Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Armed and Ready (for Coat-Making!)

So, I confessed to you last week that I was intimidated by how complicated coat-making seems. In fact, I was ready to wimp out and take all the shortcuts I could. But then one of you lovely commenters brought me to my senses.

Here's what kbenco wrote:
I'm sorry to disagree with the "just go for it" vibe here, but I think your Modern Vogue pattern is deceiving you. IMO the instructions should start with "Consult a good tailoring reference". If you make a coat without fiddly interfacing and lining etc etc, you will be able to wear it, but will you be happy with it? I threw out my first real jacket, made from the instructions in the Vogue pattern envelope, after I had made one from the same pattern, using tailoring references, which I liked about a thousand times better. A nicely made coat would be worth all the work.
First of all, I adore her sassy attitude! I love a broad with strong opinions. Her thoughts definitely touched a nerve, and I've committed to doing this thing the right way.

The first thing I did was write to the lovely Nancy K, who lives in my region and participated in the Great Coat Sew-Along (with fantastic results!). Nancy was very generous with advice for me, especially concerning what kind of interlining is good for our part of the country.

So, armed with Nancy's guidance and a reference book I picked up at the FIT bookstore, I headed to the Garment District and shopped til I dropped. Seriously, my bags got so heavy I almost tipped down the subway stairs. Let me tell you, it got expensive fast. In fact, I spent about the same in supplies for this coat as I did for the last coat that I bought at Macy's. Granted, that coat is a worthless piece of crap. I have to keep reminding myself that this coat is going to be much better and warmer and more fabulous than anything I could buy ready-to-wear. (Right?)

My shopping spoils included:
  1. 5-1/4 yards red wool/cashmere flannel from Paron's
  2. 2-1/2 yards polka dot silk charmeuse for the lining from A.K. Fabrics
  3. Heavy tailor's muslin for testing the pattern
  4. Black lambswool for interlining (it's so soft and fluffy!)
  5. Sew-in hair canvas for the undercollar and hem
  6. Weft interfacing for the front facing
And believe it or not, there are more supplies to be bought. I managed to forget thread and shoulder pads. And there might be shoulder head whatsits and pressing thingamabobs needed (I'll have to consult my reference book for the exact terminology here.) And I'm also going to have covered buttons custom made. (Squee!)

So, here I go. Wish me luck! I'm going to get the muslin sewn up this week. I'll definitely be looking to you sassy, opinionated broads for feedback on the fit.

P.S. Just to note: I took the above photo in artificial light and couldn't get across the fabulous lipstick-red color of the wool, sadly. But trust me: it is a fab, true red hue. Not orange-y at all. Coordinates perfectly with MAC Russian Red lipstick!


  1. I too have been contemplating a wool coat this winter. I made one back in high school. The results were not good.
    I live in New England so I have been trying to decide what would be a good interlining.
    I read every bit on the great coat sew along web site. So much great information.
    I decided on Simplicity 2508 and purchased a charcoal grey wool.
    I have a fancy dress next in line for my daughter's Christmas dance and then I will tackle the coat. I look forward to seeing your progress. Good luck.

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  3. Good for you Gertie! Anyone that can make bound buttonholes as pretty as yours were, can make that jacket turn out beautifully. Can't wait to see it!

  4. I'm sure you'll achieve a beautiful coat! Your fabrics seem great (I personnally can't resist a clever contrasting lining...) and I liked your choice of pattern so much that I even considered buying it (and Vogue patterns are VERY expensive here!) for the day I will be able to make a coat, too: pivoting under the winter sun wearing such a coat must be glorious!
    What type of buttons do you think of, covered buttons?

  5. Definitely, if you take the time to research on the best techniques and take your time and do it right, you will be happy with it for years to come; and it will certainly be better than any coat you can buy RTW. The quality of coat that you will be making would cost more than Macy's coats.

  6. Gertie, if you don't end up hand-sewing your buttonholes or taking them out to your button supplier to be done (which I hear is possible), why not add a vintage Singer buttonholer to your lovely vintage machine? I inherited my mothers and wow, it makes great buttonholes.

    I think in taking advice from kbenco and NancyK you can hardly go wrong, frankly. Claudine, who makes infinitely fantastic garments and I know has commented here once or twice, recommended Roberto Cabrera's book on tailoring as well, if you can find it in a library.

    What a fun and great project. Your wardrobe is turning into a real thing of beauty.

  7. You had me at "polka dot silk charmeuse."

  8. That's funny--I just checked that book out at the library a few weeks ago. It's excellent, but it makes me realize I'm not gutsy enough to figure the whole jacket/coat thing out yet. Yours will be beautiful, especially with the lambswool. Good luck!

  9. Oh my! Cashmere? Polka Dots? Specially made buttons? AND it matches your lipstick? It's like heavenly perfection in just one item of clothing! :D

  10. Can't wait to see your finished coat! It will be beautiful!

  11. Can't wait for the blow by blow account. Your posts are not only top quality eye candy but they're always so useful too.

    And your various coat fabrics look scrumptious!

