for the mesh) LOTS of pins, it was really quite enjoyable. In future, I’ll clip seam allowances to help avoid puckering and dragging, but not too bad at all. Just too big/ baggy for what I’m looking for… And bright orange. I’ve had plenty of wet-weather-wear out of it though. And I always feel safe when I wear it cycling.

I made it again a few weeks later in a lovely double faced wool (part of the bottomless fabric donation from LadyP). This time, no lining and I tried slimming down the arms and body a bit. I also made the hood detachable with a zip, just to see if I could… And guess what…? … I could! (Although I haven’t been able to find the hood since I detached it at the end of last winter). Again, I liked the jacket. I’ve worn it loads too, but it’s still not the shape I’m looking for in my ski jacket.

I thought I’d try and make it out if a hoodie base… McCalls 5538 was hideous. If your arms are as thick as your body, this is the hoodie pattern for you. It actually went together really easily. Probably because I made it out of fleece. Fleece is renowned for its forgiving properties, especially when setting in a sleeve. And I learnt a new type of pocket, which is always a good thing. It just looks horrible on. The body actually fits quite well. If I ever need a gilet I need look no further. But the sleeves. Oh, the sleeves! … They were in two pieces, I thought I had made a grave mistake when I held up the upper sleeve piece and that alone fit around my arm. Once the two pieces were together it looked more like a sleeping bag… Maybe I have abnormally skimpy arms… Maybe I like an abnormally tight fit on them, but, either way, this was going to take some serious arm scye re drafting, and, sad to say, I just don’t think I’m the man for the job… Not just yet.

So I decided to try making a jacket using my shirt pattern as a drafting block. Burda 6931. I’ve read somewhere that if the fit around the arm hole is right, everything else is, well, not child’s play, but certainly easier. And my shirt pattern has the best arm hole fit in my pattern arsenal.

I sketched out some designs and settled on this:

I used the black Polyester Microfibre that was spurned for my swimming shorts and some of the white rip stop nylon I’d previously bought and stashed for just this moment. This is what I did to the front of the pattern…

  1. From the centre front, I marked 1.5 cm for seam allowance.
  2. Took off the bottom curve leaving enough for hem.
  3. Drew a curve from the notch at the armpit, roughly 8 cm from the side seam, down to the hem.
  4. Marked a line for front yoke that didn’t interfere with the curved line.

I then marked the seam allowances and traced round the new pieces. I added pocket placement marks on the front yoke and at the sides on the curved seam (line 3). On the back, I already had a yoke so I just added the curved seam (using the notch again as my starting point).

For the sleeves, I used the notches to mark my contrast panel and marked a pocket on the seam line near the cuff. Then added seam allowances and traced off. To join the under arm contrast pieces I traced one side first, moved my paper over so that the seam allowances overlapped, then traced the other side to join.

I drew the shape I wanted for the pocket linings directly onto the pattern pieces then traced those too.
I took a few construction pics but you can’t really see properly on black fabric, So I’ve done another of my little sketches to show how I put the pockets in. Inspired by the pockets on the hoodie, but different. Mine have zips and full linings.

Here’s a picture of some of the pockets and the insides:

It’s not lined so it’s more of a rain jacket version. I absolutely LOVE it. The poly microfibre that felt so horrible for swimming shorts has really come into its own on a jacket, it looks and feels great. I think I’m going to see what colours are available for the final jacket. I also have to look up some kind of micro fleece for the lining. I’d like to try and find breathable waterproof strong & flexible fabrics. I’ll also be adding zips to the side seams and front with mesh backings to allow me to breathe. Probably eyelets too.

The weather has turned nice and dry again, so I won’t be wearing it for a while, but it folds up really small & can fit in a bag for emergency showers.

Apologies for another really long post. Thanks for reading. I’m off to choose colours & fabrics for the actual jacket now. Any suggestions? Then I suppose I should think about booking a ski holiday. It feels good to be ahead of my sewing needs. I hope your sewing is going well too.

Notes to self:

  • Test strength of poly microfibre
  • Research breathable fabrics (outer & lining)
  • Get more big chunky plastic zips
  • Find large plastic eyelets
  • Draft a hood (try fitting the hood from McCalls pattern)
  • Work out when to attach the mesh strips (remember extra zip for centre)
  • Clip seams to avoid puckering (test first)
  • Re draft back seam of contrast pieces (it’s about 1/2cm out under the armpit- it’ll only be seen if I’m skiing really badly… Which is entirely possible)