Sunday, June 26, 2016

Miss Irene and the Yankee Doodle Dandy: McCalls 7351

In sewing, mistakes are inevitable. Perhaps you accidentally clip a seam allowance and the seam, or you decide to skip interfacing this one time. Some overzealous scissor wielding or a too hot iron and a whole project can be ruined in seconds. Kittens, I've been there. 

Personally, my most regrettable mistakes all involve fabric. Whether choosing a knit with too little stretch or blindly ignoring something's polyester content, I've done it all. The worst, however, are the projects which paired beautiful lengths of fabric with mediocre, ill-fitting patterns. Most of those were before this blog started, but there have been some doozies even in the last six years! The one I look back on with genuine sadness is actually my very first shirtdress, the Sally Shirtdress from 2014

Despite that post's optimistic ending, it did not get a ton of wear. I wore the dress twice more, before consigning it to the back my closet forever. Both times, I couldn't wait to get back home and take the damn thing off. The buttons pulled constantly and the fabric bunched in odd places. Despite the luxe chambray and beautiful vintage buttons, it was a total disaster to wear. The pattern didn't work for me, simple enough.

And yet, I still loved the style. Dark blue chambray and red buttons are such a classic American combination. There's no garment more appropriate for a summer BBQ or 4th of July parade, unless you actually swath yourself in star spangled banners a la Pollyanna. 

Pollyanna: Taking cheerfulness and a theme too far, since 1913.

While the patriotic body bag was a tempting look, instead I decided to have another go at that chambray dress. This time, I armed myself with a better pattern and two more years of pattern fitting experience. Even the fabric got a little nicer, with this dishy Rag & Bone indigo cotton chambray from Mood. Thanks to a plain weave and strategic thread patterns, the fabric looks like a true denim, but has the lightweight feel of a drapey shirting. There's also a soft iridescence to its face, which changes the blue in different angles. 

For the pattern, I opted for my new go-to shirtdress pattern, which you've all heard about to death. This is McCall's 7351 (surprise!) with my altered narrow silhouette, which added waist darts and hip ease to View A. This is actually one of those dresses from my furious batch sewing binge, back in May. The other two didn't photograph as well, after a month of wearing and washing, so will have to make their debuts on Instagram at some point. 

Why, yes, I am dying to snip those errant little threads on the collar. 
While I wanted to use the vintage embossed buttons from my original Sally Shirtdress, fate had other plans. In my manic closet cleaning, this spring, that dress accidentally ended up in a charity pile instead of the refashion box. Somewhere, I hope someone is greatly enjoying those gorgeous buttons! This dress had to settle with plain red plastic buttons from JoAnn Fabrics. Their color pops off the dark chambray beautifully and matched some stashed thread, so it all worked out rather well. 

The construction details of this dress are exactly the same as my previous versions, down to top-stitching all the things and self-fabric finishes. However, if you squint at the picture above you can see a special little change. All the top-stitching thread is red! It's more apparent in real life than in pictures, but I adore it. Coordinated stitching is something that I love in ready-to-wear designs, yet rarely do myself. There's too much room for error, when every stitch is that obvious. This dress seemed worth it, though, and the extra time for perfectionism paid off. The collar and button bands look gorgeous. 

And that, my dears, is victory. The dreadful mistake is finally undone! I love this dress. It feels wonderful to own a version of this style that I will actually wear. There's no unsightly bunching or pulling, here. It's all perfectly fitting, perfectly comfortable chambray goodness.

Even better, that's my outfit sorted for our annual 4th of July party, next month. Now, I'll spend the next week deliberating varieties of pie to make, instead of what to wear. Apple and cherry are a must, but blueberry mascarpone or chocolate cream for the third? Decisions, decisions... 

Let's be honest, much like shirtdresses, I'll probably just make them all. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Miss Delphine Meets Her Match: McCall's 7351 Variation

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Mood Fabrics Italian Batiste-4883

Kittens, meet my white whale. 

