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Hampton Jean Jacket

I have never been on the jean jacket train because I have never owned a jean jacket that I loved. I had a couple of RTW ones when I was younger, but they were either gigantic on me or too short or the sleeves were too long (I am almost positive that I owned a severely cropped denim jacket in college whose hem ended at my ribs and no, I’m not proud of it). In the 90’s and early 2000’s the bulk of denim jackets in RTW seemed to be variations on a theme instead of just, you know, THE ACTUAL THEME, so I never had much of a connection to them. Now fast forward a couple of decades to today, where one of the few remaining RTW items in my closet is a black and white bomber jacket that I bought from Penguin a few years ago. It has a big felt P emblazoned on one side (which I love because that’s the first letter of my actual last name), and the fit is just PERFECTION. It’s the perfect length, hitting right above the curves of my hips and butt so you can see my figure, but it has enough structure in the shoulders to give my silhouette a really nice overall proportion. The sleeves are made of a white and black knit fabric which contrasts well with the stiffness of the jacket’s body, so I can push them up to my elbows, giving the whole look a bit of softness and comfort that is sometimes hard to find in a well made casual jacket. The jacket looks amazing with jeans, skirts and dresses, and it is a staple of my fall/winter wardrobe in LA. My only wish has been that I had another one in a different color and textile. The black can look a little heavy with certain outfits, weighing down pastels, which my closet is full of. It can also be a little too warm to pair with early spring/summer outfits that call for a little extra coverage on top. In short, I have needed another jacket for quite a while that is almost a replica of my beloved bomber jacket but with some tweaks.

Enter The Hampton Jacket by Alina Design Co.

Once I realized that a denim jacket would be the answer to the big gap in my wardrobe, I started googling patterns and this is one of the first ones that popped up. I was also introduced to a jean jacket pattern by Style Arc, but ultimately I chose the Hampton because 1. it seemed to have concise instructions and a thorough sew-along posted on their blog while Style Arc, from what I read from pattern reviews, has very sparse directions, more in line with Burda and 2. the completed Hampton jackets seemed to have a tighter, less boxy fit than the Style Arc patterns I saw online. I wasn’t planning on wearing my jean jacket layered over bulky sweaters so a slimmer fit would work best for me.

Alina Design Co. posted a terrific tutorial on how to bleach and distress denim to get a very worn-in look for your jacket, which I found fascinating. I had never bleached denim before and there were lot’s of interesting things I learned, like how bleaching stretch denim doesn’t look super great because the lycra threads in the fabric turn orange, and how much of the color change from bleaching happens in the first hour of the soak. Ultimately I was not all that interested in bleaching the denim myself, but I LOVED learning more about the process. I went the much easier route, which was to buy a denim that was bleached already. At The Fabric Store in LA, they had a bolt of bleached-denim that was such a perfect shade of faded blue jean that I’m not even sure if I could have replicated the effect on my own. What’s even better is that the denim, while a solid medium-weight, is still super soft, and it folded and scrunched up in my hand easily without crunching like cardboard, the way some brand new stiff denims will. I liked that using this denim would take out a lot of the grunt work from bleaching and distressing (you are advised to wash your jean jacket at least 3 times after construction to soften it up, but I didn’t need to- I only washed mine once to remove all the extra distressed denim fibers that were still clinging to the jacket).

In all honesty, I can’t tell you if the instructions for this pattern are good because I followed the sew along and only glanced back at the instructions to double check which pattern pieces I was using, which is the only issue I had with making it. There are a LOOOOT of pattern pieces for this little jacket (I think they were labeled A-S?) and the sewalong referred to them only by name instead of by the letter it coordinated with (‘front side panel’ instead of ‘piece D’), which got confusing for me pretty quickly. This is a small concern to be sure and I might be the only person who got confused by this, so this is just a tip for any of you who might have the same issue- keep your instruction booklet/window open to cross reference the pattern pieces if you are following the sewalong. Other than that, I thought the sewalong was terrific so I can only assume that the instructions are clear and concise as well. I only follow sewalongs for pattern designs that I have never tried before, like jeans or complicated bags, because the photos are usually clearer than the illustrated line drawings included in the instructions.

