Winter coat

It’s been a while since my last coat project. I am somewhat surprised about this, as I absolutely love coats. Love making them too, but mostly I enjoy wearing coats. Before my sewing extravaganza picked up its speed, I used to have a really big problem in purchasing coats for myself. A good quality coat can be really expensive, therefore I’d buy a new coat only every two-three years. There was certain period of time, when I had not bought a new coat for like five years as I couldn’t find anything I liked. So my feeling towards coats is probably deficit induced. And so now, here I am, sitting with at least three different fabrics on my hands that are intended for coats, and contemplating my desires – pointy lapels, round lapels, long coat, short coat. Choices, choices!

I have never owned a truly long coat. I’ve always thought of long coats as something luxurious and rare. That’s perhaps because I have never run into a nice, long coat that would fit me well and would be affordable. After realizing that last year I haven’t made a single coat, and being pressed by my fabrics stash size, I decided that the first project of 2022 was going to be a coat. And here we are – I’ve made a looong and warm coat in very classic camel color. So let me share with you how this project went.

This project was just as long as the coat is. 🙂 Initially I’d expected it to be lengthier than any jacket project, however it wasn’t much. And that’s probably fair enough – technically coats and jackets are garments of comparable complexity, even though a coat might be a larger piece than a jacket. What was different from any jacket project this time was sheer weight and volume that I had to deal with, literally. It was a lot of heavy fabric that I had to work with, to fit on the ironing board or on the table. After having completed the coat now, I’d appreciate to work with something lighter!

As many times before, this project started with the fabric. I bought this awesome Yorkshire melton wool more than a year ago. It was part of my fabric haul in preparation for the previous winter. Clearly, at that point in time I was completely oblivious to time constraints while engaging into all those complex and lengthy projects. Back then it felt absolutely sensible to purchase three different coating fabrics in one haul, and plan for more for another. This now means that a good bunch of fabrics still sit in my stash and they haven’t been touched for more than a year. I no longer do this, and have shared in my post on why it is so cool to start sewing for oneself, that going on a buying spree is one of the mistakes that ought to be avoided when engaging in sewing for self. So among all those fabrics I had this really large piece of extremely heavy wool coating that would not fit onto any shelf, and this time around I’ve decided to deal with it first.

This fabric is literally very heavy, 550 GSM (grams per square metre) heavy. It’s also supposedly very warm, which should be really nice. However, upon embarking on this project, I had doubts if my sewing machine would cope with the thickness and overall heaviness of the fabric (which it did!), and how the fabric would behave while ironed. This was important to understand in order to choose an appropriate coat design for it. I ran a poll on Instagram asking, whether or not I should choose as simple design as possible and avoid eg. pointy lapels. 65 pct of votes went to “any design” as opposed to “no pointy lapels”. However, for the peace of my mind I decided to choose as simple design as I possibly could.

As though perfectly choreographed, Grasser patterns released this new coat pattern, and it was a perfect design for this fabric, exactly what I was looking for! It has patch pockets, which is great as I would not have pulled off welt pockets this time. Conveniently it also has a wide round lapels as opposed to complex pointy ones. And luckily there are no buttons, and snaps are used instead. I knew that my sewing machine would not have managed to stitch button holes on that thickness, so buttons were not an option (I tried and I failed). One downside of the pattern was reglan sleeves. This, curiously enough, was also an upside in a sense, as it is so much easier to set reglan sleeves in if compared to proper sleeves. However, I have been convinced for a long time that reglan sleeves make my narrow shoulders look even narrower and thus make me look tired, that’s why I have avoided them thoroughly up until now. But this time I brushed that small shortcoming off, trying to convince myself that wide collar would partly hide shoulders, and the coat should look fine on me. And so all in all this pattern ticked almost all boxes for me.

Preparation

This time, oddly, I ended up deciding not to make a toile. One reason for this unpopular decision was fabric weight – any fabric that I might have chosen for a toile would not have behaved in a similar way to my coating fabric. So it was unlikely that the toile would have helped me to make any meaningful conclusions. I know, I know, that’s wrong – we’ve established a long time ago that a toile is a must for jackets, blazers, coats! I have to admit that I took a significant risk here and put all trust in Grasser patterns!

First, I pressed the entire piece of fabric with loads of steam. Was trying to get used to that heavy, sturdy feel that I’d be dealing with. Paper pattern pieces were very long, well, obviously, as it was supposed to be a very long coat. My entire sewing room floor was covered with a long stretch of fabric and paper pattern pieces were scattered all over it. But I did not cut into the fabric then. First I needed to make sure I’d have enough of fabric, which I did, just about – out of 3.5 meters of fabric there was nothing left when I was done with it. And also I wanted to plan the interfacing step, which I aimed at performing before cutting actual pattern pieces to avoid fabric shrinkage.

