Archive | Coats

Coats I’ve made

November 9, 2015

New season, new coat: McCall’s 5525 trenchcoat

Just in time for all my undercover sleuthing needs: a tan McCall’s 5525 trenchcoat! It’s a classic for a reason, folks. I have a fantasy of a wardrobe full of a rainbow of trenchcoats, but decided that I’d start with the workhorse classic, beloved of Burberry et al.

McCall's M5525 Trenchcoat / Cashmerette

This McCall’s pattern is a traditional trenchcoat, with all the bells and whistles you associate with the style: enormous collar, shoulder flap thinggummy-jig, cuff latches, back buttoned cape whatsit and tons and tons of topstitching (apologies for all the technical language folks, a true professional is speaking here). I went with View E (the pattern has some truly… “alternative” alternatives) and added the weird shoulder flap thing in for fun. The main reason I chose it over the trendier indie alternatives was the sizing, as this is a rare pattern that actually comes in true plus sizes, even though it’s still drafted for a small bust (boo). I went with a “straight” 22W which I knew would give me a decent amount of ease. I’m not sure whether that was the right choice – I feel a little swamped in it, and I’m wondering if I should have made the 20W with an FBA. But I hate princess seam FBAs… so. Who knows.

McCall's M5525 Trenchcoat / Cashmerette

When I was in London I assiduously spied on the thousands of women on the tube who were wearing trenchcoats, and scoped out what I wanted to add to the basic pattern (talking of which, I’ve got a separate post coming on fun additional things you can do to coat patterns). Two jumped out at me: that I wanted triple topstitching, which contribute a certain trenchcoat je ne sai pas, and channel stitching, where you sew lines of parallel stitches to add rigidity to a piece and make it look cool. The triple topstitching is much in evidence on these photos, though unfortunately I didn’t get much on the channel stitching which was mostly on the pockets and undercollar.

McCall's M5525 Trenchcoat / Cashmerette

I’ll confess: the topstitching was hard! I used an edgestitch foot which is my #1 best friend, but it still meant being very, very careful and trying to stay parallel. Did I do it perfectly? No I did not. Did I rip out and re-do the princess seams 8 times? Yes, I did. But in the end, I think it’s passable, even if the ladies at Dior would faint on the spot.

McCall's M5525 Trenchcoat / Cashmerette

Check out my cape, Mum!

McCall's M5525 Trenchcoat / Cashmerette

One really bizarre thing about the pattern is the length of the cuff latches – I already shortened them by 3 inches and they’re still a solid 2 inches too long and keep catching on things. Might have to go back in and shorten them.

McCall's M5525 Trenchcoat / Cashmerette

For the main body of the coat i used this Theory “candied ginger” cotton twill from Mood, with buttons from Wawak, and this lovely Liberty silk satin from the crazy cheap Liberty shop in London. Alas, I didn’t have enough lining to print match, but I won’t tell if you don’t. For fun, I added a little electric blue bias tape between the lining and facing for a wee pop.


So there we have it, a classic trench for the coat wardrobe (adding to my beloved Grainline Cascade duffel coat and massive collar coat, and my… less loved green coat). I’m not used to wearing double breasted coats so I do feel a little swamped in it.. We’ll see if I ease into it. I have some amazing Loro Piana waterproof coating from EmmaOneSock from ages ago so I need to decide whether it should be a trench or something else… Decisions, decisions!


Are you a trench fan? Have you tried any other patterns? And anyone want to join my new Private Detective agency? No seam allowance left unexamined!

March 23, 2015

The Grainline Studio Cascade Duffle Coat: Complete!

What’s better than speed sewing?

Many, many, things. Actually: most things. You certainly won’t see me on a race-against-the-clock sewing TV show, because I would undoubtedly sew everything upside down and back to front, and I’m not sure I could get away with claiming it was avant garde, even with the useful tool of my cute accent* (* only works in America).

And yet, I find myself doing it. After a few weeks of making very slow progress on my Grainline Studio Cascade Duffle Coat, I decided to sprint for the finish and spent all of Saturday making it and Sunday morning bagging it. So….

Ta da!

Grainline Studio Cascade Duffle Coat

Ag! I’m in love! As I mentioned previously, I’ve been after a navy blue duffel coat with white cord for aeons and I finally have the one of my dreams. The wool is an absolutely gorgeous double-cloth fleece beauty from Mood – I don’t generally have great luck buying online from them, so I ordered swatches and this one leapt out. It has a fantastic hand, drapes nicely and is deliciously spongy.

Grainline Studio Cascade Coat

I paired it with midnight blue Ambiance lining, and peeks of plaid (more on that below).

