This must be the most memorable project of mine of the entire year of 2021. Not only was it the last project that I completed just before Christmas, it has an amazing story to tell, too. I love it very much for its story, but also because it happens to be a truly lovely garment. Am sure I will be thoroughly enjoying wearing it for the years to come!
So what is vintage-like about it, you might wonder. Indeed, paired with distressed jeans and with the collar up it may be looking fairly modern. The thing is that this fabric is almost half a century old.
Back in November, when we were visiting my mother-in-law, she emerged from the attic with fabric in her hands and told the most incredible story. She had bought this fabric back in mid-70’s as a gift for her soon-to-be mother-in-law. Apparently, back in those days it was a custom for the bride to gift a piece of fabric for the new mother-in-law. I did not know this, however, am not at all surprised. It was deep soviet times, good fabric and basically anything good was in short supply, so getting hold of a really high quality gift must have symbolized effort and respect. Now, why fabric? Well, sewing or knitting clothes for oneself, or getting them made was very popular, therefore fabrics were widely bought and used.
However, 45 years later, this fabric was still in its cellophane packaging. Apparently, when my husband’s grandma, the recipient of the gift, passed away few years ago, among other stuff in her apartment my mother-in-law found this fabric untouched. Her mother-in-law for some reason had decided not to get anything made out of it, instead it was put on a shelf and sat there for more than four decades.
At first I listened to this story and concentrated more on my mother-in-law’s comments about this being pure wool and unfortunately not too big a piece, but of a good 140 cm width. She seemed to have been telling those facts thinking that she needed to convince me to accept the gift, and this was absolutely unnecessary. At that moment I was like – “yeah, cool, this is a really nice fabric, bet I could make something nice out of it”. But the more I thought about all this, the more sad the story became. I mean, ok, one might not quite like this deep purple color, which, let’s be honest, may be tricky to style. Or a piece of 1.8 meters may be too small for some garments. However, in my view, regardless of any excuses, one should at least have tried. The fact that my husband’s grandma had decided not to appreciate the gift must have been disappointing to my mom-in-law.
From a regular piece of fabric, it suddenly turned into a mission to do the right thing. I inspected the fabric more carefully. It was indeed wool, it still had that signature wool smell, even after all those long years. It was not damaged in any way – my husband’s grandma was meticulously tidy person, so I am not at all surprised that her stuff was very well preserved. The best about this gorgeous fabric was its very delicate pattern – it shows up only from certain angles.
1.8 meters is a decent length actually, that’s what I also told my mother-in-law. Various jackets can be made out of this much fabric. I started planning. The decision to take this project on as a matter of priority was boosted by my review of the upcoming Burda magazine. When inspecting highlights of the upcoming issue in the beginning of November, I came across this vintage looking cropped jacket with rounded pockets and delicate collar. I figured it could work really well for this violet fabric. Still a bit uncertain, I questioned my choice a number of times, especially that there was still a month to wait until the magazine would hit the stores. While waiting, I visited the fabric store in search for matching lining. I was determined to find something special that could do justice to this fabric. A lot of time was spent in silks section, but finally I settled on this red-purple check silk. It was being sold in 1 meter blocks, probably meant for scarves. It didn’t faze me, though, I just loved that fabric. Fast forward to today, when the jacket is complete, I am not too humble about my perfect lining choice!
When the December issue of Burda was finally available, I was still lingering, a bit unsure of my pattern choice. At that time I was struggling with ginkgo top and then black pants projects, and my confidence was not at its highest. Anyhow, when the pants were done, and all that black wool project turned out to be a success, and when I calculated that there was only that much time left until the year end, I finally settled on Burda pattern and decided to go ahead with the purple jacket project. Gift buying time did not help. I sewed less, Christmas was approaching. But then on the last weekend before Christmas I suddenly shook myself and hastily jumped onto the project.
First, I made the toile. In a rush I only joined the front and the back, and did not install sleeves. This was a mistake, as it appeared later. However, even from that semi-toile it was obvious that multiple amendments would be necessary. The toile was too wide. It is a wide cropped jacket, I get it, but it was too wide for my liking, so I took in 1 cm on each side. Then I did not quite like how the back was falling. The original pattern does not have a center back seam. I decided to make it thus adding a bit of curvature to the back. Upon trimming my paper pattern pieces I was ready to proceed with cutting.
At this stage pattern matching had to be considered. Even though the woven pattern is very delicate, I wanted it to match across center front, center back and also hopefully for the pockets.
