It’s been a season of very slow making around these parts. And while I’d be lying if I said I haven’t at times felt frustrated that projects and plans I thought would be long accomplished still remain in various stages of undone-ness, it has meant I’ve started being really intentional in choosing projects to spend limited time and energy on. And I think that has to be a good thing!
My most recent sewing project is a prime example of some slow making. I’ve known I wanted a layering piece in Merchant and Mills quilted jacquard cotton for almost as long as I’ve been sewing (coming up on two years!). I got my hands on two meters of the fabric in the Ahoy colorway last summer and spent lots of time browsing patterns and hashtags, trying to find the perfect garment for my purposes. In March, my first trimester fog .. well it didn’t lift, but it parted enough for me to start thinking of tackling a new sewing project. Progress was slow, sometimes painfully so … and felt more so since I knew the finished piece would fill a gaping hole in my wardrobe. But I’m happy to report all the time thinking, planning and, at last, sewing was worth it. A soft, cool layer, that sits somewhere between a cardigan and jacket (a jackigan?), and I’ve been wearing it non stop … here’s my finished AllWell Cardigan Coat:
I wanted an easy layering piece with a shawl collar and the All Well Cardigan Coat, which comes in six sizes ranging from a 32-62″ chest, fits the bill. I will say, when I initially started working on this, I got a bit bogged down in all the options and instructions. The amazing thing about the pattern is it has a TON of variations, some of which are in the main pattern and others that live in the hacking guide that comes with it. I love, love, love that this is a pattern that can be used many times to make so many different sorts of cardigans, jackets and coats … I see many All Well Cardigan Coats in my future! But initially, I was a bit overwhelmed by all the choices to be made, especially given I’m perennially indecisive. But the pattern instructions are really clear and conversationally written and the pattern pieces are simple, so I just took a deep breath, made a toile to check the fit of the basic shape and went for it (and by went for it I mean, took two months to sew it, often only managing to bind one seam in a sewing sesh, LOL). And once I was in it, I really enjoyed the pattern … I love how many situations and options the folks at All Well have anticipated. Working through the pattern, it sort of felt like a friend helping you make something!
I adore this Merchant and Mills Jacquard Cotton, but I’m really glad that 1) I’d read a little about it and 2) I had an overlocker! I knew from reading others’ notes, and from the product page, that it frays really quickly, but gosh, nothing could quite prepare me for HOW fast it could fall apart once it’d been cut. Speaking of cutting, I was really quite stressed about slicing into it … it’s such lovely fabric, and it was really a special treat when I got it. This coupled with wanting to attempt some pattern matching and realizing that, if I cut things out the wrong way, I wouldn’t have enough for the cardigan I wanted to make, all conspired to make the cutting phase one of many worries! Once I had the pieces cut, I took them straight to the overlocker … I’m honestly super glad I didn’t attempt to work with this fabric before I had an overlocker (I got it at Christmas — more on that another day). I think I would have really struggled otherwise.
Once I was past the cutting phase though, I really loved working with this fabric … it’s a really lovely weight and felt really satisfying going through the machine (not bulky at all, like I thought it might be, even when sewing multiple layers). It was less tricky than I thought to do some pattern matching, but also the lived in, slightly crumpled feel of the fabric meant that places where I didn’t or couldn’t match things up were much less obvious than I anticipated. I did worry a bit about snagging the fabric’s woven wrong side and questioned my decision to not line the jacket more than once (this was definitely a theme for this project … second guessing absolutely. every. decision. I made.) But I sewed it up without any major incident and, so far, I’ve not been catching threads on the wrong side when putting the (I’m just embracing this word) jackigan on and taking it off.
Since I wasn’t lining it, I really wanted to have pretty seams, so I made up some floral bias binding in cotton lawn from the now-in-the-process-of-closing (sniff! but yay for being on to new things, Fuz!) Cloth&Candy. I followed the hacking guide’s instructions for Hong Kong Finish Seams for all the interior seams and also used the binding to finish all the hems. The binding is really what took me so long, especially as I messed up and redid the first few seams. There was more than one moment where I’d wished I’d just bought some blue overlocker thread and called it a day! But the payoff was worth it.
