Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


#1year1outfit – The Hacking Jacket Part 5 (aka The Final Post)

There are only so many progress posts that any one garment can justifiably warrant and this is my final progress report on the “Hacking Jacket” for my #1year1outfit.


The original jacket pattern (New Look 6035) was an unlined garment, but since I’ve been following Steffani Lincecum’s excellent Craftsy course on tailoring I decided to add a lining made from shibori-dyed silk (see my previous post). I followed Steffani’s instructions much more for these final stages in the construction as I was very much moving away from the original pattern at this point.

To cut my lining pieces, I basically discarded the Back facing from the original pattern and cut the Side back and Side Front pieces as they are in the pattern. I used the Front facing, as it is, cut in the hemp, rather than the lining fabric. I realise that quite often in a lined jacket, that the front facing might be smaller than in an unlined jacket, but I didn’t feel like drafting an extra lining piece and stuck with the front facing as it is. For the Back piece I added an extra 3 cm at the centre back. The reason for this is to add extra ease in the lining. It sounds counter-intuitive to have a lining that is actually larger than the jacket, but Steffani explains that this is really essential. The outer jacket has a different “hand” with a slight stretch whereas the lining, which is a woven silk, has no give at all. To make sure that there is no distortion and the jacket hangs well with no pulling, it is necessary to make the lining bigger.

After cutting the lining out, this was sewn together. I used Steffani’s hand-stitching technique at the facing. This keeps the lining from shifting around too much at the facing and it looks beautiful. I do like these extra technique’s that Steffani puts in the course. They make the garment look extra special.


Once, I’d attached the lining to the jacket, the jacket was then turned the right way round. This is definitely the moment when you start the see what the finished jacket will look like.  To ensure that there is the correct “turn of the cloth”, Steffani recommends tacking the lapels and collar to hold them in place before you press the jacket. When pressed, the seam line should not be visible from the front of the jacket. This means that on the collar and lapels the seam line is underneath, but as you travel down the edge of the lapel and get to the button area, the seam line should then tuck around to the other side so that it isn’t visible from the front of the jacket. I had never considered this when making a jacket and it makes it look so professional.


There was one step where I really went my own way with the construction. For the back of the button-hole, I felt that my hemp fabric was too prone to fraying to be able to use the technique in the Craftsy video. The video suggests that a button-hole size hole is made and the fabric just rolled under and slip-stitched in place. I decided to sew an extra piece of fabric, as you would for the button-hole in the front of the jacket and then fold this to the inside through the hole and secure it in place with hand-stitching. This made me feel happier about the robustness of my button-hole. I found that this technique is more or less described in this tutorial on the Colette website.


Just a few more jobs to complete my jacket, finishing the jacket hem, sewing in the sleeve linings and adding the button and hey presto, finally my jacket is complete!


I’m a little unsure about the placing of the button on the garment. I checked the pattern and I have placed it correctly. Looking at the front of the pattern envelope I can see that the button is placed at approximately waist height.


I think I would have preferred the button a little higher, or maybe even two buttons on the jacket? It would have made the finished jacket more cosy and less open. I suppose though that the original jacket is supposed to be a more summery garment, so I can’t really blame the pattern for this.


Overall, I’m proud that I sewed this. It has taken me a long time to complete and I’ve learned many new techniques and taken my sewing to a whole new level with this jacket.




#1year1outfit – The Hacking Jacket Part 4

The slow progress with my jacket continues. In the last two weeks I have finally got to the stage where my jacket is looking like a jacket. It is now hanging up on a door in the living room on a hanger.


Jacket on hanger

Sadly didn’t have enough twill tape to do both sides in the same colour – it’s inside, no one will know!

My next steps are a departure from the pattern instructions. I am constructing a lining for the jacket. I’ve also been following Steffani Lincecum’s Craftsy course on tailoring and I’m therefore using this as a guide for sewing the lining.

For the lining fabric I bought some silk fabric from Majestic Silk. This is organic, peace silk and made in Hertfordshire. I have used it previously to make this Sew Liberated Myla Tank.

Myla Tank

Since the silk fabric is white (and there is no way I wear this amount of white as I’m too accident prone) I dyed fabric. Some while ago in the summer I collected dock leaves. For those who aren’t familiar with this plant, it’s very common in the UK and tends to grow on waste ground or at the sides of the road. I found our local park was a good source.


