Islander Jacket Express – Finished!

Hurrah I hear you cry! About time – Hood has finished her jacket. Yes, this has taken far longer than it should have – but I am pretty happy with the result. It would be good to know how long it took to actually sew it, rather than how long it has taken because of life getting in the way.

The finished article

The finished article 

Topstitching and pocket detail

Topstitching and pocket detail

Now that the jacket has buttons on, and the total impression is given, I am not too concerned about the ‘correctional facility’ orange. It is pretty bright – no escaping that – but it will be fine if it is worn with a more subdued colour. The buttons (not studs as I had intended) look very good, and the buttonholes were beautifully worked by the old Singer hand crank machine with buttonhole attachment. Beautifully. Better than my computerized Pfaff would have managed despite costing way more than the old Singer.

As I had the Singer out I decided to try the top stitching (with the upholstery thread I used) with the old girl. I did the jackets topstitching on the spare Janome machine I keep as I couldn’t get a really good tension on the Pfaff and needed to adjust the bottom tension to get a good(ish) finish. Even having spent a fairly significant time messing with the tensions on the Janome to get the result I wanted I really wasn’t 100% happy. As a result I am afraid I did get a little slapdash, so the topstitching doesn’t stand up to really close examination. Step up the old Singer. Without doing anything to the tensions (and I only changed the needle because I couldn’t physically get the thread through the eye!) the result was amazing. Truly amazing. I am never going to topstitch on another machine again. I know that Melissa had made a comment about the quality of topstitch she got from her old hand crank machine in her jeans post. So what did they know about building machines then that seems to have got lost?

Singer on left  Modern machine  on the right.

Singer on left Modern machine on the right.

So, what did I get out of this Craftsy course?

  • I don’t need to pin the bejaysus out of everything. I now have the confidence to use many fewer pins, even if not going ‘pinless’.
  • Rotary cutters are much more useful than I thought. And a gift to sore joints.
  • Frixion pens are wonderful. Really, really wonderful. A great new tool in my armory.
  • My vision is worse than I thought! Thank  you Janet Pray for bringing the magnifying visor to my attention. I have used these on a number of jobs since I had them delivered, and I can’t imagine being without them now. I no longer care about walking the house looking like an alien.

If I hadn’t learned anything from the sewing side the new knowledge about the Rolson magnifyer, and the Frixion pens alone would justify the cost of the course for me. I have sewn since childhood, but always ‘domestic’ methods, so it was good to see the way that Janet batched the processes so that you worked more efficiently. The booklet with the pattern gave most of the information needed to work in this fashion, but the video lessons were great. For anyone who is fairly new to sewing (though I think a certain amount of knowledge would be helpful) this is a great course. Even dinosaurs like me learned new tricks from it.




Islander Jacket Express -4 (or how to make it slowly!)

I got back from my mums house last weekend with great intentions of sorting out all the jobs I had left behind, and finishing half done projects. I wanted to make a start on autumn clothes as it has suddenly become quite chilly, and there are now morning mists on the river- a clear sign that the season is changing. Then I developed another dental abscess. Darn.

I have had three dentist appointments this week, am feeling a bit low, and am just about keeping pace with client work. I have been working on the jacket and hoped to finish it today but in keeping with the way things have gone this week I discovered that the hammer on studs I thought I had bought for the project were actually hammer on buttons so I still need to make buttonholes. I think ‘more haste, less speed’ applies here.

I am setting this aside for the moment as I have a couple of deadlines looming but I hope to finish mid next week. I am starting to get a bit bored and if I don’t finish this I will cast it aside as an undeserved wadder. I will give more details about my opinion of the jacket, and the Craftsy course when I finish.

Hammer at the ready but they are buttons - not studs. Doh!

Hammer at the ready but they are buttons – not studs. Doh!

P.S. Thank you to those who wished my mum well. She is much better now and able to cope on her own again.


Islander Jacket Express – 3

I have spent some time today trying to get on with this jacket. There seems to be reasonable progress, but at nothing like the previous rate.

I have reached the point where I could start on the decorative top-stitching. Brilliant! (I thought). What a bear! I have struggled to make my Pfaff behave with the upholstery thread I bought (nothing else seemed to go so well with the ORANGE twill as this bronzy brown), and I have ended up turning the air blue wrestling with the Janome I keep as my spare machine. Whilst it does a good stitch (usually) it isn’t anything like as controlable as the Pfaff.  If I had been thinking better I would like to bet that the old hand crank Singer would have made a better job, but I would then have been short of a hand to direct the fabric.

When I eventually managed to get a stitch I was happy to use I spent a while working, and pulling out the less satisfactory seams, until I remembered about the alien helmet. Boy, does that make a difference. The light can be directed exactly where it is needed, and the extra magnification really helps to see when you have fouled up. Except that when I got the gizmo I improved an amazing amount. Lesson learned. And again I thank Janet Pray for even suggesting that it might be useful. I will have to make sure I don’t leave the house wearing this thing now, I like it so much!

