If you sew, what drives you to make a particular project? Maybe sometimes it’s wanting your own version of something you saw another person make. Maybe you can create a designer-inspired piece for an affordable price. Maybe you love construction and couture details. For me, I often want to see what it would be like to make something. I find this to be the case in both cooking and sewing. I may only make the food or article of clothing once, but I want to know how it’s made and what it takes to make it.
That’s what happened when I was contemplating some patterns by The Green Pepper at Joann Fabrics one day. I had never tried any of these patterns, but I noticed one that was for a fleece jacket like the ones at L.L. Bean. The pattern in the store may have been a zip-up version, and I was interested in the classic pullover style, but it got me thinking. This style has been around for decades and is probably more well-known from Patagonia, an early adopter of fleece fabric in garments. (In fact, this pullover at Patagonia looks amazingly similar to what I ended up making.) I found The Green Pepper F722, Polar Pullover and Vest on Etsy. There is a similar style on The Green Pepper website, number 512. It looks like an older pattern (copyright 1999) and is a slightly different version with a different finish for the sleeves and collar and only one pocket flap option. My pattern has a copyright date of 2013 on the envelope.
For fabric, I hit the jackpot at Fashion Fabrics Club. This website can be a little overwhelming, because there is just so much, but looking at the fabric on a screen bigger than a phone helps. I found Polartec Double Sided Curly Fleece in Sour Lemon
as well as woven Supplex in Dark Turquoise (which I thought was nylon, but the website says is cotton), and a stretchy nylon/spandex Creamy Pink Jersey Knit (no longer available) for my inner neck edging. I chose colors I liked together on my computer, and ordered them, hoping they would work in real life. Shipping took awhile, but when I finally got everything, I was thrilled. The colors were great together! Other odds and ends came either from my stash or Joann’s, with the exception of my snaps. The pattern calls for heavy duty snaps, and I, being a snap novice, didn’t really know what that meant. So, I went looking for snaps in the color I wanted, rather than worrying about what “heavy duty” meant. I found Snap Source pastel pink size 16 snaps at Wawak, which I thought looked most like what I was seeing online at Patagonia and L.L. Bean.
This is a unisex pattern with all available sizes in one envelope, and according to my measurements, I was a medium in the chest and waist and a large in the hip, so that’s what I traced. I opted for the pullover with the collar and rounded chest pocket, but you can also choose a vest, hood, or pointed pocket.
As soon as I took the pattern instructions out of the envelope and started reading them, I could see that a lot of time, thought, and care had gone into making these directions. There is a lot of information to help you before you begin, which is great. My favorite part, though, was all the detail that was put into the construction directions. This pattern doesn’t assume you have a serger, and gives clear, thorough instruction, including which direction to sew your seams, when to use a straight stitch and when to zigzag (something not all knit patterns have), and lots of small details that will give you a professional finish. I was only a few steps in before I felt like I could trust this pattern.
I made sure to use a walking foot, a jersey/ballpoint needle, and a lighter presser foot pressure, except for the neck facing, where I changed to a stretch needle after some trial and error. I was surprised that a lot of my seams were sewn with a straight stitch and finished with a zigzag, which also served to flatten out the seam allowances.
One slight issue I had on the front placket was in section J, step 1, where it said the placket should extend half an inch above the top of the jacket. That wasn’t the case on my jacket—it’s possible that I made an error, but after measuring the pattern pieces to be sure, I think the error is in the pattern. I went back and recut the placket, making it 3/8″ longer. This error seems to be on all sizes.
One other issue I had, which was my fault occurred while installing the snaps. I was trying to use prong snaps, when the pattern had called for heavy duty snaps, which are larger and have a post. I got the top side of my snaps in, but couldn’t get the bottoms in. I bought some heavy duty snaps and did some tests on scrap fabric to confirm that they would work (they did), but I really wanted pink snaps. After going down a major rabbit hole where I started researching powder coating and other types of paint, and calling people who repair outdoor gear (Boulder Mountain Repair and Specialty Outdoors were kind enough to talk to me and point me in some helpful directions), I finally visited L.L. Bean to do a little sleuthing. It looks like they are using colored plastic snaps, about the size of my original pink snaps, but they had trimmed all the bulk out of their facings, whereas mine had (in some places) two layers of fleece and four layers of Supplex. My husband had suggested that I trim this area before I went on my snap saga, but I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to make it work until I felt the facings on the L.L. Bean sweatshirts. So, I went home and opened up the facing, trimming down the bulk in the bottom facing, after which I had no problem installing the bottom of my snaps. Consider me older and wiser now—I will do this on both parts of the facing next time, which will give me a ton of color options for snaps, thanks to Snap Source.
Snap saga aside, this pattern was a joy to sew and VERY interesting. I got really professional results and a brightly colored sweatshirt I can wear during this cool and cloudy spring. The pockets are a major bonus, including the chest pocket!
There’s even a little hanging tab.
It’s warm and cozy, and it’s very encouraging that I can find professional materials. It was hard to find heavy-duty snaps in all the colors of the rainbow (although some colors are available), but trimming down the fleece in the facing gives you more options. I think final cost for this sweatshirt was under $35, which is great, considering that many of these sweatshirts in the store are in the $70–$120 range.
If I were to make this again, some things that would be fun to try are swapping out the elastic in the casings at hip (pictured below) and wrist
for a stretchy binding on cuffs, hem, and top of collar, as well as trying the pointy pocket, possibly in a double layer of Supplex instead of fleece. It would be fun to order some of my own labels and sew one to the front as well (if only I could decide what to put on them!). And I’d love to try out some Polartec WindPro so the wind couldn’t blow through. I’m not sure how many of these sweatshirts I need, but this was really nice to sew. Since The Green Pepper also has a zip-front pattern (number 507), maybe that would be a good one to try too. If this is a style you like, I highly recommend this pattern.