5 Things I Learned Making A Coat

After the triumph that was making my first proper coat (if I do say so myself!) I thought I would share some of the things I learned while making it and the resources that helped me, so here are 5 things I learned making a coat.

1. How to make bound buttonholes.

There are loads of tutorials on how to make bound buttonholes. I used this YouTube video, and I practised twice before I did it on the real thing. This tutorial shows you how to do bound button holes when you have a lining (or in my case a facing). The only problem was she didn’t make it 100% clear whether you need to put the pieces right or wrong sides together, but after practising it I figured it out for myself. There is an ebook by Karen from Did You Make That for only £2 which will also give you extra help.


2. How to do tailor’s tacks.

As I mentioned in my post about my coat, I tried to do all the marking for the coat ‘properly’ with tailor’s tacks – I say ‘properly’ because it feels like it’s the proper technique, though, of course, tailors must have used chalk for as long as it has existed too! Again there are loads of tutorials, but I used this one on YouTube – I feel like there are some techniques it is really useful to see someone doing, rather than to read instructions and look at pictures. Just be careful not to pull them out by mistake! But then remove them as soon as you don’t need them any more – I didn’t do this and spent several rather irritating minutes with some tweasers trying to get all of them out from seams I has sewn over the top of them!


3. How to do tailor’s basting

To be honest, I’m not sure I did the basting stitches quite right, but as I mentioned in the post about my coat, I was very glad to have an extra later to baste to instead of trying to stitch the hair canvas to the wool, without the stitches showing through to the other side – I have no idea how I would have done it! I did find it interesting to put in some hair canvas, having unpicked some (which was disintegrating) from my dad’s suit.


4. That sewing a slippery lining is really difficult!

Obviously coat linings have to be slippery to provide lubrication (snigger) to get the coat on and off, but I haven’t sewn with that many really slippery fabrics and this definitely proved a bit of a challenge! Not helped by the inaccurate job I did with the cutting out. If anyone has any tips, please pass them my way for next time 🙂


5. I really enjoyed the hand sewing.

Each time I do lots of hand sewing (like when I made my Dressmakers Ball dress and hand-stitched all the hems) I discover I like it. Especially making this coat where I planned to take my time, it’s nice to slow down and sew some things by hand. I hand stitched all of the interlining pieces to the wool, basted in the canvas, hand sewed the stay tape and attaching the lining to the shell along the bottom and the cuffs was all done by hand. I got a little fed up of hand sewing, though, when I had to redo the hem because I had shortened the lining too much and it was pulling the wool up inside the coat.

I would like to learn some more tailoring techniques – if you have any recommendations of courses (online or in person) please let me know.

My Honetone Coat

You guys I made a coat! Fair warning there will be a lot of photos in this post because, to be honest, I@m really proud of making a coat – and of the fact that I took my time and made what I hope will be a coat that lasts me for years to come.

I think I mentioned in my planning post for February that the wool I used was from Barry’s in Birmingham at the Sew Brum meet-up. I was very good that day – I intended to buy coat fabric and did! It was a small miracle!

I decided I wanted this coat to be super warm and was therefore thrilled when I saw this weird fleecy fabric on sale as a remnant in my local sewing shop.

It was a bargain and I was pretty sure there would be enough to cut out the main pieces of the coat – I didn’t need to be able to do the facing or all of the pocket pieces.

I didn’t take a photo of the lining fabric before I cut it out but it was this bright blue silky satin type lining from Abakhan. It was really difficult to find a fabric that was suitable as a lining in the right shade of blue that I wanted – I wanted to pick out the blue colour from the wool. I ordered some cupro that looked like it was the right kind of colour but when it arrived it was a much more dull shade of blue so looked bad (though I’m sure I’ll find some use for it in another project). At the same time as I ordered the lining, I ordered heavy-duty iron on interfacing (as I only had medium weight in my stash) and some sew-in canvas. I really wish I’d read all of the supplies needed, though as I discovered I also needed stabilising tape (when I had reached a stage of construction which meant I couldn’t progress without it!).

After cutting out all the pieces – in some cases in multiple fabrics and interfacing – I  hand basted the wool pieces to the fleecy underlining layers so I could then treat them as one piece of fabric when it came to constructing the coat. It didn’t take as long as I thought it would, to be honest!

