Not the end of the world: Accepting imperfections in a Hampton Jean Jacket

Ever since this perfectionist was in a much smaller body, these words from loved ones and teachers have echoed in her head.  When she didn’t get that straight A report card or when all the cookies on the baking sheet melted into one.

It’s not the end of the world. 

As an adult I still have trouble seeing past perceived failures, and now dealing with imperfection in my sewing practice I try hard to remind myself.  It’s not the end of the world.  Usually If I hang in there I find that some mistakes can be corrected and others can be overlooked.  One day they may even be  embraced...I’m still working on that part! One of the most recent challenges was the making of my Alina Design Co. Hampton Jean Jacket

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Part 1

The biggest obstacle came about before I even started sewing. I started off with two precious yards of 12 oz Cone Mills denim in Indigo from Blackbird but I had a lighter medium blue jacket in mind. I did some swatch testing in a bleach bath, but not enough as I would soon find out. To say the bleaching process did not go as planned is an understatement. Once wet, that cut of very heavy denim became extremely heavy and it was really hard to stir and agitate it adequately. I also did not account for continued lightening when I washed the bleach out. What I pulled out of the dryer was not only a much lighter blue that I wanted, but looked to me like a blotchy acid washed mess. Devastated, I folded it up, put it away and sulked in defeat. The next day I went online and found to my surprise that a lot of the jackets I saw were made with denim very similar to the hot mess I had at home. That night with my forces revived and inspiration photos at hand, I laid out the denim and strategically cut out my pattern pieces- avoiding the worst areas. The construction part of the jacket was surprisingly simple, with the most challenging parts a result of the very heavy denim I was using along with jeans topstitching thread. More on that later.

Part 2

Overcoming my initial failure, I now had a really beautiful jacket to show for all my hard work. I had (mostly) embraced the color and imperfect bleach job and I had a lot of positive feedback from the community. My jacket fit well and was made with quality materials. It just looked too...new. The thick fabric was still stiff and all the pressing had left it very crisp. The bleached and distressed denim was begging to be rumpled and softened with wear. To expedite that process, I tossed it in with my next load of laundry. From the dryer I pulled out a much softer crumplier jacket that looked pretty great from the outside. On closer inspection, I found that many of the flat felled seams whose topstitching I had agonized so carefully over, were not secured after all. While the topstitching was in tact, it had not caught all of those 1/4” allowances tucked under. I felt a wave of failure and disappointment come over me all over again. I was so upset that I couldn’t bear to deal with it. I stashed it in the closest, where my failure could stay hidden away. This dirty little secret was safe, but each time I opened my closet I was reminded. More than a week later, I pulled it out and forced myself to have a closer look. I debated attempting the affected seams again but didn’t have it in me. Anyway I was sure that those frayed edges would be way to tricky to work with. For now, most of the frayed edges have been tucked back into place and secured with ***gasp*** fabric glue. I know. There’s a twinge of physical pain in my chest even typing that out. I have no idea how long this fix will last, especially after washing. But I honestly don’t think it will compromise the integrity of the jacket, at least not for a long time. Hopefully by the time it’s cool enough around here to wear it, I will have gotten over most of my trauma.

Now for the review!

Pattern and Fabric: mentioned above. This is a pdf only pattern, and I had the luxury of getting the copyshop version printed by Patternsy. This company is run by a very sweet couple that clearly loves what they do and gives great service. I especially love the sturdy tissue they print on and the black ink for printing. Seriously, who can see the pale stuff a lot of companies print with? My jeans buttons are the antique brass ones from Threadbare Fabrics and they are top notch. I used the classic yellow jeans topstitching thread from Gutermann.

Size: I made the size 6 based on my bust measurement. I’m actually 35 1/2 so technically I sized down. I ignored the waist measurements which would have put me between an 8 and a 10.

Fit: I really love the fit, it’s exactly what I want in a classic denim jacket. I think the armscye is drafted especially well. It sits very close you your armpit, allowing for great range of motion.

Changes: I made only one change to the pattern, which was shortening at the waist line by one inch. I am very short wasted, and I think this adjustment makes the jacket look on my frame the way it was designed. It does not come across as particularly cropped.

