Gridlines: the coat is finished

So here is the finished coat at last. These were taken very quickly, shortly before heading into town on what is apparently the busiest shopping day of the year in the UK. Full disclosure: I’ve edited out the signpost that was making an unwelcome appearance in all the front views. The goofy pose owes nothing to photo editing software however.

Here’s the original. I don’t know about you but I always like to see the pattern photo next to the finished item. Sometimes the pattern photo and the finished product are very different, but in this case I think mine’s come out pretty close to Burda’s. Fabric choice helps!

White Burda coat 104-12-2012

The magnetic snaps turned out not to be strong enough for the bottom two snaps, so I replaced them all with regular snaps. I did try to cover the snaps in lining but I think I must have the wrong sort of snaps, or possibly the wrong sort of lining. As soon as I closed the covered snap it tore a hole in the covering on the female half, so my snaps ended up being au naturel.

I’m very pleased with the fit in the end. Thanks so much everyone who gave fitting advice! The bust and waist seams are now horizontal and all those annoying wrinkles on the princess seams are completely gone.

I really like the design of the back of this coat with all the seamlines. Glad I didn’t have to finish all those seams though. My fabric’s non-ravelly and the coat is lined so I left them alone.

The sleeves set in fine. The lining sleeves were a bit more of a struggle but removing most of the sleevecap ease made it easier than it normally is. And there isn’t any excess fabric across the back of the coat but I can still move my arms! The shoulder pads still feel a bit weird but I guess I’ll get used to them. These are the smallest ones I could find.

So how does it wear after a day out shopping? The neckline is very high, which is going to be great on cold days. The patch pockets are not the most practical pockets. You can’t shove your hands into them. In fact you can’t store a great deal in them at all. This is probably a good thing because my coat pockets normally contain a highly sordid collection of old hankies, bus tickets, and receipts. I think patch pockets might work out in the same way changing to a smaller handbag did: I carry much less rubbish around with me these days.

This is definitely a smart coat. I don’t think I could have it as the only coat in my wardrobe because of the pale colour and lack of storage space. But I’m glad I’ve got it an option!

Blood sacrifice

I remember being told as a child that ‘we must suffer to be beautiful’. Well I hope my new coat is going to come out beautiful. It’s certainly causing a little suffering right now! I am sparing you a photo of my left hand, which currently sports an iron burn and several nasty pin scratches. Also I will not show you my right ring finger, which I managed to stab deeply with a needle while sewing the pockets on. I’m pretty sure I didn’t get any blood on the coat. It would show on this fabric.

So here’s where we are so far. Body sewn, collar and pockets attached, sleeves sewn but not set in. I totally forgot to add a hanging loop when I sewed the back facing seam. I am not going back and unpicking it. The pockets aren’t perfect but I hate hand-sewing with a passion so they’re not getting a do-over either.

Coat with collar but no sleeves

I was worried about sewing through all the layers around the collar but my machine coped with it without so much as a wobble. Look at all those thicknesses!

Trimming seams under collar facing

It’s not all bad. I’m pleased with the way the corners came out at the front. Sometimes you turn out a point and it just goes perfectly with no need for poking. Both corners did that; I wish I knew what I did to make that happen! And I still love the style. I think when it’s done I’m going to really enjoy wearing it.

Collar closeup

Hopefully the blood sacrifice will make the rest of the project go a little more smoothly. I’m about to set the sleeves in; wish me luck!

High tech sewing

So I’m making this Burda coat. Very slowly. I might have it done by Christmas if I’m lucky. But I’m enjoying the process because I really, really like the design. One of the things that originally appealed to me about it is the closure; it uses snaps. I love the clean lines they give. Also: not having to make buttonholes. But mostly it’s the minimalism.

White Burda coat 104-12-2012

The pattern says to cover the snaps with lining fabric before attaching them to the coat. This struck me as odd and likely to come out looking messy. Other people might be able to make a neat job of that, but not me. And I couldn’t help thinking the lining would interfere with the working of the snaps.