From multiple interfacing errors earlier this year I have learnt something. This time around I cut only approximate pattern pieces off the main fabric, interfaced them and only then proceeded with cutting out actual pattern pieces. Thus shrinkage was avoided this time – yay! In order to make sure the top of the closure does not fold much when the jacket isn’t buttoned up, I decided to apply sturdier interfacing (just a bit lighter than horsehair canvas) cut on bias to the shoulders of front pieces (it is visible how that worked in the below picture). When all interfacing was applied and all pattern pieces cut out, I concluded, that this time I might have chosen a touch too heavy interfacing. It was not bad, but I probably could have chosen just a little bit lighter one. However, when the entire jacket was complete and lined, I now think that actually the interfacing choice was right – the jacket holds its shape nicely and is not sturdy at all. I don’t know when I am going to figure those interfacings out!
First I lined pockets and applied them to the front pieces. I cut pockets 1 cm deeper than they originally were, and am now convinced that it was a good decision. To sew them on I used the blind hem foot that has a small notch at the bottom of it. That notch can be used as a guide for the pocket edge thus enabling stitching the pockets on neatly very close to the edge. I have a reel about this step on Instagram, if you are curious to check out how it worked (you can access my Instagram account by pressing a small IG icon at the top of this page).
Next were shoulder seams and the most tricky part in all jackets – collar installation. The collar, although very simply looking, is not so simple. This stage was complicated by the fact that Burda instructions are not too helpful, and pattern pieces are not notched well. Being accurate while sewing Burda pattern is really tricky. At first I did not understand how to attach the collar to the collar stand. The first attempt was completely wrong and the seam had to be ripped. Eventually somehow I managed to comprehend how the collar would be coming together and managed to do it right. Before sewing collar pieces together, I sewed on a piece of red decorative bias tape to the front and neck facings, thus preparing to attach the lining.
When the collar was finally in, I tacked side seams and tried the jacket on for the first time. After careful inspection I decided to let it out a bit around hips, so seam allowances ended up being regular 1.5 cm at the underarm grading to 1.2 cm at the hips.
Next were the sleeves. It took no time to sew them up, but when I tacked one sleeve in, it became clear how large a mistake was to skip the sleeves while making the toile. There were many problems with how that sleeve was looking. Shoulder was too wide, the back was hanging too much around the sleeve seam. After few trials and errors, I ended up increasing sleeve seam allowance from 1.5 cm to 2 cm for majority of the seam, only a small portion at the front was left untouched. When this was finally fixed and sleeves went in, I breathed a sigh of relief.
When the front facing was installed, I had left the hem unfinished. That’s because I couldn’t remember how to attach the facing to the front at the hem so that the lining would look nicely later. That’s one more symptom of what is wrong with Burda patterns. They are provided without seam or hem allowances, and I find it really frustrating. It’s probably ok to not be given seam allowances for a simple dress, but for a jacket, where all sorts of weird collar corners are involved, or when the main fabric hem allowance is different from lining hem allowance, it is really frustrating to be left guessing. In order to sort it out I consulted the good old Vikisews instruction of Andrea jacket that I made back in spring. To remember the solution for the next time, I made photos of each step and also a small reel on Instagram which you are welcome to check out.
The trick here is that the facing has to have the same hem allowance as the front piece (4 cm in this case). It is important to cut these pieces right at the very beginning – the stage requiring special attention if resorting to Burda patterns that do not include hem allowances! Then the bottom of the facing has to be trimmed diagonally to be shorter by 1 cm at the edge (2 picture below). This suggests that lining hem allowance should be 3 cm, however I ended up reducing it a bit later. Next, the bottom of the facing is pinned and sewn in the following manner: a) for 2 cm at hem line (3 picture), b) then diagonally down, c) stopping 2 cm short of the facing edge (4 picture). After trimming seam allowances, corners and turning it to the right side, a very neatly looking hem appears (5 picture) and is prepared for the lining to be attached.
Christmas was approaching fast. When I started working on this project, I had a vague idea of hopefully finishing the jacket just before Christmas so that I could wear it when we visit my mother-in-law for Christmas lunch. But the project took its time, I was working on it every workday evening and was still unsure if I succeed to finish it on time.
A part of my challenge was related with buttons. I had decided on large covered buttons. When trying to purchase covered buttons kit at my local haberdashery store, I was offered the service of covering buttons, that they apparently provide. When only few days remained until Christmas, I ended up calling them up and asking how much time it would take for them to cover buttons for me, and the reply was 2-3 days. There were literally 4 days left until Christmas, so on the same day, right after work I rushed to the store to bring them a piece of fabric for the buttons. In two days I called them up again and was glad to hear that my buttons were ready to be picked up. That was good news – I drove straight down to the store to pick up the buttons.
Meanwhile, lining was about to get made and all the innards of the jacket were to be finished. Lining came together quite easily – I had trimmed my paper pattern pieces to reflect all necessary adjustments, that’s why not that much thinking was involved in stitching the lining up. Felt sleeve heads were installed to support sleeves, I settled on medium thickness shoulder pads and installed them, too.
