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.

 

 

Refashioners: making a suit…..into a suit

As I mentioned in my October makes post, one of the makes that took up quite a lot of time was my suit refashion, which is my entry for the Refashioners 2017. I joined in 2 years ago and refashioned 2 men’s shirts (1 & 2) and wanted to join in last year but family events took over and I didn’t get around to it, so I was very keen to take part this year. When I was at home in August, I suddenly had the thought that it would be nice to use one of my dad’s suits rather than a random suit from a charity shop (though perhaps I would have been more adventurous if the suit had been more anonymous?!) so I asked my mum if she still had any of my dad’s suits (he was in a care home at this point). She had one still in the wardrobe – she had got rid of most of them quite a few years ago, when he stopped having a job that required wearing a suit every day. It was a St Micheal’s one (which I think is a Marks and Spencers brand) and it was apparently made in Israel.


Although my Dad had been ill for a long time – he had a rare degenerative brain disease called Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD) for quite a few years, I obviously did not think that by the time I refashioned the suit he would no longer be with us. So this refashion became even more poignant to me than it would have been. I’m a little sad that he won’t see me wearing his suit, but c’est la vie.

My Dad wasn’t a huge man, so I was a little shocked by just how big the suit was on me – though I am small I suppose.

 

The first thing I did was to unpick the vast majority of the seams – and man did it take a long time! It was my occupation while watching TV in the evenings for about 2 weeks. I even took a picture of all the thread I removed (with pin cushion for scale)!

And this is the pile of pieces.

I unpicked everything from the trousers – side seams, inner leg seams, the fly, the zip and the waist band. I even managed to pry off the metal hook above the zip to use again later. The only things I left were the pockets and I wanted to use them in the new trousers. With the jacket I similarly unpicked everything – I removed the lining, the took the sleeves off both lining and shell, unpicking the underarm seam; I unpicked the side seams of both lining and shell; the shoulder seams; and I unpicked all parts of the collar. I also removed the shoulder pads and removable canvas around the shoulders – most of the interfacing and the like I left as I was remaking a jacket, so it saved me a job!

And this is the finished suit! I’m pretty pleased if I’m being totally honest. And I think I’ve been bitten a bit by a tailoring bug and would like to make a proper jacket from scratch to see all the processes I was able to skip by virtue of them already being done.

I thought I would go into detail about the trousers first, then the jacket, as that’s the order I re-made the suit in.

I used the Simplicity 1696 pattern as I knew I would be able to just about get them to fit me as I have made the pattern once before. As you can see below, I did extend them a little higher in the waist as I wanted to keep the full pockets, and although the trousers were quite big on me, I couldn’t bring the pattern piece to the top of the original trousers as the crotch curve wouldn’t have fit. After taking so much off the legs of the pattern the last time, I decided to narrow the legs at the pattern stage – though I ended up taking them in too much, so I had to reduce the seam allowance to 0.5cm to make them not skin tight!

I made the size 14 as before, and did quite a bit of fiddling with the crotch curve. I took 4cm in total off the back seam, including the waistband (which is the original waistband of the trousers, and the original waistband facing) and had to take 2cm off both crotch curves (front and back) – I think that’s what they’re called? I kept basting the seams, then trying them on, then unpicking them, then repeating the whole process until I thought it was good enough. They’re not perfect, but I didn’t want to over-fit them and make them uncomfortable to sit down in, which is always a worry!

Men’s pockets are soooo huge! I’ve got other ready to wear things (and probably things I’ve sewn) with teeny tiny pockets – pockets too small to fit an iPhone. But I can get half my arms in these pockets! I’m very glad I kept them. Also it’s so quick to sew a pair of trousers when the pockets are already done!

I did do a totally new fly, though I used the original zip. I had to slightly fudge the fly piece and the fly shield as because I had made them more high-waisted than in the orignal pattern, the pieces weren’t tall enough to reach the waist band. The original fly and fly shield were much thinner than the ones for this pattern, so I used the pieces I had cut off the bottoms of the trouser legs to make new pieces. It pretty much worked, and you can’t see any of the McGyvering on the outside.

One of the things I’m proudest of is managing to keep this metal clasp – I bent the prongs that went through the waistband facing to get it off, then poked it through once Id finished the trousers, when I knew it would be in the right place. The hook part of the clasp stayed where it was from the original waistband – I just made sure I used that end in the right place and trimmed the excess off the other side (and from the back seam too) so I could keep the metal thingy.

The original waistband facing (and the pocket bags) are made from this weird cream fabric, as shown above. The facing must be interfaced as it’s quite thick (unless they’re 2 different cream fabrics). Anyone know why it would be so contrast-y? Also there was a gusset from the same fabric in the seat of the trousers, but I did not put that back in as it looked a little worse for wear (gross!).