For the entirety of my adult sewing career, I have longed for the perfect button-front shirt. This is, obviously, a running theme with me. I believe in the platonic version of every garment. It's the entire reason I picked up sewing again, as an adult. I wouldn't just go shopping for a cute sundress, I would go shopping for the perfect sundress. Inevitably, I'd mentally design a garment in such specific detail that it became impossible to find in stores. The color wouldn't be quite right or the cut would be wrong. Given my proportions, even if I did find my perfect piece, it rarely fit. 

Buttoned shirts were the worst. If they fit my bust, the sleeves, shoulders, and waist were comically large. I ended up looking like a toddler wearing her dad's work shirt. Unfortunately, this hasn't improved much with sewing. 

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Mood Fabrics Italian Batiste-4913

Grainline's Archer shirt, which worked beautifully on some of my favorite bloggers*, was all wrong for me. Even after adding a dart, the style was too boxy, losing my shape in swaths of fabric. I muslined Sewaholic's Granville, but at the end of the day, it took too many alterations to make a pear-specific pattern work for me. Most Big 4 options lacked my favorite details, Deer & Doe's patterns didn't come in my size, and Burda's plus size shirts gave billowy a new name.

Admittedly, I could've just drafted one from my sloper or made 800 alterations to any of the above patterns. Alas, I'm lazy and wear dresses most of the time anyway. Every so often I would try out a new button-front pattern, be nonplussed by the results, and dive back into the safety of floofy dresses. 

That could not stand. These days, I'm wearing jeans almost as often as dresses. Waco is much more casual than my hometown, Austin, and it's had a simplifying effect on my wardrobe. Unfortunately, my sewing hasn't really gotten that memo yet. While I wear and love all of my dresses, I also need more summer tops in the mix. Pieces that can tuck into skirts or float loosely with jeans are in heavy rotation right now. Me being me, the definition of "simple" still involves fancy fabrics and loads of tailoring details. You can take the girl out of the city...

*See: Heather, Amanda, and Sallie

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Mood Fabrics Italian Batiste-4950

Unlike my more desultory attempts at button-front shirts, this time I had both gumption and a plan. Instead of using an existing shirt pattern and tweaking it to high heaven, I took McCall's 7351 and turned it into my go-to button-front blouse. The bodice already worked brilliantly as a shirtdress, with a nicely fitting collar and gape-free button band, so it was a cinch to translate those features to a shirt. 

Armed with bee paper and a legion of tracing implements, I set to work. Five changes turned beloved shirtdress into favorite blouse: 
  1. Lengthened the back and front bodice pieces to my fullest hip point + 5/8 inch for a hem. This erased my added waist dart and added eight inches to the bodice pattern. On the back, this also straightened the sharp curve inward at the waist.
  2. Lengthened the button bands to match the bodice. 
  3. Flared out the hip curves, to put a little swing in the blouse. 
  4. Added a split at the side seam, for ease of movement. 
  5. Curved the final hems into a shirt-tail shape. 

Voila! My platonic shirt pattern materialized. 

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Mood Fabrics Italian Batiste-5003

The fabric for this first blouse is an Italian cotton batiste from Mood, bought as part of my monthly Mood Sewing Network allowance, in a riotous floral print. I love all those hot colors on the bright blue background, though this fabric also comes in a dishy fig/light pink/light blue colorway and an autumnal orange/yellow/black colorway. I figured that the tailored lines of my blouse would be a good match for such a large scale print, since the top-stitching and details break up the gigantic flowers. It doesn't overwhelm my figure, as it might made into a dress, but instead is a nice, bright summery piece. 

The construction details are a hodgepodge of my favorite shirtdress and flowy blouse techniques. Collar, collar bands, and button bands are all interfaced with fusible interfacing and sewn by machine, while the armscyes and yoke are finished with self-fabric. There's matching blue top-stitching all over the place, including the side seams, which are turned under and stitched. Black buttons finish it off, further grounding the loud print. The back is a bit blousy, so I may add some very small double-ended darts there in its next iteration. 

