Vogue 9043 in classic black

This is my first coat of the season. I’m still debating with myself over whether I’ll sew another this year. I know there’s time. I have the fabric. There’s a few months of coat weather ahead of me here. I’m just not entirely sure that I want to build further on my own Winter wardrobe this year, or perhaps wait until next year when I’ll definitely need it more.

Meanwhile, I’m glad to say that this little black coat is going to get a lot of wear. The pattern I used was Little Vogue 9043. I cut View B in a size 8 for my very tall seven year old. The black wool coating and silky vintage lining was all thrifted from estate sales, aquired several months earlier. The buttons were excrutiatingly picked out from Joann’s by the littlest sister, specifically for Miss Seven and this coat. In equal parts, they are the cheapest, and yet most expensive buttons I own, and yet so much selfless thought and true love went into their selection that I just couldn’t say no.

The size 8 fits Miss just-turned-Seven reasonably well right now, but at the rate she’s growing, I’m not convinced she’ll fit into it next year. Of all my girls, she’s probably built the most similar to me; tall and slim, with broad shoulders (great for swimming ;-)). She doesn’t measure up as a size 8 through the chest, but her shoulders are broader above this. I know (from personal fitting experience) that if I sew a pattern to fit her bust/chest measurement, the shoulders won’t fit without adjustment. An easy kid-fix is to simply size up, as I did with this coat. It fits her perfectly across the shoulders, but there is extra room through the chest area, and a lot more ease (than intended by the pattern design) at the waist and hips. There is also extra length in the coat, but that actually works well in our favour. The fit isn’t perfect, but it is perfectly acceptable for a child and a child’s Winter coat at that.

She’ll get a lot of wear out of this coat over the next three months. The wool coating is thick, but it’s probably still only best suited to Spring here. It would be a perfectly suitable coat for Winter in Australia though.

Before I sign off on this one, I should also mention the beautiful lines in the design of the pattern. It’s one of the reasons why I love Vogue patterns and why I was drawn to making this particular one. It’s a little hard to photograph the details in black fabric, but the pockets are integrated beautifully into a princess seamed bodice. The two-piece sleeves are also shaped so that they curve forward.

I love the classic, dressy shape of this coat. It will be a very nice coat to keep and hand down to the last daughter (assuming it survives the wear and tear of this middle child!).

 

 

 

Vintage Vogue 2915 // Orange is the new black

I am totally obsessed with orange right now. Instead of filtering by fabric type in my online shopping, I’ve been filtering by colour.

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The fabric I used for this trench is an Italian stretch wool suiting that goes by the colour, “pumpkin”. It couldn’t be more appropriate for Fall. Originally, I had my mind set on sewing a trench coat in a heavy silk satin, but economics had me looking at poly satin instead (which I just couldn’t find the love for, or perhaps it wasn’t the perfect shade of orange). In the end, I was sensible and landed on some wool fabric and I’m very glad I did. Anything other than wool just wouldn’t get any wear here in the Midwest.

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The fabric is a beautifully, weighted wool twill, with a significant amount of stretch in both directions. It’s not a knit, but its lycra content meant that I had to treat it like knit. Stabilising the shoulder seams and neckline was essential. I toyed with lining this coat (as per the original pattern), but I really wanted something casual, that I could throw on and go. And lining deinitely wasn’t necessary with this fabric. The wool is perfectly opaque and the underside is as respectable as the right side. In fact, the wrong side is smoother, which makes it suitable for resting against the skin. Lastly, I pretreated the fabric in the machine and dryer before sewing, so I can wash and dry it easily at home.

I used vintage Vogue 2915 with a few small modifications. I sewed a size 12 but adjusted the shoulder seams for a broader back. In retrospect, I possibly could have gotten away without this fit adjustment because of the fabric’s generous stretch. And in fact, a tighter fit through the shoulders (in a stretchy fabric like this) would have resulted in a more consistently nice shape in the sleeve cap when worn because the sleeve cap would stretch over the shoulders. In some of my photos (above and below), the sleeve seam has slipped off my shoulder and the sleeve cap doesn’t look great (because there is no sleeve head to support it). But in the two photos below that, the shoulder seams sit in the correct postion and the sleeve looks perfect. I guess this is also the thing with an unstructured, cardigan-style coat. Technically, the fit is good though, and at least I know that this pattern will fit me well when I’m ready to use it again and make it up in a stable woven.

