I’m pretty sure this Sea Glass Denim jacket was the whole reason I decided to attempt Wardrobe Sudoku at all this year. This is a project I’ve wanted to make for 3 years now. I could blame my procrastination on pregnancy or the time it took to find the right fabric, but anyhow, the time for this project was now.
Sea Glass Denim Jacket
Almost exactly 3 years ago, I bought Janet Pray’s Sew Better Sew Faster class on Craftsy. The pattern that comes with the class is a denim style jacket, but I knew it was not going to work for me. The finished bust even on the XXS is 39 1/8″ and the finished sleeve 30 7/8″. I don’t know precisely what my inseam is, but it’s not that far off from that sleeve measurement! While I could have gone through multiple rounds of fitting and pattern alteration, there’s comes a time when it’s just more efficient to start with a pattern that’s graded closer to your measurements.
Burda 7018 is a good match. It has all of the detailing of a classic denim jacket, and it is sized 32-44. I typically always down grade to a 32 in my shoulders and neck, so the fact that the 32 was printed on the tissue was a huge draw for me. Grading is something that I’ve gotten more efficient at over time, but being able to save that step was so nice.
Burda’s sizing is really consistent, so I knew there wouldn’t be much for me to do in the way of fitting. The jacket on the model is very slightly cropped, so on me, it’s just right! Sleeves were the only thing I really needed to change.
I also shortened the sleeves by 2″. It should be noted that what looks like sleeve cuffs are actually sleeve bands–that is sleeve facings that you turn to the right side and topstitch down. I didn’t understand this when I make my initial muslin, so my 2″ off the sleeve was just a little too much shortening. I borrowed from the seam allowance of the sleeve hem bands, reducing it to 1/4″ vs. the 5/8″ allowed in the pattern. To keep the sleeve band the same width, I had to press under the edge that would be topstitched down by 3/8″ extra. This new length is perfect for me.
The pocket that wasn’t.
I thought briefly about adding a faux pocket under the flaps. I saw both faux and real pockets on several RTW jackets and thought it would be a nice touch. Here’s a template I drafted and chalked around. In the end, the topstitching just didn’t look right. On this pattern, I would have loved to have added functional pockets, but there’s just not a lot of space to do so. A longer jacket would’ve opened up more pocket possibilities.
If you’ve made jeans, you know that topstitching is a both a big feature and a big time suck. I actually don’t mind the time suck factor of topstitching. By far, it’s my favorite sewing task.
I’ve written before a few tips for using a tray to organize all your feet and also topstitching with non-topstitching thread. For this project, I used a #16 denim needle for construction and a #16 single topstitching needle for all of the topstitching. The topstitching thread is ivory Coats and Clark heavy thread. It very well may be that you could do all of your topstitching with a denim needle, but I’ve found that my machine makes nicer topstitching with a dedicated topstitching needle. That’s one of those things that’s good to test out on scraps.
Finishing seam allowances first
The instructions would have you sew each seam then finish the seam allowances together. With my heavy denim, this would have been too bulky. I had better success serging around the edge of each pattern piece (except the edges that would be enclosed like the collar and flap pieces) before sewing things together. My serger just had a better time with the one layer of denim vs. two.
Tie interfacing vs. “easing” sleeve caps
I also differed from the instructions in the sleeve. Instead of using rows of basting to “ease” the sleeve (not an option in my heavy denim), I used bias strips of tie interfacing. I learned this from Peggy Sagers and it really does make the prettiest sleeve cap that goes in perfectly the first time really without using any pins. Make better jackets!
Nice stitches with heavy fabric
I did this for my Shelby Nallo jacket, but it’s quickly becoming my favorite technique for heavy fabrics: Start every seam by sewing on a folded scrap of the fabric. You’ll have to vary the thickness of your scrap based on which area you’re working on. A doubled layer will be the most common choice, but on thicker areas, and buttoned areas, fold the scrap more to avoid the thread being pulled down into the machine. Basically, you want the back of the presser foot at the same thickness as the seam that you’re about to sew.
A “hump jumper” or “jean-a-ma-jig” will do the same job, but I’ve found sewing on the scrap is more reliable. Keep sewing onto the seam once you’ve sewn a few stitches on the scrap. This is especially useful for topstitching to keep those first few stitches even and the correct length.
Tack buttons are by far the most difficult thing to contend with when making jeans. On a denim jacket, your problems are multiplied exponentially because of all of the buttons. The shanks can break off, set in crooked, and twist around because they’re not set right. I have so many tack buttons that have no shanks because of all of the buttons I’ve set improperly. A few pairs of jeans ago, I found Dime Buttons. They’ve got a great selection of different buttons, and all of them have the screw type backs. Once in a while you’ll find a back for a tack button that has smooth sides. These are no good. The screw types grip the inside of the tack button much better.
The other thing that Dime Buttons has is this little plastic setter. You can buy it separately, or it comes included in the 50 tack button assortment. When I first popped it out of the package, I thought, “We’ll see if that works.” Well, work it does. The back and the buttons snap into place while you hammer, and in just a few hammer taps, you get a straight, secure button. I was so excited about this little $4 tool, I filmed it in real time.