Sewing A Winter Coat

After spending hours making the Etta Dress, shamefully I have only worn it once. Even though I loved wearing it, knowing that I’d made it myself, it got me thinking about making a more wearable everyday handmade wardrobe. Before launching into buying loads of fabric and patterns, I spent some time thinking about what makes up my day to day wardrobe. I also defined my style and read around the concept of capsule wardrobes. With winter coming up, I knew I wanted to make a coat to get as many wears out of my make as possible.

In summer I made use of the Sew Over It 20% off Sale and bought the Chloe Coat Pattern and the online class: an introduction into sewing coats.  When I first saw the Chloe Coat pattern I loved the classic collarless cut and loved the idea of making multiple coats in different weights of fabric to see me through the seaons. It was the first time I’d bought an online class and I can really recommend it, as it gives you confidence to tackle trickier projects, holds your hand through more complex steps and allows you to go at your own pace. I dilligently watched all the steps even before buying any fabric, so I knew what I was letting myself in for. I kept the laptop to the side of the sewing machine to refer back to the videos, I must have watched the lining video about six times!

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Contructing the pattern was a big task, with separate elements for the coat, interfacing and lining. Chloe is a 72 page PDF, so it was an evening’s work and I recommend making floor space and doing it all in one go so you don’t get mixed up.

Buying coating fabric can feel a bit daunting as it is more expensive. I watched a timely vlog by Gutherie and Ghani on the arrival of their autumn fabric, where Lauren explains the difference between coating fabrics in detail.  Like most people, I always thought the thicker a coat fabric, the warmer it would be, but the properties of a warm coat come from the composition of the fabric. In general, the higher the wool content, the warmer the coat. A cashmere wool coating, which can feel thin to touch, will be warmer than a chunky polyblend.

I set about looking for some fabric. I had a few projects in mind when I first saw the chloe coat; a plain black wool coat with a black and white stripey lining, a navy or colbalt coat with a gold lining and a geometric print in a lighter weight fabric.  I have had this gemoetric print coat saved on my pinterest board for years and I’m still searching for the perfect patterned fabric for a lightweight version.

In the end I settled for a Navy Twill Wool Blend Fabric from Minerva Crafts that I spotted in the sale for £7.99/m, a safe bet that I knew would go with plenty of my day to day clothes. Additionally I could put it on without thinking about what I was wearing underneath and it was not a huge investement if it all went pear shaped. It has a 60% wool content and 40% Polymaide content, if I was honest I was worried that just 60% of wool it wouldn’t be warm enough. But after looking at the labels of my current high street coat I was suprised to see just how much wool content I’d been able to buy just for just £7.99/m and I love how warm it is. It really proves the value of natural fibres, and next time I make a coat I would definitely invest in 100% wool now I can call myself a confident coat maker.

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To prepare the fabric, instead of prewashing, you need to steam the wool. When pressing the seams, it’s recommended you use a tailor’s clapper and ham. I invested in a tailor’s ham because I thought it would be handy for pressing sleeves on other projects, but I made a DIY clapper from some wood offcuts and stuck them together with gorilla glue. Wool takes a bit of extra pressing, the best analogy I read likens the ironing of the fabric, to using curling irons on your hair. The longer you leave the heat on, the better set the curl, and the longer you press the heat in with the clapper, the flatter the seam.

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I made a toille to check the fitting, I have broad shoulders so following the instructions, I cut the size to fit my shoulders and was able to take in the side seams. The style of the coat is unstructued and oversized, so the fit wasn’t too complicated. There is about 6 inches of ease which allows plenty of space for woolly jumpers. I didn’t construct the toille in full, because I knew how labour intensive the project was going to be, and this navy wool fabric wasn’t crazy expensive. I actually saw the navy version as a wearable toille itself.

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The construction was straightforward, the class introduces the tailoring technique of using ice wool under the shoulders, which involved some hand sewing, but it is not tricky. It was the first time I inserted an invisible zip and again it was really straight forward, I just had to triple check when I was cutting down the zip placket to make sure I didn’t get my right and left mixed up. I really like the colbalt blue zip as it adds a playful detail.

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The patch pockets are lined, very practical and large enough for a set of keys when running out of the door.

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Constructing the the lining was straightforward, but hemming the lining and turning it inside out was a bit tricky. When you reach the hem the end is in sight, so it’s tempting to hurry along, but it’s worth just taking your time and coming back to it with fresh eyes. I chose this gold lining from my local fabric store Abakhan  in Altrincham to add a bit of interest to the relatively plain coat.

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I am so pleased with the end result, it was a time intensive project, but it was so satisfying seeing it all come together and worth the investment as I have worn it nearly everyday since finishing it. I have pulled it on over my trainers and leggings and jumper when walking the dog, and with a dress and tights or worn with jeans and boots.

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I would make this pattern again, but recently I started to consider the enviromental cost of fabric production and over consumption following watching Stacy Dooley’s recent BBC documentary Fashion’s Dirty Secret. So for now, this navy coat works well with my autumn and winter wardrobe and I don’t really need any more coats. So I have neatly packed the pattern away to dig out at a later date, the timeless cut of the coat means it won’t go out of fashion and I look forward to experimenting with a geometric print fabric. I’ll no doubt be wearing this coat for more than half the year, let’s be honest it does always rain in Manchester, proudly knowing that I made it with my own hands.

All for now.

Claire & co.

xo

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