I also managed to keep the one back pocket, though I definitely think it could have been placed better! I cut out the 2 back pieces at the same time, for speed, but didn’t really take into consideration where this pocket was and made it so I was worried it was going to disappear into the side seam. Luckily there’s only one, so it’s not like one is perfect and the other one is around the side, so hopefully it isn’t as noticeable as I think it is!

Even after cutting off a chunk of the length of the trousers when I trimmed the legs to match the Simplicity pattern, I still had to shorten them by 8cm to get the ankle length hem I was after. I cut off 6cm and left myself 2cm for a double folded hem. I hemmed them on the machine, but I’m temped to unpick it and sew it invisibly by hand as a machine hem doesn’t fit with the style of the trousers. But they’re wearable for now.

And now onto the jacket.

I was going to use the Great British Sewing Bee Hacking Jacket as a pattern to base the jacket on, but I could not get the pattern pieces to fit. Boo. I do want to make it one day as I like the style of it, but for this jacket I decided to slightly wing it and take it in on all the seams where I had unpicked – I maybe shouldn’t have been so hasty to unpick so much!

I think it might be easier to just list all the places I took it in and by how much (in case you’re interested):

5cm off the shoulders
3cm off the side seams (initially I took off 5cm but the pockets were too much to the side so I changed it)
3cm off the back seam (in 2 chunks as I kept tweaking the adjustments)
3cm off the shoulders of the jacket (to bring the shoulder seams up from part way down my arm)
3cm off width of the sleeves
8cm off the top of the sleeves (I traced the shape of the sleeve head and moved it down the sleeve by 8cm to try to keep the button detail on the cuffs of the sleeves, but this didn’t end up working
6cm off the back of the collar

Phew! As you can imagine, this took a loooot of time and a lot of trial and error. The only new things I put in were new shoulder pads, made from wadding. The ones that I took out of the jacket were really past their best and starting to disintegrate. Also they were much too big for my re-sized suit, so it seemed easier to start again.

I made all the same adjustments, above, to the lining. I thought about fiddling with the lining first, so I only had to sew the shell once, once I knew what adjustments to make, but I figured the wool could withstand more unpicking than the lining, which isn’t the most expensive lining in the world.

I made sure to keep the front of the jacket as untouched as possible so I would be able to put the lapels and collar back, without having to know how they work! I sewed a new seam in the back of the collar piece to narrow it so it fitted between the 2 lapels. It was also an advantage to have kept the lapels as they are still pretty well presses, so they don’t want to flap so they’re flat. The notch of the collar/lapel is maybe a little high, but there wasn’t much I could do about it to be honest!

It took a lot of fiddling to get the sleeves right – that is definitely a tailoring skill that I don’t have. I kept the original sleeve head shape and size as I feared making it so small the jacket would have to shrink to fit it, and not the other way around. At one point one of the sleeves was pretty twisted, because there are 2 seams on the sleeve (only one of which I unpicked and took in) and I had lined up the wrong one with the seam on the jacket. It did not feel right! As I mentioned above, I was hoping to keep the button detail on the cuff, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it – and, to be honest, I was running out of time for the deadline! It would have taken a lot more brain than I had at the time to figure out how to re-attach the lining to the button thing, so I got rid of the whole thing and just did a normal hem/lining seam.

The back is maybe the least successful part – but maybe it just needs a good press? I tried to shape the back so it wasn’t quite so straight, but each time I basted it, it looked wrong, so I reverted to a straighter shape – and I’m glad I did as it’s more in keeping with the original style of the jacket. I also managed to keep the 2 vents at the back, which was, again, a headache to work out how to put the lining back in. I wish I had taken photos as I was unpicking as then I would have know how various bits looked before and would have had an idea of how to put it all back.

I’m glad I managed to keep all the pockets – on the outside and in the lining – as they keep the jacket looking quite like the original, and I didn’t have to sew any pockets! Hurray!

The final change I made was to shorten the jacket by 6cm, leaving a 3cm hem (which is how much hem was on the shell before), then the lining was shorter and neatened the whole thing. I was slightly shocked when the lining actually fit the shell, when I went to sew them together again. I bagged it out, unpicking a seam in the side of the lining, then stitching it back by hand once the jacket was turned around. I used this tutorial from Grainline for attaching the lining at the cuffs.

I have resewn the buttons since I took these photos, by the way – you can see below that they absolutely do not line up! It was very late and I was rushing to finish and take photos before the deadline of midnight on the 31st October!

I even managed to reuse the same hook for the back of the jacket. And this is the original hanger the suit was on – I assume my Dad stole it at some point! 🙂

These are all the scraps I have left over after all of the changes I made. It doesn’t look like too much, but I will try to use these up at some point to make the refashion a little lest wasteful. No idea what I’ll use them for, though!

