Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Year in Review, the Mythbusters Jacket, and How I Learnt that Failure is Always an Option

Hi everyone! 

This is a long one today so make sure you're sitting down with a cuppa for the ride. Scroll down for Sewlution news.

First of all I'd like to introduce you to the Mythbusters Jacket.

Why's it called the Mythbusters Jacket? The first reason is because I got on a serious Netflix kick for the show while making this. The second is because it hangs in my wardrobe unworn, reminding me that no matter your skill, expertise, resources or circumstance, abject failure is always an option. I have an unusable jacket. 

But that's okay!

It's Burda 12/2011 Herringbone Jacket 121.It's by far the most complicated thing I've made and admittedly way above my skill level. Someone out there can make this amazing, just not me. The jacket is made up of over 40 pieces.

Everything cut out
Front view, on the new whasijig

So, the great thing about failure is that you can never create a foolproof recipe for success but you can learn a lot from screwing up. I mean, Brain Pickings seems to talk about failure more than anything else. If you learn from when you mess up, it will help you learn to make something much better in the future.

So, what are the issues? (Being a process-nut, I'm going to ignore the possibility that my design choice was bad)

  • I thought to try sew-in interfacing. It pulled, got in the way and did not offer support to the jacket.
  • Burda's instructions are...well...Burda instructions. But the PDF instructions don't mention the front lining piece at all. You must trace and modify a copy of the bodice front (see photo below). 

How to get the front lining piece
Pattern pieces to trace and seam numbers

  • There is also no instruction on the back lining piece, or if you need to trace a separate facing. I traced a  facing, but you can do what you like.
  •  There is too much space at the front, and not enough at the back. OR the jacket falls backwards, pulling all seams off. To be frank, I think there's too much bulk at the nape of the neck.
Pulling jacket forward on the whasijig
But I'm proud of the jacket, (I even made shoulder pads!) and I wonder whether it's worth going back in the new year and fixing it. Would it be wearable afterwards? Probably not...but that's not what this is about anymore.

I want to know what I can take from this:
On the whasijig
 To replicate and rip off these:

1950s for Dior, design in V&A. Pattern magic, anyone?

Desigual AW 2013, would you pay £200 for this?

But with that, we move on to the year in review. I won't bore you with stats, but I guess you might like to know I surpassed 20 makes this year, which is pretty unbelievable!

But in January I signed up to The Jar hosted by Karen and made a Sewlution  for the year ahead. As the end of the year fast approaches, I must hold up my hands and admit defeat. Karen has been a harsh Mistress of The Jar and has not been above publicly calling out participants on their projects. Spurred by terror every time, I have diligently worked on my project and piped up about progress. But now I must confess the dress will not be done today. Again, failure is always an option.


The project has undergone so many name changes and deadlines. It's passed by Chic Expectations, Sewlutions, Matthew Williamson Dress, Advent Calendar dress...I have plugged more than 100 hours on the project on design, fitting, research and actual sewing. Early in 2013 there was a lot of work on fitting and pattern, then a 6 month review prompted a final decision on the design to carry forwards, then there was a lot of time spent on drawing and visualising the design on anything I could get my hands on.

Over the last two months I've been working on actually sewing the thing! If you follow me on Twitter, you've been witness to the Advent Calendar too, with many sessions late into the night. Here's what it looked like this morning:

Pins and all

Turns out 10m ribbon wasn't enough...

The rear needs some work

The dress is a push to finish, but the more work that goes in to it, the more it can't be rushed. I've come to appreciate the idea of a hundred-hour project and want to bring that through to 2014. Something that takes a whole year.


Thanks to this dress I've learnt to grade patterns, fit muslins, sew difficult points and understand non-standard patterns, work with difficult fabrics and embellishments, create and work from a design sketch, source and trial materials, practice beyond sewing (drawing skills, anyone?), drape, hand-sew...and heck I've still got work to go!

If you can learn this much from one long-term project, it feeds in to every shorter project you do. A year in review is not about what has and hasn't been made or how often it's been worn, but how are you a different sewist (or maker) from the one you were 12 months ago. There is light far at the end of the Sewlution Tunnel. It's crawling closer, but the Mistress of the Jar will need to know this is going to be done on my time, not the Jar's.

Hope you'll join me for the rest of the journey,



  1. Katrina, send your address so I can send you a little something! carmencitab at carmencitab dot com. happy New Year!