Head of the Class

For a little while, I guess (fine fine, for a quite awhile, I admit) I’ve had an obsession with finding, fitting and sewing a perfect jacket. If you don’t know, for me, this is like trying to turn the sky pink. I have an upper body that is a rather hard fit. I have a fairly broad upper bust and it makes purchasing woven tops and jackets from the store a very dismal affair – so dismal, I don’t even bother trying stuff like that on anymore. Anyhow, let’s move on with this little story here and find out why I became obsessed with creating a clearly fall-like jacket in the middle of summer (as I type this, we’re hitting 100 degrees farenheit today!).

I’ve been working on several projects behind the scenes here. Behind the scenes sounds so…. secretive, when really, its not. I just haven’t been up to my usual blogging pace. This is McCall’s 6172. Its a Palmer Pletsch pattern that was one of the best jacket patterns I’d seen in awhile. I love pretty much every single thing about this jacket. I picked up this pattern sometime in January and have been slowing hacking away at it since. I know, weird. My obsession for projects can come and go and that is exactly what happened with this pattern.

Before my initial muslin, I decided to read some pattern reviews of this pattern. Always, always a great idea. It runs big. Actually let me correct that. This pattern runs big for normal folks, for me it was only really really big in the waist and hip area but for my upper bust, shoulder and upper arm area it was practically perfect. This is a first for me, for sure. Taking in the waist and hip was a cinch. Additionally I made some cosmetic changes to the jacket too. I raised the welt pocket to hit more at my waist area rather than in that weird in between the waist and hip space. I also reduced the size of the lapels and collar which were quite large and I also hacked off some length too. Thinking for the next jacket, I’ve decided to also raise the buttons upward too as I feel that the button placement on this jacket falls a bit low.

The jacket started out in a completely different fabric. After working on it for several months, it still looked pretty bad. There were so many things that just kept going wrong and finally, I just decided to let well enough alone and start anew. I decided once and for all that after many many sewing fails (in addition to the jacket I just described) I was not going to stand for it anymore. To place even more faith in myself, I decided on a plaid.

Friends, let’s talk plaid for a minute. I don’t know about you, but even the word can strike absolute fear into my heart. Thing is though, I’m such a sucker for plaids. In fact, I have several in the stash that have been languishing away in hopes that I would be able to get my nerve up. Most are ear marked for a jacket because seriously, what is more bitchin that a plaid jacket? I think nothing! I’m a regular freaking Nancy Drew in this thing. So friends, when I tell you that tackling a plaid jacket is not for the faint of heart, it truly is, not for the faint of heart. And for all you mad plaiders out there, this was an unbalanced plaid to boot.

The fabric here is from Yellow Bird Fabrics and it has kind of a sad tale. It was such an unwanted fabric. Apparently this particular plaid had been there for a few years. Seriously, this kind of thing makes me sad. Oh little sad fabric, why does no one want you? Its a beautiful wool, quite soft and the plaid is very old school. Like it reminds of 1950s college cohorts or something. So after some cute girls came in and bought a couple of yards, I decided to nab up the rest and tackle this sleuthing, college chumming number. Surprisingly, since the pattern was all figured out, this jacket only took the better part of 4 days stretched out over a 2 week time span.

The plaid matching was not too horrendous. May I point out a few things here? Again the plaid is unbalanced. Looking at the plaid you’ll notice that the stripes that stand out the most are those red and yellow ones. And if you look at the jacket fronts you’ll notice that on the right side and left side the vertical red and yellow stripes are not mirrored. Where there is a red stripe on one side it is a yellow stripe on the opposite side. When working with plaids, this type of thing seriously intrigues me. Plaid fabrics can be a really fascinating journey to work with – kind of a weird thing to say, but true. For the most part, I’m really really happy with the plaid match up. We’ve got matched plaids all around the bodice and look at the front sleeve cap? Isn’t it beautiful? I’m not particularly happy with the under sleeve though. As you can see, the front part of the under sleeve did not match up with the upper sleeve at all and that’s because I was thinking it would be more important to have the back part of the sleeve match up. While the back matches up quite well at the hem and up to the mid upper arm pretty well, I think overall, the under sleeve would do better cut on the bias instead. I’m not sure though, thoughts anyone?

To boot, I’ve decided to make another plaid jacket and I thought I would document my journey of the whole process as planning a plaid garment is not a topic of much discussion, I find. And if you, like me, have a love affair with plaids, you’ll want to know how to work them. Especially in a ridiculously awesome jacket. Are you game?

