So my recent black upcycled leather skirt was a blast! I wear it all the time as part of all sorts of outfits and enjoy immensely. When people get to know that it was made out of my dad’s old coat and I made it myself, usually they look astonished, which, I have to admit, I enjoy very much 🙂 When my mom and dad saw that skirt, they were also very surprised that this kind of transformation was at all possible. And shortly my mom offered her old leather coat for a remake too. I was glad to take it and to turn into one more upcycled leather skirt. And here it is!
This time around I had even less leather to play with than the other time. And that’s fair as my mom’s coat was smaller than my dad’s coat. That’s why my task of making a pattern for this skirt was more difficult and I had to calculate even more carefully than previous time. But let’s start from the beginning. Here’s my mom in her coat like a decade ago, when wearing leather coats was still a thing. This coat was made of thin and soft genuine leather that I was glad to reuse.
Perhaps inspired by my success with the leather skirt made of his coat, my dad kindly offered to rip mom’s coat apart. He is retired and very meticulous person, so his kind offer was nothing strange really and he did an excellent job in carefully preserving all seam allowances of coat pieces that ended up being essential for me as I had to save each centimeter of the width of leather pieces.
As it is visible in the above right picture, reusable leather pieces were pretty narrow and not too long (these are the pieces of the lower part of the coat). Also, coat hem is quite pronounced too, so the bottom of each proper piece was not really reusable. When I inspected coat pieces after laying them on the floor, it was unclear if I was at all going to be able to pull a skirt of, and if so, the skirt was to be narrow and short.
The first thing to do here was to devise a pattern. There are no readily available patterns for this kind of situation. I took a narrow and short pencil skirt pattern that was meant to be used for another leftover wool skirt project and started playing with it. Initial skirt pattern has a slit at one side of the front. This allowed me to initially divide the front into three parts. But very quickly it became obvious that there was not going to be enough width for a wider center front panel. So it was divided into two, making it four front panels in total and four back panels, too. This skirt does not have a separate waist, therefore I also needed to figure out how to cut internal waist facings. Front facing has a center seam as there was not enough width of good leather for front facing to be cut as a continuous piece. Below picture shows how things looked when I was planning how to cut skirt pieces. It’s worth noting that I had to avoid button holes, pocket welts, holes left after buttons had been removed, hems, seams, so in general all imperfections of leather left after its previous life as a coat.
In these sort of upcycling projects – and I’ve done few of them by now to know quite well – a lot of time and effort goes into adapting a pattern to available fabric (in this case, leather) pieces, calculating and planning. This case was not an exception. When I eventually cut all the pattern pieces out of leather, the project essentially reached its midpoint. I had to fiddle a bit with removing old interfacing, installing new interfacing tape for the zipper stitching line, however that was not a big deal really. Shortly I was ready to stitch.
Stitching four pieces to make the front and four pieces to make the back was pretty easy. This leather was quite thin and flexible, so my sewing machine equipped with walking foot and leather needle was doing its job quite well. All seams are either top stitched or flat felled seams (excluding side seams actually). Stitching from the the right side of leather, i.e. top stitching, creates the largest challenge for me really. This time it was not too bad – most of the seams were finished fine. However when the zipper at the back got installed and I had to top stitch center back seam, I had multiple skipped stitches there. I guess, my sewing machine did not quite like stitching over the thickness that also included the zipper. I ended up changing the needle – threw away the first one and installed a new one – it helped a bit, but still, that center back top stitch seam is not ideal.
When the shell of the skirt was ready, I was finally able to try it on and was happy to conclude that the skirt was sitting on me well, just as expected. Actually, there was no major surprise there as I had made a toile before cutting anything to make sure that my quite a bit manipulated pattern pieces still came together as one nicely fitting skirt.
Waist facings were installed. I interfaced them using light weight interfacing just to add a bit of structure to the leather. Next, I made lining, which was really just joining few lining pieces together and attaching that to the installed facing. Finally, the last bit of work was to hem the skirt and the lining. Unlike my previous leather skirt, this one had to be hemmed. I had compromised in cutting its pieces in that there were skirt hem areas that still had holes from the coat days of the leather (visible in the middle of the below right picture). Therefore to conceal all those imperfections the skirt had to be hemmed. And the only way to hem it that I knew of was to use double adhesive leather tape, and that’s what I did. First I ironed the hem in. Then one side of adhesive tape was attached to the very edge of the hem and then after removing the protective film and exposing the other side of adhesive tape I secured the hem in place by gently hammering it down. And with that my second upcycled leather skirt was complete!
For this skirt I needed one genuine leather coat 🙂 and a bit of leftover lining. Pattern used here has been self-drafted and is based on a basic pencil skirt pattern. Other notions used for this project were: a bit of interfacing and interfacing tape, invisible zipper, double sided adhesive leather tape for hem, and coordinating thread. This skirt cost me nothing as it was an upcycle project. It was made in January, 2023.
It is a great skirt. I have already worn it with a number of jackets and chunky sweaters. It works fine each time. The difference from my first leather skirt is that this one is softer, hence feels really nice while wearing it. On the other hand, it is shorter and more narrow, which is a bit less comfortable, and also it is brown, which makes it a bit more difficult to style than my previous black skirt. Still, I really like it and will certainly be wearing it for many years to come!