As far as sizing, I tried to model it off the measurements of my beloved bomber jacket. I wanted it to have the same overall length, but more importantly, I wanted the sleeves to actually fit me- shortening sleeves is probably my most frequent adjustment. I took out about an inch in the body to match up with the length of my bomber jacket, and I took about the same amount from the sleeve length, if not a titch more.

I made this jacket over a period of three days off and on, and the construction was a breeze- it starts coming together fairly quickly, which feels very satisfying. The most time consuming parts are the distressing (if you are doing it) and the flat fell seams, and they have to be done in that order (distress, then sew) at each part of the construction process so that you don’t end up ruining your topstitching. Based on the tutorial provided in the sew along, I used two methods of sanding to distress the denim: some I did with a Dremel tool and some I did with 150 grit sandpaper. I liked the Dremel for sanding the corners and the edges of the flat felled seams because it was easy to navigate a smaller surface area with the tool. But for getting worn-looking patches on the overall fabric, the 150 grit sandpaper did the job great, and I alternated the direction of my sanding so that it wouldn’t look too precise. Since my fabric was already bleached, the distressing was a breeze and I had less distance to travel between the light blue of the denim and white patchy areas I was going for.

I also followed the suggested advice of using double sided wash-away tape to hold down my flat felled seams right before I topstitched them- this was helpful to keep everything in place while topstitching, but it also allows you to distress the edges of the seams while they are in the proper place without, as mentioned before, ruining the topstitching thread. I had a bit of trouble doing the keyhole buttonhole shapes with my topstitching thread, not sure why, so about halfway through I switched to regular rectangular shapes and you can’t tell at all. I used buttonhole glue, or whatever it’s called, to put on the back of my buttonholes to keep them nice and sharp and safe from unraveling, used a big back of jeans buttons that I got for like $5 at a store downtown that the lovely and always helpful Beth of SewDIY recommended to me, and I was set!

 

I COULD NOT BE MORE IN LOVE WITH THIS JACKET, Y’ALL. The fit is so spot on for everything I wanted and needed in a lightweight jacket. The sleeves are the perfect length, and the denim is soft enough that I can roll them up easily and not feel like my elbows are weighted down with fabric. The length of the overall jacket is perfect, too- it hits right at the top of my butt/bottom of my back, which is very comfortable for me. It’s a little too short for wearing long shirts underneath because it changes the proportions in a way that is not appealing to me, but I’m fine with that because I am rarely an untucked shirt kind of girl. So far it pairs well with fitted trousers, dresses, and skirts: YOU NAME IT!!!! (greens, beans, potatoes, lamb, ram, ham!) I put this make in my fall/winter queue because it’s a jacket and that makes sense, but you BEST BELIEVE this thing is gonna follow me into the spring and summer- LA summers are certainly not mild enough to merit needing a jacket all the time, but most buildings are always air conditioned and therefore FREEZING and I never want to lug around a full on sweater with me on hot days, so I usually just suffer til I’m outside again. This jacket is the PERFECT accessory for keeping warm but not burning up- I can’t tell you how good it looks with summer dresses! Very, very happy with how it came out, and I enjoyed the process all the way through! If you have made jeans before, this pattern will be a CINCH to get through- but even if you haven’t, you’ll probably want to try a pair after you complete this piece of art!

