I hope you are all keeping well and not taking any unnecessary risks during these uncertain times. With the corona virus sweeping the world and people urged into isolation there is one positive outcome I can imagine – that we will be seeing a lot more sewing output on social media! It is far from my intention to make light of such a terrible situation, however, I am not going to fill this blog with doom and gloom.
I had holiday booked for this week (to France – sadly cancelled… of course) so I worked up until Saturday. The hygiene standards are superb in the studio, but with the isolation guidelines stepping up daily, it’s not looking likely that it will be safe to return after my ‘holiday’. Of course I made some masks out of leftovers to match my shirts! – It’s debated how effective they are (there is a very informative post from The Sewcialists Here) but some countries are asking for home made mask donations – check your area and if you’re up for it there is a great free pattern at Freesewing.org.
The first day of our ‘holiday’ has mostly been taken up with tidying! MrA & I did have an eerily pleasant cycle around a deserted central London. But, I also got around to pre-washing some fabric which I’m very excited to sew up. That’s for another day, but this, my sewist friends is an opportunity to sew up our stashes and maybe use up some of those special fabrics we’ve been too afraid to cut into…
There are two hashtags which immediately spring to mind; #makeyourstash and #sewtheprecious – the first was an initiative started up by TimeToSew and Pilar_Bear and it has continued to grow beyond it’s 2018 start. The second is a newer ‘challenge’ set by The Sewcialists to encourage us not to be scared and to use those precious fabrics we’ve been squirrelling away. Both have been apparent in this project…
I mentioned (ages ago) I had a suede pig skin that I was given by a friend. I’ve been wanting to use it for something, but it had to be something amazing. I mean, I’m no vegetarian, but this was some poor pigs’ skin, I had to do it justice.
At first I thought: some kind of bag or wallet, but I needed to think bigger. For ages I mulled over a denim shirt with suede yoke: but it would be hard for it to not look like I’d been in the dress-up box – and impossible to launder. When I made my 1st chore jacket I decided the next one would feature denim and suede. The pattern and the fabric were a match made in heaven. I just had to work out which bit went where…
Suede Collar: will get dirty too quickly ❌ Suede Pockets on Denim: looks too 60’s ❌
- Suede Elbow Patches: definitely ✅
Suede Sleeves: see ‘suede collar’ above! I have this horrible vision of a dark, greasy collar and cuffs which would make me feel awful about myself – hopefully I’m cleaner than that (especially nowadays 🦠) but I’m not willing to risk it. ❌
- Suede Yoke: yes ✅ but ultimately, no ❌ see below!
So I’d planned to make a yoke and elbow patches out of the suede and have the rest out of a piece of denim from my stash. When I laid out the pieces, my denim wasn’t big enough to fit the fronts, backs and sleeves… something was going to have to give. It was MrA who said ‘make the whole fronts from suede!’ – well, he didn’t have to tell me twice, I was suddenly even more excited about this project!
Now, my stitch results were just about passable. I’ve left a few sections of skipped stitches behind – I’ve unpicked and re sewn whole sections up to three times! But this seemed to be the best results I could get and so I’ll share the settings in case it helps, at least it may provide a starting point for adjustments to your own machine…
- Ironing: medium heat, medium steam (and use a pressing cloth between the suede and the iron)
- Trace the pattern pieces onto the suede with chalk and cut with scissors (or use pattern weights, a rotary cutter and board) to avoid making pin marks.
- Thread: Regular polyester sew-all (I didn’t have any thicker – I tried two strands of thread through the needle but it didn’t go well)
- Needle: Leather #80 (although at some point I switched to a regular #80 and I’m not sure if I switched back…?)
- Walking foot throughout. (As well as lots of deep breaths and no small amount of sighing and swearing – *optional!)
- Stitch length: 3mm (2.5mm bunched up and 3.5mm – which I would have preferred – skipped massive sections)
- Needle position: Centre (for some reason it skipped way more when off the centre position…)
- Thread tension: lowered from 4 to 2
- Feed tension: also lowered from 4 to 2
- Machine speed (if you have a slider controller): 1/3 of speed (faster and slower both skipped more stitches)
- Pinning: Wonderclips or similar are best for holding pattern pieces together prior to sewing (no pin marks left behind).
