It’s been a busy start to the year for me: good-busy… travelling and visiting with friends and family – It’s taken me a good few weeks to finish this jacket, it was made in an hour here and an hour there, whenever I had the time and inclination. I even wore it for a week before it was properly finished! (I’m that kid who wants to wear their new shoes straight out of the shop!)
I’ve been wanting a jacket for cycling to and from work in; it’s not a long commute to the studio, barely 10-15 minutes each way and I catch the bus if it’s raining heavily, so showerproof and wind proof is what I need – even on my short cycle I can get really hot if I’m wearing too many clothes, so not too warm either. I suppose the evolution of this jacket starts with my shower-curtain-poncho, which I totally love, but is a little impractical… then I made a single-layer rip-stop jacket as part of a fabric review for Minerva that is waiting to come out on their blog soon. That’s a cool looking jacket and packs away easily so still has it’s place, but as you’ll eventually see, visibility didn’t factor highly with that one… so now, with style and safety in mind, I’ve got a new cycling jacket…
A little while ago, I was very fortunate to be given a copy of the Patrons Les BG Bomber Jacket pattern, from an ‘Instagram friend’ (Thank you Tim!) And when I found this lightweight waterproof grey/silver fabric online at HelloReflectives I knew I had the perfect match – this stuff is incredible! – they even included a pack of swatches in with my order, so I may be tempted to make some more reflective garments… although, how many does one need…? … maybe one for MrA…?
The ribbing was also a gift from a sewing friend – this one I’ve met in real life too – (thank you Claire! I’m desperate to make those joggers, the fabric is perfect! xx) and I went shopping in Soho for the mesh lining, I ended up getting it in Borovicks (where I also saw the same silver reflective fabric for a similar price to online) and I found the perfect zip in Maculloch & Wallis…
I was looking for a grey chunky plastic open ended zip, but I found much more than I bargained for… I didn’t even know they did reflective zips, but when I saw this one, I knew it was for me. I’d deal with the fact that it’s 15cm too long later! How cool does it look with the flash on…!
I’d started making a few notes as I began this project and wasn’t really sure what this blog post was going to focus on (…in fact, I rarely do…!) but I hit a few hurdles along the way and in the end, it was clear the lessons I had learned… so, if you’ll pardon the pun…
Reflecting on sewing a Bomber Jacket…
Although it took a while to make, I can’t call this a ‘slow-sewing’ project. That, I am yet to conquer! Slow-Sewing invokes images of calm, mindfulness and taking your time, rather than grabbing bits of time where you can and trying to get as much done as possible! Working in short bursts took my eye off the bigger picture – which ended up with a lot of unpicking… That leads me on to my next observation…
Unpick if you have to.
This is the kind of fabric that you’re usually nervous of sewing with because – like leather – every hole leaves a mark, therefore you don’t want to have to unpick it. Well, I can tell you in all honesty that I spent more time unpicking on this jacket than I did sewing it, truly!
Most, if not all, of the unpicking could have been avoided if I had taken the time to do more test stitches – this was never more true than when I foolishly attempted to topstitch the shoulder seams down… this fabric is very unforgiving, and the results were HORRIBLE! – of course I unpicked them, and I’d rather live with all the holes than attempt to stitch it again!
I’ve since learnt that passing a low iron over the offending holes, while not obliterating them completely, will help them to disappear just a little! I can live with that! (Unless it falls apart in a month…)
When it comes to unpicking stories though, the waistband was a catalogue of disasters! I’d decided to have an encased elastic waistband made from the main fabric. This wasn’t a big issue in itself, in fact in the end it came out pretty spectacularly, but my oh my was it a slog…!
First of all I sewed in the off cut-off elastic rather than the bit I needed… Smart! – that had to be unpicked!
