I'll admit that I may have panicked a little bit when I found out... I've always wanted to sew a coat (my current wool coat needs replacing), but I imagined that it would be a summer-long project, not a week-long project! I also had no idea what I would do for fabric, and figured that I would probably have wait for shipping to Canada and get a late start. We were given a gift certificate to Fabric Depot to use, but as with the other challenges, shipping to Canada would have taken longer than is practical when you only have just over a week to sew.
To my complete surprise, I visited the local quilting store where I've been able to buy notions, and found that they had some nice wool coating literally tucked away in a corner! It looked like it had probably been there a looooong time (it was quite dusty), but I was so happy and so excited that I didn't care. I decided on this teal wool and mohair coating which is cozy, thick, and really nice quality. Mohair is one of the warmest wools out there so this should be great for Montreal! I'm not sure it'll get me through January and February, but that's what my down coat is for.
Before buying the wool, I went home and thought about design. Like most Grainline patterns, I liked the pattern, but it wasn't really my style. I knew that I would want to make the shorter version, since a longer boxy coat would overwhelm my small frame. I experimented with making it a little more A-line and adding a box pleat at the back, similar to shorter swing coats from the 50's.
I really wanted to use buttons because I knew I wouldn't be able to find leather for toggles, but to have a functional button closure, I would have needed to add another band to the front, which would make it too bulky. Instead, I made button closures from leather cord. I changed the pockets so that I could get my hands into them more easily, and I added decorative buttons tabs to those as well.
The last thing I couldn't decide on was whether my coat should have a hood or a collar - I love a good collar, but I've been caught in far too many Montreal storms to deny the practicality of a hood. So, I made both! The hood is removable, and attaches with snaps underneath the hood. I made the collar a little smaller to accommodate the hood, and a little rounder, out of preference. The finished coat is a little retro, a little modern, and super practical!
When I bought the wool, I found some black silk lining hidden in all the polyester. I love silk lining because it adds extra warmth, and just feels amazing to wear! I would have preferred gray to match the leather cord, but they only had black and white. I was really happy with the leather cord and buttons that I found, though! They have such a random collection of notions at this store, but it worked out well this round. They only had three colours of metal zippers, but the light green zipper tape with silver teeth looked nice, so I went with it.
I also chose some flannel to line the pockets and hood, and to use for the zipper band. It's a charcoal gray and light green herringbone, but looks gray from a distance. It matches the leather cord nicely, and up close, the green goes well with the teal (and is pretty close to the zipper band). It makes the pockets and hood so much cozier!
I made a muslin to test the fit around the shoulders, because with the more flared shape, I wanted it to fit really well there, so it wouldn't look too big everywhere. I found that it fit quite well with very little adjustment, which is really nice! To make the A-line shape, I placed the back piece 1 1/2" away from the fold, to allow for a box pleat, and I slashed and spread the front piece, then re-traced the armhole shape. I thought I might have to shorten it, but I actually lengthened the sleeves 1/2"! I think that's a first for me. I think they ended up just the right length, and so did the coat - it's short enough to be flattering, but long enough that it'll cover my sweaters.
To modify the pockets, I first removed the extra that gets folded under when they're sewn as instructed, then folded under a corner of the pattern piece. I then drew in where I wanted the button tab, and made a pattern piece that size plus a seam allowance and a little extra for turn of cloth. When I sewed them, I sandwiched the tab in between the main fabric and lining, and sewed along the diagonal, reinforcing the seam with the selvedge of my silk lining, sinc I didn't have any twill tape handy. I understitched, then sewed the other edges, leaving an opening at the bottom, and then turned it right side out. When I attached it to the coat, I made little bar tacks at the edges of the opening, for strength. I made them narrow enough that they sink right into the wool and blend with the topstitching, but they're there!
I ran into a bit of trouble attaching the zipper, when I realized that the recommended zipper and zipper band didn't fit my coat! I went back to the pattern pieces, and the button band is indeed longer than the front band for the size 0, unless I made some mistake somewhere and was supposed to take a larger seam allowance on the zipper band or something. I had to unpick it and shorten my zipper, then I added bar tacks on either side to prevent the zipper pull from coming off. This did set me back a little and I actually emailed Jen about it - I could have made a mistake with it somewhere, but it could also be a problem just with the size 0, since the coat does get a little shorter with every size.
Making the button closures was a little fiddly, but I'm so happy with them! It was a lot of trial and error - I figured out the right length to make the loops, but I had to twist them in precisely the right way before sewing the loop shut so that they would lie flat once I made the twists. I couldn't pin the leather, so I used a glue basting stick to hold everything in place before I could stitch it. I wanted them to be really secure and lie flat, so I stitched them to the coat at every point the leather overlapped itself.
I added some matching twisted leather cord to the button tabs as well, so that they would match. They're completely decorative, but I love the little detail!
I actually originally added similar button tabs to the sleeves as well, but once I tried on the coat for the first time, I just didn't like them. They were too much! There was enough detail on the body of the coat, and with so much flare, having something at the ends of the sleeves just looked odd. The fabric is also super thick, and I found them to be quite bulky and annoying to wear. So, off they went!
I also made shoulder pads out of cotton batting to add, but found the same thing. Maybe I just made them too thick, but with so much volume at the bottom of the coat, they were just way too much. With the heavy fabric, though, the sleeve looked like it needed some support, so instead, I drafted sleeve heads for them. What a difference! They're subtler than a shoulder pad but make the shoulder sit so much more nicely.
I sewed the collar as suggested, but I had to modify the hood a little to make it removable. I initially made it longer because it would be sitting below where it would if it were sewn in, but it ended up too big so I trimmed off the extra I added. I sewed it mostly according to the instructions, except that I attached the snaps, then sewed the bottom shut, leaving an opening to turn it right side out. I only attached the snaps to the lining, after interfacing the places where I would attach them, so that they wouldn't show when I was wearing the hood. To get the placement right, I pinned the collar on so that it sat nicely, marked the places I pinned it on both the hood and the coat, and then attached the snaps. After attaching the snaps to the hood, I topstitched about 3/4" from the edge to give them some stability.
Attaching the snaps to the coat was a little terrifying! The outer coat was completely sewn at this point, and with the brand of snaps that I was using, you have to punch a hole in the fabric first, so there's no going back! I figured that if it didn't work out, they would be hidden under the collar and I just wouldn't mention them... but, they worked really well! The hood sits so nicely and comes off easily (but not too easily!).
After that, I was finished with all the changes that I wasn't sure would work out, so I followed the instructions a little more closely. I'd never sewn a bagged lining before, and while I was attaching it, I was convinced that it wouldn't work. It just seems so bizarre while you're sewing it, and then you start turning it right side out, and all of a sudden you have an (almost) finished coat!
Once I finished, I couldn't quite believe what I had just made. I think it looks so professional, and it's definitely one of the most involved sewing projects I've ever finished - possibly even more so than my grad dress, and I spent months on that!
Over the course of this contest, I've learned so much, and I've made five amazing garments that I'm so proud of. I've tried some patterns that I probably wouldn't have picked on my own, and I've learned to modify them to suit my style - it's made me so much more confident in my sewing!
Thanks for reading! Be sure to have a look at Leah's and Teresa's coats as well - they're both beautiful! And keep an eye on Sew Mama Sew for a showcase on Saturday, with the winner announced on Tuesday.
Lastly, another huge thank you to Micheal from Photoflow, a family friend, for taking these photos for me!