- Pockets and hems can be stuck with sewing glue. (I use the pen one that washes away (not that this is going in the washing machine!))
- If you’re mixing fabrics, sew with the suede side up and the other fabric down (it’ll grip better)
If you’re interested, I’ve got links to most of the bits and bobs I use in an amazon storefront. (If you make a purchase I may eventually receive a small commission, one day… but at no extra cost to you 🙏)
I’ll be honest, I cut out all of my pattern pieces before testing any stitches at all. It took a fair bit of tinkering to get the best stitches that I could. If I’d have tested the stitches first, I’m not sure I’d have been so hasty in cutting the jacket out! But once it was cut, I had to make it work… I owed it to the pig.
So, on with the sewing…
Preparing the Pockets…
When cutting the pockets out I kept the fold over at the top but omitted the seam allowance. To prepare them, first I marked the fold line with a frixion pen, then I used wash away glue to hold some seam tape in place. This should help to stop the suede from stretching out. I applied more glue to the tape and folded the top over before sewing twice and cutting off the excess seam allowance with the fabulous duck billed scissors MrA got me for Christmas.
The smaller one did not want to be stitched: after unpicking it the fourth time I moved the stitching line and it sewed perfectly first go. The fact that the stitching doesn’t like to be too close to an edge was weighing heavily on my mind as I contemplated attaching the pockets to the front.
Daunted but determined – these pockets weren’t going to attach themselves. There was only one way forward…
Attaching the Pockets…
Although I was worried they could stretch out, I didn’t want the pockets tight to the body of the jacket. I glued them into position with a handy pen in place to provide a bit of ease.
I glued the first one in place, then laid the second pocket right side down on top of the first – and put the pen in position on top of it.
I applied glue to the edges of the second pocket then carefully laid the other front piece on top of it (face down) – matching up the pockets perfectly. Pressing around the pocket edges to help the glue adhere before carefully folding back the top piece.
In all honesty, stitching the pockets on was a bit nail-biting … a few skipped stitches – and a few skipped chunks which got unpicked and re sewn. Much like sewing the reflective fabric on my last jacket, there was no point being afraid of unpicking bad stitching, it had to come out and that was that. I unpicked and tied off the threads where I could and tried to not stitch over the same spot more than three times – that seemed to be the golden rule if you didn’t want the stitches to disappear into the suede and probably tear at the seam line as soon as it’s worn.
I was going to stitch around the pockets twice, but didn’t fancy my chances of not ending up with shredded suede by the end! And I didn’t even bother testing bar tacks – I went straight in with the rivets to strengthen the corners. I used the leather punch I got with my Sneakerkit trainers (… you can read about them here!) and these great studs – they come in two parts; you push the back through from the back, clip the front in place, then give it a couple of good taps from the reverse side with a hammer to fix in place…
I’ve got a lino floor in my kitchen which seems to provide just the right amount of cushioning to the stud fronts as you’re hammering them in. However, I’m not sure my downstairs neighbour thinks it’s as fortunate as I do.
I had a metre of blue camouflage canvas in my stash that I made an underlining for the suede with. I added a simple welt pocket (using the same one piece method I used on my sherpa lined jersey LMV Camil Cardigan) …
… and basted the lining to the main jacket outers, wrong sides together. From now on I treat them as one layer of fabric. While basting, I noticed that I was getting some drag to the fabric as it went under the sewing machine: I was gently supporting it, like I would any other fabric, but the feed dogs were struggling to eat it – I tried raising the pressure but that didn’t help. In the end I developed a knack of ‘sort-of’ pushing the fabric (without really pushing it…) onto the sewing plate… gently feeding it to the dogs – if you will – this helped enormously (especially around the curves) but had a nasty habit of backfiring if I nudged too hard. Although some of the stitching is still a bit iffy, this ‘technique’ helped tremendously with the rest of the project.
