Friday, April 6, 2018

Tabula Rasa Indeed

Tabula rasa means blank slate. And that is how I used it with this garment.

the plain version
This wonderful piece of fabric has been marinating in my stash for a number of years. It is a cross weave in light green and bright royal blue. It was purchased from Spanglish Fabrics. She travels to Guatemala and brings back gorgeous hand-woven fabric to sell. It's perfect for bags. There is not a lot of drape and it feels just a little coarse. But this piece needed to be a garment.

the cross-weave needed to be highlighted
Often I find that my sewing goal is to feature the fabric, even though this one is essentially a solid color. The Tabula Rasa pattern involves mostly narrow pieces, so it was just right for this 36" wide fabric. The sleeves on the pattern are the largest piece and I had to be careful to make sure I'd have enough for them. I did end up piecing the collar band with a small patch at the center back. You see it in the above picture because it is cut cross-grain and the rest of the band is cut on the length-wise grain.

Once finished the jacket was quite plain. It needed something. My first step to was to add the square patch at the back neckline. I had already added the little bias loop in the collar band seam.

I love working with bias binding and bias tubes and often look for spots to use them. Because this fabric does not have much give, I had to make some samples, particularly of the tubes. Below is a picture of my tubes and tools. I always start by trying to turn the tube with the Fasturn tube turner. It involves a metal tube and metal wire that slides inside the metal tube. There is a sharp pointed corkscrew shape on the end of the metal wire. So you cut the bias stripe and then stitch it together. For this particular fabric, I settled on a 1.25 inch wide bias strip, a 0.4 zig-zag stitch (otherwise the stitches pop when you're turning the tube), and I stitched it 3/8 inch from the fold (not from the raw edge).

Because this is hand-woven, the cork-screw end of the wire slipped out when I was mid-way through turning it. Dang. Luckily I was able to use the hemostat to reach inside the tube, grab the end and pull it the rest of the way out. I used both tools on every tube.

Then I fetched my favorite instructions for making a Chinese knot: Sandra Betzina's Power Sewing. I find her instructions to be the easiest to follow. And I never remember how it's done in advance! Here you can see how it starts:

The long end is off to the left.
This is how it looks after an *over* and an *under* with the long end:

At this point it's symmetrical and rather pretty, I think. I've been tempted to transfer this shape to a garment for embellishment, but I never have. The final step is to draw it up into a round knot. This take some finagling because it wants to draw up unevenly. It helps to have finger nails.

In the end I decided on a single Chinese knot closure, with a plain loop on the other side. I made sure that the Chinese knot finished with long tails. Then I opened up the collar band seams and inserted the raw ends of the Chinese knot on the wrong wide of the band, wrapped it around and hand-stitched in place.

To create the loop, I simply used one bias tube. I opened up the collar band on the other side, inserted raw ends of the bias tube on the outside, and hand-stitched it in place.

I don't know if I'll ever actually close it, but it was fun to make.

I had a Chinese knot left over. So I added a patch pocket with the extra knot attached.

You can also see that I created a vent in the sleeve that is bracelet length. A sewing friend said in a recent presentation that Coco always liked her jacket sleeves bracelet length since that's the skinniest part of a woman's body.

The inside of the jacket also has its own story with much bias binding in a very light weight Indian cotton. Stripes are so great on the bias. And I love the look of the Hong Kong finish when the inside is flashed.

Or if I want just a little flash, I can turn the sleeves up in a slight cuff.


  1. That’s lovely! What kind of stitch do you use for the patch?

    1. Thanks! I machine stitched it down near the raw edge with matching green cotton thread - ordinary sewing thread. It sinks into the cloth and is nearly invisible. However, I've just realized that the picture posted here is before I sewed it down! I had to look closely to tell the difference.

  2. Every detail is exquisite, lovely jacket. Ends of bias strips don't have to be buried in seams if the bias is sewn from either end (including the short ends) with an opening in the middle for inserting the tube turner. The tube tuner is inserted twice, one for each end. Then the opening is hand-stitched close, and the bias can wind and curve all over the place with no raw ends.

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  4. What a gorgeous jacket, and the details are subtle and beautiful. I pinned a pic to one of my boards-let me know if not OK. :-)

  5. What a lovely garment you've made Martha! It's divine. I have a question though,
    which pattern is your favorite for these easy wear kimono type jackets? This one, the Folkwear Japanese Field Clothing one (hippari), The OOP Sewing Workshop Haiku Two or another one I don't remember?

    1. It all depends on the fabric. I love them all. I prefer drapey fabric for the Folkwear pattern. You probably cannot tell from my photos but the Tabula Rasa has a shoulder seam that sits right on my shoulder. And it is more structured in general than the Folkwear pattern (darts, etc). The Haiku Two is similar to the Folkwear pattern in that it needs a drapey fabric. The Haiku Two is very Issey-Miyake style with little to no fit.

  6. I especially enjoyed reading about the chinese knot construction. Lovely jacket.

  7. Nicely done! The fabric is gorgeous. I have used the Tabula Rasa knit top many times and love it. Have not used the jacket pattern yet, or the shirt variation either. Need to get on that as I think I will like it as much as I do the knit pattern.

  8. You have done it again! This is just another "WoW' garment. The pieceing on the neck looks like a purposeful design element...your choice of pattern and fabric always inspires me. Enjoy wearing this beauty!

  9. What a stunning jacket. Your details all lift it to another level. Bravo!

  10. I love all the beautiful touches you added. It really makes the jacket special.