Hello Sewists,

I really wanted to make this jacket – and I really wanted to make it by the end of September to qualify for the #SewManPants challenge – but I had questions that needed answering first. I scoured the internet and couldn’t find a single person who’d made this view. Really…no one…?! So with the deadline looming, I finally had to take matters into my own hands. These were my main questions…

The Questions…

  1. What is the right fabric?
  2. How on earth am I going to finish the seams?
  3. Do those pocket bags really just flap around inside the jacket for the world to see?!
  4. Is the edge of the collar really left unfinished… is that safe?!

The Answers…

Well, my answers at least! I hope it helps any of you who might want to try this jacket view, or something in similar fabric. I’ve made the long coat version before, so I knew I had the right size (it’s a loose fitting design so I went down one size from my measurements).

Q1: What is the right fabric…?

This is easy, faux shearling is what you’re looking for. I suppose if you’re feeling really hardcore you could make it from real shearling, but that sounds kind of grizzly to me… unless you live on a sheep farm and then I suppose… well, I dunno. But I got faux shearling, it has a dried up crinkly leather looking side and the other side is fluffy like a teddy bear. I can’t remember how much I paid, but I got the end of roll (frighteningly just under two meters!) from one of the shops along Goldhawk Rd, and hoped it would be enough.

It turned out that it wasn’t going to be enough… with the fabric folded in half, there was just no way I could get all the pieces to fit in. Undeterred, I opened the fabric up to a single sheet and traced each piece out individually. This still meant that the under collar would need to be seamed at the centre back, but all the other pieces fit by a hairs breadth…

Pattern pieces chalked onto fabric

The keen eyed among you may notice my school-boy-error… Annoyingly, I’d forgotten to flip the back piece and cut out two left-backs instead of a left and a right. This was a major screw up considering I was working with so little fabric to start. Thankfully, I noticed before I finished cutting out and after a little more mental-tetris I managed to get all the pieces out of the remaining fabric with one more small comprimise… as well as the two-piece collar stand, I had to have a seam at the top of my back-left-shoulder to make up the arm piece. It was that, or give up… I can live with it!

(Apart from the test seams) It was the first seam I sewed, and things started looking really encouraging for this project.

Close up of pieced sleeve

Which brings me neatly on to question two…

Q2: How on earth am I going to finish the seams…?

So, I didn’t have many off-cuts to experiment with, but thought I’d better try out a few options… I was definitely using the walking foot, that was a given. First, I tried sewing them wrong sides together, with the fluffy bit showing on the outside. This turned out to not be the look I was going for and I didn’t even photograph it! What I did do was to trim back the underneath seam allowance and stitch the other side down over it, it left a nice line of fluff showing but I thought it would be better suited to a denim jacket style, something with more interesting design lines,

Testing seams

Next I sewed with the right sides together. It was a pretty hefty sandwich to wrestle through the machine with all the fluff on the outside, but no major hitches. I trimmed one side of the seam allowance back, then – before sewing the other side down – I thought I’d better shave back some of that fur to stop the seams being too bulky.

Being a hairdresser, I thought it would be a marvellous idea to use a set of hair trimmers for the job. This was a marvellous idea until the blades blunted (really quickly!) and I did all the rest of the trimming with my big shears! But not before I managed to get this video…!

Shearing the seams – great fun while it lasted!

Once the excess fur was trimmed off and the seams stitched down It looked like this…

Centre back seam – inside view

With the seam finish decided, I sewed up the centre back seam, then the back sleeves onto the back. I trimmed the seams of the sleeve pieces, shaved/trimmed the fur from both sides and top stitched the seams down from the right side.

I stitched the main seams with a 2.6mm length and topstitched at 3mm. I used a #70 universal needle and sew-all polyester thread – the walking foot remained on throughout.

Jacket back & sleeves

Q3: Do those pocket bags really just flap around inside the jacket for the world to see?!

A: Yes, according to the pattern they do… well, not on my watch! I ran a few different ideas through my head and in the end I decided to do single lined pockets with visible stitching on the outside. I had two decent sized scraps left over, just enough for pocket facings.

Pocket facings from the last scraps of fabric

I trimmed all the fur away from around the pocket openings…

Trimming the fur away for pockets

… Cut them open and sewed the zips in place…

Pocket zip inserted

… Then I positioned the pocket linings on the inside and stitched them down from the front…

Pocket facing – inside view

It was pretty hairy sewing the linings down, what with the stitching being so visible, so I took a triple approach… I chalked a nice sharp line with my chalk marker, trimmed the fur away from the sewing line and pinned with long fine pins.