Verdict: I would hate for my personal drama to dissuade you from trying this pattern, because it truly is fantastic. Alina has included all of the classic details and the cut and proportions are perfect. Honestly, it looks so legit, no one would ever tell it apart from a classic rtw jacket. The instructions are excellent and there’s even a sewalong to hold your hand through the process. As noted before, the construction of the jacket itself is not hard at all. Really, it isn’t as long as you take note and learn from my mistakes!

To consider if you’re planning this project: 12 oz denim might be too thick. If I were to make this over again in the same fabric I would mock flat fell all of the seams. My theory is that the thickness of the denim threw off my folds by a millimeter or two, so that my topstitching juuust missed its mark. I would also use a thinner fabric to make the pocket lining. There’s just no need for all that bulk. Another a challenge with super thick denim is the topstitching. I found that even when my stitches were nice and even on top, the bobbin thread was a mess. I had to really bump up my tension to correct this. Lastly, the buttonhole conundrum. I was hell-bent on making my buttonholes with topstitching thread. My first two buttonholes on the breast pockets (keyhole style to boot!) turned out fantastic, and that gave me a false sense of confidence. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the ones on the button band, especially the lower few, would be going through an extra layer of fabric. I had an extremely difficult time here, and at least one of them had to be done 7 different times. My hands were cramped and fingers were pricked and raw when I decided I had done the best that I could. To add insult to injury, the thickness of the fabric actually makes them nearly too small to actually fit buttons through. I doubt I’ll ever want to wear this jacket closed up, but it will be a struggle if I do. Moral of the story? Use the 10oz denim or twill recommend and you can avoid a lot of unnecessary pain.

All stressful details behind us, here are some gratuitous photos I took against my neighbors’ wall. Feel free to comment with your perfectionist horror stories!

xo April

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Act like a lady: Sew Over it Kate Pattern Review

When I first became aware that indie designers used regular people to test their patterns I couldn’t wait to get involved- I just had no idea how.  I was also insecure and unsure that my skill level would qualify me.  Luckily, before too long Sew Over It made an open call for testers on Instagram and I responded with interest before I had time to chicken out.  I was so happy to be selected and always get excited when a new testing opportunity comes up.  This time around I had the  pleasure of testing a couple of patterns from the new Sew Over It Work to Weekend eBook by Lisa Comfort.

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I can never resist a shirt dress and as I had a dress in my sewing plans at the moment, I happily swapped it for Kate. She wooed me with her timeless vintage holiday vibe and the finished garment definitely did not disappoint.

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Pattern:  Kate is a classic shirt dress with a proper collar & stand, hidden button placket and cuffed sleeves that hit above the elbow.  Since the buttons end at the waist, there’s a concealed side zip under the arm to help you get in and out.  The skirt is made up of six panels and you have the option to leave 2 slits open at each side for a flirty detail.  As a bonus the pattern includes instructions to make both the top and the skirt as separate pieces- super versatile!

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Fabric: I made my Kate up in an absolutely delicious viscose linen from Sew Over It that I had in my stash.  The pattern called for 3.5 meters for my size but I was able to squeeze it out of the 2.5 I had on hand without too much trouble.  Kate is fabric hungry mostly due to the 6 panels that make up the skirt as well as her midi length.

Size:  I made my Kate in a size 10 which is my usual size for Sew Over It patterns that aren’t fitted around the hips.

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Fit:  I love the way this dress fits and I did not make any adjustments.  I am quite short waisted though, so next time around I’ll definitely take off about 5/8 inch from the bodice length.  If you look closely you can see that my belt is at my natural waist, but the seam line is quite a bit lower. 

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Changes:  At first I was skeptical about the midi length and my instinct was to shorten the pattern pieces before cutting.  In the end, mostly out of respect for Lisa’s design I decided not to.  I’m so glad that I trusted her choice.  I did find that on me the slits came up quite high, and I lowered them about 4 inches for modestly.  Other than that, this version is was made up exactly as the pattern is written. 