Lastly, I just want to give a shout out to Claire who took these pictures for me since I was too sick and tired of doing my normal backdrop photos. I needed to mix it up a bit and I love how these came out, although I think it’s apparent how uncomfortable I am taking photos in public spaces lol! I can be surrounded by a film crew and have no problem posing for the camera, but as soon as you take me out of the realm of “work” and make it just me in the middle of the street, I would rather melt into a puddle and evaporate into the desert air than model me-made garments in front of curious eyes. Sigh. I’m working on it. Also, this is the Fumeterre skirt paired with my favorite Archer shirt by Grainline Studios.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

A couple of months ago I was in my craft room, all dolled up, taking photos for this blog. I had planned on using the day to get several makes photographed so that I could post them over the next several weeks, and I was OVER IT. I don’t like taking photos of myself- lately it’s been feeling like tedious work to set up the lights, the backdrop, the camera, plan the outfits, put makeup on and do my hair, fiddle around with the camera remote which almost ALWAYS seems to have a glitch. I had always thought of this process as a labor of love but on this morning, teetering in my high heels while trying to keep my mark and smashing that tiny remote with my thumb over and over again, I recognized that there was no love here at all- it was just laborious.

I had a tiny break down in Claire’s lap that afternoon. I don’t know why I feel so sad about this! I said. I don’t know why I feel so unhappy! Something about my favorite hobby in the world, the one I had dedicated the last several years to, was making me sad and the mere recognition of that felt like a betrayal. It took me a couple of days to fully sort through my emotions, which tend to bubble up searing hot around my eyes and my throat so fast that I can barely see, much less communicate with anyone that I am struggling; I need distance to process. Once I had it, I figured some stuff out. I knew I had been using sewing to protect myself from stuff that was going on in my life and in the world- it had become a safe haven for me. I am an introvert so time spent with myself has always been a way for me to energize, but sewing made me feel accomplished and empowered in a way that I never anticipated, gave me time to concentrate on small tasks when I felt confused, frustrated or angry. It gave me space to mull over conflicts and have imaginary conversations with people that I felt nervous about. It gave me a job to do when I was left uninspired in my own career. All of that sounds good on paper, of course, and it was- to a certain extent.

But at some point, I started to need my safe sewing nook a little less. I was feeling supported in new ways, back in therapy for the first time in years, feeling more excited about life outside of my home and less inclined to hide from it. So I started to question why exactly I was spending so much time on sewing. Of course I love sewing very much, but why had it eclipsed all the other things I love to do in my life, like draw, build, write, learn, and above all else, what exactly was my goal now? By this point I had made an entire memade wardrobe that I was incredibly happy with and proud of, and I had a guest room closet full of beautiful #redcarpetDIY projects, half of which I hadn’t even worn yet. If it was true that some of my aims in sewing was to ween myself off of RTW, use /buy less and not focus on trendy fast fashion, then I had surpassed my goal a couple of times over, but I was also still weirdly still participating in what I was trying to get away from. I mean, how many sun dresses does a woman who doesn’t leave the house unless she has to actually need? (This is a rhetorical question)! As someone on instagram put it, I had effectively become a one-person fast-fashion factory, and it wasn’t making me happy anymore.

I think my feelings of unhappiness were stemming from a part of me being ready to shift the way I was living my life a tiny bit, ready to make room for other things inside of it, but the sewing habit that I had created over the years was now SOLIDLY engrained in my life. It had served it’s purpose so well that it had become a part of my identity, and now my identity wanted some room for growth but I couldn’t figure out how to get out of my routine. I wanted to change the mindset where I was making sewing my main priority. I was tired of planning the different parts of my day- friend dates, appointments, activities, chores, auditions- to fit around my sewing schedule instead of the other way around. I was tired of feeling guilty when I had a busy day and didn’t have enough time to go to the craft room and work on something. I was tired of being exhausted from a long day and forcing myself to go downstairs and sew because it’s what I should be doing instead of what I wanted to be doing. The line between my wants and my needs in the realm of sewing had become increasingly blurred, and although I still enjoyed the act of sewing and what I was creating, I knew I needed to tweak something to balance the scales a bit.

As I said before, sewing isn’t the only thing I like to do- my interests in everything hands-on is the whole reason I named this blog TryCurious! But the craft of sewing has taken over my life to the point where, when I have the opportunity to learn something new or work on a different kind of project, I either turn it down or procrastinate doing the thing til I forget about it. And that doesn’t feel good. Something has been off, so now I am in the process of trying to fix it.

