After taking a long break from my blog, I’m trying to get back on schedule with my writing. I’ve got an easier class schedule this semester, so maybe I will reach that goal! If nothing else, maybe my photography will improve with my digital photography basics course. (Smiles.)
It’s March now, and the forecast is for very cold temperatures this year. Alas, I found myself this January without a heavy winter coat. It came to my attention last year that the one I’ve had since college was just a bit too small for me, particularly when I buttoned the top button under my throat. Ouch. Nobody likes their outerwear to strangle them. Yes, I’m turning 40 this year, and yes, that means I’ve had the coat for twenty years. In my defense, classic shapes never go out of style, and a good coat is hard to give up. This coat, however, is destined for the charity drive. I’m sorry to see it go, but perhaps it will warm somebody else for another twenty years.
Predictably, when I looked at the label, it was, in fact, a size small. I’ve been systematically eliminating all the smalls from my wardrobe as they fit a little too snugly these days, so it was a surprise to find one still hanging around. I thought I got all of the little pests…Anyway, I decided this meant that I needed to make my first winter coat. I mean, why not? New challenges are fun, right? Right! (Points dramatically.) To the sewing machine!
I had made a coat once before, Colette Patterns’ Anise, and I was very pleased with it. However, since up by Lake Erie we can get winter temperatures in the negative teens, I elected to go with a coat that has a longer hemline and covers me to my knees. I also wanted a simpler construction than that pattern, because I wanted to add a thermal interlining and I was worried about it becoming too bulky at the seams.
I decided on Butterick’s Lisette #B6423 because I liked the drop shoulders, the shawl collar and the nice deep pockets. It features a kick pleat in the back, and one large, decorative button, which will make it easy to button up with chilled fingers. It has plenty of room to move in the shoulder areas also. If you factor in the likelihood that you’re going to wear a sweater under it, that extra room is a great convenience. The overall design is rather simple, so I would say if you want to make your first coat, this is a good choice. It’s easier to sew with fewer pieces over one with a lot of seams, like a princess style or a trench. Even so, with the lining, facing and other pieces all cut in duplicates or quadruplets, I ended up with over 30 pieces of fabric to sew together. I was very relieved I had decided to go with a simpler pattern at that point, because it was quite the pile.
On the less practical side, I also liked this pattern because it had a style reminiscent of the 1920s coats, with their wide collars and straight lines. I do love dressing in a different century. An enterprising seamstress could make a more historical version with a faux fur collar and cuffs in a striped material or solid black.
I found some really lovely aubergine wool coating on sale at Fabric Mart’s website with a nice boucle texture. I did a little research into coat construction and I discovered the existence of flannel backed satin. It’s a good lining for a winter coat because it’s warmer than other types of lining, and quite heavy. It feels nice, too! It’s satin and flannel, which are two fabrics I love, so it’s certainly a winner in my book. I found some of this wonderful lining at Vogue Fabrics’ website, in a nice navy blue, along with a Thinsulate thermal lining by 3M. It has quilted side and a flat side, and the quilted side is meant to go against the outer layer while the flat side goes against the lining. It’s made of olefin and polyester, which I found interesting. Olefin is usually found in area rugs, it’s a good alternative to wool rugs for those who are sensitive to it. The description also says you can use it in blankets, so presumably you could make a winter coverlet for your bed or a cold weather vest, etc.
The idea is to sew it to the lining, but I didn’t actually do that, due to my pattern’s construction. The pattern has large collar and facing pieces that flow from the back of the neck all the way down to the hem, and they’re very deep inside of the coat.
My pattern calls for fusible interfacing, which I didn’t use at all, instead putting my thinsulate in there. The thinsulate works there because those pieces will cover my torso and all the way down to my knees, which is ideal for blocking as much cold air as possible. I also installed a piece on the upper back, which was not in the instructions but seemed like a good idea to me. It did make the pieces a little stiffer, but I didn’t experience any trouble sewing them or wearing the coat. Please note, I also tend to cut my coats in a size larger than I am, which allows me to layer up underneath them. It gives one some wiggle room when sewing, as well.
For construction, I used a heavier needle, a 110/. because of the thickness of my coating, thinsulate and flannel backed satin. I did all the hems by hand: the lining, the outer shell, as well as the sleeves. The sleeves ultimately proved too long for me so I removed about two inches of fabric from the ends and that solved my problem. I did notice that when I put my lining in, it was slightly too long to fit neatly by just a couple of inches. I’m not certain if that was my error or an error in the pattern. It was an easily solvable problem, though. I just put in a pleat and the center of the collar, and that took up the extra material just fine and ended up looking rather nice.
For my buttonhole, I used the bound buttonhole technique. I cut two strips of fabric from my leftovers. I folded them and sewed them into a pair of rectangles, which then get sewn shut at each end. Next, the scary part: a horizontal slit is cut in the coat with two little triangles at the end, and the rectangle piece are inserted. Then you fold your cut ends inside and stitch the whole thing together. I did mine entirely by hand due to the thickness and relatively small seams required. I had bought this really cool giant flower button at JoAnn’s some time ago and I felt this was the perfect use for it. It contrasts nicely with the aubergine wool and it adds a fancy detail. Flowers, of course, are my favorite thing to add to any garment, so it was the perfect addition.
The day I completed this coat was 13 degrees Fahrenheit and with the windchill, a final tally of -1 degree. I wore the coat, and I was warm. Success!