Friday, November 5, 2010

Ode to Fashion, Friends and Mostly My Mother

Isn't it funny how friends influence us? This week I began an Art Everyday Challenge--the challenge to do something creative everyday in November. Luckily the "Something Creative" is a very flexible guideline one that will let me count creative ways I get my 10 month old to eat something other than applesauce. I digress...anyhow, I learned of that challenge from a friend on facebook who I often stalk for good ideas, thank you Rachel! My first get creative project is one that has been on my list since a second college friend, Kelsey showed it to me via her wish lists for fall 2010 fashion. Kelsey is my fashion icon. I will never be able to pull things together and look like this incredible Jackie-O/Audrey Hepburn in modern day vogue when I roll out the door but Kelsey is the epitome of fashionable in my life. She always has been and she always will be. And I will admire her from a distance and occasionally steal a neat combo that I never would have come up with on my own from her page. So a few months ago, Kelsey showed me this...

A $1200 caplet jacket that I had to have. But that's right, I have no job and even if I did the moral dilemma of spending THAT MUCH on a jacket is just about sinful to even think of. Especially for myself who lives for digging through thrift store racks. Anyhow, one more piece for the puzzle of friends, fashion and mostly my mother...

Confession alert--there will be a lot of confessions in this blog, but this is the first. I was a 4-H kid. If you've never read the history of Sandcastle Jewelry, which I really don't blame you, a dreadful 4-H project lead to the beginning of my bead infatuation. But, let's back up a few years to 4-H. I was a sewer. Yippie skippy, every girl in 4-H has to sew. If I was really good to you all I would have dug up some fabulous home ade project photos and put them in but I didn't so you can imagine the sunflower prints and the permed hair all on your own. But 4-H sewing brings me to my best friend from childhood, Janeal. Janeal is better at me than everything. She always has been. She's smarter, she's cleaner, she's more organized and today she's a history teacher that I'm sure will head straight to the Kansas Teacher's Hall of Fame because that's just the kind of girl she is. But Janeal was also in 4-H. And she was a sewer. And of course, she was better at that too. But in 4-H the most dreadful thing was that they would turn your garmet inside out and examine your seams! Who honestly cares what the inside looks like?! I thought that then, I still than me. The judges asked Janeal once how she got her seams so steady and she said, my mother's motto is "Slow and Steady, Steady and Slow that's the way we learn to sew." I remember looking at her and saying, my mother's motto is "Get it right the first time or I'll cuss you out." I also remember my mom's face when i said that. In my defense, my perfect mother only used one four letter word and I really can't recall it being used ever outside of sewing. And if your daughter had the lead pedal foot that I do and you had to tear out 6 inseams in one pair of pants, I don't think even Janeal's mother could have maintained her motto with a sewer like me. So bless my mother's heart and her patience that she ever actually got much accomplished on teaching me to sew. And while I walked away from sewing for a long, long time, when I got my machine after I got married (a tribute to reasons why you shouldn't stay up late watching the Home Shopping Network with a credit card in hand) I have actually been very thankful that my mother was determined to teach me how to sew if it killed her. And if looks could have, I'm sure I would have a number of times during our fun fest of 4-H. But I'm also thankful that it didn't kill her, I don't know what I would do without her. That being said, I decided that my time in 4-H meant that I could make this caplet jacket. And I was determined to do so. And then, because I think $1200 jackets are beyond absurd, I will show you how I did this. And you can totally do it to. Here's the warnings, if you are a perfect sewer like Janeal, don't try this. You will hate me, you will hate you and you will hate this whole process. If you're not willing to scrap the whole thing and turn it into a toss pillow, you also might not want to start. But if you can go with the flow and follow my craziness, I'd love love love for you to have a caplet jacket. And I promise not to swear at you if you dont' get it right...or check your inside stitching. (And if you don't want the step by steps included, you can scroll to the bottom for the end of this blog and the final photo of the knockoff.)

First, I bought a couple yards of double thickness camel colored fleece and a yard of $1.50 mystery fabric that looks kinda like raw silk but had the sheen of satin. It was a $1.50 and I loved it, so it came home. Fabric to me is like Chinese food, just pick what looks pretty and enjoy. So I pulled up the caplet photo on my computer and sat it near my sewing machine.

I think sketched and idea of how I could make it with as few seams as possible. I decided on a big celtic cross like shape with a slit for my head.

From there I folded my fabric in half and stood holding it up to myself in-front of a full-length mirror. think about holding up a shirt from your closet and checking the length of the sleeves, that's what I did basically. Then I took a piece of chalk and drew lines about 2 inches further down than I thought i'd actually like both on the bottom and on one sleeve. Marking both the side seam and the cuff on the sleeve, and the sideseam and the bottom of the bodice (fancy 4-h word for body here).

