Introduction: Sunset Quilted Jacket

I have been wanting to make this jacket for years but never had the time and energy both at the same time until now.

Step 1: The Pattern

I have a pattern that I have used successfully for quilted jackets in the past so I decided to use it again. If you are shopping for a pattern, I recommend that you get one that is either designed for a quilting project or at the very least one that has very few pattern pieces.

If you are making your own pattern, I would start with a loose fitting jacket that you already know fits. I would lay it out so that you can trace around the body and sleeve as one piece--if possible. Make the pattern just a bit too big. The quilting process has a tendency to make the project just a little smaller as you work.

My pattern had only 3 cut pieces--2 front panels and one back panel. There was a collar on the original pattern but for some jackets I have chosen not to use it. I usually wait until the end to decide if it is needed.

Step 2: The Foundation Layer

I cut the 3 pieces of the jacket--2 front pieces and one back--from a plain fabric that I built the jacket on. You can use a lining fabric, muslin, or any other basic thin fabric. You should avoid thick fabrics since they are more difficult to quilt through. (I know that it is tempting to use a thick fabric for warmth but you want to use the batting layer for warmth. I know this because I have tried it.)

Once you have the pieces cut, you need to sew the seams and press the seams open. I also choose to baste the seam allowances open--this was so that the batting layer did not move the seam allowances. This step may not have been totally necessary but I did it anyway.

Try on the jacket. At this point it should be a little bit bigger than what you want the finished jacket to be.

Step 3: The Batting Layer

The batting layer will provide most of the warmth of the jacket. If you want a warmer jacket you should buy thicker batting or use 2 layers of thinner batting. I wanted a light weight jacket so I used one layer of a thin polyester batting. Some people prefer cotton or wool batting. I am allergic to wool and I did not want the weight of cotton batting--although I do love the look and feel of a quilt made with cotton batting.

The batting needs to cover the foundation layer completely. In order to do this, you will need to cut the batting to fit it around all the surfaces and whip stitch the edges together where they join up. Do not overlap the layers of batting when you stitch as it will add bulk to the jacket in that spot. A lumpy jacket is not good. Make sure that the batting is covering the side that has the seam allowances. The inside of the jacket should have finished seams.

The batting needs to be secured in place on the foundation. I usually baste my quilts with safety pins. I have tried that with this kind of project with minimal success. Since this is more of a quilt-as-you-go process, the safety pins get tangled in the batting and the batting will be stretched and distorted during the piecing process.

I choose to thread baste at this time. Thread basting is a process of quickly, with really long stitches, sewing the batting and foundation layers together. You can use up an old, almost used up spool of thread. I try to use a contrasting color so that it is easier to remove later. I also place all the knots on the fabric side--not the batting side--so I can pull on them to remove the thread. Make sure that the foundation stays flat. (Minimize the puckers and ripples.)

This step took longer than I expected. I recommend taking your time and getting the batting on smoothly. The results are worth the time invested.

You could probably use a spray basting adhesive but I don't feel that comfortable with spray adhesives. I know they work well for some people--just not my thing. (Over spray--icky! Messy!)

Step 4: The Outer Layer--planning

This is where you will get to express your creativity. This is also where you will spend most of your time.

To create my sunset, I started on the back of the jacket (with multiple photos to inspire me). I started with the sun--since it was my focal point. I worked up into the sky and downward to the reflection in the lake. I used a series of piecing fabrics and embroidery stitches. The fabric I used was a solid color cotton fabric that had been preshrunk. The embroidery was done through all the layers of fabric--so it was part of the quilting to hold the batting in place. I used a number of different flosses--some were satin; some were plain.

Have your photos and your fabric stash on hand--inspiration. Lay out a sheet of freezer paper (has a plastic backing) so that the paper side is up. Grab some pencils or markers and start drawing. Don't be scared to start--you can always get a new sheet of paper.

This drawing will become your cutting pattern. I usually start in pencil and then draw over top in black marker once I like what it looks like. Focus on basic shapes/color changes and size/proportions at this stage.

Step 5: The Outer Layer--stitching

If you have a lot of small sections to your design, take the time to write the color on each piece--I like to use a bold color for this. You could simply write a number on each piece and keep track of the colors on a separate sheet of paper. Take a picture of your picture--you may think that you will be able to keep track of all the little pieces. Don't be too sure of this. Better safe than sorry--unless you really enjoy jigsaw puzzles.

Take your final pattern and cut out each shape that represents a color change. Iron these pieces to the front side of each appropriate color fabric. The plastic side should be against the fabric. It will melt into the fabric but will remove easily later. Use a pair of sharp (fabric only) scissors to cut the pieces. Be sure to add a seam allowance around all edges. I added about a half an inch--just to make sure I had enough overlap.

Details will be added later with the quilting stitches and embroidery. For now, you will start with placing the colored pieces. I started with the sun--my focal point. I wanted it to fall approximately at my center lower back. Centering it does not have to be perfect. Choose your starting point--mine was the center of the sun. Pin or baste this first piece in place. Grab the adjacent piece and pin the edge to the first piece.

I tried a stitch-and-flip technique but with all the curves, this was challenging. I ended up needle turning the edge of the fabric and then top stitching through all the layers of the jacket. The blue pieces I tucked under the second layer of the sun. I placed the pink clouds over the sun.

Using strong thread (quilting thread) and a small running stitch, sew through all the layers. Follow the curves (if you have any) and use the same seam allowance that you used when you were cutting.

When I finished moving up the back, I returned to the start and worked downward into the lake. I finished with the tree line last.

For the front, I went for a sunrise scene. Since this view faces west, you don't get the sunrise itself--usually just a beautiful blue sky. The lake is usually very calm in the morning--unless a storm is rolling in.

Just in case you were wondering--this is the view from my front window. The lake is called Pleasant Lake.

Step 6: Binding the Edges

The binding goes on pretty much the same as on any quilt. Cut a strip that is 2 1/2 inches wide. Fold in half lengthwise. Line up the raw edges with the edge of the jacket--I like to start at the front edge where the collar will end. Sew 1/4 inch from the raw edge all the way around. Trim any excess batting that is poking out. Wrap the folded edge to the inside of the jacket. Stitch in place.

If you haven't already done it, now is a good time to remove all the basting threads from the inside of the jacket.

Step 7: Finishing Touches

I decided to attach a narrow collar.

The sleeves are a bit long but I usually put a pleated or two somewhere near the shoulders, so that should be no problem.

Buttons, snaps, zipper, or Velcro--attach the closure of your choice. I like a hook and eye since it does not involve cutting a hole (for a button), is quiet (unlike Velcro), and is easy to place so as to wrap the jacket as tightly around me as I want.

I haven't decided if it needs a slick lining yet. I need to wear it with long sleeves before I will know if my sleeves catch on the inside fabric. I also need to finish any quilting and embroidery before adding a lining layer to the inside.

I will probably add more quilting and some embroidery details to the picture over the next few months. By the fall, it will be perfect.

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