A new favourite coat part 1: how to make an inverted box pleat down the centre back


I’m currently working on recreating my favourite coat of all time. I bought it in my second or third week in Brussels, over 5 years ago, at the ‘marché au puces’ at the Place du Jeu de Balle. It cost me 10 euros and for the incalculable amount of times I’ve worn it, it’s fair to say I’ve definitely got my money’s worth. It’s a plain, green coat but there is something about it that I just love. The brand is ‘Tiroler Loden’ which is apparently a schmancy Austrian coat maker. It’s cosy, comfy, has great pockets and raglan sleeves, and is slightly too big for me so there is plenty place for a jumper underneath. Look how happy it makes me!

emily original coat 1


So in keeping with my recent attempt to draft my own patterns I decided that trying to recreate this one would be no more difficult than hunting out a coat pattern I liked and then working out how to make it. I have an idea in my head of a red version of this coat. In the meantime I’m diving head first into a (hopefully) wearable muslin. The fabric I’m using cost me 1 dollar a yard, yes, 1 DOLLAR A YARD. That is way too cheap to be ok. I bought it in Brooklyn, New York, in a small shop on Flatbush Avenue near Prospect Park when I was there last week on a trip.


How to make an inverted box pleat in the centre back of a coat

The coat is far from finished but today I want to share a tutorial for how to make an inverted box pleat in the centre back of a coat, a feature of my beloved green coat. I worked out how to do it through much analysis and fondling of my green coat – imitating clothes you love is so frustrating because you can’t unpick things!

This tutorial can be used for any back coat pattern piece cut on the fold.

(I’m going to focus on construction and presume you have a pattern piece but just a quick word about drafting: make sure your pattern piece has the ‘extra’ fabric needed for the pleat. This means widening the pattern piece by (in my case) 11cm from where your centre back seam is to count for the pleat.)

So here we go:

1) Cut out your back coat piece on the fold.

2) Your back coat piece once it is opened up (obviously your pattern piece will vary depending on the style of the pattern you are using).

3) Draw a line down the centre in chalk on the wrong side of the fabric.

4) On this line measure down 14cm (or whatever distance you want the pleat to begin from) and mark that point.

5) On each side of the centre back mark two points, one 5.5 cm from centre, and another 11 cm from centre. Then square these lines up to be parallel with the point you marked 14cm down from the top of the pattern piece.
Whatever measurements you use it is important that each column is the same width as they will become the two sides of each pleat. So each of my columns are 5.5cm.



6) Take the first line you drew on one side of the centre back and fold it over, right sides together. Now sew along this line with with a tiny seam allowance of just a few millimetres. The idea is to define this fold so that it stays in place. Repeat for the other side of the coat.

Hope this step is clear from the photos.




7) Fold the outer columns under the inner columns.




It should look like this on the wrong side…


…and this on the right side.


8) Now you are going to sew the part of the coat above the line you drew 14cm down from the top. Lift up the pleat and pin along the centre back.


Sew. It should look like this from the front.


9) Topstitch a small triangle where the top of the pleat meets the sewn part of the cente back seam.


10) This part is tricky to show in photos. Basically the aim is to cut away the unnecessary fabric at the top.
You should now have three layers of fabric. Repeat the following for both sides.


Cut down the centre of the first layer of fabric only from top to just above your triangle.
Then cut to the left to the end of the pleat.


Open up this panel as in the photo. Cut it off leaving a seam allowance at the centre back and leaving the double layer of fabric at the top of the pleat in between my fingers in the previous photo.

It should now look like this:


You should be able to stick your finger right through from here:


to the front:


I’ll deal with whether I add a button and fastening like the one that appears on my green coat another day 🙂

Voila !

 – – – – – – –

Here is a picture of the finished back piece pinned to the sleeves and the two front pieces before I sewed those four seams.


Then I sewed the side seams and underarm seams in one fell swoop – one of my favourite sewing manouvers!


To be continued….

Belladone is back!

IMG_8880 IMG_8863

As my most-worn dress is my first version of Deer and Doe’s wonderful Belladone pattern, I thought it was high time to revisit the pattern and make another one. In a way I was nervous to remake it after such a long time in case it didn’t work out and my previous success was a fluke!

(Oh, and as you can see I got a camera remote – lots of fun playing with it when there is no one around to badger into taking my picture. It’s so much better than the self-timer that comes built in to the camera.)

