Gathering Threads

Do They Make This for Grown-ups?

Posted by on Sep 21 2010, in Pattern review, Smocking

I’ve just finished up this adorable coat for my niece today. It is the world’s cutest denim jacket, from AS&E #87.

I fell in love with it while I was planning to make the Eloise dress from the same issue and I really liked the fact that I could make something I knew Ellie would get lots of wear out of.

The pattern comes in sizes 2, 4 and 6. As with all AS&E patterns, it runs large. As you’ll see from the fit on Stanley, although it is tight across his shoulders, there is quite a bit of ease around the body and it closes easily. This means she should get at least two years of wear out of it, since the sleeves are designed to be worn as 3/4 length.

The pattern was exceptionally easy to put together. Everything fit beautifully and it sewed up in a very short amount of time.

The details like the topstitching added to the overall construction time but not so much that it was burdensome or even difficult. I found it most efficient to topstitch in bulk, doing as many seams at the same time as I could, so that my settings were consistent, and that also allowed me to sew more quickly. I used a 100% cotton quilting thread and it was fantastic – it gave a nice thick line without fraying or being too thick to work with.

The smocking was super easy, too. I was a little leery about pleating the denim. How would it go through my Read pleater? Would I break a lot of needles? The answer is, no. I had no trouble at all pleating the small rectangles and the slight stretch of the denim/lycra blend didn’t cause me any distress, either.

I was able to complete all five panels (two front, two sleeves and one back) in approximately one 3hr car trip. The pattern was easily replicated without reference to the chart, so once I found the centre on each, I was able to smock quickly and without fuss.

I did backsmock the holding row. Since a friend recommended this technique to me, I’ve adopted it for all my smocking projects. It makes a world of difference. Not only does it keep my pleats beautifully erect, it makes construction a breeze, too, because I have an accurate line to follow when I am stitching the inserts in place. No more ‘rip and fiddle’.

For such a simple jacket, there were a number of very nice details. The smocked inserts in the sleeves and back panel are very nicely done. Another very nice construction technique that I hadn’t used before is the method used to construct the notched collar. In a nutshell, the upper portion of the collar, top and bottom, are topstitched first and then sewn to the neckline. After that, the facings sewn in place. It makes for a very accurate and easy notched collar and I will definitely be borrowing this technique for other lapels.

Finally, on the advice of the author, I decided against working machine buttonholes through the denim. I was worried, given how visible they were, about how they would look if they were in the least uneven. Instead, I handworked the buttonholes. For a first attempt, I am satisfied. I used the instructions for the Women’s Institute’s classic “Principles of Tailoring” (I have a 1933 UK edition on my bookshelves). Waxing the thread made a world of difference in how it behaved and although time consuming, it was not particularly difficult, although getting the stitches perfectly even still eludes me.

I will certainly make this jacket again. It is adorable. I have had countless compliments on it as I was working on it and the number one question I fielded was “Do they make this pattern for adults?”

I wish.


  • em

    OK, so for some reason I didn’t even know you had a website. But after seeing it, I am going to have a bunch of girl babies so you can dress them…please!?!

  • Claire

    Promise. You pop ’em out, and I’ll pop ’em into something cute. 🙂

  • Oh my! This is gorgeous. Your smocking is PERFECT!

  • Claire, this is fabulous. Thanks so much for your info on the buttonholes, thread choice, etc. Very helpful. I would love to make this for Sophie.