Category Archives: Coat

Ombre Freemantle




It’s been quite a long time since I tackled a coat project (and got outside for a photo shoot!). My Yona coat has happily seen me through two winters and it’s actually still good for this year, but I also fancied a new option. Once I clocked this awesome fabric and realised what an amazing Marilla Walker Freemantle coat it’d make there was no going back.

I actually first attempted this pattern back in 2014, soon after it was first released. Shall we say my skills did not match up to my ambition back then and the WIP wound up skulking on my mannequin for a long time before getting ditched. It’s a fairly advanced pattern to construct, especially as written with the insides underlined and bias-bound rather than a bagged/enclosed lining, and the cut-on square underarm gussets to wrap your head around. Marilla has actually discontinued the pattern from her shop as she felt the construction was too challenging to be saleable, but I’m sure she’d sort you out if you asked. Also word is she’s releasing some new patterns soon… :) EDIT TO ADD: Marilla is reworking this pattern to include a standard sort of lining, so keep your eyes peeled for the re-released pattern this side of Christmas! Great news, and would have saved me some head-scratching!


I did actually alter the pattern to have a standard lining, which is not that straightforward to do – it was one of the things that tripped me up on my first attempt in fact. The difficulty comes because the main body has raglan construction whereas the facing just has shoulder seams, so you can’t simply deduct the facings from the main body pieces to end up with the lining, if that makes sense. Marilla does have a tutorial on it, but it still didn’t click for me! Instead I made the lining as an exact dupe of the outer, then topstitched the facings on top (binding the raw facing edge with bias before doing so) and finally trimmed back the lining from underneath the facing parts. I then cut the inners down by two inches to form the jump hem and used a mix of the Yona coat instructions and this Grainline tutorial for a refresher when it came to machining it all together. Sounds complicated but still easier than making a neat job of all that binding in the underlined version, ha ha.

The star-of-the-show fabric is a very dreamy grey ombre wool and mohair coating from Fabworks that I totally bought with the Freemantle in mind. I knew that placing the stripes nicely would be key so bought 3m and mocked up some options in Photoshop before deciding on my cutting layout. The fabric was as wonderful to work with as wool always is, taking a steamy press beautifully, and I love the fuzzy halo that the mohair gives it. It’s quite lightweight and drapey yet incredibly warm and cosy. I’ve been wearing it as a coatigan indoors as well as out as it’s so soft and unstructured. I did apply interfacing strategically but may go back and add some twill tape along key seamlines as I’m a bit nervous of it stretching out with wear.

I’m especially proud of the welt pockets. It’s always terrifying making that big slice into your garment front, but these turned out so nicely and they feel really roomy and practical – plus the inner facing is in self-fabric so they’re all snuggly on my paws. I had the giant copper snaps in my stash, I think they’re from Macculloch and Wallis in Soho. I only had two but three would really be better, though I don’t think I will wear this closed very often anyway.


Little details of the collar and that underarm gusset, which is rather fun to sew, especially seeing the gradient fabric wrap around it. I wound up sewing the collar twice as the first time I got it backwards, and then I realised I didn’t like the placement I’d done so re-cut it in a darker area. I also interfaced it the second time, which made it easier to get nice crisp edges.


The motivation to complete this project came just in time really as it’s suddenly got a bit chilly here in London. I wore it out for dinner literally as soon as I did the last handstitch on the snaps as well as out the next day, so I reckon it will be on regular rotation this winter. Is anyone else planning a new winter coat? Word is Grainline is releasing her personal pattern for this dreamboat, so this might not be my only coat project of the season!

M-m-m-my sha-Yona

Yona coat

Oh hay! I’ve been struck down with a vile flu-type thing for over a week, but finally felt well enough to get out today and grab some photos. This is mah new Named Patterns Yona coat, a big tick off my winter plans list.

Yona coat

I’ve been wanting to make this up for a while to replace a similar old RTW coat, and when I saw the paper version of the pattern half price on sale I pounced. To be honest I was a bit trepidatious about using a Named pattern: I’m clearly not the tall willowy shape they draft for and I’ve heard rumours of patchy instructions and painful tracing processes. In the end, I dived into this coat sans toile, followed the instructions with no issues, and had the coat finished in a weekend. And I rather love it.

