straight story

Simplicity 8298

Maybe it’s a tad hyperbolic to compare this project with Alvin’s epic 240 mile journey from Iowa to Wisconsin on a lawn mower. But that’s what came into my mind as I sat down to write about my journey with Simplicity 8298.

When I bought the pattern, I naively thought it would be easy to source some quilted fabric on-line. But after several weeks of trawling the internet, I resigned myself to the fact that it wouldn’t and the jacket of my dreams would remain a distant fantasy. That is unless I decided to embrace a whole new skill set and quilt my own fabric – how hard could that be? At this point, it would have been prudent to undertake a bit of preparation and acquaint myself with the actual process of quilting. But instead, fast forward to a flurry of excitable consumerism when I jumped both feet first, into the remnant bins of my beloved Abakhan.

I returned home from my shopping haul triumphant and lay out the bounty – 2.3 metres each of some beautiful green and brown patterned craft cottons along with some batting for £60 all in. What barginous luck – I’d dropped on material that aligned perfectly with my vision and it wasn’t going to cost me an arm and a leg. How wrong could I be. I’d based my fabric requirements on the recommendation for my bust measurement and neglected to note that this referred to material that was ALREADY quilted. And not having done the prerequisite research, I was ignorant of the fact that quilting is a THEIF – of your time, your money, your fabric and your thread.

Whilst reading this very informative post I realised I would need more material to mitigate the fabric swallowing effects of quilting. I spent hours positioning the fabric pieces in different formulations and considered using a number of remnant pieces from my stash, to create a coat of many colours. I found a piece of gold which might work for the inside sleeves and toyed with a number of hues for the pocket and hood. It seemed almost doable until I accepted that this hideous technicolored mash up, could not be further removed from my initial concept.

I contacted Abakhan and they very kindly tracked down a couple of metres of the brown but sadly not the green I was fixated on for the shell. Whilst picking up the lining fabric with my sister, she convinced me a blue fabric I’d spotted would be the perfect pairing. I was hesitant but I acquiesced – perhaps someone who had been designing menswear fabric for most of her adult life might just have the edge on me. By now the budget for this baby was out of the window – more fabric, more batting and don’t even get me started on the thread requirements. Take it from me – quilting your own fabric is not for the feint hearted, time poor or cash strapped.

Finally, I was in a position to start quilting and by now I’d garnered a few wisdoms. I positioned each pattern piece onto the blue fabric and chalked roughly 3cm away from the edge. I then used each piece as a template to cut the batting and backing fabric and affixed all three together with temporary spray mount adhesive. I located a central point on each pattern piece and from here chalked an intersection for two diagonal lines. The angle of the diagonals was determined by the fabric motif which made quilting super easy. All I needed to do was decide how many lines I wanted within each diamond and then stitch roughly in the solid gap between.

I was aided greatly by my walking foot for which – having located its shoe – I have a newfound love. I dispensed with the quilting bar as I found it much easier to judge the distance between each patterned line by eye. Another boon was the more loft, less weight Hobbs heirloom premium cotton batting I’d purchased. At £11.99 per metre, it’s not the cheapest but it’s double width and a dream to work with.

The quilting itself was a breeze – hour upon hour, stitching line after line, radiating from a central point for even shift and spread. After completing each section, I lay the corresponding pattern piece on top, chalked around the perimeter, sewed on top of this line to preserve the quilted area and finally cut just outside this line of stitching.

Assembling the jacket was similarly straightforward – just a few seams and it quickly took shape. I had previously made both a small and medium toile in heavyweight thrifted curtain material and opted for medium to accommodate my preference for layers. I thought I would be able to counterbalance any roominess by adjusting the button placement and ignored an inner voice, cautioning me against distorting the shape.

Again, my zest to make progress was my downfall and I Hong Kong-ed every internal seam like my life depended on it. The binding I struggled most with were the curved hood seams. Whilst the pattern does contain generic tips on binding techniques, I would have benefited from a lot more hand holding and guidance on dealing with bulk. I contacted Simplicity to ask how the sample seams had been finished in the hood and was disappointed to find they hadn’t and be referred back to the instructions and a few web page links. I spent hours searching Google for tips and cobbled together something which almost passes my critical eye.

