Five times I wanted to quit this project. Two times it wound up in the trash. One time I tried to cry – but couldn’t. That is the saga of Vogue 1440: a seemingly innocuous Donna Karan coordinates pattern rated “Average” by the pattern company.
I need new jackets for work badly. I got tired of my Calvin Klein suits and donated them all to Goodwill. I had the best intentions to start cranking out new coordinates for myself. Necessity seems the only way to motivate myself, hence the Ulysses contract I made when I tossed out my suits. I picked out a number of patterns that I would like to use for my new wardrobe, and I was set to start on my plan. That was until I saw this pattern at JoAnn when Vogue was on sale. I thought, “an unlined jacket is a good way to ‘ease’ myself in”. Little did I know that this project would take me nearly a month and half to complete (mostly spent procrastinating).
I have to admit, I haven’t encountered a single Donna Karan pattern that hasn’t posed a challenge for me. This, however, is my first undertaking of something symmetrical without origami features. The jacket in Vogue 1440 not a “hard” pattern – but it is quite tedious. The inside raw edges are all bias bound with home made-bias tape. The seams are all piped with home-made piping. The edges are meticulously fringed.
What was I thinking??!!
At least I had the common sense to not use any of my expensive fabrics. I’ve had this multicolor polyester tweed from Fashion Fabrics Club since around 2007. I decided that it would be great to have a jacket to go with some of my more colorful pieces that I’ve made lately (and you have not yet seen). In addition to the tweed, I would need some poly charmeuse, cording/welting and grosgrain ribbon for this project. I went down to my local Yardage Town and found the charmeuse and grosgrain ribbon in a pretty cobalt blue. Despite the yardage seeming excessive, I bought the yardage recommended for this project. If I hadn’t made as many mistakes as I did, this would have been excessive; however, I was very thankful I had so much excess to salvage the project through my many, many tribulations.
Cutting the project was pretty uneventful. I followed the instructions exactly – or so I thought. This is where I encountered my first error – the collar was supposed to be cut on the fold! Oh no! and I didn’t have enough fabric to cut another. I decided to piece it together between a scrap of charmeuse and grosgrain ribbon. I carefully transferred the markings with tailor’s tacks and pinned the pieces to the dress form to figure out how it all went together.
At this point, I needed to cut my bias tape and make my piping. So I procrastinated for about 2 weeks.
One day I was feeling plucky. I went upstairs and started cutting my strips with my rotary cutter. I didn’t follow Vogue’s directions (cut one big trapezoid and sew a tube, cut the tube in a continuous strip), that haven’t changed in the history of the company, because it is my experience that this method creates a fairly distorted end product. Instead, I measured the width of the strips and cut them to the maximum length I could with my poly charmeuse yardage. I wound up with fewer pieces to get the same overall length. I pieced together the ones for the bias tape and then stretched the tape slightly with the iron to stabilize it. Using the cording foot and the chain stitch on my Babylock Ovation, I made the piping in one long continuous piece.
I also stretched the bias tape for the seam edge binding, but did not attempt to steam in any creases. It became quickly obvious that the tape was far too thin to create a proper bias binding, so I sewed the edge that would be visible with a 1/8″ scant seam allowance, using a 1/4″ quilting foot with guide and dual feed. I then tightly wrapped the edge in a Hong Kong finish and topstitched down, catching the remaining raw edge on the other side.
I also needed to develop a reliable method for applying my piping. Here are my steps that I substituted for the directions in Vogue 1440:
- Baste piping to fabric, using piping foot and seam guide set to 1/2″
- Pin each end of piping to prevent welt from working out of the casing and warping seam, before cutting piping. Make sure to also pin end of cut piping!
- Sandwich the piping between the fabric and pin. Using a piping foot (foot with uneven pressure allows piping to slide under), sew with 5/8″ seam allowance.
- Trim seam allowance and apply bias binding (catch scant edge, then wrap and topstitch down, AKA Hong Kong finish)
- Trim excess with applique scissors (if applicable)
So I started assembling away. Pipe. Trim. Bind. Pipe. Trim. Bind … the inside was looking so pretty!
Here is where I encountered my next major obstacle … I had completed the entire back and somehow got the “upper side back” upside down! Ugh! My Donna Karan mental block strikes again! This time there was no “making it work” .. I would have to either unpick all of that binding and seaming, or start over!!
This would be the first time the project wound up in the trash. But I couldn’t just leave it. I had wasted at least 3 weeks procrastinating and I didn’t have anything to show for it. I decided to check my scrap to see if I had enough to start over on the back, which it turns out that I had *barely* enough fabric left.
So I cut the back pieces again and assembled the remaining jacket. I stopped short attaching the collar, and procrastinated a few more weeks.
When I finally got some motivation a few weeks later, I went upstairs to start attaching the collar. All that was remaining at this point was the collar and the sleeves. To my dismay, I found that someone had “tidied” up the sewing room and threw away all of my bias strips and piping (thinking it was trash). I wanted to scream, but I settled for crying.
Except, I couldn’t make myself cry. I threw the thing in the trash saying, “well, that’s it. time to move on to another project” … however, I could not let myself abandon it. It was just the collar at sleeves left at this point!
And so I pulled it out of the trash (again).
I had enough of the poly charmeuse left to cut more strips, so I measured how much more cord I needed and begrudgingly went back to Yardage Town.
I attached the collar, bound the edges, and started placing the fringe trim (there are four strips that you bind and then attach around the edge of the jacket) … except there was not enough of the trim to complete the lower edge. I found just enough scrap to cut another strip and continued with the effort of attaching the trim. Here is where I ran into another situation where the instructions are not ideal … they tell you to miter the corners, but the method is not precise. My method is to carefully fold away the joining edges and crease with an iron, before cutting to a 1/4″ seam allowance and sewing in place (see photos).
Still armed with motivation, I assembled the sleeves and inserted once (and bound the armhole, of course). I turned it out and tried it on. It was at this point that I realized that I had sewn it in backwards! Really!!?? I’m almost done, and now my sleeve is in backwards! I am darn serious when I say I must have a Donna Karan mental block – there is absolutely no reason why I should be struggling with this tame fringed jacket pattern in Vogue 1440!
I set it aside and started picking out the seam a week later. When I finally set the sleeves properly, I tried it on again. I noticed that the armhole was rather snug, so I graded out about 1/2″ from the bottom of the armhole before I finally trimmed and bound the edge.
The final task to complete this project was to add the 1/2″ shoulder pads. I substituted a dolman shape and covered them with poly charmeuse scrap. I couldn’t bear to have them ugly after all the work I put into finishing the inside of this jacket!
So now the jacket is done, and I’ve managed to finish three tops in 2 days. I have so much resentment attached to this project that I’m going to need some emotional space from it before I can enjoy it.
I hope this article is of a help to you and sets your expectations if you plan to take this project on!
My final note is on the sizing and general finishing.
- Sizing: I generally make a size 12 in the Big 4, and this ran true to size. My measurements are closer to a 14, but the 12 is what works for me.
- Finishing: The instructions skip a lot of finishing details. One of the most important is to make sure to clean up and properly finish off the piping near the lower edges of the jacket. If you don’t you’ll have ugly cording poking through