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So . . . the latest sewing project for my partner, a wool cycling jacket.

If you’ll recall, this little saga began with 3 1/2 yards of charcoal gray wool suiting that I saw for sale at my local creative reuse center (with my volunteer discount, the wool came to the princely sum of $15–there’s no way I needed another project, but seriously, how could I pass that up?)

I presented this to my honey (who has a very great affection for wool clothing, especially for cycling) and asked him what kind of jacket he would like.  What he came up with is known as a Harrington jacket.

I’d never heard the name before, but it’s a very common style of zipped, hip-length lightweight jacket, often with elastic at the hem and a red tartan lining.

The closest pattern I could find was this by Kwik Sew.


Changes he asked me to make to turn this into something suitable for cycling:

— Add a lining–something slippery to slide over wool cycling jerseys, but also breathable (so no Nasty Nylon).

— The welt pockets needed to have zippers.

— Another zipper pocket needed to be added to the left side of the chest.

— A long elasticized divided pocket needed to be added to the back near the hem.

— The collar on view A needed to be shortened to be more like the Mandarin-style collars you see on cycling jerseys.  Also, the zipper needed to extend to the top of the collar.

— The jacket needed to be shortened, and the sides and back shaped to be 2″ longer than the front.

— Elastic needed to be added to the hem and sleeve hems.

It makes me tired just typing all that out.

(Most unintentionally hilarious moment of these conversations:  partner breezily informing me that the pockets had to have zips “of course” (while I wondered how one would go about doing such a thing), then apologizing profusely for asking me to change the length of the jacket.)

So, in between researching pocket construction and trying to figure out how to add a lining to a jacket, I put together a muslin.  He normally wears a large, but this pattern had a whopping 10 inches of ease, so I decided to risk a medium.  I modified the collar, using his cycling jerseys as a guide, and ordered him some zippers from ZipperStop on Etsy (I’ve actually sewn enough jerseys for him now that he knows exactly what kind of zippers he likes:  the beefy but not bulky #5 nylon coil).  I also got some 7″ #4.5 nylon coil zippers with extra-long pulls for the pockets.


This is a linen-rayon fabric that I got from Wal-Mart, of all places, years ago.  Actually a really nice fabric, but I just can’t wear that kind of thing any more–my skin’s too sensitive for linen these days.  😦

I actually had a thought when I was making this that it might turn out to be a wearable muslin, but that was before I got the full effect of it on him:  what with the collar and the gray color, it’s got a pretty strong prison camp vibe to it.  Just no.


I also used the muslin for my first attempt at a zippered pocket.  I’m normally too impatient to practice new techniques like this, but these pockets are going to be front and center, so I really wanted them to look professional (I don’t know about other cyclists, but randonneurs spend a LOT of time thinking and talking about bike clothing, and I knew this unusual cycling jacket was going to be noticed and closely examined).

I used this tutorial from Gretchen Hirst to do it, and I gotta tell you guys:  if you like the look of this, you should totally give it a try.  It’s completely doable for anybody with a little sewing experience and a bit of patience.  I wouldn’t even call it hard; it’s just really fiddly and precise, so that’s where the patience comes in.  I tried it a second time with a scrap of the wool and wound up changing her technique a bit to better suit my fabric and zippers, and it worked.

Here’s the way I did it (though you should definitely watch the video to get the basic technique):

  1.  I marked where I wanted the ends of the zipper to be.  My zippers are big and heavy-duty, and I found that this made it difficult to sew the ends in neatly, so I added 1/4″ to the length of the zipper hole, and that was very helpful.  (The safety pin is just there to mark the right side of the fabric, something that helps to keep me from getting confused when I work with a fabric that doesn’t have right and wrong sides.)


2.  Using a water-erasable marker, I drew a 7 1/4″ line on a piece of scrap fabric, then drew parallel lines 1/4″ away from it and bar tacks on the ends (a clear plastic quilting ruler is very helpful for this).  I put pins on the bar tacks and lined them up with the pins on the fabric.  Gertie marks the fabric itself, then puts a piece of silk organza over it, but I knew I would never get nice neat lines on this rough fabric, so this is the way I chose to do it.  Also, the scrap fabric I chose is gray–light enough for the marks to show, but not so light that you can easily see the edges once it’s turned.


3.  I pinned the scrap fabric down and removed the pins from the bar tacks.


4.  Using the pins as a guide, I put a scrap of lightweight interfacing under the area (if it’s fusible, the adhesive should be against the fabric in case it fuses) and pinned all three layers together.  (This is the interfacing here.)


5.  On the right side, I sewed over the outside lines and bar tacks, beginning and ending in the middle of one of the long lines.


6.  I took a deep breath, checked a couple of times that the pocket was where it was supposed to be, and then cut the middle line, stopping and cutting to the corners 1/4″ from the ends.  You want sharp, pointed scissors for this so that you can cut as close as possible to the stitching–it makes a big difference to how the corners come out in the end.


7.  I turned the scrap fabric to the inside and pressed carefully, starting with the sides and pressing the ends last.


8.  I pinned, then hand basted the zipper in, making sure it was centered before each stitch (hey, I said it was fiddly, right?)  This really helped me keep it neat.  It didn’t shift around, even when I had to partially unzip the zipper to sew around the pull.


9.  And I sewed it in!


Gertie sews the pocket bag to the itty bitty cut edges under the zipper, but I wanted the pocket to look more finished inside, so I sewed it to the zipper tape when I made my muslin.

Whew!  Yep, doable, but there’s something really nerve-wracking about cutting holes in your lovely fabric.  It did help that I knew I had almost a yard of the wool left in case something went horribly wrong.

As a result of the muslin, my partner asked for a few more fit adjustments, which I spent way too long agonizing over, then I put together the wool jacket shell.  (And it is really hard to make a garment look good in a photo when there’s no body in it.)


The pattern doesn’t call for it, but I think that collar and front zip are going to need some topstitching.


The inevitable photo-bombing.



The jacket had HUGE facings originally–probably because of the lack of a lining–but I’ve cut them down to get more of the lining in there.


And what about that slippery, breathable lining he wanted?  I looked and looked all over the place and this is what I found:

SILK, you guys.  SILK.  WITH MAPS, no less.  He loves it, I love it, the price is right, and it’s not supposed to arrive until January 20th.


So everything’s on hold for the moment until the beautiful, beautiful silk map fabric gets here.  Then the lining will go in, the pocket bags can be sewn on, the back pocket can be added, and the hems can be finished.

I’ve got a tutorial that I’m studying in preparation for making the lining, but any advice on that or on sewing with silk (somehow I’ve managed to avoid both those things until now) is most welcome.