  12. Sorry, I hadn't read the part about covered buttons (I noticed it only thanks to Catherine's comment).
    My friend seamstress has her covered buttons lined, on the side that faces the garment, in a contrasting fabric: the person who wears the garment is the only one who can see this little detail, and this is something I find unbelievably luxurious...

  13. Oh, I'm so going to enjoy following along as you tackle this project. I live in Hawaii, and rarely wear even an unlined jacket, so a winter coat project is never going to happen. (Just as well, as my sewing skills are nowhere near coat-worthy, but I'm whimpering just a bit at the missed fun all the same.) I look forward to vicarious thrills at every step of your progress.

  14. "In fact, I spent about the same in supplies for this coat as I did for the last coat that I bought at Macy's."
    Here's an opinion from a sassy broad:
    I think it's wrong to compare your custom-made coat to an off-the-rack coat you bought at Macy's. The Macy's coat was made to fit hundreds of women. Yours will be made to fit you!

  15. I look forward to watching your coat come into being!

    I have THREE vintage Singer buttonholers and would love to find someone who'd use one of them. Email me if you're interested!

  16. LOL... Russian Red.. That is my favourite gloss colour of all time - so I look forward to watching you put together this coat. I love the vintage patterns so much, but fear my figure shape would not do them justice! I can watch and live vicariously through you!

  17. I agree with ejvc with her suggestion of using a vintage Singer buttonholer. I bought an old Singer 301A at an estate sale (for $25. SCORE!) after a woman there told me what fantastic buttonholes it makes. She was right, too.

    I love the polka dot lining!! It will look fantastic! I can't wait to see how this goes for you. I have 3 kids under the age of 5, so I don't get to sew much. I have to live the sewing life vicariously through others for now. ;)

  18. Oh, and I meant to say. I'd be happy to just gift a buttonholer, not sell it.

  19. There is one great coat in everyone. Glad you are following KBenco's advice.

  20. I'm in the middle of making a wool winter coat, too. Comparing the coat you will be making to the coat you bought at Macy's may not be a realistic comparison. The manufacturer of the Macy's coat was producing that item to a price point - I'm no expert, but I think that retail is 100% markup from wholesale or the distributor and wholesale is 100% markup from the actual point of manufacture. So, if the coat is being sold for $200 at Macy's (and that is not a particularly expensive or well made coat), then Macy's paid $100 for it and the wholesaler paid $50 to have it produced. Since labor is the most expensive part of the garment, that means that what went into the coat in terms of interfacing, lining, fabric, etc. was probably not the best either, and manufacturers cut corners and cheapen the end product in many ways, including cheap or non-existent interfacings, sleazy acetate linings, fabrics that are have nylon or polyester in them and crappy buttons. One of my biggest bones (and the reason I am making my own coat this time and building that thing like a tank) is that I am tired of relining coats after one year's wearing. It is totally infuriating to me that the linings are so poor, so poorly put in, and wear out so quickly. So, I think you should not compare the coat that you will be producing to the coat you bought at Macy's; I think you need to compare it to the finest women's topcoats out there. I'm not sure where they would be found at retail, but you're going to be producing 'bespoke' - and 'that ain't hay.'

  21. I feel sure your coat will turn out beautifully!!! Do you plan to finish it this weekend?

  22. A coat that matches MAC's Russian Red?! *dies* Wow--I cannot wait to see this one! :D

    I'm really quite excited to follow the process of making the coat and the things you learn about tailoring along the way. Tailoring has always fascinated me, but is something that 1.) intimidates me to no end, and 2.) I haven't had a reason to really use (most of my projects stay in the dresses/skirts/blouses realm!). However, one of my goals (on that "do before I turn 40" list) is to eventually take the bull by the horns and learn tailoring and make a suit or proper coat. I don't want to be a sewing wimp forever! ;)

    Best of luck getting started on this project--I can't wait to read the posts this one is sure to generate!

  23. I can't wait to see your gorgeous coat.Your fabrics are gorgeous. However, I cannot believe that someone thinks you will whip this up in a weekend. I am hoping for weeks of coat-in-progress posts!

  24. Karen is right, settle in for a bit on this coat.
    Just so you know, I've left the blog up on The Great Coat Sewalong, so the references are still there. If you go way back to the beginning there are quite a few posts on fitting the muslin, which you may find helpful.
    And Paco's tutorial on pad stitching is better than you'll get in many tailoring references.
    Els also wrote a tutorial for the blog on inserting a sleeve head (which you will want when you get that far ;) )
    Love your choice of color and fabrics.
    Marji, host and founder of The Great Coat Sewalong

  25. you'll be fine! just don't rush anything and use all the information at your disposal. I have a coat in a really similar fabric and colour which I made a few years ago (vogue 2590). I still love it but to me the hem looks rough which is such a shame - everything else is great. if you do a decent job on your red coat, the only way you'll buy coats in in the future is if they're a bargain or you have no time. good luck and enjoy it!

  26. Were did you get the hair canvas, web interfacing and heavy muslin? I've looked all over the garment district in what must be all the wrong places!

  27. Grace, I got my supplies at Greenberg & Hammer:

    Marji, the coat sew-along blog is wonderful! Thank you!


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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