I’ve written a number of times before, that my project planning is one big mess. And yes – it is indeed! 🙂 So if some of you remember that in the 2022 closing post I had said that I’d now make many jackets, probably that might change a bit. There are two skirts in my immediate plans now, both from leftover fabrics. So I intend to continue with zero-cost projects, at least for now. And I’m still following my New Year’s resolution to not purchase any more fabric. So things in general are good. As long as I’ll find ways to use up 40+ fabrics that I already have in my stash! 🙂 Let’s see how that will go this year!
Thanks for visiting my blog and I’ll see you next time!
It’s been a while since I last finished a project, and I am glad to be able to share one more make finally, and even better still the winter has just started kicking in, so plenty of time to wear it this season! There were few reasons it took me a while to make this coat. As usual, Christmas time was hectic this year: with all the gifts purchasing, children school plays, horrendous traffic and weather conditions, everyday life had not been simple in December. In addition to that I got involved in two additional projects aside from work, which meant long hours, paperwork being read and reports needing to be written on weekends and so on. All of that led to me being tired big time and left no time to sew. I had cut this coat in mid November, and it was only after Christmas that I managed to complete it. But here it is finally and I couldn’t be happier about my new coat!
I’ve written in few of my previous posts in what kind of climate I live. So essentially we have 3 months of summer and 9 months of cold a year. That cold may be anything from +10 to -25 C. The lowest temperature in winter that I remember was -32 C, and no coat would help in those temperatures. But it’s rare that we’d come to that. Whereas -20 C is something we get every winter, while ordinary temperature in winter here is -5 to -10 C. So still pretty cold. That is why I was so excited about having learnt to make coats!
For terribly low temperatures I have my all-weather-proof polar parka. I have tested it out beyond the arctic circle while watching northern lights in the middle of the night in the middle of the fjord up on the catamaran deck. I’ve spent full days outdoors in it while dog-sledging and snowmobiling. It works perfectly each time, it is a highly functional but not really too beautiful a garment. So for all those other occasions when a bit of beautifulness is wished for, I want to have wool coats to wear. And so I kept on making them until I might have made enough, I think, at least for now! 🙂
It’s all about coats
In the beginning of the year I made an awesome long winter coat that serves me well this winter again. I just love this coat – it’s all about an excellent design and perfect choice of thick wool that makes this coat absolutely perfect. Recently I have made a light casual coat that I absolutely love, too. Initially I thought that due to pretty light wool it would not be very warm, but that’s not the case. I wear it up to few degrees below 0 C temperatures comfortably, provided that I have few layers beneath it, like a woolen jacket, which I’ve made few of, too. These coats are long – I just love long coats, therefore I kept on making them. And so eventually I decided that to supplement my collection I needed a shorter and very warm coat, an interlined coat this time. And that’s what I’ve made here, sort of.
I wanted to make an interlined coat already last year, but then ran out of time. And also did not have interlining. When I bought few coatings on sale before summer, one of them was this hairy wool and alpaca blend in large pattern blocks that I decided to use for my winter coat idea. I actually did not inspect the fabric thoroughly at that point, instead I went on to try and figure out how to interline it. From some time ago there was this proper wool interlining in my stash, but for this pretty thick fabric it was not going to work. So instead I went on to look for other options at my local fabric store. And the option I settled upon was this double sided fabric with batting in between external layers meant for interlined double sided jackets.
The idea to use this fabric instead of lining looked pretty reasonable for me. Few years ago, when I had to travel a lot for work, I’d wear this sort of short jacket beneath a woolen coat – it would make for a warm combo, and I’d take off only the coat while on the plane. This set has seen a lot of planes, trains and metros 🙂
So now I’ve made a 2-in-1 situation with my new coat. Definitely hope that it will be warm just as expected! Well, I no longer will be able to take off only the coat while on the plane 🙂 But now I don’t get to travel often, so no real problem here!
Right at about the time when I was choosing the fabrics, Atelier Jupe issued a new coat pattern that fell just in the right place for my intended project and I purchased it straight away. It is Alex coat pattern, and I very much liked how it worked for my project.
Cutting and interfacing
I took this project on right after finishing my previous coat. When I started inspecting my coating, I grew more and more confused. First, it slowly dawned on me, that this fabric was actually knitted, not woven. The reason this had not crossed my mind before was felt-like finish on the right side of the fabric. It was stretching cross-grain quite a bit, and that made me think further. And then I noticed that if I looked at it laid straight grain ahead, fabric pattern was looking a bit weird – it had prominent horizontal lines, and motives having little triangles had them laying on a side. It was not looking too appealing. I sat on the floor next to the fabric for quite a while thinking what to do.
It is unconventional to cut pattern pieces cross-grain. I have done it for summer garments, but not for coats. Eventually I started realizing that the only option for me was to turn everything perpendicular to straight grain, and thus I started placing my paper pattern blocks on the fabric cross-grain.