I also made sure to mark all of the markings with tailor’s tacks as I knew chalk or anything similar would rub off and so I would lose all those helpful markings. Again it didn’t take as long as I thought to do tailor’s tacks – and it meant my buttons and button holes lined up straight away! I remember seeing Ann on the first series of the Sewing Bee and thinking ‘wow, that looks like a lot of work’ when she was making a jacket and doing tailor’s tacks, but actually they don’t take that long and as long as you don’t accidentally pull them out, they’re a great way to mark fabric that might not take to chalk very well.

I shared the next 2 photos on Instagram but one of the things that drew me to the Honetone Coat pattern (by Marilla Walker) was the pockets. I particularly like the higher up pockets, which are perfect for putting your hands in when it’s cold. (Sorry for the slightly awful photos, they don’t come out well when it’s dark in my sewing space.

The pocket at the bottom came out a little wonky, though I think it looks worse in the picture that in real life. I did construct the big, patch pockets slightly differently from the instruction as with my extra layer of interlining, folding in the edges of the wool would have make the edge of the pocket too bulky I thought, so I stitched the lining to the pocket right sides together, leaving a gap and then turning it right side out, topstitching the hole closed as I stitched the pocket onto the coat. I sort of tried to match the black stripes in the fabric through all of the pockets, and it’s a miracle that worked as well as it did as I didn’t think about it when cutting out!

This is the hair canvas, which you tailors baste on to the inside of the coat, around the back of the neck and on both shoulder fronts. I had seen this technique and the hair canvas inside my dad’s jacket which I refashioned into a jacket for me – though the canvas had started to disintegrate so wasn’t really re-usable. But I enjoyed using this technique and material, having not done any proper tailoring before. I’m really glad I had the interlining layer, though, as I don’t know how I would have stitched it on to just the wool without the stiches showing through to the right side – that still happened a couple of times and I had a whole layer in between!

And here is the stabilising tape which I forgot about! The shoulder seams and back neckline are stabilised (and strengthened), as is the line where the facing folds back to form the lapel – this is a super helpful detail when pressing the lapels!

Those are all the in-progress photos I took, so now onto the endless photos of the finished coat 😀

I made the size 2 and didn’t make any adjustments to the fit. There is a lot of ease built into the pattern so I chose the size based on my bust measurement – if I had chosen by my waist/hips then I would have one up a size, which I might do if I make this pattern again (probably in the jacket version).

I really like the shape of the Honetone from the back – I love how it’s cocoon-y.

One major advantage of this pattern is the dropped sleeve, which means you don’t have to try to set in a sleeve, which would definitely be tricky in this wool with the fleece underlining.

I did manage to get one or two photos of the bright blue lining. I wanted a plain lining because of the slight pattern in the wool – I didn’t want 2 patterns that might clash. The lining fabric is the slipperiest fabric I’ve ever sewn with and it was probably the hardest thing about making the coat – my cutting out was so inaccurate to begin with that I was then flighting a losing battle. I think using pattern weights and a rotary cutter would have helped and I think there are things like starch sprays or something to make slippery farbrics more stable while you sew them.

I definitely learnt quite a few new things making this coat, including bound buttonholes. There are loads of tutorials on Youtube for how to make them and I practiced several times before doing it for real – it’s pretty scary when you cut the hole and know you can’t go back if things go wrong!

Here’s a close-up of the hand pocket, which involves cutting a hole in the coat front, then the pocket itself is slotted in at the back. That was even scarier than cutting a slit for a buttonhole – cutting a huge square out of the coat fronts, when you don’t have enough fabric to recut them if things go wrong, is terrifying!

I really can’t believe these vintage buttons, which I picked up at a local antiques market. They’ve been in my stash for quite a while, waiting for the perfect project, and I couldn’t believe how well the bright blue is matched in the wool and the buttons. And I like that they’re quite big, it fits with the scale of the coat I think.

Although my face, below, looks a little unimpressed, I really can’t recommend this pattern highly enough for a first proper coat with some tailoring techniques, but without some of the trickier things like set in sleeves or a full collar. The instructions – as with all Marilla Walker’s instructions – are really clear and easy to follow. There wasn’t a single time where I didn’t understand the instructions – the only times I got a little confused was when I didn’t read them properly and assumed what I thought they said instead of what was actually written.

