Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Tale of Two Coats: Part 1, Simplicity 2508 in herringbone wool/cashmere

It feels wonderful to finish a project that has been a looooong time in the planning. Over 2 years!

I had to search my own blog to remind myself just how long it has been. In June of 2014 I posted about the materials I had bought in preparation for coat making... but even as I was writing that post I was probably just finding out that I was pregnant with Leo. No surprise that it didn't get done that year, and then the following year I wasn't feeling like making anything that I expected to last long term since my body was still shaped differently from pregnancy and nursing. 

This fall I was nearly back to my usual size and the coat situation was rather desperate. My everyday wool coat was so threadbare and sad looking that I refused to even pull it out of storage. I do have my trusty down coat, but even this needs some TLC and I don't really want to wear a poofy coat every day. So I set aside other sewing tasks and concentrated on the coat. 

Thanks to shopping done two years ago, I had a lovely wool/cashmere coating from Mood. It is 53% cashmere, 35% wool and 10% nylon-- so incredible soft and cozy. I think it was really a good find, there was nothing like it out in the online shops when I did a quick search this fall. I prepped the fabric by throwing it in the dryer with a wet towel, and it came out just a bit fluffier and softer. 

After some consideration of the coat patterns available, I decided to go with Simplicity 2508. The 40+ reviews on Patternreview were rather convincing-- when so many people have been successful with a pattern, it is always a good sign. I also just happened to have it in my stash, so I didn't need to lay out more $$. Closet Case Files Clare coat was also calling my name... maybe next time!

Another thing that really spoke to me about this pattern is that the vast majority of people were able to make it with no major fit changes, and the biggest complaint was that the shoulders and arms were too roomy. Since I almost always have to adjust the arms to allow for more space, I'm all over a pattern that is ready made for thick arms! I made a muslin using cheap polarfleece, and the fit was spot on. I did tweak the fit just slightly by grading out a size at the hips and doing a small sway back adjustment by taking in the back seams 1/2 inch and tapering out to nothing. 

However, there are quite a few glaring mistakes in this pattern. There is something odd about the way the front bust seams go together-- the darts are useless, obviously misplaced, and the hems don't line up. I didn't spend the time to diagnose exactly what was wrong, I just ignored the dart and added length to the problematic front piece. From my muslin (and the reports of reviewers) it was apparent that the sleeves were too short-- or perhaps they were meant to be short? That wasn't at all clear to me in the pattern, but I just lengthened them by 1.5 inches (actually, I could have done another .25 inches, I think they are a tad short still!). Since I definitely don't have long arms, I can only guess this was some odd style choice in the pattern. And, as reviews note, the placement of the back tab/faux belt thing is inches off in the pattern-- I used my muslin to figure out proper placement. 

After reading lots about coats and looking at the coats people have made, it seemed clear to me that the best coats used substantial interfacing. So I block fused my coating to ProWeft Supreme Medium from Fashion Sewing Supply. Since I don't have a press and I don't live anywhere that I know anyone with a press, I did it with my iron. Ho hum. Thank goodness there were some episodes of Project Runway that I hadn't watched and I could use the time to catch up on. 

I had planned to do the in-seam pockets. Reviewers pointed to how small the pocket bags were and initially I tried just making the larger. This, however, created an awkward situation since the pockets are in the princess seam that is pretty far forward. You can only make the pocket bag so large since there isn't a lot of space (you'll run right into the front pockets) and I was also worried about creating bulk right over my belly, where I really don't need any extra padding. In addition, the position of the pockets wasn't very comfortable. 

So I bailed on the in-seam pockets and added slanted single welt pockets. I love that I could put them exactly where I want my hands to be, and had plenty of room to make big, deep pockets. I used the pattern piece for the welt pocket that was included in the pattern, slimmed down a little because it looked clunky to me. I decided on where to place it by demo-ing it on my muslin, then used online tutorials to make the welts. Of course, Heather's tutorial was among the best. The back of the pocket lining is my coating fabric, and the front is rayon bemberg lining. Slipping my hands into my pockets and feeling the cozy cashmere wool is wonderful!

Since there is no way that my machine will successfully make a buttonhole through multiple layers of this fabric, I did bound buttonholes. Thank goodness this is a very forgiving fabric, since they are perhaps not the most perfect buttonholes. The buttons are real horn, from an ebay seller in Hong Kong that I can only recommend if you have a lot of time and are determined to save $$, since I only received them after complaining that I hadn't received them. When they finally arrived, they were lovely buttons with beautiful natural variation and have a cool, smooth feel that is unlike typical plastic coat buttons. 

I also did a few things that I hope will help with the durability. I added a back stay made out of washed muslin, and used cotton twill tape to reinforce seams (and prevent stretching) on the collar and the raglan sleeve seams.

I hate a floppy collar, so I interfaced the collar with fusible horsehair canvas. When it got to putting the collar on, it turned out to be 5 inches too small! I went back and looked at the pattern pieces and I'm pretty sure I used the right one, cut in the right size. So I added a piece in the center back to make up the difference. In the picture above, you can also see my hanging loop, which I made out of a tube of coating fabric. 

I had been considering using a lovely silk charmeuse for lining, but worry about its durability. About 4 years ago I re-lined my old wool coat with what I thought was a fairly substantial silk charmeuse, and it was showing signs of wear before the end of the season. After another season it was pretty much shredded! I've thought about ways that I could help out a lovely silk lining... but for this coat, I went with a slightly heavier rayon lining in an aubergine color that I found at Gorgeous Fabrics. I also added an interior zip pocket in the lining. 

I interlined the coat with lambswool/rayon interlining. I basted it to the lining pieces, then trimmed excess out of the seam allowances. I considered various ways not to sew it into the seams at all, but the bulk turned out not to be a problem and this method saved me hours of hand stitching. The lambswool is so light and non-bulky that I even interlined the sleeves, and I can hardly feel the weight of it. 

As for sewing in the lining itself, I used the "bagging" technique and it worked like a charm. There are multiple tutorials on blogs on how to do this, including this one by Heather

I decided that the coat would benefit from a small shoulder pads. Using the shoulder of the pattern as a template, I cut out a two-piece shoulder pad (there is a seam down the top of the shoulder in the pattern). In the above picture, you can see my cut out pieces for two shoulder pads. I sewed the two halves together and pressed the seam flat, making a cup shape for the shoulder. I think I ended up going with only two layers of fleece (scrapping the smallest circle). 

While I appreciated how wide the sleeves were around the biceps, I didn't care for the fact that there was absolutely no tapering of the sleeve. So I added my own tapering, taking off over an inch (spread over two seam allowances) at the wrist. I mildly regret not adding buttonholes to the sleeve tabs... but not enough to undo them once they were done!

I've been able to test out my coat on some real winter weather lately, and I can say it is wonderful to wear. It is perfect for cold, blustery weather... I just love being able to button up the collar and feel armored against the wind. The wool is warm, but not so much that I'm sweating by the time I've loaded my grocery cart. The cashmere/wool blend feels wonderfully luxurious to wear and isn't at all scratchy. I have to say I'm pretty pleased with my first real winter coat, it was worth the wait!