Then it occurred to me that maybe Burda meant the coat to have magnetic snaps. You’d have to enclose the magnets in some sort of fabric bag to attach them to the coat. This would explain the instruction about covering them with lining. It wouldn’t matter how messy the covering was because the snaps would be sewn between the outer fabric and the facing. And I like the slightly scifi element of magnetic closures.

My local sewing shops do not carry such things, so I went to Klein’s last time I was in London. It seems magnetic snaps come in a couple of varieties: the sort with prongs on the back that you push through the fabric and fold in, which are for handbags, and the invisible or sew-in variety. I had to ask for the sew-in sort. Here they are. That’s a 5mm grid they’re sitting on.

Magnetic snaps from Kleins

Here’s what they look like separated. The side with the bevel is the strongly magnetic side.

Separated snaps

These things are fascinating. I can’t get over how strong they are. According to my googling they’re most likely to be neodymium magnets, which are a type of rare earth magnet. Neodymium is one of the rare earth metals. There’s something undeniably appealing about anything called a ‘rare earth’. (Rare earths aren’t actually rare but it’s still a compelling name).

Neodymium magnets are made from a compound of neodymium, iron, and boron, which was only discovered in 1982 – within my lifetime! Most things I use in sewing have been around in some form or other for a very long time. The zip, which always seems like one of the more modern things in sewing, is over a hundred years old in its earliest form. Overlocking’s been around since the 19th century. I haven’t been able to find out exactly when fusible interfacing was invented but it was certainly around in the 1970s.

What’s the newest technical development you’ve used in your sewing?

On changing my mind

The coat project rumbles on. But something far more exciting happened that I want to tell you about first: I was interviewed by Joanne of Stitch and Witter! She’s been doing a series of interviews with sewing bloggers about their personal style. I’ve been realy enjoying reading it, and I’m so flattered to be picked. I love reading about how other people dress themselves – or maybe I should say I’m incurably nosy. My interview’s at You can read Joanne’s whole series here.

So on to the coat. I had a major change of mind about it; specifically the fabric I’m using.

Here’s the technical drawing. The original was made up in plain white wool which looked fantastic. I liked the very stark, plain effect with just the seamlines for interest so I knew I’d want to use a solid-coloured smooth-faced fabric. Sticking with white would clearly have been insane because it doesn’t suit me and it would need dry-cleaning every five minutes. Besides, I have never seen pure white wool coating on sale anywhere.

Burda 104-12-2011 technical drawing

The green fabric came in a pack of samples from Stone Fabrics and I fell in love with the colour. Here it is with the pink lining I got to go with it.

Coat fabric with lining

But I’ve been having major doubts about this project and I think I’ve finally worked out why. I think all I am going to see on the finished coat is the green. The style isn’t bold enough to stand up to the fabric. I think the fabric would work as something short and dramatic like Colette Patterns’ Lady Grey though. That’s a pattern that’s been lurking on my to-sew list for some time.

So I’m making the Burda coat up in this fabric instead. It’s a stone coloured woven wool coating with a very slight nap. From the right side you can’t see the weave at all. I included my hand and the paper pattern in the picture to give a better idea of the colour.

Stone coloured wool coating

Once I decided to switch fabric and use the green for Lady Grey I started feeling a whole lot better about the original project. So I am going to end up sewing two coats this winter after all!

Shoulder pads to the rescue

Thanks for all the good fitting advice on my coat muslin. I was all set to call it good enough and start cutting my fashion fabric, but you convinced me to go back and have another go.

The previous problem I had on the front was horizontal folds on the princess seams. ozviking, Lisette, Claudine, BeccaA, and maria all suggested shoulder pads so I took myself down to John Lewis to pick up a pair. I had no idea there were so many types! I picked a pair labelled ‘small’ with a picture of a set-in sleeve on the packet. No idea if they’re the technically correct sort, but they definitely help. I’ve also taken out a bit of length above the bust seam here as Beth suggested .