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Other changes I made to the pattern:

  • I lengthened the sleeves by 1 inch.
  • I ditched the collar and front yoke flaps as I felt they wouldn’t suit the casual drape of the front.
  • The front coat pieces have been made wider at the centre front (by about 4-5 inches), to create the front drape.
  • I skipped all front fastenings and the belt. The original pattern was double breasted.
  • I ditched the lining.
  • I drafted a wide facing for the neckline. I used a pretty silk CDC for this. Since I knew the facing would be visible at times, I turned it into a feature point. I used the same silk to line the pockets, sleeve bands, and epaulets.

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This was one of those makes that just seemed to grow more involved as I got into it. I set out to whip together a quick trench coat without all the detailing. But once I got started, anything less than a bound buttonhole (amongst other things) just seemed unacceptable. And whilst on the topic of unacceptable, I can’t, for the life of me, remember if I pressed that hem or not… I think Netflix turned my brain to smush while I was blind-stitching it…so it’s back to the ironing board with this trench before I wear it!

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A Megan longline cardi in an O! Jolly! knit

Disclaimer: I was given both the fabric and the PDF sewing pattern free of charge by Olgalyn of O! Jolly! in exchange for sewing it up and sharing my make. All opinions stated in this review are my own.

I’ll be honest with you guys. If someone offers me free fabric to make something, I’m probably always going to say yes, just as I’m probably always going to say yes to a cup of tea or a glass of wine. However, I will confess to being a bit exceptionally excited about discovering O! Jolly! knits. I’m probably going to rave a little about them now (and the Megan longline cardi pattern too, by the way).

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I want to give you a little background as a reference point for my excitement. Firstly, I do not knit. Nope, not at all. I’ve tried countless times. My most determined effort produced a few beanies two years ago and a disgraceful, but much loved tunic. I do not like knitting. I tried really hard to like it, but I just don’t. I’m a sewer/seamstress/sewist through and through.

I do, however, LOVE knitted garments. I think they are just amazing. If I had the skills and patience, I’d definitely be rocking fancy, knitted sweaters each Winter. Quite possibly, the most loved garment I’ve ever made was made using a sockinette stitched, Italian, pure wool fabric. The irony was not lost on me that the fabric was constructed using the one and only knitting stitch I can do.

And that fabric was expensive, but my daughter wore that cardigan intensively for three Winters and has only just (very reluctantly) passed it on to her younger sister. I used a Japanese pattern and would love to make another for her, but it is not the type of fabric I see very often, especially not online. In fact, when I first browsed the O! Jolly! website, my first thought was of that cardigan with the intention of sewing it in a larger size.

But it is Spring here in Kansas City and we are fast approaching Summer. Wool season is long gone, but the weather is still irregular with hot days interspersed with cool rainy days. I needed a cardigan for myself and I knew the Megan would be perfect for Spring and Fall if I used a cotton knit.

I selected the sewing pattern and Olgalyn was very helpful in advising whether the knit I chose would be suitable for the project. In fact, she has a Pinterest board that is devoted to sewing patterns that would suit her knits. I was very close to sewing Jalie 3248 but I’ve had my eye on the Megan for a while now. I’m not sure that my photos showcase the great hem of the Megan. But like all Tessuti patterns, this one is thoughtfully constructed.

There are only three pattern pieces to this cardigan (excluding the binding), so the design is simple, but it is the little things that make it special, like a hem with mitred corners and seamlessly finished edges where the binding and hem meet. I should probably also note that I was excessively careful about not stretching this knit as I sewed it, particularly at the sleeve edge and hem. I used a lightweight fusible web to adhere the hem allowance in place before I stitched it down (with a single, not a twin needle), and then I steamed it heavily with the iron to bring it back to it’s original shape.

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Let’s talk about this fabric though. I ended up selecting the Saratoga knit in natural white. This is a beautifully soft cotton that has been ginned, spun, and knit in the USA. It has not been dyed or bleached. In fact, it would make the most gorgeous baby clothes, or even simply, a blanket. Let me tell you, when my yardage arrived, it looked so beautiful uncut that I was tempted to bind the ends and keep it as blanket myself!