Theoretically I’m outside Grainline’s sizing, but when I looked at the finished measurements I realized I’d be OK thanks to the ease – and indeed, this is a straight size 18. Obviously there’s a lot less ease in the bust than called for but actually it’s just the right amount for me. Although I didn’t alter the pattern, next time there are two things I’ll do. First, I didn’t realize the hood is also graded up until after I’d made it – my bust may be a lot bigger than a size 0 but my head isn’t (!) so next time I’ll grade from the 18 at the neckline to a smaller size. Until then I can smuggle squirrels in my hood. Second, the sleeves run a little on the short side – I did a really small seam allowance for the sleeve facing but probably could have done with another half inch. Apart from that, the pattern is a dream – all the notches match, the instructions were straightforward, and I love the styling and details.

Grainline Studio Cascade Coat


Talking of details, let’s jump in! After extensive pondering and community consultation I went with a light brown/bronzy leather colour and made my own toggles using 2.5 mm off-white waxed Japanese cording from Pacific Trimming, and horn toggles from MyGann on Etsy.  Then for the zipper band and inside bias, I used some lovely plaid cotton flannel from Grey’s Fabrics. I love the hidden zipper on the pattern – both practical for keeping you warm in the winter, and a place to add a fun accent.

Grainline Studio Cascade Coat

I underlined the entire body of the coat with Thinsulate, which, on the first outing out of the house, was much appreciated. At the last minute I also added shoulder pads, and I’m glad I did as it gives it a slightly  more structured look.

I took quite a bit of time trying to get everything perfect, but alas, there will always be mistakes – in particular, when I bagged the lining I “took off” a little more on one side of the zipper than the other, but I didn’t notice until after I’d graded all the seams so there was no going back! For the famously tricky toggles I used a leather needle, and after an ill-fated attempt to use contrasting topstitching thread I reverted to matching regular thread which cunningly hides the wobbles.

Grainline Studio Cascade Coat

I will admit: this was a bit of a beast to get through the sewing machine. I have a pretty powerful Bernina which glides through jeans without a hiccup, but bagging this coat broke 6 (six!) heavy-duty needles, and involved me having to yank the layers through (yes I’m aware this is why the needles were breaking…). That’s mostly because there are many, many layers at the center front. So, just be aware that you’re going to need a fairly good machine, or to use a lighter weight fabric than me.

So the final verdict is: I’m thrilled with my new coat! It was much easier to make than my other coats thanks to the lack of bust shaping or tailoring, but I think it still looks pretty spiffy. And I look like Paddington.

Grainline Studio Cascade Coat

Do you have a soft spot for duffle coats, dear readers? Have you ever wanted to dress up like your favourite Peruvian bear? And are you as hopelessly addicted to coat-making as me? I’m already plotting my next: a traditional trenchcoat…

March 19, 2015

Dufflin’ on: two steps forward, one step back on the coat

Why is it that when I have very little time to sew I manage to squeeze it in, but when I have all the time in the world it comes to a screeching halt? Am I the only one? I need to get busier sharpish if I’m ever going to finish my Grainline Studio Cascade Coat before the snowbanks and ice mountains melt.

That said, I did make a start this week. Let’s begin with the good. I made the full lining first – a tip I picked up somewhere I no longer remember (thanks, tip-giver!). The reason it’s a great idea is because if you leave it until the last step in the garment-making process, it’s incredibly tempting to rush it in a bid to finish up. If you make it first, however, you tend to take more care, and you can try it on to check fit – if it doesn’t fit, then it’s less crushing to remake a lining than the whole thing.

Cascade Duffel Coat Lining

My favourite bit so far is the tartan plaid flat binding at the facing/lining junction – I’ve wanted to put that in a coat for ages but always forget for some reason. There was a bit of angst behind this though – I managed to sew the whole thing… before realising I hadn’t put the binding in. I’d already trimmed and graded the seams, and taken the Thinsulate out of the seam allowance so I was terribly tempted to move on. But then I gave myself a virtual slap in the face and a good talking to: don’t cut corners Sewing Jenny! Don’t give in to your mistakes! So I painstakingly marked all the seamlines (as the grading had made the layers offset), ripped all the seams, and put the bias in. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but worth it in the end.

Grainline Studio Cascade Duffel Coat Bias

As I underlined the lining with Thinsulate I can’t iron it (because it will disappear as if by magic), so it’s a little puffy in these photos. But in the long term I think my poor shivering body will be grateful for the warm coat, puffiness be damned. 

Next up: the coat itself. It’s not tailored – though I may add a back stay – which means it should be a little speedier than my previous attempts, I think. Do you make the lining before the garment? Are there any other times you change up the order of sewing from the “rules”? Come on, my little rebels, share your transgressions.

