Diary of a Thrifty Artisan Jacket
Hi, I'm Leia, the shop assistant at The Rag Shop. I come from a textiles and fine art based background and since starting working at The Rag Shop, I have discovered my new found love of dressmaking and it has taken over my life! For my first blog post, I have decided to combine my new hobby of dressmaking with my specialised knowledge of textiles and record it in a diary format so you can join the journey through my thought processes and timelines.
It's the perfect time to begin making lighter weight jackets as we approach Spring however, having Christmas just passed, investing in expensive fabric might be something you want to avoid at the moment. This inspired me to undertake an experiment to try and make the most out of one of the cheapest fabrics... calico! Obviously, calico isn't the most attractive fabric so I plan to dye it in an attempt to elevate its appearance. Doing this can be an option to make a wearable toile so the garment isn't wasted by not being worn. To also keep the cost down, I'm going to try adapt some details such as reducing the amount of buttons used and making my own bias binding from my personal scrap pile.
My inspiration for this project was sparked when my Grandad asked if I would be able to make him an artisan jacket that he could wear while doing his DIY jobs in his workshop at home. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out my experiment, even if just as a toile. Also, he will be getting this jacket dirty so using an inexpensive material is the best option.
19th January 2022
First of all, I have created a project planning page using the Get Organised Guide to help myself see what my first tasks are and decide on fabric choice, colour of dye, and pattern choice. I considered a few options when it came to choosing the pattern. At first, I thought I might use the Friday Pattern Company Ilford Jacket or the Wardrobe By Me Overshirt Jacket but then Steph suggested the Elbe Textiles Akerfeldt Coat. This pattern seems perfect for an artisan jacket and I also feel I would definitely use this pattern again for a version for my husband.
I love the design of the Elbe Textiles Akerfeldt Coat and the gusset pockets are perfect for my Grandad to keep his tools in however, he tends to always wear a utility belt so I have decided that the jacket would need to be hip length as oppose to the long, duster style version. The pattern does not come with this version however, when looking at the bodice pieces, they have a rectangular shape with parallel lines so shortening the length of the jacket should be pretty simple and wouldn't affect the construction.
Dye & Fabric Choice
In addition to planning this project, I have also started purchasing some of my supplies. For my dye choice, I have chosen to use the machine wash Dylon Emerald Green dye (colour approved by my Grandad). Dylon is a fabric dye that will only penetrate natural fibres, making it suitable for cotton calico. I purchased it from Hobby Craft for £7.00.
I made the informed choice to use the machine wash dye because during my textiles degree, I had variation in the colour results during dye experiments using the Dylon hand dye. I never concluded what the cause of this variation was but I would like to avoid this if possible and judging by online reviews, the machine wash dye is predicted to give more even and accurate results.
Due to the fact that I am using calico and machine wash dye, I don't plan to do any dye tests before dying because I am using an inexpensive material and don't want to waste the machine wash dye on a small bit of material and have to purchase a second dye. I'll just cross my fingers and pray it all goes to plan!
The calico I have chosen to use is from The Rag Shop - of course - and is the Lightweight Calico that is 100% cotton, 140gsm, 160cm wide, and is OEKO-TEX certified! Initially, it feels very stiff but I'm hoping it softens up more after pre-washing. I purchased 3.5 metres which is a bit more than the pattern calls for but I wanted to allow some space for error when dying. This cost £14.00.
Other Cost Reductions
To keep costs down in other areas of this project, I will refrain from buying 3 metres of bias binding and just make my own using scraps from my enormous pile of scraps at home - it's about time they got used! As well as this, the pattern calls for 7 buttons however, most buttons come in packs of 6 and I have chosen to use silver jeans buttons that I already have in my stash at home. Therefore, I am going to just reduce the number of buttons to 6 and just rejig them to fit.
Concern for this Project
I have some initial concerns for this project. One would be getting uneven dye results and then having to dye more fabric. The other would be the overall outcome and not achieving my goal to make calico look more elevated. But I suppose we won't know that until the end...
20th January 2022
Pre-washing the Calico
When pre-washing the calico, I used a generic setting (30 degrees) I always use to wash my clothes - not too long, not too short. Pre-washing the calico did make the fabric less stiff, just as I'd hoped! While my fabric was pre-washing, I read through the Dylon dye instructions and noticed it says that 1 pack is able to dye up to 600g of fabric. At this point, I had realised I hadn't weighed my fabric and planned to dye my fabric straight after pre-washing. I tried to estimate what the fabric weighed and I estimated it was around 750g. Although I thought it was slightly over, I decided it was still worth trying to see what the results would be.
