Ohio Star Quilt Coat

Oh, this coat. (And yes, it’s really a jacket, but doesn’t have the same ring, does it?) So, if you haven’t heard, quilt coats are *a thing.* Loved, despised, sowing chaos in both the sewing and quilting worlds, there’s quite a lot of backstory to this style of garment. Inspired by a friend’s absolutely gorgeous quilt coat, I decided I wanted to try this trend. That said, I wasn’t ready to cut right into a vintage quilt. There are so many opinions out there about whether and when it’s appropriate to repurpose a quilt, and I ducked right out of all of it by creating something original that was quilt-inspired.

Unsolicited Fashion Tip: Always coordinate your handmades to the foliage

I’m a huge fan of traditional quilt blocks — classic, bold, and very graphic. I was drawn to the Ohio Star for its graphic simplicity and dynamic look. So many angles! Such a sense of movement! Turns out, the Ohio Star has some great history behind it, but I’ll admit, that was secondary to the look of it. Instead of making an array of blocks, I wanted a Statement: just one big-ass block centered on the back. This coat is all about paying homage to American quilting, and the creativity and resourcefulness that has driven its craftswomen for centuries (and craftsdudes, of course). One additional patch on the front completes the adornment.

Turns out, those 1/4″ seams are not for the faint of heart. There are definitely some bobbles and misalignments in this coat. One would think that by focusing on one major block, it would be reasonable to be error-free. One would be wrong. This block was, for a quilting novice, a surprising challenge. I decided to leave in any, uh… eccentricities, both for the sake of enjoying the process and to remind me that growth is a process. Our skills get better, and our mistakes are part of earning those skills. Perfection is not the only path to completion.

The color palette was a flash of inspiration — I wanted something neutral-ish but striking, and navy, cognac, and ivory are some of my favorite neutrals. I love the combo, but seriously, there is just too much navy on this jacket. I like the look of it, but as the wearer, I look down and see oceans of blue, and not much patchwork. It’s not as much a joy to wear as I anticipated.

A lot of thought was put into the actual quilting process: what did I want to show on the inside? What direction should the quilting run? What would weigh things down and what would accentuate the star pattern? I went with diagonal rows for front and back, and vertical lines for the sleeves. I also added topstitching to all components of the blocks, which was a lot of work, but the kind of work that makes you love something more.

I fussed around a lot with this pattern, editing and changing to make it just what I wanted. It was a process! I figured I would tear through this project, no problem, but dudes, this took so many weeks. So much thread changing! So much measuring and remeasuring! So much trying it on and realizing, oh shit, this is not at all what I was going for…

Which, really, sums up the project. This is one of those sewing projects you think will be AMAZING, and then… it’s just not. I was pretty bummed when I finally put it on. It felt bulky, the seams weren’t handled as delicately as I planned (so. much. bulk.), my quilting was pretty wavy, it was just so blue, and it just didn’t fall right. Bummer.

Wavy quilting lines? I prefer to call them “pre-crinkled”

But then fall arrived, pretty much overnight. And this coat was EXACTLY RIGHT. Not too heavy, just the right amount of cozy. And not boring, but not so precious that I can’t just wear it to take the pup out for a walk. Plus, the giant pockets hold it all: cell phone, mittens, pup gear, tennis balls — you name it, it fits. And even the ocean of navy has worked in my favor. A few muddy paw prints will not destroy this quilt coat — and it’s softening up with washing, which happens more frequently than I planned. (The pup is still learning not to jump.)

Close up of puppy prints, I mean, the patchwork. The patchwork, of course

A few things I would do differently next time:

  • Longer sleeves. I wanted them to not be fussy — no getting caught in the stove burner or catching on things. But they’re just a bit too short.
  • Double batting in the collar. That’s where I want my warmth! It might not accomplish what I imagine, but it’s a bit limp as is, compared to the rest of the jacket.
  • Shorter, and just, smaller. I’m swimming in this jacket — a slightly shorter version might be a touch less cozy, but I’d feel less like a walking coat.
  • Serge edges before sewing. I planned on adding lovely bias tape to all the seams, like I’ve done with other jackets, but this coat just wore me out and I only added it where necessary. It was a serious challenge to serge the rest of the edges once the sewing was complete.
  • No hand-tying needed. I spent too much time tying off my topstitching. Backstitching would look slightly less lovely, but honestly, would be a more reasonable and sturdier choice.
  • Slow down the stitching. I learned (after the fact) that when quilting, use the slowest setting for the smoothest stitches. I’ve got some waving along the stitching that is less obvious after washing & crinkling a bit, but I’d be happier if it had been smoother to start.
Perfect for pumpkin patches and cornfields!

