Written by Caroline van Deventer
Bill visited the shop a little while ago, while on holiday with his wife. While chatting to him, we discovered he was a keen sewer and had sewn for both himself, his wife and his grandkids. He is a beautiful sewer and kindly agreed to sew and review The Foreman Jacket by Merchant and Mills for us.
Bill is in his early nineties and has been sewing for many years. He grew up during WW2 with a widowed mother who was always sewing for her three children with her Singer treadle sewing machine. The family played around on her machine (much to her annoyance at times) and over the years Bill made cushion covers, curtains, seat covers and a few simple articles.
After a life of sheep farming in Southland with gardening and woodworking as main hobbies he left the farm to “retire” in Arrowtown. He had a job for many years as a piano player on the TSS Earnslaw steamer on Lake Wakatipu.
Then a friend of similar age suggested that they should go to a ski jacket making class at the local high school and this rekindled an interest in sewing.
This has continued into retirement living in a small city apartment where he has made many items of clothing for his wife and three generations of family as well as himself. He certainly had no problems occupying himself during the various lockdowns that Auckland has had to endure.
This blue shirt made from Miss Maude’s linen is a recent effort - the shirt pattern is one that he has used for years and adapted and changed.
About the Foreman
While originally drafted as a mens pattern, the Foreman Jacket can also be sewn and styled for any gender. It is a great jacket for the transitional seasons (Spring and Autumn) when it is not yet cold enough for a proper winter jacket, but you still need something to keep the chill off. This is where the Foreman comes into its own. The design of it was inspired by traditional workwear of the 1950’s, it has a boxy cut, a neat square collar, two hip pockets and a breast pocket. This pocket could be optional if you wanted.
Pattern - The Foreman Jacket by Merchant and Mills
Size - 46
Fabric - 6 Wale Cotton Corduroy in Caper
Notions - Khaki corozo buttons.
Skill Level - Intermediate
Maker - Bill Purvis
Skills Used -
Bill enjoyed the pattern and said it was easy to understand. He did feel however that the 6 Wale Corduroy was a little too thick for the pattern. The problem with the bulk was most pronounced in the collar, to counteract the bulk of the corduroy, he used a lighter cotton poplin on the under collar.
He also thinks denim would be a great option for the pattern, but feels that he is not a denim man, which is why he didn’t choose it.
Because the Corduroy is tricky to iron (it flattens the fibres) Bill did a lot of tacking things down, but other than that enjoyed working with the fabric.
He would also size down next time as well.
It was great working with Bill and seeing what fabrics he chose to make his jacket, we sent him a variety of samples to choose from. Despite the fabric being a little too bulky, it looks fabulous and his wife apparently agrees with this as well! If you are careful with the bulk and grade the seams and use substitutes for the under collar there is no reason why you couldn't also use the 6 Wale. It would be great with a lighter pincord or a heavier linen, such as the Washer Heavy Weight Linen or any of the denims or oilskins.
Well done bill!
I have the privilege of having Bill and his wife as Neighbours in our apartment block. As a keen sewer myself i am in awe of what bill has created over the years i have known him.
Th e Forman jacket is a very versatile pattern – ideal for informal warmth on all ages. We both love shopping at Miss Maude and your online service is terrific. Thankyou
Wow!! This jacket looks fantastic. I really love the fabric choice and colour really suits Bill. What an incredible story, thanks so much ❤️
Outstanding Bill. You’re very skilled. I’m a keen sewer but not as skilled. I decided to make the jacket for a friend (she’s very petite) and test the waters. I’m a bit lazy and didn’t mark all the notches – caused me a real problem when it came to inserting the sleeves. Will do it from now on. I also didn’t follow the pattern when making the pockets (gathering the bottom corners to make them round) – bit of a mistake there. Another lesson learnt. So note to self: read and follow the pattern!
I saw you wearing the Forman jacket yesterday Bill, stylish and beautifully finished like everything you make. Came up trumps!
Brilliant! Looks great and the shirt is fun with those cuffs too, let’s see more from Bill!
Wow! What a great story Bill. My husband found you an inspiration, he’s recently enjoyed the British Sewing Bee too. Your cordoruy jacket is fabulous.
Fabulous inspiration, Bill. I may just have to sew a Forman!
Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful story,
I just read the post to my husband knowing how much he’d appreciate it.
What a pleasure it is to see a man in his 90s still sewing – and so skilfully! Fantastic!
To find joy in the simple act of creating is a life-giving antidote to our frenetic and fearful modern world
Great looking jacket. And great story.
Your jacket looks great Bill! I hope I’m still sewing so well when I get to your age – inspiring! Thank-you :)
I would like to congratulate you on the beautiful jacket you have made.
I love the colour, and the corduroy, and while you say next time you’d go down a pattern size, the jacket doesn’t look too large on you.
As I age my eyesight ( for close-up work) is not as it used to be.
Do you have any issues with detailed or fine sewing work?
Please continue to share your creations – you are an inspiration to us all.
Really inspiring to see such beautiful sewing and I love the colour. Might need to add this to my list of future projects for my partner.
Hi everyone! I have sent the link to Bill so that he is able to see your comments! They are so lovely!
they sound like some great alterations to your jacket. Thank you for telling us about them! Glad you like the pattern!
I am so impressed
Thankyou so much Bill for sharing this with us – a real inspiration .
What a delight! My late husband Graeme Peterson took up sewing for himself when he retired – he used to say ‘as retired Chartered Accountants do’. Made shirts, trousers and a jacket often incorporating nifty design details. At an Australian Sewing Guild Convention in Adelaide I happen to mention this to Martin Smith, one of the tutors and he said he thought Graeme emailed him on occasions and even finished off his email address! Lovely memories….
I absolutely adored this! Bill you are amazing! I love your jacket.
Currently working on the Forman in a heavy Khaki Canvas, have made alterations to the sleeve adding vents and an overlapping 2 button cuff with a little grading to slim down the sleeve nearer to the cuff, have extended the collar to reach a little further to the middle and altered the pockets as I prefer them square, will certainly be making one from the Merchant and Mills twill next. A great pattern with easy to follow instructions.
Love that Jacket Bill, your story made my day 😊 Jayne