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.

33 thoughts on “Tobacco toggle coat

  1. Marilla

    Honestly, this looks fantastic despite any imperfections you are aware of. No-one ever notices these things! I love the colour/fabric choice too. You can’t beat a duffle coat with a check lining!

    1. Katie Post author

      Thanks! Yeah I was devastated when I found the pockets somehow ended up 1/2cm off, but you really can’t tell when wearing it.

  2. Marie

    Wow! I bet you’re so glad you pushed through, it looks GREAT! what an achievement and a lovely coat. Ace problem solving too. Full of admiration xx

    1. Katie Post author

      Thanks. Definitely TO TOILE in the future, at least with a complete unknown pattern and expensive wool…

  3. crab&bee

    Congratulations on finishing your coat! Like the other commenters before me, I do think it looks good in spite of the troubles you had making it and I like all of your design choices. I’m a firm toile maker and am attempting to use some hand-tailoring methods in my coat project, but in the end, it’s all new to me and there’s no guarantee that following a process blindly without experience will yield a good result. The fact that you have a beautiful wearable coat and you learned new stuff seems like a great outcome to me. :)

    1. Katie Post author

      Thank you. Yeah you’re right, even fancy techniques don’t necessarily mean success. Good luck though, can’t wait to see the outcome.

  4. Jenny

    #coatfail twins! Yeah!
    Except yours looks better than mine :) Agree that you do learn a lot from projects like this even though it’s a bit crazy making to have mess ups on huge garments…. Ah well. Your next duffel coat will no doubt be awesome

  5. yvette

    Despite your criticisms, the coat looks good! You did a great job on the lining fabric. Don’t beat yourself up too much. We are all proud of your work :-)

  6. Hélène

    This coat is lovely. The gorgeous colour and matching plaid totally cover up any of the flaws you mentioned. Great work!

  7. Sally

    This seems like the perfect casual coat! I really love the fabric, and I can definitely see why you kept at it to make it work :) The things great fabric can make us do… lol

    1. Katie Post author

      I was on the verge of running back for more fabric to have another go! In fact I’d still like to try the Grainline one in the same colour, ha ha.

  8. Pingback: Blogmas Catch-up & Sunday Sew Love: 14 December | Life by Ky

    1. Katie Post author

      Thanks – it is really comfy. I don’t actually enjoy wearing tailored things anyway so I think slouchy worked out OK :)

  9. Sara

    It looks so good! And you’re right about the color. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a coat in that particular, beautiful shade of brown. I hope you wear it with pleasure in spite of all the pain that went into it.

    1. Katie Post author

      It’s an unusual shade, it sometimes reads orange, sometimes reddish. I love it! I am enjoying wearing it, I think I just needed some closure after finishing it!

  10. sewlittletime

    I’m gutted you arent 100% happy with your beautiful wooh but it really does look good. The colour is great on you, the lining is fab and I love the toggles. It’s definitely wearable and you’ll know to muslin next time! I think it’s a win though!

    1. Katie Post author

      I like it much more after reading everyone’s nice comments! And I am definitely wearing it – perhaps I just needed a break from it after finishing it. Did you finish your not-vintage vintage coat?

  11. sallie

    This coat is definitely your friend!! For all your trials and on the fly problem solving and decision making – this turned out really REALLY fantastic!! All those little ‘flaws’ you see are totally not visible when you’re wearing it, and I think it’s unstructured look is totally on point style-wise. I’m definitely going to make a note of some of your additions to this coat – like the hem and hood facing – for my next coat project!

    1. Katie Post author

      Ahh thanks a lot. I like it more now it’s done, and I’d definitely do a hem facing again – that worked out neat.

  12. Caroline

    This coat is gorgeous, especially the fabric and rich colour, it really suits you. You did some great problem solving and should be proud of yourself and your coat.

  13. Ginger

    Dude, NONE of the problems you described are visible in the finished coat. It looks AWESOME. I want one exactly like it, down to the lining and toggles! It’s super cool!

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