Jacket closeup

I sewed a denim jacket! I had never even considered the possibility until I saw one turn up at Pattern Review, and it got the wheels turning. “Wait a minute….I have that marvelous Liberty of London twill that I bought, and I have been wondering what to make with it. I’ll bet it would look great as a denim jacket!”

(NOTE: If you’d prefer to read the somewhat shorter review I did on Pattern Review, you can find it HERE.)

Marvelous Liberty of London twill?? Yes! In July 2014 we visited London, and I came across Shaukat as a place for Liberty of London fabric. I thought it would be a good place to look for some fabric for a shirt for my husband. I would say Shaukat is THE place for Liberty of London fabric! Wow. And just a few feet inside the door, I saw this brushed twill version of the “Tresco” print, and it took my breath away. Two meters of it was my big souvenir from the trip. 

Tresco1

Choosing and Testing the Pattern
I was pleased to find there were jeans jacket pattern options from both Kwik Sew and Jalie, two of my favorite pattern companies. Unfortunately, they were all out-of-print. But with all our fabulous online resources, the upside is that one can still hunt for out-of-print patterns on Etsy and Ebay…AND there are sometimes PDF versions still available for printing. 

Kwiksew 488

I actually started off by purchasing this “vintage” Kwik Sew pattern. I’m guessing it must have been released in the 70’s. After measuring the finished dimensions, I quickly realized that I would have to make a muslin in the largest size and hope for the best. The current Kwik Sew patterns all seem to be overly generous in size (at least the knit patterns), but not this one! The muslin quickly brought it home that I’d need to do some serious drafting or look for another pattern. I decided to look for a different pattern. (I still think it is a great pattern if the sizing works out for you.)

2320

After revisiting reviews on Pattern Review, I decided to bite the bullet and go for Jalie 2320, which I was going to have to download and print myself (11 pages of instructions, 39 pages of pattern pieces!)…then tape together, then trace. I traced off a size S in most of the pieces for a fitting muslin. I skipped tracing the pockets and any interfacing pieces at this point. An added benefit of doing the muslin was getting a chance to practice attaching the collar, cuffs, and waistband. Here is a fairly rough photo of my muslin – made out of a lovely yellow sheet! 

Muslin 

 

I was pleased with how it looked over all. The pattern duplicates my 1980’s era Levis jacket (which I was pleased to have for reference throughout this project). And taking the time to make the muslin definitely paid off. The pattern is designed for the jacket to fall “just above the hips.” But as with all Jalie patterns I’ve sewn, I’m definitely shorter than their drafting model (I’m 5’3”). So the bottom of the jacket fell a few inches below the high hip, meaning the waistband wasn’t quite long enough and would not be buttonable. I saw that a size T waistband would give me an additional 2.75”. The back of the shoulders felt just a little tight when I stretched my arms forward, and the sleeves were maybe just a tad long. The body fit quite well though. 

Now it was time for big decisions. Did I want to go with a straight size T? Well, not really, since I was happy with the length and certainly didn’t want to go any longer. Did I want to shorten the sleeves? Well…maybe…maybe not…a tad long seemed to be a good length if one might turn up the cuffs. So….I decided to alter the pattern pieces for the yokes to be size T in width but kept the size S length. I did the same for the body pieces (though I actually graded from size T, to size S, to size T to keep the middle from being too boxy). And I finally decided to keep the sleeves at the same size S length and to use size S cuffs. 

IMG 3922

Deciding on Fabric Placement
Now it was time for even bigger decisions…how to color/pattern block the pieces with my fabrics. The Liberty of London twill is such a wild, marvelous floral…I knew it would be a bit much as the whole jacket. I hoped that blocking it with a traditional blue denim would tone it down just a bit, but still allow it to be showcased. After sketching and coloring many many possibilities, I finally decided to put the denim up close to my face on the collar and yokes and use the floral for the body and sleeves. I didn’t cut out the cuffs and waistband until well into making the jacket, so I could audition both fabrics and make my final choice. 

Time to Sew!
Whew – now I could finally get cutting and sewing. It took a bit of courage to cut into that wonderful Tresco twill, knowing that it was all I had, and I had no other source for it if anything went terribly wrong. 

Tresco2

What an adventure! Lots of steps, lots of pattern pieces to keep track of, lots of new techniques, lots of topstitching. I tried to stick with only working on it for an hour at a time, keeping it fun and interesting. 

Here’s the nitty gritty:

Fabric and Notions
10oz denim in washed indigo (Robert Kaufman)
Liberty of London twill Tresco print
Pro Tailor interfacing and Pellon lightweight interfacing
Guterman Mara 70 (tex 40) thread in lime green for topstitching
Jeans buttons from Wawak 

Construction
Construction was pretty straight forward. Jalie has good instructions, both in words and illustrations. I was confused a bit by the steps for creating the “welt” that fills the opening for the side pockets. I got there in the end but wonder if I should’ve not pulled the lining over quite so much as it takes a little effort for my hand to find its way into the opening. (It is camouflaged pretty well here…can you find it?) The opening is a bit small. I noticed the model on the pattern cover has her thumbs hanging out of the pockets. 

