Deconstruction and New Love

October 31, 2015

Deconstructing a jacket to understand the design details

Sometimes you’ve got to say goodbye to an old love.  Grab that seam ripper and get to work.  You’ll learn.  You’ll grow.  You’ll fall in love all over again.  But this time, it will be even better.

The sewing journey is never-ending.  Just as you master one skill, there’s a new one waiting.  And when you think you’ve got something figured out, you realize there are better ways of doing what you already learned.

I used to feel overwhelmed by the mountain before me, but now I enjoy the journey.  Each time I make a mistake or find myself completely confused, I see it as an opportunity to grow and become better at my craft.  As I keep forging forward, I encounter fewer problems and come up with more solutions when I do get stuck.  Fear is slowly replaced with confidence.

A major milestone in my sewing journey was when I decided to rip apart clothing – that I loved – to see how it was made.  At the time I was learning pattern drafting and improving my sewing skills through a pile of books and the myriad of excellent tutorials out there on the web.  Things were moving along at a decent pace, but I was impatient.  I wanted amazing clothes – in my closest – made by me – NOW.

However, I wasn’t yet skilled in drafting, and I didn’t have any commercial patterns in the house. (These were the days before I knew about PDFs!) I’d never had any luck tracing clothing to make a pattern but I knew there was another means of getting what I wanted.  It would be my first time – but I was ready…

I pulled my favorite Italian jacket out of the closet. I didn’t want to say goodbye to this old friend but I knew the end of our relationship would be the birth of a new one.  I took a comfortable chair outside, grabbed my favorite seam ripper and got to work.

Using a seam ripper to deconstruct a jacket

After a couple hours of endless seam ripping,  I ended up with a pile of pieces.  I took photographs along the way so I would remember what went where.  Almost everything was stretched out-of-shape and this made things a little confusing.  Nothing was symmetrical and the black, tightly woven fabric made it difficult to see the grainline.  I did my best to figure things out with my limited pattern making skills.  Then I took my personal bodice sloper and tried to re-make all the jacket pieces to fit my measurements.

It took a few tries to get the collar right.  This was definitely the hardest part.  Sewing without instructions is frustrating until you have made enough stuff to know the general order of things.  I made 4 drafts of this mini trench coat in muslin before I had the sewing order down and had mastered the pockets, epaulettes, and bound buttonholes.  This is how the re-made mini trench looked in African Wax Print cotton:

African Wax Print Jacket made in Malawi

This was a first project, and it turned out pretty well.  Now that I’m a lot more experienced with designing and drafting patterns there are a few things I would change (the pocket placement being one of them).  While it’s important to strive for perfection, I don’t think it can ever be achieved.  We’re constantly learning and improving as we travel down our creative path.   At some point you have to accept that you have done the best that you can with what you know.  Move on to the next project knowing that next time, things will be even better.

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