Wacky Jacket

by Tracy Curtis

I've always maintained that I don't do 'grown up sewing' but that I just scribble or doodle with my sewing machine. However, a few weeks ago, I decided it was about time I had a good sort out of my workroom, especially the many boxes of various fabrics precariously balanced on shelves.

Of course, once started, I found loads of odd little pieces that I'd drooled over at some time or another and saved for a 'special project' and which had never again seen the light of day! As I was going through these, (putting aside many of my favourites, as usual) I suddenly realised how well all the colours looked together, and this led to thoughts about possibly making a patchwork throw..... until I decided that, actually, I really wanted to wear all these beautiful pieces, and suddenly, the idea of a jacket was born.

Now, in the past, my limited dressmaking experience had been strictly confined to school sewing (hideous memories of Housecraft aprons and caps come to mind), fancy dress items and elasticised, pull on trousers for the children when they were toddlers, certainly not a jacket, and never anything that required a lining !

Undaunted, the very next day, I toured the shops, looking for a simple jacket pattern. I found one, bought a gorgeous cotton fabric for lining and raced home to start work. I carefully cut out the paper pattern, then measured each piece to get an idea of how large each panel would have to be, being careful to allow ample for wastage. Then the fun began..... assembling all the bits of fabric for each pattern piece. I soon realised that I wasn't going to have enough to complete the back..... and that's when I had my real brainwave!

jacket frontjacket back

A couple of years before, I'd spent a day doing a workshop with Jennie Rayment to make a glorious sunflower panel involving tucking and twisting of fabric ( a highly recommended workshop, by the way) and, though I loved the finished panel, I'd never actually got round to doing anything with it. Rummaging through another box, I found it and decided it would be great fitted into the back panel. This was definitely going to be one wacky jacket..... so I decided to take it one stage further. I free machine embroidered some of the panels with trailing flowers, leaves, and of course, my signature, then painted butterflies and a bee onto silk, embroidered those, and appliquéd them onto the jacket fabric. I have to confess, that at this stage happily sewing all the patchwork pieces together, at no time did any thoughts of "lay pattern on straight grain of fabric" enter my head!

The idea of embroidering a bee came about because I'd included a lovely little piece of honeycomb pattern fabric on the arm and I thought it needed a bee to finish it off. The patches were also made up of totally different weight fabrics, including velour, furnishing fabric swatches, painted silk and cotton oddments, but happily they all worked together.

It took a solid week of blood, sweat and tears to complete, especially as I had recklessly decided to lengthen the jacket from that of the original pattern, and fitting the lining required a few muttered prayers on my part, but I am delighted with the result. It is, I have to confess, not without its mistakes ( I can't afford to put on any weight, for instance ) and any self respecting dressmaker would probably be horrified, but every single seam has been double or triple stitched for strength, it's incredibly comfortable to wear, looks great with jeans or my favourite long skirt and boots and spruces up a little black dress beautifully.... and I love it.

jacket frontjacket back

Would I do it again? You bet! I am already working on a design for possibly a quilted jacket, with toggle fastenings, suitable for colder weather. Will it be a Green Man theme (lots of lovely trailing ivy and oak leaves to paint and embroider) or an underwater design with gorgeous appliquéd seahorses stitched with metallic threads on soluble fabric and seaweedy tendrils? Watch this space!

Workshops and talks

Tracy Curtis offers a range of one and two day workshops on free machine embroidery and silk painting in the West Country and throughout the UK.