Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reversible Avalon Jacket Tutorial

I sewed an Avalon jacket for my daughter a couple of years ago.  It was one of the funnest sewing projects that I did for her, and we both loved the outcome.  I decided to do another jacket, but this one I decided to make reversible.  The directions for this jacket and the pattern are  in the book Sewing Clothes That Kids Love by Nancy Langdon with Sabine Pollehn.   I love this book, get lots of compliments on the clothes that I make from the patterns, and my daughter loves the clothes from this book.  I have to say, I think the Avalon jacket works better in a reversible version than the regular version.  The bottom of the jacket flairs out in a circle and the stiffness in the reversible jacket allows the jacket to flair more.

I had a hard time getting my model to submit to the photos.  She was busy reading a book, so finding a dress or skirt that complemented the skirt, forget it. (So please excuse the red tights and the pink and green striped dress!)

 Often, I buy fabrics that I like not quite knowing what I will make from them.  Then, when I start something, I don't always have enough fabric.  That is definitely what happened in this case.  I bought cotton velvet for a Christmas skirt, made the skirt, had extra fabric and started to use it for this jacket, but of course didn't have enough, so I pieced together other fabrics that I found.  So, we have sleeves made of two different fabrics, sides and front and back from different fabrics, but my daughter and I both love the look.  A while ago I bought a grab bag of ribbons from Laura Foster Nicholson.  At one time, she had a grab bag that you could buy that were filled with  bits and pieces and some longer pieces of her beautiful ribbons.  The ribbons are so lovely, and I am slowly using them in my sewing.  The labyrinth that you see on the front, and then butterflies and bees are some of her work.  For the rest of this post, I will give a brief tutorial on how to make this jacket.  I will not cover how to set in the sleeves or sew the front and sides together.  But I will cover the bits that I found a bit confusing and think could use more explanation.  I love the book this jacket is from which I discussed above, but the instructions are on the brief side, so I have taken photos as I put this jacket together.

Here is where I started with lots of pieces of fabric. You can see I didn't have enough fabric for a whole sleeve out of one fabric, so I make the sleeves out of two fabrics.  The one drawback for the book Sewing Clothes That Kids Love! is that the directions are scattered.  It took me a while to figure out some things, and I am a visual learner and it takes me a bit longer when I have to read the instructions rather than look at photos or illustrations.  So, I thought I would document the process for myself and anyone else that is interested.  

After all the pieces are cut out and before you start stitching the pieces together, you need to do any  embellishment work that you plan to.  Those instructions are included in the book, but I think they are buried within the book and not necessarily stated on every project.  Here I started with lots of ribbons and made a ruffle out of blue jean material.  These embellishments can add bulk to the seams.  There are two solutions:  1) you can hide it with a reversible jacket (shown here), 2) finish the seam in some way with either a serger or by covering the seams with binding.  (I will show a jacket in which I used this technique in a later post).  

Next, I sewed the side pieces on the back.  Here I used two pieces of white jean fabric with the blue jean fabric.  Needless to say, I did prewash all fabric and dried it on high heat.  (I pretty much wash and dry all my fabric, even my silks! and sometimes even my woolens, but I don't always dry my woolens!)  After stitching the sides, I then cover the seams with ribbon.  I did this for both backs, the white and floral fabric side and the jean side.

I decided that I would do little embellishment to the front of this jacket.  I did add one ribbon to the front of the blue jean side.  I sewed the fronts, side fronts to complete both jacket bodies.  I did topstitching on the seams that did not have ribbons over the seams.  I did make a change to the sleeves.  They have a very exaggerated curve on the top of each sleeve.  I took another pattern and cut a bit off to match with another pattern.  This is a bit dicey because you can end up with a sleeve that doesn't set in.  But, I did not like the puffy sleeve on this jacket and got rid of it.  In this pattern, you sew the sleeve onto the jacket before sewing the side seams.  I find this technique much easier than setting in a sleeve where the sides are already sewn and you are matching up circle to circle.  This technique is much easier.  Once I finished sewing the sleeves, the directions said to topstitch the seam that is on the main body of the jacket.  It is a bit awkward because the seam wants to move naturally toward the sleeve and not toward the body of the jacket, so you have to work with the seam some.  Even after you press it with an iron, the seam will still want to move toward the sleeve.  You just have to keep working with it as you sew.  You can see my blue topstitching below.

Once the sleeves are sewn in and you sew the sides together, you are ready to sew the two jackets together.  The directions are clear, but until you have the jacket in hand and are ready to put them together, the directions did not make much sense to me.  So, here is where I took more photos.

I deviated from the directions slightly.  I sewed the fronts together first.  I put one jacket inside the other, right side to right side, with the wrong sides facing out.  Then, I pinned the fronts together and around the neckline.  I then stitched the front and neckline of the jackets together.  The photo below shows the necklines pinned together.

Next, I trimmed the corner so that when I turned it, it would be a square corner.   

 Next, I turned the jacket right side out with one side in the other.  Then, I placed a safety pin at the sleeve seams making sure they match up as shown below.

 For the next phase, just have faith, it does work, but sounds iffy.You will reach down inside the sleeves with your hand between the wrong sides, grab the bottom of the sleeves and pull them through the bottom of the jacket.  You will then have the two sleeves facing each other like two pieces of pipe butted together as shown below.  

Next, you will pin the sleeves together to stitch the hem.  Starting with the sleeve seam, hold the pieces together so they match right side to right side.  Pin around the sleeve as shown below.

Sew the sleeve hems together.

Here is what the sleeve looks like after the seam is sewn.  

