Here’s the follow-up I promised about making this cozy olive-brown wool coat from Butterick 6385.
For the first post on this coat go here.
If there’s one point I want to get across about this pattern, it’s that this is really fitted. You’ll want to double-check the fit for yourself to avoid making your coat too snug and being disappointed.
I typically trace off the smallest size in a commercial pattern–a 6 if that’s an option; an 8 if not. Altering for length is a given; I’m 5’1″, and I understand that the commercial pattern fitting models are 5’6″.
I can also expect to alter width, as most patterns have more design ease than I need or want. Not true with this pattern, though!
I made a muslin in size 8. I had Jack take the usual set of front, back, and side photos so I could analyze the fit and add comments.
After scrutinizing the photos, I wondered whether I was giving myself enough room to wear layers underneath. I imagined having to push my cardigan-clad arms through too-tight sleeves and being very annoyed with myself for making this avoidable error.
I wondered what I should do and then thought, Silly–sew a size 10 muslin and compare!
Heaving a sigh, I traced off the size 10 pattern pieces, cut more muslin, and sewed the size 10.
More photos taken, more analyzing and more adding text.
The difference in fit isn’t something you’ll notice in these photos except maybe the shoulder width.
I wondered whether I should try a size 12, too, but surely that would be ridiculous for someone who usually wears a 6.
Nevertheless, I was still concerned about having enough room in this coat. How about testing the fit in a fashion fabric?
I heaved another sigh and cut a size 10 from family heirloom stash wool from the ’50s or ’60s, I’m guessing. It was scratchy and made me sneeze, so it was never going to be a garment, anyway.
While not faced or lined, the wool sample still gave me a more accurate reading of how the actual coat would behave.
At this point I called the fit testing done. Partly, I’d tested quite a bit, but partly also, I was tired of this muslin business and wanted to move on.
I made the usual length changes but none in width.
After the muslin phase, I made myself do something else I mildly loathe: read every word of the instructions. If I don’t do this, inevitably at step #32, I get into trouble because I missed what I should have done at step #9.
To make sure I really did read all the instructions, I started a mind map (I use MindMeister) and recorded every step. I’m sure I was surprised or puzzled by an instruction at least a couple of times. I added questions to those steps in the mind map.
Then, in the OneNote page I started for this project I created a chart to collect those questions so I could start answering them.
If all this testing, instruction-reading, and question-charting sounds like overkill for one measly coat, I understand. But if you’d made as many coats and jackets as I have that were technical, aesthetic, or functional duds, I bet you, too, would go to these lengths.
When I do a big project like a tailored, lined, coat my mind is swimming with questions. A chart is the most sensible, economical way I can handle them and make progress.
Also, the information I collect in this chart will probably help me in future projects, saving time and yielding better results.
Finally, a chart can be very calming, helping me turn chaos into order. Sometimes all I can think of are more and more questions, which I add to the “Question” column. Other times I look through my books, magazines, and videos and find sources for possible answers to put in the “Sources to check” column.
If I’m bored or stymied researching one question, I can choose another question to work on for awhile.
Fabrics and lining
A question I always like to work on is, What fabric do I want for this garment?
For this coat project I let myself dream big. I swatched pricey coatings from Emma One Sock, Britex, and B&J Fabrics as well as more economical choices from Stylemaker Fabrics.
The most expensive fabric isn’t necessarily the best choice. The color, weight, or durability might not be the best match. But even if I did like everything about the fabric, I wasn’t going to pay 80 bucks a yard to sew an untested pattern.
For this coat I thought it best to go with a neutral color, which isn’t to say a boring color, and was looking for a dark brown like my hair color.
I saw a coating on the Fabric Mart website described as “olive brown.” It was about $50 a yard, so not cheap, but the photos looked great. Fabric Mart doesn’t swatch except for subscribers to its Julie’s Picks service, so I couldn’t see and feel a sample.