Since the fabric was knitted, I knew that it would need to get thoroughly interfaced. I’ve had enough of fabric shrinkage accidents while interfacing the fabric to know better than interfacing cut pattern pieces. So I decided to block interface the fabric. But this sounds easier than it actually was – my task was complicated by the fact that I had to deal with these multiple motifs of the pattern and the idea was to match them all over the place like I usually do. And so my sitting on the floor continued as I was no longer sure if 3 meters of fabric was going to be enough.
Ok, I’m very aware that I keep on explaining the complexity of this project, but it was indeed quite a feat, so just bear with me for just one more moment. I have to explain the design features too in order to complete the story of my thought process. Perhaps it is not quite obvious from finished coat pictures, but actually the front has princess seams and those pockets are not welt pockets at all – they go into the front side sections that are made out of two separate components. So now imagine, that each front has three sections and a pocket welt piece AND all of that needs to come into one thing so that the fabric pattern would not be broken AND they have to match across the front opening as well as with the back pattern motifs across side seams. So that’s the level of complexity that was sinking in while I was sitting on that floor.
I divided the entire piece of fabric into three parts: one for two back pieces, another for all the front and the third was put aside meant for sleeves. I did not cut sleeves then, instead, I wanted to first make the body of the coat and then pattern-match sleeves to it. First two pieces got fully interfaced. It is not easy to interface that large blocks of fabric – I do not own a press, so it has to be done using iron, and it takes ages! After interfacing the fabric, I was glad to conclude that it did not shrink at all. And thus the cutting stage of the process started. Back pieces were cut out of designated first fabric piece, front pieces, front facing and collar pieces were cut out of larger second piece. Each and every pattern piece ended up being pattern-matched to the previous one. Below are three pieces of one front – the part where the scissors are placed is meant for the pocket to get it.
It took me a day to get to the point where the main pattern pieces were cut and ready to get stitched. NOTE: when pattern-matching while cutting it is essential to take all seam allowances into consideration and motif calculation. My task was even further complicated by the irregularity of the fabric pattern. After making this coat successfully, I think I am officially the pro of pattern-matching and can tackle any fabric there is! 🙂
I started by making front side panels and installing pockets. For pocket welts only the right side welt is drafted and the entire inside is supposed to be a piece of lining. I ended up creating a proper welt, i.e. I used the main fabric for the inside of the welt too, and only below it I stitched a lining piece. It was pretty straightforward to make the front pieces, and that’s where the process stopped in November – two fronts hung on the dress form until mid December when I again had time for sewing and was able to continue.
Next, front pieces were attached to back pieces. The back has a vent, so I had to again test my competence in vent making 🙂 A bit worried for the coat to not be too narrow around hips, I ended up stitching side seams at 1 cm seam allowance. Eventually it became clear that it was unnecessary as the coat is a tiny bit too wide for me now, I think.
Then I installed the undercollar, attached front and back facings to the upper collar and these two pieces were joined together to make lapels. I no longer need to check instructions for that – the main thing was to carefully thread-mark collar and lapel pieces and be thorough in following those markings. I’m really glad about how the lapels turned out!
With the main body of the coat done, I proceeded to cut sleeves. That’s where things turned south as I barely had enough fabric in order to nicely match fabric pattern on sleeves. In fact, those sleeves are not ideal – I would have wanted a bit better horizontal matching of the main motifs on the sleeve with the body of the coat, and also I’d have liked a wider vertical motif at the back side of the arm. But I couldn’t pull that off as there was just as much fabric left. I was happy that it was possible to pattern-match both sleeve pieces horizontally and that both sleeves now look exactly the same! 🙂
For a while now I first of all baste sleeves in. When I’ve done that this time, it became apparent that shoulders were too wide for me. First, I cut 1 cm off of each shoulder line to make shoulders more narrow. But when I basted sleeves in again, I noticed a strange sleeve curve at the chest area – it looked as though there was too much fabric around the chest. So on the second attempt I continued cutting 1 cm off grading down to nothing at the front notch of the sleeve setting seam. The third attempt at basting was successful, and so sleeves finally went in. With that the shell of the coat was done and I could try it on – it looked really well on me!
The last large part of the project was to make the lining and install it. This time around I used double sided interlined fabric as lining, and wondered how it would work. Cutting and stitching lining pieces together was pretty easy. However, when I started pressing seams open, I noticed, that ironing was not working all that well on this fabric. In order to reduce the bulk of seams and hopefully to somehow press them flat I ended up cutting the inside batting completely out of seams. It did reduce bulk, however, did not help much in making seams flatter. They are not bad, but left me wishing for more.
The lining was pretty quickly complete. I had to fiddle with the vent quite a bit, especially that I did not remember how to make it, nor the instructions were helpful. So instead I just searched how to make a lined vent on Youtube, and found this video very helpful. I ended up following the method explained in the video step by step and it worked just perfectly! In order to stabilize seams around the vent, I attached interfacing tape to the main seams. None of that was explained in the instructions. However, I find attaching the interfacing tape to seams of most tension crucial. There is a photo in my post on the previous coat showing which seams to interface on the front of the coat.