I walked around this long piece of fabric for a long time – was reluctant to cut into it. So at first I cut two belt pieces and stitched the belt up. This helped me harness enough confidence and determination, and eventually I started drawing all the other pattern pieces preparing them to get interfaced and then cut out. Due to fabric being so thick and also while trying to make sure that interfaced parts were cut carefully and meticulously, I cut through a single layer of fabric only. That of course prolonged the exercise even more. It took me an entire day to get to the point when I had all pattern pieces interfaced, cut out and marked with marking thread, notches and chalk marks.

Sewing

I had to get used to using wooden clapper each time I pressed any seam. NOTE: It is such a game changer! I will never even consider pressing seams of thicker fabrics without it! I also had to get used to felled seams – this coat has many of them. It is such a nice seam type, however of course it takes a bit of time to make them. While working with thick fabric the trick is to always make sure that as much bulk as possible is removed from any seam. For flat-fell seam, after stitching a regular seam, one seam allowance has to be trimmed, then both of them ironed to one side (wider seam allowance on top), basted (this step is a must for heavy fabrics, when ironing is not good enough to ensure stability), and top stitched using the longest stitch length.

For all of my top stitching I needed to find a thick top stitching thread. The problem was to match the color of the thread as apparently those top stitching threads do not come in a very wide palette of colors. I was glad that some clever voice inside my head told me to buy an additional spool of top stitching thread even though I knew I had one at home already. I used up both of them. That’s in addition to other two spools of regular thread. I did not have the same color spools of regular thread. One of them was bought as a part of “match the thread” proposition while purchasing the fabric, but it finished really fast. Why on Earth can’t fabric stores consider that one spool ain’t gonna be enough for a coat and give an option to order more than one? Anyhow, I matched a similar color thread, so it was not too big a problem. It’s just that more often than not I have this anxiety of running out of thread in the middle of the project!

The first seam to go in was center back seam, side seams were next. Before stitching side seams I had to decide what to do with belt loops. Instructions asked to simply crochet narrow belt loops and attach them at the very end of the project. However, again, due to the sheer weight of the fabric and hence the belt, I wanted more durable belt loops. At first I made a tester loop out of folded fabric, but it was an extremely unpleasant and thick situation which I did not like at all. So instead I decided to go ahead with the method that was suggested for the hanger loop.

First I cut few narrow bias strips out of matching color lining fabric, folded them length-wise and stitched, thus making a very narrow ties, some 4 mm wide probably. Then I cut as much of seam allowance as I could, and used needle with a long thread tied to the end of each strip to turn it to the right side. Then, by twisting strip ends to opposite directions, I ended up with these nice and firm twisted ties that were stitched into side seams and made for a really delicately looking but sturdy belt loops. I made a small reel on Instagram about this, and it was extremely popular as many fellow sewists probably found this method useful. You are welcome to check it out, if you’re interested – you can access my Instagram profile by clicking a small IG icon on top of this page.

When side seams were done, I had to deal with patch pockets. Here the pockets are HUGE, and that’s great. What was less great was the recommended method of their application. It took me probably half a day to get them in, and that is why I do not think I will ever use this method ever again. The only good thing about this method is that the lining of the pocket will never peek out. But that’s about it.

So the method is the following. Lining piece is attached only to the upper edge of the main pocket, but not the sides. The main pocket seam allowance is ironed in thus preparing it to get stitched on where it will have to go. Then the lining is laid wrong side up where the pocket will be and machine stitched in place. Finally the outer piece, i.e. the main pocket is folded on top and slip stitched in place. This way the raw edge of the lining is hidden by a wider main pocket piece. Top stitching might not be necessary, however, in my case, the top stitching was part of the design. So first I top stitched the pockets, and only then slip stitched the edges so that those raw edges of the lining would get hidden. In my view this method is unnecessarily complex and unpleasant. For my coat, there was one more side effect – since the fabric is so thick, those edge slip stitches can be slightly visible, and thus pocket edges are not quite as clean and impeccable as I would like them to be. So no, I am not going to use this method in the future.

When I had those pockets out of the way, it was a relief. I then proceeded with installing the sleeves. This part had to be done in stages because I was unsure about sleeves length, and that’s because I hadn’t made a toile. The trick here was to be able to determine sleeves length and only then to install those nice flaps. If I had attached the flaps in the beginning of sleeves construction, as instructed, and only later figured that sleeves needed shortening, flaps would have needed to be removed and reinstalled, and I wanted to avoid that. So the ends of my sleeves were only basted at first, and that’s until the point when I made a collar and tried the coat on to see what to do with sleeves length.

