Biker coat: vintage Simplicity

Biker coat

I finished my new coat last weekend, it’s just taken a little while to get some decent photos but I got Josh to snap these when we went for our usual weekend wander today. I’ve been wearing this bad boy every day since I finished it!

Biker coat

I stuck fairly faithfully to my plan and ended up with a tweed and pleather biker-inspired number with lots of nice hardware details, but hopefully cosy and classic enough to see me through this (and a few more) winters. Details? Yes, there are many, read on.

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As I mentioned before, the pattern is a somewhat modified version of vintage Simplicity 6682. This is a great simple coat pattern, and a perfect canvas for modifications. Just check out Eva’s version to see how it can look with different fabric and fastenings: it could work as a pea coat, classic trench, raincoat or biker. It’s got lots of clever yet simple-to-sew fitting details like front darts which make the lapels fall naturally outwards, back shoulder darts for a nice fit across the upper back, and a sweet kick pleat at the bum.

Biker coat

I picked up a size 14 on eBay which is slightly smaller than my measurements but it’s quite generous with ease. I took about 6″ of length out of the torso and nipped a bit off the side seams to get the shape I was after but the fit overall was good out of the box.

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I’m afraid to say I discarded the (superb and well-diagrammed) included instructions and kind of winged it my own way. This mostly involved lots of draping the in-progress coat on my mannequin then frowning and chin-stroking to figure out how to achieve the next step. It was a pretty time consuming and silly way to work. Ever decided to reshape side seams after flat-felling it all, then having to painstakingly unpick three layers of stitching from boucle wool? Or deciding the pleather collar actually needs to be narrower after topstitching it in place? TWICE? I even didn’t know how I was going to fit the front zip at all until I came to sew it. In the end I examined some similar coats and made up a technique of sandwiching one half into the front facing seam, and for the other half I literally sliced the front of my coat up the middle and wedged the zip in. Miraculously it worked out pretty well, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a working method. Nonetheless I did really enjoy the construction process. Man, making coats is addictive.

Biker coat
Biker coat

I did like my technique for the welted zipped pockets, though, and they’re probably my favourite feature of the coat. I read a bunch of online tutorials (Gertie’s video is good) and then melded them into my own technique which basically involved using tape as a sewing guide and fusible interfacing as welt facing. Worked great! I couldn’t find the double-closed-end zips Gertie recommends but regular single-closed-end ones did the job fine. I made the pocket bags from the fashion fabric as I knew it’d peek out, and made them nice and deep so they can securely hold my stuff as well as keeping my paws warm.

Biker coat

I’ve also fond of the heavy duty snaps on the lapels, which involved the use of a hammer and everything. Initially I decided to add these to help the pleather lapels stay folded out nicely, but I like the RTW type look they give the coat too, and they match all the silver zip teeth.

Biker coat

I made my life rather more difficult by deciding to work the collar and lapels in pleather (faux leather). In some ways pleather is pretty nice to work with: it cuts cleanly, doesn’t distort or fray, and is fairly malleable. I used a leather needle and extra-strong Gutermann thread which I’m sure made life easier. However you can’t baste, pin or unpick it without leaving hole marks, cannot ease in curves easily, and can’t press it to manoeuvre it into shape, which was especially tricky for the collar piece. I got there eventually though: sometimes just letting it sit overnight on the dress form seemed to help it to meld into shape. Don’t look too closely at the notched lapels though, they’re a bit scrappy up close as I actually did have to unpick them once to get them to lie flat. If I were to work with pleather again, I would pick a more quality and lightweight one. I went for some cheap upholstery-weight stuff from eBay, then afterwards found some lovely soft, supple stuff in Cloth House which I imagine would have worked way better and been worth the expense. However, its weight meant I didn’t use any interfacing on this entire coat aside from the pocket facings. For some reason I can’t bear cutting and attaching interfacing so that’s a big plus.

Biker coat

It’s lined in brushed cotton check. I know you’re supposed to pick a silky fabric for lining so you can slip it on and off easily but this brushed plaid won me over with snuggliness, and I honestly don’t have any trouble getting into or out of it. I also thought something lighter would not play nicely where it met the firm pleather facing.

Biker coat

I bagged the neck/facing edges and sleeve cuffs from the inside and hand slip-stitched down the bottom edge, adding a line of weighted cord along the hem to get a nice crisp finish. Unfortunately I used a cheap brushed cotton so it’s already starting to pill a bit, but it is super cosy.

Biker coat

I think the cuffs look cute with a cheeky turn-up to flash the lining.

