Emily@BelgianSeams

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Dream coat

Finishing off 2021 to report on a very involved project that I worked on a little bit each day over several weeks – I made my dream coat! I have learnt loads making it and I’m really quite proud of it (as anyone who has spoken to me recently will have heard!). It brightens up a grey day, is comfortable, warm, has plenty of room for wearing a jumper with it, has pockets, and I can even cycle in it. I’ve got a lot to say about making this so read on to find out more. Apart from some little things here and there that could be neater, overall, I’m really pleased with the finish.

The pattern

The pattern I used was from issue 216 of Burda from December 2017 (pattern number 109 on page 8, and available online). I was looking through the magazine and was drawn to the pattern for the deep raglan shoulders and the collar style. I modified it slightly by not doing the sleeve cuffs the way the pattern suggested and I followed the first method for doing the hem in this amazing Youtube video on sewing a lined jacket corner. I also moved the welt pockets (which was a slight mistake as I had to make the pocket bags smaller as they were overlapping with the buttonhole area!).

The fabric choices

Main fabric
I bought this Herringbone wool fabric from Passion Tissus in Saint-Gilles, but I didn’t have enough to do the whole coat in it, which was actually a blessing in disguise. At first I wanted to use all of the red fabric for the collar pieces but I also did not have enough of that either as I just had a few bits leftover from a previous project. So in the end I chose to use a third fabric for the front facings (i.e. the lower lapels), this was leftover fabric I previously used to make this skirt in 2016.

I also had to patchwork small pieces of the Herringbone fabric to make the undercollar! So to say I used every last scrap of the fabric is no exaggeration!

I think the combination of the three fabrics and the wooden buttons works really well! I interfaced (interfacing in French = entoilage) the front facing, welt pockets, and collar with camel hair (poil de chameau) which I bought in a haberdashery near where I live. From previous projects I learnt that it is good to get good and appropriate interfacing for your fabric as it really improves the quality of the finish. Always interested in trying out different materials for interfacing.

Lining and Interlining
The lining fabric is gorgeous (also from Passion Tissus) and I’m so glad I got to use it for this coat. I decided to interline the front and back lining pieces with a blue toweling fabric. I wanted to ensure the coat would be warm so I think this was a good move, I didn’t interline the sleeves as I didn’t want to add too much bulk and also I didn’t have that much of the toweling fabric. I read quite a lot about interlining to prepare for this project and it is quite interesting to think about what fabrics you can use, while you can buy special interlining fabric it seems that flannel or a towel fabric are really good choices, they are light and add warmth which is what you are trying to achieve.

The construction

I decided to write out all of the steps involved as there are quite a lot and this will be a good reference for when I’m planning my next coat! I did mostly follow the instruction order in the pattern but the below is my own ‘work flow’ that has extra steps or things in a slightly different order.

1) Trace off pattern (and add seam allowance!) in your size, make any necessary modifications, and make a test version! I made a shorter test version of this coat which turned out quite nice too. I’ve not taken any pictures of it yet but will share at some point too.

2) Cutting, interfacing and interlining

  • Cut out all pieces in coat self fabric, lining fabric, interlining and interfacing.
  • Interface front facing, welts, back facing, and upper collar.
  • Interline front and back lining pieces.

3) Preparing coat front

  • Sew welt pockets. There are loads of tutorials online but I just followed the Burda method which I found relatively simple.
  • Join front facing to (side) coat front (don’t sew all the way to top and bottom, but enough so that the area where the buttons will be is joined.
  • Do the bound button holes on right side of coat front.

4) Preparing collar

  • Join upper collar to back facing – this was quite tricky to get right so do a practice on some scrap fabric to make sure you get a neat finish – and set aside.

5) Sew coat

  • Sew back sleeves together at centre back seam then attach to back piece.
  • Sew front sleeves to coat front pieces.
  • Sew front and back sleeves together.
  • Sew side seams

6) Sew lining

  • Sew back sleeves together at centre back seam then attach to back piece.
  • Sew front sleeves to coat front pieces.
  • Sew front and back sleeves together.
  • Sew side seams.
  • Set aside.

7) Attaching collar to coat

  • Sew front facings all the way up.
  • Attach under collar to back neckline.
  • Sew upper collar to under collar right sides together, leaving the inner seam that will join front facing open. Turn right side out. Sew open seams of collar to front facing
  • Stitch to secure shoulder seam to the collar seam.

8) Join lining and coat
Sew lining and coat together right sides facing, joining the lining to the coat facings.

9) Hem and bagging the lining

  • Fold hem and lining
  • Assemble bodice and facing down to lower edge
  • Assemble facing with lining to notch
  • Self bottom
  • Lining with self bottom
  • Cuffs
  • Bagging the lining: Unpick a 15cm gap in the sleeve lining upper seam, pull coat through. Turn out – celebrate, you are nearly done! Here is a video of me doing this for this coat:

10) Final hand sewing and buttons

  • Hand stitch hem vents.
  • Hand stitch sleeve lining hole.
  • Hand stitch sleeve lining at cuff to hold in place.
  • Press hem
  • Sew on buttons

Now go forth and live your life in your new coat!

