Hot on the heels of my 70s denim skirt and Cone Mills Ginger jeans, I have ONE MORE denim piece to share with y’all and then I swear I’m done (well, for now anyway haha). I made a jean jacket! Skirt, pants, jacket – my dreams of wearing a full Canadian Tuxedo are finally realized :P
I have wanted a new jean jacket for several years now. I had a really ace one back when I was a teenager – it fit just the way I liked and the color was spot on. I covered it with patches, buttons and pyramid studs (again, I was a teenager) and wore it for nearly a decade. It even survived Hurricane Katrina – not without a few new mold-induced holes, but y’know, ~punk rock~ or whatevs. I actually still have it, but it’s pretty old, and I’m definitely not cool enough to wear it anymore. Anyway, that was the best denim jacket. Denim jacket #2, the desperate replacement, was fairly subpar and primarily bought out of necessity rather than because I actually liked it. It never fit right, and the wash is one of those weird faded green-indigos that always looks dirty. It’s gone through a couple of alterations to both size and length, which somehow made it look both better and worse at the same time. I’ve been wanting to replace it for years, but it seems like all the stuff I find in stores has a really odd fit or is pre-destroyed/ripped/faded, which I’m not a huge fan of. And while I’ve never been opposed to making one myself, I never came across a pattern for one. Well, until now, anyway!
The pattern is the Stacie Jean Jacket from Style Arc patterns. I’ve never sewn a Style Arc pattern before – although I’ve heard wonderful things about them. They’re a bit expensive to ship from Australia, and you only get one size with your pattern (and since it’s a new-to-me company, what if I get the wrong size arghh). All that being said, Style Arc now has an Etsy shop, where you can download PDFs that come in packs of 3 sizes. Praise! Not to mention, as someone who abhors taping together a bunch of pieces paper, the PDFs are pretty small and easy to manage. You can only print one size at a time (they aren’t nested), but it does make it easier to see what lines to cut and reduce the anguish of wasting a bunch of paper on sizes larger than you need.
ANYWAY, all that unnecessary backstory behind, I bought the 4/6/8 pattern and printed/cut the size 6, which was based on my measurements on the size chart (finished measurements aren’t given with this pattern, so that was a big ol’ element of trust right there! Well, not horribly because I did make a muslin!) I waffled a little bit before actually sewing it up – or even making a muslin – because the instructions are SO SPARSE. I don’t feel like I need a bunch of hand-holding in my sewing these days, and I rarely even look at the illustrations in an instruction book anymore, but man alive there is literally like, a paragraph, for making the whole coat. All the sentences are really brief, and there are no reminders for stuff like finishing seams or what direction to press them in. No diagrams at all, unless you count the topstitching guide on the second page. Seriously, the instructions are 3 pages long – the first page is the cover, and the last page is the topstitching guide. And half of the second page is a map of all the pattern pieces. So yeah, not a lot of hand-holding with this one! Do you ever look at a new pattern (sewing or knitting) before starting it and get overwhelmed with all the direction since it’s a bit out of context? That’s how I felt about this pattern. Woof. I knew a muslin would be totally necessary, not just for fit, but also to make sure I understood how to put the dang thing together. I was NOT about to spend my weekend ripping out topstitching.
It wasn’t until I was in Maine, teaching at the bomb-ass A Gathering of Stitches for my sewing retreat last month, that one of my students (appropriately named Staci ;) ) showed me her Stacie Jean jacket. It was absolutely beautiful and I was immediately inspired. She reassured me that the jacket was easy to construct, and that the sizing was accurate. So, as soon as I got home, I started on my muslin.
I’m really glad that I took the time to make a muslin, because I ended up needing to make some changes around the armscye. I tried to take photos to share in this post, but you can’t really see the fitting issue. I could certainly feel it, though! The armscye was totally the wrong size and my arm movement was severely restricted. I could barely reach in front of me, and everything pulled at the bicep. I googled around and tried to figure out how to fix this issue, but that was hard since I wasn’t really sure what was causing the problem to begin with. Finally, I just sliced the sleeve out of the arm hole and re-pinned and sewed and added fabric scraps to the holes until things started to feel right. I also compared the pattern piece to my current denim jacket (which, although I’m not happy with it as a whole, I will say at the arm holes fit really well hahaha). Look at this!
So, clearly, the arm holes were WAY too big for me. Once I figured this out, I was able to adjust the pattern pieces to be the correct (smaller)size for me, plus reduce the height of the sleeve cap so that it would fit the new arm hole. Using a combination of my pinned/basted/pieced muslin pieces and the existing jacket, I added in paper to raise the underarm and add more so that the arm hole didn’t cut too far away from my actual underarm. I also added about 1/4″ to the shoulder, since it seemed a bit narrow on my muslin.
Also, totally wearing my muslin in that photo. Ha!
I wish I could give y’all specific directions or a link to a tutorial on how I figured all this out, but it was really a matter of pinning and basting and ripping and trying things on over and over until the fit felt right. I can’t even really share photos because this was a fitting issue that was more focused on the way the garment felt, rather than how it looked. Sorry! I will say that I used this post to figure out how to reduce the sleeve cap, but the arm hole itself was pure trial and error.
While I was rooting around in pattern malarkey and destroying arm holes, I also made a few more fitting changes based on the rest of the muslin. I removed 2″ from the length of the jacket, because I liked the length of my muslin without the bottom band added. I also removed a buuuuunch of length from the sleeves – as drafted, even with the turnback, they were a good 2″ too long. However, I also wanted to add a proper cuff (the pattern has a deep sleeve hem so you can turn it back, but I wanted an actual cuff with a button and placket), so I removed another 2″ at the bottom. I drafted a simple cuff (lol “drafted,” aka I drew a rectangle on some paper) and added a little bit of width at the bottom of the sleeve hem to accommodate the placket.
