Heads up: This post is a LONG one. It’s picture-heavy. It’s word-heavy. It’s everything-heavy. Turns out I had a lot to say about the making of this coat. Grab a cuppa and a snack. Multiple snacks. Get comfy. Maybe get a blanket.
Yes – this is another coat.
I’m not gonna pretend that I don’t have an unhealthy obsession with sewing coats. You know that already. So let’s just move past the fact that yes, I have indeed made ANOTHER coat and go straight into how fabulous it is ??♀️
I like a bit of a challenge when it comes to sewing coats, but lot of the coat patterns out there – especially the more advanced ones from the likes of Vogue – are all quite same-y in their looks (think ‘tailored smart coats’), so last year I turned to vintage patterns for something a little bit different –
And of course there was my McCalls M6363 Yaya Han make:
I find it quite a mission to source patterns that are advanced enough to give me a good meaty challenge, yet fit in with my style. I do have my eye on a fair few of the Marfy designs – I’ve never sewn with Marfy patterns before so I’m not sure whether they are marketed as being for the advanced sewist because they use advanced techniques, or whether it’s because they don’t come with any instructions ??♀️
Either way, one day I’d like to give them a whirl.
Apart from another (half-finished) M6363 that’s been residing on my dress form since last year (which I’m intending to finish like, pronto), and the so-nearly-finished jacket that’s draped over that (also intending to finish sharpish), and the in-progress second Vintage Kwik Sew fur coat that’s hanging off the back of a dining room chair (which is borderline whether it’ll be left till the winter now that it’s getting warmer) I don’t currently have any coats in progress. Er, apart from all those that I just mentioned. *cough*
But, it’ll soon be the summer, which is the time I start planning and cutting out coats – yay! More coats! (Yes, I realise it sounds weird to start sewing the coats in the summer, but that way they’re finished in time for when the cooler weather hits. See? Logic in the madness ?)
So back to this coat I’ve made…
It’s the snappily-titled ‘Le 809’ from DP Studio, also known as ‘coat with incorporated gilet’. Full marks to whoever is coming up with these names.
I only discovered DP studio patterns a little while back – when I saw The Magnificent Thread // Shauni’s version of this coat – and instantly fell in love with the oversized larger-than-life pattern. It was that gilet on the inside that made me go WOW. In winter, I am ALWAYS cold. Always. Not just cold, but ‘cold’ like sometimes I feel like I might freeze right there on the spot if I stand still for too long. There are times I feel like I can never get warm, no matter how many layers I wear (yeah, I know I’ve probs got bad circulation or something). I feel like my flab is failing at its one job in life of keeping me warm – I mean, if seals can live in freezing cold water with just their flubber for protection, surely my layer should see me through the British winter?! Apparently not.
Anyway. Because of said useless flab, I have to layer up. And what better way to do that with a super thick coat ?
This coat is dramatically different from my usual fitted style – and before I started sewing it I considered there to be a good chance that it may actually look like a sack on me. But I couldn’t resist making it.
I bought three metres of a red and black leopard print wool from Stone Fabrics – it’s a fuzzy coat-weight material with a little bit of cashmere in it. I love the fabric, TOTALLY love it, but it did force me to calm down on the lining and the bias tape as nothing actually coordinated with it ??♀️ It’s really hard to find a pattern or colour to go with red leopard print. My heart told me that the best match would be a black lining and black tape, but I just couldn’t back down without a fight. I looked for patterned black jacquard lining, but didn’t find anything I liked. Then I started googling black and red colour schemes to see what other colours people paired with this combo, and the most popular choice seemed to be white. I saw a few black and white bias tapes, and thought that maybe I could just go crazy with that on the inside, but nothing that really made me go YAS. I even considered teal as an option – y’know, to be a bit out there – but again I just wasn’t feeling it. Black it had to be. I don’t really know why I tried to convince myself otherwise, when I knew at the outset that it had to be black. I do this ALL. THE. TIME. – land on the perfect option, carry on looking just in case I find something better, and then wind up back with the first option ??♀️
I usually do all of my cutting on a mat on the floor of the living room with a rotary cutter, but I had to abandon my trusty method for this coat for two reasons:
- The fronts and backs didn’t completely fit on the cutting mat, so I would have had to have used scissors anyway, and
- I wanted to ABSOLUTELY make sure I had enough fabric, which meant pinning all the pieces onto the fabric *before* cutting anything out (just incase I needed to shimmy any pieces around to make room). I’d bought what I *thought* was enough, because the yardage chart was a little bit confusing, but it would have been THE WORST to find out I’d run out of fabric with some pieces still to cut.
