Category Archives: Coat

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.

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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.

Coat planning number 2

coatplan

It seems sewing coats is addictive, because I’m planning to make another one very soon. I do love my first one, but it’s actually almost too warm and cosy: I don’t get that cold out and about, or perhaps the weather hasn’t dipped far enough into real winter yet. So I’m making a slightly lighter one in the meantime in quite a different style: grey and black, biker inspired with zip and pleather detailing. My little inspiration board is above.

This the pattern I’m using, vintage Simplicity 6682 from 1965. I spied it on Eva’s blog and thought the simple boxy shape would work for the kind of look I’m going for. I’m just going to omit the buttons and add an exposed zip instead. The pattern arrived from eBay neatly pre-cut in my size, and the instructions are super detailed and well illustrated. I’ve already made a quick toile and it looks like the fit will be pretty good without many adjustments. The collar came together so easily as well! I can’t tell if that’s me improving as a sewist or just how well this pattern is drafted.

I’ve got my fabric sorted too, thanks to a trip to Goldhawk Road last week with a bunch of gorgeous sew bloggers (so good to meet/see you Kathryn, Rachel, Jennifer, Tilly, Janene, Stevie, Alana, Charlotte & Elisalex!). The shell is a lovely mottled tweed wool: it’s mostly grey and white but has tiny flecks of blue and red in too. I went for a cheery chartreuse lining – I love grey and yellow together. I’m still debating whether to pick some of the details out in black pleather: I think I will do the collar, sleeve details and pocket flaps in it. The lapel facing too? What do you think? (also check out my other purchase, super sparkly stretch lurex! Totally becoming a Christmas day dress.). I think this winter sewing lark is growing on me.

Coat – finished!

Coat

My coat’s finished! Just in time for autumn, by the looks of the impromptu photoshoot I took with my sister in the park this lovely afternoon. A bit lumpy, bumpy and imperfect it might be, but it turned out perfectly wearable – even a bit cute – so I’m calling it a win.

Coat
Coat
Coat

To recap, I started out with Burda’s Retro Short Coat pattern, but made a bunch of alterations. Briefly: I took all of the gathering out of the front yoke and some out of the back; shortened it; removed the lapels and collar; added a hood; added fastenings; and constructed the facings and linings totally differently. Thanks to my toile-ing the final sew went pretty smoothly; the only thing that didn’t go to plan is the bottom hem because I tried to do this jump hem technique without practicing first. It wound up too short and kind of bulky, although steaming and pressing helped a lot and it pretty much looks OK right? I wonder if topstitching would help it lie even flatter – might give it a go.

Coat

I’m pleased with how neat the welt pockets turned out (I invented a genius construction method involving chalk and sticky tape, which I’ll write up if anyone’s interested), less pleased how they ended up awkwardly close to the bottom due to aforementioned hemming woes. I shortened the pocket bags so at least they fit, but they’re stupidly small now. Wah.

Coat
Coat

Mmm, details. I like the buckles and magnetic hood snap a lot; as well as being practical additions I think they go a long way to making the coat look more professional. The buckles come with holes pre-punched so it was an easy task handsewing them on, though it took nearly a whole episode of Project Runway. The snaps just have prongs which push through the fabric and secure at the back.

Coat
Coat
Coat

I almost like the inside the best, especially the little hang loop and snazzy diagonal plaid across the yoke. I even pattern-matched the checks horizontally across the inner seams, how’s that for attention to detail? I mostly used Jen Grainline’s bagging tutorial to insert the lining but had to alter the process a bit to accommodate the hood. There’s just a few inches handsewn at the back neck, all the other seams were machine sewn from the inside.

Coat
Coat

I decided to tot up the costs (like Karen did for her coat) – here’s the breakdown:

  • Pattern, Burda Retro Short Coat: $5.40 / £3.40
  • Toile fabrics, Rolls & Rems and Ultimate Craft: ~£8 (some leftover)
  • Main fabric, Dalston Mill, 2.5m at £17.50: £43.75
  • Lining, Dalston Mill, 2m at £7.60: £15.20 (some leftover)
  • Gutermann thread and brushed cotton interfacing, Sew Essential: £11 (some leftover)
  • Buckles and magnetic snaps, bag-clasps.co.uk: £13

    Total: £94.35

    That’s probably more than I’d usually spend on a RTW coat because I’m a cheapskate, but in terms of a learning experience and getting a totally unique (albeit slightly wobbly) coat, I am happy with the investment.

    Coat
    Coat

    I think this coat might mark a turning point in my sewing, actually. Up until now I’ve considered myself in ‘training mode’: buying mostly cheap fabrics and rushing through constructions, not paying much attention to the overall finish and details in favour of fast gratification. For this coat I really took my time and enjoyed the process for what it was: a learning experience, a wealth of new techniques to master, an investment in time and materials. Certainly it showed I still have a long way to go, but it proved to myself that I am able to be patient and methodical and see how it pays off.

