Cozy up

It's now well past the middle of winter and I've been obsessed with staying warm for a while now. Spring should be just around the corner, but it doesn't feel that way at all around here. Trying to take the chill off began in December, with my personal tradition of sewing up many pairs of flannel pajama pants for family for Christmas. In January I decided I needed some new flannel pajamas as well. Next up, since my knitting projects seemed to be taking too long to finish, wear and stay warm in this winter, I pulled out this fleece backed ribbed wool sweater knit and sewed a sweater jacket (the longer view, view B).

Fleece-backed ribbed wool sweater knit jacket, front, Vogue Patterns 8839, view B.

Fleece-backed ribbed wool sweater knit jacket, front, Vogue Patterns 8839, view B.

Matching fabric and pattern is always the challenge for the home seamstress; we don't usually have fabrics designed and milled and dyed or printed to spec for our projects. Every experienced seamstress (and clothing designer) knows how the wrong fabric can ruin a great design and vice versa. If you are lucky to have a fashion industry fabric jobber nearby, you can likely find just what you need. But for most of us, the local neighborhood brick and mortar fabric stores are sorely lacking in high quality and inspired fashion fabrics. The good news is that online fabric shopping has come a long way over the last decade. Good descriptions that include weight, color descriptions, scale rulers for prints or patterns, fiber content and care and even suggested styling are helpful. Unless you order swatches, however, you still may not really be sure about what you are getting and could be in for a surprise. Try to deal with reputable online retailers (finding online reviews is fairly easy) and double check the return policy!

Fleece-backed ribbed wool sweater knit jacket, back, Vogue Patterns 8839, view B.

Fleece-backed ribbed wool sweater knit jacket, back, Vogue Patterns 8839, view B.

I don't even remember where I purchased this fabric (online) several years ago, but I do remember thinking at the time how nice it was, thick ribbed texture, double sided, and so nice and warm. I also remember the colors were more drab than the online description and photo had indicated, but the quality was beautiful and I liked it enough to keep it.

Sewing with this sweater knit is easy even if it is a little bulky. I prewashed the fabric in cold water, as I don’t dry clean anything unless forced to and it washed up really well. Preshrunk wool loves a good steam press and using a moderate temperature steam iron with a clapper made the seams flatten and finish very nicely. I thought about using a regular knit fabric for the pocket lining and facing to avoid bulk, but the fabric pressed so well that I used self-fabric instead and am happy with the resulting pockets. The weight of the pockets makes them hang well and they don’t rumple up or cling as the jacket moves around. I used my regular machine for all but the side seams and inside finishing of the pocket edges. All of the main seams are finished in a mock or faux flat-felled seam, which is straightforward to sew and it creates a nice top stitching detail. The outer edges are all unfinished or "raw".

Jacket details: welt pocket, top stitched mock flat-felled seams, fleece-backed ribbed wool sweater knit fabric.

Jacket details: welt pocket, top stitched mock flat-felled seams, fleece-backed ribbed wool sweater knit fabric.

As for the final results? Well, I’ve been sewing long enough to know it’s easy to be seduced by the photos or line drawings of a pattern. And then, once the garment is sewn, it’s not as easy to like so well. It’s much like being disillusioned after trying on the fabulous outfit you saw in the store window and thinking that it’s not so fabulous after all. Other times, its great and I love it. Even better than the pattern photo or drawing. This jacket is somewhere in between those two extremes. I like it on me more now; at first I wasn’t so certain. It’s a lot of sweater and I was aware of that going in, but the styling takes a little more fiddling than I’m used to. It might be more dashing and less overwhelming if I was about 5 inches taller. (But of course, that could be true for me as well as my clothing!) I love the idea of it, which is simple and clever. And I love that it is so cozy in this fabric, the contrast side works so well with the design, it looks elegant but a little rustic, AND it’s super warm. OK, I think it’s a keeper.