traces of thread: the coat

Remember the coat from my collection?

This was by far the most complicated, and involved garment I made. But so, so enjoyable! I really thrive on learning new tailoring and sewing techniques, and being able to put them into action. This coat became the catch-all of sorts, of techniques I was intrigued by and wanted to try. Some of them were perhaps not completely necessary, but they certainly didn’t hurt!

I used a vibrant magenta silk charmeuse for the lining, which was… a little challenging. Charmeuse certainly isn’t the easiest fabric to work with, being kind of slippery both in cutting and in handling. I just took my time working with it. The colors in those cell-phone pictures are kind of off, but I like seeing pattern layouts, so there! That is what it looked like while I was cutting out and trying to get the best yield possible! I ended up using about 2 3/4 yards of 60″ wide fabric – mostly because the skirt of the coat is so voluminous!

The cartridge pleats in the skirt is lined fully along the edge with the silk lining fabric. It was quite a task to figure out how to attach everything, as a section of the skirt is sewn edge to edge with the lining, but the rest is sewn wool bodice to wool skirt, and silk bodice to silk skirt. was confusing!

I think the edge of the cartridge pleats came out very nice, and it’s a lovely detail to discover up close. What I’m holding in the picture, is the lining skirt hem, which due to a silly patternmaking glitch on my part, I had to ease into the skirt hem facing. Since the skirt is curved, there is a separate facing all along the edge, about 3″ wide, and then the lining is sewn to the facing. On the inside I catch-stitched the wool facing to the outside skirt edge, so the facing would stay in place and not flop down – which it was very prone to doing since it was such a long piece (probably over 3 yards in total!)

Anyways, in several places I used some organza bias strips to ease the fabric, and it worked so well! I first read about it in one of Gertie’s sew-along posts, and it had me really intrigued. It is quite clever – just place a strip of bias organza (1/2″ should be enough) on the stretch of fabric that needs easing, sew it in place close to the stitch-line, but in the seam allowance, and the bias will stretch out while sewing, and ease back when you’re done. Now that length of the fabric has shrunk in length, without any puckers! Then you sew it to the other piece of fabric as normal. It’s a fantastic way of easing without any wrinkles or puckers.

The design- and patternmaking stage of this collection fell pretty much exactly with the winter. I found myself staring at people’s coats during my morning commute on the “L”, studying the construction and details of them. I noticed a lot of them at a sort of mock flat-felled seam, where the seam allowance is folded to one side and topstitched about 1/4″ away from the seam. I loved the look of that detail, and included it on the bodice and the sleeves of my coat. The above picture is also meant to show the sleeve of the coat, which I put some extra touches in, and I think it ended up looking quite nice!

A large reason the sleeve looks nice, is the addition of a sleeve-head. It’s a batted piece of bias muslin, basted into the seam allowance and lying in towards the sleeve to improve the shape of the sleeve. It’s meant to prevent the top of the sleeve from falling down and looking limp, but in this case it also gave a nice shape to the gatherings at the top as well. I ended up not putting in any shoulder-pads because I liked the overall shape as it was, but they are also something to add for a tailored look.

I also reinforced the shoulder, by sewing in a straight-grain strip of organza. Muslin also works for this purpose, and I sewed some around the armscye too to prevent stretching, but during construction, and afterwards, during use of the garment. I got a little over-ambitious and started pulling the organza taut as I was sewing, which has the danger of actually making the fabric shrink, instead of just maintaining the original shape and length! (Don’t do that. Don’t pull!)

I reinforced the edges of my silk lining fabric. I knew from experience that silk charmeuse frays like crazy – not necessarily just from sewing and handling it, but definitely in use after the garment is sewn. I wanted the inside of this coat to be as durable and well-made as possible, so I cut bias strips about 1/4″ wide of interfacing, and ironed on the edges of the lining pieces after they were cut. Yes, it took quite a while, but it was a great relief to not have a fraying mess on my hands while I was sewing, and more so, that I wouldn’t have a ravelling mess on the inside of the coat, creeping towards the seamline and threatening to become undone!

I’m sure there is a ton of stuff I’ve forgotten – oh, I know! Interfacing! Lot’s of interfacing – on  facings, on stresspoints such as either end of pocket openings… really, lots of places. I learned that interfacing really improves the overall feel of the garment; makes it feel more sturdy and professionally finished. I also used weft interfacing for the first time, which was wonderful! Like regular woven fabrics it has a cross-grain and a straight-grain, and therefore also stretches like wovens do. You need more of it since it has to be cut on grain as well, but it doesn’t change the hand of your fabric to a stiff, different thing. It’s your fabric, just better!

Well, that was the tour of the stuff I did to my coat! I hope this geeking out is enjoyable to other people too!


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