Suede Lambskin Shearling Style Arc Ziggi Jacket

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A lot of firsts with this project! First biker/moto jacket, first time I worked with leather, first time I worked with shearling, and first time I ever did lapped seams. This is my final entry for Pattern Review’s Natural Fibers contest, which end on October 31.

Shearling biker jackets don’t seem to be too common – especially the ones with a waist seam – but I found a couple of them.

MANGO Shearling Effect Biker Jacket (shop.mango.com)
MANGO Shearling Effect Biker Jacket (shop.mango.com)
alexisdress.com
alexisdress.com

My jacket had a few style changes from the original style:

  • Added a waistline seam
  • Omitted the sleeve zippers
  • Changed the placement of the horizontal sleeve seam to be closer to the elbow, and split the undersleeve horizontally at the same level
  • Combined the lower mid/side front pieces
  • Omitted the pockets. I couldn’t get a nicely shaped pocket piece that wouldn’t hang out from the bottom of the jacket without compromising the length of the opening.

I used this lambskin shearling, which I bought on sale from Fabric Mart not quite a year ago. The fleece side is extremely soft and crimped. It varied between 1/4″ and 3/8″ in loft. I needed 15 (!) of them.

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My zipper was a #5 antique brass zipper from Cleaner’s Supply. The thread was Gutermann Mara 70.

My biggest challenge with this project was the fact that the 17 shearling skins I bought were tiny…and at this point it wasn’t as if I could just go out and buy more if I was short. (The small size is why I added the waistline seam.) To ensure that I would have enough for the whole jacket I cut out/altered all of my pattern pieces, then placed them on the skins. I marked each skin with a Post-it note saying which pieces fit on it. There was a lot of crossing out and rewriting, and it took a couple of hours because I triple-checked my work to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. But when I was done I not only fit everything, but actually ended up with two extra skins to spare! (Maybe I can make matching mittens?) When it came time to cut out the pieces a it went somewhat quickly because I was able to just reference the Post-it notes, place the pieces, and cut.

When I was cutting I worked from the shearling side and used a combination of pattern weights and loosely pinning the pattern piece to the fleece to prevent it from scooting around. This was a rare project where I cut with scissors rather than a rotary cutter. If the pattern marking was along a lapped seam I marked it with chalk on the suede side. If it was an internal seam I made small clips with the scissors.

My second challenge was with the lapped seams. It took a bit of thinking before I could wrap my head around how they worked. Basically the stitching line of the piece that is placed on top will be slightly offset, either to the left or right of the actual seamline. You mark the placement of the top layer onto the bottom layer with chalk (abutting the seam allowance against this chalked line.)

Here’s a couple of drawings so you can visualize how it works. Note: I used 3/8″ seam allowances and my stitching line was 3/16″ from the edge.

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When I actually sewed the pieces together I just went slowly and carefully, stopping often to check my placement because the shearling tended to obscure the chalked placement line.

Right after I cut out my Ziggi I was all set to try out lapped seams on some scraps. Good thing I did, because my Janome 6500P did NOT want to sew this stuff. I tried a regular foot, a Teflon foot, a walking foot, and experimented with presser foot pressure. The walking foot did the best but the machine just did not want to push this stuff through and the stitches looked very uneven. (I think the crimp of the shearling was confusing the feed dogs.) I took it to my Seiko STH8-BLD-3 industrial machine, which is a compound walking foot machine. (This means that machine has a triple feed system – in addition to the bottom feed dogs it has a two section walking foot, AND the needle helps feed the fabric. Very good for multiple layers of thick fabric.) It ended up being easier to handle on that machine than denim! Everything just pushed right through, no stopping to readjust. I love how the lapped seams came out – very strong and almost no bulk.   And no pressing required!

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Due to not having to finish seams and the lack of a lining this jacket sewed up very quickly. I think I spent more time planning and cutting than I did sewing.

To make the stitching line as accurate as possible I used my 3/16″ topstitching/compensator foot. I set my stitch length to 6mm. (That’s slightly longer than what most domestic machines can do, yet due to the thickness of the skins it looked more like 4mm topstitching on denim.) When I got to the end of each seam I tied the thread tails in a knot and clipped the ends off. For hemming I turned back the 3/4″ hem allowances to the outside and then topstitched in place by sewing 3/16″ away from the cut edge.