So this meant one thing and one thing only – heading to the great outdoors.
And by The Great Outdoors, I mean a south-east London back garden. Complete with weird parrot-type birds that we have locally (yes, really), a lawn that has seen better days, and the neighbourhood three-legged fox. Plus our two Malaysian dogs.
I had decided to make version A of the coat – the one with the gilet, but not so much of the ‘flasher’ length. I laid out the three metres of fabric on the patio one afternoon, with the assistance of the willing (sort of) husbeast. The wonderful British weather kept getting in the way and blowing stuff around, but hey – what can you do other than grumble about it in true British fashion, and carry on?
All pieces were pinned onto the fabric – with enough room to spare, YAY – so cutting commenced. With the supervision of the hounds, of course. There was some confusion over whether or not I should cut a weird box out of the front piece – it showed as being cut out on their cutting layout so I went with it, thinking that I had better not regret it. Turns out I didn’t. There’s also one piece that I thought I might have cut too long, as the bottom line said ‘cut line for version b’ but the line above said ‘hem line for version A’ – hem line, not cut line. So I went with the lower line, just in case, thinking that I could always trim it off later if it became clear that was required. There was also a weird diagonal line on the back piece, which said cut line for version A, but again I didn’t cut that JUST IN CASE.
Honestly guys, this was not easy-going.
With all the pieces cut out (successfully or not remained to be seen at the time) it was then time for the interfacing… usually I would use sew in interfacing because I HATE the iron on stuff, but with this design there was no way around it. I went with a heavy fusible from Empress Mills, and despite me thinking that the interfacing itself would be heavy and would make everything stiff, it isn’t. It’s just an interfacing that’s meant for heavy fabrics. It also fuses in about two seconds so don’t do what I did and leave your iron on until it melts.
You start with the welt pockets. The pattern piece for the coat just has a box marked in the rough location of the pocket, which I assumed – because it wasn’t actually indicated – was to be the final welt position (which is not out the question, right?) The box marked on the template was the EXACT size and shape of the folded welt piece, minus the seam allowance. It just HAD to be that, surely? However there was no cutting line for the pocket, so you’re left guessing where to put it. The instructions made reference to the cut line, but there actually is no cut line marked on the pattern piece. I thought that the middle of the box would be the most logical place to go, but then this would mean that when everything was stitched, the welt wouldn’t actually be placed on the box marked ??♀️ For this to happen, the stitching lines would have to be the edge of the marked box, plus 1cm in towards the middle of the box – with the cut in between these.
Not wanting to go steaming in to my fabric without being TOTALLY sure what I was doing, I decided that I really should practice on some scraps. So I went raiding the offcut bag (we all have one of these, with no idea of what to actually do with them – amirite? ?) and produced a mismatched set of coat front, welt piece and pocket bags (which I managed to cut one of the wrong way around – good start Sarah, well done mate ??♀️). I transferred the welt box marking onto my ‘coat front’.
I put the second stitching line 1cm away from the edge, as I thought was the best option, and lined up all the pieces as per the instructions. I stitched, and cut, and hoped for the best ??
It sort of came out how I was expecting, and the welt did indeed end up in the marked box, but it was upside down. I thought I’d done the pocket bags wrong because they didn’t line up with each other when laid on top – the picture in the instruction booklet clear as day shows one pocket bag being bigger than the other, which would make sense because then they actually WOULD have lined up when the width of the pocket opening was taken into account, but mine were the same size ? I even went back to the original pattern sheets to make sure that I hadn’t accidentally traced four of one pocket bag instead of two of each, but nope – I’d traced two of each but both templates were indeed the same size. Whether or not this is intentional, or a pattern error (much like the missing pocket cut line) I’m not sure. But those pocket bags on the pattern sheets are BOTH EXACTLY THE SAME. So I just trimmed the larger one to match the smaller one. This misalignment may or may not have had something to do with the placement of my stitching lines ??♀️
I marked everything I could think of on my practise version so that I didn’t hash up the real deal. The first ‘real’ pocket went well, but then the second one let me down.