Y'all, I love this blouse. 

Love, love, love it. I want to wear it everyday and dance around and tell complete strangers that I made it myself. So, I'd call this experiment a win. It hugs my body in just the right places, moves really well, and isn't drowning my figure in fabric. To prevent it falling apart at the seams from overuse, I am going to make a few more in fabrics picked up on our eastbound adventures. I have a white and black polka dot shirting that would be so sweet in this pattern, with little black buttons marching up the band. 

Also, thank you so much for all your kind words, last week. June is definitely a better month than May, around here. Sam is hale and hearty, our house has yet to explode again, and I'm spending an inordinate amount of time in my sewing room. Summer is shaping up rather nicely, after all. 

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Mood Fabrics Italian Batiste-4893

Note: The fabric for this project was given to me by Mood Fabrics free of charge, as part of my participation in the Mood Sewing Network. I picked it out, however, and all opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Miss Irene Lights up the Night: McCall's 7351

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Japanese Lantern Cotton-1-2

There are times when sewing is more than a craft. 

In graduate school, this hobby was something I could conquer and control within a set time frame. That last part was particularly important. My dissertation was a year-long process of frantic writing and re-writing, but a few hours was all it took to make a well-fitting dress. Such quick project resolutions were a godsend, especially in comparison to the graduate work that wouldn't end. 

Nowadays, sewing tends to be a more practical part of life. I sew, because I don't really buy ready-to-wear anymore. Other than jeans, sweaters, and lingerie, everything in my closet is homemade. If I want a new dress, or a cute off-the-shoulder blouse, I raid the fabric closet and make it myself. It's fun, but it's rarely a case of true mental self-care. 

Until last month, of course.

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Japanese Lantern Cotton-28

Sam and I had a week from hell, y'all. Right after school ended, we were supposed to embark on an epic road trip of the Southeast. Instead, the night before our trip began, the plumbing in our mid-century house went haywire. Our master bath flooded, all plumbing in the house became unusable, and it took plumbers four days to show up and fix the problem.

Meanwhile, poor Sam came down with a vicious stomach bug. The universe has a damn fine sense of humor, kittens. 

So, our trip was put on hold and we were landlocked. First, in a hotel room, then finally back at our own house, as the beloved recuperated. Sewing became a matter of sanity preservation, once again. In that one week, I cut out and sewed four more variations of McCall's 7351. While there are other patterns in my queue, I wanted solace from my sewing. I needed to make pieces that would definitely work out and would instantly fit into my wardrobe. Shirtdresses were a guaranteed win on all fronts. 

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Japanese Lantern Cotton-42

I'm going to combine the other dresses into one big post, but this first one deserved special attention. Not only is the fabric a beloved piece, but this dress was a template for the other three. After my last version of M7351, I changed the pattern to better suit my preferences. 

While I loved the casual elegance of that straight skirt, it wasn't terribly comfortable to wear. It felt more restrictive than I'm used to and made me long for a pair of Spanx. In order to make the straight skirt silhouette work for me, I made a few crucial changes: 
  1. Widened the skirt by four inches. 
  2. Changed the shape to a slight A-line. 
  3. Added four darts at the front and four darts at the back, for a better fit at the waist. 
The end result is a dress that has the same casual feel of the original design, but skims my lower body more. It's still a much different silhouette than M6696 or the full-skirted M7351. With the shirt-tail hem and A-line shape, it's almost like an elongated man's shirt. You know, with that all important waist definition. 

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Japanese Lantern Cotton -- back and front

It's funny, I'm still calling this McCall's 7351, but I've certainly veered away from the original pattern. The silhouette may be similar, but between bodice and skirt changes over multiple versions, the pattern pieces themselves look radically different. I've somehow turned a simple, two dart shirtdress into a project with twelve darts! Mary Danielson Perry: complicating the issue since 1985. 

