In 2020 for my adult daughter's birthday, I offered to sew her something of her choosing. My daughter has her own unique style, we were in midst of the covid so she was only going into the office occasionally, and I really wasn't sure what she would like. Her response - a new winter coat. This wasn't what I was expecting; I had never sewn a winter coat before, but I am always up for a sewing challenge! . Sewing this coat has been a complete joy, the finished coat is beautiful, but there were several sewing challenges along the way, so here are the lessons I learned in case you wish to try sewing a winter coat. At the end of this post is a video if you would prefer to listen rather than read.
Choose a Pattern with good Support and Reviews.
My daughter chose the Clare Coat from Closet Core Patterns. I was happy with her choice because Closet Core has a step by step sew along on their blog. There were several times that I didn't make a mistake sewing the coat because of the photos and the additional instructions provided in the sew along that I didn't completely understand by just reading the pattern instructions and the diagrams provided in the pattern. There are also some YouTube tutorials on this pattern that were helpful, although I found the blog post the most helpful. I also read the reviews of the pattern on Pattern Review and this gave me a head's up on the possible fitting issues.
Coats can be difficult to fit, but there are several things you can do to set yourself up for success, including making a muslin, adding a center back seam and baste fitting the coat.
My daughter is easy to fit and is close to the pattern measurements so I didn't expect any fitting issues, so I was surprised when that didn't prove to be the case. I wasn't going to make a muslin - I didn't think it would tell me much because of the difference in weight between the wool coating and cotton muslin, but given the expense of the fabric, some of the fitting issues listed on Pattern Review, and after listening to this podcast from Love to Sew, I made one. In fact I ending up making 3 and I am so glad I did! According the pattern measurements, my daughter should be a 6. But I measured two old coats that she had that fit well and comparing those measurements to the finished measurements of the Clare Coat, I knew that a 6 wouldn't provide enough room to comfortable wear the coat over a sweater. We also planned to interline the coat with thinsulate for added warmth and while thinsulate is thin, it does still add some bulk. So I started by cutting an 8. The size 8 muslin was too tight in the raglan sleeves, across the back and down the length of the sleeves. So, I cut a 10 but knew something more was needed than just a little extra width.
In doing some research, I learned that raglan sleeves can be difficult to fit, and that a raglan style can mean that added width is needed across the back. I ended up cutting the body of a 10 and widening the width of the sleeves and back to size 12. But the real fitting issue for my daughter was that the sleeve cap wasn't high enough. Again Pattern Review gave me a head's up that the sleeves were difficult to fit for some people. I ended up taking a Course through Pattern Review on fitting raglan sleeves. In the photo below, you can see the additional fabric that I added to the sleeve cap besides cutting the body of the sleeve wider.
My friend Mitsy recommended adding a center back seam to the coat and this was also a tremendous help. I cut the center back seam with a 1" seam allowance so it could be adjusted.
The final fitting precaution that I took was to baste the wool coat together (before cutting the lining) so that I could make any final fit adjustments. I ended up widening the back right across the shoulders using that extra 1" from the center back seam to provide a little more ease.
Interface the entire coat before cutting out to reduce time and adjustments to the Pattern Pieces.
I interfaced the wool yardage before I cut out the coat after watching this Youtube video from Guthrie and Ghani. The Clare Coat is now only available as a pdf pattern with a gazillion pieces that need to be cut out. (See these blog posts on The Pros and Cons of Digital Patterns and Paper Patterns vs. Digital Patterns: 7 Factors to Consider). Half of these pieces are interfacing pieces that can be eliminated if the coating yardage is first interfaced and then the coat is cut out. The added advantage of this method besides the tremendous time savings, is that there is no need to adjust the interfacing pieces to match the fitting adjustments made to the base pattern pieces.
Helpful Notions, including a Walking Foot, Binding clips, Different Sized Needles, and correct Pressing Tools will enable a wonderful finish.
My daughter and I purchased a lovely double sided wool coating from Mood in NY. The navy blue collar is the "wrong side" of this beautiful green fabric. Half of the joy of sewing this coat was working with this beautiful fabric. I have no idea where I could purchase a coat made with this quality fabric. Ironing this fabric with a steam iron was magical! The seams pressed flat and looked amazing. Make sure to use a pressing cloth so no marks are left on the wool, and a wooden clapper helps the seams to lay flat. A pressing ham to get a great shape on the raglan and a sleeve roll were also helpful. The duel feed on my machine made sure that the coating didn't shift when sewing. If you don't have duel feed, make sure to use a walking foot. Binding clips were needed to "pin" pieces of wool together that were just too thick for pins. I sewed the majority of the coat with an 80 microtex needle, but needed to use a 100 to sew some of the areas that had several layers of wool, so make sure to pick up the larger needle before getting started.
Interlining a Coat with Thinsulate provides warmth without bulk.
A winter coat is often interlined to provide additional warmth. The interlining is an additional layer of fabric sewn to the lining of a coat. The interlining can be flannel, wool, fleece or thinsulate. Thinsulate by 3M is an insulating fabric made of quilted polyester engineered to provide lightweight warmth and can be purchased in the US from Vogue Fabrics. I interlined the body of the Clare Coat with the thinsulate, but used a thin wool flannel to interline the sleeves. The thinsulate was too bulky for the sleeves. To add a interlining, the thinsulate is cut from the lining pattern pieces and sewn directly to the lining just inside the seam allowance. The lining is then inserted as per the pattern instructions.
Beautiful wool is an amazing fabric to work with making sewing a joy, and bagging a coat is fun.
My daughter loves her Clare Coat. I took my time in both researching how to sew the coat, fitting the coat, and then in sewing it. I reached out and got the support and information I needed to sew this well and accurately. I had the joy of making a beautiful and highly useful garment for my daughter that she will have for years. Beautiful wool is an amazing fabric and I hope to work with it again soon - maybe a coat for myself!