I’m ridiculously happy with the finished result. I love seeing peeps of flowers when my cardigan flaps open. I love the weight of the quilted but gauzy fabric and the cool feel of the cotton lawn against my skin. I love the color combination. It’s just the thing I wanted in my wardrobe, and it’s already in heavy rotation.
Right, so what else to tell you? I made size 1, which is just the boxy fit I wanted (my chest measures around 34″ at the moment, for reference, and I’m about five months pregnant in these photos). I didn’t alter the length of the body, but shortened the sleeves by 1.5″. I used the instructions for the shawl collar hack (7″ wide version), but rather than cut the collar in one long piece, I cut two pieces and joined them at the back neck for better pattern matching (I’m really happy with how this detail turned out). I followed the instructions for binding the sleeve and body hems as I thought a double fold hem would be quite bulky, but rather than have the binding exposed, I folded it into the wrong side, more like a facing I guess? I ordered 2 metres of the M&M fabric which was not, as I initially planned, enough to cut the back piece on the fold, but ended up being less tight than I thought it was going to be partly because …
My cardigan doesn’t have pockets. And I don’t know who I even am anymore?! Initially I’d planned to use the front panel pocket hack, but I dithered over it and changed my mind to rectangular patch pockets. When I got to the end and put the pocket piece up to my cardi though, I don’t know … I love the practicality of a big pocket, but also the pockets seemed to be taking up SO much real estate. I couldn’t decide what to do, so decided to finish without pockets, wear it and put them on later if I felt it needed it. So far, I’ve not missed the pockets (usually because another garment I’m wearing has them) but I’ve also only just started wearing this garment out of the house thanks to isolating while we had Covid (we’re all fine) so … the jury’s out.
The last thing little thing I want to tell you is … I did a little bit of hand sewing on the this project! I wasn’t happy with my edgestitching to close up the bottom bits of the shawl collar, so I sewed them up by hand. Obviously, it’s not a huge amount of hand sewing, but I usually avoid it … I feel so awkward with a needle and thread in my hand! But I am so happy with how this little bit turned out, and it’s definitely given me a bit of a confidence boost for future hand sewing endeavours!
My hope was to make up a versatile, lightweight but semi-substantial layer to pop on both around the house and while out and about, and my jackigan certainly fits the bill. This is a garment that fills a real need in my wardrobe … while I adore all my woolly sweaters, I’ve been dealing with bad bouts of eczema and have been struggling to wear garments with any sort of halo (be it wool, cashmere, or something else entirely!) right next to my skin, so I really needed a layer I could put on over short sleeves! It feels good to have responded to a real need in my wardrobe with something handmade and also really fitting to be sharing it during #MeMadeMay. It’s only been done a few weeks but I’ve already worn it so much … around the house, on errands, on walks … I love how easily it’s slotted into rotation!
So I think it’s pretty obvious I love the finished result, and I would definitely recommend the pattern to anyone who is looking for a great outer layer with lots of possibilities. I love that it’s a pattern that encourages you to interact with your garment-in-progress and change it to suit you. I think it’s a really good skill and confidence building pattern for this reason! And it’s really nice to get to the end of a pattern and know I’ll make it not just once, but many more times.
Yep, I’m already planning more versions of this. While these are very much in the project daydreaming stage, I am really into the idea of a summery 3/4 sleeve version with this stripe-y chore coat fabric, and I would also like to make a heavier weight, lined version for the winter, maybe in another color of Jacquard Cotton (like Symphony). In future versions, I might skim a little off the neckline if I’m going to add the shawl collar, but I’m really happy with how capacious and cuddly this version is … it feels like I’m secretly wearing a blanket.
In the meantime, assuming I don’t add pockets, I really want to figure out something to do with these remnants. None of the pieces are huge, but all much bigger than my hand. The pattern isn’t directional so I’m thinking, with some creative piecing, something might be possible. But what? Any ideas? I’d love to hear them in the comments!