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

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