First off, Happy New Year! – I know it’s February (… I’m even late for Chinese New Year…) and I can’t believe I haven’t blogged since December 7th! I was in the middle of writing a ‘new year catch up post‘ when it all suddenly sounded like old news; I’d even hoped to make this jacket for the #sewjapaneseinjanuary challenge on Instagram but missed that deadline too. The good news is that Busy means Happy right now and as January is usually the looooonnnggest month, I’m glad mine has flown by for a change!
I have made myself a new jacket from the book Mens Clothes For All Seasons (MCFAS) by Toshio Kaneko. I used this book a lot when I started sewing as it has a lot of different patterns in it. I’ve made quite a few of them, but there are still plenty more to go…
- T-shirt and Raglan Sweater hack Here
- A full sew-through of the chinos Here
- Bomber Jacket (Tweedy-Bomber) Here
- Shirt Here
- I made shorts, (mostly) on my vintage Elna Here
- I even redrafted the chinos into a jean pattern Here
It’s been a while since I used the book and I’ve wanted to make myself this Chore Jacket for some time. In fact, it was finding Peter Lappin’s blog post on this very same pattern (from this very same book) that helped launch me into this sewing journey in the first place. Then a couple of months ago I saw Ersan’s lovely jacket on instagram which gave me a nudge so, at what must be almost five years on, I’m pleased to say I’ve finally made one – for this debut I’ve used a lovely soft cotton twill that I got ages ago in Goldbrick Fabrics on Goldhawk Road and I’ve got a few fabrics in my stash that I think would make some great alternatives.
Chore, Foremans, Workers Jacket… call it what you will, there are quite a few of them out there (and they are all very similar). There are subtle differences to the patterns, but the general theme seems to be, unlined, patch pockets, button up and casual. In a lot of versions the pockets and front corners are curved, which may be traditional, but I won’t go into the history… I’ll leave that to the purists.
Jacket Q from MCFAS has four curved patch pockets and curved front, a two piece sleeve, no yoke, five buttons and a back vent. Now, back-vents are not my favourite thing to sew. Most of the patterns didn’t have a back vent and I considered leaving it out but thought it might make the jacket a bit constricting… and I really liked the look of it. I’ve only done a few and they’ve pretty much always given me a headache – usually finishing up with a lot of tricky handstitching to keep them together – and I’m sure you know by now that I like to do as much of my sewing on the machine as possible.
In the past, they’ve been lined-vents which was maybe a bit deep for me… sewing this un-lined-vent has given me the chance to understand the process in a simplified version – hopefully this will help next time I end up putting lined vents in…
Notes on unlined vents –
Depending on which way your vent is opening you want one side (back-right, here) to be two ‘facings’ and a seam allowance wide, and the other side (back-left) to be one ‘facing’ and a seam allowance wide.
I found it best to finish the centre back seams and top edge of the ‘facings’ before sewing the centre back seam. Then I could press everything into position, fold and sew the seam allowances under and get it all looking quite presentable. As you can see, I decided to finish all the raw seams with bias binding; this obviously takes more time than overlocking, but makes for a really nice finish – I’m glad I took the time. Also, it meant that I got to use the ‘magic‘ continuous binding method again – like the burrito method, this is one of those sewing tricks that always has me amazed!
Notes on curved pockets –
Curves are another nemesis for me; after some wobbly first attempts, I’ve shied away from curves (on collars, cuffs, pockets…), playing it safe and squaring them off… cheating, you might say! Well, this day I was going to face my fears and make those curved pockets if it killed me.
Well, they didn’t come out perfectly, there are a couple of sharp edges, but I’m relying on wear and time to soften those out. I learned a few important things though which will help me to make better curved pockets in the future… (I did use a cardboard template, but my card was not really thick enough, so…)
- Make a pressing template from sturdy cardboard or some kind of heat resistant material.
- Keep your seam allowance small, around 1cm – mine were 1.5cm and I think the extra allowance made it harder to smooth.
- Mind your fingers on the hot iron!
The curve at the front of the hem didn’t actually give me any trouble – the fabric is stable enough and the curve is big enough to sew along smoothly with the edge. This tells me that when I’m trying collars and cuffs, I need to use more interfacing to stabilise the fabrics through the machine – I don’t want them too firm, so maybe I’ll look into wash away stabiliser on top of the regular iron-on… put that in the notes!
Set-in sleeves… are you kidding me!
It turns out that this jacket includes quite a few techniques that are not exactly favourites of mine – right at the end, there’s the issue of set-in-sleeves! – this isn’t something I do very often, so of course I dread it, whether I should or not! Most of my sleeves are sewn in flat before the side seams and a majority of my coats/ jackets are raglan sleeved, but, that’s not an option here. Again, I chose to add a 1.5cm seam allowance which is what I always do to everything. The sleeves went in pretty well, I found a couple of small puckers in the seam allowance and was disappointed to see that their menace has reached across the stitching line into the actual jacket. That’s not really fair is it?