Setting the lining in was pretty straightforward. I always tack the lining to the facing, it was very important this time as the shell fabric of my lining was extremely slippery. I used walking foot to stitch the lining, but still, the tacking helped to make sure nothing moved or slipped while stitching. It looked intimidating, but there is nothing complex really. (And I’m running out of thread, which is very usual for me at that stage of the coat project!)
After completing all of the internal tacking of innards to ensure comfortable wear of the coat, the last bit of stitching was to finish the hem.
I would really have sweated had I not found that Youtube video that I mentioned before. Now I just proceeded step by step, completed one side of the coat first, then one vent side, then upper part of the vent, then another side of the coat as well as another side of the vent. Eventually there was this small opening left on the left side of the coat hem that I ended up closing by hand.
Finally, all hems were tacked together using the hidden stitch that I have explained in one of my previous posts. And the very last bit was to attach metal snaps to the front of the coat. I ended up attaching two snaps for more comfort instead of one button as recommended in the original design. By attaching the snaps I made sure to complete the center motif of the coat too, and with that my new winter coat was complete!
I am really happy how the coat looks inside. At first I had this doubt if that thick lining would not overwhelm the inside look of the coat. And that has not happened. The coat looks balanced and smart inside out!
For this coat I needed 3 meters of wool blend fabric (70 % wool, 30 % alpaca), I think it is boiled wool really (it’s knitted and feels like felt, so what else can it be?). For the lining I used 1.7 meters of interlined double sided fabric. These fabrics were bought in two different local fabric stores. The pattern used here is Alex coat pattern by Aterlier Jupe with few modifications: shoulders are narrower by 1 cm and side seam allowance was 1 cm instead of 1.5 cm (this was unnecessary, I should have used regular 1.5 cm seam allowance there). Other notions used for this project were: some 2 meters of interfacing, few meters of interfacing tape (straight grain and on bias for curved seams), 2 felt sleeve heads (no shoulder pads were needed for this coat), two 2 cm wide metal snaps, and coordinating thread (Gutermann No. 11). This coat cost me 98 Eur, it was finished in December, 2022.
It has turned out to be a very nice coat! I am glad and also quite a bit proud to have managed with all the fabric pattern matching that was needed for this coat. Otherwise it could have turned into a full blown pattern chaos, and that I really wanted to avoid! It has all the right features to be a comfortable winter garment: nice deep pockets, a vent and wide enough sleeves to accommodate comfortable driving. Probably the only thing I regret is adding those 2 cm of width to it by reducing side seam allowances. Now the coat feels a tiny bit too wide. Granted, I’ve not tried it on with my usual work attire yet – jackets and stuff. I guess, when I wear it on a chunky sweater or a wool blazer, that wideness should hopefully feel less. But let’s see! Meanwhile, I received a nice navy blue alpaca scarf for Christmas that goes ideally with this coat. I am really looking forward to testing it out in the open. It better be really warm as I worked so hard to make it warm!
This was my last project of 2022 and most likely the last coat project for a while. I’ve made enough coats now to last until next autumn. Meanwhile, am planning to turn more to jackets. There are quite a few beautiful wool fabrics in my stash that I can’t wait to use for office attire. And with that I am starting a new year and waiting for it to be hopeful for once!
With the year coming to a close, I’m also wrapping up my sewing journey of 2022. For me this year was tough and also very busy, and once again sewing allowed me to stay sane and get a breath of fresh air each time I started and finished a new project. Sewing calms me down immensely and keeps my restless mind occupied. It works similarly to a workout session really. Speaking of that, this year was a pivotal moment for me in that respect, too. As someone who has never done any sports, I’m proud to share that I started to attend regular workout sessions in the beginning of 2022 and am still not bored after a year of doing that. So yes – in certain respects 2022 was definitely a good year!
If I were to describe my sewing year of 2022 in few bullet points, the highlights would be the following. I made 6 coats this year! 🙂 And am absolutely happy and proud of that. This year was also about upcycling, recycling and using fabric leftovers – these projects were absolutely rewarding and I got a lot of good energy out of them. I very much missed making jackets this year – I have made a single jacket this year and that’s something I want to have more of in my closet, so 2023 very likely will be a year of sewing jackets!
These are my wearing favorites, not necessarily favorite projects while they lasted 🙂 For example, making that leather skirt was an ordeal really. However, it is probably the most worn garment of mine now. Every garment that was a result of an upcycling or leftovers usage exercise has been worn extensively, too. So if anything, I’ve learnt this year that it makes so much more sense to make something practical instead of something glamorous but not necessarily attached to real life. Below is a collage of my most worn and loved garments that I’ve made this year.
I’ve shared in a number of my previous posts my epiphany about dresses. In short, I had been just obsessed with making dresses before, but recently I’ve understood that they did not get much wearing and instead spent time in my closet, so why bother? Now I am of the opinion that it is so much better to have 10 coats in the closet instead of 10 dresses 🙂 And that’s because coats season is so much longer! Fair enough, we can wear dresses in cold season too, but I do not do that usually because I’m cold all the time. So dresses for me is mostly summer garment.
This year I did not have major disappointments when it came to my projects. All of the garments were finished, nothing was thrown away. If I were to name a project that ended up being a bit of a let down, that would be my trench coat making journey. And don’t get me wrong – I like and wear this trench coat. However, being the most expensive project ever, it’s a bit underwhelming and has few drawbacks when it comes to its design. I might consider making another trench coat in spring!
