Posted by: bschutzgruber | June 28, 2018

Making a One-of-a-Kind Jacket that Fits

Each new workshop stands on the foundations
laid by the ones that have come before it!

Part 1 – May

One of great things about the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild is the depth of knowledge, creativity and skill of our members! This past May member Helen Welford presented a 3 day workshop ‘Jackets that Fit’. Helen has a wealth of knowledge and experience in garment construction, especially historical garments. Her focus was to offer us tools that we will be able to use again and again, and for us to get a good start on a well fitted garment.

We began by making a sloper. A sloper is basic pattern that is the exact size of the body – a second skin so to speak. It can then be used to develop patterns for garments or can be stuffed to make a dress form or manikin that is exactly the same size as the human involved. With no access to a human size 3-D scanner we worked ‘old school’ by taking measurements…..lots and lots and lots of measurements – 31 different measurements to be exact.

Using our own bodies as the form we draped muslin – folding, pinning, cutting, and marking to create a 3-dimensional likeness.


From here we lay the muslin flat and then traced it onto heavy paper for a more sturdy pattern.


At this point we had a choice – continue on and make a complete bodice that could be stuffed and made into a personalized dress form or adapt a commercial pattern using our measurements and the sloper sections for a better individual fit. I choose to practice making alterations to a commercial pattern for future use and made several muslin prototypes.

Helen is a great instructor! With 12 people in the workshop of all shapes and sizes I gained further insight as to why clothing does not always fit and what to do to tailor items to achieve that ‘perfect’ fit!

Part 2 – June

The Michigan League of Handweavers Summer Workshops were held at the beginning of June.  I took the ‘One-of-a-Kind Jacket’ class with Mary Sue Fenner (Wisconsin). Mary Sue has a keen eye for combining fabrics and has presented several times at MLH. I have always been impressed with the items that are created in her workshops.  This would be the perfect follow-up to Helen’s workshop.

Mary Sue comes with a huge suitcase packed with jackets in a wide range of styles for us to try on as we discussed the fabrics we each brought and possible patterns we’d like to use.


Because I did not have any of my own handwoven yardage ready, I brought fabrics I had collected but had no idea what I wanted to make with them: 2 pieces of handwoven wool I bought in Scotland, 4 yards of vintage Tai Silk from Hong Kong that was given to me, and 1 meter of silk I purchased at the Whitchurch Silk Mill during last year’s AGWSD Summer School. After some discussion I decided to use the Scottish handwoven to make a Marci Tilton jacket Vogue 8709.

Laying out the pattern took some planning as I only had 2 meters for the body of the jacket and 1 meter for the back which would be cut on the bias.


I needed another fabric to use for the front panel and collar so a walk to the local Field’s Fabrics was in order. I found a grey wool plus a lovely silk noil fabric to compliment the Tai silk in a future project.


By the end of the second day all the pieces were cut out and edges serged to keep from fraying.

By the end of the third day the jacket was nearly assembled and I would finish it at home. The jacket itself is not lined but I wanted to line the sleeves so it will be easier to take the jacket on and off.


The grey wool would work but it was a heavier weight than my Scottish wool so a trip to Haberman Fabrics once home was in order. There I found a lovely dark purple wool knit that was a much better match to use for collar and front panels.


Two workshops later I am very pleased with the final result!




  1. Barbara, this jacket is terrific and so worth the journey to achieve it. Many thanks for sharing this with us.

  2. Lovely! Isn’t pattern drafting a kick?!

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