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Verdict:  This is one of those garments that makes me feel 100% myself when I pull it on.  I’m not particularly girly in my style and I love how the design softens the structure of a menswear-inspired top with drapey fabric and a breezy, feminine skirt.  Made up with this subtle geometric print in a natural palate it’s that easy, classic, understated piece I’ll be reaching for again and again. 

Sewing up Kate was not at all complicated.  If you’ve made a collared shirt in stable cotton, that experience will help as you work with a slippery rayon or crepe.  New techniques I learned were the hidden button placket and concealed under arm zip, both which were surprisingly straightforward.  Also if you’re in a time crunch, be aware that the hem and slits are all finished with hand sewing.  This results in a lovely soft, flowy hemline, but does take time.  I finished mine on the sofa during two evenings of Netflix.

I can’t recommend this pattern enough and I’m already scheming a set of matching separates for my next go ‘round.

xo April

Hippie vibes and acceptance: Hey June Phoenix

Standing out can be great when it's your choice to do so.  But what do you do when you'd rather blend in?  I have some experience in not fitting in and generally feel comfortable in my own (figurative) skin.  Funny enough, one difference I haven't always embraced is my complexion.  See, I'm from sunny Orange County, California and was born into a beachy kind of family.  My dad is a sun-worshiping surfer.  My mom, an olive-toned former islander hippie.  I remember my blonde + bronzed older sisters perpetually glistening with tanning oil.  It was our tradition to spend vacations on the sand, and I felt that was part of my identity.  I loved this image and thought covering up or sitting under an umbrella were very uncool.  My conforming mind somehow thought I could train my skin to love the sun, and I was in complete denial about how I should care for it.  Many years, sun beds and painful burns later I began to come to terms with the fact that I will never be tan.  And that it was actually okay to be pale.  Figuring out a way to be in the sun without getting burned has been a little tricky and to this day I haven't gotten used to how much planning it takes.  Yet again, sewing has come to the rescue for me and at long last I have the cover-up of dreams.

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Pattern:  Hey June Handmade Phoenix Blouse

Fabric: Island Breeze Gauze in Olive from Fabric.com  This is not a very high quality fabric, but I tend to view my handmades as precious and I think I'll wear this more freely since it didn't cost a fortune to make.

Size: 6 based on bust measurements

Fit: I need your help on this!  I have very little experience wearing loose/blousy clothes.  My first instinct was to take in the bodice and under the arms, but I decided to leave it be.  What do you think?  Is it hanging properly, or should I have sized down?

Changes:  As soon as I saw this pattern, I could see it as a dress.  For this hack, I extended the full-length version by about 4 inches, widening the hem about 1 inch on the sides of each pattern piece (for a total of 4 inches around).  The tier/frill on the bottom is two long rectangles stitched together at both short ends.  Rough measurements: 8 inches wide x hem circumference + 50% for gathering.  The rest of the dress was sewn up exactly as instructed for the blouse.

Verdict:  There's a reason why Adriana has a reputation for great patterns with detailed instructions and my first experience was great.  She puts out a quality product at an incredibly reasonable price.  The trickiest part for me was sewing the front yoke with split neckline and only one of my corners is sharp and smooth.  This is mostly because I am very lazy when it comes to transferring pattern markings.  Next time I will use tailors tacks to achieve nice sharp corners.  I'm not tripping too hard on that though, because I am so happy with the end result.  I'm really starting to embrace this laid back hippie vibe and look forward to wearing my Phoenix on many sunburn-free summer days to come.

The back yoke detail is my favorite.

The back yoke detail is my favorite.

Perfect for a casual stroll in some seaside town...or down your neighbor's alley

Perfect for a casual stroll in some seaside town...or down your neighbor's alley

The subtle bell sleeve is a statement but still practical.

The subtle bell sleeve is a statement but still practical.

I remembered to use two rows of gathering stiches for my tiered skirt!

I remembered to use two rows of gathering stiches for my tiered skirt!

Channeling my inner folk-rock songstress.

Channeling my inner folk-rock songstress.

Oh, hi!

Oh, hi!

I prefer my ties done up, and it gives me a little extra coverage on the chest.

I prefer my ties done up, and it gives me a little extra coverage on the chest.

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It's cute open too.