A Dream with a Deadline

Readers,

The new jacket looks nice combined with burgundy.

The new jacket looks nice combined with burgundy.

Yesterday, after I did a photo shoot, a mind map and a title for my usual Saturday afternoon post, the fingers were poised over the keyboard to bang out several hundred words.

First iteration: muslin.

First iteration: muslin.

They stayed poised.

If a mirror had been hanging on my bulletin board it would have reflected the wrinkled brow of someone who sensed there was a better idea out there than the one she had planned to write about. More mulling needed to be done.

Darn.

See, readers, I was going to talk about how I’d finally gotten the traction to take the leopard-collar jacket off my sewing to-do list (where it had been since at least 2002) and put it on my “done” list. I followed these steps and, bada-bing, bada-boom–finished.

Second round: wearable test from an orange mystery fiber. (Acrylic?)

Second round: wearable test from an orange mystery fiber. (Acrylic?)

Okay, there was a little more to the story than that. I was going to talk about the value of committing to the process.

I had thought the main problem was that I just didn’t want to cut into my beautiful and hard-to-replace fabrics and that I also didn’t want to go through the hours of drudgery doing a muslin and wearable test. Hours and hours–and hours! Interminable!

Really? Longer than the 11 years I’d been entertaining this sewing dream? Hmm.

The wearable test has the back vent.

The wearable test has the back vent.

I was going to show you the progression, from the muslin,

to the wearable test,

to the finished jacket.

And I was going to say that although I had never defined what would be so difficult, time-consuming and frustrating,  obviously I believed the story I’d told myself a thousand times.  Much suffering would occur, I was sure of it, to attain this goal.

I was going to say that once I got disengaged from my story and engaged in the nuts-and-bolts cutting and sewing I dealt with garden-variety problems with ordinary solutions.

I subtracted the back vent and added belt carriers.

I subtracted the back vent and added belt carriers.

I was also going to say I’d added structure and momentum to my project by signing up for the coat-making class at Treadle Yard Goods and getting all the technical and moral support I could want from my teacher and classmates.

I was also going to say that the technical lessons I learned moving through the phases of this project would serve me well in all my future projects. Whatever effort that went into doing the job right was an investment in all my future sewing

It looks good with yellowish greens.

It looks good with yellowish greens.

I was also going to say that I was pleasantly surprised that the wearable test really was wearable–and that the final jacket is much more versatile than I had realized.

I was going to mention a few changes I made in the final design. I took out the back vent, and added belt carriers.

I was going to reference that quote about a goal being a dream with a deadline.

It looks good with malted-milk beige. (What in the world is she looking up at?)

It looks good with malted-milk beige. (What in the world is she looking up at?)

Everything I was going to say was undeniably accurate. Still, as I looked over my points, I thought, “This is incomplete. What’s missing?” That’s why the fingers remained motionless over the keyboard yesterday afternoon.

This morning I returned to my conundrum. And I realized something: I had been writing only about the “what” and the “how.”

But the “what” and the “how”–the technical and logistical knowledge–were not the real story.

The real story lay in the self-knowledge: the “who” and the “why.”

This jacket combines nicely with charcoal gray, loden green, chocolate brown, and more colors than I had at first imagined.

This jacket combines nicely with charcoal gray, loden green, chocolate brown, and more colors than I had at first imagined.

Now I recognized why I hadn’t made the jacket up to this point. I could–and did–imagine wearing it, many times. I saw myself wearing it to restaurants and theaters and museums. (Never to the grocery store–why not?) But somehow, until recently, I wasn’t seeing myself…inhabiting that jacket is the best way I can put it.

I reached some kind of tipping point where now I see this jacket not as a costume but as a real part of my wardrobe; not as something I imposed on myself but as something that expresses me. Little shifts here and there put me on a new trajectory.

Wish I could be clearer, but I guess I just have to mull some more.

What I do know is that getting things sewn requires knowing my own “what,” “how,” “who” and “why”--all four–if I want move from only a dream–to a dream with a deadline.