The back section is denim, I assembled it the same as the first one I made – the vent seemed like a walk in the park after having done it so recently already. Remembering to switch back to ‘denim settings’ it was time to start sewing the whole thing together…
Starting with the shoulders, then the sides. I stitched them then ran them through the overlocker … although it is far from the prettiest serging I have ever seen, I have to applaud my old machine for having a good go at it and not breaking down on the way. I went as far as I could then double topstitched the seams down (to the denim side) before my luck ran out. Some of it is a bit wobbly, but I thought it wiser to choose my battles with this project!
I worked on the collar and facing next; as all the pieces got basted together quite a bit of bulk built up around the collar – I trimmed most of it away and finished the collar by hand stitching the last strip of binding over the final seam.
I’d like to topstitch all around the hem, fronts and neckline, but I know it would be opening a massive can of worms and I’d end up swearing more than sewing! This photo shows some of my practice runs on a mock up of the shoulder seam – you can see how many skipped sections … on the plus side, look at these perfect buttons I found in Ivy’s Button Tin* (*I’ll tell that story another day!)
To get the elbow patches, I marked where they should be on my existing chore jacket and cut out two pieces of suede. With the back seam of the sleeve sewn up, I laid the elbow over my Ham to help keep the shape as I glued the patch in place.
Once the patches are on, before I stitch up the other side of each sleeve, I overlock the cuff edge and press it up – it’s much easier to mark evenly while it’s still flat. To finish preparing the sleeves I sew up the second seam then topstitch the cuffs.
Although I’m not sure I’ll ever look forward to it, I’m starting to not-dread setting in sleeves now. These ones went in really well. Not one single pucker! I pinned the denim half and used clips on the suede half. Now, if I could just find an angle of approach I could get it under the needle…!
I sewed the suede sections first, then switched needles and settings to stitch the denim parts.
As I said, it went surprisingly smoothly… Maybe set-in sleeves aren’t so hateful after all…
Buttons & Buttonholes…
Given the results of my topstitching tests, I figured it would be a waste of fabric and thread to attempt a buttonhole at home – especially when I’m lucky enough to have a professional buttonholer in the neighbourhood. It’s where I go for buttonholes on big projects. I’ve written about DM Buttons before (here & here) and (in less restrictive times) I highly recommend you going if you’re anywhere near London (even if you’re not… bring a few unfinished projects when you visit!).
(I got there last week before London started shutting down – they are currently taking work by post – March 23rd ‘20)
Before I went, I gave the seams a good press with a cloth and lots of steam. I don’t have a clapper, so I used a piece of wood from when the oven was delivered to press the seams after ironing – the wood absorbs the steam and helps to flatten out the seams – at least, I think that’s how it works…?
Although I was disappointed, I was not surprised when Dave advised me strongly against trying buttonholes in this suede – The results can be too erratic to guarantee, and best to be avoided. Well, I’m not one to ignore good advice and so we decided on snaps instead. I could have installed these myself at home, but for a very fair price I was glad to have them professionally applied.
So now I’m definitely sorted for spring jackets! I’m not going to say that sewing this skin wasn’t a challenge (physically and emotionally!) but I couldn’t be anything other than happy with my awesome new suede chore jacket!
I’ve treated the suede with a weather shield and will try to look after it. I hope it stands the test of time because I’m looking forward to seeing how it ages. As I said, MrA & I had a trip to France planned and I’d hoped to be looking chic dans les rues de Paris but will have to settle for modelling it in the foyer at work for now.
I hope, where ever you are, you are safe and happy – and using this time of isolation to sew through your fabric stash!
Wishing you all the best,
Happy sewing – Andrew x
Notes to self:
- I lengthened the sleeves by 2cm (but not on the paper pattern!)
- Test your stitches before you cut into your fabric!
- Suede pretreated with weather protection spray inside and out before & after sewing ✔️
- The Hem is only temporarily finished… I’m waiting for some fabric glue to fix it permanently.
- I think that’s enough spring jackets for now!