Sewing Coats (part 2)

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In last week’s post, I learned while laying out the pattern for my beautiful ivory coat on my salvaged cloth shower curtain that I was shy about four inches in the width of the fabric. Piecing the fabric together would be time-consuming and I wouldn’t be able to match the pattern. What to do?

Since I can’t stretch the fabric, I have to reduce the design. I looked over the pieces and cut off the foldover that formed the inside front edge facings of the front opening. I made new facing patterns and made them wider. I don’t like skimpy facings. I also decided I needed pockets so I made a pocket pattern as well. I knew I had enough leftover fabric after cutting out the sleeves and the collars to get the pockets. So what did I do about the facings?

I dug around in the stash and found some leftover cloth that was close in color and weight to my fashion fabric, and I cut the facings out of that. They don’t show unless I choose to display the lining to someone.

simplicity pattern 4051 view C sewing coat

A vest pattern that can also be used to make a coat.

Now, here’s an interesting thing you did not know about the Simplicity 4051 pattern: It is not a coat pattern. It is a set of vest patterns. But what is the difference between a coat and view C, a long-sleeved, long-line vest? Add a closure system, and this vest becomes a coat.

Since I didn’t want to redraft the front of the garment, and I didn’t have enough fabric to do this anyway, I decided to make the closures one that worked with just butting the finished edges together. So I settled on big hooks and eyes. I could have used really fancy jeweled ones or I could have used frogs. My hooks and eyes are large, shiny bronze, and when carefully sewn on with a button hole stitch (which I learned in Threads Magazine #117), they look polished and professional.

This pattern is unlined. I prefer my coats to have linings; they make coats wear better, make them warmer, and they go on and off of the body so much smoother. So how do we make a lining for a coat when there is none? First, we cut out the lining using the pattern for the shell of the coat. That is, we use the front sides, front centers, backs, and sleeves, and cut them out of the lining fabric. We reuse the same pattern pieces to cut out the fashion fabric. I didn’t have to line the collar and I used my modified front center pattern pieces, the ones without the facings, to cut the linings.

I made two other modifications to the pattern. I needed to make the coat easy to wear over sweaters, so I cut the pattern not to a 24W but to a 26W. This gives me a few inches more room in the overall body fit, enough to allow the coat to slide on over a sweater. You may recall that I had to make separate facings to allow for not having enough fabric? Using a size 24W versus a 26W would still have required me to cut separate facings.

sewing coats shoulder seam detail

I should have redrawn the armhole to make it bigger; instead, I just eased in the extra fabric of the larger sleeve.

I needed a sleeve that would be large enough as well, to go over bulky sweaters. So I redrew the sleeves to the largest size (32W) in the body of the sleeve to give wearing ease. I should have redrawn the armhole to make it bigger; instead, I just eased in the extra fabric of the larger sleeve. The armhole wasn’t that much smaller so it didn’t become a problem. As you can see from the picture, it looks fine.

So the pattern cost me 99 cents, and the fashion fabric cost me another 75 cents. The facings came out of the stash and was probably free. I certainly didn’t buy it. Maybe it was given to me, or I picked it up along the side of the road. Every once in a great while, someone’s moving away trash includes yard goods and I always take them home.

The lining was cut from fabric left over from the nightgown project I’ll talk about later. It is a flannel-back satin in a rich purple, and it went beautifully with the ivory fashion fabric. The flannel backing also made the lining warmer. We’ll say the lining cost me about 10 bucks, as I bought it with a fifty percent off coupon at Joann’s. I bought too much nightgown fabric as I (a) misread the pattern and (b) had to work around the fabric being in two separate pieces on the bolt. I would rather buy extra and have some left over than run short and have to go back to the store and hope they have some left.

So I made the lining first, learning the pattern as I went. Let me say now that if you’re going to sew something as slippery and recalcitrant as flannel back satin, get a walking foot. If you don’t have one, then resign yourself to hand basting every single seam. Even with a million pins and the walking foot, the fabric fought me on every seam. I did a lot of ripping and resewing of the lining, partly because of seam creep and partly because I misread how the sleeves were to be set in. The underarm seam and the sleeve seam are offset by two inches. The pattern was not what I would describe as being crystal clear on this point. So I ripped and resewed the sleeves, before finishing the seam margins, thank the Lord. The finished results were worth the trauma.

I finished almost all my interior seams by pinking them, ironing them all flat, and then I sewed them in place. In my experience, seam margins don’t stay flat unless they are sewn in place OR you have your ladies’ maid iron the garment after every washing. Since I don’t have a ladies’ maid, I sew the seams down. This gives me some additional stitch lines showing but what do I care? They don’t show enough to be worth the pain in the ass of having to constantly be ironing the seam margins back in place. The sleeve head seams were trimmed and finished closely with the sort-of-like-a serger stitch my Baby Lock has built in. It enclosed the raw edges and gave me just enough of a seam margin to sew the lining to the fashion fabric at the shoulder/armscye seam.

I did not finish either the bottom hem or the sleeve hems on the lining at this time. I knew I wouldn’t know exactly where to place them until the fashion fabric shell was complete.

Once the lining was done, I hung it up on a hanger and tackled the fashion fabric shell.