I have just finished making a very special Named Clothing Harriet Lumberjacket. This garment, made from a wool suit, is my entry for The Refashioners community challenge held by Portia Lawrie of Makery.
This year the theme is #suitsyou, and whilst the challenge of refashioning a suit was daunting, I found the experience really enjoyable. My initial thoughts, and certainly the inspiring pinterest board put together by Portia, were largely based around city-style pinstripes, which just didn’t do it for me. I knew that if I did refashion a garment from fabric like this I just wouldn’t wear it, and it would be a completely useless project. After all, the mantra behind this competition is to waste less, and making a garment just to post pictures of it seemed to be somewhat missing the point!
With this in mind I set out to find a tweed suit – I was vaguely thinking along the lines of making a tweed biker jacket. When you consider the fact I live in the birthplace of tweed, Edinburgh’s litany of charity shops were a surprising let down – even at the posher end of the spectrum in Stockbridge. So I turned my attention to eBay, and after a few days searching came across this beauty, which was absolutely perfect and a bargain at £25.
After getting my suit, I did try it on, but stupidly didn’t get a picture of me in it – I was just too excited to get started. As I was unpicking (this itself took a couple of evenings in front of the TV), I began to think about the Named Clothing Harriet Lumberjacket, and how the combination of this fantastic suit material and a badass sheepskin collar would look really good.
Painstakingly unpicking the suit was surprisingly fun, although as I unpicked it I realised it needed a proper wash, which I did in pieces by hand. After drying and pressing came the tricky bit – trying to work out how to cut out the jacket. It took a very long time standing in the middle of my kitchen floor surrounded by pattern pieces and fabric. After some pretty creative fabric maths I managed to get about 90% of my shell pieces out in whole sections – but with several alterations.
First off, the front right panel was way too wide to squeeze out of any part of the suit, so I mirrored the zip seam and used two thinner pieces to make it up to size. I also had to make the back side panels out of two pieces, adding a widthways seam in the middle. The only other piece I had to alter was the right facing. I had the rather annoying situation of being able to get one out whole, but not the other. Whilst I was tempted to preserve symmetry and add the same seam to each side, it seemed a waste to cut a piece of fabric in half just to sew it back together again and so there is one facing with a widthways seam, and one without! On several of the pieces I had to do a small repair where there was a bit of a buttonhole, or welt pocket, however I love these imperfections it adds to the feel that the garment has been refashioned. I tried to preserve as much of the interfaced areas as I could, and areas like the elbow patches and facings are really sturdy. Sadly, I didn’t quite manage to get the whole of the shell out of the suit, and had to use a scrap of wool from a previous project for the underside of the collar, and some lovely faux sheepskin for the upper collar.
The process of taking the suit apart, washing, cutting, interfacing and then marking and overlocking my pieces took a staggering amount of time, but it was really satisfying. In order to make sure the pieces which I had to add seams to were properly anchored – and wouldn’t add any lumps or bumps – I secured the allowances with a cross stitch. After this ordeal, the actual construction of the shell felt like a breeze! Even sewing my first ever double-welt pocket wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined.
I chose a lovely viscose lining from Ditto fabrics, but didn’t want to buy anything else for the jacket, so I raided through my fabric stash and found a lightweight wool I have had for literally over 10 years and was never going to use. It was a bonkers black and white plaid but luckily you couldn’t see it through the lining. I honestly don’t know what possessed me to buy it originally, so I was really pleased to use it. Sewing the lining to the interlining was easier said than done – they did not want to go together! I had to handle them very carefully and use a lot of pins. I have to say that the finished lining, before it was sewn in to the shell, was pretty awesome – the combo of plaid and polka dots was mental!
After this, it was really easy to finish. As I have made Named Clothing jackets before, I was pretty familiar with their process of attaching the lining to the shell and I rattled it out really quickly.
Having finished my jacket, and having worn it for a week, I cannot emphasise how happy I am with it. The fact that it is made from a £25 suit fills me with a lot more satisfaction and pride than if I had just bought a bolt of fabric. It is toasty warm, and the lovely sheepskin collar makes it so snuggly. Whilst at times I felt totally intimidated by the task ahead of me, I am so pleased to have participated in this challenge; it has totally opened up a whole new way of sewing to me. Like all Named Clothing patterns, Harriet is also a brilliant pattern – I love the boxy style and am looking forward to wearing it for the rest of the winter.