I love where the fit has ended up. The waist lays closer than the original and the bodice fits so nicely that I've already turned it into a button-down shirt pattern, as well. The experiments won't end there either. I'm currently testing how this pattern looks with the pleated skirt of M6696. I'm guessing it's going to be winner, as well. This pattern is such a great canvas for design alterations. 

This fabric, as mentioned, is a favorite of mine. It was a gift from my mother, for my thirtieth birthday, last year. That comes as no surprise, if you've met her. My love of bright novelty prints on black backgrounds comes honestly, friends! This is a Japanese cotton print from B&J Fabrics, but no longer available on their site. It's a lightweight broadcloth with a crisp hand and, as you can see, is covered in lovely, colorful paper lanterns. The color palette is a retro mix of earth tones and muted pastels, which balances the sweetness of the print in such a great way. Mom has awesome taste, right?

I only had three yards of fabric, so barely eked out this dress. To cut corners, I used a pale dotted yellow cotton batiste as the yoke lining and bias bindings. Apart from the under-stitching on the yellow, the whole dress was sewn and top-stitched with black thread. It breaks up the print enough to make the details pop. Huzzah!

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Japanese Lantern Cotton-14

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Japanese Lantern Cotton-39

Now, I know the whole world is posting shirtdresses right now. Between the McCall's sew-along and all the new patterns coming out, it's a great time to practice your shirt-making skills. You might be tired of all those collars and buttons marching into your feeds, but...I am probably going to keep posting them. I did once promise to make 1000 of the things, after all. 

This one, at least, did its job well. Not only is it on constant rotation in my wardrobe, but it was the perfect comfort project for that hellish week. Luckily, since then, things have looked up! We went on an attenuated version of that trip, safely made it through the Southeast to visit Sam's family, and returned home to delighted dogs and a perfectly working plumbing system. 

Small victory, but I'll take it! 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Miss Irene is for the Birds: McCall's 7351

Idle Fancy - McCalls 7351 - Bird Print Shirtdress-1-2

Good evening, kittens! After too many weekends on the road, Sam and I are spending this one firmly ensconced at home. The NBA Finals are on TV, both dogs are napping by the back door, and an impressive line of thunderstorms is moving in. We couldn't ask for a lazier, more peaceful Saturday off. Dog snores and all.

At some point, I have a book to finish writing and this month's Knipmode project to trace out, but we're not going to dwell on that right now. Instead, let's dive into my comfort zone.

Oh look, I made another shirtdress!

Idle Fancy - McCalls 7351 - Bird Print Shirtdress-1-5 

After the rousing success of my first McCall's 7351 shirtdress, I began work on another variation. The slim style and shirt-tail hem of View A piqued my interest. It's a more casual, modern silhouette than the full skirts overflowing my closet. We could blame personal style for that oversight,'s a complicated issue. Slimmer skirts easily verge into sexy secretary territory on me, thanks to the ratios of my curves. The A-line of this skirt had potential, though, and I was willing to experiment.

Even better, I had the perfect fabric in my stash. This navy blue cotton twill from Mood has a good deal of stretch and is covered in realistic bird illustrations. Y'all, I'm trying really hard not to make obvious Portlandia jokes right now. It might be a losing battle. Anyhow, I'm a sucker for novelty prints and stretch cottons. The heft of this twill is a true medium weight, with a super crisp drape, making it ideal for the tailored details of a shirtdress. It washed and pressed like a dream.

Sewing with it was another matter. It turns out the stretch threads in this fabric are delicate, prone to snagging and running. They caught on my scissors, my rotary cutter, and even my sewing table. This cotton needed babying like you wouldn't believe. The birds are worth it, but I was glad to have the project finished without incident. Visions of massive, dress-ruining runs danced in my mind. 

The actual pattern came together without incident. Once again, I sewed almost everything by machine. Top-stitching, how I love you. The yoke and armscye bindings are finished with the same fabric, while every other seam was serged with white thread. Once the seams were finished, I didn't have any further trouble with the fabric. It was only the raw edges that made it so finicky. 

