I need a coat. I have many many many coats but not the right coat. I need a warm, waterproof, many pocketed, hooded, practical coat, that is casual but not slobby and fits me well. I kind of had such a coat, but it was a maternity coat. And it had a massive L-shaped rip in the front, various torn snaps, was totally shapeless and it really wasn’t fit for any further activity as an item of clothing.
This and this have proven to me that it is possible to sew such a coat and it to be practical and pretty chic and to look fabulous and so I realised the time had come to stop with the awkward layering under weather inappropriate outerwear, stop moaning about not having the coat - and ruing all the RTW versions that are too tight across the shoulders and short in the arms with the waist too high - and get making. So I did.
Settle in, this goes on a bit and there are a lot of photos (and it's the short version ... )
The making took a very very very very long time. And whilst I'd like to say I really got into it and enjoyed it. I didn't. The whole process was so long-winded because of all the changes I made to the pattern that I got immensely frustrated with how long it was taking. I also found that even though I spent an inordinate amount of time, checking and rechecking my pattern alterations and carefully thinking through the construction process changes I was going to have to make, I still spent a lot of time unpicking and the finish in a lot of areas is less than perfect.
And that irritates the hell out of me.
So I spent the majority of the time I was making this either cross or irritated or anxious because I was so desperate to get as much done in the short pockets of time I have available to sew. To coin a very 90s phrase that my husband is partial to, I needed to take a massive chill pill.
This is a very heavily modified version of Sewaholic's Minoru Jacket. And despite all of the irritation and the moaning and imperfections, I really love it and have worn it non-stop since I finished it a couple of weeks ago. It is perfect in one respect in that it perfectly fills the void in my coat arsenal for something warm, casual, comfortable and child-wrangling friendly with the totally essential, obscenely high collar. I absolutely HATE having a cold neck and chin, so I spend most of the winter with scarves wrapped around my shoulders, neck and most of my face. This jacket allows this. And this:
Which is awesome.
I wrote the world's longest post about this jacket going into intricate detail about every single thing I did. My word was it boring. I couldn't even bear to read it - and normally I love re-reading stuff I've written. And yes, I know how that sounds.
So instead I'm going to resort to a list and a bulleted list at that. Because who doesn't like a good list?
- Traced a US size 12 (and after making all the alterations listed below then went back and graded up another size to accommodate the Thinsulate underlining - because that was a smart way to do things.)
- Removed neckline gathers using this tutorial by Sallie Oh
- Made a forward shoulder adjustment (which I've subsequently realised I need to make on most of my clothing)
- Broad back adjustment (ditto)
- Lowered the armhole (pretty much ditto ditto)
- Added length above and below waist.
- Added some length and a facing and lining to the hood
- Omitted the collar zip and thereby the ability to conceal the hood in the collar (due to the hood lining and increase in size it would have been too bulky and Karen also pointed out that when finished you can see the seam allowance through the zip).
- Inserted angled welt pockets to the front.
- Removed elastic from cuffs and adjusted the circumference of the cuff to fit the end of the sleeve exactly with no gathers.
- Replaced elastic at waist with a cord
- Reduced width of plackets by half an inch and added that to the centre front
- Added storm flaps - one in front of the zip and one behind.
- Added snaps to the storm flaps and pockets.
The fabric is a gorgeous navy medium-weight organic cotton twill with a sumptuous plaid wool flannel for the lining and midnight bemberg for the sleeves. All from Mood. I underlined the front and back lining with Thinsulate and then, because I thought the Thinsulate would be too bulky for the relatively slim sleeves I decided to underline the bemberg lining for the sleeves with some of the wool flannel instead. This does mean I lose some of the warmth factor, but this is not my Polar Vortex coat - I have a huge down affair for that eventuality and I also have Uniqlo down that layers perfectly under this should I need it. That said it's been 6C and I've been toasty as a toasty thing.
And, oh, the hardware: A 35 inch pewter colored metal RiRi zip, 10 pewter snaps plus snap banging in equipment, 2 pewter grommets, one length of grey cord. The cord is too thin and I couldn’t get the right navy so it looks a little ridiculous, maybe I’ll replace it one day … This little lot cost about the same as the fabric. It is from my favorite place for such things; Pacific Trimmings. I’m not a huge fan of their prices or the owner/manager’s attitude but they really do have everything and it’s all quality stuff.
All in this wasn't a cheap coat to make and has cost me just less than purchasing a decent parker but for the fit alone I'm happy with that.