To change things up a bit I moved the zip to the side and omitted the upper back pieces and scooped the neckline a bit more at the front.



I also made the front waistband in a contrast fabric. That wasn’t my plan from the outset but when I sewed the bodice, waistband, and skirt together (all in the same fabric) it made me feel a bit dizzy as the waistband wasn’t cut very wisely so the print was at an angle. As the waistband is such an important part of the dress for providing balance if it looks odd your eye is drawn to it immediately. So I did some unpicking and replaced the front waistband with some black fabric. I think this looks much better and breaks up the intense print!

The pockets in this dress are a dream and I need to remember that all dresses deserve pockets like this!


At the moment I’m trying to use patterns I have already (or draft my own). It feels good to go back to a pattern I already know well as there is always room for improvement. You can also relax a bit more as (in theory) you know your way around. This means you can focus on other things you might not have done first time round such as making modifications (or intently listening to podcasts while sewing).

The fabric must be some blend of polyester and I’m pretty sure it is not for dressmaking. But it is great to wear and I like its texture which gives the dress a bit more body. I bought it in a really good ‘coupon’ shop near the Marché Saint-Pierre in Paris. I got a whole pile of great printed fabric like this when I was there in March.

I feel it is a definite ‘love-it-or-hate it’ print though. Would you be drawn to this print or does it make you go ‘ah put it down now’?

Living the high life


A few months ago I found Tea’s blog and was bowled over by her makes. Inspiration is an overused word but seeing her outfits gave me a much-needed jolt of energy. I love the aesthetic of this lady’s style and it reminded me what I truly like about clothes and dressing.

There was something about Tea’s makes that made me really happy and positive about all the amazing things we can make using our sewing machines and our brains!

I commented on this dress that Tea made to say how much I liked it and that I wanted to make a similar one. She replied saying that she hoped I’d be able to find a similar pattern but that, even better, I should draft one – so I took up her challenge and did just that!

I spent a few weeks honing the fit of my basic bodice block (that’s for another blog post) and then I had a close look at the pictures on Tea’s blog to work out the construction of the dress as best I could.

The front bodice has underam and waist darts and on the back bodice the dart was removed and made into a mini-princess seam making two bodice pieces.


The skirt is a full circle skirt. Instead of putting buttons all the way down I just put in two buttons and then a small 15cm zip. My skirt is also longer than Tea’s and doesn’t have any pockets or buttons on the front.

The fabric is African wax cotton and was bought in Gold Fingers and it says HIGH LIFE all over it. Did I mention it says HIGH LIFE all over it?


My outfit pictures were taken by my Mum over Easter when I went with my family to the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, off the west coast of mainland Scotland. It was a wonderful holiday and I’m so lucky to have had the chance to go. We visited some family there who I hadn’t seen in years and we explored the beautiful scenery. If you get the chance to go I highly recommend it!

If it had been warmer I’d have taken some pictures in a stunning location like some of the pictures below – instead we snapped these quickly before running back into the house to put more layers on – oh, Scotland!

Garry Sands, Isle of Lewis

Road from Bostagh to Calanais, Isle of Lewis

Dalbeg, Isle of Lewis

I’m really happy with how this dress turned out and I’m going to make another one in a different fabric now. Possibly shorter. I might shorten this one too.

Thanks, Tea, for inspiring me! And I hope you don’t mind me imitating you! Hope I’ve not just crossed a blogging boundary!


Ghosts of garments past


If you’re a hoarder – whether out of a natural knack to ‘make do and mend’ or (like me) you are just indecisive and hate to throw things away because ‘you never know’ when you might need them – then you’ll likely have a box somewhere of fabric remnants that you don’t know what to do with. The hope is that these fabric scraps will one day make a perfect contrast yoke, a pocket lining, a covered button, or maybe some bias binding.

But when it becomes apparent that the fabric you are hoarding probably won’t be used again for dressmaking, one good option is to make something relatively simple, such as a zip pouch. I don’t do much non-clothing sewing so when my Mum asked me to make a few zip pouches for a friend of hers I thought it was a good opportunity to sew something that didn’t involve fitting. 🙂

What I really like about these pouches is that when I look at them they tell me stories: I see the ghosts of my previous dressmaking projects!