Ever made a plaid jacket? Or a plaid garment? Do you love plaids as much as I do?


63 thoughts on “Head of the Class

  1. I would love to see your process for conquering the plaid! I have three different vintage plaid fabrics in my stash that are absolutely earmarked for jackets, but since I have never made a jacket *or* worked with plaid, they scare the bajeezus out of me!! 🙂 And seriously, well done on the entire jacket!

  2. What a great jacket! It looks like you did a great job with matching the plaid. I really like the changes you made to the pattern ~ you modernized the style of the jacket.
    As for plaid, I think if I still lived in NY I’d want a plaid jacket – boots, jeans, a scarf and a plaid jacket – yes!!

  3. I love plain anything – plaid jackets, plaid skirts, plaid dresses, plaid blouses (woohoo!!), even plaid slacks (very 60s). And the only I can do the plaid matching up is this — shift the pattern pieces around on the plaid until I decide where I want the horizontals to hit and with a pen and a straight edge, I mark them on the pattern pieces on both vertical edges (if it’s unbalanced, then I have to do it in several spots). Then, I cut things out on single layers of the fabric, just in case there is any off-grain issues.

  4. I love plaid soooo much, and plaid jackets especially–this one is just darling! The loafers and rolled-up jeans are a brilliant touch, too. I suspect I have this pattern stashed away someplace–will have to dig it out and give it another look!

  5. This looks so fantastic, both on you and the plaid matching! I really want to make something in plaid (I’ve even got the fabric, just waiting!) but I don’t know if my skill is quite there yet. I’m working on matching stripes at the moment so we’ll see how that turns out.

  6. Sunni that jacket is AMAZING. It looks just perfect on you, and with your outfit and those shoes I’m going gaga over here! It really is stunning.

    I love, love, love plaid but I’ve never sewn with it. I’ve read posts on matching plaid and about halfway through I just want to go have a beer.

  7. The first thing I said when my browser loaded your post was OMG, how did she manage to match it so perfectly? If you did not point out to the unbalanced plaid on sleeves, I would have not noticed. My relationship with plaid is mixed. My first three associations with plaid are Japanese school girls, kilts and Sherlock Holmes. While there are no plaid garments in my wardrobe, I would like to tackle a new challenge! And so a post about the plaid matching would be more then welcome!

  8. You did a fantastic job. I thought it was very well done. As I looked at your pictures I kept thinking something was not right but then I realized it was your white t shirt being longer in the front then the jacket. When I covered that part up it looked fantastic. I too have a very hard time fitting a pattern to my body. I am 6’1″ tall and 38″ bust, 36″ waist and 47″ hip. I have to not only adjust the garment pattern from size 18 hip to size 16 waist and then to narrow shoulders but also my length from neck to waistline is about 2″ longer than patterns. I have just started sewing for me and I am trying to take it slow and work on the patterns before I cut out the material. It is a challenge but I am determined to get the adjustments down that it will be old hat to me. Again great job

  9. I’ve just completed, and am now wearing, a summer dress in a Madras plaid cotton; the front bodice is effectively on the bias (and I adapted the back bodice so it’s also on the bias, otherwise it would have looked odd at the sides), so I didn’t worry too much about matching it, but like yours it’s an unbalanced plaid.
    I also have a plaid dress and a (different) plaid skirt, and yesterday I saw someone in an adorable plaid shirtdress so I’m considering making one of those too; is there a plaid recovery program? I may need to check in…

    Gorgeous jacket, anyway!

  10. Love the jacket. Love the plaid which looks to be the Buchanan Clan tartan! Ask me how I know:)
    The plaid matching is superb. You’ve done an excellent job. I’ve got a bit of this fabric in my stash, but not enough to make a jacket, so if you got any left please PM me.

  11. WOW! you hit this one out of the park! seriously impressed. the contrast collar is perfection… love the plaid fabric. and yes, i’m a plaid lover as well. other than a shirt here and there and a pair of shorts, my favorite plaid make was one i did back in december-ish. not only was it a large scale plaid, it was an uneven plaid and i kind of forgot to buy extra for plaid-matching… took me hours to find a layout that would work! it did get me to start cutting most of my projects in a single layer instead of with the fabric doubled up… huge fabric saver! it’s a big yes from me to see in-depth jacket construction posts.

