I was very inspired to make a duster jacket after seeing how versatile and chic they could be. I was particularly taken by the way Lee Vosburgh of the amazing blog Style Bee styles her multiple duster jackets and felt that I really wanted to make one. Now even if I had wanted to buy one RTW I knew it would be practically impossible to find one that would fit me properly due to my very petite proportions (I’m 150cm). Thankfully sewing really is a superpower so I felt pretty confident I would be able to make one similar to the one that Lee is wearing here and also here but tailored to my size. Also side note can I just take a minute to gush over how much I admire Lee’s style?
Recently I’ve started to use more “big four” patterns. I tried a few of them when I became more interested in sewing about 10 years ago but did not have much luck. Prior to that when I was starting out I dove straight into drafting my own patterns – the first sewing book I ever bought was Helen Joseph Armstrong’s Pattern Making for Fashion Design. When I started trying out some commercial patterns that were drafted for someone a good 8” taller than me my lack of understanding about altering patterns became very apparent.
After learning so much from the incredible instructions and sewalongs that indie patterns are renowned for and also just from sewing for so long now I’ve fared much better with big four patterns this time around. I see them as an excellent jumping off point and tend to use the instructions more as a suggested method which I meander away from when necessary. The thing I really like about big four patterns is just how much variety there is. There is such a huge selection of designs that you’re almost sure to find something pretty close to what you’re after.
After trawling through the Spotlight website I found Simplicity 8554 which seemed to fit the bill for me. Another tip I wanted to share is to ignore the photos and pay more attention to the line drawings. Sometimes the made up garment can seem like a definite “no” but this reaction could be because of fabric selection and styling rather than the actual design itself.
I’d had some of this gorgeous duck egg medium weight linen from The Fabric Store since last year but hadn’t gotten around to using it yet. I have to say it’s a fair bit darker than the colour on the website but luckily I like it’s actual colour more. Originally I was a bit concerned it might be too lightweight for this jacket but seeing as I planned to wear it with the sleeves rolled up I decided to go for it. It’s an unlined garment so I see it as more of a layering piece for autumn or spring rather than actual outerwear.
I knew that the lapels on the original jacket were a bit too wide for my liking and that I would have to slim them down a bit. I was after a knee length jacket so picked view A made with the length of view B. I shortened the sleeves by 1” (my usual adjustment) and proceeded to make a quick muslin. I feel that making a muslin was critical in determining the final width of my lapels which I ended up narrowing by about 2” at the top of the lapels and bottom corner of the collar piece.
The narrowing of the lapels was tapered to nothing about 15” down from the front jacket piece and front facing piece. With the collar piece I ended up taking off about ½” from the centre back piece tapering out the 2” at the outer corner. Sorry if that’s a bit confusing, but hopefully the pictures above and below will explain this a bit more clearly. I also ended up lengthening the jacket by 1 1/2” as I quite liked the length of the muslin before I hemmed it. The last change I made was to raise the pockets by 1 ½” (another common adjustment for me) as pocket bags always end up too low for my short arms.
After transferring the changes onto the pattern pieces I was ready to go. A couple of other things I’d decided I wanted to do included binding the inner edges of the facing with bias and also include a bit of padstitching on my lapel pieces so that they would roll out nicely. I was inspired to do this by the amazing and lovely Julia Bobbin who has taken a deep dive into the world of tailoring. I encourage you to check her account out if you haven’t already. When I wear my Oslo coat something that annoys me is that the collar does not roll out properly as there is no under structure to encourage it to do so. If and when I make another Oslo I will definitely add some tailoring techniques to address this.
Once I got the pieces cut out and interfaced it should have been easy. Unfortunately my sewjo decided to go walkabout at this point and I procrastinated for a while. What got me going was me made May. Instead of pledging to wear or document my me mades I decided to commit to sewing every day. I’m at the point in my sewing journey where I wear at least one (and often more) me mades everyday already. It didn’t matter if it was five minutes or two hours of sewing I figured at least doing a little bit daily would eventually up with my jacket getting made.
In the end it took about two weeks to sew this jacket up and I’m so pleased with the end result. I really took my time with thinking through the best way to put this together. I bias bound the inner edge of the facing but also the lower part of the sleeve seams to get a little pop of binding showing with the sleeves rolled up. I had a bit of fun going through the stash picking out some fabric to use for the binding and ended up going with a lovely bit of Liberty tana lawn which feels rather luxurious.
The padstitching was very slap dash and I used some self fabric on the inner edge of the front piece (as suggested in one of my favourite books Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer). Even though it wasn’t done in the most professional manner I’m still very happy with how it helps the collar roll nicely. I also hand stitched the entire facing edge to the jacket as I didn’t like how it was flapping around when loose. Luckily linen is a bit nubbly anyway so the stitches are barely visible on the outside.
The finished jacket is exactly what I was hoping it would be and I’m looking forward to wearing it more once the weather warms up a bit. Happy sewing xx