Wow – denim jackets, eh? I’ve made a couple of pairs of jeans now and I actually really enjoy working with denim and topstitching. This denim jacket took topstitching to a new level though! Admittedly, this was partly (mostly) to do with the fact that I decided to go back to my teenage roots, be brave (you may choose an alternative adjective), and add a Sherpa lining to the Style Arc Stevie jacket – which is my Sew my Style October project. And it was totally worth it, because this is the coziest, most winter-appropriate denim jacket I’ve ever owned.
Now, the good news is that creating the lining is really not difficult and it doesn’t add much to the construction really. If you’re going to the effort of making a full-on oversized 80s-style denim jacket, adding a little bit of Sherpa really isn’t much more effort. However, I do have a few tips that will make life even easier for you at the end of this post, because the extra bulk does need a little consideration.
And in case you were wondering: “Sherpa” is basically the faux fur equivalent of shearling – you may be more familiar with the “shearling-lining” term. I bought 1.5 yards of lovely soft Sherpa from my local big box fabric store, but I would think 1 yard would be sufficient for many people – and it’s pretty cheap, too!
The Stevie jacket from Style Arc has all the bells and whistles you would expect from a traditional denim jacket and it’s fairly time-consuming to make. Style Arc rates it as an advanced pattern and assumes you to have a fair amount of knowledge to tackle it – so the instructions are very minimal compared to what you might expect from the average indie pattern.
Therefore, I decided to keep matters as simple as possible and not interfere with the construction too much. I managed to track down some great RTW examples of Sherpa-lined jackets and had a quick gander at the construction details (I thought one shop assistant was about to accuse me of stealing design secrets at one point, but he was actually super interested in what I was doing, which led to a great chat about sewing and a promise to bring it in and show him when I’d finished! :)). This is what I discovered:
1.Denim jackets with linings do not line the arms – yeehoo! I decided to follow suit and line only the front, back and upper collar.
2. Sherpa/shearling-lined denim jackets tend to have snaps rather than buttons and buttonholes. I can’t say I’m sad about this – snaps are a million times faster, and, besides, can you imagine trying to create buttonholes through all that denim and Sherpa insulation? No thank you. Snaps it is.
3. The Sherpa lining comes right up to the edge of the front jacket opening. Most often, you’ll attach a jacket lining to a pre-drafted facing, so that when the jacket is open, you see the fashion fabric peek out, and not the lining. However, in the case of this jacket, you actually want the Sherpa to peek out, so you really want it to come right up to the edge of the button placket. You actually might even want it to be big enough to fold over a little, almost like a lapel. I briefly considered whether I’d have to redraft something, but a look at the aforementioned RTW denim jackets swung me in the direction of working with the pieces as they were.
So, with all that in mind, here’s what I did:
Sherpa lining tutorial
So the first thing to do is reach the point in construction where you have two front body pieces and a full back piece. In the Stevie instructions, this will be after Step 11. However – and this is IMPORTANT – do not do Steps 7 and 8. Seriously. Go crazy and just walk on by ’em. The reason is that these instructions are for the button placket and we will be finishing the front of the jacket differently.
Once you get to step 11, you will have the aforementioned two fronts, a back, and you will also need your collar pattern piece.
Now it’s time to get cosy with the Sherpa. First, we’ll do the back piece, as it’s very straightforward. Lay your denim back piece on your sherpa, with the fuzzy Sherpa side lying face down on the table (it’s easier to cut this way) and trace the shape off. Cut out your back piece of Sherpa and the lay it wrong sides together on the denim back. I know this feels a bit weird, but just trust me. You’re now going to stitch it to the denim at 1/4″ seam allowance and a basting stitch does the job just fine. After this we will treat the back piece as one piece and continue following the instructions as normal.
Now we do the same with collar. You’ll cut out just one collar piece in Sherpa and sew it to the denim collar piece of your choice, as they’re identical. This will be your new upper collar. You could possibly use it as a standalone piece, replacing one denim collar piece, depending on the thickness and rigidity of your chosen lining, but my Sherpa was too floppy, so I attached it to the denim.
Next, the front pieces. These are slightly more tricky because of the button placket. As mentioned above, we want the Sherpa to extend right to the front opening of the jacket and so, therefore, we don’t want the button placket as designed for the original Stevie jacket.
