Monday, 5 October 2015

Cutting Winter Florals - Trench Coat Part One

So I've cut out the next item on the 'wish list' and started piecing it together last week.  Back in August in my 'autumn planning' post, I had in my sights set on a trench coat.  Usually thought of generally by the fashion world as a spring garment I suppose, but equally useful I believe for cooler damp days of autumn.  I haven't ever attempted to make a coat and I really want a classic trench with a twist to get my teeth into.  I want to challenge myself with getting the details and shaping right and persevering with a complex project.  I have had two sewing projects in a row in September that have been 'against the clock', which have been fun and quick to do, but this one will give me the chance to slow down and enjoy taking my time.  

The fabric I chose is one from a selection I bought back in July 2015, from Lincoln.  It's a pale cream cotton sateen with a bit of stretch and plenty of body, featuring a scribbled, scratchy pattern of roses.   A great price at £3 per metre and, without knowing what I was going to make with it at the time, I got 3 metres to give myself some options - good call me! The colours are unusual together but I really like the contrasting warm shades with acid yellow and then the harder greys to tone down the brights.  There is something slightly edgy about the shattered look of the print that takes the sweetness out of the flower design.  The colours include the masala, berry and plum shades that are appearing everywhere on the high street and in designer collections just now, as well as that piercing lemon yellow that has also been a big summer feature everywhere this year.  I think this is a great autumn/winter colour pairing. Here's how far I've got with the coat, all main sections are sewn together front and back.

I loved the McCalls 5525 pattern when I saw the Selfish Seamstress make three versions some years ago (the Guggenheim, Key Lime and fabulous leopard print version here from 2011.  What an inspiration this archived blog has been for me in recent years getting back into sewing, as well as enjoying Elaine's writing style and meticulous approach to her craft).  The McCalls pattern is sadly now discontinued, but I managed to find one uncut on eBay and snapped it up for a bargain price.  It was a 'best pattern' winner in 2009, as voted by Pattern Review and as it's quite an old pattern now, there are lots and lots of reviews and different versions of it on the web.  Nearly all the reviews I found rated this coat very highly indeed.  I found a really good selection of photographs and descriptions of the trench in its various different versions - colourful and customised, plain and demure, playfully patterned or understated chic - pondering them all for inspiration.  Eventually I settled on the idea of making a fresh, bright version rather than the more classic beige or camel colour.  I wanted to stick to the classic shape and design though and make the longer version with all the detail you expect to find on a trench coat, with epaulettes, belt, wrist straps and button down pocket flaps.

It's likely that this finished coat will only ever be dry cleaned, but I have pre-washed the fabric and ironed it to check there will be no shrinkage or shift in the finished garment.  The last thing I want after committing to making a time consuming coat, is for me to get caught in a rainstorm and end up wearing a shrunken, misshapen dishrag.  Luckily the weather here just now has been glorious, like summer again, allowing me to get this pegged out on the washing line and dry in an hour or so.  Look at that blue sky, it's been around all week!

There are some great winter florals in the autumn/winter 2015 collections.  Ted Baker has gone to town with bright blooms on black, navy and grey backgrounds, from outsized peonies and giant jungle leaves to delicate oriental prints.  Similarly Gucci's autumn/winter collection featured lots of very similar prints to my fabric, with scribbled and sprawling blooms illustrated all over coats, suits and dresses in moody colours.  My coat will be in good company I think.

After completing the burda ruffle dress a few weeks ago and using a digital pattern (with limited instructions, no seam allowance, niggle niggle) it was nice to go back to a paper pattern for this project.  I quite enjoyed the cutting out stage with no printing, piecing together and remembering to add seam allowances along the way.  I suppose I'm quite lazy in that respect and always keen to get to the sewing bit rather than linger on the preparation stages - the burda pattern was really no bother having so few pieces so I don't know what I'm complaining about really!  There are lots of really fun pieces to place on this coat and lots of detail, from epaulettes and tabs to top stitching.  Here's how the back yoke looks at the moment, just basted in place but with the top stitching along the point all done.

And the front section, which will of course be folded back into lapels when it is being worn, but I haven't sewn in the facing sections yet.  I'd only pinned the shoulders together on this shot as I was testing the fit before committing to sewing together these and the side seams.

I haven't made a toile for this coat, after some dithering about whether or not to.  I do want a close fitting coat and I'd like it to be on the slim side rather than roomy, but I banked on the princess seams giving me enough opportunity to adjust the fit as I piece them together on my dress form along the way.  So far the fit on my dress form is great, cut at a size 12, and I have had barely any adjustments to do along the way.  Although I don't think I'll be able to wear anything too bulky underneath, but that's fine as it isn't going to be that sort of winter coat. 

It's going to be a very busy coat!  I have tried to photograph some of the details in close up but they are very hard to see in the maelstrom of flowers - spot the pocket flap anyone?  It's there I promise, but you have to look very hard before it emerges.  Like one of those 3D stereograms, that appear when you stare at the pattern long enough.

I'm lining this in a good quality, medium weight cream satin, which cost a bit more than I would normally pay for lining but I think will add some body and structure to the coat as well as feeling really luxurious. Considering buttons, I'm quite sold on having either natural grey horn or some sort of mid-grey type colour and similar for the belt buckle.  I've gone with grey topstitching, but it has tended to disappear in some places against the sketchy leaf pattern.  It's still a nice detail though.  Next step will be collar, more tabs and details!


  1. Quite an undertaking, this project, but it looks as if it's coming along nicely. Have you thought of using a fabric waterproofing spray, perhaps just on the back yoke where it gets wettest when it rains - you could try it out on a spare bit of fabric first and see if it works. Might keep the worst of the wet off while you search for an umbrella!

  2. Brilliant idea AWR! I was wondering how weatherproof it would be and this a great solution. I'll look out for some, thank you. Sarah x