Sunday, 26 November 2017

Operation: Outerwear II, The Blue Wool Jacket (Burda 6461) (Part I)

Unbelievably, I have actual PROGRESS on a piece of outerwear to report! It's a seasonally appropriate miracle!

Pattern Choice

I am using a Burda envelope pattern, Burda 6461, which is... well, let's be honest, it's not a very exciting pattern. I am using view B, as below:

Burda 6461 and view B technical drawing
I ended up buying this wholly uninteresting pattern specifically for this project this week (on sale for half price, at least) despite my MANY back issues of Burda with bookmarked jacket patterns and my MANY other pre-existing jacket patterns, for two reasons:

1. The amount of fabric I have. I bought the fabric at a craft fair last year. It was the end of a roll and I was told there was 2m and it was 155cm wide, which ordinarily would be quite enough for a jacket of almost any description. However, when I got it home and unfolded it I was extremely annoyed to discover that although I did have 2m in length only 1.5m was at the full width as a large piece had been chopped off one end. This took a lot of potential patterns out of the running.

2. My pattern requirements were really specific: I wanted my jacket to be lined, have pockets and a simple (not notched) collar, and be designed with a single-breasted front with visible buttons (because I have some great buttons for this jacket!). I wanted the pattern to either be the length I was looking for (mid hip) or be very easily adjusted to that length. I also wanted it to have princess seams and a two piece sleeve. This is the exact jacket I wanted, boring though it is.

Fitting work

I am not usually much for a ton of fitting work. In my last post, however, I remarked that I wanted to go back to the drawing board with some of my fitting problems. For the last 18 months or so I've been quite lazily using a size 44 with only very minor adjustments, and I've been paying for that with, in particular, extremely poor fit through the shoulder.

Since then I've spent some time revisiting a whole bunch of different things in all kinds of different books and websites and blogs about determining what size one should pick as a starting point. The most common suggestion is to start from a smaller size at the shoulder and blend/grade/adjust as required below that point. With this in mind, I decided to take a whole new set of measurements and see whether that helped me. With making a Burda pattern, I also had the long form of the Burda sizing chart to use. Several of the measurements have vanished from their size charts in the last year or so, but previously they always had neck circumference and various other measurements to help you pick a size, which I thought might be useful.

My size outcomes based on Burda's charts were as follows:

Neck: 40
Shoulder width: 38/40
Upper bust (calculated from full bust minus 7.5cm for a C-cup): 44
Bust: 44
Upper arm: 44/46
Waist: 44/46
Hip: 42

For the most part, this tells me nothing I didn't know. I have mocked Burda for years for their Giant Rectangle patterns, and yet I am myself a Giant Rectangle. The only reason my hip size looks smaller than the rest of me is that Burda, and most other pattern companies, draft for a slight pear shape and I am, in fact, completely rectangular -- my hip & bust measurements are usually identical. I also have barely any waist, and certainly not the slight hourglass shape that Burda draft for. (Actually, I have no ROOM for a waist as there's only the smallest possible gap between the bottom of my ribcage and the top of my pelvis. This has always been a curious relief to me. It's pointless for me to chase after a "perfect" hourglass figure -- no amount of weight loss could ever change my skeletal structure!)

For the purposes of this jacket, though, taking my measurements again was quite the eureka moment in terms of my neck & shoulder vs upper bust numbers. I am genuinely surprised by these measurements (and I did take them several times to check I was accurate!) because I wouldn't have said AT ALL that I was narrow through the shoulders compared to my upper chest or that I had a smaller neck than average. I'm still not convinced I do compared to like, actual people in the world, rather than the hypothetical fit model. I wonder how many other people would find their measurements put them 1-2 sizes smaller through the neck and shoulder than everywhere else

At any rate, armed with this information I decided there were therefore two possible routes to pursue: either start with a 40, and blend/adjust from the point of the shoulder down; or start with a 44 and adjust the neck and shoulder as required. I traced the top portion of both the 44 and the 40 onto paper -- just enough of a paper muslin to see how the neckline and shoulder would fit together. The 40 neckline felt too small and constricting. Moreover, the shoulder width difference between the two sizes was barely 0.7cm, and even with this width reduction the shoulder seam on the size 40 was still clearly going to hang down my arm as usual and require further adjustment. In the end therefore, after all that effort, I did exactly what I always do and started from a straight 44, on the basis that if I was going to adjust the shoulder anyway, it was easier to just cut the whole garment in a single size and plan to make a larger shoulder adjustment.