Biker coat

Only remembered the hang loop right at the end! It’s just a scrap of the pleather folded and stitched over. (Don’t ask about that atrocious pattern-mismatch across the back seam, no idea what went wrong there.) Honestly, never forget your hang loop because as well as being practical, it is guaranteed to be the part of the coat that other people ooh and aah over the most.

Biker coat

Needless to say I’m super pleased with how my second coat turned out and it’s already my go-to daily coat. It goes really well with my favourite scarf and most of my wardrobe (since it’s 90% grey too) and it’s cosy enough for the dip in temperature I think we’re about to get. It was one of those projects where I really wanted it to be finished so I could start wearing it RIGHT NOW. But at the same time I wanted it to be right so tried not to rush and to fix all the little niggles that would have ended up annoying me. All in all it took two weeks and I guess about 20 hours sew-time (and countless chin-stroking time). It’s kind of funny how I love really long, complicated projects and also really quick flippy jersey dresses the most out of everything. A coat like this really appealed to my designer nature: picking where the pockets should be placed and how slanted, the hardware details, the collar width and so on. It feels good to see my skill level slowly coming up to my visions and being able to make something like this that I could never find ‘just right’ in the shops.

Finally, the cost add up…

Main fabric: 3m at £12, Goldhawk Road = £35 (he gave me £1 off, the generous soul)
Lining: 2m at £3.50 = £7 Ultimate Craft in Stoke Newington
Pleather: 0.5m, £4, eBay
26″ YKK metal zip and 2x 7″ pocket zips = £8, Jaycotts
Weighted cord, 2m at 99p/m, Dalston Mill = £1.98
Thread & leather needles, approx £5, Ultimate Craft
Snaps kit (lots leftover): £5.75, eBay

Total: about £68. Not bad at all.

21 thoughts on “Biker coat: vintage Simplicity

    1. Katie Post author

      Honestly, coat sewing is no harder than anything else, just take it in steps. Your plans sound great, good luck!

      The weighted cord looks like in the picture – it’s got little lead weights along the length to keep the hem hanging nicely. I think it’s more commonly used for curtains; you could also use metal chain. Dry cleaning, I am not sure about though. I will probably only spot-clean my coat.

  1. Eva

    You finished it so quickly!! I love this coat, the details are so cool. Those welted zippers especially (and hang loop…). The fit is awesome as well, roomy but not too roomy, it looks perfect. I’d never heard of the weighted cord, nice trick!
    Coats are totally addictive, I couldn’t agree more. I have the same feeling towards blazers, but have had less success there – I think it’s because my coats so far were in wool, which is such a treat to work with. Maybe I’ll try a wool blazer next.

    1. Katie Post author

      Thank you for the pattern inspiration!

      I like sewing blazers a lot (like a quicker coat!), but hardly ever wear them so it’s a bit silly. I really, really want a colour blocked coat next. I agree, wool is just lovely to work with.

  2. Maike

    Totally agree with the others, it looks really well made and could be from a store!
    I also think the check cotton lining is perfect, it fits the other fabrics so well and completes the look of the coat.

    1. Katie Post author

      Thanks very much, I do hope the lining holds up OK. I have a feeling I’ll need to replace it in a year or two.

  3. Kelly

    Wow this looks great, the pleather gives in a nice edge and it looks very RTW! I can’t believe you ditched the instructions, you’re much braver than me :)

    1. Katie Post author

      Foolish rather than brave I think – with all the modifications I couldn’t really use them. Thank you!

  4. sallie

    WOW!! This looks fantastic!! No wonder you’ve been wearing it every day since you made it! I’m super impressed! Love the pleather and hardware details too! Great job!

  5. Michelle

    This is amazing, looks like its stepped right out of Whistles! Looking forward to seeing your anna dress, it might be the most beautiful fabric I’ve ever seen!

  6. Reana Louise

    Wow wow wow – this is seriously one badass jacket! I need to get my booty into gear to finish my Minoru, but now I totally want a biker jacket haha! If you feel the need to share your welt pocket method I would LOVE to see it.

  7. Caroline

    This is amazing! Love the fact you ‘wedged’ the front zip in, sometimes the best way to work is to just go for it, sew and hope for the best. All the unpicking and redoing was worth it in the end. I think the tweed and pleather go so well together too (for some reason the word pleather has always made me giggle…).

    Newington Green looking lovely as usual!

  8. Angela

    This is so impressive!! I just love all of the details that you added, the snaps and zippers, and cute, cozy lining. I can’t wait to start my coat project… when all of this holiday sewing is done!

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