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7 Tips For Coat Making

finished front

For a couple months now I have been working on a pretty time-consuming project that I have been dying to share (pun intended). I have a great big love for coat making and I believe this one makes number 10! After that many coats, I have picked up a few best practices that ensure I get consistent results with each coat and I want to share them with you. But first, let’s all admire this gorgeous 100% wool designer houndstooth glen plaid! You are in luck because I didn’t take it all, so got get some and make your own coat with it.

Make a Muslin – I don’t muslin every garment I make. Just the ones that I know I am going to invest a good deal of money, time, and skill into. Coats are one of those must muslin projects for me.  I use 100% cotton flannel for mine that I can repurpose as the underlining for the coat. To me, this makes the whole muslin process feel less wasteful.

Fussy Cutting – This term is most commonly used for quilting but I use it in garment sewing as well. It means you are being very specific with where you are cutting your fabric. In quilting, you may use it to cut out particular parts of the overall motif.  In this case, I cut every piece (left and right) individually on a single layer instead of having my fabric on the fold. I laid out most pieces on grain, except for my sides and collar.  I took care to cut the pieces so my plaids lined up making it match all around. You can barely tell there is a seam down the center of the raglan sleeve pictured below. The give away is there at the top of the sleeve where the pattern pieces curved for shaping the shoulder.

The pieces I cut on the bias add more visual interest to the coat. I knew I would never be able to match plaids of the collar all around the body and I didn’t want it to look off on the center front. The best way to avoid that was to cut the collar on the bias which put the plaid on and angle. If I had cut only the collar on the bias I think it would have still stuck out as slightly off in a different way than the plaids just not matching up, so I also cut my sides on the bias to tie in that same element.

That also made it so I didn’t have to match my sides to both my front and back pieces. I did still ensure that my back and fronts were still cut to match up after they were sewn. So it looks like if I had cut the sides on grain it would all flow together.

Topstitching – This sleeve is also a great example of topstitching even though it is hard to see it. What I have found is that the woolen coating fabrics can have very bulky seams. To help alleviate that, I press the seams open flat and topstitch 3/8″  from each side of the seam. I did this for every seam on the coat except the underarm seam of the sleeve. It also helps to add just a bit more stability to the seams to prevent the woven yarns from coming undone and creating a hole. I used black thread on this coat because I didn’t want it to stand out, but I can definitely see using a contrasting topstitch thread to add visual interest.

Strategic Interfacing –  This particular pattern called to interface the entirety of all the main body pieces except the back. I did not do that because I knew I was underlining each piece with flannel. Instead, I put interfacing along the areas that will receive a lot of stress. In this case, I put it at the hem of each sleeve and body piece as well as the pocket facing. You can also apply it to the armhole for extra stability as well. For this raglan sleeve, I didn’t do that but I am adding stay tape to the underarm instead.

Underline – I know I mentioned underlining with my muslin earlier, but I cannot tell you enough how much I appreciate a good underlining in a coat. The underlining adds just that extra little bit of warmth to the garment as well as some structure. I personally, prefer to use 100% cotton flannel to get that warmth. Normally, I would apply it to the entirety of every main body piece. In this case, I skipped the pocket facing on the front panels so that I did not add too much extra bulk to those areas. You will also notice I hand stitched my underlining down across the pocket so that it is invisible on the right side but prevents that bit of underlining from being loose and rolling inside the coat.

Another fantastic alternative would be to use horsehair canvas. It adds quite a bit of structure and I would use it for coats or jackets that call for it as such.

Interfacing Alternatives – For the facing pieces around the center front and neckline, I opted to skip the interfacing since I had eliminated from the main body shell pieces. The reason being that I didn’t want my facing to be stiffer and more structured than my shell pieces. I still needed something to make it similar to the shell but did not want to add a flannel underlining because of the bulk. Enter nylon netting fabric, you know, the stuff that is stiffer than tulle and fairly itchy against the skin. Underlining with it allows for virtually no bulk but some added structure. You could even double up on it for more structure and still very little bulk. I did just that on my collar. I knew I wanted it to have enough structure to stand up on its own so each the shell and facing side of the collar have a layer of netting and the shell side also has a layer of flannel underlining. All those layers allow it to stick up straight to cover my nose and mouth shielding them from the cold Chicago winds.


Lining – I think I put more thought into choosing a lining than I do the main shell fabric. I want my linings to be a fun surprise. I really only have one rule I follow when picking a lining fabric: it must be silky. I want my linings to be slick and silky to easily slide on and off over my clothes. Currently, my go-to lining fabric is satin charmeuse, which is what I used for this coat. This one is the absolutely gorgeous Ocean Blue Charmeuse. Charmeuse is pretty lightweight and tends to have a beautiful flowy drape to it, which is what I like in my coat linings. You can also typically find charmeuse in more vibrant colors and fun prints than linings come in. I had thought about using a fun print for this coat but I knew I wanted the coat hem to be the stand out so I went with a contrasting solid color instead. This black and white damask print charmeuse is on my wish list though. I think it would make a fantastic lining.

Speaking of the hem…you know that fabric doesn’t come like that. Stay tuned next time when I will share how to dip dye your coat hem. Until then, share any coat making tips or questions you may have in the comments below.

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