Dock leaves

To create the dye I boiled the dock leaves for an hour to produce a brown-ish gloop and stored this in a glass jar on the window sill. Babs from Botanical Inks (where I did a dyeing workshop) suggested that dyestuffs could be left in the sun to produce a stronger colour.

Dock leaf dyestuff

Dock leaf dyestuff (aka the smelly gloop!) in a chilli con carne sauce jar.

I created a dye bath by tipping my dock leaf brew (complete with leaves) into a large saucepan and topping it up with water to cover the fabric. I don’t think that my saucepan is really big enough to dye this quantity of fabric, and unsure whether I would be able to evenly dye my silk, I decided to shibori tie-dye it. At least this way, my dyeing would be intentionally uneven!

Unfortunately, despite sterilising the glass jar, the dye had fermented a little and I got a distinctly bacterial whiff when I opened the jar. Undeterred I still decided to used it, but boiling the fabric in the dye bath on the hob for an hour, was a very stinky business and not to be recommended. Actually, that doesn’t come anywhere near describing how bad it was. I had to open all the windows in the kitchen and hold my jumper over my nose to stop myself gagging each time I entered the room! In the future, I’ll try to use my dyestuff before it starts to go off!

Notwithstanding the stench, the dye worked very well and gave rather lovely light brown or ecru. More importantly a quick wash after taking it out of the dye bath and it doesn’t smell either.

Tie-dyed silk

The next stage will be cutting the lining pieces an constructing my lining. The question is whether I will have a jacket before the new year?


#1year1outfit – The Hacking Jacket Part 3 (and a little cheating)

All I can say is that I’m making slow progress, in fact very slow progress. When my hemp fabric arrived I realised that making a fitted jacket was definitely the most apt use for the fabric. However, I have become quite side-tracked in this project and the process has become a far more involved  than when I first came up with the idea. In order to create the inner structure for the jacket from natural fibres, I soon realised I was going to need steer away from fusible interfacings and get to know more about traditional tailoring methods. I therefore enrolled on the Classic Tailoring by Steffani Lincecum course on Craftsy. This has been the first Craftsy course I have enrolled on and I love it. Once you enroll the course is yours forever and it is great that I can just keep going back and refer to it. Steffani explains everything very clearly and it’s possible to ask questions too which seem to get swift responses. I can even annotate the video with my own notes so I can quickly find important points again. What can I say, it’s awesome! If you haven’t checked Craftsy out yet, give it a go, there are even some free courses too – I’ve enrolled on a free Know your Wool class too.

The traditional methods of tailoring aren’t particularly difficult, although they require some confidence in hand-sewing. Fortunately I really do love hand-sewing – it is my favourite activity in front of the TV during the evenings. However, it does take time and I’ve spent the last week or so, just sewing hair canvas to the front of the jacket and the undercollar.

Front of jacket


Here I must confess a slight amount of cheating. I wasn’t able to find any hair canvas that I knew was made in the UK. Most of the websites don’t seem to specify the origin of their tailoring supplies. I bought mine from Fabricland locally, but I have no idea where it was made. At least with buying locally I could go and feel it and check the weight. I do know that it is made of horse hair and wool. It’s natural at least. It’s cheating I know, but only a little – forgive me, please?

Whole front of jacket

I’ve also managed to make my first bound button-hole. I was actually pleasantly pleased that I pulled off this technique. I was very worried that my fabric wouldn’t cope with the manipulation required to make a bound buttonhole. Would it fray horribly? Be too heavy? I needn’t have worried at all, as it made perfect buttonholes.

Bound buttonhole

I have already bought the button for my jacket too. I decided to go for a button carved from antler. The buttons are made from Scottish Red Deer antlers. They are surprisingly light. The website also supplies smaller uncut pieces of horn and antler. Maybe I could craft my own buttons? Or maybe a belt buckle?


All this work has given me such an appreciation of old-fashioned tailoring skills. They do make a garment special. These methods are hardly seen in clothing today, except very high-end garments.

Overall, I don’t feel I’ve made much progress in the last couple of weeks, but I’m hoping now I’ve done all this groundwork that the jacket will come together quickly and I’ll have more to show you.