Yona coat
Yona coat

I was feeling impatient, so riskily cut a straight size 38 right into my good fabric. It’s too tight around the hips, as I suspected it would be and as indeed my old RTW one is, but I like how it looks both done up and loose so it’s not a problem. I’m happy with the fit around the raglan sleeves and back too: I like that the two-piece sleeves give my puny shoulders a bit of extra structure, even though there’s no real tailoring going on – just interfacing added strategically as directed.

Yona coat

I just made some small design alterations before cutting: adding two inches to the length to match my RTW inspiration, and shaving about half an inch of width off the lapels. It’s surprising how different it looks from Named’s sample just with a few small tweaks, as also evidenced by all the other lovely and varied Yonas in blogland: Ping, Sunni, Rachael, Julie, Lucinda, Morgan.

Yona coat

The construction was pretty fun and personally I found the instructions really good. I did just mess up the lapels first time round by not anchoring the collar ends onto the diagonal of the lapel – a symptom of rushing a bit and not double-checking the design sketch – but I fixed it with some crafty hand-stitching. You can see a pic of the incorrect ‘before’ here.

Yona coat
Yona coat

I especially like the jump hem method – it’s by far my best-looking yet, though it’s buckling just a touch as I think I forgot to add seam allowance to the lower edge of the lining, oops. I supplemented the instructions with a bit of extra machine bagging to cut down on the handsewing. You do have to add seam and hem allowances and trace off some overlapping pieces on Named’s paper patterns but I’m now prepared to forgive that, as long as you remember where to add them all.

Yona coat
Yona coat

The fabric is a very lovely darkest forest green wool melton from Miss Matatabi with a subtle diamond pattern. I cut the collar in a scrap of black ponte, inspired by Sunni’s three (!) versions of this pattern. Next time I’d do the collar stand and back facing in a softer fabric too as the wool is a bit scratchy at the neck.

Yona coat
I finished this a week or so ago and it’s gone right into rotation – it’s just right for the current weather and should see me through til spring. I suppose it’s not really a garment I need more than one of, which is a shame as it was so fun to make and I love the shape. Perhaps a shorter one in a lighter fabric for the warmer months might be on the cards.

Waver

Waver jacket

I was itching to get back to my machine after Christmas, particularly to try out some of my new toys (sleeve board! Pressing ham – finally! New pinks and snips and a snazzy pink mini cutting mat!). I wanted a low stakes yet slightly meaty project, so made a wearable toile of the Papercut Waver jacket. In fact it’s a very fast sew as it only took me one day end to end, and it’s wound up being elevated from ‘wearable toile’ to ‘really rather like it, actually’. I like when that happens.

waver

I bought the Waver pattern with the aim of replacing a rather tatty old RTW khaki jacket I’ve had for ages but always seemed to be just right for heading out on semi-slobby, casual days when it’s neither overly warm or cold. Like the Waver it’s got a hood, roomy patch pockets and falls to high hip length, though I cut this one a bit longer: about halfway between the two views of the pattern.

Waver jacket

The pattern was really fun to sew, even with the tiresome chores of interfacing and cutting of linings that coat-making insists on. The pieces all slotted together really nicely: it was fun to make the gusseted hood, see how the neckline facing came together, and try a new method for bagging and finishing the hem. And like I said, it’s fast – I wasn’t rushing but still had it basically done in 5-6 hours over a single day. For a lined coat! There’s lots of handy shortcuts which make it a speedy sew like the simple patch pockets, the front facing being integrated into the main front pattern piece, and easy-set raglan sleeves.

Waver jacket
Waver jacket

I cut a straight size small and I don’t think I’d change much at all on the fit. Like other Papercut patterns it’s on the roomy side so sizing down would give a more fitted look, but with the raglan sleeves and elastic waist it’s supposed to be an easy fit.

Waver jacket

The only thing I struggled with in the construction is that tricky point where the lining, facing and hem meet at the front. You’re supposed to get a nice mitred point but mine was a bit out of whack so I had to do a bit of wiggling and poking to make a neat corner. Suspect a bit of practice and more accuracy will make this a simple and failsafe method for bagging out coats, though. The instructions have you handsew the sleeve hems but I bagged those too while the coat was still inside out. Despite the corner-fudging I think it’s still amongst the more professional-looking garments I’ve made, which is largely down to spending a bit on good quality notions.

Waver jacket

I used a pack of Prym anorak snaps instead of buttons and made a trip to Soho’s Maccullouch and Wallis for the elastic cord and toggles. Pro tips for hammering snaps: buy extras, practice on spare fabric first (you’ll always ruin the first few), and start at the bottom of the coat in case you, um, hammer one on inside out. Which I definitely did. Also I freestyled my positioning, but next time I’ll make sure one is horizontally aligned to the elastic casing as it gapes a bit there when fastened.