As you might notice, this dress is not pattern matched. The scale on this cotton was large and I didn't have enough fabric to pull it off. Instead, I paid close attention to the layout, while cutting things out. All the birds are situated right side up and there aren't any terrible twining repeats. Let's call that a win, shall we?

My alterations were the standard stuff, only slightly different from my last version. The one inch FBA remained, along with the lengthened darts, but I narrowed the shoulder further and raised the armscye by almost an inch. The bodice fit is exactly where I want it now. Everything is spot on, from the collar size (still awesome!) to the bodice ease. Hooray! That means I need to make six more of these dresses, to revel in the fit a bit more. 

As for the slim skirt, I'm actually torn. I blended from the size 20 bodice to a size 22 at the skirt, to accommodate my hips properly. This gave me enough ease and resulted in a dress identical to that on the pattern envelope. Objectively, I know it looks good. The fit is nice, it's a chic silhouette, and all is as imagined. Only...

I like a fuller skirt. Surprise!

This dress looks great, I'm simply not as comfortable in it.  Perhaps with more wear that will change? It doesn't have me reaching for Spanx, but I'm also more conscious of what I'm wearing than I normally would be. This, my dears, is why I never make wiggle dresses anymore. They sit in my closet, admired, but unloved. If this skirt were a true pencil shape, it would be doomed. 

Luckily, the A-line is easy enough to wear. I still like the silhouette quite a bit, as well. It would look sensational made up in a light blue chambray for summer. I will probably tinker with the skirt a little bit, adding more ease, while keeping the simplified shape. We shall see...

In the meantime, I'm digging both the birds and this pattern. You can tell it's a winner, because collars and buttons are all I want to sew right now. Every length of fabric in my stash seems ideal for a shirtdress. I should take advantage of this mojo, before summer comes and my obsession with light, breezy knits returns. Today, I fantasized about a red polka dot Myrtle dress, so that time may be all too soon!

Note: The fabric for this project was provided by Mood Fabrics, as part of my participation in the Mood Sewing Network. It was chosen by me, however, and all opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Miss Iris Digs for Victory: McCall's 7351

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Mood Fabrics - Floral Cotton Sateen -4-2

It's remarkable how quickly things change in the sewing world. Of all the sub-cultures I'm involved with, this industry is by far the most responsive to changing consumer demands. In just the five years I've been blogging, we've seen a remarkable expansion of size ranges for many pattern companies, an increase in youthful, modern design aesthetics, and a greater availability of apparel fabrics from major suppliers and retailers. 

On a more personal note, shirtdresses are also everywhere nowadays. Once upon a time, I couldn't find a single pattern that I liked. Options in my size were severely limited and those available took too many cheats--collars without stands, no separate button bands, and other things that made me want to turn green and start throwing cars. Cut to this year. Last month, I wrote a post for the Curvy Sewing Collective outlining plus size options for shirtdresses. There were so many great patterns that I had to actively cull my list to a top eleven. The mind, it boggles. 

With so many new patterns available, it's time to (temporarily) retire my go-to shirtdress, McCall's 6696. While I still love its classic styling, there are too many new designs calling my name. Why tread over familiar ground, when there's a whole world of shirtdresses waiting to be explored?

First up on my list, we have View D of McCall's 7351. Admittedly, I didn't stray far from the familiar here. Baby steps, kittens. This is every inch a classic, fit-and-flare shirtdress. There are separate button bands, a stand collar, and darted bodice. Unlike M6696, however, this dress has a semi-circle skirt and omits the separate waistband with belt loops. Those are actually major improvements over my TNT pattern in one way: construction time. From cutting to hemming, this dress took me three nights of sewing, or about five hours total. Maybe I'm a slow sewer, but M6696 usually takes me at least eight hours from start to finish. 

Based on ease of sewing alone, this new pattern is a winner!