Now, pull the sleeve back through the body of the jacket so the sleeve is right side out.  Repeat process with other sleeve.  As the last step, you will have the body of the jacket right side to right side.  Pin the bottom of the jacket together matching up the seams.  You will then stitch around the bottom of the jacket leaving a four or five inch gap at the back.  When you finish sewing the bottom seam together, you will pull the jacket through this small opening that you left.  It is a bit tricky and takes patience to get all of the jacket through the small hole without tearing anything, but it does work!  You will then sew this 4 inch seam together by hand.

The next to the last step was to topstitch around the whole of the outside of the jacket.  It was not called for in the directions, but I think topstitching finishes the edge nicely.  Also, it keeps each side on the correct side and doesn't shift even after washing.  I washed it last night after an unfortunate hot chocolate accident involving the white side and it washed beautifully.  I really recommend that you  take the time to topstitch all the edge seams, even the sleeve seams.

The final step is to sew the button holes and sew on the buttons.  Here is another photo of the finished jacket.  I think it is well worth the time and effort for the fun, flirty little jacket.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Stashbusting and New Year's Resolutions

I have honestly been trying to get my stash taken care of.  As far as stashes go, mine is definitely not the biggest.  However, I feel guilty spending more money on yarn and fabric that just sits for months and months and sometimes years.  So, I have decided that my resolution for this year is to reduce my stash, especially my yarn stash.  I am adding a link to a challenge for stash busting at  I had started this idea of using my stash last year, but ended up buying some yarn to work on a project for my friend and knitting with some Colinette yarn because I loved the sweater.

I knitted this sweater called Marilyn from the Colinette yarn in dusk from the book Rock gods.  It uses crochet for the cuffs and the band.  It was my first real try at crocheting.  It was fun, but I would not do a whole sweater with crochet.  Ravelry has several photos of this project.  I love the sweater, but read the reviews after finishing.  The comments were that the shoulders were too small and would not stay on.  I would agree with that assessment.  I had already knit the sweater from the top down, so it was too late to do anything.  Instead, I am going to add a button.  With the crochet band, the button will easily fit through and will hold the front of the sweater closed and keep it on my shoulders.  It is a great sweater to wear over jeans on a mildly cold day, but it doesn't really fit under any of my coats.  I knit the sweater much longer than the pattern called for.  I am not sure how I feel about it.  I am tempted to ask my husband if it makes my butt look bit, but have resisted so far.  Oh well, I am going to wear it anyway.  I am quite thin and rarely worry about things making me look big from the back, but this sweater probably should have been left a little shorter...

But, here are some projects that I am working on now to reduce my stash, both my fabric and my yarn stash.

First, I have leftover yarn from reworking my friends Irish sweater.  The Malabrigo yarn is so beautiful and so comfortable to knit with, that I went and bought another hank.  I am using it to knit my nephew a sweater.

I knitted my son a sweater with a cut away front when he was just a toddler.  I loved this sweater and so did he.  He loved the turtle buttons and wore it until it was just too small to put on.  Next, I had a daughter, and she also loved this sweater and its little turtle buttons.  She wore it until it got too small.  So, I think this design must be very comfortable for the kids.  It wore like iron, but I can't remember exactly what yarn I used.  It was a Debbie Bliss.

I decided to use the same design with a bit of modification.  I felt the sweater was a bit too wide, so I am knitting it not so wide, and just a bit longer.  Here it is.  I started by using circular needles and knitting a garter stitch edge, and then using a stockinette stitch up to the sleeves.  I bound off two inches for the sleeve holes, and then are knitting up to the neckline.

The one thing I do not like is the striping effect.  When I used a woven stitch using this yarn, I loved its look, but I am not as crazy about the stripes.  Also, I am not sure that I am going to have enough yarn for the button band or sleeves.  I will use the brown yarn to add in.  Both these yarns were in my stash.

The other project that I am working on right now is my daughter's sweater.  I showed my sketch for this sweater in the last post, and my start on it.  I bought this yarn with good intentions 3 or so years ago, and I have never gotten around to using it.  I have done the top knitting from the bottom up as I described for the sweater above.  Then, I picked up the stitches at the bottom and knit the purple band and then I changed to solid red and increased every third stitch twice to give a gathered look to the bottom.  On the bottom I am adding intarsia flowers.  My daughter picked out her favorite flower design from the books that I have around.  I will post a photo of the finished sweater, hopefully soon.

Front of sweater

Back of sweater

Finally,   I am also trying to reduce my fabric stash.  I bought clothes for my daughter two years ago on a trip to San Diego.   Now, the clothes have gone from being dresses to tunics and the pants from long to capri.  Holes are starting to appear, so I really have to get back to sewing.  My first project was to take my son's hole-filled jeans and cut them up.  My daughter wanted a pair of shorts and a skirt.  I took the bottom of the pants and cut them up and used some felted wool to make a box pleated skirt.  I would take a photo, but I finished them last night and she put them on this morning to go to school.  I will get a photo and post.  It is a cute skirt, a little long for her, but at the rate she is growing, it will be too short before  I know it.  In the meantime, I pulled out my stash of fabric last week.  We sat on the bed together, watched the movie, The Black Stallion Returns, and discussed her ideas about what she wanted from the various fabrics while my husband and son went to a basketball game.  I sketched and she talked and we have a plan.  So, I started cutting out over the weekend.

Here is my first pile.  I am going to sew a reversible Avalon jacket from Sewing Clothes That Kids Love, and the Insa skirt.  I love the Avalon jacket and would like to make myself one!  I have not sewn the Insa skirt before, but will try and photograph both as I sew them together.  I did that with the Feliz dress.  Now, I have to go out and feed horses, chickens, and the donkey!