Dying the Calico
I followed the dye instructions, ensuring my fabric was damp at the time of dying, using a cotton cycle wash setting at 40 degrees (as recommended for the best results). Once it was finished, I washed the fabric again for around an hour at 30 degrees and then hung my fabric to air dry away from any direct heat overnight. I noticed when I was hanging the fabric, that there was some blotchiness but I didn't mind it so much because it gave it a rustic textured appearance.
Design & Fitting Consultation
While waiting for my fabric to dye, my Grandad visited me so that I could take his measurements. He also showed me some more inspiration photos and we sketched a design together for what details he wanted for his jacket.
Grandad's inspiration: Fred Dibnah
He essentially wanted a jacket very similar to this one, featuring 3 pockets with no pocket flaps (one upper, two lower), a pencil pocket, and buttons down the centre.
We made the following changes to the design and pattern:
- Reduce from 2 breast pockets to 1.
- Add a pencil pocket next to the breast pocket.
- Change the lower angled pockets to patch pockets (so his tools won't fall out).
- Remove pocket flaps (easier access to tools and equipment).
21st January 2022
Accessing the Fabric After Dying
This morning before going to work, I checked whether my fabric was dry and to my surprise, it was dry (my clothes usually take forever to dry haha). In the brighter morning light, the blotchiness was more apparent and I noticed some streaky lines throughout the fabric. Regardless, the actual shade of the colour turned out a beautiful shade of blue green, true to the desired colour (photo looks a lot bluer than reality).
I brought the fabric to work with me so that I could iron it and weigh it on the digital scales. When weighing it, it came out at 834g... quite a bit over the recommended 600g. This probably explains why the colour is a bit patchy in some areas. After having a bit of a think, I have decided that I'm going to dye it a second time. I predict the streaky lines will remain but the colour will be a lot more intense and even across the fabric, which I think will look really lovely.
Second Dye Attempt
On my way home from work, I nipped back to Hobby Craft to pick up another emerald green dye for £7.00. When I got home, I put my fabric on a rinse wash just to dampen it because it had already been pre-washed yesterday. After that, I put the dye in following the same instructions as the day before, using a cotton cycle on 40 degrees. Once the dying was finished, I washed the fabric once more then hung it to air dry. Upon first glance, it seemed to have a more even colour but I couldn't tell entirely while it was still wet.
22nd January 2022
Accessing the Fabric After Second Dying
This morning I went downstairs to check on the dyed calico. It wasn't fully dry but the colour was much more even and the streaky lines were much less noticeable which the colour now much more intense. I am very happy that I dyed it a second time! The next task now is to wait for my printed PDF to arrive and trace it off.
26th January 2022
While I'm still waiting for my printed PDF pattern to arrive, I decided I would prepare my bias binding today so it would be ready for when I start sewing.
For my bias binding, I used scraps of the Green & Blue Brushed Cotton Check (bought from The Rag Shop) that was remaining from a previous project. The colour combination compliments my blue green fabric perfectly and won't stand out too much. I created my bias binding using the continuous bias binding method and decided I would make it 3.5cm wide (when unfolded) to give me a bit more room for any error. My bias binding ended up being 5.5 metres in length, which is more than the required 3 metres, however this gives some extra to use in case I want to bind any extra seams.
28th January 2022
My pattern arrived today so I traced it off fully in a size 'E' and reduced the bodice length by 29.3cm to achieve the desired cropped, hip-length jacket. This reduction also needed to be applied to the front facing.
4th February 2022
This afternoon, I have cut out my pieces and managed to squeeze it out of 2 metres of fabric with a bit of pattern jigsawing. Luckily, the calico is 160cm wide, double-sided, and non-directional so this helped me to cram all the pieces into the smallest amount of fabric possible. I was able to position both my back and front bodices next to each other across the width of the fabric because the calico is 160cm wide however, I suspect with a 150cm fabric that this wouldn't be possible and you would subsequently need more fabric than 2 metres.
With the excess fabric, I have decided I am going to make my Grandad an additional artisan jacket in a waistcoat style for the summer months, but I won't start this project until it gets a bit warmer.
Binding My Edges
Upon reading the instructions, I noticed that a flat felled seam technique is used for most of the seams except the edging of the facing is bound using bias binding. As a design choice, I have decided a bound sleeve side seam and sleeve hem would have a nicer effect when his sleeves are turned up. In addition, I will binding the sleeve opening once it is sewn to the jacket for a cleaner and stronger finish.
To begin with, I sewn the bias binding to the side edges and hems of my sleeves so they would be ready for when I needed them. I also stay stitched the front and back necklines and armholes as an alternative to seam tape to keep down the cost.
As it was approaching the end of the day, I managed to quickly join my shoulder and side seams with flat felled seams. This was my first time using a flat felled seam and it was super easy to do while also giving it a very professional finish.
