After thinking I may have ruined the whole project (See Part 2) by not allowing enough ease into the armholes, I decided I would rather go down trying than give up. Fortunately, I had discovered a good technique for sewing gussets when I drafted a pair of long underwear (HERE), and decided to give it a go in the armpits of the jacket. The gussets completely saved the project and allowed me to finish what will become a long lasting and warm jacket.
Because I had already sewn up the armholes and sleeves of the lining, I needed to unpick all of that work. To allow the gusset to be sewn into the bodice without creating a bunch of drag lines and other weirdness, I needed to cut down the side panel from the armpit to the hem line. With the resulting seams that are created later, I lost about 1 3/4 ” in girth. The sleeves were ok because they had an existing seam line to work with.
Installing Underarm Gussets:
For the gusset, I used some leftover soft-shell material that has a good amount of stretch. The width of the gusset is about 4 inches.
Installing gussets is a lot easier done than described in a blog, but I’ll demonstrate the basics. If anyone is curious, I can put together a more formal tutorial later.
I start sewing at the very end of the sleeves and work forward to the cuff. Both sides of the sleeve gusset are sewn on, and then the sleeve-to-bodice seam is finished, up to the gusset. Working down the sleeve-to-bodice seam, stop when the needle is 1/2″ from the transition to the true bodice and pivot the fabric. Continue sewing down the bodice until the needle is 1/2″ away from the end of the gusset. Repeat for the other side, and when the end of the gusset is reached, continue sewing but make sure to catch the other side of the gusset, and finish sewing down to the hemline.
Here are a few pictures of the gussets used in the camouflage shell fabric.
The sleeve cap needs to be sewn onto the bodice. The ends of the armhole seam should coincide with the beginning of the gusset that runs down the bodice.
This post isn’t designed to be a tutorial, but I thought I would include some information regarding the gussets, because I haven’t seen very much about them on the internet.
Anyways, the gussets were a bit of a gamble because I had to slash the finished project from the armpit down, but in the end they saved everything. The armpits have plenty of room, and I didn’t lose too much girth around the waist and hips.
Building the Hood:
The next step is to construct the hood. The lining fabric was sewn together first, and then nested into the sewn insulation material. With the pieces aligned, they are basted together to keep it all in place.
One of the most important features to a hood, in my opinion, is a drawstring that pulls horizontally to move the hood away from the eyes.
To create a channel for the draw cord, I sewed two pieces of grosgrain ribbon together, leaving a small opening for the cord to poke out of.
This ribbon is drawn out straight and the seam allowances are pressed out to either side, just like a plain seam.
This ribbon is then pinned to the hood, wrapping from one side, around to the back (where the opening is) and forward again to the opposite edge.
Using an 1/8″ edge stitching foot, I sewed along the edges of the tape which acts as a guide and gives a neat, straight line.
Before moving on, the draw cord needs to be inserted, which is a pain because it wants to grab onto the fuzzy insulation. To make things easier I made long hook out of some wire.
It is important that a loop of cord be drawn through the opening in the back. This is where a cord-lock will be placed to allow the user to draw the hood tight around their head. The free ends of the cord, on the edges of hood are sewn into place so they don’t pull out. The loop will continue through the shell material so that it is exposed on the outside of the garment.
There is also a drawcord to pull vertically, which cinches the hood around the users face. Knowing that there was going to be room between the lining and shell, I draped the cord along the outside edge and let the final top stitching create a channel. In hindsight, I think it would have been better to install another ribbon channel in the same fashion as the horizontal cord.
To allow the cord to be accessible, I installed four eyelets into the lining / insulation combo. This allows the cord to come from inside the hood to the outside so that it can be manipulated.
To install these, the cord is knotted on one end. The free section is pushed through the eyelet from the wrong side to the right side. Then the cord lock is slid into place, and the free end of the cord is pushed through the second eyelet, back to the wrong side. The cord is continued along the perimeter of the hood where it is again pushed through the eyelet from the wrong side to the right side. A second cord lock is put in place, and the cord is slid through the final eyelet where it is knotted.
Sewing the Shell Pockets:
The first step to the outer shell is installing the zippered pockets. For zippers I use YKK #5 continuous coil zip which I cut to size and then add pulls. Kirkham’s camping in SLC sells this for a great price, and its a very durable zipper.
The zippers are sewn right-sides-together onto the notched front pieces. The notches are 1/2″ deep, matching the seam allowance. The inside corners are snipped after sewing and the corners of the fabric are turned and stitched.
This is the trickiest part of the zipper. Once this part is done, the side seam is sewn into place. The side seam meets with the yet un-sewn side of the zipper tape, with the zipper tape becoming a structural part of the seam. The pocket bag is then sewn, using the seam allowances to reduce topstitching.
I forgot to get pictures of the pocket bag process, and if there are questions I can clarify.
With the pockets finished, the rest of the shell follows in the same order as the lining, except there is no insulation included. The underarm gussets are repeated as well.
Once the shell material is all sewn together, I placed the insulated lining and the shell right-sides-together to get ready for sewing the main zipper. I made a crucial mistake here too!
Originally I placed the right side of my zipper to the right side of the lining, then sandwiched the shell on top (zipper in the middle). It all looked good and seemed to check out, but when I turned everything right sides out, the zipper was backwards, and facing the inside of the jacket!
Once again, I had to unpick everything, get the zipper lined up and try again. Fortunately it worked, because the lightweight nylons do not take much abuse from a seam-ripper.
So, the trick is: place the right side of the zipper to the right side of the SHELL fabric, and you won’t need to repeat my mistake.
To finish the hood edges I sewed the zipper into place, and at the end of the zipper, continued stitching up and around the hood. When this all turned right sides out, the center front zipper and hood are all neatly turned into place.
At the waist, I installed another drawcord with the same eyelet setup as the hood.
The cuffs are finished with lycra binding, applied in the same fashion as bias tape. The waist band is also finished with lycra after the drawcord is finished.
That concludes this massive project with a massive blog post. So lengthy … I hope there is some useful information here for anyone interested in such a project.
Here are some pictures of the finished jacket.
See Part 2
See Part 1