A Woolly Tale

I have spent the last few evenings wiping up berry coloured fluff from almost every surface in my house!  I suspect it will be like glitter from Christmas cards and be appearing here and there for weeks!

What have I been doing?  A while ago I bought some lovely green boiled wool from Ditto Fabrics with no particular project in mind.  I pre-washed it and it firmed up a bit more than I was expecting so I decided that rather than make a skirt I would try an unstructured cardigan/jacket type of thing.

I found this Vogue pattern and was swayed by the fact that it was made up in fabric of almost the same shade of green.

Boiled wool cardigan

I’m not sure I’m particularly taken with the needle felted version on the left!

I then discovered I didn’t have quite enough of the green fabric!  Having forked out on a Vogue pattern I looked around for alternative boiled wools.  I found this one from Clothspot which wasn’t quite as expensive as some of the others I looked at and is the most glorious berry colour.  I decided against pre-washing it and just steamed it vigorously before cutting out.

I recently purchased some Swedish Tracing Paper on the recommendation of Portia over at Makery.  This is amazing stuff which can be used for tracing off patterns and making toiles.  One of the advantages is that it is 1m wide so there’s no sticking together of bits of tracing paper that aren’t quite big enough!  It doesn’t tear easily (except when you catch the edge of the arm hole on the corner of the table and pull it hard!) and sews very well.  Here’s my toile which I cut in the smallest size.

The jacket is a VERY simple construction and I sewed up the toile in no time at all.  The rather surgical looking stitching on the sleeve is a dart which you construct by removing a triangle of fabric and zig-zagging the flat cut edges together.  The stand up ‘collar’ is cleverly created by a row of top stitching on either side of the top section of the shoulder seam.

This is not a fitted garment so I continued to the main event in the same size without any adjustments.  I’d read that sewing with boiled wool could be tricky and it was best to use a ballpoint needle.  I just used the needle already in the machine and it sewed beautifully, even the top stitching.  I did think about trying to temporarily stabilise the cut fabric from behind for the sleeve dart before I sewed it but in the end I just pinned across the cut to hold it together and sewed very slowly.  I ended up with a small gap where I went a bit off piste so sewed over the whole thing a second time.  I had thought of doing this anyway as I wasn’t convinced it would hold together in the long term.  By the time I did the second sleeve it was getting late so I just whizzed straight down the dart without pinning or extreme caution and it was perfect!

The sleeves went in really easily with no easing required.  I appear to have limited spacial awareness and every time I set in a sleeve I have to put the garment on Doris to work out how it should go together!

Boiled wool means there is no finishing to be done to seams or hems and you can make this jacket in no time at all EXCEPT

I put on the finished garment, looked in the mirror and was underwhelmed.  I went downstairs and W’s expression was definitely not encouraging.  It did absolutely nothing for me.  This is what I didn’t like and what I did to resolve it :

  • The back is intentionally longer than the front and maybe I missed something in the construction but it just looked wrong.  I was a bit concerned about this when I made the toile but decided it would be OK in the actual fabric.  SOLUTION : I chopped it off level.
  • The sleeves were too long.   SOLUTION : I chopped off a couple of inches.
  • The sleeves were too full.  SOLUTION : I took them in, starting at 1.5 inches at the cuff and tapering in to the underarm.
  • The unfinished side seams just looked untidy.   SOLUTION : I top stitched them either side of the seam and trimmed them back to the stitching to match the collar seam.
  • The back of the collar area made me look like Quasimodo.  SOLUTION : I used the same process as the sleeve dart.  I measured out an equal distance from the centre of the back and marked a long triangular shape around five inches long.  I chopped this out and zig-zagged the edges together.
  • The collar and front were just too floppy and looked scruffy.  This was really the fundamental problem.  SOLUTION : I decided to zig zag round all the edges to give a firmer finish.  This negated all the benefits of using boiled wool and not having to finish hems etc. but I wasn’t giving up on this make because I really like the fabric.   Apart from the fluff which is produced every time you so much as show it the scissors and it also appears to have turned my sewing machine pink!

At the end of the whole process I realised how much more confident I am than just a few months ago when I would have just abandoned the project in despair.  I certainly wouldn’t have chopped a chunk of fabric out of something in such a cavalier manner!

Here’s the final outcome.  I have to say that I’ve accepted that such an unstructured shape is not really for me and I’m not entirely sure what I will wear it with but we are a lot further forward from W’s dubious look the other evening and I think I will give it a go.

Just spotted a thread that needs trimming on that sleeve but hopefully the picture shows how relatively invisible the sleeve dart is.  And try as I might there is no way that the jacket will drape in a waterfall fashion at the front like it does on the pattern image!



14 thoughts on “A Woolly Tale

  1. Excellent! Bit of pattern and construction hacking. It’s incredible how much you can do to Fix the faults. think the jacket looks really good. f it’s not a style you usually wear maybe make more pieces to coordinate with it. I’m a great believer in trying new looks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree, the colour is glorious! I think it’s really lovely, I like a good blazer styled jacket – so easy to wear. It’s a shame you’re not too sure on it. Also I’ve been sewing faux fur recently and that also gets everywhere! I keep finding it haha 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think it’s fab Jane and will work well as a jacket. On milder days it will look lovely with a luxurious scarf! It’s such a beautiful colour too. I’m sure you will get the plenty of drape with your silk jersey! 😉 x

    Liked by 1 person

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