This is my new kimono-styled jacket, made of fabric recycled from other garments I owned, and then chopped up into pieces:
I finished it yesterday, after a week of sewing, and today I wore it out and about into the world. A woman commented “You clearly have a very unique taste.” I laughed. “Unique”, along with its partner “interesting”, is one of those words non-crafters often use to politely say “Good god, what are you wearing?”
But this time, the compliment was sincere. The woman continued “You don’t see things like that, very often. Mostly you see the same old hum-drum grey and tan and black, over and over again. It’s so nice to see a departure, for a change.”
My jacket is certainly a departure from the “hum-drum”, and making it has been a delightful, although sometimes trying, process.
It all started last weekend when I took a class at Olde City Quilts with a notable textile artist Judy Donovan. The subject was “Project Makeover”: bringing items from your closet that don’t get enough love, and using a variety of techniques to perk them up, revive them, or chop them up and make them over altogether.
I brought a bag of unloved wearables, but I did not expect to hack and slash as ruthlessly as I ended up doing. There were just so many delightful examples, all sorts of possibilities of things I could have in return for my sacrifices.
One item I’d thrown into my bag last-minute were these Thai fisherman’s pants I’d had for about ten years and worn only once or twice:
I love the color of this silk fabric, but the way they’re worn feels like a diaper to me, and the sides open up too easily and make them impractical for getting into and out of vehicles, climbing stairs, sitting down, or any other physical motion common in everyday life. But I’ve kept them, just the same, hoping some day they would magically just start “working”, or perhaps that I would become a Thai fisherman.
The instructor said “why not cut them up and use the fabric?” and when I saw the following pattern, I decided it could be worth it:
You might say this looks like a really simple pattern and you would, in fact, be right. But one thing I’ve learned this week is that sometimes the most simple, elegant looking things are quite time-consuming to make, because each seam is carefully finished, and each detail precise. Which is the case on this one, but I’m happy for that process, because I like the way it’s turned out, with mitered corners and seams that were “finished” in advance of the garment being constructed.
Although the basic pieces are simple (back, two fronts, two sleeves, and a neckband) I pieced together each garment section from multiple fabrics, including not just the silk fisherman’s pants but also a random grey skirt that got thrown in there (which I actually wore a lot, but oh, well, it’s far more exciting, in its new life form).
One thing I discovered in this process that I am most excited about is lead hem tape. So many times I admire the way a garment hangs and drapes in photographs, only to find, when I’ve made it, that it just sticks out stiffly and not at all as I expected. Little did I know that there’s a cure for that: they make leaded cord (little beads of lead in a fabric cover) that’s just heavy enough to keep a draped garment hanging properly in place. This was a real “Ah-ha!” moment for me, and I may just be going through my closet adding strips of lead strategically here and there from now on. In this instance, I discovered while sewing that the silk from my fisherman pants was very easily pulled in various directions, so I did not add hem weight to those panels, but I did put a few inches in both front and back in the more sturdy gray skirt fabric, and I’m very happy with the way the finished jacket hangs as a result.
And here is the part where I post too many pictures of my finished Kimono jacket, just because I am very pleased with it, and because I worked on it for quite a while and have not had much else to say, here, because I was too busy cutting things up and sewing them back together:
I liked how the fisherman’s pants looked on both sides, the inside and the outside, so I used it right-side-out for the front and back panels, and then pieced in the reverse side on the sleeves (the grayer version of the silk, bottom right, here):
I also like that it is like a blazer (worn over a professional dress, skirt or pants) but that it is decidedly feminine, creative, and non-blazery. This isn’t exactly my blazer project, but it does propose one good solution to my questions.
And as my commenter pointed out, it announces me as someone with “unique taste”.