I’ve been wearing the same LL Bean barn jacket to work for years. It’s served me well, but it’s in disgraceful condition. The corduroy cuffs and collar are frayed, the front is permanently stained with coffee, it’s missing a button, I could go on. For someone who can sew, it’s an embarrassment. So I’ve had in mind to make a replacement.
At the MPB Winter Frolic last year, my friend Kyle Burkhardt picked up a great checked fabric in sort of “autumn tones” at Metro Textiles. I would never have noticed it without her. It’s actually a double knit with stretch crosswise, but not lengthwise. I love the colors… rusty reds, golds, grays. It has a slightly brushed finish and “wooly” look. The idea of moving away from the conventional solid color canvas jacket, to something more unique suddenly became very appealing. And isn’t that the super power of being able to make our own clothes? I walked out with 3 very generous yards and visions of a new coat swirling in my head.
I picked up this pattern on Etsy. Barn jacket, right?
Then at this past Summer’s MPB Day, I picked up the other bits that I’d need. A quilted lining from AK Fabrics, and a coordinating faux suede from Mood. (Also buttons from Pacific Trimming).
And who could forget my accomplices in the journey! From left to right…Mr. A, Blanca and Sew Andrew. AKA Blanca and the Brits. The best fabric shopping enablers ever.
I trace off McCall’s 9020 onto Swedish Tracing Paper. But as I’m tracing off what seem to be just big rectangles I’m thinking……I’m not going to like this. I press on and make up a muslin. And while I’m sewing away I’m thinking…..I’m not going to like this. I try on the muslin, which is an oversized drop shouldered mess, and…..all my intuitions were right. I hate it.
There was a time when I would have soldiered on, determined that I could “fix it”. But there just wasn’t enough “goodness” in this pattern to warrant all the work. There were zero redeeming details. None.
So I abandoned ship and made a Thread Theory Finlayson Sweater instead!
(Sweater knit from Oak Fabrics….so soft!)
Then…..the miracle happens! Heather Lou of Closet Case Patterns releases the Sienna Maker Jacket.
One look at the line drawings for view C, and this guy is back in the game.
OK, I won’t lie, working from a pattern designed primarily for women wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. But I would never discourage anyone from giving it a go. The details of this pattern make it SO worthwhile. I mean, take a look….not just a two piece sleeve, a two piece sleeve with a pocket in it! Then there’s the great button up back vent. It’s the whole “work wear” vibe, just kicked up an unexpected notch or two.
I ended up making 3 muslins. I can’t go into all the details here, but here’s a synopsis that might be helpful for other guys making this jacket. The shoulders run a little narrow IMO. I’m not a big guy and I needed the full size 20 at the shoulder. At one point I was convinced that I might need a sloped shoulder adjustment, but that fit issue became minor as work progressed.
With the shoulders fitting well, there was too much ease through the chest and body. The solution was to grade from a 20 at the shoulder to a 16 through the chest and body. It can be done. Just remember that the sleeves also need to be tweaked. Otherwise they will be too large for your adjusted armcye. This is where Swedish Tracing Paper shines, because you can cut away or tape on endlessly until you get the fit you want.
And speaking of sleeves, there is minimal ease to the sleeves on this pattern. Thank you, Heather Lou! It makes them very easy to set, and the end result is a very professional, well tailored look. I considered adding a sleeve head, but with the quilted lining I used it became unnecessary.
I removed all the flare from the back and side seams, a purely personal decision. I also squared off the back hem (it has a slight curve) to accommodate my very blocky fabric.
Lastly, I lengthened the jacket by 5″. Again, this was a personal choice. I’m a RN in a small Urgent Care here on the coast of Maine. When I head off to work, I’m basically walking out the door wearing little more than a pair of cotton/polyester pajamas. I wanted something a little longer than my scrub top. Plus…..it can get damn cold up here!
The muslin graveyard.
I underlined all the pieces with cotton flannel for extra warmth. It’s not difficult to do. Cotton basting thread makes the job go quickly. I just find that little steps like this pay off in the end. The two layers are treated as one during construction, and the excess bulk in the seams gets trimmed away. Slow sewing.
I lined all the pockets with some scraps from my embarrassingly large scrap stash. I also interfaced the top of each pocket to make them stronger and less likely to sag. I really dislike patch pockets that look like they’re pasted on. So after they’re topstitched on, I work a quick and dirty diagonal stitch from the backside to tack down the edges of the pocket. It gives a much more professional look. Jamie Kemp over at Male Devon Sewing takes a slightly different approach. He slip stitches the pocket on first, then does the topstitching. Either way, it really improves the look of the garment and is time well spent.
I’ve never worked with a quilted lining before, but I can assure you it’s nothing to fear. Just lower the setting on your iron. The poly batting melts easily and will gunk up your iron , AND it smells like your house is on fire!
I use The Bishop Method of Clothing Construction as a guide whenever I have to line a garment that doesn’t include pattern pieces for a lining. It’s a great resource for all kinds of techniques that modern patterns just don’t include. It was written before the advent of fusible interfacing, so it’s very old school. (Right down my alley) The results that can be achieved are couture quality. So I return to Edna Bishop’s instructions time and time again.
The double welt pocket is from Roberto Cabrera’s text on menswear tailoring. I’m a big believer in having the features you really want in your clothes. Having an inside chest pocket is one I can’t live without.
The lining in this jacket is hanging free. The bottom edge is finished off with a bias Hong Kong finish. There is a thread chain at the side seams to keep it in place. I had never done this technique before (there’s always something new to learn!). Susan Kahlje has a great video for Threads that makes it so approachable. Proof once again that there is nothing difficult in sewing, there are just the things you haven’t done yet.
I didn’t have enough buttons for this project since I had an entirely different coat in mind when I picked them out. The solution was to add antique brass snaps on the pockets and back vent. The brass rivets are just icing on the cake. (I love setting them!)
We had a little snow yesterday, which always improves my backyard photo shoots. So here’s my version of the Sienna Maker Jacket in the wild.
The grid on the back is skewed by the “dowager’s hump adjustment that I need to make on my coats. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds it disturbing. Without the adjustment, the collar pulls away from my neck. In retrospect I might have avoided this look with two back shoulder darts. Yes? No? I’m sure someone out there knows. This is where my lack of fitting knowledge gets frustrating. There is SO much I still don’t know. Yet, I’m more than thrilled with how this jacket turned out, and wouldn’t hesitate to make it again. Plus, I never see the back when I’m wearing it!
The popularity of this pattern is easy to understand. I can totally see myself making the belted version somewhere down the line.
Next up…… a matching coat for sweet Homer.
Be well, stay warm and happy sewing!
Fabric — Metro Textiles
Faux suede — Mood
Lining — AK Fabrics
Buttons — Pacific Trimming
Interfacings — Fashion Sewing Supply