What Works/What Doesn’t: The Anorak

Readers,

The anorak analysis is in.

The anorak analysis is in.

Remember the anorak I finished a while back?  I’ve been wearing it on neighborhood walks for a few weeks.

I modeled it recently in a photo shoot in Cynthia’s studio.

And last week I brought it to a gathering of sewing friends.

This anorak has been worn in the wind and rain, stuffed into suitcases, tied around my waist, styled for photographs, and held up to the scrutiny of three discriminating and frank sewing experts.

The drawstring waist needs to be repositioned.

The drawstring waist needs to be repositioned.

I’ve been asking myself the what works/what doesn’t questions I described in my previous post.

What are my findings?

All the categories in the Context column were Works with one exception.

  • Occasions.  This is everyday wear. Works.
  • Activities.  Urban outdoor walking, errand-running, travel.  Works. But keeping the contents of the pockets safe: Doesn’t work.
    Pickpockets' paradise.

    Pickpockets’ paradise.


  • Roles. Runner of errands, walker of neighborhoods, watcher of birds, traveler. Works.
  • Physical conditions. It keeps me dry in a shower. It’s not waterproof, but that’s okay. Works.
  • Mood of the occasion. Everyday activities are pretty mood-neutral. Works.

    This back would be too roomy for Quasimodo.

    This back would be too roomy for Quasimodo.

  • Other wardrobe items. This goes great with a lot of my casual clothes. Works.
  • Other fabrics, patterns and buttons.  Plenty of fabrics and some patterns in my stashes go with the anorak for future coordinates. Works.
  • What I’m moving into. I foresee more everyday activities in my future for which the anorak will be handy. Works.

The Context column was nearly a clean sweep. The Individual column was a mixed bag:

  • Personality.  No personality clash here. Works.
  • Style. I suppose in the world of anoraks this is my style.  (I really must replace that white cording, though.) Works.

    The back is big, true, but the hood is just right.

    The back is big, true, but the hood is just right.

  • Fit. The hood, sleeve length and circumference are fine. There’s too much blousing in the front and especially the back. A big Doesn’t work.
  • Silhouette. The waist definition is a big improvement over my old boxy windbreaker. But seen from the side, the waist has got to be resituated. And the excessive blousing is also unflattering. Doesn’t work.
  • Color. I bought the fabric for the yellowish-green cast, an interesting neutral that works well with my coloring and clothes. Works.

    With my body double.

  • Physical characteristics. I created this category to remind me about my range of motion, extremities that get cold easily, feet that need arch support–things like that. The anorak gets a passing grade. Works.
  • What I’m growing into. Whatever psychological thresholds I may cross, the anorak should be fine. Works.
Between shots in Cynthia's studio.

Between shots in Cynthia’s studio.

The anorak has two glaring problems.

The front and back have way too much design ease and the drawstring waist is angled when it should be parallel with the floor.

And–my mistake–I misread the pattern directions and microscopic illustrations, and sewed the flaps onto the pockets when they should have been attached to the fronts in such a way as to keep the pockets closed. This is hugely annoying.

But–these problems just might be fixable. Yes!

Instead of wearing this anorak only at night or relegating it to the back of the closet overcome with guilt and peevishness, I may be able to salvage this.

Next time, I'll do the pockets the right way!

Next time, I’ll do the pockets the right way!

Edith asked me, “Do you have more of this fabric? You could save the hood, sleeves and pockets and cut new altered fronts and a back.”

I got to thinking, it’s worth a try. I’ve already invested a lot of effort (not much money–the fabric was $1.49 a yard) in this garment. Perhaps for some more effort I’d have a garment that would work in all categories.

Plus, I’d have an altered pattern ready for sewing another well-fitting anorak someday.

It was a big advance for me, seeing, with Edith’s help, how I might make this garment right, rather than writing it off. Now I’m taking a second look at other projects, defining the good points and the problems and asking myself, “How could I make this right?” I might not be able to save the garment, but I might correct the pattern, at least, and be very happy with it.

So, readers, I’m going to try taking this jacket apart, having Edith coach me through the pattern alterations, and reassembling the pieces.

Whatever the results, you’ll see them here. They’re all part of the hero’s journey of getting things sewn.

This way to a better anorak!

This way to a better anorak!

(All photographs are by Cynthia DeGrand.)

Project: Vogue 2461 (1990): Calvin Klein anorak, part 1

Readers,

I didn’t know till five minutes ago that I knew any words from Greenlandic Eskimo: anorak. All I know is I really could use a new jacket of the outerwear variety for running errands, traipsing around the local lakes on walks, and taking on trips. It must be durable, washable, and have a little style. And it must fit.

The green windbreaker I’m modeling here has served me well for more than a decade. It’s been my companion on a few London trips.

I'm flying! (No--I'm showing the size of the sleeves.)

I’m flying! (No–I’m showing the size of the sleeves.)

But it bears some permanent greasy stains from the New York subway.  The drawstring cord has lost its elasticity and dangles dangerously, threatening to get caught in my bicycle spokes. And I’ve always been bugged by the slightly too long sleeves and the boxy shape.

So I’m going to retire this jacket and sew my first anorak.

The Calvin Klein anorak, dating from 1990.

The Calvin Klein anorak, dating from 1990.

