The long way home: Seamwork Jill

Have you ever wanted a finished garment so badly that you had to force yourself to slow down in attempt to produce something that lives up to your vision?  This is the story of me and Jill.

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Several years ago when the idea of sewing was just a glimmer in my eye, I bought an over-sized wrap coat at Target.  It was green and black tweed in a dreadful synthetic fabric but it was hooded and belted and perfect to bundle up in on cold early mornings on my way to work.  Of course almost immediately it began to pill- first under the arms and then everywhere else.  Me, I have extremely low tolerance to this kind of imperfection. Yet it served its purpose and so year after year, kept an undignified place in the back of my closet. 

This fall with a few outerwear projects under my belt, I impulsively let go of that old coat. My hope was that the obvious gap in my closet would push me to replace it. That definitely helped. But - as I generally find to be true when I’m searching for something too specific - that perfect green was illusive, as was the hooded wrap coat pattern. Sure I found some nice options in wool coating, but the high price and low potential for comfort when unlined just put me off. The weather was turning colder and I busied myself with completion of my proper winter coat, but that vision of green would not let me rest.

Now finding patterns is not my strong suit, and I admitted defeat on finding a match for this one early on. That may have been mostly once I saw Jill.  She didn't have a hood or a belt, but something about her loose cocoon shape, huge pockets and the allure of a quick unlined project drew me to her. What did not appeal was the nearly 4 yard fabric requirement. You do the math: 4 x any wool soft enough to be worn unlined = $$$. Then finally in late December I stumbled upon a very unique tweed-like 100% wool at 30% off. It seemed soft enough and the look and texture were much like my vision, only in black and white. I brought home the last two yards on the bolt, hoping I could somehow produce a coat out of half the fabric I needed. And so the hacking began. Literal hacking away at the pattern pieces to whittle them down to a size I could cut out of my fabric.

In the end I shortened my Jill by 6 inches. In order to preserve the back vent, I took off 4 inches at the lengthen/shorten line and the other two inches I removed further up on the body. Nothing short of a miracle, I was able to leave the rest of the pattern pieces in tact and successfully cut out the complete coat.

Off to the races, I threw myself into the construction. But soon into the sewing I realized that I would not be happy with the look of exposed seam allowances. It was clear that I needed to slow down. I had spent a good amount of money on the materials and wanted it to last, and so resolved to bias bind all of the seam allowances. It was quite the undertaking, but definitely worth it in the end.

On to the review!

Pattern and Fabric: Seamwork Jill Coatigan in 100% Wool from Michael Levine

Size:  Straight size Small

Fit:  My bust measurements (35) put me in the range for a size Small, my waist and hip (29-39) put me in a Medium. Really though, this is a very over-sized coat, and I think I would have easily fit into an XS (a pretty absurd thought). That being the case this pattern would be tough for an actual extra small person to wear unless they know how to grade down.

Changes:  I removed a total of 6 inches off the length due to fabric limitations. If I had enough fabric, I would have only taken off 2 inches to accommodate my 5’5” frame. I also chose to add a closure, which is not included in the pattern. I went for one large shank button and one invisible snap. I also modified the shape of the patch pocket to a straight rectangle for personal preference.

Verdict: As far as the pattern goes, I think the style is great. The cut feels modern, even though the length and fabric of mine have a distinct 90’s vibe (I know you were thinking it). And in theory the idea that this is to be a quick and easy make with few pattern pieces is also very appealing. But I did find the pattern instructions to be overly simplified and I personally am just not satisfied with the suggested finishes. For example, not all fabric types may require it but I think there should have been a mention of hem interfacing. I’ve learnt by experience that if you want a sturdy coat, you must interface your hem! And my wool is fairly comfortable to wear sans lining, but soft wool is really hard to find and wool by itself can be thin or loosely woven so isn’t always very warm. I’d suggest for anyone interested in this pattern to take a different approach to making it: Either make it in a heavy sweater knit (more beginner friendly and then exposed seams make more sense), or make it in a nice wool coating and be prepared to add a lining- what I still plan to do if I can muster the motivation!

Truth be told, through no fault of the pattern, this Jill has very little in common with it’s predecessor. And while I do wear it on my way to work on cold early mornings, it really isn’t that blanket of warmth I set out to create. More than anything it is the manifestation of so many of the less than desirable qualities I posses: myopia, exaction, impatience and willfulness to name a few. But in my sewing practice each garment that I make is like a journey and I embrace & appreciate everything it has to teach me. Like this one where I started off sprinting, then ended up taking the long way home.

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