Most of my photos were taken after the crazy snow we had in the UK had melted, but I did try to take some photos in the snow as I thought they would look suitably Wintery to show off my first Winter coat. A couple of them came out okay…….

……but most of them looked like this and made me look like some weird kind of alien with no nose! And this is after I reduced the brightness considerably!

And taking photos when it was actually snowing wasn’t a particularly good idea!

Even on the third photoshoot, though, somehow I still managed to take this photo! You. are. welcome.

I really enjoyed taking my time over a larger project – it took me basically the whole of February, working weekends and some evenings to get it made, in time for the beast from the east! I’ve got some other more involved projects planned for the year, like making jeans and a bag and I’m now tempted to make another coat/jacket. Apart from trousers (and maybe a few more shirts/tops) my wardobe is getting as full as it needs to be, so to still keep sewing without making things for the sake of it, I like the idea of making some more involved projects.



Black and Cream Spotty Melilot

I’ve made another Melilot – I’ve made a long-sleeved and a short-sleeved version before – and I still love this pattern. And shirts in general – hence my plan this month to make a Closet Case Patterns Kalle.

I made the size 38, as I have both times before and the fabric is this lovely cream cotton with black spots on from Sew Over It. Sadly they don’t have it in stock any more. I ordered it online a few months ago – I tend to order a bunch of fabrics at once and then it takes me probably 6 months to sew through it all!

I decided to make another long-sleeved version because this Winter seems to be going on forever! And I figured I could wear it with a jumper or cardigan in the Winter and then without in the Spring – here in the UK we don’t get very much Summer where I want sleeveless/short-sleeved tops so I hope this will be a good addition to my wardrobe which will get a lot of wear.

Probably my favourite thing about this pattern is the shape of the hem and how it goes up at the sides and is lower at the back than the front. I just think it’s really flattering.

I think I messed up the collar a bit. Well I know that I did. I stitched the collar stand to the collar too early and had already trimmed the seam allowance, then had to unpick it and stitch it again so I think something got a bit pulled out of shape. So the 2 sides of the collar are closer together in the middle than on my other versions and while it doesn’t look really terrible, I notice it. #SewingPerfectionist

Looking at these photos, the buttons are maybe a little big compared to the size of the spots but I quite like them anyway. I sneakily stole them from the Dressmaker’s Ball last year as they were sprinkled on the table as cute sewing-themed decorations. Luckily I nabbed enough for a whole shirt!

One of my favourite things about making shirts is all the top-stitching. It’s so satisfying when you do it neatly in the first go – and it forces me to slow down, which is always a good thing I think. There’s no point rushing for the sake of it and then having to re-do things multiple times – less haste, more speed as they say.

As well as messing up the collar slightly, I totally messed up the cuffs. I remember finding the instructions for the plackets a little confusing and I found them equally confusing this time – in fact you might argue I found them more confusing given that they ended up fastening the wrong way – from back to front instead of front to back. It’s not a massive problem that renders the shirt unwearable, and I’m sure no-one will really notice, but it’s a shame I didn’t realise my mistake until I’d already sewn (and cut) the buttonholes. Oh well.

I think my next version of the Melilot will be another short-sleeved version, so I avoid the issues with the placket!



February Make and March Plans

Well it’s been a while! I didn’t mean to take a break from the blog but I felt quite down through most of February and just wasn’t in the mood to blog. I did finish my coat, though, which is pretty amazing! I was in the mood to sew but not to write about sewing. Weird. But I’m back and I have most of March already planned with posts for things I made in January! I’m a little backed up!

My only make for February was my coat – but I knew that would be the case, and I actually really enjoyed taking my time over a bigger project and learning some new skills to boot.

This is just a sneak peek – I thought it would be a good idea to take advantage of the apocalyptic snow we had last week to take some nice Wintery photos……maybe it would have been a better idea to have waiting until it had actually STOPPED snowing!? I do have better photos for my forthcoming post about my adventures in coat-making, I promise!

Now onto my plans for March. As I mentioned in my post about my plans for the year, I’m going to try to join in with a couple of months of the Sew My Style challenge and March is one of the months I’m going to join in with as it’s the Closet Case Patterns Kalle Shirt/Shirtdress and this was on my to-make list anyway.

