All right, it's done. The Tuxedo Jacket of Doom from Burda 12-2008-116 that I wrote about last April, having abandoned it in early March, is no longer wadded up on my sewing table as it has been the past year. I can't say it looks a whole lot better than when it was wadded up on my sewing table, but it will look fine on a lectern from 10 feet. I have a couple of speeches coming up so I will wear it to at least one of them. I made the dress way back at the beginning of last year (will try to review soon) and have the skirt cut out, which should be a nice, normal, easy project!
I had planned this for a conference I was running March 2009. I don't have to wear a suit too often at work (thank goodness), but I really hate wearing personality-less clothes even on an occasional basis. So I wanted a suit-ish outfit that reflected my style. Unfortunately, I just didn't leave myself enough time, nor did I have enough psychic energy, to complete the project while I was also doing the work for the conference. My final stumbling block was the welt pockets with flap. For some reason, I had in my head that you had to sew the flap on at the same time as the welt and I just couldn't figure it out and it seemed like way too much marking with basting thread, millions of times even.
I am not ready to switch to Spring sewing yet, because I have many Spring/Summer clothes but I am still not happy with my Fall/Winter wardrobe (though much happier than in years past). Once I go Spring, I don't go back so I need to capitalize on my Fall/Winter motivation while I can. However, I couldn't think of what project I wanted to do next. I took it as a sign (along with PR's UFO Contest that I should return to this jacket.
I happen to have Claire Shaeffer's Complete Book of Sewing Shortcuts out from the library, so I decided just to check and see what she has to say about welt pockets with flaps. And duh, there it was. You make the welt as per usual, and once it's completed you slip the flap inside and stitch it to the excess welt allowance. Well, I understand welt pockets so that was no big thing. I stitched the flap down when I stitched-in-the-ditch to keep the welt in place. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough fabric to make a practice welt; after managing to squeeze a dress, jacket, and skirt out of 3 yards there were no scraps larger than a few square inches. So I made the welt lips too wide and the ends are all squinched and it looks pretty homemade. But at least the placement matches up and I can keep business cards in the pockets.
I hadn't cut out the lining before abandoning this project. I chose this nice silk from The Carol Collection but was dreading cutting it out as it is a slippery, fiddly silk. Actually, cutting and constructing the lining turned out to be no biggie and a quick part of the project. So that was a small mercy!
Let's talk about the sleeves, shall we? Wow. Easing in sleeves is a common sewing dislike/complaint, but it has never really been a problem for me. I have a fairly high tolerance for tiny tucks and wrinkles so I just don't get exercised over it. But this. This was a whole other level. The back sleevecap is just HUGE. The front sleeve eases in no problem, very smooth and lovely looking. The back sleevecap is about twice as large as the opening it is supposed to go into. Seriously. I attempted it three times, using various methods to reduce the size and the armscye kept getting more and more distorted, with attendant pulling along the back and discomfort, that I finally gave up and just gathered the sleeve. It does not fit with the style and it does not look good. I used a large shoulder pad to give even more emphasis to the shoulder, in the hopes of fitting into the "strong shoulder" trend, but really it is a disaster.
I cut the center back with a seam rather than on the fold to give me better swayback fitting. I should learn to take photos of the backs of projects before I finish them so I know what they look like! This seemed fine in the mirror but is pretty ick. I think eventually I will need to open out the lining (there was a reason I stitched the hem by hand) and take some of that bulk out of there.
And now let's talk about the rest of the sleeve, with the bagging and bunching at the inner elbow and the spiraling of the sleeve down the arm. It is so terrible!!!! Given my shortness of fabric, it is certainly conceivable that I did not cut the sleeve pieces exactly on grain. So perhaps the spiraling is my fault, although the back sleeve seam appears to run straight down the arm. But that bunching is a drafting issue. There is an elbow dart and it doesn't make a dent in that baggy mess. It looks like I've been wearing it for two weeks straight. If there is a quick-and-dirty fix to take out some of that bulk by taking in either the upper or lower sleeve seam, I'm all ears.
I couldn't decide what to do about the closure. I didn't want to make a bound buttonhole because I just wanted it done. I didn't have a good button to match anyway. I finally decided on a covered snap. I used this tutorial from Threads Magazine (thank goodness I saved those tiny scraps). I interfaced the circles for covering the snaps because the fabric is not a tight weave and subject to breaking. I fray-checked around the post of the post side, and inside the hole of the hole side so hopefully they will hold up. I actually like this snap treatment.
(At least the jacket looks cute in this view.) This project was about getting it done, not getting it perfect. It was a total nightmare and I don't think I sewed a single seam of the body jacket only once, and only a few of them a mere two times. It was two steps forward and one step back the whole way. I think even Tim Gunn would have abandoned "Make it work" for "I'm very concerned."
But I kept thinking, I'm never going to learn if I don't do it. It was my first successful notch collar in a jacket. My oldest UFO is a notch-collar jacket I started shortly after graduating college in 1996 in which the collar went horribly wrong; I finally threw that one away this year. Without sewing diagrams, I first sewed--and serged--the wrong edges together (you sew the widest edges together in a collar, right?). So I had to unpick that and use what was left of my seam allowances. Then I accidentally put it in upside down, with the undercollar on top. I had diligently trimmed the seam allowances a fraction to allow for a good turn of cloth, so the undercollar was different from the upper. I left the collar that way until the end, when I acknowledged that it just wasn't going to work. So I ripped it out and fray-checked the heck out of the spot where I had clipped the facings down to the stitching and put it back in. The entire unit is not perfect, but I will give myself that the notch on that collar is sharp.
I am, if I may be immodest, good at the sewing things I do. I'm good at dresses and skirts, my invisible zippers come out perfect 98% of the time, and I have an eye for prints and colors and styles that will flatter me. But I rarely stray from my comfort zone. I don't feel bad about this. Sewing is my hobby, not a test of my character. However, finishing a project like this, that is quite outside my comfort zone, is an accomplishment and I feel that the practice will help me expand my skillset. Whether I ever want to use those (rudimentary) skills again is a whole other matter!
All photos of this project are here and the pattern review is here.
Gretchen the Household Deity