When I marked the stitching line on the second pocket, I forgot to mirror the first one and accidentally marked it on the wrong side of the box. It was 1cm from the edge nearest the side seam, rather than from the edge nearest centre front. FFS. It means that the pocket is about 2-3cm further away from centre front compared to the other one… but there’s nothing I can do about it now, I’ve already cut the gaping hole in the fabric. I’ll just have to live with it. I’m kind of angry at the pattern for not marking the cut line and therefore am pointing blame at them… I mean, REALLY, how hard is it to just mark a bloody line for us?!
To further add to the irritation of the whole pocket shambles, they oh-so-casually say to interface the welt box, but there’s no template for it, so you have to trace your own from the front pattern piece. Long.
Anyway. The pockets were in, but that wasn’t the end of the drama.
I don’t recall the exact moment of the carnage, but at some point early on in the construction of the coat, I was looking at the piece currently going through the machine and had an awful realisation. The fabric had a nap. A subtle one, but a nap nonetheless. I had NOT noticed this when I cut the pieces out. But I saw it clearly now. All the little fuzzy bits were going in one direction.
Just as your toast will always land jam-side-down when you drop it, I’d cut everything out with the nap going the wrong way. WHY IS THE UNIVERSE SO AGAINST ME MAKING THIS COAT ?
It’s not actually that noticeable, and to the untrained eye is pretty much invisible, but I knew it was there. I carried on regardless (annoyed, obvs), because what else can you do? I loved the fabric and there was no way I was binning three metres of it just because some furry strands were pointing upwards rather than downwards. At least it was all consistently wrong, rather than some pieces up and some pieces down. I guess.
Now that I’ve worn it for a few months, the anger has faded and I’ve pretty much forgotten that I cut it out the wrong way – it’s still way more awesome than a lot of other coats I’ve seen worn this winter.
But still – Y THO ?
The coat, for reasons I’m not sure of, only has a half lining, so the pockets are going to be exposed on the inside… and welt pockets do look a bit crap on the inside no matter how well you think you’ve done them. Plus you’ve interfaced the pocket area so you see that as well… which doesn’t really look amazing. I thought about extending the lining to cover the pockets, but I didn’t have enough so for good measure I went around the pocket bag and the exposed raw edge with bias tape. It’s not the neatest job in the world but it looks a little better than overlocking or leaving raw edges. You have to bias bind other seams in the coat (even though bias tape isn’t listed in the notions required), so I just bought a 25m roll of black satin so there was no risk of me running out.
After the stress of the damn pockets, I moved on to making the gilet as I thought it would be a nice break. It actually was quite easy to sew, despite the fact that on the pattern envelope they just tell you to buy ‘a zip’. Not even a ‘separating zipper’ or a ‘separating metal zipper’ or even anything as useful as the length. I mean, it’s not like you’re installing a zip where the length doesn’t matter and you can cut it to size, you need a zip of a predefined length. FYI, 40cm is good.
The gilet went together without drama, a welcome after those horrific pockets. You make one gilet with interfaced pieces (the outer gilet) and then another without interfacing (which becomes the inside pieces that sit next to your body). You assemble them separately, put them right sides together and stitch the seams. But then you get to the bit at the end, and it’s unclear which pieces you should be sewing together. I gathered that I need to do the zip edge, and the collar, but was that it?
It soon became clear that was not it, and I needed to also sew the bottom edges, so I did those too. But what about the ‘side seams’? Should I baste them together? The pattern is very vague with its instructions, lemme tell ya.
I decided to move on to other things, to give my sanity a break. The sleeves and cuffs went in okay, despite some dodgy illustrations picturing the cuff upside down. The back vent took a bit of head scratching, as the pictures are a little thin on the ground and the instructions I think have been translated from French and can leave you thinking… WHAAAAAT? ??♀️??♀️ Plus it has you bind around a sharp angle at the top of the vent, but doesn’t actually tell you how to go about it – my approach was to use two separate pieces of tape. It worked, but was it best way? Dunno. Don’t care.