“Windbreaker” is what I’d call it, but either Vogue Patterns or Calvin Klein chose to call it an anorak, so I’ll go with that.  (And I learned from the American Heritage Dictionary that “Windbreaker” is a trade name, which I never knew before.)  I’m restraining the reference librarian in me for now from researching that fact further.)

Twenty-two years ago I knew I’d want to sew myself an anorak, so I bought this pattern at Minnesota Fabrics for 75% off on April 1, 1991. I recorded this vital information on the envelope so I could congratulate myself on my foresightedness today.

Call me a pattern archivist.

Call me a pattern archivist.

I was apparently taken by this jacket’s appearance in Vogue Patterns magazine because I saved the page. That drawstring waist! Yes! Thank you! A little shaping!

But those dropped shoulders look more like drooped shoulders on me.  And that sleeve fullness is way more design ease than I want.

I saved this from a 1990 issue of Vogue Patterns magazine.

I saved this from a 1990 issue of Vogue Patterns magazine.

It was time to check the fit.  So I made a muslin–a test garment–from the fronts, back and sleeves.

And I brought it to Treadle Yard Goods‘ sewing salon this morning, where trusty Michele looked it over.  We measured the dropped shoulders and the sleeve circumference on my old green jacket to guide the alterations of the muslin.  Michele showed me where to draw in new lines to take up the dropped shoulder 1 1/2 inches and to take 9 inches of excessive fullness out of the sleeve.

Where's my stylist? This muslin's askew!

Where’s my stylist? This muslin’s askew!

Home again, I recut the muslin and stitched it up.

Now the dropped shoulder is reasonable on me, as is the sleeve.

What else shall I do before I cut into my good fabric for this project?

We took 9 inches off the sleeve circumference.

We took 9 inches off the sleeve circumference.

I’ve begun looking carefully at my old jacket, for the first time ever, to consider details to carry over into my new anorak.

  • I may reuse the toggles.
  • I could easily add a loop for hanging.
  • What size cord is best?
  • Do I have any grommets or snaps that would work for this project?
  • Do I like the anorak pockets? Should I modify them?
  • This anorak isn’t lined. Should I line it?
  • How does the anorak hood size compare to the old green jacket’s?
  • The anorak uses flat fell seams. Should I use my 4mm flat fell foot? Should I buy a bigger flat fell foot?

    Now, this sleeve is much better.

    Now, this sleeve is much better.

In the past, I would have been too impatient to inquire into all these details.  But now I want to see how much I can harvest–both in ideas and in reusable materials–from my good old green jacket to make this new anorak as good as it can be.

The hands-on, individualized help I get at Treadle is now part of my strategy for getting things sewn.

The hands-on, individualized help I get at Treadle is now part of my strategy for getting things sewn.

Project: Butterick 5542 (1930s), Jacket, part 3

Readers,

Sometimes I make great strides in a project, to which progress photos can attest.  Then I feel like I’m properly Getting Things Sewn So That I Can Write A Proper Post About It.

Dreaming about my 1930s Butterick jacket pattern.

Dreaming about my 1930s Butterick jacket pattern.

Other times I make great strides in a project but the progress isn’t so visible. But it’s still there.

So, yes, since last time I did sew in the sleeves of my test garment, and it does look more like a jacket than before.  But the real progress was getting the input of an expert for a few crucial minutes.

No, wait a minute.

The real progress was when I stopped thinking, “I should know how to fit and alter patterns myself.”

I know–I’ve had a patternmaking genius for a sewing teacher for ten years.  Don’t I outsource the fitting and pattern alterations already?  Yes, pretty much.  But when I called Edith yesterday to get her opinion, I didn’t reach her.  And I had a post to write.  I had to make progress. Otherwise, my readers would think, “Ha. She is not Getting Things Sewn.”

I’d tried on the test garment, with shoulder pads that were, admittedly, probably too skimpy. On the fronts, near the armscyes, there seemed to be a little too much fabric. Was there? Or was I being a neurotic sewer?  Was I veering close to overfitting? My test fabric was a polyester, not behaving like the linen I’ll use for the real jacket. I needed someone’s expert eye.

Too much fabric next to the armscye.

Too much fabric next to the armscye.

Luckily, I had recourse to expert advice at Treadle Yard Goods, a great (and increasingly rare) independent fabric store, in St. Paul, not very far from where I live.  Treadle has frequent “sewing salons” where sewers can bring their projects for on-the-spot advice.

In under fifteen minutes Michele had sussed out the problem, sketched a solution and supervised my cutting my pattern front and taping it in its new position. Then I trued the new armscye and side seams so they were smooth and elegant again.  Done!

Cut and slide over 3/8 inch to tweak the fit.

Michele’s solution: cut and slide over 3/8 inch to tweak the fit.

No big deal, right? Yes and no.  The alteration in the pattern was minor. But the alteration in me was major.

I’m seeing that a big part of my getting things sewn will be planning expert help into my process.  It might be live, individual hands-on help,  or a local class, or an online class, or a DVD.  I’ve underutilized these resources in the past. I’m going to be downright strategic from here on out.

I don’t see a reason to finish this test garment. So I’m going to start cutting out my linen tomorrow. Onward!

The goal.

The goal.