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The knit was very easy to work with. I prewashed it in warm water and dried it in the dryer. I usually pre-treat my fabrics as aggressively as I dare (just in case they end up in the wrong wash). Even so, I’ll still launder the finished cardigan gently, but I won’t have to worry about any further shrinkage (if my 4-8yr old laundry sorters are off their game).

I can’t tell you how much this fabric shrunk with the pre-wash. But it is a knit and I would expect some shrinkage with any knit, just as I would with many other fabrics I use. In the end, three yards delivered me a very long Megan with not much to spare. I did need to seam the binding a little right near the bottom of the cardigan. If you look closely, you can see slight lumps where those seams have been joined.

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I absolutely love my new Megan. It turned out even better than I imagined. I cut a size small and made only a few small changes to the pattern. I added a 5/8 inch wedge to the CB (my standard broad back modification). I also added 2 inches to the sleeve length and body length (because I’m tall and I doubt that anyone drafts for 5″10). I decided to cut the back on the fold instead of sewing the CB seam because I could just fit the pieces on my folded fabric.

 The Megan was perfect for this fabric. It showcases the texture of the Saratoga knit beautifully. I actually planned on using the reverse side of it for the binding (but I forgot!).

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I’m going to get a lot of wear out of this new cardigan, during the next few weeks but more likely during Fall now. It is warm and snuggly without being overbearing. The fabric lends a nice weight to the design so it hangs beautifully (but I’m also very glad I reinforced the shoulder seams with clear elastic like the pattern instructions recommended).

At the end of the day, I cannot recommend O! Jolly! knits highly enough. I know I was lucky enough to receive this yardage for free, but I’m planning to return as a paying customer at the end of the year. The possibilities are endless!

DIY draped cardi wrap

Firstly, I want to send out a big thank-you to everybody who commented on the coat in my last post. I hope you realise how much I love to read them all. I’m afraid to admit that sewing trumps replying on occasion (oh, and it probably trumps kids too at times… is that bad?). However, I’ll always do my best to answer any question thrown my way – anything to encourage and inspire people who sew! 

Now we can talk about this garment. I’m actually not sure what to call it. It’s not really a cardi, or a poncho, or a wrap for that matter. It’s really just a big rectangle with holes, but it does make for such a nice Winter cover up. I’m going to call it a wrap.

The idea for this wrap came from a gorgeous cashmere RTW cardi I tried on recently. It looked amazing on. I twirled in front of the mirror a few times before I realised exactly what it was… a giant rectangle and nothing more. So I held it up to my body, took a few mental measurements, and went home to make it myself.

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I didn’t have any cashmere on hand. A stable wool knit would have worked beautifully but I didn’t have that either. What I did have was a very large length of pure wool cream suiting that I’d picked up from a garage sale for just 50 cents (it was discounted from the original price of 75 cents – bargain!). I could see that the fold lines of the fabric were discoloured with dust and light (with a few tiny holes in those areas as well) so my plan was to wash it quite aggressively when I got it home. I knew the hot wash and dryer would change the texture of the wool, but I was ok with that because a wool suiting, once felted by the washing machine, is still quite lovely and perfect for casual loungewear and kids clothes. As expected, the wool ended up with a very slightly fuzzier texture than before. It’s not actually fuzzy, but it no longer has the sleek, smooth feel of a suiting anymore. A by-product of the aggressive pre-washing also means that the fabric is now machine washable, dryer friendly, and pretty indestructible.

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But, let’s get back to the making of this wrap. The two diagrams below should be all you need to make your own. It’s the easiest sew up ever!

STEP 1: Measure your fabric according to the instructions below.

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The length of fabric I used was 180 cm, or approximately my height. For the width, I measured from my mid-section (mid-sternum) to the tip of my fingers. My chest width was measured in the front, from shoulder point to shoulder point.

My fabric was a woven, with no give at all, so I used 11 inches for my armscye gaps. In a knit, I’d probably shrink them a little to have them fit closer to the body. If I had bigger pippies, I could have easily increased the width of the armscye.

The centre line is where the seam line needs to be, and where you need to leave holes for the arms. To make a longer wrap (ie. to fall below the hips), you could widen the bottom panel. Keeping the top panel the same would maintain the original front drape.

STEP 2: Sew the two pieces of fabric together, wrong sides facing, and leaving gaps at the two positions you marked as the armscye. (The stitches are represented by the dotted line below.) And that’s pretty much it.