The one thing that I haven't done yet and am not 100% sure I will is waterproof it. To be completely useful, it really needs it but I'm concerned what it will do to the fabric and the couple of times this has got wet already, the tight weave of the twill has ensured I haven't gotten wet and it dried out pretty quickly. Dilemma.
The actual construction, if you follow the instructions to the letter, is pretty straightforward and in some respects was easier because I omitted the hood zip and just sandwiched the hood between the collar and the jacket when I attached the former to the latter.
My neckline seams all lined up (which could have been a disaster similar to my waistband woes) which was all very unusual and therefore exciting. However, I made a couple of changes to the design that made the construction more problematic than necessary.
The first significant departure I made from the original pattern was to add angled welt pockets to the front. I know the Minoru is designed to give a clean svelte shape, but it's pretty unfathomable to me not to have pockets. I need lots of pocket space for gloves and hats and snacks and toy cars and tissues and phones and bus passes and stones and leaves and small Disney princesses. None of which the Minoru was really designed for.
Most of the versions I've seen have patch pockets added. I really liked the idea of patch bellow pockets, with a pleat and a flap, as well as waist height welt pockets and in internal welt pocket instead of the velcro version in the pattern - I know it created a fastening revolution but I LOATHE velcro on clothing.
By this point though I had major major Minoru Fatigue and the thought of creating three sets of pockets was enough to have the whole thing consigned to the WIP box, unlikely to see the light of day again. I also decided that angled pockets are so much more comfortable to use than patch pockets as if you get the height right, your hand just naturally slips into them. So I settled for just going with the scariest of the lot and creating welt pockets at hip height. I used my Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing to figure out how to draft and sew the things.
I wish I had done the internal pocket as well. I never use internal pockets. But it would have looked so pretty.
The second major change I made was to add storm flaps so I don't get the startlingly fierce NYC wind whistling through the zip. I made long interfaced rectangles that were sewn on one long side and the two short sides and turned and topstitched and then attached when I attached the shell plackets, which worked fine until it came to stitching the lining to the plackets. As one of the flaps sits behind the zip I couldn't follow the instructions and join the lining and shell with one seam from right hem up the front around the collar and back down the other side without the flap and zip getting lost inside the lining. So for the side with the rear storm flap I had to fold the lining seam allowance under and topstitch it down from the right side following the seamline between the placket and the front of the coat. This has the benefit of attaching the back storm flap to the zip and stopping it flapping around. I don't think that makes any sense AT ALL.
The hem is not my finest work. It looks pretty bubbly due to the Thinsulate and I have added two small leather patches at the bottom of each placket. I actually like the little detail, but they hide a multitude of shudder-inducing sewing sins including where, in a fit of pique, I cut into the hem allowance as something just wouldn't fold the way I wanted it to and then I realised it was a necessary piece of fabric. And on the other side where the bottom of the storm flap and the placket have a raw edge because they didn't get sewn into something and I can't figure out what, where or why. Well I probably could but, where in the beginning I had unpicked everything that wasn't perfect and had basted everything within an inch of its life, by this stage I just wanted the damn thing done.
Then it was onto hammering bits of metal, which was nerve racking and not entirely successful; the grommets are a bit mangled and one of the snaps doesn't close properly but nobody can tell this and they all line up!
And then it was finished and I couldn't quite believe it. It is not a sewing fail. But it is nowhere near perfect. But it is the first major coat I have made. And it will probably get more wear than any other single thing I have made to date.
I am super super pleased with the fit - I don't have that awful tightness across the shoulders that I do on every other coat I own, the sleeves are so long that I will never get the cold wrists my monkey arms normally ensure and even the slightly longer than ideal shoulder darts (which really should have been removed to create a two piece raglan sleeve affair) actually add a nice definition to the shoulders and the collar and hood with that utterly scrumptious wool flannel lining are my idea of cosy coat heaven.
I'm thrilled with my fabric choices and to be honest I've already forgotten about most of the things that went wrong and aren't perfect as I'm just enjoying how useful it is and the fact I managed to make such a beast.
Now if I can just manage to actually enjoy the process of such a major project and not get so irritated by it then ... well, then it would be somebody else sewing it as me = vastly VASTLY impatient.
Woohoo for sewing my own coat and also woohoo for everything I'm wearing here being handmade by vastly impatient, irritable me (Ginger jeans, Archer shirt and an unblogged modified Eucalypt tank). Don't you just love it when you look down and everything you're wearing is a self-stitched original? No, it doesn't happen to me very often either but I'm getting there.
See you soon x