Winter coat musings

So about this time last year I was agonising over what pattern to choose for my winter coat. And the perhaps inevitable result was that I didn’t make a winter coat at all in the end but made my ancient version of Vogue 1276 last another year. The lining is destroyed and there are lots of shiny patches where the fabric nap has worn off but it’s still plenty warm. Just don’t look too closely.

But I’d still really like to replace it with something less scruffy. I am currently trying to decide between two patterns, neither of which was in the running last year. The first is (out of print) Vogue 1321, a Donna Karan design that I’ve got a copy of in my pattern stash.

I’m pretty sure the design is this one from her 2011 Fall collection, although it looks a different colour from the pattern envelope one. Anyway it ticks most of my boxes: it’s quite long, should be warm with all those yards of fabric in the skirt, and I love a dramatic collar.

One detail that’s not very apparent from the photos is the raw edge finish. This means using a fabric that won’t fray too badly; Melton or boiled wool probably.

Of course it’s not a perfect choice: the pattern is unlined. If I make this one I’m definitely going to have to add a lining. It’s unsurprisingly a complete fabric hog as well; something like four and a half metres of wide fabric.

My other choice is completely different and very new: the long padded coat from the November 2019 Burda. I’m showing the technical drawing and not the model photo because I don’t really care for the fabric they used for the sample. I’m also not sold on the ribbon tie, but that’s purely decorative and can be left off: there’s a zip and snaps as well.

Burda 114 11/2019 puffed coat line art

I think this would look great in a high shine metallic fabric – real science fiction vibes.

There are possible construction issues with this plan. Sewing the lines of top stitching on metallic fabric will be tricky. They are sewn through the shell fabric and a layer of batting, so there needs to be some way of preventing the batting from shifting. I can’t use pins because they will leave marks. I understand that basting spray for quilting is a thing, but I’ve also read that it doesn’t work well with high loft batting which is what this pattern needs. Maybe basting spray and then pins in the seam allowances? Anyone with experience of basting spray willing to advise?

I’m very torn as to which of these to pick. They’ll cost about the same and they’re both big projects. The Donna Karan is more classic, but the Burda is more fun. Decisions, decisions…

Modelled photos of Burda 105 02/2019

It seems like ages since I finished making this coat. I posted about it at the time but didn’t manage to get photos of it on me. Now it’s had a couple of months of wear so time to see how it’s held up. The pattern was originally Burda 105 02/2019 but I have shortened it and given it a lot more waist shaping. The fabric is a very heavy cotton/acetate blend denim.

I don’t wear it every day, but it’s getting a lot of use at the moment. The fabric isn’t intended to be waterproof but it’s sufficiently heavy and tightly woven that light rain bounces off. It’s also nicely windproof. I thought all the structure and the very stiff fabric might make it a bit awkward to wear but it’s actually very comfortable. I do slightly regret putting the buckle on the end of the belt. It looks great – it’s really solid hardware and the perfect shade of pewter – but it’s also rather a liability as I keep knocking into things with it. If I wear the coat open I have to be careful to arrange the belt so I can control it.

Here’s a back view. I’d been sitting down just before we took these as you can probably tell from the creases. Let’s just call it keeping things real.

The storm flap sticks out more than on the original because of the adjustments I made to the back to give myself some arm mobility. With hindsight I should have put a couple of darts in the bottom edge of the flap to control the volume, which I’ve seen done on RTW.

The collar works well worn up as well as down. I definitely should have added sleeve heads because the shoulder seam hasn’t come out totally smooth despite removing all the sleeve cap ease.

The fabric is holding up well. I was a bit concerned it would show wear quite quickly as it’s slightly shiny, but so far so good.

The pockets are good; roomy enough for things like gloves and nothing falls out of them.

I’ve been surprised how much I enjoy wearing this coat. I thought it might end up in the category of garments which look good in photos but are just slightly too much fuss for every day. But it’s very easy to throw on, goes with everything, and still makes me feel like I’ve made an effort to be smart. Sadly we had our first really cold morning of the autumn this week and the coat is clearly not going to be warm enough for winter weather, so the hunt for a winter coat continues.

Thanks to my husband for the pictures, and my brother for toddler wrangling duty while we took them.

Sometimes the reviews are right: Burda 118 09/2010

Burda has really great outerwear patterns, and one in particular has been on my to-sew list for years: number 118 from the September 2010 issue. It’s modern, architectural, and it doesn’t hurt that the sample is made up in white which I always think looks wonderful for outerwear (yes I know it’s not remotely practical but I can dream.)

Unfortunately the pattern has terrible reviews. The instructions are said to be dreadful, which isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, but everyone I’ve found who’s reviewed the pattern itself says it is astonishingly oversized and the sleeves in particular are over long. It’s a Tall pattern but the only difference between Burda’s Tall and regular sizes is supposed to be in length measurements, and even that doesn’t account for the sleeve problem.