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The last thing you need to do is finish the raw edges nicely. If you chose a fabric that doesn’t fray (like boiled or felted wool, or some jerseys) you could leave the edges raw and just reinforce the stitches around the armscye. The RTW version I fell in love with had been narrowly hemmed on an overlocker. Because I was dealing with a woven, I double turned all my edges and sewed a narrow hem. It would also be possible to bind the edges for a pretty contrast.

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I’ve been wearing mine loose as well as belted. It’s hard to believe that such a simple rectangle can be transformed into a cool Winter outfit! Let me know if you decide to make one. And if you’re on IG, I’d love it if you tagged me (@lilysageandco).

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Vintage Vogue 2265 // The Coat

Have you ever had a project that turned out exactly as you’d hoped for, perhaps even a little better. This coat was that for me. I felt like it took forever to sew, but that was mainly because I put it on hold over the holidays to prioritise the Christmas sewing that I hadn’t really intended on doing in the first place.

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I used a vintage Vogue pattern and the main modifications I made were to do with fit. I lengthened the bodice, skirt and arms. I also made a SBA and graded the waist and bodice side seams in quite a bit. My shoulders and waist differ by about two standard sizes, which makes buying garments like this near impossible. And then my height and arm length usually throws things off further. But I’m so happy to report that I nailed the fit! It’s probably my first classically cut coat or jacket that fits my shoulders, bust, arms, and waist as it should, and all at the same time.

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I employed traditional tailoring methods to make this coat, helped out by my trusty Singer book on Tailoring. I block fused everything bar the sleeves with a fusible interfacing. This step took the place of the underlining that was called for in the vintage pattern.

I then hand stitched  most of the remaining hair canvas and twill tape down. I also stitched the lining in by hand. I know it’s possible to bag a coat out using the machine, but I’m terribly biased when it comes to hand-stitching linings for coats and jackets, or any other very special project for that matter. I figure that for the time it takes to pad stitch collars and lapels (which I prefer over machine stitching) it’s worth the little extra effort to attach the lining by hand too.

As a side note, I also feel like I need to mention shoulder pads here. They weren’t called for in the pattern, but in any coat, jacket, or blazer they are an absolute necessity. Mine are slim/medium sized ones that don’t add any bulk to my coat. But they do add structure to the shoulders and give the garment a professional finish. Never skip the shoulder pads (and this is coming from somebody with broad shoulders, an asset I always look to disguise rather than exaggerate in clothes).

The outer fabric is a wool coating. The off white portion is finely woven wool with a smooth texture and very subtle shimmer. Black wool tufts are woven through it in a rustic herringbone pattern. It was way more beautiful than I expected when it arrived on my doorstep so I may have ordered a little more to stash away for the future. The black twill weave lining is acetate. It has the most glorious oily black gloss to it in real life but was a horror to cut in the dry, static winter air of our house right now. I had to literally peel it off the cutting mat.

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Because of the texture of the wool coating, I felt that bound buttonholes would be unsuitable. I would have liked to do the buttonholes by hand but my skill level needs to improve a bit on that front first. I tested the fabric with some machine buttonholes and my Pfaff pulled through very nicely. The buttonholes are lost in the busy fabric, so I’m not too worried that they weren’t couture. I covered buttons to use for the front and the sleeve vents. I also positioned small buttons on the front coat facing to stitch through when I attached the outer buttons. I’ve seen this a lot in RTW coats. It makes the inside of the coat look pretty, and it reduces the strain on the coat fabric.

And if you’re wondering where my inspiration came from for this coat, it was none other than Anna Wintour herself. I considered making a belt to go with my coat too, and may still do so oneday. But right now, I’m perfectly happy with it as it is.

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McCalls 5870 // A tailored coat for Miss Seven

I had a very specific idea in mind when I started planning for this coat. I wanted to make Miss Seven a nice Winter coat that she could wear out for special occasions. She’s old enough now to have a few special items in her wardrobe and I’m hoping this will also help educate her on how to appreciate, respect, and treat special garments.

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The outer fabric of the coat is a woven wool blend. It is extremely beautiful in real life. It has a nice, coat-worthy weight, with little threads of gold and tan woven through it. Both sides of the fabric are useable, with the rose and background colours simply reversed on the underside. I thought about incorporating both sides of the fabric into this coat. I also though about keeping this coating fabric entirely for myself.

