A suitable girl


More on the Warren Johnson jacket very soon; it's coming right along. First, though, I have to admit I've been doing a little something on the side:


I have a wide streak of perversity in me when it comes to weather-appropriate pastimes. During high school, I tormented by parents by insisting on baking elaborate desserts during the hottest patch of summer, and they would come home from work, in the days before they installed air conditioning, to a boiling-hot house made even hotter by a 450-degree oven. I always seem to end up starting a heavy, cozy, woolen knitting project just as the weather is warming up, and purchasing light little sun dresses when the cold wind howls and the rain beats fierce on the windowpanes. So it's no real surprise that on experiencing the gorgeous warm sunniness that was last weekend, I would be seized with the uncontrollable desire to resume work on a sewing project I've had on hold for ages: a silk-lined woolen suit jacket and skirt.


I was a seamstress for years before I started knitting, but living with another person in a 300-square-foot apartment, as I was doing with David until recently, doesn't really allow for such a space-intensive hobby. I resisted this conclusion for a while; you can read about my delusions and their consequences if you'd like. Soon, though, I packed away my two in-progress sewing projects to focus on knitting, which a person can do sitting in one place, with a minimum of extraneous tools. Since I'm not the kind of person who likes to have unfinished projects lying about, they have been pricking the back of my mind in a bothersome way ever since. Suddenly, this weekend, the time had come to make a joyful return to sewing.

I'm glad I did. I really enjoy sewing on its own merits, but it also has a cool, synergistic relationship in my mind with knitting design. Every time I learn a tricky new maneuver in the sewing world, I start thinking about whether it could be applied to a knitted garment, and to what effect. I like to compare the different mindsets - the cutting-and-joining mindset, versus the shaping-fabric-pieces-as-you-go mindset. My mother always claims that sewing projects are quicker than knitting projects, and I see where she's coming from: once all the pattern pieces are altered and pinned, and the fabric pieces are cut out, a person can whip up a simple dress in a night. Not so with most sweater patterns. Plus, there are so many more stages in a sewing pattern than in most knitting patterns, that sewing feels (to me) a lot faster-paced. There's always something going on, which is sometimes what my mood calls for and other times not. For me, following a knitting pattern is like reading a bucolic, pastoral novel, and following a sewing pattern is more like reading a tense spy thriller.

But oh man, there are ways in which sewing is a much harsher mistress, and I'm glad that I'm reminding myself of those as well. Remembering how unforgiving woven fabric can be, how a quarter-inch deviation in a seam or cut can make a noticeable - sometimes disastrous - difference to the final product, gives me a good perspective on the easygoing nature of knitted fabrics. And remembering about the long process of on-paper alterations that happens prior to even pinning and cutting, I marvel that I ever grumbled about knitting a simple gauge swatch.

That said, I'm currently in the thick of the exciting construction phase on this suit jacket, and I'm having a great time. I was really in the mood to be challenged and learn some new skills, and this pattern has quite a few. This, for example, is my first welt pocket:


It's so cute! So neat and tidy! It's things like welt pockets that make me marvel about how anyone thought up such a satisfying and surprising method of construction. One minute you're sewing random pieces onto the FRONT of your garment, the finished surface where you don't want rough edges. The next minute you're cutting through the front of your garment, and there is an ugly-looking slash in the fabric. The next minute, badda-bing, badda-boom, everything is turned under, seamed and finished, two wrongs have miraculously made a right, and you have a jaunty little pocket to speed you on your way.

Also very satisfying are mitred corners. This is one side of a sleeve placket:


Not at all crazy or difficult this time, just extremely agreeable. And I love using that little tool specifically for turning corners into crisp little points.

The jacket has actually progressed quite a bit beyond these pictures; I've set in both of the lining sleeves and just have to put together the fabric sleeves and set them in before that always-thrilling denoument where the lining and fabric shells are joined together. The silk is delicious; I can't wait to wear this jacket with a short-sleeved blouse.


And I'll let you know when I do!


  • Oh, man. Mitered corners. They're beautiful. I can't wait to see the finished product!

  • Those are fine clothes that you are making, Did you go to a designing class for these? I really like them specially this summer. The fabric seem cool to wear on the summer.

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