Front pocket topstitched in place

Q4: Is the edge of the collar really left unfinished… is that safe?!

According to the pattern, yes, the edge of the collar is left unfinished. Is it safe…? Well, I took the edge of one of my last scraps and pulled away at the fluffy edge until no more fluff would come away… and yes, that moment did come, the fluff stopped eventually and the edge didn’t look totally ravaged. It looked a bit thin, but it would have done. I wasn’t thrilled with it though, so instead of trimming off the seam allowance, I trimmed the fur back and stitched the seams down to the outside. I finished the corners with a zigzag stitch and I’m pretty happy with the results!

Collar with seams turned over

I stitched the collar to the collar stand with the furry sides facing each other. I trimmed the seam allowance on the under collar and took the fur away from the collar seam before stitching the seams down onto the stand. I remembered at the last minute to switch my bobbin thread from brown to cream. This method gave me a nice clean finish on both sides. (Photos further down…)

The centre front openings (where the big zip will go) needs a good shearing now. I didn’t scrimp and went a good 3.5cm in from the edge… with a little bevelling too! With the fronts pinned back I positioned a hang loop at the centre back and stitched the collar unit in place, ‘leather’ sides facing.

Attaching the collar unit to the jacket

This meant I could trim the seam allowance from the neck of the jacket and sew the seams of the collar downwards – covering the ends of the hang loop as I go.

Inside of collar with hanging loop
Outside of collar showing internal and external seams

Waistband & Cuffs – The final step…?

This gorgeous chunky cotton ribbing came from Misan West… I spent more on it than the rest of the jacket put together! But it was totally worth it – without some good chunky ribbing (and a nice chunky zip!) this jacket would be nothing! The pattern is cut with nice deep cuffs and hem but after checking the length of my zip I cut the waistband a little deeper. (The pattern piece was 19cm deep (inc seam allowance) I cut my waistband 26cm deep – to finish with an 11.5 cm band)

I was nervous of getting all this bulk through my machine: I’d trimmed the fur back so heavily my wrist was aching – since the clippers had blunted, my only other option was snipping away with my shears. This was as effective as it was hard going and I took to shearing each seam as it was needed – to do them all at once would have killed me (both physically and mentally!) Before wrestling with the waistband I decided to do the cuffs first – I was surprised by how easily they went through.

Cuffs in place, ready to sew

By now it was the final day for entries to the #sewmanpants challenge on Instagram – and I was determined to finish on time. I was on such a roll I didn’t take another photo until it was finished!

Fitting the zip – The final stretch!

I must admit that I think I held my breath for the entire time it took me to sew the zip in… that’s quite a long time! I pinned it in place on both sides and checked that it lined up in the three most important places – the top, the bottom and the waistband seam then I stitched it in place.

Waistband seam across the zip

I’ve trimmed back some of the seams behind the zip and along the waistband, I may even do some hand stitching to hold the last seams down … another time! … when I’ve got more time, I don’t think that’s something I’d like to rush. So that means it’s finished!

Tada! I finished it!

… and I’m totally in love with it!

All I had to do now was get a decent photo of me in it. Thankfully it’s a bright, crisp day (… I definitely felt the moment last week when summer officially ended!) and MrA & I were headed out to the Covent Garden Antiquities Market – plenty of opportunities there.

This has got to be the fastest blog turnaround I have ever done – finished, photographed & posted on the same day – I didn’t think I had it in me! (I didn’t make it in one day though, it was over three sessions) and I made it in time for the September 30th #sewmanpants deadline!

Have you seen the challenge? Have you entered? … if you’re reading this 10 or more hours after it was posted I’m afraid you’re too late, this year. But check out the hashtag on Instagram, personally it’s great to see so many people showing off their menswear makes, some seasoned and some for the first time, there’s plenty of inspiration.

To sum up this jacket; my main fears were based around how the seams and finishes we’re going to look. Once I’d tried a few seam finishes and tweaked a few pieces (esp that collar finish) those fears were allayed. The visible stitching around the pockets really adds something to the shape & structure – to my eye – and I’m really pleased to not have baggy pocket flaps on the inside. Shearing the seams is essential – making this a pretty full on workout – but worth every muttering-mumbling-moment for the jacket I’ve ended up with!

Happy sewing!

Notes to self:

  • Always sew a test seam. Always.
  • Don’t ruin good hairdressing equipment on sewing projects.
  • Use a mixture of clips, heavy duty pins and fine pins where best suited.
  • Cut out pattern on a single layer to save fabric.