The quilted, naturally dyed jacket #sewfrosting

Haori 1

This autumn the #sewfrosting challenge was taking the sewing community by storm. Initiated by Heather Lou from Closet Case Patterns and Kelli from True Bias, the premise of the challenge was to sew something that wasn’t “cake” (a wardrobe basic) but to sew “frosting” (something frivolous, fun). I loved the idea and immediately started scheming when the challenge was announced. Very quickly I decided I wanted to make a quilted coat. I’ve been loving Natalie Ebaugh’s and Hannah Miley’s quilted coats. And when I saw this stunning quilt from Salt + Still it was clear that I wanted it to be a quilted coat using naturally dyed fabric.

My original inspiration. From left to right: Natalie Ebaugh, Hannah Miley, Salt + Still

As the base pattern for the jacket I decided to use the Wiksten Haori, a pattern that I’ve been meaning to make for ages. Due to it’s simplicity and oversized nature it was perfect for the quilting that I was planning. If you are wondering what an Haori is, I recommend reading Jenny’s blog post on why the name of the Wiksten Kimono was changed to Wiksten Haori.

The ones that follow me on Instagram know that in November I spent a few days doing a lot of natural dyeing. I started with a cotton table cloth and a cotton/linen curtain; both old and stained / with some holes, which luckily wasn’t a problem for the project I was planning with it. Then I dyed pieces of the fabric in all the colours that I could find.

The starting point: an unassuming stack of white fabric

I don’t have a lot of experience with natural dyeing, apart from some indigo and avocado dyeing (like my Blaire Shirt), but I was keen to experiment a little. The whole dyeing process was very intuitive. I basically just used what I could find in my parents house and garden. Once a year they have a little natural dyeing festival, so they actually have some dye plants in the garden. I even was able to save some Madder root, that my mother was getting rid of, since it is growing like weeds. If you want more details on the whole process, I have saved everything in my story highlights section on Instagram.

I won’t go through the whole process, but basically I used soy milk on all the fabric as a mordant and prepared the dye bath in either cold or hot water. I played around with the temperature to figure out what worked best for each colour. Except for some iron liquor (home made) on eucalyptus (from our France holiday) I didn’t use any agents to change the colour. I also didn’t use any fixatives, since I found with my avocado dyed clothes that the colour keeps surprisingly well. We’ll see how well the other colours hold up.

My dye charts, these are so satisfying to make. I only changed the temperature and dye intensity to achieve the different colours for each dye material.

The whole dyeing process was super fun and I loved creating a whole rainbow of colours. I’m by no means an expert in natural dyeing but I learned a few things along the way:

  • Make sure to spin out the soy milk/water mixture in the washing machine and don’t wring it out by hand, otherwise you’ll end up with uneven dye patterns.
  • Be patient. Some colours take more time to extract than others. Avocado skins and pits for example take a while to release the colour.
  • Start with low temperatures. Some colours (e.g. from the sunflower seeds) change colour when they come to a boil. In most cases the colours turn into a grey/brown, which you might want to avoid.
  • Start with little fabric swatches to get a feel for how potent the dye is. Once you know the dye is potent enough start adding bigger pieces. This obviously works best when you are doing a quilt rather than trying to dye lengths of fabric for a garment.
  • Accept that the colours might change with exposure to sun and that the colours will fade quicker than chemically dyed fabric. My avocado dyed shirt has shifted into a slightly warmer colour over time. I love the fact that the colours change, in exchange the natural colours have a lot more depth than anything chemically dyed.
  • Natural dye keeps very well if stored in a plastic container. I had some left-over avocado dye that I made in September, and two month later it still worked perfectly. Just make sure to strain it properly before storing, to ensure that no plant pieces are left in the liquid that could start molding.
  • Experiment! I was in such a dyeing frenzy that I just tried random stuff that I could find. For example with the bay leaves, I didn’t know that you could dye with them, and even less that they would give a beautiful pink, such a lovely surprise!

There is definitely a lot more that I can learn about natural dyeing and I can’t attest to the longevity of the colours yet, since I have only hand washed them in water so far. For this project though I’m not that concerned, since I won’t be washing it a lot. For anyone interested in getting into natural dyeing, I can highly recommend the book “The Modern Natural Dyer” by Kristine Vejar , Rebecca Desnos’ blog and the Skillshare Course “Natural Dyeing: Transform Cloth Using Food Dyes” with The Dogwood Dyer.

A rainbow of natural colours

Once I had my stack of fabrics, I had to decide on how I would want to use them on the jacket. Originally I had planned to stick to a limited colour palette but then I got carried away in the dyeing process. Once I was done, I had grown attached to each colour and was unable to narrow it down. I was afraid I would end up with a crazy jacket if I used all of them, so I consulted Instagram. In the end most people supported the colourful jacket idea and I decided to go for it, it was for #sewfrosting after all!