March 2, 2015

In progress: Grainline Cascade Duffle coat

You know what they say: coat patterns are like buses – you wait years for one, and then two come along at once.
Or is that men?
Anyhoosles I was riding high on the Leanne Marshall mini excitement-wave, but starting to come down slightly after a not-so-great muslin when up pops Jen’s Cascade Duffle coat. The coat that was made for me. Even if Jen didn’t realise that’s what she was doing.
I have long waxed nostalgic over a cream twill duffle coat (with cream fur trim, natch!) that I got in the Laura Ashley sale when I was about 18. Of course, me being me, it was only cream for a season and ended up getting chucked, but ever since then I’ve nursed the idea of a proper duffle in navy wool with brown leather and white cord toggles.
You know what I’m talking about.
It had to be done!
I haven’t made an unshaped coat before so I whipped up a muslin to check and it looks pretty acceptable. The arm is all wonky but that’s because I put it in backwards. Yep. Top quality sewing there. The good news is: the 18 fits across my chest (taking up most of the drafted ease, but that’s OK) and there are no majorly weird bust-draping issues.
I’m making the coat from a gorgeous double-faced navy wool from Mood (still available here) – it’s really, really nice. I’m making the zipper tape and internal piping from plaid from Grey’s Fabrics, the lining is Ambiance Bemberg (here), and the body of the lining will be interlined with Thinsulate. I’ve ordered toggles from MyGann on Etsy, but now I have two decisions to make.
First decision: what colour leather to use for the toggles. I’m making my own, and Ashley kindly donated two leather samples for consideration. Do I go for the warmer chocolatey leather or the more bronzed, orangey colour? I’m torn!
Second decision: I ordered two cords from Pacific Trimming. The upper one is more white and rope-like, the lower one is natural colour and is waxed (so probably more hard wearing). What do you think?
So, on to the rather long process of getting it ready to actually start sewing. I think most non-sewists would be astonished at how long it takes us to work on a coat before we even approach a sewing machine! I must admit that I find it a challenge to be patient and accurate during all these prep stages, even though I know it makes a big difference to the end result. Blogging doesn’t help matters – it definitely gives you a (false) sense of urgency. So I’m trying to get around these impulses by doing tasks bit by bit rather than in huge chunks of time.
First up, I got on with pre-treating the wool. Perhaps the dullest thing known to woman. I know some folks throw wool in the dryer with a damp towel but I’ve tried that twice, and both times I’ve ended up with damaged, slightly felted wool. So it was the old fashioned approach for me: a heavy steam. Luckily I have a gravity feed iron which makes it a touch easier.

Then, cutting and interfacing. It definitely takes a while, but again something worth doing accurately. I did it in short sessions to try to not get tired, and then I did a second push a few days later to cut and fuse all the interfacing (mind that the front and back armhole pieces are labeled incorrectly – just swap them!).

Next up I need to cut the lining and Thinsulate and baste them together (I think I’m going to do it by hand this time), and then, I think, construction can begin.
So, which leather and cord do you think I should make? And also, should I self-line the hood so it’s all in the navy wool, or should I use the lining? I’m on the fence!

January 15, 2015

2015 Presents…. Bright Green Coat: The Comeback

Well here’s a turn up for the books: I fixed the green coat of doom
Simplicity 1759 coat
After the unveiling of my boxy, unflattering coat, I had a torrent of suggestions about how to improve it. Two things were clear: I needed to fix the neckline – that collar just *didn’t* work – and take it in through the waist and hips. 
At the time, I’d spent way too long making and fixing it as I went along, so I couldn’t quite face the seam ripping and whatnot. However 2015 brought with it some viral sickness thing. Overall: a bad thing. But for my coat? A good thing! Because it meant I was sat on my couch for hours at a time watching TV, which proved prime seam ripping opportunity. And boy are there a lot of seams when you have a bagged lining and everything’s top stitched. 
Simplicity 1759 coat
I took in the waist by about 4 inches, and about 2 inches through the hip and length of the coat. I also removed the side seam pockets, which were adding unnecessary bulk. The result is noticeably slimmer, but still has enough ease to move about and wear over bulky clothes.

Simplicity 1759 coat
And then, I removed the standing collar entirely, but the real stroke of genius came from commenter Texas Urban who suggested a faux fur collar. Genius! I promptly ordered a TopShop one (via Nordstrom), and it works A TREAT! Big woop! The big “V” of the fur collar together with the nipped in side seams gives it a totally different look. At the moment the collar is just sitting on top of the coat, but I’m going to put buttons on the coat and little elastic loops on the collar to keep it in place. 
Simplicity 1759 coat

So there you go! Perseverance, the wisdom of my dear readers, and a bit of patience paid off. And now I have two homemade coats, rather than one awesome coat and one wadder. The fit isn’t perfect, but I’m also trying to cut myself more slack these days.. maybe I need to do another side by side of the RTW coats I wear vs. my homemade ones!

