Do you sometimes feel like the planet’s been invaded by a plague of puffa jackets? Those bright, puffy parkas are everywhere and they seem to be multiplying at an alarming rate. It’s like UNIQLO has decided it won’t rest – and no employee will get a lunch break – until all 7 billion of us are wearing matching jackets, whatever the weather.
And I don’t really blame us. Puffas are warm, cosy, light and easy to wear. I’ve been often tempted to buy one this cold Melbourne winter, but I’ve had a stubborn streak since birth – I dig my heels in sometimes when everyone is doing something. So instead I attempted my own version – a simple jacket with some warmth and colour, with the added challenge of some padding and piping.
The jacket pattern I settled on was Republique du Chiffon’s Bernadette. I love many of the versions of this sweet, cropped Chanel-inspired jacket that I’ve seen online, but I chose it with considerable hesitation because it’s in French. I’m an intermediate sewer, know absolutely no French and I’ve never sewn a jacket before. As I said, there were challenges.
I solved the language barrier with a Google translate App on my phone: https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/google-translate/id414706506?mt=8 (sorry Android peeps, you’re on your own here…!). It’s pretty amazing – you aim your phone at the pattern, scan a section and an English translation pops up on your screen. It works well most of the time, with a few mad translations that kept me on my toes. I’m proud to say there are a collection of random sewing words that I can now read (but not pronounce) – bonjour Paris, here I come.
For fabric, I forced myself to go with a colour. The initial plan was a red chambray from the stash, but a trip to The Fabric Store soon derailed that idea when I spotted this red wax-coated linen. Decided. For the lining I wanted something light, and chose a grey vintage cotton from Rathdowne Remnants.
For those of us at the bottom end of the planet, post from France can take a while to arrive. But RDC patterns are worth the daily, wistful wait at the mailbox – the drafting on the Bernadette is considered and professional, with lovely subtle curves drafted into the pattern, like the side seam under the arm and the seam in the middle back. I think you can see these subtle details in the way the jacket hangs.
Some details: I made the size down from recommended as I was worried the shoulders would look too square and rugby. I made a small adjustment to the pattern by lengthening the body, and next time I’d lengthen the sleeves further as they’re on the short side (or my arms are on the long side!). For the quilting, I chose wool padding which I’ve discovered has made the jacket warm and cosy (take that, puffa!). I cut out each pattern piece with a second matching padding piece and quilted them together using my (much loved) walking foot. I aligned the quilting across the body and sleeves using Grainline’s genius tutorial for plaid matching.
Once each pattern piece was quilted I followed my (poorly) translated instructions and sewed together the jacket. Oh, and I made piping for the first time which was easier than I expected.
For me, the most complicated part of the jacket was the bagging. This involved sewing in the lining and then turning the entire jacket, guts and all, inside out through a small opening in the sleeve lining (sort of like the lining giving birth to the finished jacket, if you want to get really technical). Fortunately I remembered another Grainline tutorial and it worked on second try.
I’ve been wearing my little one-person protest against the puffa quite regularly this winter – for me this qualifies as a successful make. I’d like to make another in a light fabric with a soft drape – but before that I’m also planning a mini Bernadette for my mini. Keen to use my new French words again.