Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Preparing for Autumn ~ part V

What began as a seemingly straightforward refashioning project as part of my Preparing for Autumn list, is now turning into a sewing adventure of quite epic proportions... Laden with obstacles and suspense, false starts and digressions, animal sacrifice and self-mutilation.

Above: my beloved cape.  Bordeaux wool, hooded, calf-length, bought almost 10 years ago from a 2nd hand shop in Portobello, and now, slightly decrepit and in desperate need of a loving overhaul.  

The Plan: to unpick, re-cut and put the pieces back together as Butterick's 5222 Swing Jacket.  This is a pattern I've had for years, but until recently I've not had the confidence to attempt such a garment, especially with unprinted pattern tissue and vague instructions.  So it was with determined enthusiasm that, one quiet afternoon late last month, having unpicked and pressed my sections of cape, I began carefully unfolding the delicate sheets of pattern paper... Only to realise that everything save for the lining patterns were missing!

After a mini panic attack and a good week of traipsing the internet for a suitable replacement pattern, I finally came across these two on Etsy... Which of course didn't actually arrive for another two weeks (all the good patterns I find are Stateside).  Eventually I settled on the McCalls (above, right), mainly because the sleeves are made from two pieces, making it a more efficient to cut while trying to get the most out of my limited, and already awkwardly shaped cape fabric.  I also much prefer the welted pockets and rounded collar.

I think I must have spent two days at least placing and repositioning the pattern pieces, trying out all sorts of combinations to figure out how, and if, I could cut every piece with what I had.  Turns out, I couldn't.  But only just.  All the major components are there - the fronts, the backs, the collar (upper and under), one sleeve... However, one sleeve back has been cut from two scraps sewn together, seam lines have had to be marked out as allowances have been compromised, and the front and sleeve facings have had to be cut from an entirely different fabric altogether.  

So after all that, months of planning, days of perfect placing and problem solving... And then the morning I had planned to start cutting and finally sewing, things took a turn for the sinister... I woke up to this -

What can only be described as an offering, a sacrifice perhaps - a perfectly beheaded mouse neatly sprawled on my pattern paper.  And two proud looking cats, preening each other and purring as if to say, "No really, don't thank us.  It's our pleasure.  Just like the time we left those toads in the kitchen for breakfast.  Or when you found that mouse, still twitching, at the foot of your bed.  We do it because we love you."  Brutal, savage creatures (said quite proudly).  

My son found the decapitated-mouse-in-mama's-studio hilarious, and I think he's finally starting to gain a little respect for our cats.

But the poor mouse wasn't the only one to suffer in the making of this jacket.  A slip of the hand with a rotary cutter and I carved myself a nice gash in my middle finger.

Seeing my Swing Jacket begin to take shape makes this whole process feel incredibly worthwhile.  This is by far the most challenging sewing project I have ever embarked on, and there have been many moments that I have taken a step back and wondered if I might be getting a little ahead of myself.  But I think that about almost every project I start, doubting myself and the skills I have sought out, acquiring only through practical experience.  And 9 times out 10, I surprise myself and come away with renewed confidence.

So, without speaking too soon, so far, so good... But who knows what the next stitch has in store...


  1. Ewww I chuckled and winced in equal measure! I have two cats and whilst I've found a few dead things in my time, I have never seen the like of that! Gross! But very funny! Good luck with the rest of the jacket... unless the cats get to it first....

  2. I will never forget putting away folded laundry to find a very flat mouse stashed away at the bottom of the pile. Think my mouseketeer was saving it for a snack. Having kept cats all my life, I've sadly seen more than my share of decapitated mice, lizards, birds and a pet gerbil!

    But I digress, I love the whole 40s-50s vibe of your project. Housekeeping books from the era are full of suggestions for refashioning last years clothes into something new. From what we see already it looks like its going to be great.

    Interestingly I just purchased a 70s swing coat pattern because it looked so much like a 50s coat, its actually almost identical to your McCall's pattern, has an enormous stand up collar though!

  3. waou, what en epic moment! your jacket look very nice

  4. Hello! Just found your blog and love it. Lining up some of your knitting patterns to try and you've helped me realise I need a swing jacket pattern... Off to hunt.

  5. JEEZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What an epic tale this is! You must have acrued SO MUCH good sewing karma! xxx


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