For years I’ve heard great things about the Japanese pattern books of Ryuchiro Shimazaki. Specially on The Japanese Pattern Challenge by Duane (mainelydad). I had asked, and received, all three books for birthdays or Christmasses. Now it was finally time for me to try to make one of these.
I selected the MA-1 bomber jacket. And since I’m not a big fan of olive drab, I opted for a nice navy fabric, figuring it would look nice with the orange lining. The main fabric was found locally at Pacific Fabrics, although I had swatches come from multiple sources. The lining came from Mood Fabrics. The original MA-1 jackets had wool for insulation, but I wanted to make it lighter and got some Primaloft from Seattle Fabrics.
I’m glad I waited a while before diving into these Japanese books. There are some good resources out there to assist with the translation (Japanese Sewing Books, Google Translate), and they’re a great help. Yet I’m glad I didn’t try this without a good amount of experience with different types of patterns and construction. It made it a lot less confusing. I don’t think I would have been able to make the welt pockets with the translated instructions as my only guide.
You have to add your own seam allowance to the pattern pieces, something I’m not so used to. Although the pattern pieces are scattered all over the included sheets, they’re very well separated and easy to trace. It just takes a little while to find them all, with only the Japanese characters to guide you. A smartphone with Google Translate helps a lot here. It’s also somewhat fun, for Google will give the pieces interesting names. One of them is now called ‘Pocket Mouth’.
The largest included size is a ‘L’, and that was a bit too narrow for me across the chest. by creating two muslins and changing small bits to address that, I ended up with a good fit.
Making 2 test versions also allowed me to figure out how to construct the rib knit collar. I had never worked with this type of fabric before, and it was quite an adventure. Lots of pins, a walking foot, and patience gave me an acceptable result. Good thing I bought a lot of extra rib knit.
I first sewed the Primaloft to the lining pieces, then sewed the lining together, and at the end cut back all the Primaloft from the seam allowances. This worked pretty well. The stuff comes with a backing that I peeled off at the last moment. Since it was rather thick insulation, I removed some layers of the Primaloft itself too. Otherwise the jacket would have looked like the Michelin man.
What I really liked about this jacket is that it looks casual, yet you can spend some time getting all the little details in order. There is a fun pocket on the left sleeve, welt pockets with flaps, a flap across the front, and the collar. It keeps it from being a pattern you just put together, and makes it something where every step is interesting.
The sleeves were different from any I had already made. The under sleeve needs to be gathered in along both seams before attaching it to the upper sleeve. I added two lines of basting stitches on the sides of the seam, and then pulled the thread on one side of the fabric. This gave me great control over where, and how much to gather.
My usual approach with lined jackets and coats is to bag the whole thing. And since I couldn’t really understand the Japanese instructions anyway, that was what I did with this jacket too. The zipper I shortened and inserted without an issue. The rib knit waistband and collar did create a challenge. It looked like you should double them up and then sew them to the outer fabric. I did that with the collar, and then sewed the lining to the same seam allowance at the same spot where I had already joined the outer fabric to the rib knit. With the waistband I only sewed one side of the rib knit to the outer fabric and then sewed the other side to the lining. Then after turning the bag, I joined both sides with the top stitching. I’m not sure which technique worked better, and I might do both the way I did the collar next time.
Joining the sleeve lining and outer fabric is always a puzzle to me. I did it the same way as with the waistband, attach the rib to each side and use the top stitching to join them. Of course, only after turning it inside out multiple times to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes. Flashes of knotted sleeves were going through my head the whole time. My modern sewing machine is the only one that has a free arm, and it was barely small enough to do the top stitching on for the sleeves.
After this was done, all that was left was do a round of top stitching along the outer seams, and close the hole in the lining side seam I used to turn it inside out.
It was a lot more work than I initially envisioned. Mainly because there were a bunch of new techniques involved, more details that I thought, and the instructions were only somewhat helpful. Yet the whole process was fun and I really enjoyed the project.
Of course, I only completed it when the weather started to become warm and dry. I’ll be wearing it next year.