A month or so ago, I was suddenly and surprisingly inspired to sew a coat. I don’t need to wear coats very often in LA and really never thought that I’d take the time to make one. But I’ve been feeling cold more than usual this fall, mostly due to living in a new neighborhood closer to the ocean and a new house with heating issues. The heating issues are going to be addressed (it will take some $$$$) but in the meantime, why not sew a coat? :)
Initially I was going to use Simplicity 3966, an out of print pattern that I’ve had in my stash for years. (Check it out as part of my Winter Sewing Plans here.) One of my big problems with coats is that I’m allergic to wool. If it touches my skin, I itch like crazy. I did a lot of online searching this fall and it’s surprisingly difficult to find coating fabric without wool. Inevitably, if I searched “wool-like”, the search results would return wool items. I lamented about my search on IG and Kelli from True Bias tipped me off to the Varsity Club range at Joanns. I ended up ordering 4 yards of this fabric from Joanns. It’s 100% polyester, perfect for my itch problems and I love the boucle texture and classic colors.
I washed the fabric in warm water and dried it on medium even though the instructions said to hand wash and the fabric was fine. I also used a medium-low iron and steam even though it said a cool iron. Seriously what could a cool iron even do? It’s definitely not easy to press but it worked out ok. The big drawback of this fabric is that is snags easily. Also, sometimes it makes me feel a little itchy. Granted, my skin is really sensitive.
When the fabric arrived, I was surprised at how stretchy it is. The fabric doesn’t contain any stretch materials and for some reason I just didn’t pay attention to the name of the product. It clearly says Stretch as part of the fabric name but I think I was so focused on the fiber content that I didn’t notice. Simplicity 3966 is pretty structured and I didn’t think the stretch would work for it. But fortunately the December issue of Seamwork Magazine has a coat pattern that works with stretch and sweater knit fabrics.
It was pretty much love at first sight when I saw the Jill coat. I love the length and the big pockets and I really loved the modification in their Block Paper Scissors article for extending the collar. They suggest doing an asymmetrical collar which I think looks cool but I wanted a pretty classic look so I did the larger collar for both sides. I used their guideline for redrawing the front and front facing and used it for both sides. I'm really fond of a big draped collar. I tried on a coat without a collar earlier this year and it just looked really odd to me. So for now I'm sticking with a dramatic collar.
If you haven’t heard of Seamwork Magazine before, it’s a free monthly sewing magazine from the fabulous team at Colette Patterns. I really look forward to the 1st of every month to see what they have in store. My favorite this month was Taming Your Project Queue. The articles are free to read but as a subscriber (just $6 a month), you get monthly credits to download patterns that you can save or spend as you like. If you use this link to subscribe, you can get half off the first month of your subscription (and I'll get a little bonus from them too). The great thing about signing up now is that there are lots of patterns in the library to choose from.
Doing the big collar really used up a lot more fabric, especially because the collar has a visible facing. I used up every bit of the 4 yards. I had just enough to lengthen the body by about 2 inches and lengthen the sleeves 1”. In the end, I really didn’t need the added length in the sleeves but I do like the length of the body. I may even shorten the sleeves a bit. If I make the coat again, I might shorten the width of the shoulders. The sleeve cap hangs off my shoulder a little bit (which also makes the sleeves longer). I could adjust this coat too but I’m going to live with it for a bit first. I made a size Medium to match my bust size and it’s pretty good fit. I suppose I could have gone down one size and the shoulders would have fit better and because I added 7-8 inches to the front lapel, there would still be ample bust space. Ah, retrospect.
I stitched a lot of this coat on my conventional machine using a stretch stitch and then finished the seam allowance with the serger. To finish the hems, I used my favorite twin-needle and wooly nylon method (detailed in this tutorial). If you don't have a serger, you can definitely stitch this all on a conventional machine. The construction was pretty easy. The only tricky part is around the shoulder/collar area but I've done that kind of seam before and this fabric had so much stretch that it was easy to do.
I really like this coat and anticipate wearing it a lot and definitely recommend the Jill Coatigan pattern. I like the oversized style because it’s so easy to throw over the top of any outfit. I took it out for it’s first spin to the grocery store layered on top leggings and a sweatshirt and still felt moderately pulled together. I'm still figuring out my photo taking areas at my new house. I have a really big patio area that's not too bright or too dark which is great for photos. I'm still working on the perfect angle and positioning but I'm happy to have an outdoor space right outside my door that's also fairly private. I'm also nurturing a cactus to take the place of the one I used to pose next to. Maybe I'll share it next time. :)