All in all I made 23 garments this year. It is fewer than last year, however, arguably they were in general more complex and lengthy projects this year – fewer dresses, more coats, and so here we are! For all of the garments I spent 930 Eur in supplies. That comes to 40 Eur a garment, a very decent result, in my humble opinion. The reason I’ve done so well with the costs is that 7 garments out of 23 were upcycled or made from leftovers, hence bore zero cost.
I’ve just made an inventory of my remaining fabric stash. It has clearly grown this year. Even though I swore not to purchase more fabric, I did not keep the promise. Previously I had 2 shelves fully packed with fabrics, now there are 3. And that’s not good! So if there is any New Year’s resolution related to sewing, that would be to stop purchasing fabrics and use up as much as I can from my stash.
I have in total 42 different fabrics, in that number 16 are coatings / suitings and 7 are different linings meant for specific coatings / suitings. Leftovers are not counted in, however, I have more than 10 decent pieces for tops and skirts in my leftovers stash. The total cost of my three shelves is roughly 2000 Eur – yes, I keep track of all my expenses, because I just love calculating 🙂 So yeah, I’ve invested this much into something that currently sits on the shelf, and that’s not counting all the haberdashery and other supplies 🙂 With my current sewing tempo my stash could last for almost two years of sewing. I definitely should not be purchasing any more fabric in 2023! 🙈
Wrapping up 2022 I might as well pat myself on the shoulder for all those successful projects and nice garments that resulted out of them. I’ve learnt pretty much everything there is to learn when it comes to actually stitching up a garment. The next level of learning would be to start drafting for myself, but I’m not sure I’ll go down that route. There is simply too few hours in a day to engage in a complex world of garment construction. But hey, what do I know – I wouldn’t have believed couple of years ago that all of my coats would be me-made at the end of 2022! 🙂
I have not yet shared my last make of 2022, which is an awesome coat the story of which I’ll tell in the very beginning of January. But here, let me share a small sneak-peek!
Next year I definitely want to make more jackets – I love wearing them to the office and basically anywhere else, and I have too few in my closet. I also want to make a raglan sleeve trench coat and one more leather skirt (now there is my mom’s leather coat all ripped apart and waiting for an upcycle chance). And the dream of mine is to make a very formal pants suit out of glorious black/navy wool and silk blend and to complement it with a neon green bustier made out of the remainder fabric that was left after my neon green jacket project. I am pretty certain that would be a show stopping ensemble. Well, who knows – this might as well happen next year!
Let me share a big thank you to all of the readers who come to visit my blog! Thank you for all your comments, thoughts and love that you share. It’s something that keeps me going with my blogging journey. I am so glad you come to visit me here in my space and hopefully also get inspired or find a useful advice or two to succeed with your own amazing sewing ideas! Here’s to a successful, healthy and hopefully normal, for once, New Year of 2023! 🎉
It happens so that every half a year I end up writing an insights post, and that is exactly what I decided to do this time again. This November I’ve celebrated two years anniversary of my blog. Am happy to report that I still enjoy sewing and blogging, arguably that’s longer than one could have expected. And yet, here we are – majority of my clothes are now me-made and I’m definitely planning to continue!
I’ve chosen this name for the post inspired by my dear online friend Diane of Dream.Cut.Sew who has encouraged me since the very beginning of my sewing journey and continues being an inspiration to me. Diane once had musings, I loved the expression, often I have musings, too. This time around I’d like to share with you how I go about my decision making process when planning my projects and my wardrobe, and also what I do with some of previously made garments that might not be loved all that much or end up being damaged.
Recent findings and revelations
This year it was so curious to observe my choices and decisions evolving. Few years ago my thoughts were all over the place, partly caused by share abundance that had hit me in the sewing world. I’d purchase all those crazy colorful fabrics, I wouldn’t think through all that well which pattern would work for which fabric. It excited me too much to just be able to make almost any garment there was, and in the process I failed to work out any sort of consistency across my projects. This slowly started being obvious this year, when I realized that many of me-made garments do not match with much else in my closet. It’s probably ok to have a screaming color summer top that you can dilute with neutral pants. But that’s not the same in colder seasons when there are more garments in the outfit that should preferably match.
Slowly but surely I started narrowing down colors and designs meant for my projects. This season neutrals feel the most comfortable to me. For some reason I lean more towards blacks, greys and at times navy hues. Last season that was more Earth colors, but that’s no longer the case this season. From time to time I would still make a colorful garment or two, and that’s mostly because of my fabric stash being collected over the course of several years (one more reason not to hoard fabric!). There still is bright raspberry coating in my stash, it’s cashmere blend, so I’d better find ways to use it! But otherwise, my fabric stash slowly turns to less screaming hues and that’s something that comforts me quite a bit.