I am not abandoning sewing and I am sure that this blog will continue to be more sewing content than anything else, but even just recognizing that I needed a shift seemed to set a lot of different things in motion- it’s like the world opened up to me a little bit when I made room in my head for it. To start, I’ve been taking ASL classes for the past month, which I absolutely love. ASL is something that I have wanted to learn for years, and then suddenly I had an opportunity to learn the skill for a future project, so I dove in head first. If this had happened a few months ago I can guarantee you that I would have convinced myself not to make any space for it in my life because I wouldn’t have had enough me time (loosely translated, my “me” time is known by all to mean my “sewing” time, lol). I’m also refocusing on my shoe making process, which is a craft I have tended to put to the side because it cuts into my sewing time too much. I’ve also been cooking more, reading more and hanging out with friends more. The change has been subtle to start- I still haven’t started reupholstering the dining room chairs that have been sitting in the garage since last spring, or learning how to build a dollhouse as I promised myself I would- but I still feel the impact that my new mindset has taken and it feels great!

I want to make clear that this post is not an attempt to encourage anyone to change their own habits or examine the role that sewing plays in their lives- I’m not here to judge anybody, this is just me and my story, and I decided to share it here because I like writing and it’s sewing related- I don’t want anybody to feel guilty about their own relationships with their hobbies. I started this discussion on instagram a few weeks ago and it was really great to read similar (and non-similar) thoughts about the topic of balancing sewing with the other aspects of our lives. I did get a couple of comments about how I shouldn’t change anything at all or feel guilty about it if I liked it so much, and this seemed like a really simplified view of what it was I was trying to communicate. But honestly I can’t blame anyone for oversimplifying the solution to an issue when said issue is being described in 2200 characters or less, haha.

Sewing does bring me joy, but so does balance, and that is what I am on a mission to find for myself. I am trying something new with my sewing now, which is to stick to a roster of makes that I have planned out ahead of time. It’s not quite a capsule wardrobe because minimalism is not my style, but I wanted to try a different kind of approach with the craft. I am continuing to buy fabric with intent as opposed to simply buying everything beautiful that I see (which isn’t too hard- my stash is already pathetically small!) and I am trying NOT to buy every cool, new pattern that hits the market unless I have a specific plan for it. For now, I am focusing only on ramping up my cooler weather wardrobe, which is lackluster compared to my summer wardrobe; I basically wear jeans from November to March and have very few choices when it’s time to dress up for something special. I wanted to give myself several key pieces of clothing that could work as both casual and slightly dressy wear, so I started pinning patterns and looks and narrowing down my options over a couple of weeks in September. I drew them all out in my croquis sketchbook and searched for fabrics that would pair well with them if I didn’t already have them in my stash.

It wasn’t easy! I had to make quite a few changes throughout the process, like when I ordered a cut of autumnal-colored corduroy online to make the Lander Pants out of, but once it arrived realized that it was much too light-weight for the sturdy, structured pants I was going for. That orange fabric ended up pairing well with the paper-bag waist Tully Pants by Style Arc that I had also put on the list, but of course then I was back on the hunt for the right weight corduroy for the Landers. And back and forth it went for weeks. I have since worked out most of the kinks in my plan and have narrowed down my makes to a really nice workable fall wardrobe that mixes and matches with what I already have in my closet. I have already completed three of the projects on my list: a thick necked turtleneck dress in a gorgeous ribbed knit from The Fabric Store, a Jackie dress in a floral velvet, and a blue jean jacket by Alina Design Co., which sewed up fairly quickly and which I am absolutely in love with (I promise to blog these individually in the future)!

Below I am sharing my sketches and fabric swatches paired with their patterns- in a few months I will revisit this post and see if I was actually able to stick to my sewing plan!

Apologies for the poor quality of the below photos- I was in a mad dash to finish them up as I was packing for a work trip and I didn’t have much time to make them look very good!

This is the Jackie Dress from Victory Patterns in a really gorgeous floral velvet fabric that I found in the fabric district in DTLA (funny story about buying this fabric, which I will share when I blog about it later). Spoiler alert, I have already completed this dress and I am in love with it!