… During this elastic-fiasco I also tried it on again and realised that the jacket was going to be too short for me. I’d gone with the shorter of the two lengths which would have been perfect for everyday wear, but would surely ride up at the back when I leant forward to cycle – A fortunate realisation (at the 11th hour) but it meant that I would need to unpick the waistband and add another strip in there. It was doubly fortunate that I had just enough fabric left to make it from two pieces…
… I didn’t realise until after I’d sewn it all together with the lining again that I needed a double depth for it to fold over by the required amount. Damn it… I unpicked the waistband again. I had no more reflective fabric so substituted with a strip of silver silk leftover from my 3 piece suit (I know, luxury, right?!) and in the end it looks like this really cool design feature, with a strip of reflective on the inside… total fluke! … and don’t even get me started on how much I love the topstitching over the elastic!
Before re sewing each seam I gave it a gentle press with the heat down low in a vain attempt to seal the holes. I’ve no idea if this helps in the long term but it gave me confidence at the time.
That was the bottom of the jacket sorted, I’d assumed that the next set of issues would come from the zip, but when I got around to putting that in it went mercifully smoothly. I’d decided against any maverick treatment to the zip ends, and simply sewed them into the seams. No, the next hurdle came at the opposite end… the collar…
Neck bands and stretch percentage.
I had pre-cut ribbing for the neckline (& cuffs) so no folding over. I cut the pattern piece with the finished edge of the ribbing matched up to the fold line…
Foolishly (again!) I didn’t check the stretch of my ribbing and my 1st attempt looked pretty wobbly around the curves at the front. I didn’t let this put me off right away and I wore it for the next two weeks – until I had a chance to fix it. So long as I didn’t zip it right up it didn’t notice!
When I had the chance, I unpicked it and measured the neckline. I checked the stretch of the ribbing (40%) and asked Alexa to do the maths for me. She wanted me to cut 20cm off the collar which I just couldn’t imagine was going to work – so I chickened out and removed about 5cm instead.
… As I pinned it in, the new collar length felt much better; a little bit of stretch, but not too much…! Thankfully it turned out pretty well – maybe 1cm longer, ideally, but that was it for the ribbing and I worried that if I tried to do the collar a third time I’d end up ruining the whole thing! Ordinarily I think a bit of topstitching around the collar would help it to lie flatter, but I’ve had my fingers burned once by that idea already – This will do for me!
Bagging out the sleeves epiphany..!
By the time you’ve made the lining and the outer, fixed them together at the waistband, zip and collar, you’d like to think that’s all the tricky bits done… you’d be wrong! This is a confusing technique, but very satisfying as you get a lovely clean finish to the cuffs without any handsewing.
First off, make sure the jacket’s inside out and you’ve left a turning gap somewhere in the lining sleeve or side seam.
Pin and/or stitch the cuffs to the outer sleeve edges, right sides together. Lay the jacket down with the outer at the bottom and the lining on the top.
Align the sleeves on one side so that they are matched up (back to back). Fold back a good 10cm of the lining exposing the right side.
Fold up the cuff of the outer sleeve and insert the lining, matching up the seam and stretching the ribbing to fit. Sew ‘inside the tube’ to close the cuff. Then do the same with the other one.
Turn your jacket right side round through the turning gap, then sew it up and it’s finally done!
I can’t tell you how happy I am with the finished jacket. The fit is a bit snug which is fine for me as I’ll only be wearing a shirt or tshirt under it. If I was using, say, a fleece lining I would definitely go up a size.
I love that by day it’s just a mild mannered grey jacket, but at night… It’s a silver comet, shining through the twilight gloom of London’s back streets…! (Did I mention, I love it!)
…So I’m feeling much safer on my bike and happy to say, not too hot either! I haven’t taken many ‘lift-selfie’s but (even though It’s before I re-did the collar & waistband…) I think this has to be my favourite…
And of course, the obligatory hasty-in-the-foyer-at-work-shot…
So, so don’t be afraid of sewing with ‘tricky’ fabrics… what’s the worst that could happen…? So long as you have a sharp unpicker, everything’s going to be fine!
Until next time,
Notes to self:
- Try to make sure you have (or can purchase) enough fabric to re cut any mistakes!
- Check all the measurements… including length.
- Try actual slow-sewing, rather than short-bursts-of-fast-frantic-sewing!
- Even when you think you’re thinking ahead, think some more!