Waver jacket
Waver jacket

Amusingly, the notions cost more than the fabrics themselves. The outer is a viscose twill from Abakhan, which is quite lightweight with a tiny bit of crispness and sheen. Once I realised the coat would end up wardrobe-viable I decided to use some delicious Liberty tana lawn to line it. This print’s called Achilles (I have a much-loved knit dress in a different colourway) and I bought it at the same time as the outer fabric in a crazy online Liberty sale that Abakhan had on – it was £7.50 a metre or something. I like that the lining peeks out when the coat is undone or the cuffs are rolled.

waver hack

I’m so pleased with the fit and speed of the Waver that I want to make another one pretty soon, in the full-length view with no hood or elastic, and perhaps attempting to add a notched collar like these inspirations I’ve had pinned for a while. Shouldn’t be so tricky to hack a piece onto the neckline and I’ve got a lovely forest green textured coating in my stash I’ve been wanting to use.

Tamarack in Yosemite

Tamarack

Ahoy there! I’m on my travels again, currently in beautiful Yosemite, California (via fabulous Las Vegas, as my sweatshirt attests). It seemed an appropriate place to grab some photos of my new coat since its namesake tree can be spotted here. Yup, it’s a Grainline Studio Tamarack jacket which ended up being my Slow Fashion October make.

Tamarack

As you might recall I basically had a design idea for my dream coat fully formed in my brain a while ago, then Jen went and released this pattern that was basically it, so I could change tack and get sewing quite rapidly. Just in time to finish it for my holiday, handily enough.

Tamarack

The other funny thing is that for a slow fashion project, the Tamarack is actually a pretty speedy make. Three main pattern pieces, no facings, no bagging: my sort of coat project. Obviously there’s all the quilting and binding to do, but those happen to be amongst my favourite sewing tasks so it was all good and extremely enjoyable to make.

Tamarack

I used a Nari Iro double gauze for my outer fabric, and it’s lined in a thickish viscose twill. There’s Vilene fusible batting inside the layers, both to make quilting easier and to add strength to the double gauze. The resulting fabric is just the right level of cosiness for me, and saw off a bit of chilliness and drizzle on our hike today no worries.

Tamarack

The pattern suggests hook and eye front fastenings, but I switched them out for a zip. There seemed to be a fair bit of interest in how to do this on my Instagram sneak peeks, and honestly it’s really easy (although there are probably better ways to do it than I did). I just bound the neck and hem separately, then finished the raw front edge with the overlocker, pressed it back about 1cm and topstitched the zip in. If you were feeling fancy you could bind the loose seam allowance and zip tape edges together and slip stitch it to the lining (I might go back and do that) or try to add an underlap fly shield. I used a 24″ metal open ended zip, but because I lengthened the pattern I think 22″ would fit the pattern as drafted. Sorry I didn’t get any pics of it fastened but it basically fits nice and slim.

Tamarack

A few other pointers on the pattern:

– I did a quick toile in my usual Grainline size (4 shoulder graded to 8 hip) and found the fit perfect. I just added two inches at the lengthen-shorten line for more of a bum-covering coat length. Bear in mind your finished jacket will feel slimmer than the toile due to the thicker quilted fabric. Also try the toile on with what you intend to wear underneath the finished jacket, ie a cardigan or sweater, to check there’s enough ease.

– Essential tools of the trade for painless quilting: walking foot, basting glue (way way better than pins), gridded cutting mat, chaco chalk pen, clear gridded ruler. There are some good tips in the pattern and on the Grainline blog too. I used a walking foot for nearly all the construction, bumping the stitch length up to about 2.8. It only took an evening to get all the quilting done, and another for the main construction.

Tamarack

– The welt pockets give the project a bit of meaty interest. I was so worried about doing them into the quilted double gauze that I nearly did patch or side seam pockets instead, but I’m glad I went for it. Jen’s instructions are the best I have tried, particularly as you end up with all the raw edges nicely concealed inside.

Tamarack

– I bound all the seams inside but it’s really not my finest work – a bit patchy and sloppy. Sorry, slow fashion spirit. But I did handsew all the bias edgings down inside – way easier and faster than doing neat ditch-stitching.

All in all I’m super pleased with my new coat and reckon it’ll see me through all but the coldest bits of winter. It definitely won’t be the last time I pick up the Tamarack pattern as I think it’d make a great coat block for design modifications.