Let’s see what they have to say:

When I look at this pouch I see sewing highs and sewing lows. This grey quilted outer fabric was bought in Berger last May for the Sew it Up challenge. It has previously appeared in my République du Chiffon Viviane dress which is my biggest sewing fail to date – love the pattern but I made a bad fabric choice and it’s pretty ill-fitting. The fabric then made its second appearance in one of my biggest sewing successes to date – my Papercut Patterns Clover dress which I wear all the time! The lining was bought on GoldHawk Road and I used it for a Anna/Lilou hybrid dress, which I really like in theory but don’t wear that often.


And when I look at this pouch I see
one of my favourite most-worn skirts
Tilly and the Buttons’ Clémence. The flowery fabric came from an old pinny salvaged from Belgian charity shop Petits Riens. The skirt has been significantly shortened since I blogged about it – hence all the extra fabric offshoots!


Do you hoard scraps of fabric? Do you have a favourite non-dressmaking sewing project?

Static noise



“Your jumper is like the fuzz that was on telly before the cartoons started!”

This was along the lines of how my dear friend David greeted me when I met him recently wearing this jumper. And true enough – it does bear a strong resemblance to the static noise that filled the screen after the watershed was over and before the early morning cartoons began. Or if the TV aerial had been blown down in a particularly dramatic storm. Oh, nostalgia for an information age before 24 hour programming, multiple channels, and indeed the internet. Apparently young David would often sit watching this static noise waiting for his favourite cartoons to come on, so cute!

When I picked this grey thick Raf Simons knit up in November at the Fabric Sales just outside Leuven I didn’t see any TV test screens however, all I saw were some abstract cloud patterns. And heading back to Brussels on the train I started to picture a slouchy jumper – and I’m happy I managed to make it pretty much how I pictured it in my head.

To make the pattern I rubbed off an H&M jumper I own that I love the style of. The original jumper is longer than this one, but I wanted a shorter style to wear with skirts.



You can get an idea of the pattern piece shapes in this picture:

On the left is the front and back pieces which are cut on the fold. I made them both the same size so there is no real front or back to this jumper. On the right is the sleeve piece which starts half way down the upper arm.

You can get an idea of the construction by looking at the seams on the inside of the jumper in this photo:

The construction process was really simple:

Step 1: Sew shoulder seams

Step 2: Sew sleeves to bodice pieces at armhole

Step 3: Sew side seams and sleeve seams together in one fell swoop.

Step 4: Finish hem and cuffs

Step 5: Finish neckline


Alternatively you could do the neckline first before the front and back pieces are joined.

I finished my neckline with some makeshift ribbing from the fabric. It’s not perfect and I’m not sure how it will stand up to wear and tear. The ribbing might also look nice turned to the inside.

I’ve got loads of this fabric left so I’m going to have another go at it in any case – perhaps in a slightly longer style or with a raglan sleeve, or a classic sleeve. Tilly recently posted some tips on using the Coco pattern to sew a jumper so that could be another good pattern option for this fabric.

I sewed the seams on my sewing machine and finished them on my overlocker. The twin needle was used for top stitching the cuffs and hem. Before I hemmed it the fabric sat nice and flat but after hemming it kind of puckers. It’s not really a problem for this style but it would be nice to know how to avoid the puckering if possible! Maybe it just needs a good press – what do you think?

The skirt in these photos was bought at the ‘brocante’ on my street last September. The best thing is that if you see stuff you like you don’t have to carry your finds far to get it home – as well as the skirt I got a mirror, a cupboard, and a rug…probably a good thing it only happens once a year!

The Ma Campagne market, September 2014.

When I saw this mustard yellow skirt (originally from H&M) I was delighted as it looked exactly like my ‘dream skirt’! And for 2 euros, bargain! Sadly it was way too big for me. So I unpicked the waist band and the pleats and recalculated how much would need to be taken out in the pleats for it to fit me properly. I then positioned box pleats accordingly and gathered the rest before resewing on the (now shortened) waistband. I managed to keep as much of the original skirt in tact – the pockets, the lapped zip, the side seams, and the hem.


There’s only one snag with sewing a knitted jumper – I feel like a cheat! From rubbing off the pattern, cutting out, and sewing, it took me an afternoon – if I was to have knitted a jumper by hand it it would have taken me months!

What do you think? Is it ‘cheating’?