Simplicity 1759 coat

This is certainly not the last coatmaking you’re going to see around these parts, though. I just bought some incredible Italian Loro Piana raincoat material from EmmaOneSock to make the McCall’s 5525 trenchcoat, I have some wool lined up for the new Leanne Marshall Simplicity coat (though I’m a bit intimidated by all the problems folks are having over at the PatternReview sewalong), and I also have a (likely overly ambitious) plan to make a boucle and leather deconstructed motorcycle jacket probably from the StyleArc Ziggi jacket. I’m not sure if I’ll get to all of them in 2015, but I’ve enjoyed tailoring and coatmaking so much I think I’ll have one on the go for at least the next few months. Do you enjoy making coats? What are your favourite patterns and techniques?

November 24, 2014

Coating with Cashmerette unveiled! Or, lessons in coatmaking

The never-ending green coat of doom is DONE! 

My goodness, that was an epic project. I started off foolishly thinking it would be fairly straightforward, because I used the same pattern, Simplicity 1759, as I did for the my coat last year which turned out really well. However, there were two major things I didn’t account for: the difference that a different fabric would make (cashmere vs. wool boucle), and the different collar variation – last time I drafted my own big collar, this time I went with view B, which is a sort of standing collar which angles in to the neck.

My many coat-in-progress posts (see them all here!) documented the trials and tribulations I had with the construction… But I managed to perservere with help from the lovely sewing community, and with the exception of some slightly wavy upper right bodice seams the end result was pretty decent.

And perhaps my favourite feature of all is the flamingo lining.. Flamingos for the win! 

But, let’s move onto the elephant in the room. Did you notice that so far all the photos are of the coat undone? Yep, that’s not a coincidence.

Because….. this.

And this. 

 I’m not sure if these photos do it justice but it looks really, really bad done up in person. As in: friends said to me “Oh, I’m sure it doesn’t actually look as bad as you think!” and then they saw it and went “ah, well, I bet you learned a lot!” *sheepish face*.

Of course, we all have wadders from time to time. I won’t deny that it smarts to have a wadder be something where you invested in the fabric and in so much time sewing and re-sewing, but there you go, such is life. I’m not sure that it’s really salvageable because ultimately, the shape just doesn’t suit me – I think it’s mostly the collar and the button positioning (which I can’t change due to bound buttonholes…) – but others think it’s too big around the hips, so let’s face it, it all round doesn’t suit me.

Sigh. Let’s review the things that did work out OK!

The actual collar is kind of fun, even if it doesn’t suit me.

Probably my best bound buttonholes to date (thanks again, Karen!)

All said, I did learn quite a few things from making this coat – in addition to what I figured out last year (full list of coat tutorials here!). 
  • Always make a full muslin of something you’re going to make with expensive fabric – even if you’re just doing a variation of something that worked for you before
  • Always test the interfacing / fabric combination first before you interface the whole thing – it turned out that the combo of my cashmere and proweft interfacing refused to go around curves and therefore had to be ripped out
  • Block fusing sometimes works… and sometimes doesn’t. 
I’m left with a coat which I’m not sure will get much wear, but in the meantime, I’m plotting to make another. Before I started sewing I was always a huge coat fan, and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon, coat fail or no coat fail!
Are you working on coat projects this year? Which patterns are you using? And have you ever had an epic coat fail like this? 

October 31, 2014

Coating with Cashmerette: Entering the final stretch

The apparently never ending cashmere coat saga continues! But is, thank heavens, nearing completion. 
So after all the interfacing-ripping and re-steaming and shaping, I found that the upper side panel (above the dart) was now waving… ARGH. This is *probably* because of being overworked and now under-supported, so I decided to do what I probably should have done all along: hand-baste horsehair canvas to the section. This is the first time I’ve ever done it, and I was skeptical that the stitches wouldn’t show on the right side, but turns out it isn’t that hard. I followed my trusty Singer tailoring book, and the result is fine (I know it isn’t perfect!). 

The benefit to this is that it’s now more stable, and the canvas takes a curve much better than the cashmere so it better for shaping. It’s still not 100% perfect on the right side but I’m really, really hoping that a professional pressing at the end will smooth everything out.

Next up, I started the hem – I’m following Emma One Sock’s lining bagging tutorial (which involves hand setting the sleeves), and I started by gently pressing the hem up (with 1/2 inch of canvas extending beyond the fold to get a soft fold), basting it down with silk thread, and then hand blind stitching it down about 3/4 inch from the raw edge.

The next stage is completing the backs of the bound buttonholes, and then bagging the lining… and then done!  Sadly, I’m traveling for work a bunch at the moment but I’m hoping that by the end of November it should all be done, just in time for the weather to be too cold to wear it… Oops! I will just have to swan around inside in it instead.


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