Posted in sewing

Pattern Review Birthday Meetup

Yesterday after work I headed over to A Fabric Place in Mt. Washington for the Pattern Review birthday party. Eleven years! Crazy, right?

I was lucky enough to meet several new-to-me sewists in the area, including Tee of Dressed to a Tee whose photo I’m using (above). It was wonderful meeting so many new sewists who regaled me with stories of all the fabric stores that Baltimore used to have. They even talked about when you could buy fabric at the local Epstein’s Department Store. I also have a bug in my ear now to join Maryland ASG.

I’m wearing my Burda Melton Wool Trench from three years ago. I love this coat (despite the less than flattering photo. I really need to work on my posture).  I didn’t get to wear it much last year since it wasn’t terribly cold in Baltimore. I’m wearing it all the time this season! And, I’ve gotten multiple comments from people on the street every time I wear it. I can’t tell you how *great* that feels.

I’ve been thinking about making another coat. Something knee length without a vent in the back. For weekends and when I don’t need my legs as covered for work. But, my dilemna is color. I want a pale blue or cream coat which means I would spend every week at the dry cleaners! I also lack for time to really dedicate as I did for this coat. Oh, well. There’s always next year!

Posted in sewing

Melton Wool Trench Coat, BWOF: 9-2006 #103

That’s me outside in the upper 20s and I don’t feel a thing! We’ve had some colder than usual winters the last two years in Baltimore.

It’s done! Seven years ago I tried to make a coat that was so hiddy, I threw it out with the next day’s garbage. I won’t be doing that with this melton wool trench coat. When I was in middle school, my parents bought me a beautiful red wool coat in Budapest in the late 80s. I even remember trying the coat on in the middle of the store because there were no dressing rooms.  I wore that coat all the way through college on to my first job as a reporter. Finally, my mom gave me $100 and told me to buy a new coat because mine was so beat up. In making this coat, I wanted something nice for wearing over a suit but elegant enough for dress up winter events.

I realize maxi coats are not on trend right now. Although, I suspect long coats are too expensive to make. My other coats are sometimes shorter than my skirt and I didn’t like that look.  Mmmm. I love the military look and I fear you’ll be seeing a lot of trench details from me this year.

Materials Used:

  • Wigan (for the sleeves and hem)
  • Knit tricot interfacing for the center front, tabs, belt
  • Woven fusible interfacing for the upper back
  • 21+ black and grey buttons from my FabricMart stash
  • Buckle, I think I got this in Panama a few years ago
  • Sleeveheads
  • Shoulder pads from my stash. Well, they were filling out the bra cups of my dress form
  • Flannel back satin lining from Joann’s fabric


  • I made a size 40 with a 1/2 inch FBA
  • I increased the sleeve / bicep by almost two inches. I wanted to comfotably wear sweaters underneath.

The coat cost about $120 or so to make. A search on Nordstrom and Macy’s shows that coats of this length in wool fall between $300 and $600.

Here are some detail photos. And, um, yeah. After being outside and taking about 50 photos, I uploaded to the computer to see that I left one button open!!!!! Grrrrr. What can I say? There are 14 down the front (I copied this from the Burberry website vs. the 10 Burda calls for and is considered traditional). I’m vain, but not  vain enough to go back outside and take more photos.

Sleeve belts and tabs. I love the two button detail.

Gun Flaps. I like the look of two, but it’s hard for me to get them to match perfectly. I ended up moving the button so visually they were symmetrical.

Chin Strap. So. Warm. What a great detail to include in the pattern.

Back vent. There’s no way I could have done the slit without Summerset’s help! I was stressed about sewing the vent and she sent me some great directions from her son’s vintage coat. Thanks Summerset!

Welt Pockets. I think this is the third time I’ve done them? Not nearly as hard as they seemed three years ago.

Flannel backed satin lining from Joann’s on sale for about $25. The interweb consensus is that it’s not very high quality. But, by the time I heard that, it was already cut out and partially sewn. It can replaced in a few years if need be.

There are things I’m not 100 percent happy with. But, hey, it’s my first ever wearable coat. The slit is super flattering, but I’d rather do without. It does let in a breeze.  I would prefer it to start about five inches lower. But, that’s what happens when you don’t make a muslin.

I wanted a long coat, but I wouldn’t mind if this was five inches shorter. It really must be worn with heels. I’m not terribly tall at 5 ft 6 but, the coat does not drown you. The hem is wonky in parts, but I think I’m the only person who’s going to notice. I may also add a snap to the lower front.

That’s it! I love it. I was so smug on Sunday afternoon getting coffee with a friend. S-M-U-G. Like, walking around wondering how  people weren’t just stopping me on the street to ask where I got my amazing coat from. It’s only the second time I’ve felt like that and it’s the greatest feeling of accomplishment.

I’m going to be in trouble if I lose a button. These were literally ALL I had of this one style. In fact, I’ve got alternate buttons holding the chin strap in place.

Yep. Can’t tell me nuthin’. Because, I made a coat!

Posted in sewing

Setting in My Coat Sleeves

Can you imagine!?! Between last night and today I’m down to sewing on buttons! YAY!!! I’m totally going to be done this weekend. Good. Times. But, right now, I want to show you how I set in my coat sleeves.

Let me begin with this: I do not know or understand anything about sleeve cap ease. Yes, I have read the Fashion Incubator post on ease and I don’t really  get it. I’ve never had a huge problem easing in sleeves so I don’t stress about it. I tend to ease them in flat and that generally works out well for me. When I read people have taken ease out of the cap, I shrug and keep reading. I don’t comprehend it. Perhaps it’s a mental block. I was definitely like that for years about fly front zippers.