Trying to figure out the design

Once I had roughly decided on a design (one front in cool colours, the other in warm and the back with a colour gradient) I started piecing the quilt. To make it all manageable to quilt and to avoid wasting precious fabric I decided to assemble and quilt each jacket piece individually. For that I cut the pieces in a lining fabric (a beautiful block printed cotton that my husband brought back from India a few years back) and the cotton batting. Then I arranged the dyed fabric pieces on top to roughly work out the design. For the piecing I worked with a mixture of machine quilting (for the larger pieces) and hand stitching (for the smaller accent pieces). Already in the dyeing process I had cut all the swatches on grain, so that I decided to fringe some of the smaller pieces and applique them on top. Finally I hand-quilted everything using a vintage linen thread that I had picked up at a flea market this summer.

Vintage linen thread from the flea market. This design is to beautiful!
Quilting on the train with my trusty Field bag and Sashiko needles from Fringe Supply Co.

I really enjoyed the whole quilting process; especially because I was working on it while the jacket was in pieces ,which meant that it was the perfect project to work on while travelling or in front of the television. In terms of quilting pattern, I decided to follow all the joining seam lines and add additional Boro stitching in different places. The linen fabric had a few little holes, so I focused first on adding reinforcing stitches there. The rest of the quilting didn’t follow a strict pattern, my only aim was to create a balanced design overall.

Once the individual pieces were quilted I assembled the Haori. First the fronts, back and the sleeves. The collar I slimmed down to remove the fold-over detail, which would have been too bulky in the quilted fabric. To finish the seams and the sleeve hems I cut strips of left over fabric and bound them by hand. For the bottom hem I decided to just fold both the outer and the inner fabric to the inside and close the seam with a blind stitch. You may notice, that I left off the big patch pockets of the original pattern. I thought they would have made the pattern too busy with all the quilting going on. Instead I decided to add one pocket to the inside.

The pattern is super straight-forward to assemble, though I had to change the order of construction quite a few times. I chose to make a size M (which corresponds to my hip measurements) and I’m happy I did. While it is designed as quite an oversized jacket, I need the room to be able to move around in this thick fabric.

Phew, what a long post! For everyone making it that far, congrats!

This project definitely was a labour of love, and I’m not sure if I would have ever tackled such a big and crazy project if it wasn’t for #sewfrosting. So thanks Heather Lou and Kelli for initiating such a fun challenge! During the process it often felt more like working on a piece of art rather than sewing a garment, since it was so intuitive and the outcome so unpredictable. And I have to say, it was such a satisfying experience! I also decided to take it really slow and hand sew the majority of it. That meant my fingers had blisters at the end and I missed the deadline of the challenge by a month. But it was so worth it!

The first outing for this Wiksten Haori was my uncle’s birthday last weekend. He is an artist, so it was the perfect setting and such a great conversation starter too!

In my uncle’s atelier, the perfect environment for this Haori

The one thing that I have taken away from this project is that I love working on projects where the fabrics and colours guide me and I don’t have to strictly follow instructions. I’ve never really identified as an artist (more as a crafter/maker) but this project really felt like art and I had so much fun! And yes, I do feel a little bit like a crazy lady in this jacket; and I don’t think I will wear it out a ton. But I love it nonetheless!

So here is to the new year, to taking risks, to making art and creating something crazy once in a while. Happy 2019 everyone!

Summer of Basics Part 1 – The Tello Jacket

After all the fun I had last year with my Summer of Basics (here the final outfit from 2017) I knew that I wanted to participate this year as well. I love the concept of focusing on making three basics over the course of the summer. I’ve already shared my plans for this year on Instagram (see here). Like last year I’m planning to make a full outfit. The first garment from my list (my June project) was a work wear jacket, and (spoiler alert) I love the final garment!

But let’s start from the beginning. I love sewing outerwear and wanted to make a casual jacket that I could easily throw over everything. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of workwear inspired jackets in the shops and after trying some of them on I was determined to create something similar. Here a couple of my favourites.

Source: Toast, French Connection

Looking for a pattern, the Tello Jacket by Pauline Alice Patterns immediately came to mind. I’ve been seeing some lovely versions popping up recently (e.g. Sara’s or Clare’s). While the design is slightly different to what I was looking for, I knew it would be easy to adapt it.

Regarding the fabric, I had ordered some natural bull denim from Empress Mill, originally to make some Lander pants. When it arrived I loved the texture but thought it might be slightly too thick and stiff for trousers, perfect for a jacket though.