But despite all this I still find myself wanting to give it a try; I haven’t found a similar enough pattern anywhere else. So I traced it, going down a size and reducing the sleeve length, and made a toile. When I first put it on I could see exactly what people were talking about. The front wasn’t too bad but the back was vast. At that point I only had one sleeve in and hadn’t pinned up the hem or marked the location for the closure. It looked so awful that I wasn’t sure I could be bothered to complete the toile and left it a few days. But eventually I returned to it and here’s what it looks like now. I’ve not removed the seam allowance from the front opening edge, although I have folded it down on the top of the collar.

It’s still boxy, but the style is meant to be roomy. Marking the front closure in the right place and pinning it there has improved the baggy back view. I suspect shoulder pads might help it more, as would making it out of something a bit thicker than calico. The features all seem to be in about the right place on the body. The next shot shows my hands where the pockets would be.

And there’s certainly no difficulty reaching forward or raising my arms.

The instructions are as bad as everyone says. Most of the space is taken up with an oddly described method to sew the front zip pockets which I’m not convinced would work all that well – assuming I’ve followed it correctly anyway – and then they skim over the rest of the construction.

The drafting also seems a bit off. The armscye in the side panel comes to a sharp point at the bottom which can’t be right. I had to round it off to sew it smoothly. The pattern comes with hem allowances built in which is unusual for Burda, but they’re oddly skimpy at only 3cm. It’s tricky, although not impossible, to make them deeper because of the way the side panel comes to a point just where the hem starts to angle down towards the front of the coat. I suspect facing the hem would work better than turning a hem up.

So, am I going to make this for real? I’m on the fence at the moment. The pattern still needs a lot of work because I haven’t made pieces for facings or lining yet, and I need to sort out the armscye problem. My current warm winter coat is worn out so I need to replace it with something this year, and this style ticks almost all my boxes. Maybe if I find the right fabric.

Three views of Burda 105 02 2019 trench coat

Finished at last

I finally finally finally finished my coat. It got a bit frantic towards the end when I came to sew the lining in and realised I’d seriously messed up. I went to pin it around the back vent and realised it was impossible to attach the lining to the coat on the overlap side because the vent facing wasn’t wide enough to reach the lining stitching line. Cue puzzlement as I tried to work out what had happened and how to fix it.

I eventually discovered I’d cut off almost the entire overlap facing by mistake at a much earlier stage in proceedings. I was supposed to just trim it a bit. I can’t even blame Burda because their pattern instructions weren’t wrong, I simply cut on the wrong line. That’s what comes of being lazy and using the same pattern piece for the left and right back instead of making separate ones.

After some swearing I cut a rectangle out of scraps, ripped out the vent stitching, sewed the rectangle on to the edge I should not have cut along and put the vent back together. It’s not perfect but can’t really be seen from the outside. If you squint there’s a tiny ridge where the seam allowance of my repair lies, and that’s all.

Outside view of coat vent
Inside is another matter, but at least it’s neat.
Inside view of coat vent

Luckily everything else has gone pretty smoothly. I’ve been following a sewalong for Ready To Wear Tailoring from Pattern Scissors Cloth for this project and it’s been a huge help. My coat’s a little bit different to the one in the sewalong, not least in having the nearly fatal vent, but thanks to Sheryll’s advice about adjusting the pattern in advance the potentially awkward steps like the collar and lapels were easy to sew. It gave me a new appreciation for Burda patterns too; I noticed that several of her suggested pattern adjustments to allow for turn of cloth were already drafted in. It’s Burda 105 02/2019 although I’ve shortened it from the original length and reduced the ease at the waist.

With perfect timing I’ve finished this just as the UK weather goes insanely hot, so I haven’t worn it even once yet. Normal cool and cloudy service is expected to resume next week though. But in the meantime here it is on the dressform.

Butda 105 02 2019 on dressform

Trench coat progress

It’s been a while but that’s because I’ve been sewing a coat. Only a summer coat, but it seems to go on forever. I’ve almost finished the collar and lapels. Just top stitching left to do on those.

The pattern is Burda 105 02/2019 which is a simplified trench coat pattern. It has storm flaps and the traditional collar, but just wraps to close rather than having buttons. Here’s the line art.

Burda 105 02 2019 line art

I’m making it in a dark grey denim which I was worried was too heavy for the style but it’s working out OK so far. Its reluctance to crease made it surprisingly easy to sew the collar and welt pockets without getting any puckers.

Here’s a longer view. The side seams aren’t sewn yet. I’ve made the belt though. Most patterns have you do that sort of thing last but I prefer to get it done right at the start.

There still seems like a very large amount left to sew. What’s making it easier though is my new gadget: a very bright clip-on LED light that I can attach to the shelves by my desk and position to shine right on the sewing machine needle.

I don’t know if I’ve just been unlucky but out of my three machines, two have light bulbs which tend to slip out of their fittings if I sew quickly, plunging the work into darkness. And even when the bulbs shine reliably none of them are all that bright. The LED light makes a huge difference. It was a present from my husband, so thanks!

Trench coat toile take two

Thanks everyone for all the advice on fitting my coat. I’ve made some adjustments to the toile and it is vastly improved already.

