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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.