When I tried the coat on for the very first time, my initial thought was ‘oh god, I’ve made a coat that looks *exactly* like my dressing gown’. It was red, and fuzzy, and had big baggy sleeves. Ohhhhhh crap. But then I realised that the fact I was trying it on over my sweatpants and slippers probably wasn’t helping the image, so I tried to push that aside and told myself it’d be fine once it was finished.
My second thought was that this coat is really, REALLY oversize. It’s massive. Like, don’t underestimate how massive it really is. I probably could have made a version that was at least five sizes smaller and it would still have fitted. But that’s the point of it – it’s meant to be oversized, but it still took me by surprise.
The more I stood in front of the mirror, putting a belt round the middle to see if it looked any better (not particularly – even more like the dressing gown if anything) and picturing it with a winter hat and boots, the more it grew on me. It was a statement coat, that’s for sure. It was also insanely warm – five layers of wool over your chest will really keep the breeze out.
There was a heck of a lot of hand sewing on this coat – the hem, the facings, the collars, anchoring everything down. One thing I couldn’t figure out was how to attach the gilet to the main body of the coat as well as the front facing, so that the whole thing didn’t flap about. In the instructions, they seemed to be telling you to topstitch it from the outer front on the coat, but there was NO WAY I could wield this beast through the machine and get it all lined up, so in the end I opted for a bit more of the good ol’ hand stitching and anchored it down with a few hidden stitches on the inside.
I wasn’t sure whether to hand stitch the front facing to the front, either. Sure, the buttons and buttonholes hold it in place higher up, but as you work towards the hem it’s a bit of a free-for-all flopping around everywhere. I was a bit disappointed to see that although the hem was level along the bottom edge, the sheer weight of the coat was dragging down the un-interfaced front, and causing ripples above the hem in the lower third of the coat. Perhaps I should have interfaced the front, too ?
The vent at the back, with all its facings and bindings and all that jazz, stuck out at weird angle when wearing the coat. I tried to press it into submission, even tried smacking it with the clapper, but in the end I went for hand stitching it closed for the top half of the vent (the bit that was the most lumpy and sticky-outy).
I decided that because there’s a grand total of three buttonholes (and also because I promised myself there would be no more cheat-y machined buttonholes on coats) that I would do bound buttonholes. There were a couple of things wrong with this decision:
- I sewed the buttonholes too late in the process – once the coat was assembled – and it was too much of a beast to wield through the machine. I should have done it before I sewed the front and facing pieces together, but I wanted to align the holes in the facing and front of the coat and thought I had a better chance of doing that once they were assembled. I probably did, but didn’t realise it would throw up the drama of actually being able to do the sewing.
- The fabric – the fuzzy, thick fabric – really didn’t lend itself too well to bound buttonholes. It didn’t hold a press, for a start, which made getting nice, even crease damn near impossible. The finished buttonholes aren’t the best in the world, not even close, but they will do. The fuzziness of the fabric (and tbf, the huuuuge buttons) covers some of the sins.
The buttons, which are metal and in hindsight possibly the wrong choice for an already-heavy coat, were exactly what I had in mind. Just big, plain black buttons. They were pretty spendy, at like £4 a button or something, but the plastic (cheaper) ones just looked tacky. So metal it was. I’m happy with how they look.
If you’re not comfortable with using bias binding on seams, but still want to make this coat, I suggest you either get good at it – fast – or look at another pattern. The amount of seam-binding in this coat is immense. Pretty much every seam. And yet bias tape isn’t even listed in the notions required ??♀️??♀️
The fact that you have to bind SO. MANY. SEAMS. makes it super annoying when things like this happen and you have to go back and hand stitch it down… ?
Another thing that’s not mentioned in the pattern (until it’s needed) is fusible seam tape – I didn’t have any to hand, and wasn’t about to put the brakes on the project to wait for some to arrive, so I just used some stable ribbon. Worked perfectly ??
I ended up putting my little Wanderstitch label in the wrong place… I sewed it, as you would think correct, on the back facing of the coat… but then realised, once assembled, that it should have been on the gilet back facing ??♀️ so the tag randomly sits in a little trench between the outer collar and gilet collar… d’oh. I’m not bothered enough to unpick it and re sew (by hand, it would have to be now) so there it will stay.