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Mood Fabrics - Floral Cotton Sateen -18-2

Of course, some adjustments were made. If you look at the line drawing above, you'll notice that M7351 is a single-dart bodice. Though the pattern comes with different cup sizes (up to a D-cup) that original design was a no-go for me. Based on my high bust, I chose size 20, which would still need a complete Full Bust Adjustment. That FBA meant either creating one gigantic dart or adding a second dart along the waistline. Y'all, I am not a masochist. Preservation of design integrity is all well and good, but I went with the second option. 

Behold, my new bodice!

Why, yes, it is a grotesque and terrifying monster. I'm actually working with a clean version of this bodice now, but I thought you'd like to see all the changes in action. Here's the full line-up of alterations:
  1. Full Bust Adjustment -- I added one inch to the bodice pattern, which is two inches of ease total. This added a second dart along the waist seam, pointing directly at my bust apex. 
  2. Lengthened Darts -- After an initial muslin, I knew the darts needed quite a bit of added length, because they were pointy and ended on the side of my bust. Egads! This is pretty standard for me in cup-sized patterns, actually. Perhaps my bosoms are just weirdly spaced for their size, but I'm forever lengthening darts. An added two inches of length worked nicely.
  3. Narrow Shoulder Adjustment -- I narrowed the shoulder by 1/2 inch and will probably narrow it further on my next version. 
  4. Reshaped Armscye -- This was actually done after the version of M7351 that you're seeing today. Initially I thought it was low, but perfectly fine since it didn't expose my bra at all. After wearing it once in public, I've rethought that decision and raised the armscyes by 3/4 inch. 
On the back bodice, my only alterations were to narrow the shoulder and raise the armscye, in conjunction with my front pattern piece. Otherwise, the back bodice fit was on point. 

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Mood Fabrics - Floral Cotton Sateen -24-2

When it comes to the final fit, I really like this pattern. It's demonstrably looser than my TNT pattern, but that gives it a more relaxed, casual vibe that I dig. I didn't take any pictures sans belt, so you'll have to trust me on this one, but there's a pretty large amount of ease at the waist specifically. This prevents the button band from gaping and seems intentional, judging from the modeled photos. 

Without the belt, this dress almost has a Grainline Alder silhouette, though it's not nearly as loose. With the belt, there's a classic, blousy Romancing the Stone sort of look happening. This does cause some shifting of the loose fabric, but I like the extra ease a lot. When summer rolls around in Texas, a relaxed shirtdress is a godsend. 

Additionally, the collar on this pattern is fabulous. If you had trouble with M6696 being way oversized at the neck, you're going to love M7351. If I put a button at the collar band, it would actually close and fit my neck properly! Admittedly, I didn't put one there, but...nonetheless. 

I swear to God, the top-stitching is even. Weird camera angles FTW?

If you're drooling over this fabric, I have good news for you. This floral cotton sateen is from Mood, comes in three colorways, and is still available. I chose the medium beige color, because I couldn't stop imagining an updated take on the iconic khaki shirtdress. It's archaeology* chic with flowers. Who could resist? 

This entire dress was sewn on a machine, because top-stitching is both a detail and a shortcut. Huzzah for shortcuts! I chose a khaki thread slightly lighter than the khaki of my fabric, so that it would pop against the print. Then, I set my stitch length a little longer than usual (2.8), popped on my edge stitching foot, and sewed everything slowly and carefully. The buttons, a neutral tortoiseshell, are from JoAnn Fabrics. 

*I have been informed by dear archaeologist friends that dig clothes are actually loose, covered in dirt, and imminently practical. Personally, I will continue to imagine The Mummy--khaki, linen, and really awesome boots. 