Finally, the lining was bagged in and I could proceed with making up my mind on sleeve length. It is always a tricky part of any project for me. By mistake, again instigated by the fact that Burda patterns do not include seam allowances, I had cut sleeves with only 1.5 cm hem allowance instead of 4 cm. But I knew from trying the jacket on that this was not a problem – my hands are shorter than standard. But now, upon measuring the actual length of each sleeve I had to conclude that one sleeve would need to be longer than the other by 1 cm to accommodate my hands that are of different lengths. I ran a poll on Instagram asking if other sewists make sleeves of different lengths, and only 34 % answered positively. However, I decided to go ahead with this solution – making them even would have resulted in them looking really different while wearing the jacket. When I attached the lining to sleeve hems, it was almost peeking out and thus clearly too long, so that seam had to be ripped, sleeves lining shortened a bit and reattached again.
Christmas Eve day came, and I still had a bit of work to do. I was cooking for the entire day to prepare for Christmas Eve dinner, which is a very big deal for us. At the same time few hours had to be squeezed in to finish the jacket. I had to complete one of my least favorite parts of jacket making – tacking collar pieces together from the inside, tacking lining in place at the shoulders, underarms, etc. When all that innards fixing was done, I finally could proceed with hemming the jacket. The lining with 3 cm hem allowance was hanging too low, also almost peeking out, therefore I ended up trimming it a bit.Majority of the hem seam was sewn on the sewing machine and only a small gap was left at one side to be finished by hand.
And finally button holes had to be made and buttons sewed on. I dread button holes stage each time! It is such a pivotal moment really – all that hard work that has already gone into the garment depends on a very short operation going smoothly. This time my anxiety was amplified by the fact that there were like few meters of thread remaining. Trying to economize on the thread I used black thread for few internal seams.
I measured button holes’ placement meticulously, measured few times, marked clearly. Was probably procrastinating on actually stitching them. The first button hole went in without a problem. For the second the foot got stuck at one moment, and I immediately stopped. That one was going to get ripped and started all over again. Thread was rapidly coming to an end. I left the second button hole aside for just one moment, and started the third one. At the very start of operation I noticed that it was not going straight and stopped too. At that moment I was already swearing, luckily, there was no time for despair as the clock was ticking. Those small portions of two button holes got ripped, I marked their placement once again and finally succeeded. There was like 1 meter of thread left when they were done. About enough to sew the buttons on.
I did not have time that day to iron the jacket, that was done on Christmas morning, because I was absolutely going to wear it to visit my mother-in-law. When we met and I took the coat of, I wondered if she’d recognize the fabric. She absolutely did and smiled ever so widely! She said – “my mother-in-law did not want to make anything out of it, so my daughter-in-law did it”, and proceeded with questions about how the project went. She really liked my jacket, and that’s what makes me so happy! What is even better, I absolutely love my vintage jacket, too! I think the pattern choice was excellent for this fabric, and the lining also works perfectly. Will be thoroughly enjoying wearing it!
For this jacket I used 1.8 meters of vintage pure wool and 1.5 m of pure silk for the lining. The pattern used here was pattern #108 from Burda magazine 2021/12 issue. I cut it in size 36 and had to make multiple adjustments. Other notions were: some 1 meter of medium weight interfacing, a bit of sturdy interfacing for shoulders, a bit of interfacing tape for pockets, 3 covered buttons of 25 mm diameter, 2 felt sleeve heads, 2 shoulder pads, and coordinating thread. The main fabric was gifted therefore I haven’t calculated the cost of this project – my key consideration was to make sure that the supplements would do justice to this awesome fabric. This jacket was finished on Christmas Eve, 2021.
It is my first purple garment ever! It is not that I have any prejudice towards any color, actually quite the opposite – I happily wear the entire rainbow of colors. However, styling purple is tricky. This became clear when I tried the jacket on with various clothes. At first I had thought that it would go nicely with all black outfit, but it doesn’t – the outfit looks too dark and contrasts too much with my pale skin. Instead, denim works fine with something light underneath the jacket. I tried sky blue top and this white sweatshirt, and like both options. Will need to come up with more styles for this awesome jacket. Should try a white classic shirt too – as soon as I get it somewhere! 🙂 I own only one white shirt that is like a decade old, however, am unable to find any replacement in stores. Have started thinking that a new white classic shirt might need to get sewn, too. Meanwhile, I have at least few good styles for this jacket and love seeing it with the collar up and sleeves rolled up – in my view, this style takes away the weight of half a century that this fabric has endured.
With this comforting story I am entering the New Year of 2022 and am thrilled and excited about all of my upcoming sewing projects! Happy New Year everybody! 🎉 Let it be exciting, inspiring and successful! 🌟
Thanks for checking out this post and let’s catch up next time!