My true love really appears to be making fussy outerwear that does not conform to expectations. Mission accomplished, my Ohio Star homage!

Neon Dreams: The M7549 Jacquard Jacket

I’m just going to say it: I’m pretty pleased with myself. This jacket goes beyond my expectations and initial vision. When does that happen?

I had just pictured a boxy short jacket in a tweedy but interesting fabric, and even worked up two muslins of V9247 to perfect the fit and work on my techniques.

First version of Vogue 9247 — not bad, but let’s see a size smaller
Second version of V9247, sized down for a more cropped fit and shortened sleeves

Then, I threw all that work out the window and cut straight into this amazing fabric I splurged on with a brand new pattern.

Third time’s a charm!

So the standout feature here is the stripes. I ended up going with the McCall’s jacket once I got an itch to play with directionality. This pattern offers so many opportunities for pattern and stripe play! I went with on-grain horizontal for the main portions, with vertical stripes for the contrasts, and an added bias cut front yoke for a diagonal. While I had planned on keeping the details minimal to focus on the fabric, sometimes an intense fabric can work within a more-is-more context. (Right? No? Maybe?…) Whether it worked or not is subjective, but at this point I seriously couldn’t care less. I had so much fun making this jacket that wearing it is actually a secondary concern.

Excessive Pocket Enthusiasm: a common malady among sewists

I also added some interior pockets, since I’m a big fan of being purse-free when I can be. (You know, the better to chase after a toddler…) I added a phone pocket and an ID/library card pocket. We’ll see how well they function, but it was worth a shot to put in the extra few steps to make this piece really wearable. Skimping on details used to be okay for me, but as a parent, functionality wins EVERY time. I may as well add those details instead of reaching for a boring but pocket-rich jacket every day. I just interfaced the interior to provide support, with a double layer along the bottom of the pocket. I can’t yet endorse this method — we’ll see how it all holds up. (Edited to add: I’m going to be adding at least one row of stitching at the bottom of the phone pocket through all layers to reinforce it — the weight of the phone can drag down the entire front. Thankfully, I think my fabric will camouflage this.)

I also made a solid effort at craftsmanship, adding fusible weft to the front and back yokes, the armholes, hem, and cuffs. It makes it a bit heavy (thinking ahead to summer), but it’s just right for spring and fall and feels more substantial – – by which I mean, less homemade and more handmade.

In all honesty, I’m not sure how long this jacket will last. It has some chunky fibers that look like they could easily catch on things. Even with this possibility, I had such a good time putting effort and care into this garment.

Well, the third time I had to cut out the front bands (and re-fuse the interfacing, sigh…) because of a spacial intelligence glitch on my part, it became slightly less fun. As in, a lot less fun. But I worked through it and didn’t get upset, reminding myself to breathe and just take things one step at a time. I often wonder about the inner life of other sewists out there. Sewing can release the absolute worst in me (pouting, shouting, swearing, and taking things far too seriously and personally), but also offers so many opportunities for growth. Being able to work through challenging processes is a gift, and I’m finally old enough to realize that.

This jacket feels like a level-up for me. I’m realizing that I’ve been vastly overestimating my sewing skills for years, and they’re actually at a decent point now. Like, I’m finally where I thought I was 10 years ago but really knew nothing because I’d only sew a couple of garments a year and promptly forget everything. I’m more able to choose techniques and fabrics that are appropriate to the garment I’m envisioning, and figure out where things went wrong when something doesn’t come out right. (What, me make a mistake? Never!)