However, I happened upon a one-day sale when the wools were all 60% or 70% off. There was the 60″-wide olive brown wool for something like $17.50 a yard. Fabric Mart reduced the risk, and I took a chance. I lucked out. The weight, color, and feel were all very good.
I chose a sturdy but flexible flannel-backed coat lining from B&J Fabrics.
Interfacing is such a conundrum for me. I wondered if this coating even needed interfacing. I’d had a scare steam-shrinking the yardage with my gravity feed iron, leaving the right side of the fabric all spotty. Luckily, I was able to brush the nap back to its original appearance. Fusible interfacings, then, were out of the question.
That left sew-in interfacings. I thought, I don’t need to add body to this wool, and it’s hard to imagine I need to add stability. But it seems wrong not to interface–almost illegal. The interfacing police might arrest me! I had some cotton batiste in my stash. It was light and stable, and–bonus–in a delicious purple called Currant. If I used that, I wouldn’t be wrong, I reasoned.
And so that was my process for choosing an interfacing: if I wasn’t sure about the right one, I’d aim for something not wrong. Don’t laugh–it worked.
Buttons and buttonholes
I have scores of vintage buttons from the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, and almost all of them are labeled as to which London vintage fashion fair, Portobello Road vendor, or shop in Edinburgh, Berlin, or St. Leonards-on-Sea they came from. But the provenance of the buttons I chose from my vast stash is…? Unknown. I am so peeved not to have a story to relate about the buttons.
For the buttonholes, I thought how fun it would be to have keyhole buttonholes made with an attachment on the old family Kenmore machine. I did test that attachment on scrap fabric, but the largest buttonholes were still too small for my 1-inch buttons. I thought that was pretty strange, considering that buttons of the ’40s and ’50s could be much wider and thicker. Later I discovered the instructions for making bigger keyholes with that attachment. But I was still nervous about experimenting on my coat with this sewing machine and attachment, so I decided not to take a chance.
I considered learning to make handmade keyhole buttonholes. That would also be a big investment in time, right at the end of this project, when I would be eager to finish.
I ended up testing regular buttonholes on coating scraps with my machine using just the standard presser foot. When I was convinced that I wouldn’t do irreparable harm, I started stitching buttonholes on the coat. It was slow going. I turned the handwheel manually a lot. One line of zigzags would go off course and I’d have to painstakingly remove the stitches and try again. I finally succeeded with the top and bottom buttonholes on the third attempt. Fortunately, this was a forgiving fabric, dark and lofty enough to conceal small imperfections.
I tested topstitching on doubled-up fabric scraps to simulate the thicknesses I would be sewing through. I used a double thread and a topstitching needle. It’s not in the directions, but I also topstitched the front edges and collar, which controls the bulk and looks nice.
Shoulder pads and sleeve heads
I drafted my own shoulder pads. I followed Olga Boyko’s YouTube video for constructing the pads. See (125) Making the shoulder pads for tailored jacket – YouTube
I wondered whether the coat needed sleeve heads. I hung the coat on my dress form and thought the sleeve cap could use a little filling out. I put in one sleeve head and hung the coat on the dress form again to compare. The effect was subtle, but I thought the sleeve head did help to define the shoulder better, so I went ahead and inserted a sleeve head on the other side.
I like the instructions for inserting sleeve heads in the book Sewing for Style in the Singer Sewing Reference Library.
You’re instructed to hand-stitch the lining to the sleeve hem, but my hand stitches are never sturdy enough. I probably need to use a different hand stitch, one that locks.
Years ago I learned how to machine stitch the lining to the sleeve hem. This technique always seems magic to me, and I’m so impressed with myself when I succeed. I followed my own instructions, but the technique is also illustrated in this YouTube video: (125) TURN SEW SLEEVE LINING – YouTube
Top photo and photo of coat buttons are by Cynthia DeGrand Photographer, Actor headshots, Columbus, Ohio