Topstitching, and the start of pockets

Topstitching, and the start of pockets

I struggled a bit to perform the ‘crimping’ needed to turn the seam allowance on the top pockets so that they could be top-stitched in place but managed to get a reasonable result after two attempts. I am fairly happy with how they look. I didn’t mention that there was an instruction booklet rather than a flat sheet with the pattern – much more information, and very helpful even without the Craftsy video lessons. The explanation given on how to ensure you end up with properly squared corners on your welt pockets is excellent. I have got as far as checking my stitching before cutting the pocket hole, and then I ran out of time.

This is as far as I will be able to get for a week as I am going to Northumberland again. My mum has had a minor operation on her hand and needs a little assistance until it is better. I will be taking my new knitting with me so I wont be idle. I have made a start on the Topeka sweater that I saw on ‘nothing but knits’ blog. The pattern is available in Ravelry as a download so I was able to get it and start in some yarn I had stashed. Hopefully by the time I get home it will look closer to the picture on the left than the right. Back in a week. Bye folks!

Started, lots left to do!

Started, lots left to do!

Islander Jacket Express – 2

I have managed to make a start on sewing the jacket today – the Management was going to be home from work a little late so I decided to press on for a little while. Whilst I had decided which interlining I was going to use (an iron on cotton from stash) I hadn’t cut it out, so I made a start on the body and sleeve seams.

One of the main time saving elements that Janet is teaching in this course is the sewing of seams without using pins to anchor them. It took quite a leap of faith to try this but as I am using ridiculously cheap, and very forgiving, cotton twill I jumped right in. What a revelation! The main thing you need for this is confidence so making this particular jacket is going to help lots. I, like many dressmakers, have grown to rely on pinning things into place – all of which slows things down in Janets opinion, and I have to say after today I would be inclined to agree. The seams went together easily, and without my finishing up with an excess on one or other layer. I would say that you are shown a very simple but effective way of holding the fabric on the Craftsy course which helps anchor the fabric well. It will take more practice before I would be prepared to ‘go pinless’ on an important or expensive fabric, but I could see how it might happen. I will almost certainly be using fewer pins in future.

All pressed ready for topstitching

All pressed ready for top-stitching

I managed to sew the sleeves and body pieces together, overlock (serge), and press them in what seamed like a very short time. I have deviated a little from Janet Prays instructions, but having cut and fused all of the pieces that needed to be interlined ready for tomorrow, I will back track when I start again and get to the point in the instructions ready to start top-stitching.

All interlined ready to get going

All interlined ready to get going tomorrow

So far, so good!

Islander Jacket Express -1

A little while ago I enrolled on Janet Prays ‘Sew better, Sew faster: Garment Industry Secrets course on Craftsy. It took me a little while to make a  start on this as I was a bit peeved to have to pay VAT+Post Office charge on the imported pattern. I should have known that I would have to at some point – but it was galling that the Post Office handling charge was more than the tax to pay. As I bought the course while it was on sale I really have no cause for complaint.

Sew Better, Sew Faster


Anyway, I have been threatening to make something for myself for a little while but someone else always seems to jump ahead. I justified this as research.  I traced off the size I wanted to use rather than cutting the pattern as I may want to make a different size later. Rather than using the size I thought I should, from my body measurements, I have cut according to the amount of ease I wanted using the finished garment measurement. The size I thought I needed would have ended up with a massive amount of ease!

I have been spending tea breaks and such watching the online classes, and have bought a couple of things that I think may be useful. The first was a Rolson Magnifying head torch thingy from Amazon. Janet uses a professional standard tool called an Optivisor, but this was a fraction of the cost and included a torch on the visor. I have used mine today to unpick some tiny stitches on a linen garment for a client – I think I am converted. This has already proved its worth.

The other thing I bought was a pack of FRIXION erasable pens. Janet uses these frequently to fine line mark points on the garment. They can be erased with a hot iron, but obviously I will need to test them on my fabric before I go wild.

You may remember I recently bought a pair of Gingher shears which I have been very happy with. I was intending to use these to cut out the jacket – but Janet uses a roller cutter with mat. I have used mine just for cutting strips for bias binding and such but never thought they would be very good for an entire garment. Well, some things you just have to try. WOW! I was amazed at how quickly I got used to the pressure needed to cut both layers of cotton twill, and how to work my way around curves. I can’t say I am never going to use shears again but I am seriously impressed with how easy this job was. Like many dressmakers of many years experience (NO, not OLD dressmakers!) my wrist and hand does ache after cutting out and this really did seem to help.

Cutting out with the roller thingy!

Cutting out with the roller thingy!

I decided I had done enough tonight so I will cut the interfacings out tomorrow and see how far I get then. I still have reservations about the colour of this jacket but it is a way of trying out this system without being in the least concerned about cost . Or making a cattywompus (which after hearing Janet use the word today is one I will be adopting and making as much use of as I can!)