Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sew-Along Prep: An Interview with the Designer!

We're gearing up to the big Lady Grey Sew Along! I have a special treat for you today: Sarai Mitnick of Colette Patterns, the very talented creator of this pattern, is here to answer a few questions in preparation.

Gertie: Which era was the inspiration for this design?

Sarai: I don't think there was one particular era I had in mind for the coat, actually. The wide collar and wrap style seems vaguely 40s noir-ish to me, the overall ladylike shaping and bracelet length sleeves is a bit 50s, and the short length feels a little 60s. Maybe that's one reason I think the coat can go so many different ways, depending on fabric choice.

I love that the coat has princess seams, since that makes it easy to fit along the curves of the body. Any tips for making fitting alterations to this pattern?

I'd say that you should try to use a fabric for your muslin that comes close to the weight and drape of you final garment fabric, which will give you a better idea about fit. So perhaps find a heavier fabric for your muslin if you're going with a heavy fabric.

Overall, fitting should be pretty easy once you've made a muslin, and the wrap styling really helps make the fit more adjustable. When you make your muslin, perhaps pay attention around the neckline for any pulling or gaping that might be caused by various fit issues (e.g. being long-waisted, short-waisted, high bust, etc).

Do you have any words of advice for those trying a pattern of this level for the first time?

This pattern is labeled "advanced" mainly because of the number of pattern pieces involved, and the time it takes to construct.  It's not really a project to rush through.  That said, a lot of people have told me they thought it was quite easy because the instructions are pretty comprehensive.  It just takes time, so don't rush yourself.  And if you don't understand a technique or term, look it up... use it as an opportunity to stretch and expand your skills!

The big question on readers' minds is what fabric to use. Are there any specific fabrics that you think are particularly successful for this design?

I love it in lightweight wools.  I just got back from a trip to our amazingly big fabric store here in Portland, and was looking through the wools with this question in mind.  I think on the lighter end, wool flannels (made for suiting, heavier than shirt-weight) and gabardines would be really nice.  Tropical wools are also great. 

Also, and this is just my preference, but I think this coat begs for an awesome lining!  For the sample you see on my website, I used a heavy silk crepe in sort of a terra cotta orange with big white dots.  It gets a lot of attention and feels really luxurious.

Are there any particular fabrics that you recommend for cold temperatures? What about mild?

Any wool coating would be great for cold temperatures, and of course you can interline it if you really want added warmth. (Readers, we'll be addressing interlining for warmth!—Gertie) Cashmere or a cashmere blend would be amazing. For mild temperatures, if you're doing a winter coat, again I think a heavy flannel or wool gab would be great. I've seen some Spring / Fall versions in things like cotton canvas, and they look awesome! Much more like a glamorous trench coat.

Are there any fabrics that you'd recommend staying away from, such as those that might be too heavy or too light?

I've made this coat in melton wool.  I love melton wool because it's so warm and has such a great texture, but bulky seams were a bit of a problem.  I had to hammer the heck out of them.  So I would be careful with anything that heavy.  Do some test seams before you sew.  And you could try a different seaming technique, like butted seams, if you really want to use melton in particular (it is very dense and doesn't fray).  I think my main advice would be this: beware of bulky seams, because there will be a lot of them!

On the lighter end, it's really up to you how light you want to go!

One other thing I'd mention is to think about the drape of your fabric.  The peplum on this coat is quite exaggerated, so if you use a heavy fabric with a lot of body, it will probably be quite pronounced!  You might like that effect, or you might want to remove some of that fullness, so just be aware so you can make that design decision ahead of time.

Thanks so much, Sarai! Readers, check back in a couple days for a post of suggested fabrics from Ann of Gorgeous Fabrics


  1. Hi Gertie!

    Q: FBA/SBA (Full-bust or Small-bust adjustment) on Princess Seams, will you be including links to tips/tutorials elsewhere on the web for this fitting issue with your sew-along posts for the coat please?

