He wanted, in his own words: "A white t-shirt, blue jeans and a leather jacket". He might have even said "please" after he saw the look on my face that followed the leather jacket part of the request.
I'd probably been nodding along, looking quietly smug at the t-shirt and jeans part. I can do those you see... Plus, he actually needed some new jeans. We discussed how the school dress ups box may have a jacket, or maybe a local "fashion" shop would have a cheap, shiny fake version that would do for the night. With the seed of disappointment well sown, I got on with the t-shirt and jeans part.
Not much to say about a T-shirt, but that it's the Oliver + S School Bus T-shirt. Straight size 8, no mods. Sewn in a cotton lycra from Anne's Discount Fabrics with ribbing from Maaidesign for the neckband.
I put a little bit of cotton tape at the back neck to help with which is the front and back, then double needle stitched down the neckband seam allowances. That was it for the Tee.
Then on to the jeans.... I didn't actually have a jeans pattern. Sure I've made other patterns into jeans patterns before and I've loved the Twisted Trousers turned jeans that P can still (just) wear. But I was up for a true, dedicated jeans pattern.
I searched for jeans patterns for kids, and there actually aren't many. The obvious choice would have been the Small Fry Skinny Jeans by Titchy Threads, but I was after a more traditional, less hipster shape, and to be honest, I couldn't be bothered with a PDF and wanted a paper pattern in my hand. Enter Burda 9406
I can't say enough good things about this pattern, but first I need to make one or two notes for the future about what didn't work so well:
For this size (size 8, with leg length of 9) the zipper suggested length was 5". That's about 1" too long. It would probably work perfectly with a 4" zipper. Also, the fly shield was about 1" too short, and that was even after I'd shortened the zipper. For next time (which has already happened and I forgot to make the amendments): Use a 4" zipper and cut the fly shield about 3/4" - 1" longer.
But the zipper instructions were great!
The buttonhole elastic is something I often avoid as I find it folds and rolls horribly, but since I was sewing after dark and into the wee hours it was a good instruction to follow. Hopefully it means these jeans will last and last until they're capri length!
The fit and shape is exactly what we were after. No plumber's butt, not too skinny, not too baggy. I really highly recommend this pattern for boy's pants.
The hardest part by far was stitching down the belt loops. So many layers of thick denim! I had to hand crank every stitch, which meant I needed Flipper to press the backwards lever down since I didn't have a free hand for reversing over the loops. I really need to get the hammer out like Nicole does.
The denim was a $5/m score from Rathdowne Fabrics. I picked up this classic indigo and some black denim from a sale bin which had bolts that were flood damaged. After washing, there is only the faintest of water stain marks on the reverse side along one selvedge and I didn't even bother avoiding it when cutting as it can't be seen from the right side anyway. The quality of this denim is not like anything I've used before. It's absolutely the real deal. Yet the topstitching thread, elastic and button were probably the most expensive parts of these jeans!
And there we were, only three days into the "10 days 'til the concert" deadline and the jeans and T-shirt were finished. So you know what I did next, right? I found the deepest of deep ends and threw myself in....
I was never going to entertain the use of real leather - at least not this time round, with no time to make a muslin and the leather outlay being in the hundreds of dollars. The soft, pliable pleather on sale at fabric shops seemed too insubstantial, too girly. I went for the heavy weight gen-yoo-ine vinyl.
This was another project for which I didn't have a pattern, and that was almost what put a stop to it. Until I realised there was a jacket in an Ottobre magazine (the only one I own) that would almost fit the bill. I didn't think the size range would fit, until I measured the boy and he was exactly the measurements of the largest size for this pattern.
The jacket pattern is the Windy Jacket from Ottobre 3/2009 and it looked perfect, but for one thing: it obviously has a hood, not a collar.
I remember reading sewing blogs where the blogger would casually say something like "so, I drafted my own collar" and I would feel a mixture of awe, intimidation and then sheer fury at them not saying how one did such a thing. Turns out it's not that hard, but as a nod to my beginner sewing self I'm not going to just say that I turned the hood into a collar without a little explanation.
The hood pattern pieces look a little like this:
Normally the lack of seam allowances in Ottobre patterns drives me nuts, but here's where it helps. Line up all the pattern pieces so they're touching and you have the finished neckline. Obviously if there were seam allowances you would do the same but overlap the pattern pieces by twice the seam allowance.
Then I've eyeballed about how deep I wanted the finished collar to be and followed the neckline curve, drawing a collar shape in - the orange line below.
Actually, I complicated it slightly more than that. The under collar (the one away from the wearer's neck) was cut with about 1/8" less height than the upper collar piece. When the two were sewn together the upper collar was eased onto the slightly smaller under collar so that the finished collar would comfortably roll out and down. With thick, 'fabric' like vinyl that kind of thing matters.