I then laid the fabric on the floor and folded it in half again. Think about trying to fold a square piece of paper into 4 sections, that's what you're doing. The top should show two layers of folded fabric, the right side shows one fold of fabric and the left and bottom will show four unfolded pieces of fabric. I then finished out my previous chalk markings to make a big upside-down L shape and I cut that shape out. A couple suggestions on those markings, I made my bodice twice the size of my waist measurement minus 6" so if you're looking for easy measuring and marking at this point, I'd measure your waist, double that, subtract 3 and divide it in half (since our fabric is folded) and you should have really good measurements for this. You also want nice flappy arms, so make that measurement about two and a half times your actual arm circumference at the fattest part, or um, biggest muscle ;) Also I recommend always cutting too big over too small. Taking things in is much easier than adding to them.

Ok, so at this point you should now have a lovely large X or cross looking shape of fleece. From here you are going to fold your shape in half so that the two body pieces lay together and the arms are folded in half. If your fabric has a front side, make sure it is to the inside (so outside on top!. Then s take your fabric and sew along the underarm and side seam. You should just be sewing an L, not -[_]- if that shape makes any sense at all. Just the upside down L not the bottom. 2 seams. Ok? I just randomly pick a mark on the sewing machine and follow that line. It works, just don't change lines. I think I did 3/4 inch seams. but who really knows?!

Now it's time for the cool neck collar that makes this piece so fabulous. I measured the thickness of my favorite scarf and then added a couple inches for creasing and seams. I also measured from the center of my collarbone to the center of the other collarbone and doubled that for the length. Because I was using two different fabrics I cut this measured rectangle out of both fabrics. I then laid the inside of the fabrics together and sewed along just the long sides to connect the two. I then turned it rightside out and handstitched the two short sides together tucking the edge in as I went to create a hemless seam.

Don't judge my handstitching...

I placed the seam in the back and laid my collar loop on the top (where the head hole will be) of the caplet. I then took scissors and cut a slit in the caplet about a half inch smaller on both sides than the edge of the collar. (It works much better to have a smaller hole than one that is too big!) Once cut, I handstitched the collar into place.

Now if you'd like, you can totally stop there and love the caplet jacket you have. I wanted a few additional touches because I really like details so I went on and added a couple things. I folded the sleeves into themselves about 3 inches. Think about rolling your sleeves up, but just to the inside and with only one fold. I then sewed a hem-like seam along the very outer edge of the fold to give the jacket sleeves a neat piping look. I think finished them off with a very small hem along the bottom of the sleeve.

I also really like the sweatshirt style band at the bottom of the caplet complete with the gathering. This was a bit of a challenge for me, I'll admit! And there's probably a better way to get more concise gathers, but this worked ok. My caplet was a bit longer than I wanted so I cut the bottom 3 inches or so off. In a moment I'll explain how that strip became my band. I then took a large needle and loosely threaded a piece of string about a half inch up from the bottom all the way around the caplet. I made really big stitches, like 2 inch ones. When I reached the end I pulled the strings to gather the caplet to my desired scrutchiness and tied the ends together.

I then took my excess trimming from earlier and hemmed about a 1/2 inch seam in the bottom and then cut the length down to match my gathered jacket and pinned the two pieces (right side) together and sewed them.

There was only one part left--a pocket! Partially because I like sweatshirt kangaroo pouch pockets and partially because they're just easier, that's what I put in the jacket. I cut a large square out of fabric, sewed the long ends together to create a tube for the pocket. I then laid it on top of the caplet front and made chalk marks for where I wanted the pockets to be. I carefully cut slits in only the front of the caplet. Because I was having so much fun at this point...hehehehe, I made a couple fun stitched squares and sewed them on top of the slits to make decorative little pocket folds. I then handstiched the tube into place and voila! Done!

So, there it is my $11 knockoff an ode to wonderful friendships and my beautifully determined mother. :) Love you all, Rachel for your inspiring networking, Janeal for pushing me to be almost as good as you ;), Kelsey for your unsurpassed eye for fashion and mostly my mother who knew that despite my kicking and screaming I would one day be thankful that she made me learn to sew. And I am, but not for the ability to create as much as the time she faithfully spent teaching me far more than four letter words and how to cut a hema but the life lessons that can only be taught by a mother lovingly invested in her daughter. You're the best mom, even if our projects weren't always. :)

Because this was getting terribly long typing out all these instructions I started cutting them short. If you're undertaking this project and feel short-changed, shoot me and email at sandcastlejewelry at to explain anything you might need! have a blessed day!