My fitting adjustments were:

  • Lengthened the lower section of the sleeve 1.5″
  • Added 1″ width to the sleeves at the elbow/bicep
  • 3/8″ forward shoulder alteration
  • Added 2″ to the hip
  • Added a total of 3/4″ to the front side seams at the waistline level
  • Took in each side/center back seam at the waist 1.5″
  • Added 1.25″ to the upper back

I bounced back and forth between doing a muslin and not doing a muslin, and in the end I just didn’t feel like doing on. So instead I did flat pattern measurements, comparing them to a well-fitting jacket, and altered as necessary. This is a rugged, more casual style jacket and the lambskin had enough “give” to it that I wasn’t worried about it being too small. I didn’t want to overfit either because I spent quite a bit of money on the shearling and want to make sure I will still be able to wear it if I gained weight. I was also very eager to get these skins out of my stash. 2-4 square foot shearling skins may be small, but 17 of them take up a lot of room. After I cut out my pieces I had a pile of scraps that was larger than the pile of my pattern pieces!

Pattern Review’s Surprise Sewing Bee!

Inspired by The Great British Sewing Bee, Pattern Review is hosting their own sewing bee contest next month!

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Yup, the grand prize is a Bernina serger! But there’s other great prizes along the way, like a $100 gift certificate to Elliot Berman and a Reliable Sensor Velocity V200 iron.

If you want to know more about the contest check out the announcement on Pattern Review. You can view the rules here. If you want to participate make sure you sign up by November 7. I’m not sure who the judges will be (the announcement just says “Contest Committee”) but Tilly from Tilly and the Buttons (and a contestant on GBSB) is going to be the guest judge for the first round.

I have no idea if I’ll be participating in this one. My job recently started including me doing photo coverage…and while I know something about photography I feel the need to step up my game when I’m producing photos that will be seen by faculty, students, parents, alumni, trustees, etc. So recently a lot of my nights have been taken over by me practicing and doing lots and lots of reading on photography websites/blogs/forums rather than working on sewing projects. And I’m definitely going to need to go on a fabric fast if/when I invest in a full frame DSLR. I’m not complaining at all because I find it very interesting and challenging,  and it is a wonderful opportunity for me to develop a more marketable skillset.

Style Arc Julia Jacket, Part 2

You guys…I’m so excited. I fixed the ruffle on my Julia jacket!

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And for comparison purposes, here’s the “before”:

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As I mentioned in my previous post about this jacket, I was unhappy with how the ruffle came out. The drape was asymmetrical and stiff. This was really disappointing because I loved the fabric I used for it. So I thought about how I could fix it. According to my father, one of my best traits is that I have an incredible amount of persistence. (Example: I spent over three hours on a Sunday a few weeks ago successfully chasing down and catching one of the chickens that escaped into the woods because I wasn’t about to let a dumb cluck get the best of me.) So as a last ditch effort I spent part of Tuesday evening attempting to fix my Julia…and it worked!

My theory was that, in addition to me possibly sewing the right ruffle in the wrong direction, the 3/8″ seam allowance Style Arc included for the ruffle was getting in the way of it flowing nicely. So I started off by un-bagging the jacket and unpicking the right front ruffle and front facing from the body of the jacket. I then unpicked the outer edge seam of the right ruffle, from center back of the hem to the center back neck. I resewed this seam, starting from the center back neck and going all the way down to the center back of the back peplum. Then I took my pinking shears and went to town on that seam allowance, trimming it down so the pinking was just barely above the stitching. I then re-attached the ruffle and front facing/lining to the body of the jacket, starting from center back neck and finishing at the center back hem. I turned the jacket inside out, took it to my ironing board, steamed and pressed the heck out of it, making sure that outer edge stretched into a circular shape as much as possible. I tried it on, and to my delight I saw the ruffle was not only much better, but actually looked nicer than the left one did! So then I unbagged the left side of the jacket, unpicked the front facing/lining/ruffle/body seam allowance, then pinked the seam allowance of the outer edge of the ruffle. Then I re-attached the ruffle and facing/lining to the jacket. I also turned the jacket inside out at this point and closed up the bagging opening (which is located in the lining of the sleeve.) I once again took the jacket to my ironing board and steamed and stretched and pressed the everything into shape.

So if you make this jacket, make sure you have your pinking shears nearby! It really helps “release” that ruffle and let it flow nicely. Due to the bias cut of the ruffle and lack of structure you aren’t always going to get things perfectly in place, but in my opinion it behaves much nicer and looks much more like the line drawing than it did before.