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It’s probably not the best choice of fabric for a child. The weave is not exceptionally tight, but it is still quite stable. I suspect it may get a few snags during it’s lifetime, but the slightly motley mix of threads through the weave is forgiving enough to disguise any repairs that may be required.

The fabric frayed horribly while I was working with it. There was a lot of hand-stitching and basting involved in the tailoring of this coat, which made the unravelling quite an issue. I used a LOT of Fray Check. I ended up painting it around the edges of every pattern piece. It was also essential in making the bound buttonholes.

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In retrospect, I think bound buttonholes were not the best choice for this fabric because of the loose weave. Hand-worked buttonholes (a la Claire Schaeffer’s French jackets) would have been the sensible option. But the heart wants what the heart wants. The buttonholes worked out wonderfully in the end, but ended up being much smaller than planned. The size reduction was due to my scaredy-cat conservative cutting, in trying to handle the fraying and loose threads as best I could. This is the reason why the buttons are so small. I had to find smaller ones than I’d originally planned. Larger, self-covered buttons would have suited the style of this coat better.

To keep Miss Seven snuggly warm, I partially underlined the coat with Thinsulate, which reportedly has more warmth for less loft, than wool or even down feathers. Keeping the bulk down in this coat was important because of the close fitting design.

The vintage pattern specifically states that the design is “not suitable for chubby girls”. It’s basically just a slim fitting style with no ease around the tummy area. The sleeves are not set in. They are joined to the back as one piece with a separate undersleeve. This design makes for very pretty style lines, but quite a challenging sew.

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All of this was underlined.  I didn’t underline the undersleeve or the side panels of the coat as I was afraid it might end up making the coat too bulky and adversely affect the end fit. To further reduce the bulk (or loft) of the Thinsulate, I partially quilted it to the lining. I think this makes the inside of the coat look lovely too.

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The design and fit of this vintage pattern is beautiful. It is a style that fits tall, slender girls very well, which means I will probably use this pattern again in the future. However, it was also quite a challenge to sew (not helped by my difficult choice of fabric) and there are a few things I will improve on when making this coat next time.

* My pad stitching of the undercollar was not “aggressive” enough in creating the collar roll. I would like to see the ends roll down a little better. I would also cut the undercollar a little smaller next time.

* My buttonholes should be appropriate for the fabric, or maybe I might just take a break from loose weaves.

* I was careful about thread marking the buttonholes. A great way to do this is to machine baste two parallel lines down the front and mark the buttonhole positions between those lines. However, with my difficulties in making the bound buttonholes (with all the unravelling of threads), my buttonholes ended up smaller. I also made the mistake of positioning my buttonholes on the inside of the basting thread, rather than on top of it. My buttons look too small and off centre in the coat front.

I think I can live with all this though. The coat is adorable. It fits well, but is ever so slightly too big (which is exactly what I was aiming for with my growing girl). I think it is deserving of a trip out to the theatre.

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Tie back boots by Big Little // pattern tested

I pattern tested for Lisa Spearman of Big Little recently. You might have already seen the first sneaky peek of my test version on Instagram. It’s exciting to report that the pattern is now ready to go and it’s available in the Big Little Etsy shop until Sunday with a discount if you use the code: BOOTS.

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It was an utterly out of season make for me (38 degrees Celcius days are the norm for us right now) but I still jumped at the chance to be a tester for these. All I could think of was my stash of glorious little wool and cashmere scraps that are too small to do anything useful with, but far too good to throw away. These little slippers make the perfect scrapbust for those particular fabrics.

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My test version was made using Italian wool coating (used here) and pink wool double crepe (seen here, and here, and here). I used denim for the soles and lined them with cashmere (remnants from my Dior coat) for the inner sole and beautiful Italian brushed cotton shirting (leftover from here). I felted all my wool and cashmere in the washing machine and dryer first. Lisa advises on how to do this but it is pretty common sense. Just think hot, hot, hot, until the fabric fibres are so tight and thick that the fabric won’t stretch anymore.

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I had to hide these boots from Miss Three. She was trying to wear them everywhere and I was feeling hot just looking at her. I’ll definitely be making these boots for Miss Five and Miss Seven next. In fact, I think they would make the perfect (and seasonally appropriate) Christmas stocking fillers for those of us in the Northern hemisphere.

