The mission was to produce a waterproof, breathable jacket that was suitable for cycling and could double for walking the dog and other wet weather things.
And I’m pleased to announce: Mission accomplished!
It was a big project in some ways, but didn’t take all that long. I plotted for several weeks (really since I put together my list for #makenine2017), swapped ideas with a few people, and drew a sketch of what I had in mind.
I stalled for a while in finding fabric, until I had a great tip from the wonderful fantastikatecreates which pointed me to Thread Theory Designs and their wonderful fabric range, including the dintex.
So I bought the dintex from them – it is a high quality, waterproof, breathable fabric very much like Goretex. Their 15% discount on winter fabric helped as well (is that still going?). They even had some toggles and other bits and pieces. Sold!
That was the breakthrough I needed, and it’s been full steam ahead since then. I worked on the jacket every night this week, and some mornings as well. I find it really hard to leave something half-finished – I have to get it done done done.
Working with dintex and seam sealing tape
The dintex fabric is great – it looks gorgeous, cuts easily and sews easily. No problems at all handling it. It has just a little bit of stretch too, which is nice.
I was a bit concerned about how to iron it without ruining the finish, so I did a bunch of testing on scraps before I started.
The photo above shows you the difference between pressing with a steam iron only (on the right), and pressing with a steam iron, pressing cloth and wooden clapper (on the left). It makes a huge difference! Go the clapper! Worthy of a post in its own right, which I might do soon.
I’d had trouble getting hold of seam sealing tape. In the end, Morgan from Thread Theory Designs came to my rescue again (check out their blog here as well – it’s a great read – I might become a bit of a groupie). She sent me some tape they’d been trying out, but still weren’t ready to sell on. Their early testing had varying results, so I was cautious starting out.
It worked really well on this project. There were a few spots I had to go back to and re-seal (iron on again) when the tape didn’t adhere properly first time around. It’s too early to tell whether that might happen again, but it looks pretty solid to me at this point.
I did have one point where I scalded the fabric slightly (on the inside only) when sealing the edge of the armscye. But it’s not visible from the outside, so no biggie. My fault entirely – I wasn’t using the press cloth at the time.
The clapper did seem to help get good contact and a good seal between the tape and fabric, without needing to leave the iron on the fabric for extended periods of time (which I was reluctant to do). It helped the tape nestle into the seam, as you can see in the photos above. So perhaps that is the secret? Maybe – something worked anyway.
The seam sealing does increase the stiffness of the seams themselves, so there were a few places I didn’t use it. More about that below.
Pattern and modifications
It’s a Kelly Anorak from Closet Case Patterns. I had been stalking it for ages, and I’m so glad I’ve bought it. It will be used again, without a doubt (do I always say that? Maybe. But this time I’m sure it’s true because this style just won’t date. It’s not really what you’d call fashion as such – more a wardrobe staple, in my opinion. Which means: timeless.)
I kept to the style and shape of the pattern, but made a bunch of small modifications to suit what I was wanting in this jacket. These included my usual short-person adjustments, but I didn’t need an FBA this time because there’s loads of ease in the pattern.
After shortening, I made a quick toile in swiss tracing paper, and stitched up the main parts to test the shape and fit. It was a bit firm across the back, so I did a full back adjustment (is that what they’re called?). Basically just added extra shoulder room across the back to allow more freedom of movement on the bicycle, and generally.
Now that it’s made up, I’m not sure if that was really needed. The dintex does have a little stretch so it feels roomier. Even so, extra back room is good for cycling so I’m happy.
I cut the 16. If I make this pattern again, I think I’ll do the 14 instead. It is roomier once the zipper plackets go on, and I didn’t think to test that on the toile.
The next change was to do welt pockets with inset zippers. I am very proud of these.
I’d never tried this before, and took it very, very slowly. I used Wondertape to help along the way, which is something I’d highly recommend. I used the diagonal pocket line from the pattern, but the pocket bag is just a single piece of fabric, sewn flat on the underside of the jacket.
It’s simpler than the bellows pockets on the original pattern, better suited I think to this bulkier fabric and also more waterproof for cycling in the rain, while leaning forward.
Importantly, the welt is fixed on the rear, upper portion of the pocket, so the rain can run down and over it, without actually getting the zipper wet. That way, I should have dry pockets! (I haven’t tested that yet.)
I used seam sealing tape to waterproof the seams wherever I could. Which was almost everywhere.
I didn’t do it down the front zipper plackets or around the waist or hem. In each of those cases, I decided it was not worth the extra bulk.
The body, hood and shoulder seams are all sealed. The waist is the only area that I wonder if I should have done, and that’s easy to access and do later if I get water coming in there, over time. I have just enough of the tape left.
I decided not to go with a bright colour for this jacket. That was perhaps the hardest decision to make, and I agonised over it when choosing the fabric. On a bike, it is important to stand out. Safety in traffic is a huge consideration, particularly in winter when the light is not excellent. But I chose navy anyway for two reasons.
Firstly, because I wanted this jacket to do double service, and not just be used on the bike. In life, I strongly prefer darker jackets. Secondly, I have unbelievably bright LED lights on my bike these days, so it would surely be difficult for a driver not to see me! And if all else fails, I do have a fluoro blue cycling vest I can shove on, which I’ve shown on this blog previously here.
I did include a modest, hi vis strip across the back. It’s well-placed at eye level for an approaching driver, and this stripping (while not obvious in these photos) is extremely bright in night lighting. That, combined with my bike lights and my reflective helmet, should be enough I think.
The back yoke is over the top of the back, to improve breathability.
We will not discuss the snaps. I’m still angry with those snaps. They are there, on the sleeves only, and I threw the rest away. That is all.
Finally, I inserted the shock cording around the waist on the inside, and didn’t bring it out through the front. Again, this is to prevent water getting in at that point. I also like the simpler finish, with the cording concealed. The toggles and cord ends from Thread Theory have helped to make it look quite professional, I think. Just looking at them makes me happy.
So that sounds like a lot of modifications doesn’t it? But they’re all small things. Small things that make winter cycling easier. All the big stuff, like the shape of the coat, design of the hood, size of the pockets (huge! yippee!) were already perfect. I really love this pattern. I’d been looking for something like this for years.
It felt a little odd sewing this up this week, given how hot it’s been. But I’m travelling to some wetter parts of the world over the next few months, and I know I’ll get lots of use out of this jacket, both on and off the bike.
Let it rain!