Paper and digital home sewing patterns for mature figures.

How the Positive Space Jacket Was Born

While binge-watching historical dramas during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, I had an idea.

Brocades should be “in” again.

And not just for Regency cosplay. Or for pretty people in movies..

For anytime. For you and me.

So I bought some and played around with it. I learned a few things pretty quickly.

A lavender and purple brocade with a dragonfly design is draped over a dressform.

Brocade has a pretty stiff hand and has no give, so it works best with garments that have some structure. Brocades can be expensive, but there are lots of affordable options, too. Silk brocades often come in narrow widths - 30 inches or less - but poly ones are wider. Lots of brocades have delightful metallic elements - who doesn’t love a little bling in the threads?

While I was experimenting in the sewing room, I connected with a friend who'd  finally found the perfect wedding outfit - a fancy jacket with an embroidered collar, over a plain sheath dress. What a great idea for a sewing pattern - a jacket you can dress up or down, with the perfect collar for one-of-a-kind embellishment.

I jotted down some ideas. How about a simple jacket shape, to really let a brocade or other fabulous fabric shine? How about a single-button closure, because who doesn’t have a pretty single button in their stash? 

Then I experimented with collar and sleeve shapes. I settled on a big statement collar that could be quilted or embroidered, or that would use a little fancy fabric if someone wanted to splurge.

Here’s what I sent the patternmaker, Christine Groom, to work with:

Sketches of ideas for the Positive Space Jacket, with notes on the sleeve and collar shape, pockets, length and other features.

Christine quickly judged that the jacket needed a bust dart and that the collar needed to be cut on the bias at center-back to wrap nicely around the neckline. She asked some questions about the collar. Did I really want a collar that big? Yes I did!

At least I thought I did. Ha ha ha. Here’s the first sample Christine sewed, out of some leftover upholstery canvas.

 An early version of the Positive Space Jacket, with an enormous collar that extends past the bustline.

She was right - I did NOT want a collar that big. She, I and the fit model, Meg Greene, had a few laughs over it, then we set about pinning the ginormous collar into a better shape. We hit on a square shape that works well with the geometry of the rest of the jacket.

The second sample, done in plain muslin, hit on the idea perfectly.

A plain muslin version of the Positive Space Jacket on a dressform, with a squarish collar in proportion with the rest of the jacket

The jacket on Meg really framed her face beautifully, creating this “negative space” in a sense. The jacket was just called “Style 1201” at this point. I started playing around with the idea of negative and positive space to name the jacket.

Next up - testing the collar embellishment idea. I sewed a jacket in some gold and black poly brocade, then embroidered a design by machine with metallic thread on some black poly satin. Batting between the collar layers adds dimension. It worked really well!

 A close-up of the Positive Space Jacket collar with gold embroidery on black satin.

Christine and I played around a bit with cuffs for the sleeves for another look, but I couldn’t decide what to do. I will revisit a cuff another time!

Brian Lee graded the pattern - here’s the back lining piece for example. The orange, aqua and blue lines represent the three grade rules for Style Falcon sizing. Most of the size difference comes in the side seams, with a little at the sleeve and none at the center-back or hem. The only other pattern markings at this point are the sleeve notches, grainline and the waistline.

 The graded back lining pattern piece, showing the different size rules.

Then it was graphic artist Adrianna Aguirre’s turn to make this pattern look gorgeously user-friendly. She starts with the technical flats, working from the pattern pieces themselves and from photos of the jacket on Meg.

I am always so happy to see the flats!

Flat drawings of the Positive Space Jacket, showing the technical details. View A is unlined and has a plain collar, while View B is lined and has an embellished collar. Both jackets have raglan sleeves with a slight bell shape, bust darts, pockets, and a square statement collar that extends across the chest.

Adrianna beautifully shows the jacket’s shape and style, with unlined or fully lined options. She even made a little embellishment for the collar! This was a complex job and a great collaboration. Her illustrations of the bagging-out process for the lining are especially masterful!

I also contacted a local student to get started on the fashion illustrations. I told her the story of the perfect wedding outfit - sheath dress and embellished-collar jacket - so she drew that look, plus a more casual look in a brocade with pants.

Illustrations of the Positive Space Jacket on two models. View B on a smaller model with gray hair shows the jacket in black with an embellished collar over a purple sheath dress. View A in red brocade is on a larger model, paired with black pants and a shell top.

I would wear either of these outfits, anytime!

The jacket was ready for final testing. Several members of the Style Falcon flock jumped at the chance to make it. I was delighted to see the gorgeous variety of jackets, in different colors, fabrics and stylings.

Four images from Positive Space Jacket pattern testers. Clockwise from upper right: in a pastel canvas, worn with a white T-shirt and jeans; back view in a tapestry with fringe at the collar; in a cream coating worn with pants and a shell top; in a heavier gray and black coating, seated, with the bell sleeves shown on the model's lap.

Tester feedback helped fine-tune the instructions. But they were pretty great already! "I found your instructions really clear and easy to follow. Possibly the best I’ve tested," said Emma (bottom left).

Jo, who's modeling the back of the jacket with a fringed collar says: "I love the jacket so much." She posted a video on YouTube - check it out!

Thank you again, testers!

Finally, I made a Positive Space Jacket for myself! I had just the fabric for it - a gorgeous and ginormous poppy print matelasse. Perfect for spring and summer wear. I sewed it up in time to pose for photos with the poppies in my garden.

 A collarless version of the Positive Space jacket with a dramatic poppy print

I fully lined this but left off the collar in the end - I didn’t want anything to get in the way of the poppy print. So there are three ways to wear this jacket! I also did a YouTube video if you want to see the 360 view.

I look forward to seeing more Positive Space Jacket creations. Please drop us a line at or tag your creations on Instagram with #positivespacejacket.


  • Sherry Ellis

    I am so impressed with the design. I used to sew for myself but as my figure “matured”, the patterns just didn’t work. In fact, the last thing I made for myself was a unstructured jacket. I’m excited to try this jacket pattern.

  • Lauren

    Love your blog! It’s written in a way that allows for sewers of all skill levels to follow along.

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