The pockets and the underside of the pocket flaps were made with black cotton duck canvas, saving a bit of heft and weight. Then the lining is just a black rayon lining, which along with the great fake leather covered button, and a zipper came from Eliza fabrics.
Not this particular zipper though.... But I'll come to that in a bit.
Both the outer jacket and the lining have these vent pleats at the back that allow for a bit of opening up room when it's worn. My grosgrain ribbon for the hanging loop was the only bit of colour after contemplating a fancy lining and finally deciding it should be all black.
There was a lot of topstitching and I went through two and a half spools of upholstery thread in making the jacket. A lot of that ended up on the floor as there was a LOT of unpicking - and quite a lot of swearing too mind you.
Ottobre magazines are famous for their lack of detailed instructions. This jacket had a third of a page of written instructions and not a single diagram. Not even a picture of what the finished zipper looked like. I got confused about quite where the zipper sat with regard to facings, flaps and lining. In my head I was overcomplicating things and imagining it was inset like the recent Lars coat or even the Zander hoodie. It's not. It's just sewn between the facings which are attached to the lining and the outer jacket centre front panels. But every wrongly sewn seam was sewn, finger pressed then topstitched before being unpicked.
By this time I was getting fed up and slightly reckless and was ironing the vinyl into submission. Hot vinyl is much more compliant to sew with but it is really not advisable. Turns out melted vinyl looks shit over those spots where the seams were thick and the iron contact was greater.
What was the deal with the zipper? Well, when I was at Eliza fabrics I was looking for an open end jacket zip in black. the only ones she had were too long, but since it was a plastic coil zip I figured it wouldn't be too hard to shorten. The zipper pull was kind of cool, it was a curved matte black sort of plastic sort of fabric looking thing.
As I was looking at the zipper the shop attendant (the one that I can't get a friendly smile from) offered some advice "they no good, they break" she said as she walked past. I looked at the zipper again, ran the slider up and down a few times, tugged on the puller a bit and didn't get it. What breaks? I asked. She pointed vaguely at the puller/zip (as opposed to the teeth which are the only other part) and repeated "no good, break". It looked fine so I bought it anyway. As I was paying she repeated that it's "no good, break here, I only charge fifty cent".
But it didn't break. And given how many times I unpicked and restitched the facings and plackets in my confusion, and given how I tugged on that puller to get it past my zipper foot as I stitched and restitched it, it looked to be made of good solid stuff after all.
Finally, after many late nights wrestling with both the Ottobre instructions and the thick, unwieldy vinyl, finally it was the day of the school concert. By 2pm all that was left to do was sew on the buttons, then pick up the kids at 3:30.
I sat down with a cup of tea, the radio on and my little pile of buttons. I gently pulled up the zipper to close the jacket and the puller snapped clean off and came away in my fingers. Faaaaark!!
There was no way I could sew another zipper in. The only thing for it was to try and replace the puller. I jumped in the car and raced across town to LZF. Technically they're kind of wholesalers, but I busted in the front door of the factory/showroom in much the same way as emergency doctors go through hospital doors on TV shows.
My slightly manic appearance must have inspired some sympathy as in moments they had whisked my jacket out the back and inspected it. The slider was a "closed" type, so a new puller couldn't be added. My face must have fallen even more dramatically. But "no worries lady" we can put a whole new slider on. I didn't have the time or the inclination to browse the catalogue of sliders so let them choose. Since the original dodgy one had a tiny Nike swoosh on it, they zipper man came out beaming as he'd put a "nice Nike" one on for me! :) - I would have chosen anything else, but he seemed so proud of his choice. Five minutes and five dollars later and I was back in the car heading for school pick up.
The buttons were sewn on as soon as we got home. P had his hair cut and then hammed it up superbly for me for a photoshoot. Man I love this kid!
After all that work I'm happy to say that he LOVES the jacket. Now that the pattern is traced off and it's plenty roomy enough I imagine I could add length and do it all again next year. Maybe even in leather?... Much like childbirth the torture is quickly forgotten when the end result is so cute!
Speaking of cute, there was a photobomber who was cropped out of many of the photos but this one is a keeper!
To anyone who has read this far. Thank you. Seriously. Thank you. :) That's the kind of perseverance we're talking about!
T-Shirt: Oliver + S School bus tee. Cotton lycra and poly ribbing. Size 8 , no mods
Jeans: Burda 9406, view B, size 8 with size 9 leg length, denim from Rathdowne Fabrics
Jacket: Ottobre 3/2009 Windy jacket. Vinyl from Spotlight. Size 128 +1cm sleeve length