Slow fashion October

I’m not really one to jump into all these themed sewalong events that seem to regularly crop up in our online sewing community. No offence at all meant to those who do, I love to watch most of them, but just tend to be a bit more wilful/indecisive and find it hard to stick to a theme! But one that did immediately appeal to me is Slow Fashion October, spearheaded by Fringe Association. It’s ostensibly the knitting community’s riposte to Me-made May, but it’s an equal-hobby opportunities event with sewists getting on board too. In fact the remit is even wider than creating a handmade wardrobe, but designed to celebrate sustainable fashion in all its forms: secondhand, upcycled, mended, handed down, and so on.

I probably don’t need to explain why a month of slow fashion appeals to me. My main reason for sewing is to reduce my negative footprint on the garment industry and to build a small and perfectly formed everyday-wearable handmade wardrobe. To make that happen it’s increasingly important to me to take the time to make sure that what I sew is what I really need, as well as every garment being well made and designed for longevity. Lofty ambitions that I definitely have not achieved yet, but a whole month dedicated to more mindful sewing is a great thing to sign up for.

So for October I’ve set myself one main project: the dream autumn coat. Now, I’ve made a coat the last three winters and to be perfectly honest, the first two are no longer in service. One’s found a new home with a friend and one’s about to be donated, but I think last year’s will make a return appearance once it gets really cold. Lessons taken from all, I’ve spent a lot of time (and Pins) analysing what I really, really want in a coat, and came up with the following key features:

• Low-key and minimal styling/colour, so it goes with everything
• About low hip in length so it can be layered with my preferred longer-line cardigan underneath
• A sort of shrunken – but not fitted – shape. I realised I really hate looseness in coats and always size down in RTW ones.
• Not too warm! Weird one, but as I walk and cycle a lot and don’t really feel the cold that much, I don’t need much more than a slightly snuggly layer to keep wind chill out.
• Fun to sew and a bit ‘special’ – if it’s going to be slow, I need some return on investment.

What does that look like? Something like this, I think:

Coat plans

I’ve bought the Republique Du Chiffon Bernadette pattern (available in print in English now, yippee), some super dreamy Nani Iro double gauze, and I think I’ll use some brushed cotton already in my stash for the reverse side. The pattern needs lengthening and toile-ing but is actually a really straightforward sew – which leaves some brain-space to make more interesting and intricate decisions for the fabric and finishing details.

My original plan (and the original impetus for my fabric choice) was to buy some pre-quilted Nani Iro double gauze, but it’s frustratingly hard to get hold of outside Japan. I made an Etsy order, but the factory went out of stock so it got cancelled. Right now I am doing some little swatch experiments to try and manually recreate the effect without adding too much bulk or warmth.

quilted swatches

This left-hand swatch uses a bamboo-cotton quilt batting in between my gauze and flannel layers. As you can imagine, it feels like an absolute cloud-kitten-lovefest dream… but I’m slightly worried it’ll get too warm in there and well, just look and feel like I’m wearing a sleeved quilt. I went for a meander in Soho yesterday and found this thinner and less dense fusible batting, sewn up on the right. I think this may be the one I go with, because fusing the batting to the double gauze gives it a little extra structure and strength too.

I’m also pre-puzzling out construction details in my head. I’ll likely rough-cut the pieces needed (only 3 in Bernadette’s case) then fuse and quilt them before cutting the pattern, in case of shrinkage from the quilting. Then I’ll need to bind the raw edges instead of bagging it, and I might as well go the whole slow-fashion hog and hand-sew the binding. Which made me wonder if I could make it 100% reversible for maximum satisfaction and versatility. YES!… which then made me question what sort of seam finish can take the bulk of quilting yet look acceptable from either side. Trim out the fusing from the seam allowance and flat-fell perhaps? And what about those all-important pockets?

In conclusion so far: this slow sewing thing is sort of brain-tiring, but a lot of fun. It remains to be seen if I’ll actually finish my jacket before the end of the month, but I suppose now more than ever it’s really not a race. Anyone else sedately sewing along with #slowfashionOctober?

30 thoughts on “Slow fashion October

  1. AvatarNoelle

    I love the idea of quilted Nani Iro double gauze as a fall/winter fabric. I think it will make a smashing coat, especially with this simple design. My brain is now considering a quilted double gauze sweatshirt… thanks for the inspiration!

