The great thing about sewing your own clothes is that with a bit of experimentation and imagination, you can make something totally unique that is just what you are after!
Last Winter I really wanted to make a coat that would not only keep me warm but would be water repellant, as well as keep my legs warm and dry! I had been caught in the rain too many times with soggy jeans on the school run and just needed a cosy casual layer to throw on.
Seeing the big trend of light weigh puffer style jackets, sewn using pre quilted fabric like the Meet Milk Thelma range that we stock, I started dreaming up my design using a popular pre-existing pattern - the Grainline Tamarak Jacket.
The outcome was just what I was looking for, I’ve been really pleased with it and worn it a lot! Now that the seasons have changed here again in the UK I’ve been happy to get it out for all the same reasons I loved it last winter too!
Hear me chat about how I made my version or read on for details of the modifications I made and the materials I used.
The Grainline Tamarak Jacket pattern is a simple jacket, designed to be made with wither pre-quilted fabrics, or you can quilt your own. It has welt pockets and bound edges and can worn open or closed with poppers. The original pattern just has front and back bodice and set in sleeve piece, but Grainline have now also released a ‘Hood expansion pack’, which is a PDF pattern available only directly from their website and can be printed at home on an A4 printer and stuck together easily as the hood pattern piece isn’t that big.
There is just one length on the pattern but as the side seams are pretty straight and the pattern pieces simple and few, its easy to elongate them to your preference.
For my version I lengthened the bodice by 12 inches and I worked this out by holding the pattern piece up again my body, looking in the mirror and hanging a tape measure down to the point I wanted it to come to. I then added length by drawing a line at 90 degrees to the centre front and centre back and cutting the pattern open. Then I inserted the 12 inch extra with dots and cross pattern paper so that the curved shape of the hem into the side seams was maintained.
I then held my new pattern piece up against me again and looked int he mirror to check I was happy with the new length. Bearing in mind that the botton edge hem is bound and not folded back on itself, you don’t need to build in hem allowance when lengthening it. One consideration to make at this point is the amount of ease that will be over your hips and if you hip measurement is putting you at a higher size than your bust/waist, you may want to grade out as you lengthen it.
The other modification I made was to change the pockets. I opted for patch pockets instead and I used one of the pocket pattern pieces from the Friday Pattern Company Ilford jacket that has a slanted side opening.
I also lined these pockets with a cotton flannel fabric so they would feel soft and cosy when I put my hands in.
As the fabric I was using was pre-quilted and I was lining the whole jacked with the cotton shearling fabric, I sized up by 1 size to accomodate the extra bulk and thickness of the fabrics.
When you adapt a pattern like I have done here by adding on a lot of length and adding in the hood expansion pack, the best way to work out how much fabric you need will be to prepare your pattern pieces first. Then mark out half the width of the fabric you will be using on your cutting surface (as you will be cutting on the fold) and lay your pieces out.
A lot of factors can affect how much fabric you need, for example the size you are making and whether your bodice pieces will fit side by side or need to be stacked. Whether the fabric is directional or has a nap as this can mean you are limited to having all the pattern pieces orientated the same way up, which is some instances can mean having to use more fabric.
Combining additional ‘add-on’ pattern pieces like the hood can also affect things. You may be able to slightly overlap the hood piece with other pattern pieces to squash them together a bit more - it will just depend on the size you are making, modifications made and the useable width of your fabric.
Working out your fabric requirements this way will not only ensure you have enough fabric, but will also ensure that you don’t buy too much! The fabrics I used are on the pricier side and combined with all the binding you need, if you are choosing to bind the seam allowances, can make it a costly project. As we sell fabrics in 10cm increments in the shop, it means you can be fairly precise about how much fabric you purchase, rather than having to always round up to the next half meter.
As I lined the whole jacket with the cotton shearling, I needed enough for the bodices, sleeves and hood. Work out how much of this fabric you need by preparing your pattern pieces and laying them out as suggested above.
I choose to bind all of the seam allowances on the inside of the jacket. This used up a considerable amount of the pre-made bias binding that we have available in the same fabric as the Thelma quilted range.
For my size 6, with the modifications noted above I used in the region of 13-14m of binding. To work out how much you will need for the size you are making and the modifications you choose to make, you need to measure all the way around each pattern piece. Due to the bulk of the fabric, I bound each seam allowance open/separately, rather than bunching them together.
Pre-washing Advice - I didn't prewash the Thelma quilted fabric. As its a very densely woven technical fabric it will not shrink in the wash and the more you wash it the more it will wear out the water repellant properties it has. I did pre wash the shearling fabric on 30 degrees on a normal cycle and let it air dry as flat as possible so it didn't distort as it was drying.
I really enjoyed the process of making this jacket as it got me thinking and scratching my head as to the order I would do things. I’ll be honest, I was sort of making it up as I went along as there are no specific instructions for making the jacket in this way.
I’ll warn you now….I used a LOT of hand sewing and hand tacking!
I cut all of the shearling lining pieces out exactly the same as the main fabric.
I then put them together wrong sides facing and hand tacked them together within the seam allowance so that they became one layer.
I then realised that I needed to sew on my patch pockets on the front bodice so that the stitching wouldn’t show through on the lining, so I made them, bagging them out with the cotton flannel lining. I then had to undo my taking stitches that were holding the main outer fabric and shearling lining together before attaching the pockets so that the stitching wouldn't be visible on the inside.
I top stitched them on but as I could still see the outline of the lining, I then hand stitched, using a ladder/blind stitch. This is probably the one niggly bit of the jacket for me as the hand stitching doesn’t hold too well and over time has come loose, as you can see and the outline of the lining is still there, but I’ve gotten over it and I live with it!
I used a Mircotex needle in a size 80 with regular Gutermann Sew All thread on 2.5mm stitch length. I did use my walking foot as well to help feed the thickness of the layers evenly.
I then constructed the jacket as per the instructions and bound the seam allowances with the pre made bias binding. I did this my using the machine to sew the first pass of stitching. Then I found it too bulky to sew in the machine again so instead I hand stitched the binding to the shearling lining, again using a ladder/blind stitch. This took AGES - but I think totally worth it.
At the centre back neckline I added an internal yoke detail - just for decoration really, using the same cotton flannel that I had lined the pockets with. I used the shaping of the neckline of the back bodice piece and drew a curve from the shoulder seam to the centre back, making it about 9cm in height. I then cut this out (on the fold so that the curve was symmetrical) and pressed a hem/bottom edge back. Next, I hand stitched it on - only to the lining - so you don’t see the line of stitching from the outside of the jacket. I also added a hanging loop and some Kylie and the Machine labels too.
I also used a bias strip for binding that back section of the neckline with the same cotton flannel - again just for decoration/aesthetic reasons really.
For binding the outer edges, I did the same as the internal ones. I stitched the first pass on the sewing machine with the outer side of the jacket facing/touching the binding. Then I folded the binding to the inside and hand stitched it down. Again this took AGES - but I love the finish!
I hope you have found this useful and you have picked up some tips if you fancy making your own version. You really need to be up for a slower challenge and enjoy the process of working it out. It really did keep my up at night thinking about the order and how I was going to do it! Such a lovely distraction to real life when you can immerse yourself so much in a sewing project that has such a lovely outcome!
As well as the Thelma fabric itself, we now have the matching plain fabric and open ended zips. These are great for a variety of coat and jacket projects such as