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Butterick 6900: A leather blocked, drop shoulder coat

I’d like to share with you a pretty typical conversation that ensues each time I break out something new that I’ve made for myself.

Me: What do you think of my new coat? (pre-empting some inevitable design confusion) It’s a drop shoulder design. It’s supposed to be unfitted. 

Husband: It’s interesting. I like it. (moving closer to inspect my stitching and style lines better) It’s really good. But it’s a bit big for you. Look at the shoulders.

Me: It’s the design. That’s why they’re called drop shoulders.

Husband: It’s a bit big at the back too. It looks a bit masculine.

Me: Yeeeeeesss (my speech slows and perhaps my eyes begin to roll a little). It’s the design. It’s a boxy, oversize, drop shoulder style of coat.

Husband: You know, it would look great if you cinched in the waist with a really wide belt.

Me: Yes. It. Would.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already seen the original coat that caught my eye and that ended up becoming my design inspiration. I also shared a few sketches of my own coat in the early planning stages. I’m pretty useless at drawing, but Fashionary is a great way for me to get my ideas down on paper, so that I can solidify a design in my head, and then have something to refer back to when I’m playing around with the actual pattern pieces. 

For this coat, I started with Butterick 6900, but I made a lot of modifications:

  • Lengthened the shoulder seams and dropped the armscye to achieve the oversized, drop shoulder look, rather than a coat that just looks too big (Husband you know nothing!)
  • Sharpened the collar to a point
  • drafted a lining to include the existing facing pieces
  • shortened View B by 4″
  • changed the position of the welt pockets and slimmed them down
  • lengthened the sleeves
  • added a front and back yoke to accommodate and suit the size of leather I had to work with
  • added shaped panels to the sleeves in contrast wool and lambskin
  • top-stitched some contrast lambskin and cowhide to the bottom of the coat 
 

 
 
 

The cowhide I used, as you know, was upcycled from my leather skirt. The grey fabric is a beautiful, medium/heavyweight, double faced wool. One side is grey and the other is a pretty plaid. Both sides are invisibly stitched together very securely. The edge of the swatch in my photo is separated because I actively removed the stitches to pull both fabrics apart.


Even though I didn’t make the most of both sides of this great fabric, I still found it useful in reducing the bulk in my coat. I only used one layer of the wool fabric for the collar underside since the leather was so bulky. I also carefully separated and cut away the grey seam allowance when preparing the facing to attach to the bulky leather at the front of the coat.

I preferred the plain grey for the outer of this particular coat and I only used the plaid for the front facing, but if I had a limitless budget, I would definitely buy more of this great double faced wool and make it up quite simply and unmodified in and unlined coat like Vogue 8930.

In terms of construction, I underlined both the front and back leather yokes with hair canvas.
The lining I used for my coat was a sleek Ralph Lauren polka dot silk CDC. I also used a bit of blue lambskin for the contrast panels and pocket welts.

I am so pleased with how this coat turned out. It isn’t perfect. I had a lot of trouble top-stitching through the thickness of the cowhide in many places. However, with a little handstitching and compromise, I don’t think that this is too noticeable. I also haven’t decided on front closures. I quite like the clean, no-closure look. I could have used magnets, but the coat keeps closed well enough on it’s own because of it’s roomy nature. I’m also considering buttonholes, via an embroidery house or by hand. I love my Pfaff, but I think coat buttonholes need a bit of extra special treatment to look professional. I’ve also thought about leather buckle/toggles, but I’m quite happy with the coat as it is right now.

Refashioned slightly for wearability

I quite liked the idea of a long, graduated hem for this coat when I first made it (even if the husband was quick to tell me that the shape reminded him of the wings of a cockroach). Even so, after wearing it a few times, I started to find the length in the back annoying, particularly as I could feel it against my legs as I walked. 

 
 


I’m also quite excited about the piece of fabric that I chopped off. I think it might be the perfect shape to turn into a capelet or bonnet for one of my little peeps.

Dior knock-off coat

This coat has been a little while in the making, but it is finally finished. It’s not perfect, but I’m still really pleased with the result. It’s my first tailored coat. I realise that I probably set the bar a little too high for myself, by cutting my tailoring teeth on a self-drafted, Dior knock-off. Surely it would have been easier to stick with a more conventially cut, tried and true blazer for my first attempt? That would have made sense. But there isn’t always a lot of sense in the House of Iles.

