"Sew an article of clothing with the zipper(s) being the primary focus. Show us how you incorporate them not only for function but also as a creative element in any garment you create for this challenge."
Say, what? ZIPPERS??? I was stumped. I had to walk away for a bit after the Sewing Bee Round 2 challenge was announced. As I muttered to myself, "Zippers?! Seriously? Zippers...", I thought of zippered cargo joggers, a dress, a jacket... and I remembered. About 5 years ago at the American Sewing Expo, I purchased all the fabric and supplies to make a many zippered Islander "Motor City Express" jacket. After printing the pattern, I lost interest as I taped all the pages together. It was set aside, and never resumed. Flash forward to last week, when this Round 2 Challenge was issued. I fished it out (all the fabrics, zippers, and even thread was with it) and started taping again. But, wait... it's the WRONG SIZE now. Dang. I hate "growing" in my 40s... Off to the pattern cabinet! I pulled a few different jacket patterns that might work, but my trusty 15 yr old fashionista pointed at Simplicity 1324 and said, "This one, Mom. This one."
Just one issue... This pattern doesn't call for a single zipper. Hmm...
I immediately knew I could add half a zipper as trim around the should yokes, but the challenge requires at least one "functioning zipper". I could add some wrist zippers, like the kind you see on motor cycle jackets. But, I just knew that jingling pulls would bug me as I wrote on the board or under the document camera as I teach. What about some zippered pockets? Pockets in a jacket are necessary and helpful (and quiet). Ok, got the plan!
I have more than enough gunmetal gray faux leather, and just enough tweed boucle, with 7 matching metal zippers and 3 yards of coordinating charmeuse lining, I was set for supplies. Even found the matching spool of thread I bought for the project! Woohoo!!! With a snow day to get started, I was feeling pretty great, and got everything cut out on day 1.
The next morning, we got another "snow day", so construction began. It was impossible to mark the darts on the boucle, but since the front pieces are all interfaced, I transferred the dart marking to the white fusible interfacing, and continued on my merry way. Stitched the zipper tape to the round edge of the shoulder yoke, turned it under, trimmed the extra, and attached the faux leather yoke to the fronts. Now, I have to tell you... I got pretty good at removing the extra metal teeth from the seam allowances where the zipper was used as trim. both shoulder yokes, both lower front pieces... small sharp wire cutters and needle nose pliers are a necessity for this job!
When it came time to mark and create the "windows" for the zippered pockets, I dug into the scraps for some organza, using a method I learned from Kenneth King in a class about welted pockets. I didn't want to mark on the leather, so I did everything on the wrong side, marking the rectangle, putting the large piece of organza underneath (on the right side), stitching the rectangle of the opening. I carefully cut down the center and opened the window, pulling the organza through to the wrong side. I pressed the rectangle flat, careful with the heat on the faux leather. Trimmed away the extra zipper and extra organza, using my serger to prevent the fabric from fraying, and carefully basted the zipper into place. I topstitched around the rectangle, securing the zipper at the same time, and lastly, placed a large piece of black lining fabric under the entire lower leather front portion of the jacket to create the pocket space. I basted these layers together around the edge, and continued construction. Phew! I spent most of that sewing day creating those zippered pockets, happy dancing around the sewing room as I finished! My machine didn't really care for topstitching that texture though, so another caution... keep your scraps and do a trial run first!!!
The remainder of the jacket went together pretty easily. I missed a step that told me to trim the bottom 1.5" off the lining, but I knew the edges wouldn't line up otherwise. I also recut the fabric for the opening edge. The tweed boucle just looked to "dowdy", so I had enough faux leather to recut and it was a HUGE improvement.
Monday, 6" of snow fell. Tuesday, roads still weren't safe for school. Wednesday, wind chills of -30F. Thursday, predicted wind chills of -40F. I'm so glad I was gifted all this extra time, as I severely underestimated how long it would take me to do the required hand stitching with so much leather, tacking the layers together with invisible stitches in the seam. Pressing carefully using a piece of muslin to protect the faux leather surface. The sleeves needed to be taken in a little and I didn't make the hem as deep as it called for. I hate sitting at my desk typing with my wrists hanging out... so the sleeves look a little long, but that's the way I like it!
Nothing special in the back, no leather, no zippers. It's a very comfy jacket, it wears more like a sweater! The crazy low temps today made an outdoor photo session impossible, so my apologies for the dark pictures. We tried everything to brighten it up, but dark gray is hard to shoot!
So, the contest deadline is tomorrow (Thursday) at midnight, and I'm very, very, very proud of my jacket. Working with the metal zippers this way was a new experience for me, and creating the pockets in faux leather was not simple. I don't think that anyone would ever guess that this jacket was "homemade" by me, and I've got a new item in my closet that I'm excited to wear. These challenges are tricky... I want to be "original and creative", but I need to end up with garment that I'll actually WEAR. It's a little about winning, but it's more about making something that I'm proud of. In those terms, I've already won. I'll keep you posted how judging goes next week!