This collar is relatively simple. It has few odd corners that were tricky to get pulled off with this fabric, but nothing close to the complexity of pointy lapels. When the undercollar was done and I tried the coat on, I was able to determine, that first of all, sleeves were of good length and that overall fit of the coat was actually quite decent. It was good news!

I proceeded with making sleeves flaps. They were supposed to be made of the main fabric on both sides, however to avoid the bulk and weight, I decided to use lining fabric for the inside of flaps. I interfaced the lining with quite sturdy interfacing cut on bias to accommodate a bit of stetch that would be necessary due to the fact that the inside part was by few millimeters smaller than the outer part. Flaps were quickly done and went onto sleeves. Finally the time came to make the upper collar.

Again, few odd corners had to be dealt with while attaching the collar stand to the upper collar. I also had to sandwich the hanger loop in between them. Here the decision had to be made on what kind of hanger loop would be capable of holding my coat that would weigh some 2.5 kg. I decided to go ahead with the chain, but had to somehow invent the holders for the chain. After few trials and errors, I ended up interfacing a small lining piece with medium weight interfacing, folded it in like double folded bias tape and top stitched both sides of it. Not the most elegant solution probably, but it was not elegance I was after, but durability. Hopefully this will hold!

As it is visible from the above photo, I attached red trimming to the facing, where the lining would get eventually attached, just as I do for most of my jackets. Had to choose from red, beige, purple and black trimming, ended up settling on red and am happy with my choice.

The last bit at this stage was to attach the upper collar and facing to the coat, which meant two long seams – center back down to one side and then again to the other side. At this stage I faced one challenge that I’m unsure how to deal with. Or actually, I’ve just come up with the solution, it’s just that I really don’t like basting! 🙂 The challenge was that sewing from center back and down one side and then another means that one time the facing faces up, and the other time, the facing faces down. Maybe due to the weight of my fabric, I ended up with facing being stretched more and thus becoming longer than the length of the coat on one side but not the other – on the other side it was a bit shorter. At first I did not make much out of it, but later this created me quite a big problem while hemming the coat. So I guess next time I’ll actually need to baste those facings in to make sure the pieces would not slide or stretch while being sewn. Below picture depicts what kind of mess I was dealing with at one side of the hem where the facing was shorter, while the lining was longer.

NOTE: All in all the learning here is that it is crucial to make sure that the length of all long pieces is the same – cut them right first and then baste before stitching together. Only then hemming stage can be swift and easy.

When the collar was done, I had to press internal seams flat and baste the collar so that the seam would not be visible, in that the upper collar would be a touch wider than the undercollar and thus would hide the seam. That basting stayed in until the very last moments of the project, when the last collar top stitching seam was complete.

At that point I again was able to try my semi-finished coat on and determined that I really liked how it looked. It was heavy as h*ll, but hey, that was my initial choice of fabric backfiring. It better be warm now!

Lining

I do not quite like the lining that I have chosen for this project. Not to say that it would have been a great idea to line this coat with silk, because it wouldn’t have. Instead, maybe I could have matched some kind of sateen or even batiste. However, while purchasing the main fabric, I also bought this very regular viscose and acetate lining in stripes. It frayed terribly and is not too pleasant to touch. Fair enough, I might have become spoiled after lining my recent garments with silk. What is more, I do not quite like those stripes being horizontal. Vertical stripes would have looked better, I think. But hey, again, it is what it is now – I followed my initial plan from more than a year ago, and can only stress the point, that it is a mistake to make too many plans in advance!

I made the lining quite quickly. Again, probably it was a mistake to not baste the lining to the facing, as fabric moved while being stitched, and I ended up with lengths of pattern pieces being distorted, as it is visible in the previous picture. Mental note made!

At that point I had to decide whether shoulder pads would be needed to compensate for my narrow shoulders within reglan sleeves. I’ve never made reglan sleeves before, and therefore didn’t even have reglan shoulder pads, so they had to be purchased. I bought few of them in different thicknesses, tried them on, even stitched one in, however eventually decided that shoulder pads were making my coat too much 80’s like, and decided to skip them altogether.

Then insides of the coat had to be tacked – underarm of the coat with underarm of the lining, facing to the main body at shoulders, collar insides. It is one my least favorite parts of these projects, however, it is also a very important stage that helps ensure that the garment would be worn with ease and comfort.

