Sunday 21 December 2014

Navy wool coat

I made a winter coat! And it's in time for the festive season. 

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!

Don't I look proud in my new coat?

 The fabric

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! 
The Surrey Hills, ladies and gentlemen! We are so lucky to have this right on our doorstep. 

The pattern

Update - this pattern is Pattern of the Week here at £2.95! Hurry up if you want your own copy. Thank you SylvieW for the heads-up :)

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. 

Pattern adjustments

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! 

Finishing touches

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 :)  


  1. What a fabulous story, love a little history. Fabulous coat. I would feel fantastic wearing that given the history.

    1. Thank you Tina! I do feel so very lucky to get my sticky fingers on such lovely vintage fabric :)

  2. Great job with your coat. It fits beautifully.

    1. Thank you for your kind words Linda. It keeps me cosy, too :D

  3. Lovely coat and great history to the fabric. My mum has just unearthed a load of fabric from storage from me. Amongst it, one panel of cashmere which her mother bought for her - so around 50 years old!

    Also, that pattern, it's on offer for a few days as pattern of the week on here:
    You know, just in case anyone wants to copy your coat :)

    1. Woo how wonderful! Cashmere, too!

      Thank you so much for sharing the link - I can't believe it's only £2.95! I'll update the post this evening.

  4. Love the coat, such a great fit and the style really suits you. Rich colour too. Perfect for the chill we are having at the moment.. also love the lining :)

    1. Thank you sweetie :) It's chilly alright!!

  5. Teeheehee, Rudolph! The coat turned out beautifully! It fits you so well and is such a lovely, classic shape without being boring. Well done, lady!

    1. Thank you! I'm so pleased with myself :D

  6. Lovely coat and you did your mom's fabric justice!

    1. Thank you so much! I sent some photos to my mum, and she did really like the end result. That is something as she's a very honest lady :)

  7. Awesome coat! Glad you were able to squeeze it out of only 2 metres of fabric! Being petite has its advantages :)

    Did you interface any of the pieces? I like the Project Runway patterns, but sometimes I think they leave out some of the finer tailoring/construction steps. I've been on the lookout for a coat pattern and I'm on the fence with this one but I like how it has variations for both with and without a belt.

    1. Thank you, and yes, it is times like these where I am thankful for my small frame.

      Yes, I did use interfacing on the front and collar (one piece) as well as the front facing and collar piece. In fact, I tried out two different types of interfacing - your bog standard iron-on interfacing (medium weight), and a iron-on woven interfacing. Both worked fine.

      In terms of the tailoring/construction steps - I did refer to a couple of books instead for those. To be honest the instructions to this pattern, due to all the different options, were all over the place, so I learned more about tailoring tips from my own research prior to assembling the coat.

      I do like this pattern, but only really after the lapels have been substantially reduced. I've seen some ladies pulling off the imposing lapels, and really rocking the look but I know that it wasn't for me. I'm not sure what style you are looking for but in my stash I have McCals 5525, and Vogue 1266 for coats, in case you wanted to check those out.

  8. It turned out fantastic! I love your fabric choices. I can't get on with buttonless coats as the ties constantly work themselves loone on me. I likea how streamlined they look though. Looking forward to seeing your trench!

    1. Thank you Amy. I wasn't sure about the buttonlessness either but am amazed at this one. You could always try a inside/invisible button to keep things in place whilst still achieving the streamlined look.


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