I’ve got this lovely cotton/linen blend (I think) from the Great British Sewing Bee Live. My only questions is: which version do I make? I’m tempted by the cropped version, but with the proper collar. Or I could make the dress version – I don’t actually have any shirt dresses, though I do have a lot of other dresses so it feels like I’m more in need of separates at the moment.

My other main plan for March is to finally make some Closet Case Patterns Carolyn Pyjamas, which have been on my to-make list for months and months. The pattern is one of my Make Nine so I really need to tackle it this month! I have this slightly ruined liberty fabric, which I bought years and years ago on Goldhawk Road. I carefully pre-washed it……with some other fabrics, one of which was pink and stained everything else. The other fabrics weren’t quite as stained as this one, though, so I thought this would be the perfect practice fabric for the pyjamas because there is 3 metres, it’s still nice quality, and the discolouration won’t matter for pyjamas.

Then when I’ve made the practice version, I’m going to finally cut into this gorgeous boat-y liberty fabric my friend gave me ages ago! I have red and white striped piping already, too, as I want to pipe this pair. I think both versions will be long-sleeved and trousers as our flat is really quite cold and even in the heat wave we had last year, I didn’t really sleep in my Grainline Lakeside Pyjamas which I made the previous year as it didn’t feel super warm indoors, even when it was 34 degrees outside! (For reference I currently have a blanket and a hot water bottle on my lap and it’s not as cold as it was on Thursday/Friday last week!).

I think this should be enough to keep me occupied throughout March. What are your plans for the next month or two please?



Brushstrokes Scuba Ebony Dress

This might be a record – I finished my first Make Nine pattern in January! And I love it. As you will have seen from my makes for January post you’ll know I’ve actually already made 2 Ebony dresses, both from amazing scubas.

The scuba fabric was from Fabric Godmother and it is possibly the most expensive fabric I’ve bought, but I had to have it! I think the design was available in cotton or another fabric and I thought about getting it. wondering what I would make – then it was available as a scuba and I snapped some up on pay day a couple of months ago. Since Heather Lou made her Ebony in scuba, I couldn’t get the idea of a copy-cat out of my head. And I’m so pleased with the result!

The pattern is the Ebony tee and dress by Closet Case Patterns and is designed really for drapey knits, probably in a lighter weight, but I Think it works in scuba too, as you get more of an idea of the swingy shape.

I made the size 2 because I figured basing the size on my bust measurement would be fine, as it gets wider as it goes down the body. But I know from other patterns that generally my waist and hip measurements (27″ and 37″ respectively) are a size or two bigger than my bust size (32″) so I maybe should have gone more on the waist and hips size as the sleeves were waaaay too tight and pulled a bit across the shoulders.

Luckily I had sewn the dress on my sewing machine, and then neatened the seams with my overlocker, rather than sewing (and trimming) the whole thing on my overlocker. I generally do this anyway, but particularly when I haven’t made a pattern before. Having tried to unpick overlocked seams I like to stitch with my normal sewing machine – and a zig-zag stitch – first so when I inevitably make a mistake, it’s not such a ball-ache (or such a waste of thread) to fix it. This is a very long way of saying I reduced the seam allowance on the sleeves and under the arms (the sleeve seam and side seam are sewn in one go so making adjustments is comparatively easy) to 0.5cm instead of the 1cm included in the pattern. I think probably if I had used a drapey, stretchy knit as the pattern demands, I wouldn’t have had to make this adjustment, but since scuba isn’t as stretchy (kind of like a ponte) it did feel really restrictive.

I would definitely recommend this pattern if you like swingy dresses and it’s a great pattern to show of a fairly large-scale print as the pieces are so big and there aren’t any darts or anything to break it up.

Handily the thread I used for the twin needle top-stitching was the left over thread from the 2 mini chestnuts I made for my friend’s daughter. I got the fear about making 2 so bought 2 spools of thread and barely used one. But luckily it meant I had 2 spools ready to go for the twin needling!

There isn’t a huge amount more for me to say about this dress, except I love it. And I love the pattern. I might give the other versions a go – once I finally get around to making some high-waisted Ginger jeans, the cropped version might be a perfect pairing for them.

Have you sewn with scuba? I was a little scared but it’s really easy to work with as it’s like any other stable knit. Do you love Heather Lou and Closet Case patterns as much as I (and the Love To Sew Podcast!) do?