  12. DYING over this! You did an amazing job with the plaid-matching (and, ‘shaw, I didn’t even notice the undersleeve until you pointed it out; it’s not terribly noticeable!) and I love that solid collar. I can’t believe that plaid is unwanted – it’s gorgeous, I would have snapped it up in a heartbeat! The colors are incredible. I love me some plaid, and I especially love me some plaid jackets, so this gets two thumbs up from me 😀

  13. Sunni, you did a great job on the jacket. I’m a redhead too and I’d normally shy away from those colors but it looks great on you. I would be thrilled if you posted about your upcoming jacket during the process because I’m interested in hearing more about unmatched plaids

  14. This is really beautiful! I am nervous of stripes, never mind plaid! Would love to see how you deal with all that matching.

  15. What a beautiful jacket! i love the plaid and all the colors in it! as always, awesome, awesome job. I’d love to see how you conquer the plaids and even more any tips and tips on tailoring a jacket. i think you mentioned something at one point (a faster way vs. a more “classical” way). i could be wrong though…
    Very, very pretty and chic outcome. and it fits you (colors and cut) so well 🙂

  16. I love it, Sunni! I wrote a series on my blog about matching plaids, and wrote two articles on the subject for Sew News magazine (due out this fall) if you’d want any help writing about plaid matching and sewing tips and tricks. I think your jacket is fantastic- it’s a beautiful plaid!

  17. Please do a sew a long I have some plaid that I want to make a jacket/ blazer out of but I am fearful to say the least.

  18. What an awesome job – it looks fabulous. Yes please! A sew along would be awesome – I am always on the lookout for a great jacket pattern as a member of the ‘uber busty’ tribe :-). Matching up those plaids is terrifying!

  19. I’m working on a plaid dress right now (with a pattern designed to work well with plaids) and it has the sleeves cut on the bias. They look really nice! I love playing with the directions of plaids even if they do take a bit more effort.

  20. Last year I found some beautiful plaid that was used in a Cabi jacket and I’ve been trying to get the courage to cut into it and create a jacket…

  21. I love it! I’m working on a plaid dress for my sister right now. I might have to try making a nice jacket with the leftovers. Thanks for the inspiration!

  22. That sleeve cap is rather lovely. The only thing I might have tweaked was to tip the top of the sleeve cap to the back. I’ve started to remove almost all the ease from my jacket sleeves and I have been happy with the results and apparently this is the way to go for sleeves. Kathleen has a nice article about that.



  23. Love the plaid! Good for you, for tackling an uneven plaid! I will confess that if I spot an even plaid in a fabric store, I immediately buy 2 meters of it so that I have enough for a jacket or skirt. I have quite a few pieces in my stash that I’m looking forward to making up, I’m just in the process of losing weight, and alterations on plaid… uh no!

    I’ll be sure to check back for your process of the next jacket, can’t wait! Have also been drooling over the belt buckles in your store…

  24. This jacket is amazing!! I love the black collar piece and you are so right- very ’50s prep. I recently made my first blazer but didn’t know about this pattern it looks great, i’ll definitely be checking it out.

    Can’t wait to see in detail your next plaid number.

  25. I adore plaid, but for some reason have no plaid clothes right now! I just realized this. Terrible, I’ll have to fix that!!

    I loooove your jacket!

  26. This is stunning, suits you beautifully. I’m scared enough of making a jacket let alone working with plaid!

  27. Wow! That jacket is seriously amazing and is perfect with your coloring. My love of plaid greatly outweighs any fear of it. I’ve made several plaid garments and there’s a nasty rumor that coats don’t have to be lined in plaid that I’m choosing to ignore. Most recently I’ve made the Thurlow shorts out of an unbalanced seersucker plaid. Yeah, those were fun lining up. The most important thing with plaid is to pick you battles, it can’t match up perfectly everywhere. Now I want to make a plaid jacket of my own and form a girl detective agency!

  28. Holy Moley, this is absolutely spectacular!! How is it that this fabric was whiling away its time on the bolt when it could have been loving life as a garment as amazing as this? Inspired choice! I love statement outerwear like this- so eye-catching compared to the usual solids. I bet you can’t wait for the weather to cool down so you can go show this gem the streets 🙂

    I recently made a plaid coat (out of an old blanket of all things, also an unbalanced plaid :s ) and while my matching and overall finishing isn’t a patch on yours, I’m actually pretty happy with my efforts considering it was my first proper foray into plaid territory. I definitely learnt a lot just from trial and error but would love any tips that you can share 🙂

  29. Wow! This is just spectacular. Regarding the button placement. In menswear, and this is a pretty menswear inspired look, the top button is placed 5/8″ below the start of the roll line of the lapel. This helps keep the lapel in place. Hope this helps.