I’m making Burda 105 02/2019, a single breasted trench coat style. Here’s one of the model photos.

Burda 105 02/2019 trench coat model photo

My first toile came out looking oversized on me. This was a particular problem because the fabric I am making the coat from is on the heavy side for this style so it was going to look very bulky indeed when pulled in with the belt. I went off and did a bit of browsing for images of trench coats to see what sort of shape would work better for fabrics without much drape. Burberry have some good ones in leather and metallics (the gold crocodile leather was a particularly spectacular version). The hem on theirs tends to be mid knee rather than mid calf and they are much more shaped in the body, having front and back princess seams. They often style them with the collar turned up too.

I didn’t really fancy adding princess seams, but I shaped the side seams and the centre back seam on my toile to nip it in at the waist, and took a whopping five inches off the hem. I also shortened the sleeves slightly. My husband wasn’t available to take photos so excuse the awkward mirror selfies.

Burda 105 02 2019 toile take 2

It definitely still needs shoulder pads – unfortunately I didn’t have any handy when I was fitting – and I think the back vent needs to start a little higher now I’ve shortened it so much. But it looks a great deal better already. That odd wrinkle on the sleeves seems to have gone too, but I’ll look at those more closely once I have the shoulder pads.

Trench coat toile

My next project is the coat that I was talking about back in December. Only now we’re coming into summer I’m making a trench coat rather than an overcoat. Years ago I had a cheap, bright red cotton trenchcoat from H&M which I loved; it was so easy and fun to wear. I wore it out many years ago and now I want to make something similar but hopefully a bit more durable.

The H&M coat was slightly unusual for a trench coat in that it was single breasted and so avoided the widening effect of the usual double breasted button closure. The closest design I’ve found in my Burda collection is 105 02/2019 (model photos below) which hasn’t got a closure at all. I can live with that as long as there’s an overlap to keep the wind out, which there is.

Burda 105b 02 2019 model photo

I also looked at 103 04/2018, which is a similar wrap over style but with the addition of an asymmetric drape at the front. I love that style but eventually decided that the fabric I have for the coat (a grey denim with a subtle shine) has too much body for it.

I’m not normally one for making test garments but a coat is a large commitment so this time I made the effort. Here it is. I’m three different sizes in Burda from 36 at the bust to 40 at the hips, so I’ve blended between the three and added my usual 5cm length on the bodice and sleeves. Otherwise this hasn’t been adjusted at all yet.

Burda 105 02 2019 toile close up front view

It seems a blousy above the belt at the front compared to the model photos. The black and white sample in particular looks much slimmer fitting than mine. The shoulders are OK and I have a reasonable amount of arm mobility. The sleeves are a bit long but I prefer them like that.

Burda 105 02/2019 toile back view

It also blouses at the back.

I’m not sure about the hem length here. The hem hasn’t been turned up yet but it is going to end at the widest part of my leg when it is. Not the most flattering length. I’ve looked at a few Burberry trench coats online and they are generally hemmed at the knee.

Burda 105 02/2019 toile left side view

The side seams are hanging straight. There’s a wrinkle on the arm I don’t understand and am a bit reluctant to try to remove in case it results in not being able to reach forward.

Burda 105 02/2019 toile right side view

Here’s an action shot of sorts. It stays closed fairly well when walking.

Burda 105 02/2019 toile front view

I am tempted to take darts in the front and back to slim it down a bit, otherwise I fear it’s going to look very bulky when belted. Thoughts welcome!

Space clothes: Vogue 1335 modelled

I like space clothes: the sort of thing BBC costume designers came up with for 70s and 80s scifi shows. Vogue 1335 definitely fits the description. Unfortunately we don’t have a post-apocalyptic wasteland round here to use as a backdrop for photos, so my garden will have to do.

P1030782

The original looks like this:

Vogue 1335 envelope art

Finishing this project coincided with one of the UK’s rare heatwaves. I’m wearing this with my Vogue 1378 neoprene leggings and a black wool jersey top derived from Burda 122-4-2011. And I’m melting. The jacket shell fabric is wool.

P1030808

Here’s the back. It holds its shape pretty well. The diameter at the waist is actually greater than at the hem on this design.

P1030798

P1030867

This is meant to be an oversized style but the sleeves in particular are very long. I added the usual two inches to the length that I always do with Vogue patterns and ended up removing it again. I also added two inches to the body length, which again I normally do, and that was about the right amount.

P1030803

The pockets are very roomy.

P1030855

They’re pretty high upon the body, but I think it works with the design.

P1030825

The fasteners are a little bit fiddly! I’m glad I didn’t need the internal snaps that were on the pattern as well as external fasteners.

P1030885

Not such a good picture of the jacket, but I like the Doctor Who monster pose. And it’s about the only shot I have where any of the lining is visible. The lining fabric is a heavy poly satin that just adds to the insulation factor.

P1030817

So there it is. I’ll have to wait until the end of summer to wear this for real, but I’m really pleased with the result.

P1030821

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.

Burda 104 12/2011

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.
Burda 104 12/2011

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.
Burda 104 12/2011

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!

Save

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!