Coat muslin 2 front view

Here’s the back view with shoulder pads, a tiny bit of width taken out of the centre back seam, and again with reduced length above the bust seam. (Can I call it a bust seam when it’s on the back?) Clio and Beth both pointed out that the back seemed too wide to start with.

There is still a very small fold of fabric at the back shoulder but it’s really improved. I don’t want to risk trying to get rid of absolutely all the excess, I think I need some of that room to move!

Coat muslin 2 back view

The bust seam was rising up slightly at centre front so I let it out a little there, tapering back to the previous seamline before hitting the princess seams. That’s made a bit of difference.

The waist seam’s still rising up in front and falling slightly below my natural waist in back so I’ll adjust that in the same way as I did the bust seam. Not that you can see the back waist seam in this picture. I’m regretting using black fabric for fitting! It’s not just the photos; it’s quite hard for me to see what’s going on too.

Coat muslin 2 side view 2

This really has been a learning experience, thanks so much everyone!

Bewildering wrinkles

Well I took the plunge. Armed with everyone’s good advice from my last post I put on some music and sewed my coat muslin up, a few seams at a time. Doing it over a few sessions wasn’t too bad. Thanks for all the encouragement and advice, it really helped!

It’s come out pretty well! The most important thing is that I can move my arms, despite having removed all the ease from the sleeve cap. I seem to have forgotten to take any pictures of that. In passing, isn’t it great not to have to keep getting undressed to try a garment on? I did wonder if I should be putting on more layers to simulate a really cold day! However I am wearing several thin layers and a very bulky belt under the coat in these photos, which is my normal winter work wear. I guess if the coat goes over all that then things will be OK.

Coat muslin full length

I had a hard time deciding what, if anything, needed adjusting. Every time I move the wrinkles seem to move as well, and most of them don’t match up to anything at all in my fitting books. The most obvious problem is a wrinkle on the front princess seam. That one doesn’t come and go. I think this is due to excess length above the bust point.

Front princess seam with wrinkle

I took out a tiny amount – about 5mm – above the seam and things are somewhat improved. I think I need to take out a little width from the seam as well, but on the other hand I don’t want to overfit things. I measured the pattern and this style is unusually close-fitting for a coat.

It looks like it needs a full bust adjustment in this picture (taken after taking out the length) because of the way the horizontal seam is rising up and there’s a wrinkle pointing from the waist to the bust point, but I can’t see the problem from the front or in the other pictures I took. Also if I take a pinch of the fabric over the bust there’s actually lots of room there. This is why I find fitting so confusing!

Front princess seam with wrinkle

There’s a similar problem on the back, only more so.

Back view of muslin

But I think I need some of that extra fabric for mobility, because look what happens when I put my arms forward. The excess width vanishes and there’s just a bit of extra length.

Back view with arms forward

Three quarter back view

I’m just going to take out a little length at the back underarms as well as at the front, and stop there. I picked my muslin fabric because it has a similar (lack of) drape to my shell fabric, but the shell fabric is substantially thicker so I guess it won’t make up quite the same and there’s no point worrying too much at this stage. Wish me luck.


I dreamed about my coat project last night. It went disastrously wrong. And something is certainly stopping me from getting on with it. I have just finished cutting out the pieces for the muslin but I keep on finding reasons not to start sewing it. Must do the washing up. Must tidy the sewing room. Must sort the washing.

Coat muslin pieces

I love the pattern I’m using. But I’m worried I won’t be able to set the sleeves in. I did give myself a little bit of insurance by reducing the ease in the sleeve cap but now I’m also worried I have a pattern I won’t be able to move my arms in. I also love the fashion fabric, but it’s really thick and I’m concerned it might be too much for my machine to sew. And I’ve no idea what needle to use. Or which interfacing. And I really want to make a good job of this.

I know how to deal with a lack of sewing mojo (cleaning the sewing machine always works for me). But has anyone got any tips for complete sewing paralysis?