In May, after watching contestants on the Great British Sewing Bee make utility jackets, I decided to make one for my boyfriend, Stephen. He finally got it in December – better late than never I guess?
Shortly after deciding I wanted to make a jacket for Stephen, I settled on the Friday Pattern Company Ilford Jacket. I know it’s a very popular pattern in the sewing community and I liked the simple cut, and options to make it unique with different pockets.
However, before I could get started, I had to find the right fabric. Stephen told me he was really keen on a rust coloured jumbo corduroy, and I wanted it to be 100% cotton but, this was apparently scarce over the summer! I spent hours trying to find the perfect fabric to fit the brief but it simply didn’t exist. We decided a dark green would be another good option but I wasn’t completely satisfied. Fast forward to a couple of months later and Textile Express put up a photo on Instagram of a pile of fabrics and, to my delight, there was a rust jumbo cotton corduroy! I ordered a sample to make sure it was right, and when it was, I ordered enough for the jacket. I also found a lining fabric from Sherwoods Fabrics which coordinated perfectly.
When I made this pattern, instructions for a lining weren’t included but I wanted to add one for extra warmth and because I like how they look! Funnily enough, after I finished my jacket, Friday Pattern Company published a blog post on how to add a lining!
As Stephen is very tall, I knew I would have to make alterations to the length of the sleeve and the body. I held the paper pattern pieces up to him and used a couple of jackets he already owned as guides for my alterations. I settled on a size large and added 4″ to the body. The sleeves were more difficult to alter as they are off-the-shoulder. To make it easier, I decided to get on a make the body of the jacket then make mock-ups of the sleeves so I would see exactly how they would fit with the jacket. Once I had done that, I tried the mock-up on Stephen and compared the sleeve with an oversized denim jacket he already owns. This told me two things: one, that I need to add 3.5″ to the length of the sleeve, and two, that the sleeve was far too narrow. I ended up widening the bottom of the sleeve and the cuff by 1/4″ and the top of sleeve by 3″.
With the fitting complete, I could finish cutting out the sleeve pieces in the main fabric and lining, and assemble them. My method for this was to sew together the shoulder seams, overlocker them, then topstitched them with the seam allowances directed to the back. Then, as directed by the pattern, I overlocked the side seams, and around the side and top edges of the sleeve pieces, to finish them. Next, I sewed the sleeve head into the main body of the jacket. Then, I sewed the sleeve seam up to the circle on the pattern before pushing the armscye seam allowance back and sewing up the side seam. The pattern is really clear on the instructions for this bit.
With the body of the jacket taking shape nicely, I decided to sew on the top pockets. These were very easy to do and the instructions are very clear. I added an extra detail by facing the pocket flap with the lining fabric and I love how it turned out!
My next challenge was to teach myself how to sew a welt pocket. The instructions for this type of pocket are not included with the pattern but I noticed that a lot of utility jackets have them, it was a good opportunity to learn, and Stephen wanted them! I then made my job even harder by deciding to make them slanted. So I was dealing with corduroy which hates being pressed, a fabric with a nap and a fabric with stripes.
I turned to blog posts and video tutorials to learn how to make welt pockets and they were actually a lot easier than I first thought (here’s one I used). Once I had figured out which way to fold the welt (up), I could make my pattern pieces. It was really tricky figuring which way to cut the corduroy so the nap and the stripes would lie in the right direction. In the end I realised that the stripes had to be perpendicular to the slant of the pocket opening and the nap facing diagonally down (I hope that makes sense!). In terms of the pressing problem, I found that interfacing the welt piece meant that I could fold it very easily and it stayed in place. As you can see from the photos, I made the pocket facing out of a combination of the main and lining fabric, and the pocket bag out of the lining fabric. I finished the pocket by overlocking the edges, but not those that would be secured in the button stand and hem. I also sewed a narrow zig-zag stitch across either end of the pocket opening to add extra support.
With that challenge overcome and a new skill learned, I moved on to the placket. The instructions tell you to construct the placket flat before sewing the sleeve seam but I didn’t think I could do that, as I was making a lining. I tried to sew in the placket with the sleeve seam sewn up but it was simply too narrow. I ended up releasing the sleeve seam up to a couple of inches above the end of the placket so I could sew it in then pulled the lining out from the main body of the jacket so I could sew up both sleeve seams. I also sewed on the cuffs. Next time i would assemble the placket flat using both the lining and the main fabric as the pattern suggests.
I continued securing the lining by sewing it into the button stands at the centre front, then worked on the collar. I had already interfaced the bottom piece of the collar and sewn the two pieces right side together, finishing at the seam allowance for the inner edge. That way, I could sewn the collar to the jacket then fold all the seam allowances into the collar before topstitching it closed. I also topstitched round the collar for a crisp edge.
The end was in sight! All I had to do, before sewing on the buttons, was hem the jacket. I used a 1.5″ seam allowance, folding up 0.5″ then 1″.
I found the perfect imitation horn buttons from Etsy. I sewed five down the centre front, one on each of the top pockets and one on each of the cuffs. Once I’d sewed the buttonholes, the jacket was finally complete!
I really love how this jacket turned out and, more importantly, so does Stephen! The corduroy was a little difficult to work with as it really hates to be pressed, but it was so worth the extra effort. The jacket looks just like I imagined it and it’s light enough to be worn in the Spring and Summer, and be used as a layering piece in the Autumn and Winter. In terms of fit, if I were making the jacket again I would add another 1/4″ to the sleeves but everything else is perfect! I love the details like the pocket linings and the buttons – with such a simple design the extra details really make a difference. I would definitely make this jacket again, perhaps in a cotton twill without a lining for the summer? The pattern is very clear and easy to follow, complete with great photos and illustrations, would definitely recommend!