#1year1outfit – The Hacking Jacket Part 2

I think my Hacking Jacket is turning into a more complex project than I had ever intended. For this reason, each time I make a bit of progress I’ll write something. Otherwise I could end up writing a great long indigestible post!

To recap, first of all, I tried to use the pattern in The Great Sewing Bee book, but soon discovered that it was extremely poorly written / edited, with lots of important pattern markings left off (see this earlier post). I decided, fairly sensibly, to get the New Look pattern that it was based on (New Look 6035) and abandon the book. Thankfully the pattern is still on sale.

I have been using linen thread. I bought two thicknesses – 80/3 which seems similar in thickness to standard cotton or polyester and 50/3 which I am using for top-stitching purposes.


The thread does seem a little “fluffier” than cotton, and at times isn’t even in thickness. What I have noticed when I’ve been hand-sewing is that if you sew with one length of thread for too far, the thread starts to thin quite badly in places, I assume from the abrasive action of moving in and out of the fabric, so I’ve needed to keep any thread lengths short. This effect doesn’t seem so prevalent when machine sewing, probably because the same bit of thread doesn’t pass through the fabric again and again. Also, I must remember after I’ve finished with the linen thread, to clean around the bobbin case in the sewing machine. All the extra fluff can’t be good for my machine.


Top: Linen thread 80/3 Bottom: Polyester thread

I have now started on the sewing. My first discovery was that my hemp fabric is very thick. My poor Singer, which is old and doesn’t tend to whinge conspicuously about thick hems, is nonetheless finding the going tough. I have discovered, that anything more than 3 layers of the fabric is perilous territory. When I attempted to top-stitch the top of the pocket, I got a hopeless wiggly line of top-stitching as my machine struggled with the fabric thickness.

I’ve therefore had to digress from the New Look instructions in a few areas. This pattern is clearly intended for thinner fabrics; the envelope suggests fabrics such as poplin, twill, sateen. It’s not surprising that I’ve needed to adapt the instructions. For the pockets, instead of machine-stitched top-stitching, I hand-stitched a line of running stitches instead. I’m a little sad that I only had a thicker linen in a natural colour. But I’m pleased with the effect, even though it is quite subtle.

IMG_0614To sew the pockets to the jacket, I decided to slip-stitch them by hand to the jacket. This was an idea that I took from a 1960s coat pattern. I have noticed that older patterns do tend to use more hand-stitching. Perhaps pattern companies think that the modern sewer shuns hand-stitching. Anyway, I’m glad I didn’t attempt to machine sew at this stage. With between 3 and 4 layers to chew through I think machine-sewing could have ended in a mangled disaster!


I’m now deliberating how to interface my jacket. Lately, I have been going around charity shops “squeezing” the shoulders and collars of jackets to get some feel for the amount of “stiffness” that would be best. It does appear that modern jackets are mostly just squidgy around the shoulders. However, I saw a lovely vintage tweed men’s jacket – this was much more structured and felt rather more shaped around the collar and shoulders.

Since this jacket is for the #1year1outfit challenge, I needed to find some interfacing that wasn’t synthetic. So the old-fashioned methods used in tailoring seemed a natural place to start. Traditionally, tailored jackets would be interfaced with horsehair canvas. I found a few tailoring supplies, but unfortunately most seemed to team the horse hair weft with cotton. Another alternative would be to use some linen fabric to provide a little stiffness to my jacket at the collar and lapels. It is possible to find 100% Irish linen collar canvas on the internet. Below is a list of natural tailoring / interfacing possibilities:

Horsehair Canvas

The Lining Company – good selection of horsehair canvases of different weights including wool / horsehair.

Whaleys Bradford Ltd – horsehair canvases, not much detail on weight or content.

Kenton Trimmings – wide selection of horsehair canvases of different weights with full composition shown.

Linen Canvas

McCulloch and Wallis – 100% Irish linen canvas for collars.



#1year1outfit – The Bristol Cloth and the Beginnings of a Hacking Jacket

I’ve been noticing that the #1year1outfit challenge has been generating a lot of posts recently and I feel that I have been neglecting my contributions to the challenge. I’m hoping to put this right over the next couple of months with dedicated sewing!

