Once again this brave blogger ventured out into below freezing weather to capture the most excellent photos of her latest creation.
OK, maybe it’s not that brave to go outside and maybe my photos aren’t that excellent, and maybe this project wasn’t my latest, but after seeing the pictures of myself perched atop a playground boat (nay, schooner!) while pretending I was a fierce pirate, this post just had to start in a bombastic way.
As for the actual garment I’m here to talk about, it’s my version of the Pepernoot Coat by Waffle Patterns.
Since the coat I made last winter started to get really ragged really fast due to a stupid fabric choice, I decided I needed to make a new coat. But you’d think I hadn’t learned a thing, because once again I chose a not-so-good fabric. At least this one’s holding up much better. My main fabric is a white boucle with threads of blue and neon green woven in. What really makes it an odd choice for a winter coat is that it’s made of cotton or a cotton and synthetic blend. I never did a burn test to find out the fiber content.
Yes, I know, cotton boucle is not a good choice for a winter coat, especially not when you live somewhere that gets as cold and windy as Chicago does. But you know what? I wanted to sew with a fabric that made me happy, so I decided to go for it anyway.
The reason I was so adamant about sewing with a fabric that had some of my favorite colors was because I started this coat while my grandma was in the hospital. I wanted to sew with a fabric that made me smile. Since we never thought she’d survive as long as she did, I got rid of my wool RTW coats when I moved in early fall, thinking I’d have plenty of time to stitch a hefty winter coat before it got cold. But then it was months later, freezing, and the only coat I had was made of unlined brocade. And let me tell you that walk from the train to the hospital, which is right on the lake, was a windy one! I soon decided that even if I could only get a few minutes of sewing time in here and there I’d have to start my new coat while still making daily hospital visits.
So I unpacked that boucle and cut right in. Alright, I may have made a muslin first. And I’m glad I did. The muslin told me that I needed to lengthen the bodice by about an inch and move the bust darts a little closer to the side seams. It also told me to take some fabric off the side seams- I think about two inches total, but I can’t remember exactly.
My other alteration was to take about an inch or two (I really should have taken notes during construction) out of the hood vertically. If you take a look at the hood in the product shots on Waffle’s site you’ll see it’s luxuriously big and floppy. It’s the kind of glamorous hood I’d make if I were edging it with fur like Yuki, the owner of Waffle, did and if I lived in a less windy place. But during a Chicago winter that hood would catch the wind like a sail and fly off your head. So shorter it was. I also angled the neck out. As it was, the front of the neckline would hit me in the chin in an uncomfortable way. I could either lower the neckline so it would fall below my chin or angle it away from my body so it’d still be as tall but not get in the way. I chose the second option so I could be like a turtle and scrunch down into the coat on really cold days.
Once the pattern alterations were done, I turned back to my fabric. To make a suitable winter coat I knew I had to work against the boucle’s natural tendencies. That meant block fusing the entire thing so that it’d be less drapey and have more body. It also meant interlining it with Thinsulate so it’d be warm and deflect most of the wind.
Before we go further, let me just wax poetic about Thinsulate. Oh wonderful Thinsulate, how light yet toasty you are! Oh wonderful Thinsulate, I suspect you are made of recycled materials since like Tyvek you’re made of olefin!
Luckily, I live close to Vogue Fabrics, where I have gotten multiple generously cut remnants of Thinsulate. The only problem was that because winter was in full swing by the time I started sewing, Vogue’s bolts of Thinsulate would sell out the same day they’d get them and all the remnants would be gone too. So I had to make due with what was in my stash, which meant patching some of the Thinsulate together to cut out the sleeves.
On her blog and in the pattern’s instructions Yuki mentions altering the lining pieces to accommodate a quilted lining. I don’t recall altering the pieces much. I mostly eased the Thinsulate in instead of making darts and pleats.
One final note about Thinsulate, don’t iron it! Since it’s made of plastic it can melt in an instant, which is why I chose to attach it to the lining and just not iron the lining. I figured ironing my fashion fabric would be much more important. It worked out well. So far no one who has seen the coat in person has realized the lining was not ironed. Either that or they decided not to call the sewing police on me.
Speaking of the lining, ideally it would have been a bright yellow so there’d be a burst of color when opening the coat. But, there were no remnants of bright yellow satin so I decided to be cheap and get a not-quite-matching blue satin remnant instead.
The other fabric I used was a teal wool coating pulled from deep within my stash. For contrast I used it on the underarms, yokes, and for the hood lining. The only bad thing I can say about it is really just a reflection of my poor, main fabric choice. I have been getting awful, big, dirty white pills on my sleeves from the wool rubbing against the boucle. Thankfully though I don’t think you can really see it in the photos and the pilling hasn’t been so bad as to compromise the structural integrity of the fabric.
