The Coat that Didn’t Want to Be

Oh, how the temptation of beautiful yet inexpensive fabric can be the start of a bad idea.  In the past few months I’ve gotten a major lesson on how not to make a coat.  The impulse idea started on a trip to Jomar, where I saw a really large bolt of lovely basket-weave wool coating in a light teal – Megan’s favorite color.  When I say “large”, I mean that it was 30″ in diameter.  That should have been the first clue but the little devil in my head said “buy it, Megan will love it”.  After all she lives in Minneapolis where you need a really warm winter outer garment.  I hadn’t sewed a coat in years and was eager to give it a go.


On a nearby table I found a bolt of burgundy Asian-design satin which would make the perfect lining.  The deal was sealed.  I walked out of the store with a massive yellow bag of fabric and less than a $50 drain on my wallet.  Not bad.


Before I whine too much, here’s a photo of the finished coat.  Megan was absolutely thrilled which of course, made it a worthwhile project.  In fact, today I received a thank you note in the mail with something like “I loooooooooove my new coat”.

Q. What went wrong?

A. Everything.

1. Underlining with haircloth.  Because the wool didn’t have much structure (truthfully because I wanted to try haircloth) I hand-stitched haircloth to each piece of the garment, minus the seam lines.  Doesn’t it feel good to brainlessly hand-stitch while watching a movie or two? Later when the sleeves looked like Hulk Hogan’s arms, I removed the underlining from the sleeves.  What was I thinking?

2. Underlining with haircloth. That stuff is itchy beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.  It provides structure but those little fibers are mean-spirited.   Fearful that the hair would poke through the lining and drive Megan crazy, I underlined the lining with a layer of a densely woven lightweight silk from my stash.  That seemed to work well but it was an unexpected additional step.


3. Buttonholes: With this thick fabric, choosing a buttonhole style was quite a feat.  After failing with bound and machine sewed buttonholes, I sought advice from my fellow sewists on PatternReview.com. I might add that the sample bound buttonholes were a most ridiculous looking specimen with big bulges because of the volume of fabric.  In the end, I used a technique called Spanish Snap Buttonholes.  The Sewing Lawyer has a terrific tutorial which was very easy to follow.  Instead of using wool, I used the lining to back the buttonholes, which provided a nice design element.  Honestly, it might have been the only suitable option.

Buttonhole or a weak smile?

4. Buttons with irregular edges and shapes: Because the chosen buttons had uneven edges, I worried about the buttons shredding the satin lining around the buttonholes.  To mitigate this, I dyed a piece of silk organza to match the lining, and added the organza as an additional layer over the satin lining pieces.  In addition I sanded the bottom of the buttons, which were composed of some type of recycled material.  Also, one button was about twice as thick as the others and wouldn’t go through the buttonhole.  Lucky that six were purchased and five were needed.


5. Sizing: For some reason the coat came out much larger than the lining, even though both were cut from the same pattern pieces.  I think the wool stretched even though it was underlined.  This threw me over the edge.  I quit working on the coat and spent about 2 weeks making leggings and other clothing for my 2 GD.  At least I knew what I was doing.  After I was over my huff, I made the needed alterations, again sewing through those thick seams. In the end the coat sizing matched the lining.  Whew!

6. The Collar: As I mentioned previously, the fabric was too thick for either of my sewing machines.  In addition there was gathering in the collar which made it even thicker.  I ended up hand sewing the lining to the collar.  It looks good – hope it wears well.

All worked out in the end.  What advice can you offer me?

8 thoughts on “The Coat that Didn’t Want to Be

  1. Thank you so much for the love and time you put into my coat, Mom. After reading all of the details–hand dyed silk organza to cover button hole openings and unlining just-lined arms!–I will try not to wear my gorgeous new haircloth coat as a hairshirt ;) Seriously though, I do loooooooooooooooove my coat!

  2. The coat look great, the girl looks delirious with joy, the color is fabulous :-).
    But I think much of what you went through could have been avoided with one single change. Yes, we all come home with some fabric sometimes, we couldn’t resist, or someone gave it to us. Then we should figure out what this fabric wants to be. In this case perhaps a spring jacket would have been just fine?
    But in this case you had a goal: a warm coat. You could have spared yourself much grief, and gotten a product closer to what you meant, if you’d first looked at all the dense, thick fabrics with body available, and then picked the one whose look you liked best among those.
    Eh, it’ll be fine anyway..

  3. Ack, now I’m scared to buy that fabric I’ve been eyeballing! If it’s the same thing, it’s a Caroline Rose wool blend? The shop here has it for $30 a yard so I really really really need to want it to go forward. I think I’ll let it ruminate a little longer. Thanks for sharing this project!

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