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Readers,

I’m all caught up with the wearable test of my leopard collar jacket project, and my next Coat Craze class at Treadle Yard Goods isn’t for another five days.  What to do till then?

Start another coat project, of course!

Maybe this isn't a trench coat by the strictest definition, but it's close enough for me.

Maybe this isn’t a trench coat by the strictest definition, but it’s close enough for me.

This coat-making class I’m taking consists of five two-hour meetings spaced one or sometimes two weeks apart. When I registered for the class, I thought I would see how much I could maximize the value I could get. I asked myself where I needed the most help. Easy: fitting and pattern alteration are my top bugaboos. So I’d bring my fitting and pattern alteration problems to class.

Typical of the early to mid '40s: a strong shoulder line. I might deemphasize that line a little.

Typical of the early to mid ’40s: a strong shoulder line. I might de-emphasize that line a little.

My next challenge is usually the pattern instructions. Vintage patterns often call for construction techniques that are fussy by today’s standards. So I could get Michele, the teacher’s, advice on easier techniques that work at least as well.

If I could get fitting, pattern alteration, and construction advice during those precious contact hours, I would have solved 90 percent of my sewing problems.

The buttons aren't functional, only decorative. And that's fine by me!

The buttons aren’t functional, only decorative. And that’s fine by me!

Having figured out how best to use my time in class, I thought about what I could do outside class before and after each meeting.

If I applied just a little strategic planning, I could square away three coat patterns for sure, and probably more, in five meetings spaced out over seven weeks. Not that I’d finish all the coats, of course, but I would have defined and gotten help with the actual challenges of each pattern, which have real solutions, rather than getting bogged down in countless imaginary challenges, for which the solutions are equally vague.

This fabric has been waiting for over 10 years!

This fabric has been waiting for over 10 years!

Wow!

Why didn’t I realize before how I could easily double or triple the results and the value of a class with just a little more planning? Working within the structure of a conventional class and making no unusual demands on the teacher, I am customizing my learning. More stuff is going to get sewn! Yay to that!

It's been so interesting to see what color card has the best match for the fabric. Very often it's a color with yellow in it.

It’s been so interesting to see what color card has the best match for the fabric. Very often it’s a color with yellow in it.

Okay, moving on to the particulars.

Out of my couple dozen coat patterns, the short, belted version of this 1944 trench coat, Du Barry 5913,  beckoned most powerfully. Like the leopard collar jacket, it’s been waiting patiently to be sewn for over a decade.

Another fabric waiting to be sewn.

Another fabric waiting to be sewn.

On a fine day in May 2003 in New York’s garment district I bought two raincoat fabrics for the short version of this coat that have languished in my stash ever since, surviving periodic purges.

It’s time to see whether this pattern and these fabrics belong together.

Purple is great! Why don't I use it more often? Note to self: "Sew purple!"

Purple is great! Why don’t I use it more often? Note to self: “Sew purple!”

You may have noticed my weakness, readers, for prominent lapels, a strong shoulder line, and waist definition. So it’s no surprise that a coat having those features would date from 1944.

The coat calls for four buttons–an opportunity to comb my vintage stash. And a bonus: the short coat has no buttonholes! The buttons are merely decorative.

Purple with black in it is just more interesting than black by itself.

Purple with black in it is just more interesting than black by itself.

This morning I pulled the fragile, unprinted pattern pieces and instructions from the envelope. Yup, all present.

The next steps are, as usual, pressing the pattern pieces with a dry iron, tracing them onto sturdy paper, and cutting and sewing a muslin before my next coat class this Saturday.

I’ve always seen the muslin stage as drudgery. But the reward of getting help with fitting, alteration and construction, and a deadline five days away will keep me on task.

Coming soon!

Coming soon!