To get the style I was after, I made a number of changes to the pattern

  • First I made a straight size 42, which corresponds to my hip measurements but is two sizes larger than my bust. Since I was going for an oversized look, I decided to size up slightly.
  • The front facing of the original is curved at the bottom but I wanted a straighter look so I squared it off.
  • I slightly widened the sleeves for a more relaxed fit, necessary with this heavy fabric.
  • The original collar is a lot more pointy. I sewed it up as is first, but decided it was looking too 70s; I however was going for more of a Japanese style look. At that point the collar was already attached to the jacket, so I decided to just opened the seam at the collar points, make them more square and top stitch them down. Surely not best sewing practice but I don’t think it’s noticeable.
  • Finally I changed the pockets. The original pattern has one zipped breast pocket and the lower pockets extend over the side seams. To match my original inspiration I decided to just stick with patch pockets. One of the upper pockets attached on the inside. This was a feature that I saw on one of the ready-to-wear jackets and really liked. It’s perfect to keep my phone secure. The pockets were all attached through the facing, which keeps the latter in place.

So that’s it. A long list of changes but all of them easy to make. I think this pattern is a great starting point for a jacket style like this. The instructions are great and it has lovely details such as the elbow darts. I finished all seams with bias binding, which gives it a clean look and a pop of colour on the inside. I also added a hook from bias tape, which I attached with bar tacks. The buttons are simple plastic ones from John Lewis.

While I was sewing the jacket, I wasn’t 100% sure if I would like the finished garment, it looked shapeless and in this calico a bit like a muslin. However, now that it’s finished I love wearing it! It’s such a great simple summer jacket, which goes well with a lot of my wardrobe at the moment. I was contemplating dyeing it (I already sewed it up with cotton thread so it would take the dye) but this off white is growing on me. So for now I’ll keep it as it is, I can always change my mind and dye at a later stage.

I hope you are ready for a lot of pictures. It’s the first time that we are taking pictures here in Colmar and there are so many great back-drops!

Oh and this? Just me casually walking along a colourful wall. I didn’t know that this was so difficult. How does everyone else make this look so effortless?

 

Linen Biker Jacket

Linen Jacket_0Just in time for Me Made May 2016 I’ve added another staple to my wardrobe, a cream coloured light weight biker jacket.

I’ve had this lovely herringbone linen sitting in my stash for quite a while. My mother picked it out for me and I’ve been looking for the perfect pattern since to do this gorgeous fabric justice. When my friend brought me back a Patrones sewing magazine from Spain last year and I saw the biker jacket on the cover I knew I had found the perfect match.

Since I hadn’t sewn anything from a Patrones pattern before I decided to do a full muslin. It’s very rare that I actually make muslins; in most cases I just use cheap fabric to try out a pattern. In this case I actually really enjoyed the muslin process. It’s a lot more fun when it’s a complex garment and the muslining feels like proper engineering. The fit actually wasn’t too bad from the start. I made a Spanish size 42. As expected I had to lengthen the sleeves and the body. I also took in the shoulders and added more room around the hips. Thanks to the princess seams at the front and back it was very simple to make adjustments to the pattern.

The construction itself unfortunately didn’t go that smoothly. The linen as well as the Cupro Bemberg lining were very shifty and it was impossible to be exact in the cutting. Instead of using some stabilizer, I decided to just forge ahead; after all I was going for the crumpled linen look which should allow for some inaccuracies.

The instructions, like Burda Style instructions, were very sparse, so I abandoned them quite quickly and treated the pattern like a jigsaw puzzle. As I had figured out the basic construction when doing the muslin I thought it wouldn’t be very difficult to sew up the final garment. I was wrong… Only after 2 hours of pocket construction and topstitching I realised that I had mixed up the front and back side pieces. I had to take the whole thing apart and re-do it. The positive thing though, I can now construct princess seam pockets in my sleep ;-) For some reason I also managed to attach the sleeves the wrong way round, making the whole thing look like a straitjacket. Oh and when I put in the zipper I realised that the jacket closes the wrong way round. Why? Because I used the photo on the cover of the magazine to figure out the construction of the zip and not the technical drawing. The photo, I only later realised, was back to front. I should really learn to label my fabric pieces properly, especially with a fabric that looks the same on both sides!

To finish the jacket I attached the lining at the hems by hand. For the fastenings I used a copper metal zipper and coordinating sew-on snaps which I got from MacCulloch & Wallis, together with the lining. I just love the copper against the cream fabric!

It is a little bit hard to see in the photos, but the jacket has lovely curved seams which I highlighted with some subtle topstitching. I especially like the little detail where the shoulder piece meets the princess seam. The pockets are tiny, as expected since they are sitting in the princess seams. I still decided to keep them as I love how the pale blue lining peeks out and I like to be able to put my hands somewhere.

Linen Jacket_1Linen Jacket_2Linen Jacket_3Linen Jacket_4Linen Jacket_5Linen Jacket_6aWhile this jacket definitely was not my smoothest and most accurate make I ended up with a lovely summer jacket. I know I will get a lot of wear out of it now that it is warming up here in the UK. Yay, to versatile garments, that you can add to any outfit! Here I paired it with a rtw t-shirt and my favourite high-waisted Ginger Jeans.

Happy Me Made May everyone!

Linen Jacket_7