Seriously, just trying to show off my new sneakers that I LOVE

Okay, back to the pattern. This pattern has no darts or fitting, so it’s quite boxy. I cut a straight size (an 8, which is my go-to for Big 4 tops that aren’t super-fitted). The bracelet length sleeves are perfect for most of the year in Silicon Valley and feel less formal. I feel like the sleeves might be a little wide for my chicken arms. That said, I’m not going to go back and adjust this jacket; I’ll just consider it a way to layer sweaters under the jacket in fall and spring.

The construction is straightforward, with no curveballs to speak of. Hooray! There are a lot of pieces to cut out, so be prepared with patience and pins. The jacket is lined, but the instructions require a lot of handstitching. I don’t mind handstitching, but I’ve been working on my bagging method and couldn’t wait to try it out again, so I eschewed the instructions completely and it wasn’t a problem.

Still have to tack down the front bands, but I’m calling this a success!

I can picture so many more of these jackets, but I don’t think my closet can take it! I’m so excited to add a piece to my self-sewn collection that feels a bit extra, both in style and in sewing details. Perfect to sling over a white t-shirt and torn jeans, or to top off an LBD and be super chic. I am just dying for someone to toss a compliment my way so that I can toss a quick, “Thanks! I made it!” right back to them.

I would recommend this pattern as a fun sew that leaves plenty of opportunity for customization, pattern play, and details. I would say the same of V9247 — lots of opportunity to add details, but with a few more fitting details (shoulder and bust darts), fewer pieces (perfect for prints you wouldn’t want to break up), and no lining (mine was self-drafted). You probably don’t need both in your collection, but I would recommend either without hesitation.

And that wraps it up! Welcome to the closet my Natty Neon Don’t-Worry-I’m-Only-Slightly-a-Badass Jacket!

The Year I Sewed Myself Back Together

It’s been about a year since I got back into sewing (for, like, the 20th time in my life because always REASONS…). This time, it was pregnancy (OMGexhausted for nine months) and recovery and motherhood that put the brakes on my creativity.

Finally, about a year ago, I had a baby who would nap in her crib instead of only on me or in a moving stroller, and I was determined to do something for myself, for what felt like the first time in months. I unearthed my sewing machine from behind boxes of breast pump supplies, already-outgrown newborn clothes, and detritus from a career that already seemed like a lifetime ago.

The first top I sewed in 2018 — keeping things simple!

I started slow and with low expectations, but was soon spending every naptime moment I could snatch cutting, pinning, pressing, and sewing. I don’t think I can accurately describe how much empowerment I got from returning to my sanctuary in sewing. I stitched up more than I could reasonably wear, and gleefully photographed everything along the way, thrilled that I could feel like ME again — not just a walking milk source, or a glassy-eyed zombie or a scared and lonely new mother.

Sewing provided so many of the things I needed: control, creativity, personal autonomy, a feeling of progress and completion, and a way to measure success outside of salary or ounces of milk produced.

Instead, you can measure how many cats are on your pants!

I sometimes struggle with the feeling that I shouldn’t spend so much mental energy thinking about, when it all boils down… clothes. Like, shouldn’t I be solving the world’s problems, or pondering life’s larger questions? But regardless of how much time I spent planning, scheming and designing and generally thinking about… clothes…. the true result of my year of sewing was a return to myself, stitch by stitch.

I remember the feeling of greed I had for months after dragging my old Kenmore clunker out — greed for more time to sew, more energy to create — and I recognize that feeling in retrospect as a craving for balance, for a space for me as just myself, and not a mother or wife or patient. Thinking about sewing wasn’t just thinking about… clothes… it was claiming space for myself, both in the physical world and in my own mind.

Oh, to feel glamorous again! Sewing these pants had me feeling myself!

It’s been an amazing year of sewing — by far, the best I’ve ever had. I sewed more, challenged myself more, tried more fabrics, and absolutely upped my game. The intense need to sew as a therapeutic salvo has quieted, but the thrill of starting every new project remains.

I meant to just write a year-end review (as you do in the sewing interwebs, right?), but there’s not a single garment I made that means more to me than the overall experience of finding joy in creating after months of crushing doubt and struggle.

Self-care sometimes looks a lot like flitting around taking selfies in a garden while your baby fusses in an off-camera stroller.

I wish such an experience for anyone this year who needs it, for whatever reasons. Sew and create and dream and heal and grow.