Sunday, February 17, 2013

Smoking Jackets and Dressing Gowns

I've had a busy week! After being snowed in all of last weekend unable to sew I had just a few short days to complete my Valentine's Day plans. A few weeks ago I came up with the idea to sew a classy smoking jacket for my boyfriend. I even found the perfect pattern from Folkwear, Le Smoking Jacket. This project was determined to throw problems my way at every turn however.

The first difficulty was in picking out the fabric. In my head I was envisioning a red and black jacket in a nice brocade fabric. I found the perfect black fabric for the lapels and contrast on the cuffs and pockets, but I couldn't find the right red anywhere. I considered velvet since it was one of the suggested fabrics on the pattern, but it just didn't seem right. Eventually I settled on a very dark red plaid jacquard I had found in the clearance bin. I hadn't liked the fabric at all when I first found it but my boyfriend does wear a lot of plaid so I abandoned my own preferences for something he might like better. The fabric grew on me more and more as the project progressed and in the end I was glad I had bought it, it was the perfect choice.

Way more work than I thought it would be

One big problem with the jacquard fabric was the backside of it. I'm fairly certain it was meant as an upholstery cloth because the back was very scratchy and unpleasant. I solved the problem by flat lining all my pattern pieces with a dark beige flannel to make the jacket nice and cozy. Of course I didn't buy enough of the flannel to line the whole jacket, so I dug through my stash and found a similarly colored linen-look fabric to line the sleeves of the jacket with.

With my fabric all picked out it was finally time to start the sewing. I cut out most of the pattern pieces in the middle of the week planning on starting it on the weekend, and then of course the blizzard came. The pieces sat abandoned in my room until I got back home nearly four days later. It was now Monday night, with Valentine's just three days away and several very long shifts at the cafe standing in my way.

The first night I was only able to sew the pockets on and line the main body pieces. On the second night I constructed most of the main body of the jacket until the directions for the lapels stumped me. I have never used a Folkwear pattern before though I've seen a lot of them since they are my mother's favorite. I found that the patterns tend to assume that you know a bit more about garment construction than you might actually. This was my first time ever making a man's tailored jacket, and there were certain parts about setting sleeves and sewing the lapels and cuffs that I needed more information than the pattern was giving me. With time running short I decided to just finish the lapels and cuffs in a way that made the most sense in my head, and they came out looking fairly accurate.

Another problem I had was that the pattern pieces for the cuffs came up a little short when I sewed them on to the sleeves. They left a little gap where raw fabric edges could be seen, but I had no time to rip the seams out and sew new cuffs, so I came up with a quick fix of my own. I dug up some black bias tape from my stash and covered the raw edges under the cuffs with them, with the added bonus of finishing off the only raw edge I had left in the garment.

The cuff before fixing

And the quick bias tape fix

The pattern called for stitching the corners of the cuff together to keep them in place, but since mine were left with such a wide gap I wasn't able to do so. The corners of the cuffs tend to stand out from the sleeve more than I would like them to, but it's not the worst problem in the world, and the rest of the jacket came out nearly perfect. 

Bias tape ended up being my go-to quick fix for this jacket as I ended up finishing it on Valentine's night itself. I didn't have enough time to properly finish the seams where the sleeves met the jacket, so I just tossed some bias tape over that seam as well to finish it off. I also used bias tape to make the loops for the jacket belt. 

The armhole seam fix, and the two different linings

Finally I finished the jacket with just enough time to get dressed and show up on time. I was a little nervous that he wouldn't be thrilled with the gift, but all worries went away when I saw his face light up with excitement as he unwrapped it. It had come out great, I was pretty impressed for my first attempt at men's tailoring. It fit him pretty well too, since I had to just guess at what size since asking to measure him would probably have ruined the surprise. The sleeves are maybe an inch or two too long, but I got the belt placement nearly perfect.

The Folkwear pattern is for a 1930's styled smoking jacket, and as luck would have it I've been planning a related project for the Embellishment challenge in the Historical Sew Fortnightly. I've had my mind set on making myself a silver screen inspired dressing gown for a while now, and with all the possibilities of flowing ruffles and lace I've decided this challenge is the perfect time.

1920's Dressing Gown

I love the ruffles and layers of sheer fabric on this dressing gown example, but not so much the fur.

1896 Dressing Gown

This dressing gown is from the late 19th Century but I want to draw inspiration from the use of lace since this challenge is all about embellishment. I'm compiling myself a collection of inspiration images and will probably pick and choose certain details that I like while trying to keep an overall 1930's feel to the basic shape of the gown. I still have to make my trip to pick out fabrics and lace, but that will barely be a chore at all, I've been eying a lot of the lace at the fabric store for ages now. The real problem will be trying to restrain myself from buying it all!


  1. Nice jacket! You are lucky that your guy will play dress up with you. Mine DEFINATELY wont. I like Truly Victorian patterns as they explain every step-not assuming that in your day job you are a seamstress at a couture house.

    1. Thanks for the tip! I'll have to look in to that brand of patterns. Too bad about the dress up, it's always more fun to have a partner, but I think the smoking jacket is about as far as my guy will go

  2. Thanks for the advice on this jacket. I am making one for my husband. A lot of reviewers have remarked that the jacket runs small and the directions are pretty vague. I feel well warned!