We all have a list. Whether you’ve collected it into a spreadsheet or Pinterest board, whether it’s posted above your sewing machine or lodges only in your mind, amorphous and ever-changing, every sewist has one. The list of dream projects. Mine is filled with all sorts of garments, from swirling velvet cloaks to exact replicas of every costume from Thoroughly Modern Millie. It’s rare that I actually sew something off this list, because how often do I need a floor length lavender silk gown with a bateau neckline? Sometimes, though, real world needs and dream projects collide.
Such was the case with this month’s project, a riding jacket. I’ve always loved the mix of military detailing and precise tailoring that such garments provide. Wearing one makes me feel deliciously feminine and ready to kick butt, all at the same time. However, I never found a pattern that met the vision in my head–a piece with both tailoring and a bit of drama. Finally, I came across this pattern from the November 2015 issue of Knipmode Magazine and was smitten. With its dipping circular skirt, stand funnel collar, and princess seams, this jacket was straight out of my dreams. Sub out the zippers for more classic frogging, remove the shoulder panels for a slightly puffed Victorian sleeve, and voila! My ideal riding jacket.
Better yet, around this same time, Mood Fabrics also posted my ideal fabric for such a garment. Kismet! This dark emerald combed cotton was briefly on the website, last fall, and I snagged three yards of it. It actually sold out so quickly, that I had to settle for two smaller lengths, however there are still plenty of great jacket options at Mood. Personally, I love the rich caramel color of this stretch velveteen, which would be an elegant and comfortable option for such a project. My own fabric doesn’t have such stretch, sadly, but it is the loveliest dark bottle green and has a short, soft pile on its right side. It’s a true medium-weight cotton, which worked perfectly for my purposes, since I wanted the jacket’s skirt to go unlined.
When sewing with fabrics that have a nap, caution should be taken. Sturdy combed cottons, like this one, are easier to work with than slippery silk velvets, but still need some special techniques to prevent crushing that pile. To cut out my pattern, I traced the pieces onto the wrong side of the fabric (a plain woven face) with chalk, then cut them out in a single layer with sharp dressmaking shears. All pieces were traced going the same direction, to prevent obvious changes in nap, when the light hit the jacket. To press the garment, I used my regular ironing board covered with a towel, then added a layer of safety with a press cloth made from scrap velvet. Whenever a seam needed pressing, I put the velvet cloth face down on the combed side of the cotton, so that the piles met. A light hand, loads of steam, and this technique meant the fabric stayed nice and soft.
Before touching that cotton, though, I made two muslins of this jacket. Once a seam has been sewn on velvet or napped cotton, it’s almost impossible to get those seamlines to disappear, if they have to be adjusted. The fit had to be perfect, before starting with my real fabric. My measurements lined up pretty well with a blend of Knipmode sizes 46 and 48, but I added a Full Bust Adjustment to the princess seams and narrowed the shoulders a good bit. Additionally, I subbed out that original zipper for black frogging details, which meant drafting a larger facing underneath. After the first muslin, I also switched the collar from a large funnel neck to a shorter stand collar, since it was really overwhelming to the silhouette.
I’ll post tons of construction and process notes tomorrow, on Idle Fancy, but there are some highlights to cover now. I haven’t made many jackets and was flying blind with my poorly translated instructions, so I cobbled together techniques from a few resource books instead. To that end, I used sew-in interfacing to stabilize the cuffs, collar, facings, and front of the jacket, though I do wish I’d underlined the whole thing in silk organza, as well. The final result could use just a hair more structure, but alas. Inside, the bodice is lined with bee-print white rayon crepe, from my stash, which is a nice counterweight to the heavy cotton outer shell. Both the facing edges and the skirt seams are bound in black rayon seam binding, to prevent fraying and give a clean finish. For the closures, 3″ black rayon frogs are used, in a classic, simple design.
This jacket is completely inappropriate for all the spring weather we’re having now, but it doesn’t matter. I love it! This garment was a true labor of love, taking six weeks of work and tons of patience, but it turned out brilliantly. There are a few things I would improve, here or there, but for a first tailored jacket project, I’m beyond happy. With its swirling skirt and gorgeous detailing, it’s exactly the dramatic military-style jacket of my dreams.
It looks great open over a blouse, closed over a fitted dress, and–perhaps my favorite–partially closed over skinny jeans and a tank top, as below. There’s something about that fitted bodice and swooping hem that screams steampunk superheroine, don’t you think? Well, a girl can dream anyway.