Fibre Mood Irma Bodywarmer - My First Quilted Project
The making of this Fibre Mood Irma Bodywarmer vest was quite an odyssey. Mainly because I was moving in unknown territory since it’s my first quilted project evah! That made the sewing journey extremely exciting but also terribly time-consuming. However, the result is completely gratifying. No regrets for investing all this time and effort, and it was totally enjoyable.
The pattern itself doesn’t provide any quilting instructions, so I had to do all this research on how to do it. Fortunately, while I was tackling this project, the Megan Nielsen Hovea Jacket was released, and I purchased it to make sure that I was doing the right thing making my own quilted fabric for the Irma Bodywarmer. The pattern instructions in the Hovea Jacket helped A LOT, and made it possible for me to convert the Irma into a reversible garment. That is one of the main modifications that I did for my Irma. There was also a full week of quilting inspiration provided at the Megan Nielsen blog featuring different makers and quilters, and each had a different approach to making their quilted jackets. This was a big bonus for me because I really didn’t know where and how to begin, to be absolutely honest. The blog series is so helpful inspirational that I may not have had to purchase the pattern in order to figure out how to sew up a quilt. And reading about these different makers guided me towards the direction that I wanted to go for creating my quilted garment.
The other modification is that I changed the shape of the patch pocket. The original pocket for the Irma pattern is a rectangular shape with rounded corners that can be attached onto the front on both sides. I anticipated that it would be quite a struggle to sew down at least three layers of quilted fabric in order to attach these patch pockets. In addition, I didn’t really like the shape of them. From the sample photos on the Fibre Mood website, I could tell that the quilted fabric used was much softer and thinner than the one that I had created, so the patch pockets look nice. However, my thicker quilted fabric would produce heavier-looking pockets. In addition, because I had decided to make the vest reversible, these patch pockets would show up with stitching on the reverse side, which would make it kind of ugly. The solution was to take inspiration again from the Megan Nielsen Hovea pockets which have them attached into the seams of the vest.
In order to draft the new pocket piece, I simply drew a line on the front vest pattern to mark where I want it to be positioned, then traced the pocket shape on another piece of drafting paper.
After making these adjustments on paper, I was ready to embark on the quilting. The quilt pattern that I chose after going through all kinds of quilting patterns on Google and Pinterest, is one that I felt was going to be easy to handle for a complete novice quilter like myself. The quilting pieces are basically strips that are 6” tall; some are 7" tall to fit the cuff patterns onto the quilted fabric. The width of them varied from 1¼” - 3”. I used 2 printed quilting cottons which were gifted to me by my mom who bought them in Singapore and sent them to me.
Both have the same print of cranes, squiggles and clouds, but in different colour ways. The plan was to make panels of alternating strips of various widths from the 2 coloured fabrics, then the panels would be attached together, building them to fit the garment pattern pieces. This was easy to piece together because I didn’t really have to worry about the seams lining up. The stitching pattern to attach all three layers together - the quilted fabric, the batting and the base layer - would be stitching lines that would follow the seam lines of the quilted fabric. I was sticking to straight-line stitching with a walking foot on my machine instead of venturing into free-motion quilting, which I think would take some considerable practice before I can get the stitches even and steady. The base layers were made up of 3 different coloured linens. These are mid-weight fabrics, and I had some worries that the slinkier linens (compared to the very stable quilting cottons) would not hold up as the base layer of the quilt. But in the end, it all worked out fine.
Quilting is definitely a very meditative craft because there’s a lot of time and effort invested in piecing these smaller pieces of fabrics to create a larger canvas to fit the pattern pieces. There is also a tremendous amount of care taken to attach the 3 layers together (I hand-basted and used spray adhesive as well). Then sewing the thick seams together to create a garment was mighty challenging. I am lucky that I have a Singer Heavy Duty 4453 because it was able to handle the thickness of 3 layers of quilts. There was also a whole load of cutting to be done when making a quilt, and I was fortunate enough to be gifted a pair of 9” Prism Scissors and a rotary cutter by LDH Scissors, and they arrived just when I was ready to cut up my fabrics. These cutting tools are game-changers in the world of fabric-cutting! So excited to have them as companions in my life now.
