Quilted jacket – my technical challenge!

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen that after watching the Great British Sewing Bee I set myself the challenge of sewing the same quilted jacket that the contestants were tasked to make in Series 8, episode 4. The main reason for this challenge was that I found it hard to believe that this garment could be made in just 4 hours and 15 minutes and I wanted to see if my suspicions were justified!

I’m so pleased with the finished jacket! I made it in the size 10.

Rather than setting myself a time limit and ending up with a garment I had rushed and wasn’t happy with, I decided instead to keep a record of exactly how long each stage of the sewing process took. Obviously there were elements of preparation that had already been done for the contestants which I would need to spend time on – there were also additional steps I took to make sure my jacket was exactly what I wanted, but I recorded all of this and I will outline the timings later in this post.

Seek in the leftovers draw and ye shall find!

Conveniently, I had already acquired a copy of ‘The Modern Wardrobe’, which is the book that accompanies this series and contains the pattern the contestants used on the show, so I set about gathering the rest of the materials I would need to complete my challenge. I have a very strict sewing budget and didn’t want too spend much of it on this project, so I had a rummage in my leftovers and managed to find a really lovely selection of scraps that were perfect for the patchwork sections! I had enough leftover pieces of wadding to make each panel, so all I needed to buy was 1.75m of lining and enough fabric to make my own binding and I was all set!

The fabrics work really well together and will match the garments I have already made using these linens, denims, silks and cottons.

The long bank holiday this weekend was the perfect opportunity to work on my project and I was very excited to get started! I decided to share my progress on my Instagram stories and it was really interesting chatting to different members of the sewing community about my challenge while I sewed. My ramblings and time-checks have been saved to a highlight called ‘quilt jacket’ if you are keen to watch!

I decided to stitch diagonally across my patchwork because I hate stitching in the ditch!

Right – the timings! Below is a list of every single step I completed while making my jacket and how long it took. This includes all of the preparation and additional steps that the contestants wouldn’t have done – more on that in a minute.

Finding suitable scraps, pressing then cutting 96 4” squares: 1 hour 15 minutes
Finding the pattern pieces on the sheets, tracing them and cutting them out: 1 hour
Deciding on patchwork placements for four 4 by 6 panels: 25 minutes
Piecing together and pressing all four panels: 2 hours
Re-piecing parts of the panels to accommodate the pattern pieces, cutting backing fabric and wadding: 1 hour
Pin-basting layers and marking out quilting: 1 hour
Quilting the two front panels: 40 minutes
Quilting the sleeves and back panel: 1 hour 40 minutes
Cutting pattern pieces: 30 minutes
Sewing darts and overlocking raw edges: 30 minutes
Construction: 45 minutes
Making the binding: 30 minutes
Attaching the binding: 40 minutes
Hand-stitching the binding (including the cuffs) and sewing in a label: 2 hours 30 minutes

Total time: 14 hours and 25 minutes!

I used a 3mm stitch length and a walking foot when quilting.

Now I am not surprised by that – I have made many, many quilts and many, many garments and I know these things take a considerable amount of time. So, with some of the preparation done for them and several of these steps omitted – could TEN HOURS of sewing time be shaved off this project? Let’s see…

Here is that list again, but with the things the contestants didn’t do crossed out:

Finding suitable scraps and pressing them then cutting 96 4” squares: 1 hour 15 minutes
Finding the pattern pieces on the sheets, tracing them and cutting them out: 1 hour
Deciding on patchwork placements for four 4 by 6 panels: 25 minutes
Piecing together and pressing all four panels: 2 hours
Re-piecing parts of the panels to accommodate the pattern pieces, cutting backing fabric and wadding: 1 hour
Pin-basting layers and marking out quilting: 1 hour
Quilting the two front panels: 40 minutes
Quilting the sleeves and back panel: 1 hour 40 minutes
Cutting pattern pieces: 30 minutes
Sewing darts and overlocking raw edges: 30 minutes
Construction: 45 minutes
Making the binding: 30 minutes
Attaching the binding: 40 minutes
Hand-stitching the binding (including the cuffs) and sewing in a label: 2 hours 30 minutes
And for good measure, let’s assume they were super-speedy at machine-finishing the binding: 15 minutes

Total time: 6 hours 15 minutes.

I decided to bind my cuffs instead of just turning them up as they did on the show.

That’s a full TWO HOURS longer than the 4 hours and 15 minutes they were given to complete the technical challenge. OK, so they could have done things a little differently to save time – maybe they only spent 10 minutes deciding on their patchwork placement, perhaps they used a longer stitch-length and took 15 minutes off piecing, they possibly used fusible wadding and eliminated the need for pin-basting and many of them didn’t bother to mark their quilting lines, potentially saving them another 30 minutes – but that still would have only saved them an hour altogether and I still can’t account for the other 60 minutes they didn’t have.

The sleeves and back were not quilted by the contestants, but I thought this would look and wear better.

I’m not saying it can’t be done, but I am 100% sure that I could not have finished sewing a quilted jacket in that time. Maybe my standards are different as I keep and wear the things I make, but the jackets presented for judging certainly appeared well made compared to the dog’s dinner I would have cobbled together had I only been given 4 hours and 15 minutes. So my challenge was a success – my suspicions were justified!

