Ladies and gents, I am super pleased to share my latest project with you. This is the first winter coat I have ever made, and I don't think it will be the last!
The fabric is a pretty special one. When I was in Beijing visiting family and friends back in September/October, my mum took out a beautiful piece of wool from her cupboards. She had bought it when she was about my age, which also means that the fabric is probably as old as me. The price at the time was £1 a metre, and apparently she bought it due to peer pressure, as her friends were speculating that fabric prices were about to shoot up. I'm not sure if the prices did surge shortly after, but I do know that you can't get 100% wool for £1 a metre any more, or at least in the parts of the world that I've set foot in. .
It's a truly lovely fabric, and has survived the years extremely well. But boy did I feel the pressure to do it justice! My mum has already requested a picture of the end product so that she can show it to her friends!
I've had the Simplicity 2311 (Project Runway) pattern in my stash for a while, but hadn't quite had the fabric or the courage to have a go at a full winter coat. Now that I've claimed back my sewing room from all the building mess, and as my normal winter coat started to fall apart, I knew that it was time.
I've always been a fan of Project Runway patterns, and this one was no exception. I wanted a long-ish coat, to keep me warm and cosy through the winter months, but also one that is classic and timeless, without too many decorative details which might go out of fashion. After a lengthy debate, I went with the long, double breasted version with the tie belt and non-gathered sleeves.
I had some issue with the fabric, as my mum, in her attempt to beat inflation, only bought 2 metres of the wool... Good job I am quite small (I cut a size 4), and just about got away with fitting all the pattern pieces on the fabric after spending a morning playing with the "puzzle" and shortening the pattern by a couple of inches.
I did a muslin for it, with a plasticy fabric that frayed like there was no tomorrow (you can probably sense my relieve that it is no longer in my stash)! I did this because I couldn't afford to make a mistake with the wool (as there is literally tiny pieces of scrap left after carefully cutting out), and also I wasn't quite sure about the huge lapels from view B.
I made a few adjustments after the muslin, but overall the fit was decent anyway. Sewing the muslin also boosted my confidence with the project, as it was really no different from making a princess lined dress.
I also consulted a couple of my sewing books, including Vogue Sewing (revised and updated) and Couture Sewing Techniques.
After the muslin and the research, these are the adjustments I have made to the pattern:
- The petite adjustment to raise the waist;
- Shortened the length even further (it ended up being about 5cm longer than the shorter version) to squeeze into the fabric;
- SBA on the side front piece using this method;
- Took in a couple of cm at the centre back seam;
- Reshaped the lapels - reduced the width and raised the breaking point. To make the latter effective, I also had to shift the dart;
- I didn't use the same pattern pieces for the lining. Instead, I followed the pictures here. This method reduces the stress on the lining fabric, which is often less stretchy than the fashion fabric, and also allows the lining to be bagged without hanging down from the hem.
Construction and instructions
The sewing process didn't take too long - I broke it down by constructing the outer shell without sleeves (as I have a bit of a sleeve-setting phobia), constructing the lining with the sleeves, setting sleeves on coat and attaching the belt carriers, and finally bagging out the lining.
A word to say about the bagging out method. After a bit of searching, I ended up following this tutorial, which explained the steps really well with great photos. What I did do differently, was that instead of opening up a seam in the sleeve lining (as I had already serged all the lining seams due to excessive fraying - the thought of the seams melting within the bagged lining was driving me crazy!), I left a 20cm opening in the coat and lining hem to turn the coat inside out. It worked wonderfully, and took no time to slipstitch the opening afterwards. I will happily do the same thing again next time.
Now I wanted to mention the pattern instructions. They are fine, and with some dedication and a highlighter I managed to follow them, but please be warned that they do jump around an awful lot, especially if you are looking to make the coat with Front B, and also there are often lots of steps cramped into each point. For those reasons, if you are a beginner to coat making/tailoring, I would highly recommend marking the instructions as you go along, and read everything twice!
I spent a bit of time umming and ahhing about whether to go with buttons with the belts or the tie belt with the carriers (following the phraseology in the actual pattern). I went as far as ordering some navy French vintage buttons, which are yet to reach me. In the end I liked the streamlined look with the tie belt, and liked that it cinches the waist in appropriately. I also inspected my wardrobe and realised that all my coats have buttons! So it's certainly time for something a bit different.
Finally, the lining. This is an Indian silk/poly mix that I bought from my recent work trip to Dubai (at about £2 a metre!) and it was a match made in heaven with the wool fabric. I haven't quite decided whether to add a hidden button yet (as currently the coat seems to retain its shape pretty well without it) but this would be one international coat if I do, with the Chinese vintage wool, Indian fabric purchased from Dubai and vintage French buttons. How fabulous!
So there you have it, my first home made winter coat. I am 100% happy with it (and I don't say this about many of my projects), and am relieved that I was able to make use of such a lovely piece of fabric gifted from my mum. I am sure it will see me through many winters to come. Then I realised - this is the beauty about sewing outerwear, isn't it? This coat is going to see the world with me a lot more than my favourite dress/blouse would ever have the chance to.
What's next? Perhaps I'll keep the momentum going by making a trench coat for the spring! I sense some planning/day dreaming coming up. In the meantime, I hope you all make the most of the Christmas break, and enjoy the wonderful festive season wherever you are! Allow me to leave you with the festive picture of Rudolph in front of the house at Polesden Lacey (where we were today for some festive fun, and where the photos above were all taken) to get you in the holiday mood :)