I machine stitched some narrow binding to one side of the seam allowance as near as I could to the seam line. I then trimmed this side of the seam allowance to the binding edge and the opposite seam allowance as close as I could to the seam. Finally, I folded the binding over the seam line and hand stitched the binding using a ham to get a smooth finish. It kinda worked but in retrospect, having spotted this glorious iteration, I wish I’d gone the full Hong Kong immersion route.

The hood and jacket are attached together by the external binding, for which I used some dark green herringbone twill tape I picked up from the market. It’s clearly marked and if you fold it over, one half is wider than the other, so I ironed over this demarkation line and got to work. The tricky part is pushing the quilted fabric into the crease of the tape and getting a tight purchase before pinning, basting and finally machine stitching. I’m probably least satisfied with this part of the make. The twill tape seems to be pilling and there are sections of bagginess I need to draw a line under.

Aside from the inevitable critique that accompanies every make, I finally had the endgame in my sight. I was just about to go on holiday and all that remained was to quilt, bind and set in the sleeves – a doddle. But wait a minute – I’ll just try it on a hundred times or so to check the fit and then finally heed the voice in head which had becoming deafening – IT’S TOO FUCKING BIG. The front favours a Japanese aesthetic and didn’t take to kindly to me dragging one side over the other to reduce voluminosity. So out came the unpicker, as I dismantled every single one of those elaborately stitched seams. OH MY DAYS – the anxiety, the hours, the painstaking laboriousness of it all. What if I trimmed down each piece, re-assembled the jacket and the bloody thing was too small?

Thankfully it wasn’t – that internal wisdom gently nudging for your attention, is usually your friend. My hunch paid off and my patience rewarded in a fit with which I’m most pleased. I introduced the sleeves without any drama. On one sleeve head, I used a gathering stitch to accommodate bulk but I much prefer the finish I achieved on the other by pinning and bubble easing the excess. I inspected the insides of a few coats at work to determine how to finish the sleeve head and used some wide binding to enclose trimmed down edges in a closed bound seam.

During this project, I’ve had time a plenty to contemplate the journey towards my own straightedge. I used to think cigarettes and alcohol were inseparable from tolerating life. I was an outsider and these were my weapons. But what I’ve come to realise is how smoking and drinking functioned in my life – allowing me to separate myself from whatever uncomfortable position I found myself in. Socialising in large groups is the opposite of relaxing for me and those moments outside with a fag and maybe a like minded comrade, were as good as it got. Now, I’ve embraced my introverted nature and live in harmony with its traits, I no longer feel the need to escape. Seven months alcohol free and I’ve found that far from losing my edge, I’ve been exploring what it feels like to teeter on its brink and swim against the tide. This radical decision to experience life with emotions unblunted has brought me to a place of internal quiet that feels like home.

25 thoughts on “straight story

  1. Glad it’s finally here A! Been teasing with these quilting updates for what feels like ages! Looks fab, done some ‘bubble easing’ this week too! xox

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This jacket is absolutely delightful and it’s mind blowing that you actually more or less made it twice! Wow. It looks so good on you.
    I find it interesting (never having done anything similar) that you cut out the pattern pieces oversized and then quilt, rather than first quilting the whole and then cutting out. Is it for ease of handling whilst quilting or is there some further explanation?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you – so glad you like it! I did it this way because I would have found it too unwieldy to quilt all the fabric uncut. And I also wanted to pattern match the quilting lines at the front and on the pockets and this was the easiest way I could think to do it. I also read as much as I could on the Internet and this seemed to be the way other people had handled quilted items. I’m sure you could quilt and then cut though – I just felt more confident this way 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Pattern-matching quilting lines! Fabulous. I knew there’d be more to the story than “mere” ease of handling. Thank you for your detailed answer. I also forgot to say before: I love the fabric of your skirt/dress! From a distance it looks like densely growing trees – already fabulous – and then one realises it is actually peacocks (or am I wrong? I realise the photo isn’t very close-up) – better yet! Gorgeous.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. HA! Yes – it really was next level:) The dress is also a dottie angel pattern – that ubiquitous one that first came out. I bought the material on special from Abakhan in Manchester and yes it’s peacocks! Well spotted. Thank you for your lovely comments.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and read – I really appreciate it. It was a bit of an epic make for me and there’s no regrets as I learnt shed loads in the process 🙂


