Wednesday, November 24, 2021

A Joyful Cobalt Blue Wool Joy Jacket

 A few years back, Chalk and Notch patterns came out with the Joy Jacket pattern. When they first announced the design, it caught my eye and I applied to test it. I did not get accepted as a tester at that time, which really isn't a surprise seeing as the original Chalk and Notch size chart didn't really suit my body type. It was drafted for a B cup in the bust, and my bust is decidedly not a B. My bust measured a good 2 sizes larger than my waist and hips according to the size chart. This meant I'd have to make some significant pattern alterations to get a decent fit, which wouldn't be great for a pattern test where one of the goals is to test and see if the pattern properly fits the size it is meant to fit. 

That said, I still really liked the design of the Joy Jacket, and have admired the many different versions of it I've seen come across Instagram since the initial pattern release. 

Since that initial pattern release, Chalk and Notch has decided to extend and update their size range in more ways than one. First, they added a few more sizes so their patterns now fit up to a 58" bust and a 59" hip. Second, they added a second bust cup option to accommodate those of us whose bust can't, won't, will not, be able to squeeze into anything remotely resembling a B cup. 

On the new size chart my measurements all fit beautifully into one size with the new C/D cup option!

Since expanding the size chart, the pattern company has been updating all their old patterns so all the patterns are available in all the sizes. A few weeks back, I saw that the Joy Jacket update was ready to be tested, and I decided to apply to help out with that.

Chalk and Notch patterns attract a lot of applicants for testing, so I didn't really expect to be chosen, but hey, it didn't take that long to fill out the application, so I might as well try! My measurements put me perfectly in the size 6 with a C/D cup, so maybe, just maybe, there wouldn't be a whole lot of applicants with those exact measurements so they could use my help?

A few days later, I got an email saying I'd been chosen as a pattern tester. This honestly surprised me. And I slightly freaked out. My fabric stash currently resides about 2 hours away from me in my parents' basement. And I wouldn't be going back to visit before the pattern test started. So what was I going to make this jacket out of?!?! I had no suitable fabrics stashed away in any corners of the apartment!

This pattern is designed for medium-weight woven fabrics with a lot of drape in them. Nothing too stiff or heavy. Tensel twill is the fabric of choice. 

I went to Joann's to scout out their fabric options, and discovered that they did indeed have a bolt of Tensel twill on their shelves. It was black? dark gray? A color I don't usually gravitate towards, and it was $30 a yard. This was more than I wanted to spend, especially for a color I wasn't particularly excited about.

So, I left Joann's that day with some plaid flannel for the lining of my jacket, some flannel-backed satin for the sleeve linings, and an idea of what Tensel twill felt like, and how it draped, so I could search out a less expensive, and hopefully more colorful, alternative. 

Honestly, the Tensel twill had a very similar hand and drape to the light and mid-weight worsted wool twills I've handled. Back in my parents' basement I have a rather large stash of wool, and I could immediately think of several pieces which would be suitable for this jacket. However, as afore mentioned, I would not have access to that beautiful fabric stash in time to make this jacket for the test. I would need to find another way to procure the proper material.


I went to that local sewing room I've mentioned a few times, the one that sells donated fabric for $1 a pound, and searched their shelves for something, anything, of the correct weight and drape, with enough yardage (2.5 yards, 60" wide), in a color I liked. 

It took some looking, but I eventually settled on something that would do. 3 yards of cobalt blue worsted wool twill came home with me. The color was not my first choice (I don't think I have anything else in my wardrobe in this shade!), but the drape was right, the weight was right, the yardage was good, the price couldn't be beat, and the color would grow on me.

I went home, printed out the pattern that had been sent to me for testing, assembled it with the overly energetic help of my kittens, and got to work.

In a couple days, I had a new jacket. One that looked absolutely fantastic! 

The more I worked with it, the more I liked the color of my fabric.

The pattern itself is very well drafted. It features separate pattern pieces for lining and the shell, which allows for a much nicer, better fitting, more comfortable finished garment than one using the same pattern pieces for both the inner and outer layers would have been. 

Interfacing is used liberally throughout the design, which really helps to get a nice clean finish with pretty crisp edges.

If you follow the instructions you just can't help but to have a very nice, professional looking, finished garment in the end!

To add my own twist to the finished jacket, I decided to use petersham ribbon for my drawstring. It, the metal zipper, and the grommets, all came out of my stash. (I've managed to fit most of my notions stash into a closet in our apartment, it's only my fabric that I'm separated from.) The zipper is actually a couple inches shorter than in should be, but it's what I had on hand and it works well enough.

Despite my separation from my fabric stash, and my initial anxiety over where I would acquire a suitable fabric for this project, the pattern test was a very pleasant experience overall. Chalk and Notch pattern tests are very well organized, with clear communication and expectations, which isn't something I can say for all of the pattern companies I've tested for.

The finished jacket is great! The fit is spot on (All I had to do is lengthen the sleeves 1", which is a very common adjustment for me.), and I've worn my jacket almost daily since finishing it!

Thank you Chalk and Notch for expanding your size range to better fit more of us, and thank you for including me in your pattern test!

With the Joy Jacket update done, all the patterns now feature the full size range! In addition, the entire Chalk and Notch catalogue is on sale through November 30th, so if you'd like to add this pattern to your stash, now is the time to do it!