One other place I used the coating was at the sleeve openings. I flat out forgot to attach the sleeve tabs when sewing the sleeves and didn’t realize my omission until after I had finished top stitching. I was not about to rip out all those stitches just to attach the tabs. So, to help balance out the contrasting yokes and to be super lazy with how I finished the sleeves, I sewed strips of coating to the sleeve openings. I attached them like how you would bias tape, except the strips of coating weren’t cut on the bias. It makes the sleeve openings rather bulky, but since the sleeves have tons of ease that bulk is welcome because it helps block some of the wind that likes to fly right up them.
The instructions for putting the coat together are pretty good, if you follow them. They are all illustrated exceptionally well. And the method for attaching the patch pockets is pretty awesome. But because I was sewing in little fits and burst as quickly as I could I only skimmed the instructions. So of course I ran into a problem with the facing/hood/zipper area. Had I carefully read the order of operations I wouldn’t have made it so it was impossible to stitch the facing to the coat along part of the center front. I don’t remember the exact order in which I sewed things, but I think it involved stitching the hood lining to the hood and top stitching it down before attaching the body lining. The short-sighted way in which I did things meant I could do all the stitching along the center front by machine, until I got to the hood, at which point I had to finish with hand stitching. And it was impossible to get the teal hood lining stitched to the bright white zipper in a perfectly straight line. So when the hood is down the fabric around the throat looks like a collar and all I can see is a wavy line of teal meeting white. Apparently, people who have seen the coat in person haven’t noticed it until I point it out, but it still irks me to no end.
What doesn’t irk me is the wavy hem line, which is also completely my fault. But since I can’t as easily see the hem while wearing it like I can the hood lining, it’s mostly out of sight, out of mind. Because I was in a rush to finish the coat I again decided to ignore the instructions, which called for fusing a strip of interfacing to the hem. I really really ought to have. It would have yielded a crisp hem. Since I interlined with Thinsulate, not only does the hem look wavy, it also looks deflated compared to the puffiness of the rest of the coat. What I could have done instead would have been to extend the lining and Thinsulate all the way to the bottom of the hem. Then deflation wouldn’t have been a problem and any waviness would have been minor.
The front band also should have been treated with fusible interfacing. Since I had already block fused it I decided to forgo the extra interfacing. I knew it was a mistake at the time, but I did it anyway because it was suddenly essential that I finish the coat ASAP.
In Chinese culture, when a close family member dies you do not wear red for a month. Red is the color of good luck and prosperity. It is the color of life, which makes it inappropriate for mourning. That brocade coat I had been wearing? Burgundy. Not acceptable. So I found myself sewing this coat when all I wanted to do was curl up in bed. Yes, it felt immeasureably silly to worry about what I was wearing and having to throw a very bright and happily colored garment together at the last minute in the middle of all that grief. But I didn’t have enough time to cut out another coat in a more subdued color and couldn’t stomach the thought of going out shopping for a cheaply made coat I’d never want to wear again after that month. I wouldn’t have done this for anyone else, but considering how much my grandmother meant to me, I really wanted to respect her traditions. And you know what? After a little while, doing something normal, like sewing, felt good.
So I rushed things and my coat is imperfect, but in the end I’m ok with it. It is very warm. Seriously, I can wear just this coat over a short sleeved shirt in weather as cold as the low 20’sF (that’s well below zero to all you familiar with celsius) and be perfectly toasty. And now I can jaunt around the city, a bright figure in a sea of black. All in all, I’m happy with how it turned out.
However, if I were to make this coat again, which I’m sorely tempted to do because the Pepernoot is a good pattern and cute design, there are a few thing I’d do differently. Obviously, I’d interface the hem and front band and closely follow the instructions. I’d also add snaps to the inside of the front band. That would help keep the band from flapping open. I suspect the band would be much less likely to flap if I had interfaced it again after block fusing so most of it wouldn’t need snaps. However, since I made the neck area jut out from my body, I don’t think stiff interfacing would be enough in that spot. A snap is really needed, which is obvious in the pictures. I’d also narrow the sleeves since as I said earlier, they have too much ease for my climate. The final thing I’d do would be to fully line the pockets. I used a scrap of flannel backed satin as underlining on the patch pockets so I wouldn’t have interfacing touching my hands. But that satin just covers the patch pockets, not the part of the coat that’s underneath the patches.
And that other coat, if I get around to making it? Light gray with yellow piping around the yokes. I’m sorely tempted to start it soon.
What about you? Have you sewn any coats lately? Gotten into any jams from not following instructions?