Done--but beginning, too.

Done–but beginning, too.

Project: Vogue 9820 (1959) Jacket, Part 8

Readers,

Here it is: the jacket I spent more than a decade dreaming of making. After more hours than I care to say, it’s 99 percent done.  And it measures up to my expectations, which is pretty fantastic.

A soft and very comfortable jacket.

A soft and very comfortable jacket.

You know that feeling of sliding on a coat or jacket that feels exactly right? The right fit in the shoulders, the right sleeve length, the right drape? The right color, proportion, style?  I have that feeling wearing this.

When I finished this jacket late this afternoon it was sleeting–awful for outdoor photos– and dim indoors in my makeshift photo space. I rolled out the seamless and Jack took a few shots. I will run more photos when we get better light conditions.

Two units are sewn together to make this jacket.

Two units are sewn together to make this jacket: the under collar plus the outer fabric, and the upper collar plus the flannel-backed lining.

Once again, this project took many more hours to complete than I expected. How come I’m so terrible at estimating project times?

I just wanted to show you some of the inner workings of a jacket. I decided to underline the front, back, and upper sleeve lining pieces with thin flannel for extra warmth. I had some thin, cheap cotton flannel just right for this application. The flannel-backed lining has a nice weight and feels luxurious.

Thin, cheap cotton flannel lines the lining pieces for warmth and a luxurious padded feeling.

Thin, cheap cotton flannel lines the lining pieces for warmth and a luxurious padded feeling.

I also wanted you to see that much of the work of making a jacket comes from the “supporting cast” of hair canvas in the under collar, sleeve and bottom hems, muslin interfacings, sleeve heads to plump up the sleeve caps, shoulder pads, and the flannel-backed lining. In a finished jacket you don’t see these things, but they affect drape and performance so much. Kenneth King, frequent Threads magazine contributor, says “The fashion fabric is only along for the ride!” That’s such a good way to put it.

The pattern that captured my imagination.

The pattern that captured my imagination.

There is something left to decide before I can call this jacket truly done. There is too much play between the upper and lower collars. I could stabilize the collar with topstitching or with a method called “stitch in the ditch.” I’ll get advice on this at my next coatmaking class in a couple of days.

Tomorrow I’ll vacuum up the thread snippings and fabric scraps, fold up the jacket pattern and clear the work tables.  I have a trench coat to sew.

Next: this 1944 pattern.

Next: this 1944 pattern.

Project: Vogue 9820 (1959) Jacket, Part 7

Readers,

I was racing against the dimming light late this afternoon to capture a few pictures of the jacket work-in-progress.

My makeshift photo studio works pretty well!

My makeshift photo studio works pretty well!

It’s turning out really well. The wool-cashmere blend has a lovely spongy texture that made sewing in the sleeves a dream–perfectly smooth sleeve caps even without sleeve heads.

These two fabrics look as if they were made for each other. But I didn’t always think so. I originally planned to pair the leopard print with black. But I think this spicy brown is more interesting; don’t you?

Some stitching and judicious tucking give a sense of the finished garment.

Some stitching and judicious tucking give a sense of the finished garment.

As you can see, this is far from complete. The fronts, back and under collar are sewn together, but I just laid the upper collar unit on top and hastily folded and tucked to simulate a finished garment. I grabbed the unsewn belt and tied it around my mannequin’s middle. She didn’t seem to mind.

Looking as good going as coming.

Looking as good going as coming.

Now everything is returned to the sewing domain for further stitching.

Just enough of a preview to keep me going and sewing.

Getting closer!

Getting closer!

Project: Vogue 9820 (1959) Jacket, Part 6

Readers,

Just a little report on the progress of the leopard collar jacket.

I cut a stencil of the collar pattern piece from heavy paper and laid it on the velveteen to preview the look before I cut into the fabric. This leopard print varies from dark in the middle to lighter toward each end, and I wanted the pattern to be balanced.

