Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


#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.


Stepford Wife’s Apron

I’m quite a messy cook., I have to admit No matter how hard I try I just end up getting covered in flour when I’m baking. I thought that perhaps it was time to make myself an apron.

In the first Sewing Bee book, is a cook’s apron and I thought I’d have a go at sewing that. I think it’s a little bit frilly, but I thought with the right fabrics it might look fun. I chose a print with bright red apples on it. I thought this would look fun and culinary! This is the first pattern I have made from the book. The book was a Christmas present, and I really should have got round to trying out the patterns long before now!

I’m quite lazy so I just reproduced the pattern by measuring the scale-drawing in the book. I couldn’t be bothered to print it from the internet. Getting it printed at a print shop just seemed like a silly expense for such a simple pattern.

I soon realised as I tried to put it together that something was amiss, but quickly figured out that they had mis-labelled the “bib” and “bib lining” pieces in the scale drawing to be the other way round. I checked online and the labels were correct. It was easy to fix seeing as I was cutting the bib and its lining from the same fabric.

What is it about sewing books though? Do I mysteriously always pick the project with the problems? Having read the review on Amazon I think I got off lightly with the minor error in this project. Some of the reviews were quite harsh. I would like to try some of the other patterns in the book, but from the reviews that might be a little tricky. Am I just bad at picking sewing books, are there actually some out there that are properly edited?

Anyway, back to the project. I made the waistband and the skirt frill from some old black fabric I had in my stash. The final touch was some rather nice linen bias binding in cream to finish the skirt edges.

Stepford Apron

Stepford Apron Trim

Still can’t believe that it turned out that frilly. I didn’t set out to make something dainty and sweet. Just reminds me a little of the Stepford Wives. I’ll just cook up a casserole and take it round to my new neighbours….

Stepford Wife


Wall-to-wall sewing

Tomorrow, I’ve definitely got a full day of sewing. I’ve enrolled myself on an Overlocking course. I haven’t got an overlocker at the moment, I haven’t been able to justify spending money on one yet, when there are still so many projects I would like to do first on my sewing machine. But given that I do spend a lot of my time in T-shirts, I can’t really continue with making all my own clothes without either getting an overlocker or radically changing my dress sense.

I’m hoping this course will acquaint me with working with an overlocker and knit fabrics. I hope it will equip me with the skills to start using an overlocker from the moment I buy one this way. I’m also looking forward to meeting a few more seamstresses. After all, apart from my Mum and my niece, I don’t know any in real life and certainly no-one else my age.

T-shirts on washing line

Of course, to top off my sewing extravaganza the new series of The Great British Sewing Bee starts in the evening. Is anyone else looking forward to this?