June 17, 2013


When Janet Pray's Craftsy class landed itself in my email inbox, I immediately enrolled. For those of you who don't know, Janet Pray is the niece of Margaret Islander of Islander Sewing. Additionally Janet is the founder of the American Sewing Expo which truly is an amazing sewing conference and expo held every year in Novi, Michigan. I was fortunate to attend and teach a little at last year's expo and of course, I met Janet. Janet is one of those rare people who are unbelievably supportive of the sewing community so for me, it was a no-brainer to enroll in her course.

So, let's talk a little bit about this class and the jacket pattern that comes with it, shall we? The Craftsy class itself, Sew Better, Sew Faster, is based off of the Islander Sewing System, which is all about bringing industry techniques and tips to the home sewing masses. This is something that Margaret Islander came up with and Janet continues on with today. I had heard about Islander Sewing and I've been meaning to purchase a video or two from the website and just hadn't gotten around to it, so I felt the Craftsy class would be a good jumping point. In the class you learn about sewing pinless and nothing is hand basted, meaning that you don't pin the pattern pieces together first and then sew them together and everything is sewn by machine. Additionally, Janet talks about sewing ergonomics and how to best achieve a workstation that resembles that of something in the industry, which in turn means better posture, less stress on certain body points and well, faster sewing. Janet shows how to correctly utilize wooden sewing tools like a tailor board and a clapper (this was awesome!!!) and she utilizes the serger and a gravity steam iron (I'm green with envy for that tool). She talks about topstitching and shows techniques and tips for getting better topstitching results. When all was said and done, this class was right up my alley!

Then there's the pattern, Jacket Express. I was skeptical at first about using the pattern only because as I started to cut out my size, I got a look at the small manual that came with the pattern. I noticed that there were different seam allowances for different pieces and at first, I was kind of put off by this because I usually don't even read pattern directions when it comes to sewing. But I forged on and I'm glad I did because this pattern is expertly drafted. The fit, for me, is spot on too. I didn't make a muslin and look, this pattern fits me right out of the envelope!

Deets on the jacket: I made the x-small, which is kind of sad because the pattern itself doesn't go any smaller and really I'm an average girl size, I think. I made it up in some great italian linen from Yellow Bird Fabrics and I used a heavy Coats and Clarks thread for the topstitching. And actually, can I just say that I loathe topstitching thread? If you get the heavyweight or denim kind its such a pain in the butt and its hard on my machine and its hard to gauge the tension with and I've pretty much decided that I'm never using it again. Yup, I hate it that much!!! I ended up unpicking a bunch of topstitching throughout the jacket and it was no fun! Anyway, back to the jacket. The jacket went together wonderfully except for a few places where I wasn't paying attention, which was my own silly fault. I sewed the entire jacket without the use of pins - can you believe that? I can't. I'm terribly impressed with myself. Ha ha! The welt pockets were awesome!!! as were the sleeve cuffs (which I've folded up and out of my summery way). Then of course, I'm sure you noticed that my version is collarless. I opted not to put in the collar as I loved the look of the collarless version so much. Instead I drafted a back neck facing and added it to the front facing before attaching it to the jacket.

Verdict: The class and the pattern are well worth the money. This jacket has a long and wearable life in my closet. Its a mite too warm for the summers around here, however on a cool night I'll be good to go. Since I went for a basic color, it will work well in the fall and spring as well. I'm pretty sure I'll be reaching for it all the time. Its that comfortable and its that good.

So, what do you think? Do you sew without pins? Ever tried the Islander Sewing methods?
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