I wore the coat to New York City last October, and throughout the rest of the British winter. On the coldest of days, that gilet kept me pretty roasty toasty. Initially, when I saw the coat had just a half lining, I thought – really? A coat that’s obviously meant for super-cold temperatures only has half a lining? If I made another one (and I’m not ruling that out), I’d extend the lining a bit and maybe use something a bit thicker for it – quilted satin, maybe (ooh, fancy ??♀️). The lining stops just short of the pockets which means that on the inside, you see the pocket bag and the interfacing that you applied on the back of the welt. As neat as I tried to get these – because I knew they would be on show – they still look a bit messy, so I’d rather they were hidden by the lining. I’m not really sure why you would design a coat that has them exposed, but hey. I mentioned a few posts ago about using flannel for pocket bags on coats – it was this coat that prompted that thought, after I had to repair the bottom of one pocket bag TWICE. It’s not like I’m putting bricks in my pockets or anything – just a mobile and a little card wallet – but the weight was enough to split the bias bound seam at the bottom of the pocket.
I definitely would NOT recommend this coat for a beginner sewist, or for someone who doesn’t have experience of sewing coats. It’s very much a case of you reading the instructions and then having to fill in the gaps yourself with whatever approach you think is best.
Other than that, the coat is actually one of my favourites and it the temperature drops, it’s my go-to. The silhouette is a very new one to me – oversized baggy coats are definitely NOT my usual style but actually, I love it. It goes amazingly well with my chunky winter boots, and keeps me nice and warm. And it’s red leopard print, which let’s be real makes everything better.
Despite the dramas, I would like to make another one. Not sure on the outer fabric I’d choose, but I’d like to use the quilted lining idea (extended to cover the pocket bags), and maybe add a zip guard on the back of the gilet zip because it can be a bit cold on my neck sometimes ☹️
As a final thought, I want to give a shout out to the husbeast for his photography services ? He takes all my blog photos, without complaint, in all weathers and locations including such people-rammed horrors like Piccadilly Circus, Times Square, and very questionable areas of London. Often with people looking at us, wondering who the hell we think we are doing a photo shoot in the middle of a public place – which I know he must hate. And I’m not gonna lie, I often get ideas in my head of what I want my photos to look like – but in reality it’s just not possible. I can think of two locations that I scouted on Instagram – one in Paris and one in NYC – and showed him the pics that these fancy influencers took there and said that was what I wanted mine to look like. When we turned up to said locations, there was – of course – hundreds of people, parked cars, you name it. These influencers obviously had their people get everything out of the way so that they could get the perfect shot – the sort of power that us normal folk just don’t have. But he never moans about my diva-ish expectations. Even when we turned up to the Brooklyn Bridge for these photos to find it absolutely rammed, and my hopes of getting the pictures I saw in my head fading with every second, we found what we thought was the best spot for getting shots without the crowds in and he patiently waited for the few-second windows every couple of minutes where he could get a clear shot. We must have been on that bridge an hour getting these photos, and it was bitterly cold. I’m sure his fingers were frozen. In fact, the rest of him was probably frozen too because in the days leading up to our arrival, the city was being blessed with temperatures in the mid 20’s (centigrade), which is pretty much the equivalent of the British summer. The day we arrived, that temperate got cut in half and it was bloody freezing. The day of this shoot, all the husbeast had on was a jumper, because he hadn’t packed a coat. He was a human popsicle. But he kept shooting until he thought we definitely had enough pictures that were in focus and where I wasn’t pulling my retarded zombie face, because he knew we couldn’t just ‘nip back’ here if we discovered the photos were a bit dodge when we got back home to London. To give you an idea of the crowds, this is a shot we took looking straight down the bridge (rather than out towards the water), in the exact same spot that we took the rest of these photos:
So yeah, massive thanks to the possibly under-appreciated skills and patience of the Handsome Husbeast ?
And here’s all the lovely photos without the tourists ?
If you made it all the way to the end of this post – I salute you! And I also send lots of virtual thanks your way for giving up your time to read my ramblings ? Hope you enjoyed it!
Next week on the Wanderstitch blog… I’ve been one of the first lucky few to sew up a design from the new Deer and Doe collection – it’s super secret for now but all will be revealed next week! ✂️ Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out! ??