Monday, December 22, 2014

Making Winter Coat Decisions

Last year this time I was buying warm winter parkas, sewing knit silk underthings along with cozy sweater knit tops and jackets.  It was my first winter in Maryland in ten years and the coldest one in thirty.  This year my plans are slightly different since I'd like to add some style to my burgeoning winter wardrobe.  One thing I noticed was that despite a decent array of fall/winter coats and jackets, sometimes I didn't have exactly the right coat for an outfit.  Some of those new sweater knit jackets had panels too long for a sporty jacket.  And the two knee length coats in my closet are either too lightweight or too dressy for everyday casual.  So I am on a quest to make two wool coats this winter and thought I would share the decision making and construction process with you, my sweet readers.  In the last month I have stitched up five (yes, five, can you believe it) sample coats from patterns in my collection.  Here are the candidates for this season's coat project:

Candidate 1  
I liked the back interest on this pattern and the raglan sleeve for a winter overcoat.
Here's the mock-up:
Wow, even in this fuzzy shot you can see that there's a lot of fabric happening in this coat.  

I do like the sleeve and collar area, but that armhole is large and quite low.
Candidate 2
Hmmm, again I like the almost raglan sleeve but this coat is designed to be fully reversible. Do I want a reversible coat?  Here's the mock-up:

Despite having to sew four of those finicky corners, I really like the collar and proportions on this one.  It uses a lot of fabric because of that cut on sleeve so it might mean fabric shopping if I pursue this one.
Now here's where I have to pause for a moment.  I did some snoop shopping in the quaint little town of Lititz, PA back in November and fell in love with a line of wool/alpaca coats and jackets at one of the boutiques there, a line called Beyond Threads. I tried on this wonderful Corina jacket (although the sleeves were about an inch too short, typical for me in RTW.)  What you cannot tell from the picture or the description is that there is an underarm gusset that means the dolman cut on sleeve actually has a higher and more flattering lower armhole. 
Corina Jacket from Beyond Threads
So while I was contemplating my next jacket, I was also searching high and low through my pattern collection for  dolman sleeve with a gusset. I am too geometrically challenged to draft my own version but I could transpose one, I think.  No luck in my resource center so I googled my request and up popped this pattern, from the wonderful and sadly too early departed Fred Bloebaum.  It was on Etsy and for $5 it was in the mail while I was working on some other holiday sewing.  
Candidate 3
Now try to look past the early nineties oversized illustrations and look at the pattern lines.  I sewed up a size small (although according to the suggested sizing I should be a medium) and here's the mock up:
Olympia Coat
I don't like the petal collar or that frumpy length  but I do like the sleeves and the close but roomy fit of this pattern.  I can change the collar to a standup asymetrical one rather easily so I think this one has promise also.  Here's the two piece sleeve and the gusset.

Nice bias lines on the sleeve
Fred's pattern is wonderfully designed with great instructions for interfacing and even a roll line for that petal collar, something that the Big Four should include more often.  
By now I was getting a little winded with trying new patterns and going to the trouble of marking those grid lines on my mock ups.  But I had two more patterns to consider so onward....
Candidate 4
Wow, an oldie pattern again but a real classic topper coat, just what I think will fill the hole in my winter wardrobe.  Being a Burda, it too has some nice instructions for the lining and that collar roll line.  Here's the mock up:

Nothing unique but this one could be a real work horse of a pattern.  Those early nineties drop shoulders will have to be adjusted but otherwise it looks promising so far.
The last candidate was truly just for fun.  It does not fulfill any wardrobe hole but sometimes you just feel like venturing out into uncharted waters.  I got caught up in the Thanksgiving weekend Craftsy sale when all the classes were $19.99. (The sale continues: Craftsy classes ...and it's not just sewing )  I added more classes than I care to admit to my already loaded inventory.  And since I was there I decided to watch more of Natalie Chapin's stenciling and stitching class.  This pattern was the freebie that came when I bought the class last year and so I decided to make a mock up and see if it is worth pursuing.  Here's a very rough mock up (the pockets are quite unique and I got annoyed and did a rough and dirty version just for placement on one side.)
Candidate 5
Candidate 5

So, that's what I have been sewing for the last month.  Last week I bundled them all up and took them up to Sarah Veblen   I paid Sarah for her time in evaluating each one, making fitting adjustments as needed and then evaluating some fabrics I am considering.  It is the nicest Christmas present I could buy for myself.  I'll share the results in a future post.  
I also received a Christmas present of sorts of some nice woolens from a friend at the gym (most of them will be giveaways at January's retreat.)  When I was thanking her and shared that I hoped one of the plaids was enough for a coat, one of the other women was puzzled.  I had mentioned that I had stitched up these five coat mock ups before deciding which two I would pursue this year.  She asked me quizzically if it wouldn't just be easier to buy a coat?  Ah, the sewists out there know that yes, of course that would be easier for most of us but that's not why I sew....and maybe not why you sew either.  I love the fabric, the process, the creativity and freedom....and also the many dear friendships among others who understand. I'll be warmer this winter with all of those things close to me.


  1. wow I love that you made all those muslins to find the perfect coat and what a great opportunity for fitting with Sarah V. Looking forward to seeing which one(s) you sew up.
    Happy Holidays, Beth

    1. Thanks, beth, and good holiday wishes to you, too. Sometimes sewing muslins is a nice escape from all the self-critical perfectionism that can hamper my "real" sewing projects.

  2. Wow, you have really been working hard! What a clever girl you are to go to Sarah for advice, just the perfect present to yourself. I like most of the coats (LaFred and Burda the best) but I wonder if some of those giant collars might not overwhelm you? My favorite coat is one I've had for years, a real splurge. It's a red raincoat lined with nutria. It can even withstand Baltimore winters...

    1. I'm envious of your a matter of fact was scrolling Etsy vintage furs for somethng just like that. Gosh, I'm hoping big collar means you may not notice what's big below:-)

  3. What a journey this has been and is going to be! I'm glad you're blogging about it. I agree that some of these styles have a lot of fabric in them, and they could be overwhelming. The LaFred does have great potential. I'm looking forward to seeing which ones you choose to make.

    1. Thanks, Dixie, I like our phrasing of a "journey" since sewing a coat will be a new one for me. I've got lots to learn.

  4. Thanks for sharing the ongoing process with us. It is just as interesting as a post about a finished garment. Plus I have some of these patterns in my collections. I will be at the retreat. Thanks for the reminder of the giveaway table, I need to start assembling my contributions. I enjoyed looking at the clothes on the Beyond Threads site. I saved some garment pics to my inspiration folder

    1. How nice to see your comment, Audrey. I too enjoy reading about someone's process as a project begins. See you at retreat, maybe wearing my new coat!

  5. Thank you for sharing your sewing process! I have a quick question, what fabric did you use to make your mockups? I'm trying to do a mockup for my own coat pattern but I cannot find a cheap fabric that will weight as heavily as my fabric (wool)

  6. I used cheap home dec fabric for my muslins. It's not the stiff interfaced upholstery fabric, more like fabric for drapes and slipcovers or pillows. I bought a huge bolt for $1 a yard at Jomar fabrics in Philadelphia. I think old bedspreads from charity stores would work also. I have sold old home de fabric on craigslist for about $1 a yard or less just to get rid of it so that might be another option.


Love your comments, opinions, advice and questions. I just ask that we all "play nice."