Denim Month: A Long Denim Jacket

Hello Sewcialists!

I was sitting at my computer in my sewing room when the call for contributors for Denim Month came up in my blog feed. I looked over to my fabric stash where a large piece of denim sat, thought “Yep, this one is for me,” and immediately responded. I had purchased a heavier weight denim from Mood about 4 years ago with the intent to make jeans. Soon thereafter I realized I don’t like wearing jeans, at least not the traditional style for which this type of denim was meant. There it sat for four long years, lonely and sad (I swear, every year the folds turned downward a little more into a distinct frown), waiting to be transformed. As you can see, the story has a happy ending with the denim fabric being turned into a long denim jacket.

Kim models her long denim jacket. The large hood drapes over her shoulders, showing the contrasting bright green and blue patterned lining fabric. She has used the same contrast fabric for the jacket's cuffs and welt pockets; her right hand rests in the right jacket pocket.

Once confirmed as a contributor, I had to determine exactly what I was going to make; off I went to Pinterest for inspiration, with the idea of finding something that would fill a need in my wardrobe. My current RTW spring/fall jacket is a little tight in the waist (truth, I can’t get it zipped without restricting my breathing) so I thought that might be a possibility. The eighties are my jam so I found a couple long denim jackets as inspiration, then found a BurdaStyle pattern that was similar to one of the jackets I liked. I knew I wasn’t going to have a lot of sewing time to complete the jacket, so I chose a pattern with simple lines and few complex sewing features.

Burda's modeled photo for  pattern 103 "Imitation Leather Parka" from the 08/15 issue. A model stands on a beach wearing the jacket, which is made of a printed faux-leather material and features contrasting solid black cuffs.

Denim is such a fun fabric to sew because it has both a nice structure and a decent degree of malleability. You don’t always have to do a lot of topstitching and fighting with multiple layers of fabric to get a fun denim look. Adding a bit of contrasting fabric in a lighter weight can eliminate thick seams and add some interest without requiring a more advanced skillset.  I am quite happy with the way the jacket turned out and while I think it might be a bit too heavy for spring it will be perfect for fall. The hard part will be waiting until then to wear it!

Kim faces the camera, modeling her Burda jacket made from heavy denim and a contrasting print fabric. The toggle closure at the top of the jacket is open, revealing the contrasting front facings and Kim's black polo neck top underneath. Kim has her hands in the jacket's pockets and is smiling slightly at the camera.

This is a PDF pattern and while the pattern itself was okay, the single page, no pictures instructions left a lot to be desired. It may as well have said “Just make me.” This is the first BurdaStyle pattern in PDF form that I have sewn so I am not sure if they are all similar in this respect.  Even though this is a pretty basic pattern, it might be frustrating for a beginner due to the limited instructions.

Kim holds the front of her denim jacket open to reveal both the contrasting facings as well as the bright blue lining (which matches the color of the bright blue in the print of the facing fabric). Beneath her jacket she wears a black polo neck top and black trousers. She smiles into the camera.

I tossed the instructions and did my own thing. I made a size 44, the largest available, and did an FBA. Though the FBA wasn’t strictly necessary as the style is pretty roomy, I did it to keep the front hem from hiking up due to the pull that can sometimes occur with a larger bust. I find raglan sleeves easy to fit to my aging body because I generally only have to make minor adjustments to the sleeve seams at the neckline to accommodate my forward shoulders and rounded back. In this case I did a quick-and-dirty muslin and found that I could do without my normal adjustments. I replaced the leather parts with a contrasting fabric, added cuffs and a single welt pocket, made all the facings with a contrasting fabric and added a bright lining. The things I would change if I make it again would be to make the hood a little smaller (you could fit a two-year-old child in that thing), maybe switch out the toggle closure for something more secure, and remove just a bit of the fullness to make it a little less swing-y.

Kim shows the back of her denim jacket, which reveals the full hood and its contrasting center band.

In doing this post I not only wanted to make my denim feel loved, I also wanted to offer my views on being a part of the Sewover50 crowd. I am so grateful that the group came about as a result of a post on this blog. I truly would not still be on Instagram if it weren’t for the support, inspiration, and camaraderie of this amazing group of people.  As an over-50 sewist, I have over 45 years of sewing experience, went to fashion design school, and spent a couple years designing my own line of lingerie. When I went back to school to become a biologist, I supported myself by doing alterations for a shishi poopoo store that sold clothes to the rich and famous of my city. I have lots of experience, but you know what? I still make mistakes, have a couple wadders balled up in my stash, learn something new about sewing almost every day from sewists of all ages and love the enthusiasm of those who are new to the craft.  I guess my point is that though no one is perfect or can claim to know everything, you may be surprised at what is lurking in an older sewist’s background.

Kim's jacket is shown on a form, close up from the side; a sleeve is visible, as is its cuff and the welt pocket on the front of the jacket.

I certainly don’t speak for all over-50 sewists but personally, I don’t need tons of followers (I don’t often make clothes that would be considered a fashion statement and my pictures aren’t exciting) and I don’t give unsolicited opinions, but experience counts and I am happy to share my knowledge when asked–and I’m sure many of my contemporaries are, too. Yes, some of the techniques I have learned are outdated but many are what make a garment last, fit well, look stunning up close (not just in IG pictures), and can be applied to all garments regardless of style. In this age of fast fashion, isn’t creating clothing with those features a goal that many of us share and strive for?

It is so appreciated when a pattern company represents mature sewists both in composition and marketing. I have the capabilities to draft and alter patterns. I can easily purchase a Big Four $1.99 sale pattern and convert it into something I like. However, I choose to support indie companies and will spend more for their product if they are inclusive in designing for–and promoting with–all types of sewists. I am especially fond of those that include larger cup sizes and will always check with them first when looking for a particular style.

If I haven’t lost you yet, let me end with a story from my alteration days. When I first started my job at said shishi poopoo store, I arrogantly thought I knew everything about sewing. My first task was to hem a $600 super-lightweight wool gabardine skirt. When I finished, it looked like s**t. One of the older seamstresses generously took me aside and showed me how to do a loose catch stitch, picking up only a single thread, spacing it so as to distribute the weight evenly. She then demonstrated how to press the hem without making a hard crease. Afterward, it looked like a $600 skirt and I learned a lesson I’ve never forgotten.

Thanks so much to the Sewcialists blog for giving everyone a chance to share both their makes and their viewpoints, and to the readers who stop by for either a quick look or for making it through an entire post. I hope this jacket shows how denim can be used to construct all types of garments–including those that have a simple silhouette and details.

My measurements:

Height – 5’3 ¾”,  UB-37, B-43, W-38, H-43

Pattern:, Imitation leather Parka 103 | 08/15

Fabric: Cotton stretch denim from Mood, contrasting fabric is a cotton upholstery fabric from Loom, polyester lining from Joann Fabrics (I prefer rayon but it wasn’t available in the color I wanted, I may swap it out later if I find some)

Modifications to the pattern:

One-inch FBA

Made a single welt pocket and cuffs in contrasting fabric in place of the leather

Overlapped the hood lining to make a band around the edge

∑ of me, in order of appearance: Lifelong learner, Geek of epic proportions, Maker, Biologist, Wife, Mother, Doctoral student. I can be found on IG at @kimloves2sew