Jacket4

The only other part where the instructions stumped me a bit was sewing on the cuffs and waistband. I must’ve used the seam ripper three times when doing the first cuff on my muslin. The technique isn’t hard, but the illustration didn’t show the “right” and “wrong” sides of the cuff accurately.

Topstitching
Jacket3Of course, topstitching is a big part of this project. I would sew up as many pieces as I could before absolutely needing to topstitch, and then I’d switch out my needle for a topstitch needle, and my thread for the topstitching thread that I’d chosen.

The weight of my topstitch thread was tex 40, lighter than traditional jeans thread, but very easy to sew with. I knew it would be hard to see on the floral fabric, but it looks quite nice on the denim. I used it in the bobbin for the button holes and for any topstitching where both sides would show when worn.

For the double lines of topstitching, I sewed the first line 1/8” from the edge with a stitch length of 3.5. Then I adjusted my needle position to 5.0 (to the right of center), lined up the edge of the foot with my first line, and sewed the second line. **I also put these steps on to a sticky note that I put on my machine for reference, along with the encouragement to “remember to breathe and sew slowly.”**

The instructions say to topstitch on the top of the sleeve after it is attached to the body. This seemed odd. I checked my Levi’s jacket, and sure enough, the topstitching is on the yokes/body in that area, so I went with that. Well as I did it, I could see the attraction of doing it on the sleeve! The fabric really wanted to bunch and tuck in the curviest portion on the back part of the body towards the bottom of the arm hole (I seem to remember this same experience when I was flatfelling this area on a shirt for my husband). I pinned a bunch and did the best I could. There are some definitely little tiny tucks, but the floral fabric hides them rather well. 

For some tricky areas, like the corners on the pocket flap and the top pocket topstitching, I marked the topstitching lines. (I got this idea from Kyle in her wonderful posts on her own denim jacket HERE.  There are several posts, and she lists them at the end of this one.)

Interfacing
I originally applied the Pro Tailor interfacing to everything that I was going to interface (collar, front facings, pocket flaps, etc). But I decided I didn’t like how stiff it made the collar feel after I sewed it together (NOTE: I only interfaced one of the collar pieces). So I cut out new collar pieces and interfaced with the lighter Pellon interfacing. This led me to use the lighter interfacing on the whole cuff pieces and the whole waistband, which seems to be good. The heavier interfacing might have been fine on half of those pieces. 

The Pro Tailor did make for fairly stiff pocket flaps, which I thought I wasn’t that happy with. But when I did the buttonholes on these pieces, they turned out great, and I’m sure that had to do with the interfacing. I think it was also good that this was the interfacing I used on the front facings, where buttonholes would be sewn and buttons would be applied.

Buttonholes
Jacket5Whew – this is where I sweat the most. My machine valiantly did its best with the buttonholes, but the ones on the cuffs and the waistband were super challenging due to the fabric bulk in the corners of these areas. I even broke out my buttonhole stabilizer plate, but it didn’t do the trick for these. I finally had to do the waistband one “manually” using my regular foot and a narrow, tight zigzag.  In the future, I will definitely pay attention to trying to grade and trim seams where possible.  

I applied Fray Chek to the holes before cutting them open with my new button hole cutter, and then applied another round after cutting. The cutter worked well, but you do have to be really careful you don’t cut any of your stitches…especially if one or two of your buttonholes somehow got sewn a little narrower than you wanted. (So, I did have to repair one of my buttonholes using the stitch you’d use if you were going to hand sew a buttonhole. Thank goodness this worked really well.)

The buttonholes were quite tight when I first tried using them. I’d used the automatic buttonhole sensor foot which sizes the buttonhole using the button you’ve put in the back of it. But this doesn’t take into account the shank of the jeans buttons. I might try adjusting the foot a bit if I did jeans buttons like this in the future. (I looked at and played with the buttons on my Levi’s jacket, and they are actually pretty tight too….)

Jeans buttons
I’d never installed jeans buttons before, and it felt weird to head off to the front porch (with its low concrete walls) with a hammer, piece of spare lumber, and our channel lock pliers for a sewing project. 

I did a practice button on some spare denim using the little eyelet cutter that came in the set with the buttonhole cutter. It makes a very tiny hole. I put the tack through it, put the button face down on some lumber then hammered the tack in from the top. You have to hammer as straight as possible. I kept hammering, but I still ended up with a button that I could twist around in the denim. The tack and shaft were tight together, so I suspected that maybe that little eyelet hole had been too large.

For the “real” buttons, I took a thin nail and just barely poked a hole in the fabric. Then I pushed the tack into the hole until I could just see the tip (I didn’t pop it all the way through). I put the button face down on the wood (with a piece of fabric in between as a buffer), and then hammered the tack in from the top with a couple of good whacks of the hammer. This seemed to work. I’d brought the channel lock pliers as a “just in case.” I’d read several tips online about using them if you couldn’t get them two pieces hammered together tight enough.

Ta-da!

Jacket1 Jacket2

I’m super happy with my denim jacket! (As you can see, I went with denim for the cuffs and waistband.) It fits really well, and I learned quite a bit. I’ve been wearing it every chance I get.

Thanks for reading!

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