Before cutting the fabric, I laid a stencil on the fabric to preview. Not a necessary step, but fun.

Before cutting the fabric, I laid a stencil on the fabric to preview. Not a necessary step, but fun.

I have done similar things–cut out a window from plain, heavy paper–to preview the look of a plaid pocket flap I considered cutting on the bias. I’ve found this easy, useful, informative and fun.

All these years I’ve hesitated to chop into fabric that’s close to irreplaceable. This stencil/window thing is a little trick to nudge me toward taking the big step of cutting.

Another preview I did, just for fun, was to lay the velveteen on my wearable test jacket, folding under the seam allowances. Now I have a pretty good idea of the impact of the leopard print pattern as part of the overall garment. It is certainly eye-catching, but it looks like it will be in balance.

Preview: the velveteen collar piece laid onto the wearable test with the seam allowance tucked under. I am liking this!

Preview: the velveteen collar piece laid onto the wearable test with the seam allowance tucked under. I am liking this!

I cut the wool-cashmere pattern pieces yesterday, working around the moth-holey parts of the yardage. (I bought this fabric second-hand–buyer beware!)  Luckily, there was more than enough intact material for this project.

The handy dandy leopard collar jacket kit. Easy assembly!

The handy dandy leopard collar jacket kit. Easy assembly!

I pulled a milk-chocolate brown lining from my stash. Interfacings are next.

A few steps closer.

A few steps closer.

Project: Vogue 9820 (1959) Jacket, Part 5

Readers,

I finished my wearable test this morning, and am pretty pleased with the result.

This jacket is comfy and easy to wear.

This jacket is comfy and easy to wear.

When I saw how well this was coming together I realized this could be a garment I’d really wear. So I lavished more attention on it than I would a usual test. I went ahead and interfaced it, put in sleeveheads, made and installed shoulder pads–the works.

The good news is that I gained a garment for my trouble, and got valuable experience that should make my “real” jacket–the one with the leopard-print velveteen collar–easier to sew and better looking than it would have otherwise.

Just this morning I noticed that my hat looks a lot like the hat in the pattern illustration.

Just this morning I noticed that my hat looks a lot like the hat in the pattern illustration.

The bad news is, in my imagination I was going to have this finished on Tuesday–four days ago–and the leopard one finished yesterday. Uh huh.

So for all the success I should be enjoying, I feel late. Behind “schedule.”

I just might skip the vent in the next jacket I sew. Then I could install the lining almost entirely by machine.

I just might skip the vent in the next jacket I sew. Then I could install the lining almost entirely by machine.

Oh, I’ll get over this; by tomorrow I’ll be all jazzed up to start the leopard collar jacket and will have forgotten this ridiculous “late” business.

Here’s the strangest part: I feel more late having finished this jacket today rather than this past Tuesday than I feel late about having had the fabric and the plan to sew this jacket since 2002!

I used a milk-chocolate brown lining from my stash.

I used a milk-chocolate brown lining from my stash.

Surely somebody has studied this phenomenon of disproportionate and misplaced something-or-other. If not, there’s PhD research material here, and I volunteer to be a subject.  If there’s a cure, clue me in.

My “lateness” was for the best of reasons. I saw that taking more time to do the job as right as I could–like installing sleeveheads to smooth out the wrinkles in the sleeve caps, mitering the vent to reduce bulk, stabilizing seams, etc., would be good practice for all my future projects and would yield better looking, longer lasting results.

The materials for the next jacket.

The materials for the next jacket.

Oh, and the doing often wasn’t as time-consuming as figuring out what to do and in what sequence, because I don’t always follow the instructions in vintage patterns, which can be either vague or unnecessarily labor-intensive.

But I did figure out what to do.  And I did figure out the sequence.  This turned out to be a straightforward project with nothing very tricky.

This is such a smart looking jacket, easy to sew, easy to love, vintage enough for vintage lovers but contemporary too.

Vogue Patterns, a new audience awaits the reissuing of this pattern!

Coming soon!

Coming soon!