After all was said and done – I made a second muslin to verify that all my changes didn’t completely ruin the pattern. Everything worked! Yay!! Finally, time to cut into some denim!
My denim is a piece I’ve had squirreled away in my stash for a couple of years now. I bought it at one of the big Imogene + Willie yard sales, and it’s a beautiful heavy, high-quality selvage denim. I got about 4 yards for $5 (whoop!). I tried to make jorts with it last year (that was a big ol’ fail btw), then realized I like my bottoms to have a little bit of stretch, which this denim has none of. I’ve been hanging onto this yardage for way too long considering I didn’t know what I’d do with it, but a denim jacket is a pretty perfect project for this kind of fabric. Of course, I’m used to my old jacket being so soft now, so the stiffness of this new one feels really off. I may wash it a few times to try to soften it up.
Muslin horrors aside, sewing this jacket was super fun! Like I’ve mentioned before again and again, I really enjoy working with denim and I love all the detail that goes into sewing jeans (or denim jackets, for that matter ;) ). It’s a good thing I like topstitching, because this jacket has a LOT of it. Fortunately, there is a topstitching guide included in the pattern, which shows you diagrams of where to put what. I also had my old jacket out for reference, which came in handy with that sleeve placket. There is no interfacing in this jacket, although I did put a narrow strip in the facing behind the button holes and buttons – just to stabilize it a bit. It’s not the entire width of the facing. The collar and everything are uninterfaced. Over time, everything should wear in and soften up really nicely.
I primarily added the cuffs + placket because I like to wear my sleeves rolled up. The sleeves on this pattern are certainly wide enough to do this without needed a cuff that opens, but I just didn’t like the way that felt. I’m glad that I made the changes to the sleeve, but now I kind of feel like the sleeves are a bit too loose-fitting. The sleeves on my RTW jacket are definitely a lot tighter. That being said, I also can hardly wear a long sleeve top under that jacket without some serious bunching, so I’m going to hold off and wear this jacket around a little before I decide whether or not to narrow the sleeve. I would kind of like to be able to wear a sweater under this. The jacket is sewn with the sleeves inserted flat, then sewn up the side seams like how you’d do a tshirt (interestingly, the sleeve head has no ease whatsoever), so reducing the sleeve width will be pretty simple if I decide to do that in the future. Well, I’ll have to remove the cuff and redo the placket, but I’m sure I can manage.
One thing I wish this jacket included is pockets for those pocket flaps! Alas, they are merely mock pocket flaps – they don’t open to anything (or, rather, they don’t open at all – that shit it nailed shut straight through the button ahahaha). My RTW jacket has little welt pockets under the flaps, which I wanted to copy, but trying to figure out those sewing steps – in addition to the sleeve changes and all that fitting drama – was making me feel dizzy so I opted to keep it pocket-less. Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve never used those pockets on my jacket. So it seemed kind of pointless to go crazy adding a pocket I didn’t even need.
Topstitching!! My favorite!! I used a denim needle and some lovely jeans topstitching thread for all the topstitching. I actually just used a single needle to get the double topstitching – one the first pass, I used my edgestitching foot with my needle moved all the way to one side, which made the stitching line 1/8″ from the edge. For the second pass, I used my 1/4″ foot and centered it on the first stitching line. I’m sure you could use a twin needle for this, but I don’t have any that could handle that heavy denim and thread. Plus, I don’t mind the extra work of sewing the same lines twice :)
Sorry these pictures are so blown out! Honestly, all the photos on this post are bad, but I don’t care enough to retake them :P
Here is the sleeve placket. Based on the placket of my RTW jacket (and also, Landon’s denim jacket haha), it is just a little extension cut out at the bottom of the sleeve. Maybe 1/2″ wide and 2″-3″ high. You sew the sleeve closed up to wear the placket starts, then turn under the extension twice and topstitch it down. The cuff is literally just a rectangle.
The inside of the jacket is sewn with black thread (I have two sewing machines so I can use both when I’m making anything with jeans – one is threaded for piecing, and the other is threaded for topstitching) and the seams are serged.
More frustrating than the fitting conundrum was sewing these FUCKING button holes! LORD!!! I can’t even tell you how many I had to rip out – my machine just plain did NOT want to put button holes in this jacket! Working on those things legit drove me to drink that day. At least I finished, them! And then I got to hammer out my frustrations with the buttons, which is always a plus :) The buttons are some of the bag of 25 that I bought from Taylor Tailor, btw!
Finally, I added this little hanging loop to the center back neckline, to make the jacket easier to hang! It’s just a little strip of the selvage, folded and topstitched and crammed into the collar seam :)
Overall, I’m really pleased with how the jacket turned out (well, other than the width of the sleeves, but I’m gonna sit on that and see how I feel after I’ve worn some long-sleeve shirts under it. I might feel differently about it in a couple of months!)! Despite all my fit-bitching at the beginning of the post, I think this is a great pattern and I definitely recommend it if you’re looking to make your own denim jacket and can be adventurous about the lack of instructions. While I did indeed have problems with the arm hole fit, I googled the shit out of this pattern and haven’t come across anyone else with the same fit issues. This leads me to believe this is a fit issue specific to my particular body shape, and not an indication that the pattern is terrible. Just need to put that out there!
Will I make this pattern again? You bet! I’d love to do a shrunken version in white denim, maybe for next spring :)