    I'm not taking part in the sew-along, however as you'll be doing a muslin for fitting I can see quite a few readers might ask about FBA/SBA on the princess lines, so I thought I'd ask in advance on their behalf (so to speak LOL!) :)

  2. Oh, this sounds so exciting ~ I wish I could be part of the sew along, but I do not have my own machine. I will just have to follow along in spirit. ^__^

    Sarai is such an amazing designer, thank you for doing this interview with her.

    bonita of Depict This!

  3. That was very informative. I've been struggling to find lightweight wool in the UK so it's good to know that I can make it out of a lighter fabric and that wont cause problems.

    Looking at the sizing I shouldn't have to do an FBA but since I do usually and have never done one on princess seams I hope there will be some help if it comes up.

  4. Hi Gertie,

    I would like to do this coat in a Wide Wale Corduroy and interline it. Would this kind of fabric be suitable? Not doing sew-along...can't take the pressure,lol. Will follow you etc.

    Thanks so much,

  5. Great to here from the designer. Gertie you hit on a few key questions for me as well. I will be making a heavy winter jacket, well jackets. I am doing 4. I will likely be using melton wool and in the past have used all kinds of seaming techniques to try and cut back on the bulk. I think I need to do an interlining as well at least for my husband's jacket. It gets COLD in the far northern midwest. Warmth is priority 1. So I will be using different patterns, lady gray just doesn't close up as warmly as other patterns, and the short sleves make it only useful in fall for me. Anyway, I will be looking forward to all the bulky advice!

  6. I'm so glad Sarai weighed in on fabrics! I just ordered mine this morning (ironically, just before checking my feeds and seeing this post ;) and opted for a wool gabardine (in a shade of bright teal!!! ;). As much as I liked the idea of using a slightly heavier/warmer wool, I really have no use for a coat that heavy in Florida. I'm still deciding whether I want to interface it or not... I'll have to decide once I get the fabric!

    I second Claire's suggestion to cover the SBA/FBA adjustments for this pattern. I've already been working out some ideas for an SBA for myself (even making a smaller size, I still have to adjust for a small bust! Darn genes... ;) on the pattern. It shouldn't be too hard, seeing as it's princess seams though!

    ♥ Casey
    blog |

  7. I'm really excited about this project! I'm glad you will be discussing interlining in the prep posts. Winter lasts for a long time here in Chicago so I would like to make this coat as warm as possible.

  8. Thank you for posting this interview, Gertie. I am thinking of making up this coat in a beautiful brown cotton velvet I have. I wonder if there are any downsides to that? Other than working with velvet, of course.

  9. Great interview, especially on which fabrics to use.


  10. I'm so excited to participate in this project, and so thrilled by the careful prep work going into it! Gertie, thanks so much for your attention to detail, and Sarai, thank you for joining us! I can't wait to see all the different interpretations of this project in the Flickr pool.

    I plan to make a wardrobe staple Lady Grey out of beige/khaki colored poplin raincoat fabric. As a muslin, I'll probably use this funny polyester-y bedsheet that seems to match the hand of waterproof fabric.

    Any tips from the community on sewing rainwear? Can one "seal" the seams for more water resistance?

  11. Elise: I think corduroy would be great for this coat! In fact, I almost bought some myself the other day for this coat.

  12. It's probably a bit too soon to ask about fitting, but I've made two of the colette dresses and I always have to grade from a 2 (bust going upward) to a 6 at my natural waist and continue to increase to either a 6 or 8 at the hips, along with a waist decrease of 1".

    Do you have any suggestions about which size to cut for this coat?

    I was thinking I should either grade from the 2 to the 6 like normal, since it has such a flared hip area, or just sew a straight 2 due to the wraping and flaring.