I definitely want to have a go at a proper tailored jacket, from start to finish. Maybe I’ll see if there is an online course or something, so I’ll learn some tricks of the trade. I’m pretty please with how this turned out and I’ve already worn the trousers to work a couple of times. I think the jacket will be a nice warm layer now the weather is getting colder! I have some nice thick jumpers but most of my cardigans are pretty thin, so I think this jacket will see quite a lot of wears when it’s too cold for a cardigan, or over a jumper when it’s really cold.

Fashion History: 1930s

I thought today I would take a closer look as fashion from the 1930s. As I mentioned in my post on my book Vintage Fashion, the 30s was the era of Hollywood glamour. Gowns were elegant and draped and with an elongated silhouette. Women had been liberated from corsets in the 1920s meaning the evening-wear was freer and was cut on the bias to show the natural curves of the body. In terms of undergarments, they favoured separates with few seams so they wouldn’t show through the outerwear. Madeleine Vionnet was the first designed to use the bias to make these kinds of gown.

Madeleine Vionnet gown(image source)

In terms of daywear, the suit was still king. After the waist had completely disappeared in the 1920s, it came back in the 30s. After the Great Depression in 1929, people didn’t have so much money (obvs!) so fashion had to last longer – they mended things rather than buying again. Costume jewellery overtook real jewellery and it and accessories became the way to update a look where they couldn’t afford a new suit. Daywear became more and more practical, too, as women led busier lives.

1930s Suits(image source)

It was lucky timing that synthetic fabrics, like synthetic silk, were being developed during the 30s as it meant clothes were cheaper, so people could actually afford them. Don’t the women above look thrilled to be in their suits! As you can see, berets were a big trend, worn on a jaunty angle.

1935 Sears Fashions(image source)

After the boyish styles of the previous decade, the 30s returned to a feminine, hourglass silhouette. Although the suits weren’t super feminine, there was a big fashion for pussy bows and feminine necklines. Also frills and flounces on the blouses.

Meadowbrook Illustrations 1930s(image source)

Following Chanel’s lead, a  lot of daywear styles were more sporty than they had been before. In 1930 Prunella Stack started the Women’s League of Health and Beauty in Britain.  Their motto was ‘Movement is Life’ – and they acknowledged the importance of a healthy mind and a healthy body.

1930s Fashion Illustration(image source)

And of course fur is always elegant! Though these days I would go to faux rather than the real thing….

1930s Furs(image source)

I thought I’d share a couple of Elsa Schiaparelli’s designs, after discovering her in the Vintage Fashion book. Her label was first popular because of her trompe l’oeil knitwear designs, like these two (the bottom one was on the cover of a book about the history of knitting):


Schiaparelli jumper(image source)

She had no formal pattern-making training, so like her mentor, Paul Poiret, she draped her clothes directly on the body/ dress form. I love, love, love, this coat – I can’t believe she draped it! Want!

Schiaparelli faces gown(image source)

Designers like Schiaparelli and Chanel were, as now, the domain of the wealthy – especially in the shadow of the Depression – so people started to make knock-offs and ready-to-wear versions for the less wealthy to buy. Still the majority of women made their own copies of the latest designed based on what they saw in magazines and in movies. This means there are lots of great sewing patterns from the 30s!

Vogue 1934 Sewing Pattern(image source)

Simplicity Sewing Pattern 2110 1930s(image source)

McCalls Sewing Pattern 8690 1930s(image source)

New York Pattern 137 1930s(image source)

Simplicity Pattern 1860 1930s(image source)

I couldn’t really do a post on the decade of Hollywood glamour without mentioning some of the era’s film stars!

Katharine Hepburn was a champion of the menswear trend. She made the wide-legged trousers and shirt look popular and it’s still a fashionable look now. And she knits!

Katharine Hepburn knitting(image source)

Katharine Hepburn beret(image source)

Katharine Hepburn(image source)

Bette Davis said “Hollywood wanted me to be pretty, but I fought for realism.” ‘Nuf said! Although, if you haven’t seen All About Eve, you have to, she’s amazing!

Bette Davis(image source)

Jean Harlow died very young but did manage to become a film star in her short life. She also wore some amazing gowns!

Jean Harlow gown(image source)

Jean Harlow gown 2(image source)

Jean Harlow red gown(image source)

Marlene Dietrich said “I dress for myself. Not for the image, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men.” She was the first major female star to wear a tuxedo. She definitely rocked the masculine look!

(image source)

Marlene Dietrich suit(image source)

Marlene Dietrich suit 2(image source)

The last woman I’ll mention, though not a film star, was one of the most influential woman of the 30s style-wise. She was famously photographed by Cecil Beaton in a Schiaparelli dress, designed with Salvador Dali, with a giant lobster on the skirt – it was quite a scandalous dress at the time!

Wallis Simpson by Cecil Beaton in Schiaparelli(image source)

Here’s a better, colour, picture:

Schiaparelli lobster dress(image source)

In writing this post I’ve definitely reignited my love of 30s fashion! Who is your favourite screen icon of the decade?