Fashion,  Inspiration,  Machine Embroidery

“Mad Tea Party” Jacket

“Mad Tea Party” Jacket

By Diane Gloystein

This is the story of how my “Mad Tea Party” jacket nearly drove me mad.  As a National Educator representing Sulky of America, I often hear comments from people who assume that, as an educator, I must know it all, have all the answers, and easily whip out one project after the next.  Just for the record, I want everyone to know that I, too, have sewing projects that are disastrous and throw me close to the brink of insanity as I wonder how this hobby that can be so much fun can just as easily send me over the edge.

Where it all began…

Just as the Alice in Wonderland movie trailers were tempting us in theatres, I came up with the brilliant idea to create my own Wonderland, wearable art masterpiece.  I envisioned how amazing it would be to attend the movie in my one-of-a-kind glorious jacket, envied by my non-sewing friends as I smugly snarfed down buttered popcorn in my perfectly themed ensemble.

"Mad Tea Party" Jacket
Beautiful details are seen all over her Mad Tea Party Jacket

I had a Neue Mode pattern that I’d hoarded for an eternity.  The pattern company has been out of business for years but how hard could it be to construct a simple swing jacket?  I saw no reason to stitch up a muslin trial garment.  How could the fit of a roomy dolman-sleeved jacket with plenty of hip room possibly go wrong?  So out came my coveted black silk dupioni fabric and chop, chop…it was time to sew.  Now, as a creative person, I saw no reason to plan the jacket design.  I was confident it would evolve!  I started with the lining, and began creating a Cheshire cat who would grin devilishly from my inner jacket lining.  I sewed when it worked in my schedule and when I felt like it.  Weeks turned into months.  The Alice in Wonderland movie had left theatres long ago.  But one day, the glorious jacket lining was complete.  I began the jacket, which was appliqued with teacups and a pouring tea kettle, all heavily embellished with bobbin work and hand beading….hours and hours of hand beading!

At this point, we are beginning to count years, not months, for the jacket’s construction.  Finally, the jacket was beautifully embellished and it was time to begin constructing the pieces into the jacket.  I figured I’d be wearing it within a day or two.  Jacket seams went together easily and I assembled the lining…well, I started to assemble the lining.  But with the numerous times the lining was handled, carelessly thrown over a chair, hung and pulled, the lining fabric had severely raveled.  It became apparent that I needed to construct a new lining.  And it occurred to me that in the event this thing ever did reach completion, I was unsure of copyright laws and didn’t know if Disney would come after me for copying their Cheshire cat.  I developed a new lining plan with a dancing chorus line of hot steaming teacups.  What could be more appropriate for a Mad Tea Party?!!

"Mad Tea Party" Jacket
Dancing Tea Cups added a fantastic feel to this Alice in Wonderland-themed jacket

Another few months…or was it years?…the new lining was ready to go into the jacket.  But somehow, the lining didn’t match the jacket body and the circular hem was wonky beyond belief.  I couldn’t alter the jacket body.  If you think I was going to redo all of that hand beading, you’re the one who’s crazy!  When I tried to attach the lining hem to the jacket hem, there were unsightly waves and lumps that presented themselves.  Oh, and about the fit… As I said earlier, what could possibly go wrong with the fit of a simple swing jacket, right?  Remember the vintage Neue Mode pattern?  That jacket was big enough for two of me to fit into.  The jacket pattern was designed to accommodate the biggest, fattest 1980’s shoulder pads ever made!  If that  wasn’t enough, the back-collar pattern and shawl collar didn’t fit to the jacket body.  No way.  No how.  I called upon my sewing community friends, knowing that sometimes it takes a village.  And the one thing we concurred on was that the back collar and shawl collar indeed didn’t fit together.  My sewing whiz friend, Lori who attended FIT volunteered to assist me in redrafting the patterns.  But by now, my black dupioni stash was completely exhausted, so out of desperation, the shawl collar became a green one.  Newly drafted pattern pieces were re-cut into a new collar.  Countless tiny hand tailored stitches coaxed pieces to fit together.  Steaming, pulling, and prodding finally whipped the jacket into submission.  Reconstructed.  Reassembled.  Finished!!!"Mad Tea Party" Jacket