A couple of months ago, I spotted an amazing, wine-coloured coat on Pinterest. A little bit of research lead me to the discovery that it was Pre-Fall 2012 Dior. But that was as much as I could find on it. I love the dropped shoulder style and those shoulder seam pleats. I love that it has the structure and style of a coat, but could also pass for a dress.


My first challenge was in finding a suitable pattern. I failed. In the end, I realised that I would be hacking so hard at any pattern I found, that I would be better off drafting the whole thing myself. I’m reasonably happy with how the bodice turned out. I think the armscye and sleeves could both be larger for the more oversized, unfitted look that you see on the model above. I’m also not entirely happy with the skirt. It just needs a bit more fabric to fill it out more. I did two muslins before I was happy to proceed with my special fabric and took photos along the way. But nothing compares to analysing photos of a properly finished item and comparing it side by side to the picture of inspiration, as I’m doing right now. Perhaps I’m a bit of a perfectionist too.

 


I had a lot of trouble finding the perfect fabric for this coat. I searched extensively online and had no luck in finding a decent wool coating in wine. Eventually, I found a wool and cashmere blend from Fabrics & Fabrics, a new to me store in NY. Their service was wonderful and I think the price was very competitive too. The fabric is gorgeous as you would expect from a cashmere blend. It has a lovely, luxurious surface and the most vibrant colour.

My cashmere wasn’t that heavy for a coating, so I decided to block fuse it all (except the sleeves) for a little extra weight and structure. I used ProWEFT Supreme Medium fusible interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply. It’s an interfacing specifically made for tailoring and is said to mimic the softness of hand-stitching. I’m sold! It is a beautiful interfacing with a lovely soft hand, and it gave the innards of my coat the perfect structure to display those outer pleats as I liked. I took care to cut my interfacing a little smaller than the pattern pieces to avoid having it cover the seam allowances. I have Cashmerette to thank for this. I was following along with her coat-making posts just as I was getting ready to sew mine. If it weren’t for her brainstorming the problem of her princess seam ripples, I probably would have gone through all that heartache myself. So I kept the seam allowances interfacing free, and there were no ripples in my coat.

 

I was also planning on fusing hair canvas (yeah, fusible hair canvas!) to parts of the bodice, on top of my block fusing, for extra structure. Well, the truth is that I did actually cut and fuse my precious hair canvas, but it gave the coat far too stiff a look and the pleats didn’t fall nicely. I hyperventilated a little and then decided to peel it all off. To deal with the rough and sticky residue left behind from the hair canvas, I decided to cover the original interfacing with some extra lightweight interfacing that I would normally use for knits and sheers. This added the perfect little bit of extra support to the bodice and it also covered the residue from the hair canvas disaster. It meant I could now attach my beautiful Caroline Herrera silk twill lining. Do you want the demure peak at my lining?

 
Or the big flash? It just so happened that my leather trimmed tunic was the perfect dress to fit beneath this coat.
 
 

I attached the body of the lining as one and the sleeves separately. I then hand-stitched the sleeve linings at the sleeve-cap. Because the design of this coat wasn’t of a traditional coat shape, I found myself with decisions to make at so many steps along the way. Initially, I wasn’t quite sure about the way the sleeves were hanging, so I added a soft sleeve head to each of the sleeve caps. I also toyed with shoulder pads, but decided against them in the end.

 

To keep the coat fastened, I used high-energy magnets that I encased in fabric before hand-stitching them to the inside of the coat facings. I placed one at the top of the bodice and one at the bottom. 


My intention has always been to cinch in this coat with a black belt, albeit a thicker one than what I had available for the photos. I can overlap the front of the coat left side over right, or the other way around. This is probably to my detriment though, since I somehow manage to always fasten it up the wrong way. Maybe I was left-handed in another life. This is how the coat looks without a belt.


 
 

I learnt a lot through making this coat, which in my books is a big win, no matter how the coat turned out in the end. I’m pretty happy with the end result. My only regret is that this has now filled my coat needs for the season and I simply can’t justify making any more. I’m just going to have to Pin and dream away the rest of the Winter.