Monday, October 11, 2010

Tailoring Your Coat Back

Yay, it's time to move on to the coat back! And hallelujah, this will only take one post.

First, a note. You have two options here: you can baste the complete back with hair canvas as we did on the front OR you can use a back stay (pictured above), which covers just the upper part of the coat. The method I'm showing here is the second. A back stay keeps the shoulders of your coat from stretching out, as well as reinforcing the armhole.

Now, before you begin your back stay, it's a good idea to think ahead to the hem on your back pieces. Tailored hems are traditionally interfaced, so I'm adding some fusible strips in this first step. (Because the hair canvas doesn't extend to the hem, as on the front, there needs to be additional interfacing in the hem.) I really like bias strips of weft interfacing for this purpose: they give your hem structure, and the weft has a bit of a texture that you can grip onto with your hem stitches, without it showing on the outside.

I cut my bias strips 3-1/2 inches wide. Note: it's a good idea to cut your interfacing out with pinking shears so it won't leave a ridge on the right side of your fabric. I forgot to do this. Don't be like me!

Then I fused them starting 1 inch from the bottom of all four back coat pieces. This is because you only need the interfacing doubled up on around the fold of the hem. Since this is a 2-inch hem, the fusible will extend 1/2" past the hem, allowing you to catch stitch to it. (Hey, want a good fusible tutorial? I love this one by Ann of Gorgeous Fabrics.)

Now, sew your back pieces together: first, along the princess seams. Second, down the center back.

The next step is to make the back stay. You can trace your pattern pieces to make the back stay pattern, but I find it easier to trace the coat itself. Fold the coat back in half and place it on the fold of your pre-shrunk muslin here. (I'm using hair canvas because my fabric needs more stability, but muslin is traditional and works great.)

 Now trace around your coat neckline, shoulder, armhole, and then down to 3" below the armhole.

Remove the coat back, but make sure the muslin/hair canvas stays pinned in place. Draw a curve from 3" below the armhole up to 8-10" down the center back from the neckline.

 Cut out everything except the bottom edge, cutting on the inside of your pen or chalk lines.
 Cut the bottom with pinking shears.
 Open out the back stay and pin it to your coat back.
 Machine stitch it on the stitching lines.
 I cut the muslin/hair canvas out of my seam allowances.
Aaand . . . that's it! If you haven't cut out your lining pieces, do so now. We'll be attaching the pockets to the front and back pieces and sewing them together next.

A parting shot for the cat lovers in the house. I bought some wool mohair to experiment with Kenneth King's sleeve setting method, and Pip has decided that it's hers. Apparently wool mohair makes a lovely cat bed.


  1. I think this is the easiest step so far! lol. ;) Although of course I had to pick the more time-intensive method of basting hair canvas to mine... lol.

    Love the picture of Pip curled atop the fabric! Cats are such creatures of comfort... ;)

    ♥ Casey | blog

  2. I will catch up today! I pressed my muslin pattern pieces last night and just need to add to the sleeve length... then I'll just catch right up. That padstitching won't take too long, right :0

  3. I'm not doing the sew-along but am about to make my first tailored jacket. This is a godsend, thank you Gertie!

  4. These are awesome posts, Gertie! Here's a tip from one who has done the "Doh! I didn't use pinking shears!" on the interfacing. If that happens, just go back along the edge with the pinking shears and trim off a tiny amount. If you cut carefully, you'll lose almost nothing, but it will give you the non-ridged effect you want.


  5. I would add that making that back piece entirely with hair canvas will be problematic since it will have no give when you stretch your arms while wearing the jacket. Better to use a chunk of muslin in the middle of the jacket for wearing ease and use hair canvas for the rest. Mac Berg at Vogue Fabrics talks about this (and shows her jacket back) in the video I need to upload soon...but I've no idea how to cut a 28-minute video!

  6. Fabric U, let us know when you upload that video!

    You're right, muslin is the traditional choice for a back stay, but my instructor suggested hair canvas for my particular fabric.

  7. A question about the interfacing at the hem: I'm behind, so I'm still working on my muslin. I like the flared look, but I'm a little worried that there's too much volume at the hem, and that with my stiffer fashion fabric, it will look silly. If the interfacing adds body, will it cause the hem to be even stiffer and less likely to fall into soft folds, or will it just help those folds be more even? I'm hoping to post muslin pictures this afternoon, but that little bit of info would be a great help!

  8. I think Pip is on top because those kind of beautiful, sleek tabbies know that even cashmere doesn't come close to the feel of their fur and form beneath it!

  9. There are hundreds of photos, posts, and comments on Ravelry about cats and wool... get it wet and kitty will act as though it's made of catnip!

  10. Your instructions are always so detailed, I just love it! I have an award for your over at my wee little blog! Thanks for all the inspiration!

  11. Gertie - i'm sorry, i'm probably reading this (again) too late. You said that you put the strips of interfacing on all FOUR coat pieces for the hem interfacing... but earlier, you trimmed the hair canvas 2" on the front pieces... SO - are the strips of weft interfacing overlapping the hair canvas? Did you really do on all of the coat pieces, or just the back 4 pieces? Should I have slept on this before asking??

  12. Wow, after weeks and weeks of "next week will be better, oh no, it's worse" kind of business with work and studying I'm soooo behind with my coat. I haven't even got started on my muslin yet!

    Thank you so much for all the amazing tutorials though. I have been watching in fascination and envy and I really can't wait to get started on my coat! Hopefully next week will actually be better and I can make some decent progress to try and catch up.

  13. Another great post. Thanks, Gertie.

    This is slightly off topic but when I use pinking shears on lining fabric it makes a mess. It cuts beautifully through regular fabric. Is it my shears (and buy a new pair) or is it that pinking shears don't cut through lining?


  14. I'm confused... Did I miss putting the fusible on the hem area of the front pieces? I don't see it in the photos. Should I go back and squeeze some in now under the hymo?

  15. Hey guys, the fusible only goes on the back coat pieces. The front is already interfaced, no need to double up.

    Rachel, if you're concerned about too much flare, I'd tackle that problem by actually reducing the flare rather than skipping interfacing in the hem.

    Sewjourner, pinking doesn't seem to work well on slippery fabrics. The fabric isn't crisp enough, I think, and the shears just kind of chew it.

    Kelsee, thanks for the award! You're too sweet. :)

  16. Thank you, Gertie, on the fusible/hem thing. Another quick question... Do you do the catch stitch along the pressed-open back seams? Thanks again...

  17. Thanks for sharing these tips and tricks. I'm making my own wardrobe (and blogging about it on but I am not a trained sewstress. I will definitely try out some of your tips in my next project, making a coat for winter. thanks a lot!

  18. Great post! Thank you so much for this wonderful post. I really appreciate it.

  19. I appreciate these posts Gertie! I gave up on the Lady Grey (wrong style for me), but when I do attempt a coat I will be referencing your excellent posts!

  20. Your article is very interesting and really helpful. I learned a lot from it. Thanks for sharing. Keep it up!


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

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