Diane with her and Joyce Drexler’s book “Embellish Your Life With Sulky”

The jacket took seven years, start to finish. It’s a miracle that I not only finished this marathon garment but actually like it in spite of the many times it brought me to my knees. I entered my jacket in the Wearable Art Competition at the Pacific International Quilt Festival at the Mancuso Quilt Show in Santa Clara, CA, where it was awarded “Most Innovative Design”. Today it was announced that my jacket won “Best Use of Embellishments” at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in Hampton, Virginia.

About the Author:
Diane Gloystein teaches at sewing expos and stores throughout the country where her high energy presentations, incredible array of whimsically creative samples, and infectious enthusiasm are met with rave reviews. Her position as a National Educator representing Sulky of America is the fulfillment of a dream, which offers her the extraordinary opportunity to inspire students with a myriad of sewing techniques, surface design, and embellishment possibilities. Diane was a designer in the 2008 BERNINA Fashion show and currently serves as a BERNINA Ambassador. She co-authored the book Embellish Your Life with Sulky, along with Joyce Drexler.

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21 Comments

  • Bev Hartigan

    Oh, what to say. The jacket is gorgeous, simply brilliant! My imagination cannot even conjure a world where I would get this finished. Congratulations, you are my hero!!!

    • diane gloystein

      Thanks so much, Bev. I am just enormously relieved to have a finished jacket in the closet instead of those dreaded pieces that stared at me for years!

  • Patti Lee

    You are a saint, Diane. I cringe when I look at a project I started years ago, the learning curve is just too much, and besides, I don’t even like the fabric anymore. This is just spectacular and “SEW” you! You continue to dazzle and amaze! I thoroughly enjoyed your “journey”, and you are a better woman than I to have the fortitude and ability to finish it with all the setbacks along the way. But, after all, it is a FABULOUS story and helpful to many.

    • diane gloystein

      Thank you for the kind words, Patti. I’m not sure this says much of anything about me other than perhaps I’m a fool for punishment and too stubborn to give up…even when it’s obvious that I should! There were times when I wished it would magically disappear so I could just forget about it!

      • Diane Gloystein

        Thank you, Lorraine. It brings me joy now, but their were times when the jacket and I weren’t speaking to one another!

  • Janeth Franklin

    Many many times the most beautiful things cost more than we expected, takeobger than we ever thought, and complicated beyond our understanding and comfort zone. The jacket and the story are beautiful just like the designer and embellishing seamstress. Proud of you on so many levels. Love and hugs!

    • Diane Gloystein

      I know you completely comprehend taking on a monumental task and seeing it to completion one day at a time! Thank you, Jan. I miss you like crazy!

    • Diane Gloystein

      Patty, Mostly I feel relief that I can move on to exciting, brand new projects! But, yes, it feels pretty good to stamp “Completed” on this project!

  • Whiskers

    Your story reminds me of a jacket I have hanging downstairs. I started mine for a significant birthday (about 11 yrs ago–one with an “0” in it), and the jacket is finished and I have worn it twice if I remember right. BUT, the embellishment was a work in progress. I love beads, but they do take time.

    Good job on a project finished, and a very UNIQUE one at that. I can’t decide which detail I love the most.

  • Michelle Umlauf

    This is absolutely fabulous Diane. You wear it so well, and it totally fits your flair for fashion. Seeing you wear this jacket one would never suspect it had such a history! Congratulations on your awards!!!

    • Diane gloystein

      Why, thank you “Knotted Threadtales”. Much like your name, I found myself “Tied in Knots” as I made this jacket!

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