  3. Great post and lovely jacket. Your take on sewing and on life is always interesting, insightful and honest. Such an engaging read. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh this is such a treat to see this morning! I’ve been so inspired by your journey with this jacket, I know it’s been a rollercoaster and you’ve really done yourself proud with it. I really love the colours together and the green accents from the herringbone, well it’s absolutely perfect and I the fit on you is spot on so kudos to you for downsizing, you were brave and wise to maintain your vision. I’m no quilter but love a quilted coat but have outgrown my favourite so really miss the comfort of it and had bought the pattern earlier this year and baulked at the thought of attempting the quilting aspect being nervous to sacrifice cloth or sanity but I might just pluck up the courage to try it now after following your journey with it and seeing what you’ve overcome, you’ve been a pioneer of this pattern! I was also thinking too (sorry for the long post!) that when something is made proper for the first time, I’m never quite happy will all the aspects of what I’ve done, I don’t think any of us are if we err on the side of perfectionism and well, in homesewing we don’t get the opportunity or inkling to make something more than a couple of times especially with a coat pattern because we small scale make to our needs rather than produce to market therefore we have to live with the little irritating faults than we know about. I personally find it hard to see anything I make as perfect which I’m always striving for with my pattern following making. I’ve really enjoyed reading this today and thank you so much for being so open and sharing your experience, this is truly inspirational. Also, it looks absolutely amazing on you!! X Josie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah Josie – thank you so much for taking the time to stop by, read and comment on my post – I appreciate it hugely. I did write quite a lot about the process in the hope it would inspire others to have a go at this pattern. I looked far and wide to try and find guidance on what to do and there was precious little out there which spoke in the very basic terms that I needed! I probably would have benefited on going on a quilting class beforehand as I had no experience whatsoever. So, bearing that in mind, I am able to see past the niggles and appreciate that this was quite a step up for me and the results are far from shit. I love the colours together too and the shape which is Japanese and bell-like. It goes with pretty much everything in my wardrobe so I can see me getting a huge lot of use out of it. You are so right about the fact that it is inevitable our makes will be imperfect and I do know that mistakes are an inevitable part of the learning process. I try and keep an eye on my perfectionist qualities but that’ll always be a WIP! I’d love to see you have a go at this pattern – you can learn from all my mistakes 🙂 And I’m glad you liked reading the post and seeing the final outcome – it was lovely for me to read this feedback today. Thank you xx


  5. Aimee, this is absolutely stunning – and looks fantastic, its looks gorgeous inside and out, and also super cosy. you are such a perfectionist (even when I was reading this I was feeling guilty of short cuts I would take, but I would most likely hand-finish the binding as I have never really got the hang of stitch in the ditch) The wooden toggles really complete it. Like the reference to the movie, its a movie that often comes to mind to me for so many reasons, must watch it again soon- inspired to try the quilting something similar myself – will be revisiting this post…. (know what you mean about large groups – my new idea of a good time is meeting fellow stitchers in the pub for a crochet session or simply sewing on my own-io with the radio!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you like it Eimear – I know you were interested to see the finished product! I’m super pleased with the fit and love so much about it. I’m trying to quieten my perfectionist mind and ignore the slight pilling on the external binding. I’ve promised myself it’s not being replaced until the coat’s had some considerable wear. It’s not even something anyone else would notice but that doesn’t stop me obsessing over it! I can see you taking very well to quilting – you aren’t easily phased! And it’s not hard if you know what the pitfalls are – I just learnt the hard way as I wasn’t sufficiently prepared from the outset. I think the next quilted things I make will be significantly smaller – like an oven glove or a glasses case! It’s a great movie isn’t it – I LOVE everything from David Lynch’s stable. I recently saw the documentary about his art work – The Art Life – it was fascinating and his work resonated so much with me. As for meeting fellow stitchers in the pub – that’s definitely something I would leave the house for 🙂


  6. What an incredible jacket! I have been eagerly following your progress and I am so very impressed with the final product. What a saga and what a success. Well done”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sarah – how lovely for you to take an interest in my journey with this jacket! It’s been epic and I’m glad to say it paid off. I love my pixie jacket – flaws and all! 🙂


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