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Mood Fabrics - Floral Cotton Sateen -22-2

Y'all, I adore this dress. The full skirt, that perfect collar. It's such a dishy variation on my favorite style. Despite my pledge to sew all the shirtdress patterns, my next project is actually another version of M7351. This one will have the dipped hem and narrower skirt of View A, which looks lovely in the line drawing. After that, I have my eye on Style Arc's Italia dress

What are you sewing right now, friends? Is anyone else giving one of these new shirtdress patterns a try, this spring?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Miss Charlotte Rides at Night: Knipmode 11/2015

Knipmode Riding Jacket (11-2015) - Mood Fabrics Combed Cotton - Idle Fancy-1

When I picked up sewing again, back in graduate school, it was for one reason only. I adore clothes. That's practically heresy, these days. We live in the age of capsule wardrobes and Mark Zuckerberg's gray t-shirt. In every other fashion trend piece, closets are decluttered or wardrobes are simplified. 

While monitoring consumption and organizing one's life are signs of responsible adulthood, I can't bring myself to emotionally detach from clothing. A lifelong love of garments has shaped me, in so many ways. I'm better versed in Hitchcock films than 90's Nickelodeon shows, because Grace Kelly's costumes made my pre-teen heart flutter. My hair is forever a semi-natural blonde, because the one time I dyed it red, all of my clothes suddenly looked wrong. Hell, part of the reason I fell in love with Sam--apart from his boundless kindness, deep appreciation of Star Wars, and wickedly sharp sense of humor--is because the man jumped at the chance to wear a plaid, velvet smoking jacket at our wedding.

Clothes have always been, and continue to be, the way I express myself to the world. Recently, I've sought to perfect that expression. For eons, I've had a list of dream garments, pieces I've always wanted to own, but haven't had the patience to sew. This list includes ball gowns, another vintage-inspired suit, and a tailored riding jacket.

Tonight, there's a line checked off that list. 

Knipmode Riding Jacket (11-2015) - Mood Fabrics Combed Cotton - Idle Fancy-16

This is, quite obviously, my riding jacket! Yep, the one I've been teasing forever. As you might have noticed by my process shots on Instagram, this garment was quite the endeavor. Construction took six weeks from muslin to finished project, with a break to rest my shoulder, and was every bit a labor of love. 

To get started on this sartorial odyssey, let's talk about the pattern. As a base for this jacket, I used the leather riding jacket from Knipmode's November 2015 issue, which is also available as a PDF download. This pattern is absolutely gorgeous, as is. It features a cascading, circular hemline, a close-fitting princess-seamed bodice, funnel neckline, and shoulder epaulettes. Both the jacket and the sleeves are accented with functional metal zippers. 

All in all, it's a fabulous pattern...if you want a leather riding jacket. I did not. Instead, I imagined something a bit more Victorian. Keep the princess seams and that swirling hemline, but nix the more modern details. Instead of shoulder epaulettes and zippers, I'd sub in softly puffed sleeves and woven frogging down the bodice. The collar would shrink into a smaller stand collar and cuffs would finish the sleeves. 

I sketched out my ideas, plotting changes to the construction order and researching techniques to use throughout the project. Knipmode's instructions are not only in Dutch, but pretty bare bones, so I didn't bother translating them. Instead, I used resource books to guide the way. I'm still a bit of a novice, when it comes to sewing jackets and coats. With all the warm, sunny weather we get in Texas, they're usually pretty low on my sewing itinerary. By the time I feel like sewing one, winter is halfway over! Jackets for Real People and Claire B. Shaeffer's Couture Sewing: Tailoring Techniques were both godsends. While I didn't go full out on the tailoring, this was a good project to ease into high end coating techniques with. 

Fit wise, I started with a blend of sizes 46/48, which roughly translated to my measurements. Before the first muslin, I did an FBA on the princess-seams, to make room for my very full bust, and narrowed the shoulders by quite a bit. On the second muslin, I added more room to the upper sleeve piece and smoothed out the bust curve to better match my own. After two muslins, the fit was exactly where I wanted it: close enough to fit like a true riding jacket, but with enough ease to wear over blouses. One of my favorite things about Knipmode patterns is that they're definitely drafted for taller women. American patterns are universally too short for my 5'8" frame, but I haven't added length to a Knipmode pattern yet! This one fell exactly as pictured on the fit model, with the peplum starting right at my waist and the front skirt falling to the fullest part of my hip. Huzzah!