Another lane of considerations is related with fabric content. I’m still crazy about natural fibers and rarely purchase anything else. But few revelations appeared during last year. Interestingly enough, it is actually possible to be too warm in an outfit. I have never believed I’d say so, but here we go! I would usually be cold anywhere I go. That’s why it was amazing to be able to make many different pure wool garments as I believed they’d increase my overall level of comfort during colder seasons, which essentially is 9 months of the year in our climate. However, when I wore my recent houndstooth tweed jacket on alpaca sweater to the office, I became so hot, that I had to conclude I’d overdone it. Apparently there might be too much wool in the outfit, and now I know! 🙂
One more revelation is related with silks that I had accustomed to use as linings. I had considered an ultimate luxury to line wool garment with silk, and perhaps it really is! But silks may be different, and I had to learn that in a difficult way. The last time I used silk fabric as lining was for my beautiful trench coat, and that lining is gorgeous indeed. The problem though is that this particular silk is not slippery enough, which means that it does not add enough wearing ease to the garment. Since then I’ve become so much more careful, and haven’t used silk as lining to any of my recent garments. There are still few silks purchased meant for linings, but I’ll test their suitability for that purpose so much more carefully.
I’ve written in few of my previous posts how I had realized that dresses were not the answer to all the questions in the wardrobe. I still stand by this. There are some 15 me-made summer dresses in my wardrobe, whereas I’ve made only 4 colder season dresses and do not plan many more. I love making dresses, but during cold seasons I do not wear them much, so there is no point in making loads of them. Instead I sew many coats, and should now turn more to jackets. Have recently rediscover skirts. Skirts have been undeservedly forgotten item of the wardrobe, perhaps due to me not owning many of them. However, making a skirt is an excellent way to use up wool fabric leftovers, and I have many of those after previous jackets and coats projects. So here we go – skirts have started appearing in my closet as an unintended consequence of making coats!
This summer I discovered up-cycling as the way of creating something new out of something unloved. All of the garments that I’ve remade are worn so much more than initial garments were, so I guess – yay! As part of my considerate fashion efforts I’ve also recently mended few of my garments for the first time.
In general I hate mending! If I bought pants which were too long for me, I’d most likely get them shortened for a fee instead of doing that myself. It’s ridiculous in a way as I’m perfectly capable of doing that myself. On the other hand, I no longer purchase anything that would require mending, so this argument is quite irrelevant.
But recently two independent situations happened that required some sort of solution, and one of the options was to throw the garment out. I did not want to do that, and so here let me share two short stories of rescue work that I’m pretty happy about.
Autumn dress transformation story
Last autumn I made this dress that turned out really well. It was of very nice color scheme, and fabric content was a joy to wear. The dress was light and unrestricting, so in all respects – Ultimate autumn dress. The only problem with it was that in the process of making it I screwed up the length of the skirt. It was designed to be longer, but I made a mistake in cutting it, and eventually ran short of fabric for a longer skirt. That’s how I ended up with length just below knees, which is the least flattering skirt length on me. This dress was worn, but was not loved much. After several considerations on how to style it, I realized, that it looks really well with a wide belt (although it was not designed to be worn with a belt at all – its waistline is higher up than natural). When I put the belt on, it became clear that the dress was too long, and hey – whatever is too long can be shortened! So that’s what I did. I cut 5 cm off of the skirt length and created a proper wide hem for it. Initially the hem was minuscule rolled hem as I was trying to squeeze every centimeter of skirt length. And now I like the dress so much better! It looks so much more fun and flattering, and I’m pretty sure will be worn so much more often than before!
Tweed coat rescue story
This spring I made this glorious unlined tweed coat that I absolutely loved and wore all the time. One day couple of months ago I came back from my workout session, started hanging the coat into the closet and with peripheral vision spotted something unusual at the back of the coat. I looked straight at that something, and it was this:
I was startled. It quickly dawned on me, that I probably wear my coats more often in a car than outside. Of course, majority of me-made coats are long, because, you know – style! So what happens is that each time I get into my car, the coat gets pulled in all sorts of awkward ways. Lined coats are perhaps more flexible, and it is easier to sit comfortably on them, whereas unlined coats, like this one, get abused more harshly. And apparently, unlined and uninterfaced tweed is not too happy to take abuse!
While making this coat I interfaced all the seams that would be hidden. However this horizontal back waist seam was very much exposed, and I did not want the interfacing tape to show up inside the coat, so it was left uninterfaced. Continuous pulling of this seam each time I’d get into the car ended up pulling those delicate warp threads, and eventually the area thinned so grossly.
I was really upset about what had happened. My first thought was that I would most likely need to throw this coat out. This was very disappointing to comprehend as the coat had just recently been made. Next I promised myself to always interface tweeds. Something I am true to from then on. But then I recalled that for some inexplicable reason I had kept a small piece of this fabric, and started wondering if the coat could somehow be rescued. That leftover piece was too small to make anything out of it, so there had really been no point in keeping it. But I did, as though knowing that I might need it shortly.
Let me share how the rescue operation went. First I unpicked 15 cm long side seams portions at the waist. It was tricky to do as the seams were very well concealed in that busy fabric pattern, and also there were multiple seams there as the belt parts had been sewn into side seams too. Next, I had to unpick all bias tape finishes of those portions of side seams that I had just unpicked. It was an annoyingly lengthy process, but there was no other way for me to achieve what I wanted. I was planning to cut out the damaged portion of the back waist seam and install a properly interfaced insert that would be of the width of the belt.
