A 1940s Men’s Jacket

You may remember in this post I wrote about items that I intended to make as part of my Vintage Pledge 2016. One of which, was a men’s jacket (for Kieren, my other half) from a reprint of an original 1940s pattern.

This is the pattern that Kieren purchased from The Vintage Pattern Shop, with version B catching his eye. He wanted a jacket that he could wear in the slightly warmer months of springtime, that could still show off the cut of his high-waisted trousers.

First of all, as soon as the pattern arrived a made a quick toile (as the pattern was only available in one size, so I needed to check the fit). Overall the fit was pretty good, just a few little adjustments were required. We did however decide to shorten the length slightly, to ensure that the waistband of this trousers would still be on show.

After the toile we then went fabric shopping – the fun part! We did initially find a nice fabric in Ditto fabrics, but there was sadly not enough left on the roll. At the time we were disappointed, but in hindsight I think this was a blessing in disguise. The fabric was patterned – with a rather large distinctive window pane check.. of course I knew I would have had to pattern-match it all, but now that I have made the jacket I am breathing a huuuuge sigh of relief that we didn’t choose that particular fabric!

The reason for which is mostly the collar. Gaaah that collar. I have not attempted a revere collar before, indeed, I had never made a jacket before. I have however made blouses and shirts previously, so I tried to use that knowledge & experience to guide myself. With original vintage patterns the instructions can be confusing, if indeed they are present at all. This reprint included only the original instructions – which were extremely brief. The collar instructions comprised of attaching the under collar to the jacket, then supposedly following the instructions for the upper collar and facing – of which there were no instructions. So I just muddled along, pinning, tacking, turning the correct way and checking the alignment, then repeating until it looked correct. So you can see why at this point I was so relieved that the fabric I had chosen was a plain weave!

Incidentally, I acquired the fabric on a fabric shopping trip to London a few weeks ago. It is a lovely medium/heavy weight 100% wool, and behaves beautifully. I pre-shrank it before cutting into it using my iron – another ‘first’ for me having not worked with 100% wool fabric before.

The sleeves have an interesting ‘sleeve gusset’ which I have not come across before in any of my vintage patterns. I do not know if this is because it is exclusively a male design feature, or if it is unusual to this particular pattern. At first I thought it was a tad strange, but actually it does add both visual interest with the topstitched seams, and of course additional ease of movement. So hurrah for the sleeve gusset!

I really love the yoke and inverted box pleat detail at the back, I decided to finish off the box pleat with a little arrowhead tack – again, a new technique for me.

I think the only thing other than the collar that I had trouble with (now there’s an understatement) were the buttonholes. There were screams. There were tears. There were ‘I can’t deal with you so I’m going to stomp out of my workroom and have a cup of tea instead’ moments. Now, backtracking here slightly, but I promise I will get to the point. Last year, I decided to get a new sewing  machine, partly, but not wholly, because I was sick to death of the terrible buttonholes it was producing. So, I got a brand new shiny Pfaff Passport 2.0. On the whole, yes it is amazing, and I can sew a variety of fabrics – from cottons to stretch jerseys, to wools and the finest of silks and silk georgettes. It can sew a number of different styles of buttonhole, all at the touch of a button. Except, it doesn’t always work out like that in real-life.

Long story short, it decided to massacre my buttonholes on this jacket, one of which I had to unpick and re-do 7 times. I did tests for each buttonhole, and of course, the tests were perfect. But whenever I tried to do the exact same buttonhole on the jacket – nope, didn’t like it. The tests that I did were using the same layers of fabric and interfacing, so it is beyond me why the buttonholes on the jacket turned to rubbish. The only conclusion I can arrive at, is because I had to keep unpicking & redoing the buttonholes, this meant that the fabric was getting worn and smoothed – making it more difficult for the feed-dogs to grip the fabric. If anyone has any advice/similar experiences, please let me know! I was literally at the end of my tether with it!

Unhappy buttonholes aside, the buttons themselves are lovely genuine leather, and finish off the jacket perfectly. The lining is a patterned red, very similar to a lining Kieren has in one of his other jackets. It adds a bit of pizazz when the jacket is opened!