    Phew, essay over. Anyone else making a coat this year? I feel like this may not be my last.

  • Coat progress

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    Finally, one pretty much finished coat toile. Er, yes, it looks a bit different to last time. After my previous toile I had another rethink, looking at my old coat that I love and realising I wanted to tweak a few things to make it more similar.

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    The major adjustment was adding a hood, something I decided I didn’t want to be without over the rainy British winter. This meant scrapping the old lapel and collar – fine by me as they were proving a pain to construct. Making the hood was really straightforward: I traced the pieces (2 x lining, facing and outer) from my other coat and assembled it all leaving the neckline edge open.

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    Then I removed the collar and facings from my toile, cut the front neckline edge straight across, and stitched the outside edge of the hood to the shell of my coat. Pleasingly the hood fitted perfectly around the neckline with no further adjustments needed. (I took this photo before removing the facings – realised it was better to attach the facings to the lining rather than the coat fronts at this stage.)

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    All raw edges nicely enclosed by the lining. I’ll put some kind of fastening on the flappy bits so I can close it up around my neck when it gets really chilly. I’ll also interface it on the final coat to make it stiffer and sturdier. I think I’ll also put a fastening on the coat front where the facing naturally turns: probably a cool pleather buckle of some sort inspired by Meg’s awesome take on this pattern.

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    Sorry for the rubbish photo. Ugh, so dark and gloomy this week. Lining the toile actually turned out to be pretty painless – but only because I completely ignored the pattern instructions and instead mostly followed Jen Grainline’s tutorial. It made MUCH more sense, especially being able to see photos for each step. I’ve also removed even more of the excess fabric from the front and sides so it bares scant resemblance to the original pattern now, in both looks and construction.

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    I’ve bought my final fabric! Dalston Mill came through – thank you Clare for the tip. I found this pettably soft charcoal wool with an almost peachskin finish for £17.50 a metre. (Reluctantly given up on the colourblocking idea as the likelihood of finding two perfect shades in the same wool seemed near impossible.) It’s a slightly stressful place to shop, with barely enough space to squeeze through the cramped aisles and the pushy shop staff watching you like hawks, ready to swoop if you dare touch the bolts of fabric on your own. But they have an amazing range of wool coatings and suitings, and probably anything else you would ever need too.

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    I especially lurve my lining: a brushed check in moody bruise-y shades of brown, blue and green at £7.60/m. I hope it will peek out here and there as it’s too pretty to be hidden inside. Might even do the welts in it, y/n?

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    Speaking of which, I’m getting lots of practice in on the welts before doing the real thing. Accuracy is not my forte and you really, really need your stitching to be spot on for these to look good. I am already loving working with this coating though, it presses and sews up a dream. Now to cut it up and get going for real… *deep breath*

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    (Josh also picked out this light wool plaid at Dalston Mill for himself, which he’s requested a winter button-down shirt in. Eek, sewing for someone else will be my next challenge!)

    Coat planning: the toile(s)

    Planning and toile-ing this coat has been a very interesting experience, and my most unique sewing project to date. I’m most definitely a dive-in type of sewist, and usually finish a project in one or two sittings. But with this one it’s been draped over my mannequin for weeks, the pattern pieces reworked and reworked, seams ripped and re-drafted. There are a lot of fit adjustments and new skills to pick up to get this right – and I really want to get it right. Plus it’s getting increasingly urgent as the temperature’s really starting to drop and I’m determined to not buy a coat.

    This is where I’m at now: toile number 2, made with my cheap Rolls & Rems ponte knit. The first toile wound up huge, with masses of loose fabric everywhere despite cutting the smallest size to allow for ease. I know the pattern is supposed to be roomy, but it drowned me! I ripped it apart and chopped away at the pattern pieces to remove the excess fabric. I took nearly all of the gathering out of the fronts, slimmed the sleeves and took a good few inches off the hem. Feeling much better now. (Ignore the woeful first attempt at welt pockets – definitely need more practice at those.)

    The collar construction is confusing me a whole lot: I think I got correctly to this point, but the next direction says: ‘Pin back attachment seams together. In back, turn facing up again and stitch seam allowances together, close to collar attachment seams’. WHAT? Which are those seams?! This is where diagrams would be real useful, Burda. Can anyone help?

    The next step is the dry run at adding lining, which I am dreading. The Burda instructions are again completely impenetrable and I simply can’t envision how it’ll all stitch together without diagrams or photos of the finished inside to refer to.

    The ponte knit I’m toile-ing with probably isn’t helping matters: it’s heavy and stretchy, causing unwanted weight and drag, so I have to start considering how my final fabric will behave. The pattern actually recommends gabardine, but I’d really prefer to use a wool of some sort. I’m going to New York in a couple of weeks, so will definitely be hitting the famous Mood to try and find something perfect. (Can anyone recommend other NYC fabric shop must-visits?)