The reverse side of the quilt are 3 linens in 3 different colours - deep red, mustard and a bright light blue or turquoise. All the seams of the reverse side had to be enclosed with bias binding, and that took quite a bit of elbow grease as well to get done.
Perhaps it’s more accurate to say wrist and finger grease since the main work of hand-stitching engages these joints more. Yes, all the bias binding on this garment was installed by patient hand-sewing for the best finish. Even the bias-binding that went around the hem and the entire outline of the vest was hand-stitched. This is the best finishing for a garment that is reversible and boy, am I glad that I did it this way! The effort is definitely worth it.
Sizes for the Irma come in XS to XXXL. I made a size XS, but I added another ¼” to the ⅜” seam allowance provided in the pattern on paper before I cut out the pattern pieces. I felt a larger seam allowance of ⅝” would give me more wiggle room especially since I was making my own quilt from scratch. It was a good decision because the polyester batting that I used was rather bulky and I needed that extra bit of space in the seam allowances. In hindsight, maybe I should have just sized up to a size S. But whatever I did resulted in a good fit, so I am happy even though I took extra trouble with extending the seam lines on paper. What I love about this vest pattern is the shape of the collar which is cleverly constructed, and the cuffs at the shoulders. It gives the vest a very contemporary look, but at the same time, it reminds me of Japanese traditional wear as well. So when I put this on, I feel like a futuristic being, but simultaneously like someone who time-travelled from the past.
I believe there’s a typo in the Irma pattern instructions which calls for 1.8cm wide bias tape because that would hardly provide enough width to close up the thick quilted seams and hems. It would look like 4cm wide bias tape is required when one checks out the steps for installing the bias-binding. However, I highly recommend using bias tape that is at least 5cm or 2” wide because one has to account for extra width to wrap around the thickness of the quilted fabric.
As I said, the trick to making the vest reversible is to finish up all the seams with bias binding instead of serging the seams with an overlocker. I extended the colour-blocking idea of the reverse side by continuing it with bias-binding, and in the end, I can definitively say that I prefer the reverse side of this vest to the actual side of the quilt. In fact, the bias-binding boldly takes centerstage here, and I am so astonished how a simple, basic sewing notion can make such a huge statement. Check out my new Youtube video where I go through the steps of making continuous bias tape:
I’ve also omitted the buttons and the strap that goes with the pattern for now. For the garment to be reversible, I need a different solution and would have to go purchase snaps to install instead of buttons. Right now, I like that the vest is open with no closures. In place of the strap, I am using an obi belt that I made a while ago. The main fabric for the belt happens to be the same dark olive fabric used for one of the bias-bindings, so the belt and vest make a happy marriage. There are also other ways to style this reversible vest with different kinds of belts, and I felt the strap was redundant.
Now all I have to do is to wait for the weather to get cooler so that I can put it to good use. It’s still sweltering here, and the photo shoot was rather challenging since this vest is an extremely warm garment. I had to turn the AC on full blast to get the pictures taken. I was melting as soon as I put this on. In the meantime, I am smug and proud that I made my first quilted garment, and since I’ve already purchased the Hovea Jacket pattern, then there might be another quilted garment to look forward to. There are many other fabulous patterns in this latest issue of Fibre Mood. Magazine #16 is getting your me-made garments ready to transition into colder weather, and the Irma Bodywarmer definitely does what it promises, and with great style!
All the Fibre Mood references included in this post are affiliate links, and if you desire to buy the Irma or the Magazine please click on the image above, and I will earn a small commission with your purchase at no extra cost to you. This is my first warm clothing garment that I’ve made for the season, and I hope you get to make yours soon.