Nothing you make exists in isolation, and this coat would not exist if it had not been for the previous coats I made and learned from (the Yates coat from Grainline Studio in 2020, the Rita raincoat pattern from from Make my Lemonade in 2016, a self-drafted coat in 2015, and the République du Chiffon Gérard coat in 2014).

It’s cool to look at this new coat and see how I have progressed. And I know that the next coat I make should be even better for having made this one.

Powerpuff sleeve experiments

I’m really happy with this dress as I worked slowly and carefully on drafting the pattern over several weeks. I had an idea in my mind of what I wanted and I used up plenty fabric scraps and muslin to test out different modifications. I knew I wanted to embrace the square neckline and puff sleeves trend in a dress that has a nice balance of looking fitted but feeling casual to wear.

The front bodice is built around princess seams but the upper bodice side panels are separate pattern pieces (which you can’t really see in this fabric). The skirt is a gored slight tulip shaped skirt that continues down from the princess seam lines on the front bodice and the darts on the back bodice.

There are (cute pink) buttons all down the centre front. I spent a long time calculating the seam allowances and extra width to add to account for the button panels! I find one of the trickiest things about drafting your own patterns is that you obviously have to work out the pattern pieces and construction method for fastenings too. But that is also really exciting as you can think about what methods you like from previous patterns you have made and emulate those.

Once I was happy with the pattern I decided to make it up in this vintage bedding fabric (i.e. someone else’s old sheets) that I got in an Oxfam shop ages ago. It’s quite hard to photograph but I think it looks good with the pink buttons.

My plan now is to keep tweaking the pattern it and use it as the basis for future dresses. I think it would be interesting to play with contrasting fabrics for the different bodice pieces.

I made this mostly at Green Fabric in Forest where I have been going once a week to sew since September. This amazing place is a textile fablab, a coworking space for different types of creative and crafty pursuits, and it holds participatory workshops (e.g. upcycling, ceramics, making your own cosmetics). All with the aim of promoting the ecological transition at the local level! Having a place to sew that is not in my apartment has been great (who knew, doing everything in one place is not very stimulating!). I love the feeling of going there with a sewing plan and not being distracted by things at home, and it’s great to meet other people doing amazing creative things and to be surrounded by intriguing machines and materials!

Jump around

Earlier this year, my lovely friend Ciara asked me to help her change a wrap-around dress of hers into a jumpsuit. I’m not particularly good at alterations and modifications, but I was up for a fun lockdown challenge! In the end I did a not-so-fantastic job on the transformation (sorry, Ciara!), but I did become a bit fascinated with the dress-come-jumpsuit’s construction, particularly the way the pockets were incorporated into the belt.

So I rubbed off the blouse part, modified it a bit to my liking, drafted some shorts to add to it and this is the result!

I was so pleased with the process of drafting/pattern hacking and I love the final result. The fabric is a petrol grey thin flowy cotton (in my stash for a while with no memory of where it came from :/ ) and I embroidered some little leaf details onto the yokes. The pocket lining and blouse bias is finished with some turquoise satin lining fabric. I love the combination of the colours!

I have only worn it a few times so far as I don’t know if I am really a jumpsuit person. I thought I would wear it in the summer a bit more but in the end I didn’t turn to it that much. Going to see if I wear it a bit more over the winter with some thick tights. The waist gathers at the back do look a bit ‘crinkly bottom’ in the photo here though – maybe I need to give it a better press!

I enjoy when something inspires you to access the energy/headspace needed for this kind of ‘problem solving’ (or ‘making it up as you go along’) sewing, opposed to sewing something where you know exactly what you are doing, with a tried and tested pattern, for example. Working on this was a slow process over a few weeks (months?) earlier this year when we were still under different restrictions, and even though I didn’t always feel like exercising that part of my sewing brain I was always glad when I did. My plan now is to adapt the pattern a bit to make a dress version based on the bodice cut. Sewing really is engineering and I love it! It’s also great when one item of clothing can act as a source of inspiration and can lead you down an unplanned (garden) path.

p.s. And the plan is to fix Ciara’s original butchered garment and make it into a top! 🙂

 

 

Tartan Army

I’ve written before about my love for the Teahouse Dress pattern from Sew House Seven Patterns, and you can see the dresses I’ve made from it here and here. I had been wanting to sew up this tartan fabric for a while now and the notion took me to use it to make a short version of the Teahouse Dress. Really pleased with the result, even thought the front facing is slightly pulling on the princess seams in so they don’t sit as fully flat as I would like. After some unpicking I got it to sit a bit better.

I think it looks really nice with the black waist ties. I also did that thing of diving into a project without fully thinking if the fabric was appropriate for the pattern. As I was cutting out the pieces I realised I would need to make a big effort to pattern match the tartan fabric as much as possible but it was quite tricky with the princess seams, but I enjoyed trying and I think the result is ok!

As a Scottish person living in another country, I am hesitant to walk around in a tartan dress, but I also love tartan and I’m half Belgian now so I’m allowed to. 🙂

Upcycling my own sewing

I made this dress in 2019 and I never really wore it much. I always found it a bit tight in the armpits! I had some of the fabric left over so this summer I used it to start working on a new bodice style. Then I decided to take the skirt off the original dress and add it to the bodice. And jazz it up with these buttons!

I still don’t looove it so I wonder what this dress will be transformed into in a few years time?