Pattern Review: the Ilford Jacket by Friday Pattern Company, in Velvet Finish Australian Wool
Workwear-style or 'chore' jackets are having a moment. I sincerely hope it's more than a moment because it's a style I totally dig, and super practical.
When my eldest son needed a new warm jacket, the Ilford by Friday Pattern Company came to mind.
Charlie spends a lot of time in his room at the cold end of the house, playing guitar, especially since his uni music course has been mostly online. The brief was: something warm, with sleeves that wouldn't get in the way of guitar playing, and with the simple collar style of a workwear or denim jacket.
I've previously made him the Foreman Jacket by Merchant & Mills (highly recommended) and he has worn that a lot, but it has a slightly more formal vibe.
I showed him a picture of the Ilford, which is a boxy, unisex pattern, and had the thumbs up so I bought the pattern (pandemic PDF format) and made a quick muslin in the short length. The fit was good and he requested it lengthened, and I also added a smidgen to the sleeve length. (Interestingly, the muslin fit me quite well too, but the sleeves were very long on me. Easy to remedy, and just an observation about the unisex pattern notion.)
The Ilford has a number of options, including length, a sleeve placket and cuff and loads of pockets. The sleeve placket/cuff option lets Charlie have the sleeves either rolled out of the way, or buttoned and sitting on the wrist, both of which work for guitar playing.
The fabric I used is our Velvet Finish Australian Wool in Mulberry. I've used this before in Navy to make an Assembly Line Wrap Jacket and it's simply dreamy to work with and wear. The smooth, flat reverse side makes it ideal for an unlined jacket, and for a touch of luxe I like to bind the seams.
I really enjoy making a little 'garment preview' after cutting out pattern pieces, by laying it all out:
I think it spurs me on to get through to the finished garment!
Now, there were a couple of things I didn't like about this pattern. Online reviewers are sometimes accused of gushing over indie patterns and glossing over shortcomings. The way I feel is that independent pattern designers are really putting themselves out there. Running a tiny one-or-two person business is a brave and vulnerable thing. I really like what Chelsea of Friday Pattern Company is creating for her brand. Her style is simple with a bit of drama. Without fanfare, she's been pushing representation of diversity in her product photography: body size, skin colour, disability. She donates part proceeds to charity. The pattern size range is inclusive of a wide range of bodies. So yeah, there are a couple of things I'd change about the Ilford pattern. But I won't be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
I'd like to note that the issues I have with the Ilford's construction are not unique to this pattern. I've encountered them in other indie patterns as well as vintage patterns. Things that make you wonder 'surely there's a better way?'. I suspect with the Ilford they've been in the interest of creating a pattern that's simple and approachable. However I think the finish that could be achieved by using some very slightly more complex steps would be absolutely worthwhile, for any level of sewist.
The Ilford is truly boxy, with sleeves sewn flat onto the straight sides of the bodice. Then the bodice and sleeve are sewn up as one, pivoting at the underarm. I've used this method on other patterns, and in fact I used to wonder why all sleeves were not sewn in flat like this because it seemed so much easier than setting in, in the round. Lightbulb moment! In thick coating fabric the shortcoming of the all-in-one-and-pivot method is clear. The seam allowances pull on the inside and it takes some savage clipping to encourage this corner to sit well. In an unlined jacket, this leaves a bit of a mess inside, as well as weakening the fabric at the join.
My second gripe is the collar attachment. Again, I've seen this before; here it is on my Republique du Chiffon Jacqueline jacket:
And here it is on the Ilford, during construction (I'm sorry the critical part is a bit out of focus!):
The seam allowance needs to be clipped into, to allow part to be enclosed in the collar (to the right) and part to be enclosed in the placket (to the left), leaving a point of weakness.
I also found the part of the placket that folded back was not shaped as per the neckline. The photo below shows how it would be as per instructions.
Below: using the 5/8" seam allowance, I shaped the top to better meet the collar.
The upper and under collar pieces are cut from the same pattern piece, so there's no accounting for turn of cloth. I did not fully topstitch the collar, in order to let the heavy wool have a bit more movement as it folds.
I'm no pattern designer or drafter but I've had a bit of a think and if I was to make the Ilford again, here's what I'd try, in very rough sketch form:
The facings would securely enclose the collar, and the sleeve head and armscye shaping would allow for a set-in sleeve that could be neatly finished without buckling or clipping at the underarm. (I make no promises as to the efficacy of my sketched sleeve shaping, and would definitely muslin this first!) Facings could have the raw edges turned under or bound, and be topstitched down. If a cut-on neck facing was a bit too fabric-hungry (it makes an odd-shaped piece), the front facing could be cut separately (with seam allowances added).
I was in a bit of a rush to make this jacket because I really wanted Charlie to have something warm to wear as quickly as possible. If I had taken a bit more time examining the muslin I might have done a rounded-upper-back adjustment, because the back hem could sit straighter. It rises and billows a little in the middle and looks like a bit of pattern slashing across the upper shoulder (kind of adding a bit of a diamond shape between the shoulder blades) would release this. Probably to be expected in someone who is bent over a guitar for hours a day - and something to look out for in future makes for Charlie.
Here's something I loved about the pattern: the sleeve placket construction. I've never done a tower placket like this before - there's a whole extra fold that has you create the pointy 'tower' first for a really neat finish. I felt the instructions for this whole section were top-notch. In the thick wool fabric, an extra fold made for a lot of bulk but it was always going to be puffy anyway. Not my finest work stitching the under-placket there, but the wool is pretty forgiving.
There are loads of pocket options and choosing was fun. We went for the 'hand warmer' pockets (which are still large and secure enough for a phone) and a top pocket with button flap. I was pretty keen to add the little pencil pocket but Charlie thought it was a bit much.
I found some excellent buttons at The Button Bar and made all the buttonholes with my vintage Bernina's stepped buttonhole process. I finally learnt my lesson and made the buttonholes decently large so the buttons don't need to be wrestled through!
Ultimately I'm about 90% happy with this project and very glad that Charlie has the look and the warmth he was after. There are things I'd change, but I can tell this is going to be worn a huge amount. Hurrah!
PATTERN: The Ilford Jacket by Friday Pattern Company
FABRIC: Velvet Finish Coat-Weight 100% Australian Wool - Mulberry
SIZE: M (roomy but true to measurements), about 15cm longer than the 'short' length and a smidgen longer in the arms.
COMMENTS: Love the style and options. And hooray for a pattern suitable for men. I just love that my family members can mention a style they like and I can usually think of (or hunt down) an indie pattern that will suit, because there's so much out there these days. I think the construction method has suffered a bit in (what I assume is) the desire to make this a fast and simple project. I learnt from the project, and maybe you have learnt something from reading this!
- Jane xx