The designing of a man’s jacket, style #12601

sew_mans_jacket_finishedI promise there will be a sewing tutorial of sorts once I finish rambling about design -that is always first- so this will come in two or more parts. Fortunately for you, most of the sewing will be illustrations rather than photos. A jacket like this is too complex to show with photos and the color has to be just right -this one is too dark. Speaking of, the finished product is shown at right on my dress form. I have a man’s form but it is so terrible ill suited to my purposes (a PGM form if you must know) that I can only aspire to sell it to my worst enemy.  It’s a size 42 man’s form if you want it. $200 (neg.) bucks cash and carry. I’ll even buy you lunch! But I digress. A photo of the jacket can also be seen on Mr. Fashion-Incubator but I didn’t want to post it because he is not smiley like usual. He does like it, he picked out the fabrication for this one, just as he did for its predecessor, style #12658.

Onto topics related to design!

First of all, in real life, design is much more than picking out pretty fabric and drawing cute silhouettes on 9 head stick figures. Design means selecting materials that will perform congruent with expected performance as it relates to price points.  In my case, this was an easy choice -a nice 18 oz wool melton I bought last summer for just this purpose. I bought it in two colorways (red and hunter green) and laid these out along with a selection of other wools I had for Mr. F-I to pick from. He picked the green for the body and black wool for the contrasting sleeves, collar and facings.

Part of the way through, I began to wonder why the manufacturer where I’d learned this at, did this they way they did. For example, most better price points coats, have a section of the front waistband that is shell (or contrast, mine are contrast) rather than ribbing. Personally, I don’t like the construction with only ribbing so I didn’t ponder it too much. One surmises that tabs made of fabric rather than ribbing are better because the wearer will constantly be pulling down on the front of the jacket and a knit rib won’t stand up as well. Along the same lines, the company where I learned to make these (well) also had a strip of fabric waistband at center back. It stands to reason that those also wear better than ribbing if you consider how often the wearer will have abrasion at the back -when sitting in a car for example. So I let those be. For a lower cost product, you could choose a solid ribbing waistband and be done with it.

Halfway through the project I was waylaid and truly, it was my fault. It was in the process of fusing (facings, fronts etc) that we discovered that the green melton shrank like nobody’s business. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was so bad that it wasn’t salvageable so I had to start over. It’s my fault because I didn’t pretest but in my defense, this looked like fine quality goods, identical to any number of melton I’d used before. Just goes to show, eh? Anyway, I washed the yardage I had left over and recut the body. All told, the length shrinkage was 12% (for reals!) and the width was 4.3%. Speaking of, all these links lead to photos in a separate window so you won’t lose your place.

sew_mans_jacket_welt_material_profileWashing the goods changed a few things. For one thing, we wanted a smooth coat finish rather than a nubby boiled wool (which I normally love but not the look I wanted for this coat). It also affected construction at key points. Now if you have a lot of experience making these, you’ll survive but even me, who has made so many that I think I could make them in my sleep, some points were a challenge -some insurmountable.

sew_mans_jacket_welt_material_compared_smTake the welt pockets for example. Since the wool became so much thicker, I did a test sample of the welt pocket. It came out too thick so I had to substitute materials. At top right you will see a photo showing the profile comparison of a welt pocket of the two wools (left) vs the profile of a pocket made in leather (right). The leather pocket lays much flatter.

At direct right is a top view of the two pockets. The wool-only pocket on the left is too bulky -it was hard to form the welts with 2 layers of 18 oz wools- versus the leather welt pocket on the right that looks close enough for government work. So that’s what I did, I used garment weight leather for the welt pockets although I’d originally planned to use the contrasting black wool.

Moving on. Since this was a customized project, I did want to do something special beyond letting Mr. F-I pick out his preferred colors and that was to create a custom quilting pattern for the lining. Oh that reminds me… linings.

sew_mans_jacket_closeup_quiltingKeeping in mind that this is a coat intended to last him a few years, I wanted a sturdy lining. The lining in the first jacket I made is still going strong after 9 years so I stuck with that. For coat linings, I like bridal satin. You know, the stuff you use for brides that can’t afford silk, it works like a charm. Since I wanted it to be warm, I quilted one layer of thin cotton batting (for quilts). For most of it, I stitched straight lines. I had grander plans but after the one side, it became too much work.

On one side of the front lining, I quilted in my husband’s name and his cell number (right). Yay me. He was pretty pleased with that.

He wore it to work today for the first time and was a bit bummed that nobody asked about his new jacket so he could show off the lining. I told him not to worry. Nobody thought anything of it because the coat looked like quality RTW as opposed to somebody’s home made project. And isn’t that what we want?

Okay, before I forget, the materials forced another change worth considering with respect to seam allowances. Typically we use 1/4″ in necklines but considering the thickness of the layers and the difficulty I had tacking the layers together at the neck during the bagging process, I’m reconsidering that. Maybe for thicker goods the neck and collar seam should be 3/8″. If you have a lot of experience sewing these, 1/4 will be fine if not a bit testy but 3/8″ would allow about anybody to sandwich these layers together.

Questions? Comments? Tomorrow I’ll go into sewing. By the way, this is a tried and true pattern so I wouldn’t be opposed to selling copies of it. For sizing, refer to the photo of Mr. F-I somewhere up top. He is wearing a medium. This is a cowboy medium, or in other words, a large for most folks. Mr. F-I is 5’10”, 42″ chest, 180lbs and the sleeves are cut a little longer (to allow for grasping reins but keeping wrists covered ya know).

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