For this coat, I wanted to try a different method for easing in my sleeves.  I read about this in the Complete Guide to Sewing Jackets. You use a 1 1/2 inch wide bias  strip of lambswool or hair canvas. I didn’t have either. But, I did have some drapery interlining from Haberman’s that I had used as tie interfacing.

First, I interfaced the hem by 2x the hem width. I then I added 1 1/4 inch width wigan. This wigan has been in my stash for the last two years.

Here’s what it all looks like together:

The wigan provides structure to your sleeve hem and keeps it nice and crisp. I also added it to the bottom of my coat. It also allows the hem to turn nicely. For details on applying wigan, check Fashion Incubator.

You’ll anchor the strip in the sleeve cap where easing begins. Then, pulling the strip taught, sew it to the sleeve cap.

When you release the strip, the sleeve is nicely eased. The bias also provides a touch of extra structure to the coat. It sewed in perfectly!

I also added a sleeve head and hand sewed in shoulder pads. I actually think my melton is heavy enough not to need the sleevehead. But, when in Rome….

Here, you can see my shoulder pad extends a bit into the sleeve.

Finally, I was at American Apparel this week and saw one of the better store made garments I’ve seen in a while. It’s a Melton wool cape. It had thick satin lining and weighed an absolute ton. It was also $155. I would have bought it if I didn’t sew and you know, had the money. I’m feeling very good about the $120 I’ve invested in my coat.

Posted in sewing

Making Belt and Sleeve Loops

I’m totally not getting this project done by the time I go back to work on Monday. Boo! I’m actually went out for New Year’s for the first time in years. Well, if by ‘out’ you mean ‘working’ then I went out. I was at the Inner Harbor for the fireworks and I wish wish wish my coat had been ready. You see, I took a boat in from west shore into the Harbor and was much colder on the water.

I’ve also been sacked the last three days with a cold and an infection. Which once I could keep my head erect like a small baby allowed me to read through some of my construction books.

I stumbled quite accidentally on this technique for drafting and sewing the belt, sleeve tabs and loops in my Bunka textbook on Coats and Capes.

You see, the top loop using Burda’s method (which is meant to have a button sewn on it). Fat and thick and kind of happy hands at home. I was going to my friend Lilya’s shop to use her coverstitch. I thought this would give me nice thin loops like jeans. But, not wanting to leave the house, I tried this method.

You fold your fabric in thirds, with the selvedge as your outside, finished edge.  No finishing. Nice, eh? The loops are cut 2 to 3 cm longer than the belt. Bunka also recommends reinforcing the loop placement with interfacing. Which makes total sense. It just didn’t occur to me.

I also made my belt using their directions.

You see, you sew it wrong sides together and then roll the seam to the middle. You’ll then sew the point at the seam.

Comparison of the Bunka method and my slapdash Burda method for making the points on the sleeve tabs. I don’t know why my first looks so terrible. But, I’m now sold on this new (to me) method.

Let’s see:

  • set in sleeves (tie interfacing ordered)
  • interface hem allowance (to use wiggan or no….)
  • make vent (wish this was a pleat instead)
  • line (shiver)
  • sew buttonholes (again with the shivers)

I think if I focus, two weeks *tops*.

Posted in sewing

Baby It’s Cold Outside

I’m a third through my first project of 2011. I spent most of my Christmas furlough working on a winter coat.  There is something to be said for having several days to focus on one project. I’m attempting the September 2006 Burda Trench Coat. I realize the September 2006 trench is hard to distinguish from the half a dozen trench coats they produce annually!

I’m using the most incredible 100 percent wool. It’s still available from Fabric Mart. It’s a ‘Civil War Heather Grey’ from Uruguay.

This Civil War Heather grey 100% Melton wool is dense thick coating from Uruguay. It is heavy weight, has a smooth slightly brushed hand, a wide cone drape, sheds the rain and blocks the wind. This is the ideal winter coat fabric. This would also make a great cape.

I don’t think it’s ‘thick’ but it is ‘dense’. And, it’s a pleasure to sew with!

Truth be told, I’m exhausted from working on it. I interfaced, shaped and pressed so much  the last two days I have a blister on my hand!! I didn’t have this fabric when I went to NYC or I would have had it interfaced throughout.

I’m using every tool and trick in the book for this coat.

I interfaced most of the front in addition to chest

Fused a woven back stay

Fused a chest gaurd from weft insertion for shoulder reinforcement


Tricot fusible for the facing, pocketing

Twill tape to shape the shoulders

Made welt pockets

Sewed and shaped the collar

Fused: belt, sleeve loops, epualets, welt pockets, back vent… the list goes on

I also went with two gun flaps instead of one. I like the opposite print on the reverse. Sort of my own version of Burberry!

I cannot believe how much work a coat is!! I’m not even 50 percent done. I still have to do the lining, interlining, sleeves, attach all the loops and tabs plus hemming.  Oh, and the vent which I’ve never done before and lining. And the buttons. Oy. Am tempted to wear it with the belt until I can take it to NY for professional buttonholes.

I was thinking I would finish this over the New Year’s furlough but the amount left to do is a bit daunting. And, I seem to have picked up a bit of a head cold. So, I’m going to bag it for the rest of the day and finish my BBC America Marathon. Who knew Law and Order was so much better with British accents?