experiments in outerwear.

Originally posted to sewstylist.wordpress.com on 5 September 2014

When I was eleven, maybe twelve, I was given a quilted jacket for Christmas. It was a seriously beautiful mishmash of gorgeous, silky cotton batiks, but it was also seriously not my style. I so, sooo wanted it to be because it was insanely comfy, just as you’d expect wearing a blanket out in public could be. I tried, but it just wasn’t working, and eventually that lovely jacket found its way into the donations pile. I can’t quite say I’ve been on the lookout for my perfect quilted jacket ever since, but almost!

In the last couple years I’ve seen some beautiful versions of this sometimes classic, sometimes quirky piece popping up here and there on Pinterest. Then I saw this lovely at Sew Over It, and this pretty at Jolies Bobines, and decided I’d try making one myself!


This was a total experiment as I’d never tried quilting of any sort before and had very little idea what I was doing. I spent about five minutes researching some quilting basics, then threw all caution to the wind and dove in. Although there is this lovely pattern available from Republique du Chiffon, I was too impatient to wait for international delivery. Instead I snagged this rad 1980’s number off Etsy:


Along with the jacket I got pants, a tank, and a tank dress! The entire look as pictured is maybe a wee bit much, but I actually think I’ll make up all the pieces in this crazy/delightful outfit eventually. (As a side note, despite prior evidence, I do not have any special thing for rehashing or otherwise trying to bring back the 80’s. It kinda seems like the 80’s is the decade when fashion curled up and died. But then, depending on how you look at em, there are some sewing pattern gems to be had.)

I loved that the Simplicity folks made the sample jacket out of something that looked like silk, so I did the same for mine. I’d bought this silk intending to make Tania culottes, but at home I realized the print had a strong diagonal repeat and probs wouldn’t work for, well, a lot of things. But I think it’s working pretty nicely here.


I wanted to make this piece warm enough to wear as true outerwear, so I layered some black flannel and some mid-weight cotton batting under my the silk outer-layer. I thinkthe quilters call this a sandwich…? Anyway, I cut out all the pattern pieces individually, in each of the three layers plus once more for the lining. Then I layered everything but the lining together and basted a bit around the edges, plus a few crisscrosses through center, to hold things steady.

Ultimately, all that basting didn’t help me as much as I’d hoped it might. I started quilting in the center of the pattern piece, then quilted out one side, then came back and quilted out the other side. Silk is both a little slippery and a little stretchy by nature, so things shifted a bit as I went, but I’m pretty sure this is the sort flaw only the maker can see. I think I quilted at roughly 1″ intervals, going perpendicular up and down the body pieces, and horizontal across the sleeves. This pattern has raglan sleeves, so I stopped quilting at what would have been the shoulder seam, to help define that area a bit. Of course, I’m telling you all this because, thanks to my very cool printed silk, you can’t actually see much of it.


This choice to do slightly denser quilting is one change I made from the patten as written. Additionally, I took a few inches off the length so it hits a little below my natural waist (because nobody needs a quilted jacket padding their hips). I also took quite a bit off the sleeves… maybe too much, I don’t know. I wanted my wrists to show, but somehow the sleeves and the body of the jacket ended up on a straight line with one another, though I thought I’d planned to have the sleeves fall an inch or so longer. So, if I make this up again (and to be honest, I don’t know that I will) I’ll go a smidgen longer on the sleeves, which I think would help the proportions.


All that sandwiching and layering also affected the drape of this little jacket. You can see how it kind of stands off my body. I sort of like it like that… Again, if I give it a second try I might spend more time looking for batting that has a bit more drape.


The last pattern adjustment I made was to add some pockets. I added side seam pockets, which I lined with the same cozy black flannel I used inside the jacket. I’m not gonna lie, that flannel lined pocket idea was a good one. Sinking your hands into soft, warm pockets is pretty happy making!


I also added a little interior pocket to the lining, for storing my phone or whatnot. It seems like most men’s outwear has at least one of these interior pockets, but they’re unhappily rare in women’s wear. Do designers assume most ladies don’t care to store things next to their boobs? I dunno, but I’m definitely a fan of the chest pocket (though I did position mine a bit lower than I might have for a gentleman).


Yep, I lined it in silk too. I’m really fortunate to have a solid $10 per yard silk source here in my fair city. And as you can see, I’ve been working on perfecting my welt pocket game; things are coming along nicely! I made all that silk bias binding too. I remember the first time I tried making bias tape, when I was relatively new to sewing. The whole undertaking definitely got the better of me. This time around I took my time with the making, and the applying, and while it’s definitely not perfect (like that part under my fingers may not be fully attached), it was super satisfying to see how my skills had improved with time.


Speaking of which, this is my first official piece of me-made outwear! I feel like I’ve totally turned a corner with this one! I’m sure you can relate to feeling like the more you make the more you pretty much just want to wear the things you’ve made, exclusively. Up until recently most of what I’ve made has been of the tops/skirts/dresses variety, which is to say not exactly winter appropriate. Winter is coming (at least in this hemisphere), so I’m glad I’m starting to feel confident in crafting some seasonally appropriate garments!

It’s funny, as I was writing I started to realize that this garment got me over several sewing hurdles (quilting, binding, outwear) and helped me develop some relatively new-to-me skills (sewing with silk, welt pockets). Not to get all rhapsodic about it, but seeing this little, bit by bit development is one of many things that just makes me love sewing. You push yourself, see that you can do it (even if imperfectly) and those little successes inspire you to push yourself a little further next time. Here, more than in other areas in life I think, that kind of development is trackable, recognizable, and of course insanely satisfying. So, do you have some sewing hurdles that you’re warming up to conquer? Or maybe you’re proud of one you just cleared recently?

Ebony HaightComment