By Sue Caulfield

In a blog dated March 15, 2014, I wrote about listening to the muse. I have an “apron” muse – who gave me focus when I needed it.  I have a “reversible tote” muse, which not only led me to make beautiful bags, but gave me a chance to ponder reversible totes as representative of a “both/and” outlook on life.

In that same blog, I wrote:  “By the way, my inner critic gets quite loud when functional art also involves the use of pre-made patterns.  According to my inner critic, if I am working with someone else’s pattern, where is the creativity?  To be fair to my inner critic, as a general rule, I do not like to work with pre-made patterns.  Mostly, however, this is because I prefer to not have to follow directions.”

jacket patternThen, a couple of weeks ago, I was at a fabric shop in South Bend, IN (yes, I do search far and wide for fabric that speaks to me). In this fabric shop, partially hidden behind a display rack,
was a jacket made out of batik fabric (my favorite kind of fabric). Here is what I saw in that fabric store:

I was immediately taken by this jacket.  I learned that the pattern was “free,” if I bought the required amount of fabric to make the jacket. Even though I loathe working with patterns, I was so taken by the jacket that I bought the requisite amount of fabric and brought home the pattern.  I did review the pattern before doing so and found it wanting; however, I was convinced I could muddle through the thing.

About a week after purchasing the fabric and getting the pattern, I dove in.  The pattern for this jacket has to be read to be believed. First, it instructs me to tear the fabric, not cut the fabric. While it is perfectly acceptable to tear fabric, I ignored the first instruction and cut the fabric per the instructions.  After that, I got lost.  This “pattern” is an excellent example of why I hate patterns, as it is, in my opinion, incomprehensible.  To begin with, while the final piece clearly has main fabric and complementary fabric, the pattern does not distinguish between the two beyond the amount required of each type.  Second, the pattern requires the purchase of two and a half yards of the main fabric and a half yard of the complementary fabric. Two and a half yards is far more than needed for the main fabric and a half yard falls short for the complementary fabric.  Third, the pattern includes no imagery and the words used do not properly convey what one is supposed to do.  This “pattern” probably makes sense to the person who wrote it, but I cannot believe it makes sense to anyone else.  At this point, having cut the fabric per the width and length guidelines, I was stuck.

Enter my newest muse – the “jacket” muse.  The “jacket” muse is an inspirational and problem solving muse.  I looked at these piles of cut fabric and thought “what a waste of money.”  My newest muse, however, started piecing things together – literally!  To be upfront, I am not a seamstress, I do not like to make clothes, and I am easily stymied by instructions that are not straight forward.  Yet, my muse knew what to do.  I created the complementary bands for the front and sleeves.  They are not the same size, given there was insufficient fabric to meet the requirements.  So, I went with the approach of artistic license – different band sizes gives it flair!  I figured out how to make the collar facing and pull everything together. When I was done, I had a beautiful and workable jacket.

For most people looking at it, it looks just fine.  However, on closer examination, one can see that some of the finishing is not as good as it could be.  I decided this jacket cannot be sold.  It became the prototype for me and one that I can wear.  Based on what my muse and I created, I calculated how much fabric would be needed to properly create this jacket – no more than 1 and 2/3 yards of the main fabric and at least 2/3 yards of the complementary fabric.  I then created a layout of how I could cut the fabric to maximize its use (i.e., not a lot of small pieces left over) and wrote instructions for how to piece the thing together.  I also came to understand that the entire jacket is made out of rectangles (even the facing for the back collar, as I designed it).  Now it became a puzzle that I could put together.

Because I had left over fabric from the first jacket, jacket blue
I bought enough to make another one with the same
fabrics.  I adjusted the width and length requirements
so that things would be more uniform and have a proper
finished appearance.  This next image is that second jacket.

At this point, my newest muse had me hooked.  Over the next 2 1/2 weeks, I made three more of these jackets.  With each version, I have fine tuned my own pattern and instructions. I have allowed  myself more artistic license with how I finish the bands that go up to the collar.

My newest muse taught me a lot here.  I have learned to walk away from what does not work and develop a solution.  This is revolutionary for me when it comes to making clothing.  Most clothing patterns get used once and I toss them away out of frustration.  But I have found freedom in the creation of this design.  Indeed, my mind is already contemplating ways to alter my pattern or embellish what is created (pockets, anyone?).  I plan on making more of these as I enjoy the process and outcome.  I leave you with these images.

jacket mauve jacket goldjacket hearts