  30. That is one amazing-looking jacket! It suits you perfectly!

    I would love to read your thoughts on sewing with plaids. I’m afraid of them!

  31. Thank you everyone for your sweet words! Now onto a few of your comments:

    @Sharon Pickles – Yes, I do believe it is a tartan too. I think I’ve heard it this way, all tartans are plaids but not all plaids are tartans. Or maybe its the other way around?

    @Mary Ann – Thank you! I am kind of into sloppier dressing, even though I like tailored looks, so for me, having my shirt below my jacket is totally fine.

    @maddie – funny, because I always hear that from other redheads, yet these are the colors I wear the most. I LOVE red and there is no one who can tell me that I can’t wear it. And mustard? Totally one of my faves for fall.

    @Natasha E – Yes, I am well aware of Kathleen’s articles on sleeve cap ease. I’ve tried to remove all of the sleeve cap ease many times on a garment without success. I’m not saying that she’s wrong – because I really do think that she is right – but I do think that what she is saying takes a serious mastery of pattern drafting and its not just a matter of removing the sleeve cap ease, its also a matter of creating an armhole that facilitates this. I remove all but 1 1/2″ of sleeve cap ease and find that, for now, it works for me. Also, I don’t really know what you are referring to as far as tipping the top of the sleeve cap to the back, but would love to hear more in depth about that.

    @Mainelydad – Thank you Duane! Yes, it does help actually because after all was said and done, I knew that the button placement was off – so sad I couldn’t do anything about it because of the bound buttonholes. I moved it up higher on the pattern, but this time I will check to make sure its 5/8″ below the roll line. Fabulous tip!

  32. Sunni, this is absolutely stunning!! I’m really amazed by how beautiful this is. Plaid is totally scary to me, and I’d love to see how you tackle matching plaids on a jacket!

  33. I cut out my sleeves after I’ve sew together the main pieces and have fitted the armhole then if necessary I’ll redraft the front of the sleeve. From there if needed I’ll “hang” the sleeve in that I’ll baste the underarm in that bottom third and from there manuvered the sleeve cap into place which is what I mean by tip it back a little. You plaid matching in the front is very well done and I KNOW it took ages. You probably with a little manipulation gotten the back and top to play ball by manipulating the wool. I like to baste my sleeve from the outside when I’ve done this.

    My cheater way which I still use is to pin the sleeve in then push the extra upwards past the seam allowance and trim it off. That got me A+’s in Home Ec 😉

  34. I think it’s actually kind of cool the way on one side the yellow dominates and on the other side the red dominates! Sure, it’s technically not a perfectly symmetrical matched plaid, but it looks awesome!

  35. So bold and amazing! Great job with this. I do agree with your comment about the button placement, but I wouldn’t have noticed if you hadn’t pointed it out.

  36. I have not done a plaid garment in several decades, I can see I need to be looking for some fabric! A long time ago, I made a wool shirt jacket (think Beach Boys) for my brother out of an even plaid. (Even makes a HUGE difference in terms of your satisfaction with how well it can match) The collar matched when folded open, the flaps on the pocket matched, the cuffs on the sleeve matched, and the best part is that he still has it (probably doesn’t wear it because he is larger than he was back then). Cutting the pieces out individually helps to insure that all the pieces are cut on grain and perfect. And I need to be working on a pattern that fits well before I begin. Can’t wait to view your video, you are so brave to take this on!

  37. This is a fabulous jacket! It looks perfectly styled too and suits your personality! I would love to see some tutorials on matching plaids… mine hardly ever come out right.

  38. Wow I LOVE your jacket! I am a major fan of plaids and have wanted for ages to mke a jacket, even looking repetedly at the one you’ve made here but never quite gotten the courage up to make one! My dream is to make one in a gorgeous harris tweed plaid of magenta and blue – maybe one day! Thanks for sharing so many pictures!

  39. You did a very nice job on the jacket and the plaid colors suit you. I pretty sure some Chanel jacket patterns have the inner panel on the sleeve cut on a bias. This is a great teaching blog for us home sewing enthusiasts. Thank-you.

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