  2. AvatarJane

    I’ve had a hard time getting my hands on quilted nani iro as well. And I cannot believe how strikingly similar are coat plans are. I was planning to lengthen the Bernadette but just came across a very similar McCalls pattern today. (M7257) so o may try that one first. Good luck with yours!

    1. AvatarKatie Post author

      Wow, if ever there was off-putting fabric choices on an envelope as M7257! But yeah, the silhouette looks right.

  3. AvatarBarbara Crisp

    In a strangely coincidental way, I am making a fall jacket out of an Echino cotton/linen print which I’ve quilted using a thin wool batting sandwiched between that and some fusible interfacing. I’m using the Papercut Waver jacket pattern. The whole thing will be lined with silk charmeuse. The quilting was done in a diamond pattern with 3″ spacing. I’m really happy with it so far. I can send pics if you’d like.

      1. AvatarBarbara Crisp

        Just wanted to let you know that I’ve finished my jacket and posted a review with pictures on if you’re interested. Not sure why this site often seems to rotate the pics 90 degrees, sorry!

        1. AvatarKatie Post author

          I found it – great job! So bright and cheerful. When did you quilt – before or after cutting your pieces?

          1. AvatarBarbara Crisp

            After. I was worried that this might affect the size but it turned out fine. I highly recommend the wool batting, btw. It’s preshrunk, washable, extremely light and lovely to sew.

          2. AvatarKatie Post author

            Good to know, thank you. I think I am going with some fusible poly batting.

  4. AvatarNilla

    You have taken a really interesting approach to the theme of Slow Fashion October, and I like it! I haven’t done anything about it yet, because I haven’t yet figured out how I want to participate. Your coat sounds amazing!

    1. AvatarKatie Post author

      I think my approach is not quite what the main focus for the month is, but I’m glad to take my own inspirations from the theme.

  5. Avatarpoppy

    Love the idea of quilted Nani Iro, can’t wait to see your jacket! I’ve been planning a coat and jacket to get me through the winter, just need to order hte fabric and get started – my winter coat is really just getting beyond passable.

  6. Avatareimear

    that sounds lovely. I prefer simple lines myself also, and I am just finishing my new winter coat which is a round neck also.(based on a remake I did last spring) I am making a detachable hood so it will work as a formal coat, as well as an every day coat (living in the wet west of ireland!). I have never sewn quilted fabric so looking forward to your results

    1. AvatarKatie Post author

      Sounds lovely. I was going back and front over a hood, but my fabric won’t be waterproof anyway so i’ll just have to carry a brolly!

  7. AvatarJennifer

    I’ve been planing to make something similar using the Named Esme cardigan as a starting point and the Rachel Comey Olympia jacket as a guide. I think the drop shoulder is right and I’ll crop it at hip length. Be careful with the reversible thing, it’s possible to do but sometimes the wearability suffers. Like finishing the seams to look good on the inside leads to a shoulder that doesn’t hang well. Anything which is reversible will have a preferred face so you might not gain that much. But if you do, what works for pockets is a horizontal welt on one side covered by a patch pocket as bag on the other.

    1. AvatarKatie Post author

      That sounds lovely. Good point – I’m prepared to sacrifice reversibility if it’s not likely to work. But I’m going to test the flat-fell idea and see if it’s feasible.

  8. AvatarSarah

    Sounds like it’s going to be an amazing finished product! Sadly coming into summer all I want to do is sew everything summery right now! So I’m not slowing down this month in a literal sense, but I find sewing slows and calms my brain down anyway so I enjoy that mindfulness aspect all year round, like most of us I suppose!

    1. AvatarKatie Post author

      True indeed! In fact I was careful to not make much summer stuff as I know it doesn’t get much airing time over here, ha ha, so looking forward to a season where I can indeed sew some useful things!

  9. AvatarHeather

    This looks like a really lovely plan Katie! I love the look and feel of quilted jackets and that Nano Iro double guaze is divine! What is your plan for closures?

    1. AvatarKatie Post author

      I think I may just leave it open as I don’t close up my coats too often. I think the Bernadette has instructions for an optional zip so I might consider adding one of those to the front. But it’d have to be reversible, hah!

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