Adventures in Coatmaking
So I’ve lived in Australia almost my entire life, except for the 8 months I spent living in Sweden when I was 18 or so. Living in Melbourne means mild weather — during the summer, it can get hot, up to 40C, but only for a couple of days at a time. During the winter it never goes below freezing. I have an unlined wool coat that used to belong to my Dad that I wear during July and August, but that’s about the warmest thing I own. Most of the time I got away with a leather jacket if I need an extra layer. I wasn’t in Sweden for a lot of the winter admittedly, but those couple of weeks with below zero temperatures (-22C was my personal record) I didn’t really spend a lot of time outside. No-one did, it was cold and dark! I don’t remember if the coat I had was entirely appropriate, but I obviously lived to tell the tale.
I’ve had two summers this year and the weather has finally broken, which means I had to start thinking about a coat. My Dad’s coat, while warm, wasn’t going to cut it for those exceptionally cold days over the holidays. I could buy a coat, however deep down, I knew I wanted to make a coat. Along with bras and jeans, a coat is like a rite of passage for a home sewer.
I chose McCall’s 7442 as my coat pattern. The envelope image is admittedly a bit goofy, but the technical drawing is really lovely. I made a toile in size 14, grading down to a 12 in the shoulders, plus I made all the petite adjustments in the bodice and sleeves, which… seemed to have worked! My curves aren’t as pronounced once I’m bundled up in thermals and sweaters.
After much research, I decided on a wool and Kasha/Sunback lining combination, plus any underlining required to stabilise the fashion fabric. I don’t anticipate spending a lot of time outside when the weather is rubbish, I basically just need something to get me from home, to the subway, to wherever I’m going.
I bought my fashion fabric from Paron’s during their closing down sale. It was bittersweet visiting Paron’s — the staff were still upbeat and the bargains were fantastic (my fabric was $9 per yard), but there was very much a sense there was some livelihoods taking a hit because the store was closing. I also bought some silk organza from Chic Fabrics to underline the fabric. The weave is fairly solid, but I just wanted to make sure.
The lining came from B&J Fabrics, as my researched indicated they were the only ones who stocked this kind of lining in the city. That was another new-to-me store, and I must say, it was very exciting to touch $240 per yard fabric (should I admit I did that)? They had a small collection of Sunback, but it did include the polka dot fabric I fell in love with!
The buttons were close out buttons from M&J Trimmings. Gosh, they were hard to find, I just wasn’t happy with anything. These aren’t really a perfect match, but I really liked them, so I figured I would just go for it. The faux fur trim is from Mood, it’s an Alexander Wang piece. I was worried that it would be a lot of look, but once I refrained from attaching the fur to the cuffs as well, it evened out (note, I still might do that).
I do worry that I haven’t packed enough layers into my coat. I have been reading about Tasha’s coat, where she intends to use Thinsulate in her jacket, plus I considered lambswool like Gertie did all those years ago. I’m kind of banking on the expertise I read on this Artisan’s Square thread to come through though and while I wouldn’t describe my combination as toasty, it’s warmer than what I had.
Once I had collected everything for the coat, I stalled a lot, nervous about cutting into fabric I couldn’t replace and just generally being a wimp, but once I got started, there was no stopping me! I did make a couple of adjustments on the fly. I added a pleat to the lining, which isn’t in the original pattern, plus I ran the lining all the way down the skirt of the coat. My tailoring textbook was such a valuable resource on this project and I would recommend getting it into your library if you don’t already.
All the hand stitching required left me very zen. Each seam is cross-stitched down to help it lay flat — I don’t have a clapper and didn’t want the wool to lose its bounce because I steamed the heck out of it. There’s feather stitching on the lining to keep the pleats closed, and the faux-fur collar is actually basted to the coat, so that it can be removed when the coat requires cleaning. Inserting the sleeves was kind of amazing too, I used a technique from the aforementioned tailoring text that is also detailed here on the Lolita Patterns website. It’s magic, it made setting the sleeves so easy and it makes them look great.
So I finished this coat back at the start of December, which means I’ve had a chance to wear it quite a bit. The wool I chose isn’t holding up like I hoped it would. You may be able to see from the photos where it’s starting to wear. It will be fine for this season, and perhaps even next season, but I do want to chose something a lot sturdier next time. I would also try to include something warmer as well, I feel like I could beef this up a little bit.
I also want to practice hemming and using horsehair braid a little more. The hem is fine, but when you see it from my angle, you can pick out some slight puckering, as the lining might be a smidge shorter than the shell.
So much!! It has been a confidence boost, that’s for sure. I am actually making another coat in a couple of weeks with Jennifer at Workroom Social, so I’m looking forward to what tips and tricks she has up her sleeve (hint, it’s many).