Wednesday 23 December 2020

Ankara Tamarack Jacket

My love for the Grainline Studio Tamarack jacket pattern developed slowly. As in, it took a couple of years. If this pattern was a potential partner, they would have written me off long ago! My interest grew over time, but it took the vision of an Ankara (AKA African Wax fabric) version that finally made me commit to the plan and I begun to gather supplies. Then a couple of weeks ago the time came to give back the overlocker I'd been borrowing. I looked through my list of potential sewing projects to work out what I could make next that could be made entirely on a regular sewing machine. Although the pattern suggests rather than specifically dictate to do so, I felt that binding all the bulky seam allowances would be the best way of finishing the innards. Therefore, it seemed like a good time for the Tamarack project to rise to the top of my 'to make' list. 


Last Spring, I saw a woman in a supermarket car park with a really bold puffer jacket. I can't remember exactly what it looked like, but the print reminded me of an Ankara design and my mind went straight to the potential options that were dwelling in my stash. This particularly length of Ankara fabric was brought back for me from her honeymoon in Ghana by my good friend Anna over ten years ago. She told me about the overwhelming awesomeness of the vast fabric market where she bought it, but she knows me well as she picked out the perfect print and colour way for me.  

Shortly after receiving it, I made some of the fabric into this 1950s style retro dress (pictured above). And a year or so later, whilst pregnant with my daughter, I made a dress using the Made by Rae Trillium dress pattern, then called the Washi dress pattern (pictured below). 

Historically, I have kept very few of my me-mades once I have stopped wearing them. However, I kept both of these because of how amazing this fabric it. So I harvested what I could from both, and located the final piece leftover from the original length. Even so, I had to piece the fabric together in a couple of places: around the shoulder/yoke area on both the fronts and the back pieces. I was able to pattern match pretty well, AND I was able to stitch along the joining seams during the quilting step, so I think they are effectively hidden. Finally, I pieced the scraps together to make the self-binding. There really is very little of this fabric left now!

The Tamarack pattern directs you to use the same fabric for both the inner and outer layers. Obviously that wasn't going to happen with mine due to the limited fabric, plus I wanted the ease of taking it on and off that you get with a traditional, slinky lining fabric. I got this navy viscose lining remnant from Fabric Godmother, and made bias binding from the leftovers to bind the pocket edges and all the internal seam allowances. 

The other element that I had to purchase for this project was the quilt batting/wadding. After reading the advice on the Grainline blog, I decided I wanted to source some wool batting rather than cotton for a warmer jacket, but i just couldn't find the size required (twin) in stock anywhere in the UK. As a second choice, I went with a batting made 100% from recycled plastic bottles. I flatter myself by thinking that my green-washing radar is pretty well tuned, but you wouldn't believe how thick they were laying on the 'this product basically saves the world' message in the packaging! It completely ignores how much energy is required to extract usuable polymers from that 13 discarded plastic bottles, and to turn them into quilt batting (which is then wrapped in plastic and shipped to Europe from the US). And looking at the reviews in the comments section of the website, some other customers seemed to have taken the 'I bought this and have just saved the world' perspective on board! Lols. Anyways.


As I say, I wasn't always sold on the style of the Tamarack jacket pattern. Chatting with Mr SoZo about this, I finally figured out that it reminds me of two things: A) the kind of jacket that an elderly Chinese farm worker woman might wear, and B) detachable lining that might be part of a Very Practical Coat. Once I'd made these stylistic links and the question was no longer bugging me, I was honestly much happier to go ahead with the project! 

As with almost all patterns I use, I made a couple of initial adjustments to this one. I blended between sizes at the side seams (my waist and hips usually fall into a size category that is one size larger than my bust), and pinched out about 2cm from the length of the torso on the front and back pieces to account for my short-waistedness. Being able to make these simple (and now automatic) adjustments is such a blessing, and would be worth learning how to sew for even if I didn't actually enjoy it!  

The trickiest part of the project was the welt pockets. When my batting arrived, it was thinner that I expected, but that was partly to my benefit as the construction of the pockets would no doubt have been more difficult if it was been thicker. I declared life too short to pattern match the welts, and once the binding was added to the edges, I think the mis-match of the welts looks fine. Due to the limited amount of fabric I was working with, I was able to match the pattern at the centre front, but couldn't align the colours of the design. 


I wasn't able to collect all the relevant materials for this project until recently, and because Autumnal jacket weather had passed, I'd kind of shelved the project in my mind until the Spring. However, we've had an (alarmingly) unseasonably warm couple of days lately so I got to wear this out in the world yesterday for the first time. I still feel the elderly farm worker vibes are present, but I also believe that the bold fabric print off sets those vibes enough that it looks pretty stylish. The fit is comfortable, plus the sleeves are narrow enough that it might prove a useful layer underneath my grey Cocoon coat when the temperature really drops and I want to give my Buffalo Check coat a break. 

There have been some amazing quilted coats and jackets popping up on IG recently. If a suitable quilt appeared in a charity shop, I'd be tempted to make it into another Tamarack jacket, with the quilting stage having been done for me. And even if I don't use this particular pattern again, my eyes are definitely opened to the stylistic and thermal qualities of quilted clothing! 

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