Muslin #1: The straight 44

Muslin #1 of Burda 6461
This therefore is a 44, straight off the pattern sheet. It probably helps at this point if you understand that all the RTW coats and jackets I own either (a) fit horribly and are uncomfortable to wear; or (b) are knit/fleece and the stretch therefore disguises most fit problems. So, when I say that the fit of this first muslin was "not bad", I mean: it was not as bad as some RTW coats/jackets I have owned, but it still had a lot of problems.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo on me as well as on Flossie here, so you will have to take my word for the fact that there were two blindingly obvious fit problems: 1. The bust point was too high, producing an empty bubble of fabric above my actual bust. This also meant the bust fit was a tiny bit too tight because the extra width was not where I needed it. 2. The shoulders were FAR too wide. Flossie actually has a pretty good approximation of my shoulder width -- it's not perfect, but it's pretty close -- and you can see just how much overhang there is. I ended up taking 2cm out of the width. Even if I'd started with the size 40, I'd still have had to take another 1.2cm out.

I'm not enormously experienced moving the bust point around with princess seams, and I wanted to see if I did or didn't have enough room at the bust once the fullness was in the right place. I therefore decided to adjust my paper patterns for the bust point problem and the shoulder width adjustment, which required me to redraw the whole armhole as well, and make a second muslin, just to check everything worked.

Muslin #2: Further adjustments

Muslin 2 of Burda 6461

Muslin 2: The bust adjustment worked great. The shoulder situation was better. Honestly, I feel like this still looks a little far down my arm on the left side as you look at this photo, but it didn't seem that way when I had my arms by my side -- I think holding the phone shifted it a little.

I then did a high round back adjustment, which was another major adjustment I intended to do in the first round. I was distracted by all my shoulder fitting shenanigans and forgot.

My next job, after I took this photos, was to work on the 'reach forward' problem. This is an essential fitting problem for me. Historically, all my RTW coats and many of my shirts and blouses both handmade and RTW have suffered from the problem that I get massive, painfully tight drag on my upper arms when I reach forward. You can actually see it in this photo -- look at the tight lines across my bicep on the hand holding the phone. Shifting the shoulder seams back up to my actual shoulder helped, but not as much as I hoped it would. 

For a long time, I had assumed the problem was in the sleeve fit around my biceps. I don't have small upper arms and I often do full bicep adjustments, but this never seemed to fix the problem. I started to wonder if that was just, you know, what happens if you wear woven sleeves, and I'm just spoiled by wearing a lot of knits into thinking that reaching forward to, for example, hold my steering wheel or open a door should not make my sleeves cut into me.

In my quest to re-read a bunch of fitting information, however, I came across a section that specifically address this problem. I ended up raising the armhole by 2cm and that made a HUGE difference to the fit and comfort reaching forward. It does mean I have a little excess fabric around the armhole when my arms are by my side, but I can live with that.

Doing that though meant I had to address the sleeve. Again, you can see in the photo that the sleeve of this pattern was a problem. Admittedly, I wasn't making much effort to get this sleeve in properly, but wow, there was a lot of excess fabric in the sleeve cap. A LOT. I took the sleeves in and out a few times while I played with some adjustment possibilities, and even the one time I got it in without a ton of pleating, the sleeve cap was really poofy and high. I ended up flattening the cap and taking out quite a lot ease, and that really improved the look of the sleeve when I was done.

That's all my progress so far! I've made all my paper pattern changes and tomorrow I'll start cutting out. With any luck, my next update will be a finished jacket!


  1. First - YAY! Congrats on getting going. I know you've wanted to make new outerwear for awhile.

    Second, I totally scrolled back up to the pattern to see the sleeve style. Holy buckets that is a lot of ease. Good grief.

    It's looking fantastic. Can't wait to see it.

  2. I bought this pattern as I love the simplicity of version A. Unfortunately I bought the 34-46 size. I am actually 6 sizes larger. I upgraded the pattern and made the bodice - it needs an adjustment on the bust as a coat should have a reasonable amount of ease. I then upgraded the sleeve pattern - again, I had to increase the upper sleeve width. But the extra fabric on the lower sleeve is not right - about 5 cms too much. Cannot see where I have gone wrong on the upsizing of the sleeve.