So I cut out 4 cm wide damaged area out of the back (2 cm up and down from the back waist seam). The edges of that hole were interfaced using interfacing tape. I no longer cared that the interfacing tape would be visible. Then I cut 8 cm wide insert out of the leftover fabric and properly interfaced it. What was left to do was installing the insert, which I did using 1 cm seam allowance. To hide those two seams I stitched on a piece of lining the lower part of which was slip-stitched in place by hand.
Finally I was able to stitch back previously unpicked bias tape in order to patch the finish of side seams. The ends of the belt were attached to that newly created back waistband. And finally side seams were stitched back to where they were. The slide show below demonstrates the rescue process.
With this extensive rescue operation I managed to salvage my so much loved coat, and continued wearing it this autumn. I hope this patchwork will hold and I’ll be able to enjoy this coat for the years to come!
I hope you enjoyed this post! It was a bit different than many other posts on my blog, however I thought that it could be interesting to share some of the recent thoughts and especially this latter coat rescue project. I am currently working on one more coat and will of course write a post on this project as soon as the coat is finished!
When I was offered by Fabworks Mill Shop to collaborate on their fresh-from-the-mill Yorkshire tweeds collection, I immediately agreed! I’ve worked with their fabrics before, and enjoy wearing those garments very much. This project was also a joy to engage in, and so now I have added one more coat to my autumn collection!
I had wanted to add a casual, sporty kind of coat to my wardrobe for a while. Did not have a particular idea for what that might be, but was well aware that my current coats were either unlined and light ones, or then pretty formal and office-like. So adding to this a coat that would work well with jeans and sweatshirts seemed like a good idea. And then I was offered to check out the newest Heart of Huddersfield (a.k.a. HoH) collection that Fabworks create every autumn. Thus the plan was sealed that my next project will be a casual coat. And so here it is – warm, relaxed looking and in this awesome lavender color.
This year’s Fabworks HoH collection offers 12 colors in pronounced herringbone weave. I was able to choose any one of them and add matching lining to it. If this had happened a year ago, I think I would have chosen some vibrant color – I’ve made enough crazy color choices before! 🙂 But nowadays I am hopefully a bit more clever. This season especially I’m fond of calm colors – greys, blacks, some earth colors. And this led me to choose as calm a color scheme as I could find. Basically I was looking for something that would be as close to grey as possible, and that’s how I settled on this gorgeous Lavender storm herringbone. As soon as my fabrics arrived, I went ahead with the project. It was important for me to make this coat as soon as possible, as it is not quite a winter fabric really (well, at least not for our winters with -10 C temperature being completely ordinary). I really wanted to be able to still wear the coat this autumn.
What I loved about this coat design were its off-shoulder sleeves and wide collar. These features give the coat its signature relaxed look. What I did not like all that much were those patch pockets. Honestly, I could have replaced them with welt pockets, but am ashamed to admit that I fell into the trap of laziness. Had the pattern called for welt pockets, I would have made welt pockets. But it did not, so here we are – patch pockets it is. For my defense, these patch pockets probably contribute to the casual look of the coat. Of course they do, right? 🙂
Another consideration that I had was related with the belt. I decided that fabric covered buckle would work just perfectly here, but had no idea how to get it covered. So first I asked at my local haberdashery store if they provided a service of covering buckles (they have covered buttons for me once). And they do, but the problem was that there was only one size of buckles that they cover, while my belt was supposed to be wider than that. So then I bought few sizes of regular black buckles and secretly thought to myself that I might somehow manage to cover one of them with fabric myself. And I tried, tried thoroughly, but failed miserably. I know there are kits for covering buckles, but I could not find one anywhere in the vicinity, so yes – the buckle is black this time.
Cutting and sewing
Herringbone weave in this fabric is quite pronounced. This meant that the fabric could not really be cut over two layers. Or should I say, I did not want to do that. I wanted to nicely match those herringbone columns. Even though it was not as elaborate an exercise as matching plaid, I still took my time to cut the fabric making sure that the columns were absolutely vertical and perfectly centered. All pattern pieces were cut from a single layer of fabric to achieve that. So the lapels, for example, are perfectly symmetric, the center front starts with a complete column. Pockets are also cut so that the weave continues from the body of the coat to the pocket as though uninterrupted. So yeah, I’ve done some extensive fabric pattern matching for this coat that no one will ever notice, but I will and that is important.
The construction of this coat was simpler than that of many other coats or jackets. Since sleeves are of off-shoulder type, there is nothing particularly difficult happening with shoulders – there are no shoulder pads or sleeve heads installed. The design did not ask for a vent either. Which in hindsight is a bit of a problem. The coat is quite narrow at hem, so the vent would have helped by adding wearing ease at hem. On the other hand, arguably it would have made the coat a bit more formal, and perhaps that’s why it is not there.