The pattern in the book has a curved edge at the hem rather than a mitred corner.

I am very aware that it’s a competition and a time limit needs to be given to make it challenging, exciting and entertaining, but I also know that lots of people watch the Sewing Bee and start to wonder if they’re a ‘slow sewist’ because they can’t churn out a lined coat in 5 hours or a pair of jeans in an afternoon. I also know that non-sewists watch it and use it as a benchmark for how long it takes us to make things, which I think can undermine and undervalue our skills. Hopefully my little challenge will provide a bit of perspective!

I’m already thinking about my next quilted jacket project!

I’m so pleased with my finished jacket and I absolutely loved the whole process of both making and documenting it. The Megan Nielsen Hovea jacket is on my #makenine2022 and I had planned to make this instead, but now I don’t think one quilted jacket is enough and I’m planning to sew a Hovea too!

25 thoughts on “Quilted jacket – my technical challenge!

  1. This is such a great article and I completely agree about the timings this year, they all seem so unrealistic. WHY?! Sewing as a hobby should be fun, relaxing and in your own time. Well researched x

  2. Brilliant! Such a lovely jacket and I think the time you spent was worth it. But the time limit set on the series is so tight it puts me off ever wanting to apply! X

  3. I am very impressed with your article and agree 100% I am currently making the jacket and it is taking so long! At least the programme does provide inspiration to try different projects but how they get these things looking presentable I’ll never know! And oh the stress!!!?

    1. That is very true about inspiration to try different projects and I know the show also gets a lot of people to give garment sewing a go – myself included! Good luck with your jacket – I hope you love it as much as I love mine!

  4. Loved this article, really well written and I’m not surprised that it takes considerably longer. I agree that it totally undermines what we do. Remember in series 1 when the ‘challenge’ was the add a patch pocket to an already made skirt??? Your jacket is beautiful 😍

  5. Thanks for trying this pattern and blogging about it .I am one of those people who have been inspired to sew by the bee and now about 8 seasons in I am finally starting to try. I loved this jacket on the show and really want to try to make my own. With your post I feel much better equipped and will have a much more realistic idea of the challenge and time scales involved.

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Dani – I’m pleased to hear the information was useful! It’s lovely that you have inspired to give sewing a try – I hope you enjoy making the jacket as much as I did!

  6. Thanks for writing this. It was so useful to see your timings. I firmly believe I am slow at sewing, but I come to the conclusion that 1.) I take a lot of care and rarely end up with duds 2.) That this is the way I want it, after all I’m not running production line, but sewing my clothes as my own choice (I would go as far as to say it isn’t necessarily a hobby, more part of my lifestyle, a bit like cycling to work instead of driving). I totally agree that it possibly gives an unrealistic expectation to new sexists. And, doesn’t really embrace the full process, when did anyone on the Sewing Bee actually pre-wash their fabric, or make a toile?

    1. Thanks so much for reading – I’m glad you found it useful! I love to take my time with the sewing process too – in a world where everything moves so fast, it’s nice to work at your own pace and enjoy it!

  7. So interesting – thanks so much for writing it up and I enjoyed watching your stories. I also noticed that your pattern has curved rather than mitred corners – I don’t think mitreing (mitring?☺️) binding is that difficult with good instructions/practise but it would take longer than curves to sew…the contestants had to mitre theirs🤔

    1. Thanks so much for reading and following along with my stories! The pattern in the book had a curved edge rather than a corner for some reason – I kept it like that because I rather liked it! I mitred the corners at the neckline, which I actually think I am quicker at than curves after binding so many quilts over the years!

  8. Thank you I would love to try making a jacket. Your jacket would inspire me to make one in the future.

  9. I love that you’ve taken the time to blog in such detail about your challenge. As others have commented above about the time element, I know why they do it but is it really what contestants work to?
    Love your jacket! Well done!

  10. Really interesting! I often think the same about challenges on the show. I think I would rather know that they were given 6 hours or that they were given extra time to get most garments finished. It would be more realistic. That said I do enjoy the show and particularly this year as I feel the challenges are more technical. Well done for documenting this and your jacket is beautiful.

    1. Thanks for reading – I’m so pleased you found it interesting! I agree about the range of challenges this series – tasks like sewing trainers and making bras have been really inspirational to watch!

  11. I would find it hard to do 4 hours without a break… If I’m sewing all day I have a good ling coffee break. More likely to make a stupid mistake as you get tired.

  12. Thanks so much for this. I’m just finishing off mine. Like you I have quilted the whole thing including sleeves and back even though the pattern just calls for quilting on the front. When I make it again I will adopt your idea of using regular thin wadding rather than fusible which I think makes it a bit stiff and as time is not of the essence. I love your colour placement.

    1. Hello there Annette! It’s lovely to hear that so many people are making quilted jackets! I personally never use fusible wadding or spray adhesive as I prefer to baste my quilts by hand – I always keep away from chemicals when a needle and thread can do the job!

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