Finally, what was left was hemming my coat and dealing with the vent somehow. I always find attaching lining to the vent intimidating. That is mostly because I have never quite come across a really good description of that stage in any of the instructions. So usually what happens is that I try to figure out what instructions are telling, but mostly end up dealing with the situation as it unfolds in front of me. So my vent lining can usually be described as “I did it SOMEHOW”. This time I also did it somehow. But in the beginning I was very much confused by the fact that the lining was supposed to be of the same length as the main body of the coat at the opening of the front and at vent. I couldn’t wrap my head around this and couldn’t understand how the lining would not be peeking out. Luckily, shortly the trick became apparent. And the trick is that the lining hem is in fact curvy – it is the longest where it is attached to the facing and at the vent, and it becomes shorter closer to side seams.

All seemed good at that point. Apart from the fact that I had trimmed one longer facing to be equal with the main body of the coat. Apparently it was longer for a reason. It mustn’t have been. But by sewing without basting I stretched it. So when I stitched the hem using the method described in my previous post about my Very special vintage jacket, and immediately trimmed all seam allowances and turned everything right side out, it became apparent, that one side of the front was hanging twisted. The facing was too short and was pulling the bottom corner of the coat up. It was bad! And there was no immediate cure – all seam allowances had already been trimmed. After contemplating for quite a while, I decided that there was only one solution possible and I needed to trim the entire hem and shorten the coat. And that was what I did. So my coat is 4 cm shorter than initially intended. It is actually not a bad thing after all – initial length perhaps would have been too long for me. So I didn’t ruin anything with that facing mishap, I just created myself some additional work.

When the hem was complete, there were only finishing touches left. I top stitched the front and the collar, tacked the hem gently right next to where the lining was attached so that the hem would not be gaping inside the garment. By the way, now looking at the pictures I see those tacks slightly visible at the hem – I’ll need to either iron the hem better or remove the tacking stitches after all. And finally I stitched three large snaps on. And with that my heavy and hopefully warm coat was complete!

For this coat I needed 3.5 meters of heavy weight (550 GSM) Yorkshire melton wool, fabric is called Fallen leaves. For the lining I needed some 2.5 meters of viscose and acetate twill. Both fabrics were bought from Fabworks online store. Pattern used here is pattern #866 by Grasser patterns, I purchased it in size 36 (Grasser size 42) and height range of 158-164 cm (my height is 164 cm). Other notions were: quite a bit of lightweight interfacing, quite a bit of interfacing tape, 4 spools of thread, and 3 large snaps. This coat cost me 140 Eur. It was made in January, 2022, I spent almost a month for this project.

How do I feel about this coat? I am still a bit unsure. It is nice, it looks nice, the design is nice. It should look really well with many shoes that I own or with many of my handbags. But I am not sure I’m too fond of that sturdiness of the fabric. I perhaps can get used to it, if the coat proves to be very warm. Well, with all this weight and rough felt-like touch, it at least must be REALLY warm! 🙂 And we shall absolutely test that!

Ok, now, the above paragraph was written right after I finished the project and before I wore the coat outdoors. Admittedly some kind of fatigue may be felt in the description of my first thoughts about this brand new coat. When I actually wore it outside to take pictures, I just loved wearing it! I did not feel the weight of it at all, it was just as any parka or one of my other coats. And it was so warm! The weather was ugly when we were taking pictures – that is also why majority of the pictures are from inside of my office. It was raining/snowing outside and the temperature just above zero Centigrade. I became so hot in my coat so fast, that I could barely endure those few pictures being taken inside. So, oh yes, it is absolutely WARM!

Another observation from the pictures is that I do not like the coat styled with flat shoes the way I thought I would. My initial plan was for it to go with any shoes whatsoever. But probably because the coat is so long and I am the opposite of tall, I look even smaller while wearing flat shoes. I like the look styled with heels so much better. Well, it will be worn in many different ways, I’m sure. It must keep me warm first of all, and that’s why it was made in the first place!

Thanks for checking out this post and let’s catch up next time!

~Giedre~

Published by giedrestyle

This is a sewing blog. I am weekend sewist who enjoys creating a unique and one of a kind wardrobe.

7 thoughts on “Winter coat

  1. Wow! The finish in your coat is amazing 😻 I really enjoyed this blogpost and the detail you included. Congratulations on being able to produce an amazing High End garment.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment, Jane! 🤗 I am so glad you enjoyed this post! This coat is of fairly simple construction, therefore the finish plays this crucial role in making it a bit fancy. I really like how it turned out, will happily wear it for the years to come! 🤎

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    1. Thank you so very much, Mary! 🤗 This pattern has really been thought through. When I first saw it, I also figured that those pockets, sleeve flaps and all the fell seams are put together on purpose. After wearing it now I can say that it is also very comfortable to wear. All in all I am really happy with it! 😊

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