Two-Piece Felted Jacket with Garment Designer Software: Tribute to Kath Taylor

I recently finished a jacket that had been in the works for a long time, the idea started in 2013 at a Cochenille Workshop here in southern California. It took seven years to complete this project and, in the end, it is a dedication to the person who inspired it, Kath Taylor. Kath was recently taken by cancer, and thus, the completion of the garment was a way to work through sorrow and honor a friend.

The Kath Coat
Kath, shopping for fabric in Verona, Italy with our Retreat Group

Meet Kath Taylor. 

Kath was completely lovely. She was from New Zealand, and lived here in the U.S. working as a nurse. She was a giver; always wanting to help and care for others. Kath joined us on an Italian retreat and had also taken several other workshops here in southern California.

Inspiration Garment

The Inspiration
At one of the So Cal workshops, Kath worn a great jacket-coat, made with a felted fabric. I loved it. It had this wonderful neck treatment and design details.

The Design
With permission, I took a sketch of the garment, and then rebuilt it in my size in Garment Designer. I used Top Mode and a princess line to make the top, and then added the skirt in Bottom mode. The garment has a slightly raised waistline.

Jacket Bodice of pattern using Princess Style
Jacket Skirt

Often at our workshops we take a day to go up to Los Angeles to the Garment District, often followed by a trip to Mood Fabrics. It was at Mood that I found my fabric which was an orange bouclé single knit. It had a hole in it, so Mood offered to give me extra fabric, and all was good

I prepped the fabric by washing and drying it in the laundry, with the goal of felting it lightly.  This took two attempts.

Wool Bouclé Knit Fabric, slightly felted

… time passed

Then, came the cutting out and construction. I had no problem with getting the bodice base sewn and the fit cross-checked, but I soon realized that it would be very helpful to see how Kath’s garment was put together, so a quick email resulted in a variety of images being sent. As you can see from the image above, the neckline required some additional treatment.

… time passed

I attempted my first round of the neckline treatment by pleating a long strip of the wool. Once sewn on, I realized that the neckline has stretched. And now, we have discovered my weak spot. I hate undoing, and so..

… time passed. This time a lot of time, as live got busy, work increased, and other ‘quick’ garments were made when I did have the time.

At one point, I was searching for the right trim (a good excuse to delay)… and indeed found it, once again at Mood Fabrics in New York, where I had gone to attend Vogue Knitting.

Zoom ahead to 2020,
and the garment is still not quite done.

Then two major tragedies hit at about the same time. First was the pandemic. And second was a phone call with news that my friend Kath had passed away, taken by cancer.

So, this was it. I wanted to complete the garment in tribute to my friend Kath who was always the happy, up person in any group. She was a nurse, a giver, and a lovely soul.

So, I dug into the task and completed this Jacket.  The neck trim took some ‘twiddling’ but I finally got it. I believe that my fabric is not as stiff as the original jacket so it took some extra hand-stitching in places to get those pleats to hold. 

Here are some images of the jacket, from the wrong side. You can see the construction a little better from this view.

Wrong side of the garment for a better view of the construction

The last two steps were the buttons and adding the trim. I must have tried up to 10 options for buttons. And the trim sorted itself out because only one of the three pieces was actually long enough to go all the way around.

I could not make up my mind….

And so… I present here, the Kath Coat. It always had that name, but now, it is even more special.

The Kath Coat

Garment Designer Top: African Influence

Recently, I oversaw a project at Mesa College in San Diego, which involved a partnership between our Fashion students, the Mesa African Art collection, and Visions Art Museum in San Diego Liberty Station.

There were several aspects to the project, but the final activity was a fashion show featuring African-influenced clothing. Many of the garments came from my Textile Design students in my Fall semester class. I decided that I too needed to get involved, and so embarked on two different design projects. In this blog, I’ll share the first with you.

My source of inspiration was a piece of carved wood. Sad to say, I don’t know future details, only that I took the photo while we were visiting the artifact collection.

Since the original wood piece was rounded, I had to use Photoshop to straighten it out a bit.

Photo of Inspiration: from a piece of carved wood

I wanted the garment to be relatively simple, free of internal structural lines, so that the wood imagery would be seen as it was designed.

Below is the pattern I settled on. This was taken from a top I own that I purchased in Japan.

The pattern created in Garment Designer pattern software

In Garment Designer, I set the page size to be the size of the pattern, and then saved the pattern as a PDF.

Then.. on to Photoshop.

There I opened the large pattern pieces (each on a separate page), and I brought them together into one document. The width of this document was set up to the width of the fabric I wanted to print on (which was a polyester chiffon, 58” wide).

Pattern pieces laid into Photoshop

Working between the imagery document and the Garment Designer pattern document, I used Selection tools, and copy/paste to bring the images in.  I orchestrated a border effect on the bottom and stretched the imagery to fill the space above. You can see the results below.

