Derek Lam Cotton Knit Jacket
The purchase of this gorgeous thick knit from Derek Lam for this month’s Mood Sewing Network project was a no brainer. Living in London my handmade wardrobe is constantly in need of snuggly, comfy garments suitable for layering and making them out of unique fabrics like this one means I still feel great wearing them. I picked this piece in Mood Fabrics LA back in September and whilst it was available online it’s now unfortunately sold out. However, hunting for it I did discovering this amazing striped French Terry from the same designer which has been immediately added to my shopping basket!
At first glance I was envisioning an oversized sweatshirt but then started dreaming up all kinds of different projects which it could be used for. It’s got a decent amount of stretch for a thicker knit with a soft slouchy drape. The random graphic pattern of the intermingling black and white yarn was what first drew me to it but I think what I most like about it is the texture and weight, it’s got almost a hand woven/hand knitted quality to it. I looked up some Derek Lam designs online and found it used both for a body con style dress (with lovely leather neckline binding) and a sweater and shorts set which I quite liked. Ultimately though I wanted to literally wrap myself up in this fabric and decided a snuggly oversized cardigan would be ideal.
Of course, now having a fairly clear idea in my head of what I wanted the finished garment to look like, it was very tricky to find the perfect pattern for it! I’ve done a little drafting but my skills aren’t up to much so I needed something fairly close to my ideal design to start with. After hunting high and low on the internet I woke up one morning with a pretty much spot on design staring me in the face from the shelf opposite! I’ve had the By Hand London Victoria Blazer pattern in my collection pretty much since it’s release but never came across a fabric I was inspired to make it in. It’s designed for woven fabric rather than a knit but it’s a very clean design so although I’d have to apply some different techniques to the construction and finishing there weren’t any details that I thought wouldn’t work in the knit.
As I was using a fabric so different to that intended I didn’t follow the instructions very precisely. I kind of let the fabric guide me as to what the best techniques to use would be. I knew a knit jacket wouldn’t require lining, especially as I was going for more of a cardigan than a jacket. But that was about the only decision I made before starting. Having not made it before I decided to just see how it came together and make more choices as I went along! I also omitted the facing entirely, partly because just one layer of fabric was pretty thick but also because I’d run out of fabric…it’s super wide at 200cm so I just picked up a yard for my intended sweatshirt with only a few pattern pieces. To keep everything tidy and the seam allowances tucked away I just topstitched around the cuffs and where the facing would have been. The split cuffs, collar and lapels are all simple rectangular shapes and the pattern is designed so that they can be worn turned back or just pressed to lay flat which was the option that worked best in the knit.
Another reason not to line it is because both sides of the fabric are equally beautiful and unique and it seems a shame to hide one of them! I deliberated for some time over which side to use but in the end opted for the more muted side which less of the white yarn shows on as I thought I’d get more wear out of it that way. The reverse could easily be used though and the gorgeous texture of that side with the more pronounced slub made it tempting.
I can’t believe that I didn’t get around to sewing this pattern before! I’ve seen so many lovely iterations of it across the internet but never before really appreciated many of the features of the clever design. Namely the gorgeous neckline dart which means the jacket hangs beautifully around and from the shoulders, especially in a weighty, draped knit like this. In this fabric I think it looks particularly good as the part that curves around the neck ends up on the cross grain at the nape which is emphasised by the strong directional design of the monochrome weave. As well as this I love the length of the sleeves and LOVE that there are nice roomy pockets involved. There’s nothing better than a snuggly piece of clothing with big pockets to bury your hands in! I under-stitched the openings on these, something I nearly always do with pockets to keep everything sitting right and also (as there is no lining) I tacked the pocket bags to the inside front at a couple of points to stop them flapping about.
I cut my usual BHL size (UK 10) as although I’d usually size down for a knit I wanted that oversized, snuggly knitwear look. It’s turned out just right; not so big that I feel swamped. The shoulders are slightly dropped on me which is exactly the style I hoped to achieve. I used variation 1 and kept the length as is; I’m 5ft3 for reference. I do usually need to shorten BHL patterns by a fair amount but I quite liked this a little longer. If I made more of a jacket in woven fabric I might take off a couple of inches.
I thought the weight of the knit meant it would be likely to stretch out quite easily when worn, especially as the stretch in the fabric mainly comes from the way it is woven rather than the presence of any elastane. I therefore stabilised the shoulder seams with twill tape applied to the seam allowance and considered adding some around the neckline too but ultimately decided that the top stitching in this area would do well enough to reinforce it.
Being cotton, the fabric pressed beautifully and it sewed up nicely with a ball point needle. I used a narrow zig zag stitch to sew all the seams and topstitched with a reasonably long straight stitch. I used black thread and the stitches sink pretty much invisibly into the thickness of the knit; you don’t want to be making mistakes and unpicking with this fabric! The gorgeous chunky, slubby, loose weave that I’ve been raving about does mean that the fabric frays like crazy (actually I think ‘falls apart’ would be a more accurate way to describe it as it looses big chunks!). I therefore overlocked every edge of every pattern piece straight after cutting to make it easier to handle. This meant I didn’t have to worry about finishing seam allowances as I went along and made it even quicker to sew up! For a jacket it’s super speedy to sew anyway, especially as I wasn’t lining it!
This pattern works so well in a knit I’m definitely going to be trying it again. I’m more pleased with it than I even thought I might be. I’m wearing it as I type this and it’s been so unexpectedly mild over here in UK recently I’ve even had some wear out of it as outer wear! I definitely think it’s too much to hope for a white Christmas but I do wish you all a wonderful one!