All in all the only tricky part of the coat construction process was the collar. As it always is. I just love this collar! It is very well designed and lays perfectly. I like it being wider than many other collars out there. And constructing it was also an ok process. Interestingly enough, this time around I managed to make the collar without any reference to the instructions. Afterwards I checked them out and saw that the method explained there was more tricky that the one I used. Perhaps I am slowly turning into pro! 🙂
What I found useful in constructing the collar was first attaching diagonal ends of the collar (and also undercollar) to the lapels, and only then cutting into the corner and attaching the main curve of the collar stand to the neck opening. This way it is easier to make that tricky corner lay nice and flat. I’ve seen this method used by Mimi G in some of her Youtube tutorials and can confirm that it works really well. Also, you wanna thread-mark all of the main corners and angles of the collar and lapels prior to constructing anything, if you want to be precise and create a truly beautiful collar.
When the lapels were made, i.e. when the facing was attached to the main body of the coat, I took my time to grade seams thus reducing bulk, and understitched the portion of the front opening up to the collar breaking point. So as always, I was pretty meticulous and did not skip a single process step. Love my coats and jackets being perfect!
There was a bit of trouble with the facing, which at the time I did not know how to solve. Since the lining is horizontally striped, I figured I’d attach bias binding to the edge of the facing thus creating sort of a border between the main facing fabric and the lining. And attach I did, but the problem was that the tape ended up slightly pulling the facing edge (visible in the picture below). Of course this couldn’t work, and quite disappointed I ended up ripping that binding off the facing. So now there is no decorative binding there, and my coat does not look any worse because of that! After thinking this through later I realized, that I should have probably used walking foot to attach that slippery satin binding. This will have to be tested next time.
I did not need to make any amendments to this coat design really. Sleeves were of right length, the coat itself was of right length. Installing the lining was pretty straightforward. I’ve had my struggles with installing linings into coats before, and that was mostly because I either did not trust lining pattern, or would skip the tacking phase in the process. This time around the lining was cut in a clever way – nothing peaks out anywhere and looks just perfectly from inside. Now I would never skip the tacking stage while attaching the lining to the facing. It is important to make sure that the lining will not slip or move while stitching it to much heavier and more stable main fabric of the facing. All in all I managed to make this coat without a single serious incident (binding situation being the only nuisance, and still not too important). Few close-ups of the coat – in the slideshow below.
This project was sponsored by Fabworks Mill Shop – check out Disclosures to understand more about this type of collaboration. For this coat I used some 2.4 meters of Lavender storm herringbone fabric, it is medium weight pure wool (275 GSM), and 2 meters of matching Liquorice humbug twill lining (80 % viscose, 20% acetate). Both fabrics were gifted to me by Fabworks. This HoH wool fabric is the realest wool I’ve ever seen, along with many wool coatings that Fabworks have in stock. As my sewing friend Laura once put it – it smells like sheep 🙂 It is a bit coarse though, that’s something to remember while planning the garment as it should be lined at all times really.
I’ve decided not to share what pattern I’ve used for this project. I used the following notions to complete this coat: some 1.5 meters of medium weight interfacing, quite a few meters of straight and bias interfacing tape, 2 spools of thread (Gutermann no. 497 and 493), both gifted too, 3 metal snaps of 2 cm diameter, and a belt buckle. I will not provide the cost of this project, as the main supplies were gifted. This coat was made in October, 2022.
It is a very nice coat indeed. For me it will be an autumn and spring coat, as the fabric is of medium weight. It may as well work as a winter coat in more mild climate. But for us, where the usual winter temperature is -10 C, and at times may drop to -25 C, this coat would not be enough to feel warm. For -10 C I have a very proper winter coat made out of Fabworks fabric too, which I absolutely love. That one is 550 GSM animal and can help endure any winter!
As for the styling of this coat, initially I thought that it would go the best with chunky sweaters, wide pants or jeans and other similar relaxed outfits, and I’m pretty sure it will! But while taking these pictures inside (it was raining outside), I managed to endure for like a minute in this head to toe wool outfit before starting sweating badly. The outfit is still nice though – left picture below. So yeah, wool is great fiber, and my new coat is warm even though not at all thick. Wanting to take few more pictures, I ended up changing the outfit to short sleeved black T-shirt and recently made leather skirt, and in that one I was able to survive a bit longer before again succumbing to sweat. After this experience, I very much trust my new coat. It will be warm, cozy, and will work well with essentially any outfit there might be. Ah, I should purchase black knee-length boots to go with it, too!
I am planning to make a video of all of me-made coats a bit later. Later because my next project will be yet another coat! I just absolutely love making coats. What is your favorite garment type which you can’t have enough of? Share in the comments section below!
As for coats, I have not yet achieved the master level, where my dear online sewing friend Karen at Intostitches on IG is. Karen has made and on a regular basis wears some 50 coats! It’s quite extraordinary. I am still working towards that, but with some 7 and soon to be 8 coats am not too poorly positioned either! There is essentially a coat for every few degrees of outside temperature in my closet. And it’s not yet enough for me. I really want to make a very formal coat, too. Have everything lined up for it – gorgeous black cashmere, a pattern, everything, and I even know how this coat will be called. It will be the Beautiful coat. Will absolutely have to find time for that one. Meanwhile, after this project there is some 0.60 m of fabric still left – a skirt will get made out of it. Have recently discovered the joy of making skirts out of leftover fabrics, and am definitely planning to continue!