Garment Designer pattern in Photoshop, with the imagery engineered into place

Once I had the layout ready, I threw in some variations of the pattern off to the side of each pattern piece, so I would have fabric to trim the neckline and armholes during the sewing process.

Extra imagery is added to the file to provide trim fabric

The next step was to upload to Spoonflower in North Carolina.

The order process on Spoonflower, digital printing of fabric

And then to wait until the fabric arrived, which of course was only a few days before the fashion show… so time to sew!!

One of the beautiful things about engineered design, is that you don’t ever print a paper pattern. Instead, your fabric arrives with the garment piece all laid out and ready to cut. Here is my fabric just before cutting.

Fabric ready to be cut. Note how similar this is to a cookie cutter approach!

I used some of the trim areas to make the binding for the neckline and armholes. These were cut on the bias and applied to finish the edges. The most challenging part of the construction was sewing chiffon on a bias grain. I simply serged the edge, pressed it under and top stitched it in place, attempting to have minimal handling.

The garment was complete, and ready for the show.

See how the back cut is different from the front.
The final garment, yea!

I only have one shot from the show, a rear-view, but as you can see, it was modelled.

Garment being modeled at the Fashion Show at Visions Art Museum in San Diego, CA

So, another ‘done’ project. I love to have a motivator (such as a fashion show) which gives me the reason to move ‘To Do’ items up the list of priorities.

And I course, I love Garment Designer. It is such a creative tool; I can do most anything with it and in very short order, and of course, because it knows my body measurements, I never have to alter. Can life get any better?

Up-Cycling and Creativity with Fashion and Garment Designer

Up-Cycling: From Sweatshirts to Fashion – Getting Sustainable

As we all know, the movement for a sustainable world plays a growing importance in our day to day life. As a result, I’m becoming more aware of what I keep, and how I dispose of my used clothing. It takes a conscious decision to be an activist in sustainability, and one way to make it fun, is to challenge your creativity when it comes to designing clothing.

One of my current pet projects is to take a sweatshirt and see how I can transform it into something new and different.  There are so many approaches to this type of rework, that I know I will never run out of inspiration. My favorite go-to for ideas is Pinterest. Check out my board called Upcycled Sweatshirts and T’s.

I’d like to share a recent project with you. Generally, I like to start by pulling together my ‘ingredients’. Of course, the sweatshirt is the base, but I have fun gathering ‘ideas’ to use in conjunction with it. I like to mix my crafts; a little knitting, some stitching, and so on. Throw in a pair of denim jeans you plan to cut up, and away you go!

Ingredients

My concept for this project was to create a dress. I planned to add some knitting, stitching and sewn parts such as the skirt. My general plan was to cut the sweatshirt at the empire line and use the lower part to build a tall stand-up collar. I like to position things in place on my dress form, moving the parts around, try this, try that, and so on.

Getting an idea..

To get started I needed to establish the empire line which would become my cutting line. I used a piece of yarn to sort out the division line, and then, I cut the bottom of the sweatshirt away.

Establishing the line for cutting
Cutting

This is the point that I get Garment Designer involved. I go to the software and utilizing some of the existing measurements of the garment (e.g. the width at the underarm and shoulders), I build a pattern with a new neckline and the correct garment length. Then I added an ‘edging’ in the software to create a flared skirt and I built a tall stand up collar.

My pattern in Garment Designer

Pattern pieces were then printed, and I cut out my neckline, chopped off the bottom of the sleeves, and cut out fabric for the skirt.

Using my Garment Designer pattern to cut out the neckline
Find yarn
My yarn

I had decided to add a yarn insert to the collar, so off to my yarn stash I went.  Then, I test swatched a mohair yarn, and knit a rectangular insert that I later sewed into the polar fleece cut collar.

At the sewing machine, I added a denim eyelet tape to the center front of the garment.

Then I attached the collar, and tested the skirt by pinning it in place.

Checking out the Skirt

Back to knitting… I knit up the lower portion of sleeves and sewed them to the sweatshirt sleeve. I had decided to add a pocket to the garment and utilized the blue jean pocket for this by simply cutting it out and placing it on the garment. Ultimately, I will add buttonholes to the pocket and button it in place on the garment.

Getting ready to cut out the pocket
Almost done

Now, on to the trims. This is where experimentation became. I took little pieces of denim and stitched various patterns on them as I explored stitches on my Brother sewing machine. I let the serger tails remain, and notice how I have been using a heavier denim-like thread in my loopers. I also crocheted a flower out of yarn.

Components; a mixture of stitching, knitting, and embroidery

I created a brooch-like composite of the various parts, and will have this be removable.

And now.. the final dress.

The finished project!

I really felt my creativity flow while making this project. And the bonus is, I recycled a garment and used up other parts of my stash. I will be teaching classes on this technique in the future. The first will take place at Stitches United in Hartford, CT. Join me in being sustainable, either by taking a class, or challenge yourself at home. This garment will be in the

Check out Garment Designer on our website. It is such a capable tool for creative design.

~~~ Susan Lazear

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