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 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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#100buttonholeschallenge

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! I’m going to spend it eating pavlova (because that’s what Australians do) and hopefully sneaking in a bit of sewing. I might even get started on a little challenge that I’ve set for myself.

I’m putting it out there right now, mostly to say it out loud, and partly, to see if there are any other crazies out there who would like to embark on this skill-up journey with me. If you’ve read the title of this blog, it sounds rather ominous, but actually, I think it will be quite achievable. I just need to commit.

To give you a little background to this challenge, I’ve been in the process of making myself a winter coat. Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have seen my progess. I’m using a gorgeous tufty wool coating and traditional tailoring methods which is a learning experience in itself. I’ve made a few coats before (here, here, and here). I’ve always been delighted with the way they turned out and each was an improvement on the next, but I’ve still got a long way to go. I feel like I’m finally starting to get my head around the construction and reasoning behind the inner structure with this coat, but there’s one area of coatmaking that has always been a stumbling block for me. Buttonholes!

Now, bound buttonholes are delightful, and not actually that difficult to do. But not every fabric is suitable for bound buttonholes (I found that out with my last coat). Machine buttonholes are not the end of the world, but I’m not overly excited with the keyhole option on my machine. I’ve considered hand-worked buttonholes on more than one occasion, however my efforts have been so disappointing that the option was quickly ruled out. I really hate the feeling of being restricted in my choice of design because of a skill I’m lacking, particularly something that simply requires practice.

I want to equip myself with the ability to produce a beautiful buttonhole when and if I want. Can you imagine the sewing possibilities… blazers, pants, and coats of course. The key to this magic skill is of course practice. I’ve heard it said that it takes 100 buttonholes until you become proficient at a technique. This may be a bit extreme, but it is exactly what I intend to do.

I’m giving myself a year and a month. That gives me a week to organise the correct supplies for hand-worked buttonholes, and a starting date in December. At the moment, I spend a quite a few hours each week “watching” kids at various sports. If I put away my phone and practiced buttonholes instead, it would be a much better use of my hands and time. If I only get two done a week, I’ll be on track to completing this project.

For the most part, I’ll be documenting my buttonholes on Instagram ( #100buttonholeschallenge ). You might also see an update or two on this blog, and possibly a tutorial or sewing tips in the future. I’m certainly hoping I can do better than this blurry 2012 attempt.

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So if you want to join me on this finger numbing journey, to share your triumphs, disasters, fabric experiences, tricks and tips, please remember to use the hashtag:  #100buttonholeschallenge

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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