Chalk and Notch Holiday Sale 2021 coupon codes⁠
All patterns, PDF & Printed, are on sale through Nov 30th! ⁠
hol20 for 20% off any purchase⁠⠀⁠
hol25 for 25% ⁠off when you spend $25⁠
hol30 for 30% off when you spend $50
Free shipping and gift with any order of printed patterns ⁠

*I received this pattern for free in exchange for testing it out, but all thoughts and options here are my own. I was not required to write this blog post in any way, shape, or form.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

1830's Alice in Wonderland

 Back in the spring, when I was making all my wedding things, I thought that maybe, one day, possibly, sometime in the future, I might make a historical bodice of some sort to go with my blue silk petticoat. The petticoat was so pretty, I loved the sheen of the silk, so why not use it as the skirt for a gown?

Dupioni Silk and modern bridal lace trim might not be the most historically accurate of fabrics, but the silhouette would work well for the 1830's through 1850's, it was beautifully cartridge pleated to the waistband, and, after all, it was real silk, even if it wasn't the right kind of silk for the 19th century.

This "maybe one day I'll make a bodice to go with this blue silk skirt" idea got sped up a bit when my husband and I decided to dress up as Alice and the Mad Hatter for Halloween. In the live action  Alice in Wonderland movie Alice wears a blue dress with a wide ruffle at the bottom. Sound a bit like my petticoat?

Alice's bodice has short puffed sleeves, a basque (pointed) waist, buttons down the front, and white trim around the neckline. I could certainly make a historical bodice which incorporated a few of these elements! My goal wasn't a "screen accurate" Alice costume, just an Alice-inspired historical costume, if that makes sense.  

My initial idea was an 1840s evening bodice similar to this one from the movie The Young Victoria. But then I started looking at fashion plates. I came across several prints for 1830's evening gowns with wide ruffles at the bottom of the skirt - just like what my petticoat had. 

I came across this 1836 fashion plate on Pinterest and fell in love! Short puffed sleeves, basque waist, white trim around the neckline, it would work for Alice! All it was missing was the buttons, but I didn't love those anyway, so I was happy to leave them off. This was the bodice I was going to make for my Halloween costume!

On my next trip home to visit my parents, I grabbed the remaining blue silk curtain panel and a half  from my fabric stash, and a handful of patterns to mash together to make this bodice. 
I grabbed the bodice pattern from my 1840's black wool dress, because I thought the 1840's shape and basque waist pattern might be helpful, but I wound up not needing it.

For the bodice itself, I traced off the bodice lining and bodice overlay pieces from Butterick B5832. (The pattern I used for my purple plaid wool dress.) I then adjusted the neckline and the curve of the front overlap to match the fashion plate and changed the bottom edge of the bodice from straight across to pointed. I made no changes to the back bodice pieces.

For the sleeves I used the sleeve pattern from McCall's 8017, and just pleated sleeves to match the fashion plate, rather than gathering as the pattern suggested.

The flat lining was cut from a cotton percale sheet I had on hand, and the outer pieces were all cut from the remaining silk curtain panel. I used heavy duty zip ties for boning at the center front and side seams and made the bone casings from some cotton twill tape I had on hand. The back seams, armscyes, neckline and bottom edge were all piped. I decided to have the back fasten up with hooks and eyes, as that's less fiddley and time consuming than lacing is. Both lacing and hooks and eyes were common back fastenings for evening gowns of this era.

   I started by assembling the front flat lining - sewing up the darts and the center front seam. Then I layered on the blue silk pieces to get the overlap shown in the fashion plate - right over left, trimmed in lace.

Once the front was assembled, I sewed it to the back then added even more lace.

All around the neckline is a wide lace ruffle. I used the same lace I used for the sleeve ruffles on my Edwardian evening gown last year.

Over that, and on the sleeve cuffs, and all around the bottom edge of the bodice, is a narrower lace frill.

I got this HUGE (over 100 yards!) roll of 1" wide lace trim from the local sewing room that sells donated fabric and notions for $1 per pound. It was just what I needed for the frills on this lace hog of a bodice! (I still have plenty left over for future projects too of course!)

All the lace was sewn on by machine. The stitching blends in to the lace design just fine, and I didn't have time to do much hand sewing on this bodice - I only allowed myself one week to make it!

Thus, the bodice is entirely constructed by machine, with some hand finishing work - which the kittens attempted to help with.

The sleeves are trimmed with wide lace ruffles, made from the same net lace I used for the collar of my wedding dress

The finishing touch on the sleeves are big 4-loop bows made from scraps of silk.

The bodice was made, start to finish, in one week.

Since I'd used this bodice pattern before, and the dress I made from it still fits me, I didn't bother making a mock-up.

I didn't take any time to do any fittings during construction either, so on Halloween I just hoped it would fit alright.

Thankfully, it did!

Ok, it was a little tight, but my husband managed to get all the hooks and eyes done up so we're calling it good!

I threw on a white apron I'd made in one evening to hopefully give the dress a bit more of an "Alice in Wonderland" look, left my hair loose, and I was ready for our evening.

We went over to our friends' house for dinner, a movie, and to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters.

My friend graciously took pictures for me in her back yard. We did our best to figure out Alice in Wonderland-y settings and poses.

 I'm very pleased with how the dress turned out! 

Not bad at all for something made out of old curtains, sheets, and second hand trim in only a week!

Now if I ever find myself needing an 1830's ball gown, I've got one ready to go!

And, while not screen accurate at all, I think it worked pretty well as an Alice costume too!

Especially when paired with my husband's magnificent (if I do say so myself) Mad Hatter costume!