Still, rather than make a pigs ear of trying to fix one or two tiny puckers on a casual jacket I decided to keep on enjoying this sew and didn’t beat myself up about it. For the same reason I chose not to topstitch the shoulder seams down – I was so happy with the topstitching everywhere else, the thickness of fabric and tightness of the curve around the shoulder did not fill me with confidence that I could get one let alone two lovely rows of topstitching in there! So I left it – I’m cool with that! Next time I’ll consider 1cm seams which will hopefully make easing-in a bit simpler.
Considering that this pattern includes three of (what I think of as) my least favourite techniques it’s kind of a miracle that I made it, that I love it so much… and that I’m planning more already! The weather is still too cold really here in the UK for unlined jackets, but with a jumper, scarf and gloves It’s bearable on the not-too-cold days! I cant wait for spring and summer to come around – I feel already that this jacket is going to be a staple!
Notes to self;
- Find some wash away stabiliser to help sew curves.
- Use stronger card for pocket templates.
- Try 1cm seams on curves to help avoid puckering.
Thank you! 😊👍
Andrew, try ease crimping your fabric. Unthread the machine. Place fabric so your needle stitches on the seam line. Place your left finger behind the presser foot and stitch away, letting the fabric build up behind the presser foot, periodically releasing the pressure. A medium weight cotton will retain the crimping and you can usually pin your sleeve into the armhole, rethread the machine and stitch. I learned this from one of Sandra Betzina’s books.
Theresa in Tucson
Hi Teresa, thanks, it’s a great technique – I’ve seen it as ‘ease stitch plus’ , same technique but you leave the thread in (unpicking it later if you like) – I didn’t think of it without the thread, much cleaner 👍 – I never have much luck on thicker fabrics like this with it though 😅 – I’ll definitely take the thread out next time I do it, thank you 🙏👍
Great sewing, Andrew! I’m glad my husband and sons don’t read your blog or they would be whining all the time to sew all these beautifull garments you make for them.
Haha 😆 thanks Wis 👍… but if they read it maybe they’d realise they could make it themselves…? 🤷♂️👏😉
I love this jacket!!! The binding is such a nice touch, and worth all the effort. Thanks for your dose of sewing honesty when it comes to curves and sleeves! I stink at sewing curves myself, and have squared off the corners more times than I should probably admit. When they really, really, really must be curved, I’m in Liz Haywood’s camp of lining the pockets to get a better curve. A little more work but a whole lot less frustration.
Thank you Duane, I’m loving wearing it! Lining the pockets is a great idea 👍 did you see Carol’s comment too about basting the pockets together, turning and pressing into shape before unpicking?
I love all these tips and cant wait to make the next one!
Curved pockets tend not to collect as much debris as do square pockets — no corners. That’s the best explanation I’ve ever heard for why they are more common on work garments.
And, if you are sewing them on “blind,” so that there’s no topstitching involved, they have to be curved to accomplish the task. You simply cannot work a sewing machine needle down into those corners.
Thank you for that! I shall look forward to un-dusty pockets! 👍🙏👏
I haven’t risen to blind patch pockets yet… 😬
My method of choice to get 2 matching pockets is to baste them right sides together, turn them right side out and steam press the heck out of them Remove the basting and then the seams will be turned in evenly.
Ooh! What a great idea 💡👏 thank you!
I need to buy this book! I have loved everything you’ve made from it and this jacket is no exception. I think my husband might need one and I’ve noted your comments as well as those of your followers. You’re an inspiration!
Thank you Sue, it’s a great book, I’ve barely made a third of the patterns so far!
Beautiful work, as usual. For rounded pockets, I’ve found the best way for me is to line them RST with a thin, crisp fabric, and cut away the curved part of the seam allowance close to your stitching with pinking shears. Turn them right side out, carefully pushing out the rounded corners, and give a good press before attaching to your garment. I have found this method on ready to wear garments too.
Now that sounds like a fantastic idea 💡 thank you 🙏👍😀
No chores permitted in this oh so cool jacket…other than an outing to the pub and some shopping. Great garment and looking as chic as ever.
Thank you! Yes, I think the biggest chore might be lifting my pint 🍺😂👍🙏
Do you try sewing easelines to help with curves and set-in sleeves? They’re useful for me.
I think it would have helped with this – my problem is I’m too impatient and I think a million pins will fix everything! 🤣
Yeah I hear you but it really takes the same amount of time – or less if it saves some unpicking.
Useful? They’re lifechanging! With pockets, sometimes I line them, even on unlined jackets, to get perfect curves.
I love love love this jacket! Such a great look, and you’ve made the inside as pleasing to look at as the outside.
Thank you so much 🙏 I’m seriously thinking about lining next time they come up 👍👏😀
Looks great on so any imperfections are only those you know, so well done and sure you will get a lot of wear out of it. I find when sewing more complex items I often need more than the one attempt but that is part of learning I suppose. Love the neat pockets as well they add to the look, great job.
Thanks Bill, I’m so happy with it and can’t wait to make another! And, yes, the second one is often better… although I think I may ‘suffer’ with beginners-luck sometimes!!