  13. Thanks for all the great prep info. I'm hoping to use one of the coat fabrics from my stash. My first choice is a large (1 5/8") textured houndstooth check in black and mocha. I've only ever seen the Lady Gray made up in solid colors. Any thoughts?

  14. Leslie: My fabric is also a wool houndstooth in a grey and cream color, but its a small pattern. I'm sure its going to look great. I was going to do a solid liner color instead.
    How about you?

  15. Hi,
    Thanks so much for the info! I found a plum-colored wool suiting that I love but it's 4% lycra. Do you think that would work? Or should I avoid anything with stretch?
    thanks again!

  16. I just received my pattern yesterday (after ordering it just the day before) so this is perfect timing! Now to decide between the great suggestion of corduroy, or just go with wool.

  17. Will there be a post about making changes to the sleeves? I want to make them full length and probably better fitted because I want it to be a real winter coat. I can draft patterns but have limited experience with altering commercial patterns.

    FoundationsReaveled has a good post about making FBA/SBA on princess lines this month, but it's a paying site.

  18. Hey all! Just wanted to pop in and say that I will cover changing the sleeves, as well as FBAs and SBAs, since I've had so many requests on both fronts.

  19. Hi, just a heads up, the first link to Colette Patterns goes to Gorgeous Fabrics. : )

  20. "Glamorous trenchcoat"? Wow. I just got an idea. Ever since I saw Once Upon A Time In The West, I've wanted to make a duster, but I felt the style featured in the film would not look good on my feminine figure. Now, reading this, I realised the style of the Lady Grey - only long instead of short - would cover that problem nicely.
    Unfortunately, it's apparent that I have too many projects on hand now to participate in the sewalong, but I'll certainly follow closely and watch out for all tips!

  21. Great interview! I second the tip about exciting lining, it's so fun and surprising when it shows. I've made this coat and found it easy to sew with beautiful results. Love it!
    (Not doing the sew-along but am reading along!)

  22. Liz: I haven't chosen a lining fabric yet, but I think you're right. If my coat is patterned, a solid lining is probably best. I might make it a complementary but bright color to add interest.

  23. My fabric arrived today, and although it was advertised as a melton wool, I can see the weave, and it's not as heavy as I'd feared it would be. It's actually not as thick as corduroy, more like a wool flannel, so I don't think I'm going to have to pound seams. Now I just need an exciting lining!

  24. What is pounding seams?

    I couldn't find anything on you tube or google...

  25. I'm excited! This is the first Colette pattern I've sewn. I just received the pattern yesterday in the mail. I have to say, the artist in me is impressed. I know this sounds nerdy, but I love the stitched booklet and the weight of the paper. So cool! I'm pumped just from handling the pattern. Whoever designed the pattern packaging did an awesome job. I'd love to know about an adjustment for a long torso. I'm worried about the peplum hitting too high.

  26. Sounds like we are heading in the right direction. I think I will be making the sleeves full length and might also make the coat a little longer. I have the Sarai's white one from the photo shoot here in Kansas City on a trunk show. It is a bit short for me. I am still searching for fabric, but will agree that the melton wool is rather dense and might be a challenge to sew.

  27. sweet! My pattern is waiting for me at home, and as soon as I get back from my extended stay in babyland, I'll be zipping over to mood for some fabric.

    I'm thinking a lightweight red wool, with possibly a baby blue lining

    one question though (and this is so super silly, and possibly unrelated) When talking about adjustments needed, I'm pretty sure I'll need an FBA, but I've heard mentioned of sway back adjustments here before. How exactly does one know if one needs such a thing??

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  29. Sari:Thanks for answering in regard to the corduroy fabric,I'm going to purchase some straightaway !
    I'm very excited about doing this, I'm not exactly sewing along because I am persnickety and slow about my sewing, but will be in spirit at a Tortoises pace,lol.

  30. I will be following but not sewing along. I came across this Akris Punto jacket ($1390.00 at Saks!) and thought it would be inspiring for all to take a look at:


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

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