But first I thought I share some more research. Bristol is European Green Capital this year and a projects that particularly sparked my interest is the Bristol Cloth Project. The Bristol Cloth Competition is a contest to design a local textile. The deadline for entries was last month and the shortlisted entries are on display at the moment.

Bristol Cloth

The designs are all beautiful and they take their inspiration from local architecture, cycling tweeds and basket-weaving.




The cloth is going to be produced using local wool from Fernhill Farm, dyed with natural vegetable dyes from Botanical Inks, (you may remember that I attended one of their workshops back in April) and woven at Dash and Miller.Now you can’t get more local than that – all the elements of this fabric will come from within 20 miles of my house.

I suspect that the finished cloth won’t be available until next year, which is shame as I wanted to include a make with this very local fabric in this year’s challenge. But there’s always next year.

I do have an update on a garment that is in progress too. In the quest to find new and interesting fabrics for the challenge, I started to explore historical re-enactment websites and I came across this 100% hemp fabric which is grown and made in the South-West of England. The fabric is used, in the re-enactment world, for Viking dresses and cloaks. The only thing I don’t know about this fabric was how it was dyed. The website didn’t supply the information about that.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I ordered it. It’s always difficult to know from a website. When it arrived I found that it was quite crisp, with a coarse weave and it smelled of old string, not surprisingly, as it is hemp! I’m pleased with the colour – it is a beautiful, subtle colour, more a pale green, than khaki.

I had thought, before it arrived, to make some trousers with the fabric. But, on reflection, the fabric will lend itself much better to being made into a jacket. I think the structured look of a jacket will help make it look less “dark ages” and more in tune with modern attire.


I washed it in the washing machine at the weekend and, although I may be imagining this, I think it has softened the fabric somewhat. (Hemp is supposed to soften after repeated washings). The “string” smell has died down too!

I had a look for jacket patterns in my stash, and eventually settled on the “Hacking Jacket” pattern, for an unlined jacket, in the first Sewing Bee book. I have already made one of the projects from the Sewing Bee book before. It was one of the simpler projects – an apron and it turned out well, but I did spot a glaring error in the pattern. It was nothing major, just a mislabelled pattern piece. The Hacking Jacket, however, is reproduced from a New Look pattern, so I hoped that this didn’t have any problems.


Unfortunately, this pattern is far, far worse. Firstly, it seems to have been reproduced without any of the pattern pieces being identified. Fortunately, the scale drawing in the book is a big help on this front. However I was disappointed to find that the button / buttonhole markings are missing and the positioning dots were unlabelled, or sometimes missing. It all added up to a situation where I didn’t feel confident about this make.


I was trying to make my fitting adjustments, which I usually do at the same time as tracing my pattern However, not knowing where the waist was supposed to be, or how much the left and right fronts overlapped, making fitting adjustments would be a huge amount of guesswork. I got cold feet today and just went and bought the New Look pattern (New Look 6035) and discovered a wealth of missing information from the pattern and the instructions. I’m really glad that I decided to take the mystery and guesswork out of this project, but the extra expense really shouldn’t have been necessary and it was luck that the pattern is still on sale.

It just makes me feel frustrated for any beginners who have struggled with this book. Or perhaps not that many people have made up the projects in this book. They could have published some errata and improved the PDF patterns on the website after the book was published.

Last night I was just tracing out my pattern and customising it for my size, when I started to feel a little cold. As the nearest thing to hand I grabbed my 2 metres of hemp and tucked myself up on the sofa with it. I couldn’t believe how warm it is. I’d always imagined how cold life must have been to our forebears in this chilly part of the world, but hadn’t factored in that they would probably have worn heavy fabrics like this. Incidentally, I had noticed that it dried rather quickly as well (in about 2 hours on the line outside, which is quick, considering it is September). A cotton towel drying alongside, took virtually the whole day. Perhaps my imagined vikings didn’t spend their time sitting around shivering in damp, “stringy”-smelling cloaks after all.

I should be able to get the pattern tracing finished properly tonight, now I have all the information I need. I will just have to make good use of the top, skirt and trouser pattern also included with New Look 6035 so that I don’t feel I’ve wasted my money.