Tobacco toggle coat

Tobacco cat

I finished the thorn that’s been in my sewing side the last few months: my new coat. Please don’t look too closely; it is far from my finest work. But I am sharing anyway in the hope that you might learn from my follies.

Tobacco cat

This was a right pickle of a sewing project. I think I rivalled Jenny in the hand-wringing, internet-consulting, and nearly balling the whole thing into the bin on multiple occasions stakes. I’m somewhat amazed I have something remotely wearable to show for my efforts at all. But wearable it is, and Josh took these nice photos on our Saturday stroll so all is not lost.

Tobacco cat

My problems basically stemmed from bad choice of pattern and failing to toile first to realise my mistake. I started out with Vogue 2692 (an OOP 90s pattern, I think) which I thought was a nice simple relaxed shape and quick win of a sew. HA. I should have paid more attention to the fashion sketches on the pattern envelope and single other example of this coat on the internet, which pretty clearly show a loose fit, dropped shoulder and baggy sleeve – not what I was going for at all. Halfway through making it up I was stuck with these ginormous ill-fitting twisted sleeves and an extremely low armsyce already cut out of my lovely wool. Agh.

Tobacco cat

I ended up re-cutting the sleeve and armsyce using a pattern I knew fitted – vintage Simplicity 6682 as used for last year’s biker coat (which I’ve worn plenty this year too, it’s holding up great). Of course I needed to add on more fabric to the low-hanging armsyces to bring them up a bit, so for a dirty fix I sewed on some little underarm ‘gussets’ to raise them. Since the original sleeves were far too wide I could fit the closer-fitting new pattern piece onto them and just cut off the excess. Amazingly that all worked out alright and I could use my spliced-up pattern for the lining, which thankfully I hadn’t cut yet.

Tobacco cat

After all that, at least the fit worked out pretty nice – it was kind of what I had in my head from the start. I think any success of this coat really hangs off my fabric choice, which is an absolutely luscious brushed tobacco wool that I got in Dalston Mill. I’ve been after a brown wool coat for ages so was very excited to find it. It was an absolute dream to work with, feels so warm and snuggly to wear, and I am annoyed at myself for not treating it better.

Tobacco cat

By the point of getting the fit right I’d given up on the original pattern and forged ahead with some made-up-as-I-go-along design choices re pockets and fastenings. I pinched the slanted welt pockets from the Papercut Rigel bomber (which is bang at the top of my to-sew-next list now thanks to Sonja!) and decided to fasten it with handmade toggles right at the end.

Tobacco cat

The guts look quite swish! The lining came from my Mexico trip. I managed to colour-match it to my coat fabric from memory which I’m quite impressed by, and I’m also pleased with the quality for what I paid for it (something like £2.50 a metre) – I’m sure it has a natural fibre content itself as it pressed nicely and didn’t have that polyester burning smell, but it did fray like crazy. The sleeves are in a satin bought locally for easy slipping on and off. I didn’t want to lose any more length from hemming so made a bottom facing from my last scraps of wool, which got attached to the lining before stitching to the outer all around the edges. I bagged out the sleeves per Jen’s tutorial which always works a treat. (Jen, incidentally, is releasing a toggle coat pattern imminently which I am obviously kicking myself for not waiting for!)

Tobacco cat

A few more little details that weren’t so disastrous… I pressed all the seam allowances open and topstitched along both sides of the main seams. I added a facing to the inner hood because I don’t really like the lining coming right up to the edge. And I made the toggle tabs myself after failing to find any readymade ones I liked. They’re just triangles of faux leather sandwiched with suede cording and topstitched around. The toggles themselves are from Liberty, where for some reason they were £3 each as opposed to around £7 everywhere else, and they’re good and chunky.

Tobacco cat

This coat undoubtedly has many, many flaws. It’s lopsided through the shoulders thanks to my merry hacking; the pocket placement is a bit uneven; the sleeves might even be slightly different lengths; there’s no interfacing anywhere so it’s all unstructured and collapse-y; it’s all wonky when fastened. But honestly I still rather like it, and I learned a lot about how not to make a coat. Frankly, I will never be the kind of sewist who gets excited by roll lines, pad-stitching, horsehair canvas and all those fine tailoring and couture techniques. No matter – this coat fits well, fills its function, and will get a lot of love both this winter and hopefully for a few more to come. I’m glad we came out the other end as friends, coat.

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.

PC091109

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.

PC091126

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.