5th February 2022
Sewing On The Collar
Progress has been halted slightly today because I realised I left my interfacing at home. I was able to find bits of interfacing for small pattern pieces like the collar but I wasn't able to interface the facings as they're considerable larger pattern pieces.
Aside from that, I still managed to do a bit of sewing up to the point where I needed to attach my facings. I was able to construct the collar and attached it to the jacket. This turned out to be a little bit fiddly but attaching neckbands and collars has never been my favourite part anyway. I also sewed the inseam of my sleeves ready for insertion.
7th February 2022
Attaching The Facing
I remembered to bring my iron on interfacing today so I was able to interface my neck facing and front facings. For my interfacing, I chose to use the Vlieseline Lightweight Iron On Interfacing (F220) because it washes really well, the glue is extra sticky, and it has a good amount of structure that is perfect for facings.
Before attaching the facing to the jacket, I sewn the back and front facings together and bound the edges with bias binding. When I attached the facing to the neckline, I then top stitched the facing to secure it to the jacket which creates a nice stitch detail on the right side of the jacket. This was a little bit tricky as the curve of the facing was difficult to keep flat when sewing so I have ended up with a bit of bunching in the seams but I didn't feel like unpicking and trying again because this is technically a toile and will only be worn whilst in his workshop.
Once the facing was secured, I then hemmed the bottom of my jacket.
I wasn't decided on my pocket placement entirely because I was worried there wouldn't be enough room for the lower pockets after shortening the length of the jacket. Therefore, I pinned my upper pocket initially, using the drill holes as a guide, to check if the placement was comfortable for accessing his tools. By this point, it was the end of the day so I left the rest of the pocket planning until my next session.
10th February 2022
When deciding as to where I wanted my lower pockets, I chose to ignore the drill holes because I knew I was going to have to raise the height of the pocket slightly because I cropped the length. My chosen method was to place the left lower pocket by eye and then measure the placement to match the pocket on the other side. I ensured to check whether I was still able access my tools easily.
Once I was happy with the placement, I top stitched them down using a 0.5cm seam allowance and added a triangular stitch at the start and end of my stitch line (as an alternative to a bar tack).
Attaching The Sleeves
I sewed a loose gather stitch to ease my sleeve heads into the armholes and bound the raw edges with bias binding instead of overlocking for a stronger and nicer finish.
Finally, I have brought the jacket home so that I can sew the buttonholes, labels, and hammer the buttons. I'm not able to do nice buttonholes on my machine at work so I've brought it home to sew them on my trusty Bernina machine.
17th February 2022
Buttonholes & Buttons
Life has been a bit hectic this week and my sewing room was in a bad state so sewing has been a bit delayed. Luckily, I had a bit of time yesterday to clean it ready for sewing my buttonholes today.
I lost my buttonholes template for my pattern so I had to use my brain and some simple mathematics to draft my own buttonhole template. I created a template for 6 buttonholes, placing them vertically expect the top button which I placed horizontally to allow the button to have more movement when buttoned up.
After hammering the jeans buttons on, I attached the my bespoke label along with a Kylie & The Machine 'you're a good egg' label to finish off. And I'm all done!
18th February 2022
Today, my Grandad came to The Rag Shop so I could reveal the jacket to him. He loved it and was really impressed with the labels and bias binding that I added. Straight after I showed him the jacket, he immediately commissioned me to make a bespoke emergency blanket for his hiking trips, haha!
Although I bought 3.5 metres of calico as this was my first experiment, you would actually only need the 2.5 metres to make the jacket. Due to me buying more fabric than needed, I also had to buy two fabric dyes however, you would only need one dye when using just 2.5 metres of fabric. Obviously, this was an experiment for me and error is likely at some point therefore, for my cost breakdown, I have only included the cost for materials and notions that are necessary for this project.
- 2 metres cotton calico (160cm wide) = £8
- 1 x Pack of 6 silver jeans buttons = £1.50 (Although, I already had this in my stash)
- Bias binding = Free (Made from scraps)
- Dylon machine wash fabric dye = £7.00
- Akerfeldt coat pattern = £10.03
- PDF printing (including shipping) = £7.10
Total cost including pattern = £33.63
However, if you already have the pattern or a similar pattern, it would be significant cheaper.
Total cost excluding pattern = £16.50
Another way to cut the cost down is to use odd buttons that you have around your house to create a quirkier look.
Overall, I think £16.50 is a relatively inexpensive cost for a project, especially a jacket, and is a great way to make your toile wearable as oppose to it just ending up in your scrap pile when you're done with it. Also, I loved the look of the calico when it was dyed as it reminded me of linen in a way that it looked slightly creased from the subtle dye streaks.