Overall, I am pretty pleased with how the jacket turned out. Of course, if I had made a couple of jackets previously, and had more experience of the entire process, then this jacket would have been better. But, on the whole I am pleased. Kieren has already worn it a few times and loves it, so that is the most important thing for me.

Part of me is breathing a massive sigh of relief that I actually did it and finished it! A small voice in the back of mind was saying ‘you will never get it finished, if you do it will look rubbish, Kieren will hate it’ etc. So with this jacket I definitely feel that I have overcome a number of different challenges, and I know I can say with 100% certainty that I pushed myself well out of my comfort zone, but I got through it!

So that is my first #vintagepledge2016 item done! Now onto the next one – a 1914 women’s afternoon dress. I have the pattern and some lace trimming for the neck & sleeves, but no actual main fabrics as yet. I’d better get planning!

Until next time dears!


10 thoughts on “A 1940s Men’s Jacket

  1. Amanda Milstead says:

    First off, I hate doing buttonholes. They never come out right even though I do a test run like you did. I plan to return to the sewing machine shop and just have someone tutor me on buttonholes for six hours. I think yours came out great, as did the whole project.
    Second, I feel your pain about making something for your other half. I am a sewing novice and my husband will wear or use the item even if he hates it or the workmanship is shoddy. Great fabric choice and it looks like a nice piece he will have for years. It looks like this jacket really suits his style.
    Third, I always love reading about your projects. I learn so much from your blog because you are honest about what worked, what didn’t, and the challenges you came across during the completion of a project. I get discouraged by reading articles or watching videos where people make projects look incredibly easy. I’m glad that someone else has to get up and walk away sometimes. Thanks for posting!

  2. Jenny Frances says:

    Hi Amanda,
    It’s like the sewing machine knows the importance of buttonholes, and decides to behave terribly on purpose! I know I could do hand sewn buttonholes, or fabric buttonholes, but it’s just the fact that I SHOULD be able to do them on my machine! So irritating. I’m so glad to hear you learn from my blog, to me it often seems I just rant on and I have no gauge on whether my rants are actually useful to anybody! I’m really pleased to hear that you find my rantings helpful in some way 🙂 And yes, there are many times I have had to get up and leave what I am doing to take a bit of a breather! Jenny x

  3. seamsoddlouise says:

    This looks like an amazing jacket, and it looks great on him. Glad you got there in the end with the buttonholes. I have a rather cheap Toyota machine, it’s not the best and I’ll upgrade reasonably soon, but I will keep it as it does fab buttonholes.

  4. Jessica Cangiano says:

    That you should be (proud of yourself, that is). It’s a stellar, extremely well made jacket and demonstrates the prowess of your sewing abilities to no end. Really, really incredible work here, sweet Jenny!

    ♥ Jessica

  5. Jenny Frances says:

    Thank you so much! I may do some research on Pfaff buttonholes to see if others have had the same problems (or if it is actually just me! Haa ha!)

  6. Jenny Frances says:

    Thank you so much Jessica!
    It was scary to push myself that far out of my sewing comfort zone, but in doing so I have definitely learnt some new techniques etc. I may even make myself a jacket one day! Although I imagine that day will be quite far in the future, after I have recovered from this one! 🙂 xx

  7. Abe Drayton says:

    My Pfaff (Creative 2140) does absolute rubbish buttonholes. I refuse to use it. If I TRUELY need a button hole and I’m not handsewing it, I’ll just do a tight zigzag in a square. I’ve met exactly one machine that did a great consistent buttonhole and it was in a costume shop. (It was a Bernina of some variety) Every other machine lets me down.


  8. Jenny Frances says:

    Hi Tegan,
    Ahhhh, thank you so much for your comment! Although I am sad to hear that you too have struggled with buttonholes, part of me is going ‘thank goodness it’s not just me’! Sometimes my Pfaff is fine, but what usually happens is it will behave for about 4 buttonholes (including the sample test), then it will decide it no longer wants to play nicely. It drives me crazy! My previous machine was actually much worse than this though, so hey-ho. I think if I am going to make a jacket or coat in the future with buttonholes, I am actually going to post it to a company that will sew in the buttonholes for me. At least that will save me an afternoon of frustration and tears! 🙂 xxx

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