I've nearly finished my beloved Tamarack Jacket. Beloved is the best modifier for this project. I have loved working on it, which is no surprise. It is a dazzling blend of the things I love most about sewing: usefulness, personality, hand-work, embellishment. I feel like I got to really put myself into this project, really sew my heart into the seams. It came together in a little over a week of concentrated work so it feels like a true snapshot of this moment of my life. I'm in a literal springtime, a moment of transition, a space of standing at the bottom of a hill and looking up. Isaiah and I are moving back to my hometown, Pittsburgh, in a few short weeks. It's been seven years since I've lived there and there is really nowhere else in the world I'd rather go. In a lot of ways, it feels like being away has specifically prepared me for returning, helping me see the land that raised me with clearer and more grateful eyes. I can't wait to build a life there, a new life, and to see the city and the land anew as an adult.
For the tamarack, I used Robert Kaufmann essex linen in rose and a beautiful indigo polka-dot woven fabric from Stone Mountain and Daughters, the yardage a christmas gift from my mother-in-law. I originally intended for the dots to be the outer fabric and the rose to be the lining, but once I started quilting I fell in love with the way the stitches looked against the pink linen. I became determined to figure out how to make the jacket reversible so I could showcase both fabrics depending on my mood, making an already amazing jacket even more versatile and hardworking in my wardrobe. In favor of reversibility, I omitted the patterned welt pockets (which were sort of intimidating anyway). I'm planning to add some patch pockets to both sides in the near future, with matching fabric and hopefully matching quilt stitches too, but I'm giving myself a little time for that phase of the project. I made the pink side the official "top," and made the polka-dot side the more quirky interior, carefully binding and then either hand or machine stitching down each seam amidst the polka dots with handmade navy cotton bias tape and pink thread, creating a cross between a hong-kong seam and a flat-felled seam. The navy blends into the indigo dot fabric but the pink stitching stands out a little to add some visual interest to the seamlines. I used some precious vintage trim I found at a Creative Reuse center in Lancaster, PA to bind and hide the side seams. I think it's my favorite part of the jacket. I used handmade pink linen bias tape on all the edges that can be seen on the pink side. I shortened the pattern by two inches on the front piece and the back piece, as I am short in torso and like things slightly cropped, falling just at the hip, not below. The rest of the pattern, I sewed as-written.
My favorite part of the jacket-making process was definitely the hand-quilting. As a person who loves to make both quilts and clothing, this project was the biggest treat. Both in one! Hand-work is where I feel most at-home in sewing. It's why I keep coming back, I think. I quilted scallops with big stitches and DMC Pearl Cotton Size 8 thread in a light purple and sunny yellow. The colors are a subtle special detail in the jacket, a detail I treasure. As I was quilting, I realized that the scallops looked like hills stacked atop one another, stretching out into the distance, much like the topography of Pittsburgh. As I quilted, I thought of these hills of home, the fact that I'm returning to them, the way that they are so ingrained in my memories. I thought of specific places, certain roads, the ways they look in summer and winter. I thought about goldenrod and deer, about the plants that grow along the sides of highways, about golf courses and cliffs, big trees and streams. Small footbridges. I also watched Mozart in the Jungle and listened to the Lady Bird soundtrack. Hand-stitching isn't alllllll meditation. These hills are a part of the jacket now. I'll wear it as I climb them. More than just a garment. Something holy, something true. I can clothe myself with my life, add layers of meaning atop my body like blankets, like a story you can read. Stitches like letters strung together, like sentences. This project of making my own clothes goes beyond sewing, beyond wanting to make something beautiful or interesting or cool. It's deeply personal. It gives me a new chance at defining myself and getting dressed for the work at hand, at sharing who am and who I hope to be every morning when I get dressed. I have a dream that someday all of my clothes will be this meaningful. I doubt it will ever go so far, but maybe. Clothes like vestments, like holy garments, something to meet God in. It's what all clothes could be, are. But I want something set-apart. I want to treat my body like something to be adorned, clothed in meaning, made even more beautiful by where I've been and where I'm going.
This project has ignited some crazy ideas. I want to make more quilted clothing. I want to draft my own pattern for a new quilted jacket, a little different, entirely my own. I want to be able to make quilted jackets for other people, to teach them how to make them themselves. I want to make thicker ones for winter, and light ones without batting for summer. I want to take this project even further, add patchwork to a lot of my clothes, figure out how to draft my own patterns and sell or share them so other people can make quilted garments to sew their lives into. Crazy dreams that will take a long time, but they're vivid and true and I'm wildly hopeful. Sometimes I feel like a crackpot mad-scientist. A friend recently called me a "fairy-witch," which, oddly, feels just-right. I feel like what I'm making is the stuff of dreams, otherworldly clothing, nothing like what you could buy in a store. Clothes that take a long, long time to make, clothes with unnecessary added levels of difficulty, with secret embellishments and messages, with hopes woven throughout. Chosen work, work with no reward except for doing what I set out to do, making my mind's imaginings into something I can touch. It's the work of an artist, I suppose. Wild things no one needs, imagination made tangible. I'm making art in the form of quilts and quilted clothes, and it makes no sense but I'm going to keep going. This work fills me with joy, which is as good a reason as any in the world to keep doing it. More work to be done.