Allow me a moment to savor my success making this cozy wool coat:
Butterick 6385 has classic lines, so it will stay in style for a long time.
And that’s good, because fitting and altering patterns is a big investment in time and brain power for me.
I started my winter coat project in late October. Two patterns, three muslins, a stash fabric test garment, and four months later I was able to declare success.
I now have a soft, warm, wool coat in a timeless style, in a good color for me, that works for my petite size and that fits in every way. And, no small bonus, I can (and probably will) sew this pattern again.
Now that I’ve altered the pattern and documented every stage of the construction process, I almost want to sew another coat just for the pleasure of creating the second garment much, much faster.
For me, sewing amnesia sets in quickly. This coat project had been a part of my life for four months, and yet, the other day when I printed out the notes I’d kept I was astonished that they came to 17 pages.
And those were only the notes for this pattern. I actually wasn’t planning to make this pattern.
Nope. I thought this coat might look a little too demure for me. The Peter Pan collar version? Please.
Too cookie-cutter: petites should wear fitted garments emphasizing vertical lines through seaming and button placement. Pockets are preferably in-seam. Keep lapels high–nothing to bring the eye down.
No–Butterick 6385 was not my dream coat style.
Nevertheless, 26 5-star reviews on Pattern Review made me think I might like this style after all, so I kept this pattern in reserve.
Actually, what I really wanted to make was this pattern from 1959, Vogue 9801. I think it’s a versatile classic.
I have a weakness for dramatic collars and lapels. I could see myself in View A, with the collar turned down but ready to be turned up against wintry weather. If I could get classic with verve, that would be perfect.
I simply had to see whether Vogue 9801 would work for me. Being miserly with both my time and fabric, I cut just the front, back, and under collar from muslin and sewed them up.
I was just swamped in fabric. And no wonder–look at the line drawings:
Yes, I should have known better.
I pondered redesigning the back to be less voluminous. However, at my low skill level the better option was to consider patterns that are already more fitted, with the big-personality collars I like.
I also thought I really should be testing a coat pattern that could be a mainstay of the core pattern collection project I’ve been working on for longer than I’d like to admit. What could I easily wear with my core pattern dress, or my core pattern knit top or blouse with core pants and skirts, to feel effortlessly pulled together?
And then I happened to see Butterick 6385 used for a winning entry in the 2022 Make It With Wool contest, on the Threads website here. The contest coat didn’t look demure or boring, and now I had a new appreciation for the design.
Which, 17 pages of notes and four months later, led to a much anticipated moment in my sewing room. After I’d sewn on the last button and brushed off the last of the thread clippings, I tried on the coat.
It fit! Closely, but not snugly. Shoulder width? Good. Pocket placement? Good. Range of motion? Good. Sleeve length? Good.
And, oh my–this soft yet durable olive-brown wool that I took a chance on from Fabric Mart (they don’t swatch, so I ordered yardage based only on their description) was a winner. As was the flannel-backed lining from B & J Fabrics. My buttonholes turned out all right (after lots of testing and some ripping out). I could wear the collar down or turn it up against a chilly wind. For warmth, this coat will deliver.
But the real surprise was, as I slipped my arms through the flannel-lined sleeves and felt a nice weight hanging from my shoulders the word “important” popped into my mind. I thought, this coat feels…important. And I feel important wearing it.
Wearing this coat for the first time awakened long-ago memories of wearing cloth coats with a certain heft to them. They were long, they had buttons, and they had weight to them. These weren’t lightweight, down-filled, zippered parkas. Not only did these knee-length cloth coats have actual weight, it occurred to me that they also carried a symbolic weight to them. Wearing such a coat felt like an occasion.
None of these thoughts had even remotely occurred to me before I put this coat on. Somehow I had restored something that I hadn’t realized I was even missing.
The few times I wore this coat, in the waning days of winter and chilly days of early spring, I kept having the important feeling. Grocery store, cancer society thrift store, appointment with the eye doctor–I felt a certain ceremony donning this garment and the way I carried myself that gave each ordinary experience the feeling of an occasion.
Maybe the novelty of a substantial coat will wear off, but I’m wagering it will last.
Back to the big-collared coats I still dream of making: I’ve started an idea board for drawings and swatches for a 1930s reefer in a shorter length, belted and double-breasted, that will use period buttons. Knowing how long it took me to do the R & D for Butterick 6385, I’ll need to start on this ambitious project in earnest by August for wearing in fall, 2023.
If you’re interested in making Butterick 6385, I will write about my process for fitting and construction next time. The most important thing to know about this pattern is it is really fitted. Do yourself a favor and take the time to muslin!
Photos by Cynthia DeGrand Photographer, Actor headshots, Columbus, Ohio