 

The fabric for the True Bias Ogden Cami is less orange in real life than it looks in this photo, but it’s a beautiful, supple silk from The Fabric Store that I have had in my stash for like 2 years and I am excited to finally make something up in it. It will make a really great staple for auditions I think, which generally require solid, non-distracting fabrics, but I still like to go bold with my colors- gotta make an impression! I found an AMAZING light mauve wool fabric for the pants at The Fabric Store, and I will probably go with the Burda pattern for the pants after I tweak the fit in a muslin first since I have never made the pattern before.

 

I saw a girl on the street a couple of years ago wearing this flowy silk maxi dress with heeled boots and I am trying to recreate the look with this really pretty floral silk from The Fabric Store and the Stella Shirt Dress from Named Patterns. It’s got a big bow at the neck and an elastic waist, which makes me think the dress is going to be super comfy while still looking dressy. My fabric swatch is too small to show the brilliance of the print, but it’s very largewhich I think looks great in maxis.

 

I forgot to swatch the fabric for this Aberdeen top by Seamwork (it’s about the only pattern I have made of theirs which actually fit me with no adjustments), so for reference, it’s a pale yellow lightweight knit. Aberdeen is a pretty great pattern, a kind of slouchy v-neck top with fitted 3/4 sleeves that falls off the shoulder in a really effortless and sexy way; it pairs great with a pretty bra underneath. I finally found the correct weight corduroy fabric to pair with the Lander Pants pattern by True Bias, and I think this make might be the very first thing I have made in all-black in my entire sewing career! I plan on lengthening the pants legs so that the hem hits the floor- I looooove the design of these pants but I am not into the boot-cut look that doesn’t go all the way to top of the foot.

 

When I was discussing pants on IG acouple months ago, someone mentioned the Style Arc paper-bag waist pant, so I looked it up and immediately added it to my list. I loved the visual interest of the waist band and the comfort of the elastic waist. Also loved the slim leg fit and the slightly cropped ankle. This orange corduroy was too lightweight for the Lander Pants but I think it will work perfectly in this slightly baggier silhouette.

 

You can’t see how amazing my denim swatch is in this picture, but if you’ve been following on IG then you know how pretty it is made up in the Alina Design Co. Hampton Jean Jacket that I recently finished. That pattern is EVERYTHING. I still haven’t found the right fabric for the Named Patterns’ Shadi skirt.

 

The dress on the left is a hack of the Denver dress by Blank Slate patterns. I made it in an ultra soft ribbed knit from The Fabric Store, but I am not sure it works well in this pattern- the fabric is drapey and doesn’t hug my body very well, and I imagine it wont retain it’s shape for long, either. But it’s so pretty!!!! The dress on the right is intended to be a direct copy of a garment I saw on J’Adore’s blog last year, complete with hacks to the McCalls’ pattern that she based it off of. It also has a big bow at the neck (can you sense a theme here?) and is made of a really supple gold velvet from Michael Levine’s (another recurring theme with fall! For the record, it seems like velvet is “trending” right now, but not for me- I have ALWAYS loved velvet, I just haven’t seen it very often in fabric stores over the years! I should probably stock up on velvet now in case it disappears next year!)

 

The hoodie is more of a layering top for a shirt/blouse than an actual cold weather garment, but I was really drawn to the design lines and liked that I had nothing like it in my closet (I chose this pattern as one of my three pattern prizes when I was one of the winners of the McCalls contests on IG!). I decided to make it in a lightweight coffee-colored raw cotton silk, the same fabric I made my hot pink pants from last year – because of it’s thinness I think it will easily fit under a larger coat and give me access to a hood when my coat doesn’t have one. And last, but not least, another Archer button down by Grainline in a super soft flannel herringbone that I got last year from LA Finch Fabrics. I have been waiting for a long time for the perfect pattern to couple with this warm, soft fabric but ultimately I decided to stick with a TNT- my Archers are probably my most worn shirts, both in cool and hot weather, so I knew I wouldn’t go wrong with turning it into another staple!