We do want the finished edge of the front to fall in exactly the same place as it would were we using the original button placket, because we want to use the same size collar. So we just need to remove the extra fabric drafted for the placket. One more note though: we have to make sure to leave a little seam allowance (3/8″ in this case) to attach the front side (and only the front side) right sides together, to ensure a neat finish at that front edge of the jacket. The bottom seam is taken care of by the waistband, the top by the collar and the sides by the seam seams. The front is the only exposed seam, so that’s the only place it needs to be finished like this. It will be very clear in a sec…
So, first remove 1.5 inches from both front pieces at the placket edge, as above. Then go ahead and cut out your Sherpa piece from this new front. Pin it to the corresponding denim piece right sides together this time at the new front edge you just cut.
Sew this seam at 3/8″, finish it (I used my serger) and then turn the pieces, pressing the finished seam from the denim side. You need to be careful not to singe your Sherpa, although I didn’t encounter any issues, to be honest. You now have a finished front edge!
Next, you baste the rest of the Sherpa piece at 1/4″ seam allowance, wrong sides together, as you did for the back and collar pieces. Once again, you now continue with construction as if it were the original front piece.
To finish your “faux placket” you will topstitch a line parallel to the front edge at an inch from the new finished edge. I did this now, but just make you do it before you add the collar, or it will be tricky!
When you reach the construction of the collar, make sure your Sherpa-lined collar is the collar you attach to the main body of the jacket first. You will have Sherpa-lined pieces pinned Sherpa sides together at this point.
And there we are! Apart from these adaptions, you basically follow construction as normal. You will most likely want to finish your jacket with snaps and I used brass “heavy duty snaps” made by Dritz and a small setting tool. They really worked well and I like the finished look. Nevertheless, there are some considerations you might want to think about if you do like the look of this hack…
There’s no beating around the bush: topstitching is trickier with the Sherpa lining, but there are some ways around it:
- I have a very basic Brother machine and managed it with a bit of “helping” the fabric through the machine. Just a gentle pressure as it’s feeding through. If you have a higher-end machine, you might be okay, as it’s not too crazy.
- I also found that moving my regular topstitching settings of tension 7 and stitch length 3.5 to tension 6 and stitch length 4-4.5 really helped in the bulkiest area.
- Go ssllllooowww. This was the number one thing that made a difference for me. It’s hard to be patient, but it really pays off in this instance.
- It’s Hammer Time! (So period-appropriate). Yes, literally: get thyself a hammer and bash those seams! This is actually a good technique anytime on denim when you encounter bulky seams, but some of these sherpa + denim seams take the biscuit. It really does wonders when you give them a whack. Obviously you don’t want to hit them so hard you break the fabric, but do be firm – you’ll feel the difference immediately, and topstitching will be so much more pleasant as a result.
- Grade, grade, grade any bulk where you can – and particularly in the waistband, where the seam is obvious.
- If pushed, you could consider making the Sherpa pieces slightly smaller – by the amount of the seam allowance, so you don’t have to worry about topstitching them – but then you need to think about making sure the edges are finished. Sherpa is super fluffy.
I sized down a size to a 14, even though I measured at a 16. If you still want a really oversized feel, you may not want to do this as the sherpa gives you a more snug, cosy fit (although the silhouette is definitely still oversized).
When it comes to thinking about sizing, take into consideration your denim type as well. I used a fabulous vintage period denim, which is a little bulkier than some, but I know it’s going to relax into the most amazing shape with a little wear. The denim you choose will affect your silhouette though. I used – yes, you guessed it – a hammer on the finished seams to make them a little less… linebacker.
It is really, really, really important to mark your notches in this pattern. Perhaps you’re one of those fastidious sewists who always does anyway, but I’ve been known to gloss over the odd notch. You really need them here and particularly as the Sherpa can blur some of the edges with its inherent fuzziness factor.
For the general construction of Stevie, I highly recommend taking a look at my Sew my Style October teammate Simone’s detailed walkthrough. She has a full photo layout on her blog and also a great video highlighted on her Instagram feed. The welt pocket instructions, in particular, were challenging.
I hope the tutorial is of some use to you. This was a challenging sew, but I definitely upped my game for sewing this jacket and I can’t tell you how pleased I am with the result! I had a few “Am I completely nuts??” moments, but it really worked out in the end. Have fun with your Stevies and I’m looking forward to checking them all out at the end of the month! Here are a few more gratuitous pics for your delectation and I’ll see you next month for bag-sewing month, which I’m leading. Come follow us at @sew.my.style and me at @belle_citadel on Instagram if you want to join in. I can’t wait!