Knipmode Riding Jacket (11-2015) - Mood Fabrics Combed Cotton - Idle Fancy-7

Knipmode Riding Jacket (11-2015) - Mood Fabrics Combed Cotton - Idle Fancy-8

When I started fantasizing about this jacket, I imagined it done up in a stretch black velvet. In the end, though, I found something even better. This fabric is a dark emerald combed cotton suiting, from Mood Fabrics, which sold out almost instantly. I actually had to order two shorter pieces, just to eke out this pattern! Absolutely worth it, y'all. This fabric is gorgeous, in person. It has a shorter pile than velvet, but is still soft to the touch and has a subtle luster to the fibers. The color reads less like emerald than the description suggested, but more like a very dark British racing green

Love. It. 

There was a bit of deliberation about embellishments, thanks to this color. Originally, I'd planned to do black-on-black, but the green opened up such possibilities! A lighter mint would've lent a luxe, Georgian quality to the final product. Gold could've been fit for a royal. In the end, I obviously opted for classic black. I want to wear this jacket as much as humanly possible, so neutral was the way to go! I ordered black rayon seam binding and black woven frogs (3"), then sat around twiddling my thumbs. 

When I finally got around to cutting out the jacket itself, I treated the combed cotton as I would a velvet. All the pieces were cut in the same direction, so that the nap wasn't going up on some and down on others, and on a single layer to avoid crushing the pile. To further prevent crushing that precious pile while pressing, I covered my ironing board in a towel and used a discarded scrap of velvet as a press cloth. A light hand, loads of steam, and all went well! 

Knipmode Riding Jacket (11-2015) - Mood Fabrics Combed Cotton - Idle Fancy-21

Knipmode Riding Jacket (11-2015) - Mood Fabrics Combed Cotton - Idle Fancy-20

As mentioned, I cobbled together the construction for this beauty. The bodice is fully lined in rayon crepe, which is covered in bees, because...bees, y'all. I snagged this fabric eons ago, from Harts Fabrics, but you can get the exact same stuff in a sage green colorway from Amazon. It's super lightweight and breathable, making a perfect lining for such a close-fitting jacket. I skipped the lining on the skirt, since it would show through on that back drape. Instead, I bound all the exposed seams in black rayon binding, pressed them open, and called it a day. 

There's a full neckline/frogging band facing on the inside, as well. Collars can be turned without a facing, of course, but I liked having that bit of extra stability around the neck. The edges of this facing were also bound in black rayon, then hand-stitched to the lining. I even embroidered a gold M, at the center back of my neck facing, for some added whimsy. 

My last big construction note is about the sleeves. That's the one area where I wish I'd thrown out all the stops on tailoring. They're lightly puffed, as I wanted, but flimsy in motion. I added a small, flannel sleeve head underneath, but a beefier one and some extra structure at the seam would go a long way there. Alas, no one but another sewer would notice that. As ever, sewing is all about constantly learning and getting better. In my next jacket or coat? Those shoulders will be sturdy as can be.

Knipmode Riding Jacket (11-2015) - Mood Fabrics Combed Cotton - Idle Fancy-22

Honestly, kittens, I could write on forever about this jacket. For now, though, I'll wrap things up. I'm planning another post on how I use Knipmode patterns, from subscribing to translating. Other people have expressed interest in this and other patterns, so I thought that might make things easier for those who want more information!

As for this jacket, I'm over the moon. This piece is completely inappropriate for all the spring weather we’re having now, but it doesn’t matter. I love it! 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.

Note: The fabric used for this project was provided for review by Mood Fabrics, as part of my participation in the Mood Sewing Network. However, I chose the fabric for this project myself and all opinions are my own. There are no affiliate links in this post. 

Knipmode Riding Jacket (11-2015) - Mood Fabrics Combed Cotton - Idle Fancy-10

Listening: Angela by The Lumineers
Reading: The Dutch Girl by Donna Thorland