I’ve made a number of coats and jackets over the last few years and I can honestly say that they are one of the most rewarding garments that I’ve sew for myself.
They do take a long time, but that’s ok, you just break it down and take it step by step. They can be challenging but that’s ok too, some styles are easier to construct than others and certain fabrics will be easier to handle than others too.
From my experience, it’s usually the number of pieces you need to cut out and the number of steps that can feel overwhelming, whereas the actual sewing bit is fairly straightforward, it’s all just seams at the end of the day.
The best part for me is that you get to wear the finished article all the time! In the cooler autumn/winter months, it’s likely that you’ll need to wear a coat or jacket pretty much everyday so you’ll really be able to get some mileage out of your make.
If you are thinking about making a coat or jacket this year then I hope this blog post helps you work out the differences between some of the most popular patterns and styles and guides you towards picking a fabric that not only will be nice to work with, it will give you a beautiful outer garment too!
Check out my latest Youtube video where I chat through different patterns and offer you my top tips and recommendations or read on for links and notes to refer back to.
Choosing a size
I wanted to mention this first as it applies to any type or style of coat that you are making. Here are my top tips on things to consider when choosing a size:
- Looking at the finished measurements when choosing a size is really important. It will give you an idea of how much positive ease is built into the garment.
- Ease is the difference between your actual body measurement and the finished garment and positive ease means the garment is bigger than your actual body.
- Outer garments are typically quite a bit bigger than your actual body measurements as you are likely to be wearing thick clothes underneath. Expect anything from 4" to 7" of positive ease at the bust.
- The style of the garment can also have an impact as it may have an a-line shape at the hips so will have even more positive ease.
- If you are between sizes, looking at the finished garment measurements and considering them along with the style of the garment can help you work out whether to size up or size down. If you are between sizes and the style of the garment is very loose and baggy, like the Papercut patterns Sapporo coat, then you could probably size down. Whereas the Closet Case Patterns Kelly Anorak is more fitted so you may want to size up or grade between sizes.
- The other thing you can do to help you work out your size, especially if you are hitting several different sizes at the bust, waist and hip, then measuring the actual pattern pieces and taking off the seam allowance will give you finished measurement of certain parts of the garment. For example, you might want to check it won’t be too tight across the shoulders by measuring the back bodice pattern piece at that point and then comparing it to a jacket or coat that you already own that you know fits in that area. Or if you don’t have one to compare it to, ask a friend to compare that measurement against your actual body - just don’t forget that it needs to be bigger that you to allow for the bulk of your clothes underneath
Choosing a fabric
Working out the best fabric to use for your coat can be a bit of a minefield as there are lots of options, not only for the outer fabric but for interlining and lining too. Here are my top tips and things to consider:
- If you want your coat to be really warm and cosy look for the percentage content of wool in it. The higher the wool content the warmer it will be - even if the fabric itself feels lighter or thinner. It will last longer and will be less likely to bobble as well. If you are less experienced then it will be easier to work with a wool that has a tighter weave and doesn’t really fray much, if at all.
- Woollen and coating fabrics can come in all types of thicknesses and bulk and often there isn’t really a standardised way for them to be described. It’s all quite subjective and what some people would think is medium weight, others might think its heavy weight. As we sell all our fabrics in 10cm denominations, you can order just 0.1m (10cm) which will give you a long strip the same length as the width of the fabric. This can give you more indication of thickness, drape, structure and movement than a small swatch can so I’d recommend considering that if you are finding it hard to know what is the best option for what you have in mind.
- If you are looking for a waterproof or water resistant coat then using a waxed fabric is a nice choice. We sell a waxed cotton from British company ‘British Millerain’ that has a special waxed coating called ‘Stay-wax’ (see the full range in this link). This is a special type of coating that results in a lighter, less greasy finish and it is machine washable too. I still don’t think you need to pre-wash this type of fabric but I have washed some before and it comes it looking good, maybe a bit more creased in places that it did before, but that just adds to the character of the coat, and it was still water resistant.
- Interfacing - this can either be iron on or sew in and is typically attached to the outer fabric to give it more structure and prevent bagging out. I use a cotton woven interfacing and when I’ve used it to make a woollen coat I’ve interfaced the whole area of my outer fabric before I cut the pieces out. It’s really helped to add structure and prevent sagging out over time.
- Alternatively you can opt to just use it on specific areas that will be stated in the pattern you use. Typically this will be the collar, front sections, pocket areas and may also be the upper back section and sleeve heads too.
- Interlining - this is a layer that goes between the outer fabric and the lining that will touch your body on the inside. This can add extra warmth and body to a garment. I have interlined my Closet Case Patterns Kelly Anorack with Thinsulate which is a specialised technical fabric (available from Point north) that gives the coat extra warmth. It does add quite a bit of bulk so be aware of that. I was going to originally use it for my Clare coat but I felt it would bulk things up too much. Alternatively you could use a flannel type fabric.
- Lining fabrics - the main thing you need to consider with lining fabrics is how easy it will be to take on and off. You need something that will be slippy and glide against your other clothes. Depending on your budget you can use anything from silk, rayon bemberg, flannel backed satin to a more basic polyester or acetate anti static lining. I have also made a coat where the main body was lined with cotton lawn and just the sleeves were lined with slippery lining fabric. You can still get a bit of drag against your clothes though.
How will you wash and care for your fabric before and after making it?
- We get lots of questions about this, especially for fabrics that contain wool. It’s best to dry clean these fabrics but I personally don’t think you need to dry clean them before you make the garment.
- My view on pre-washing/cleaning these fabrics takes comes from a few things. When you buy a coat from the shop, chances are it’s unlikely to have been pre-washed or dry cleaned. Putting fabrics through this process will change them in terms of body and finish.
- Coat’s tend to not get that dirty. You always have other clothes on underneath, I usually have a scarf on too so that can minimise make-up transfer and any surface stains can often be easily spotted off with a damp cloth. If it gets a bit stale smelling then I would suggest airing it outside on a breezy day or using a light mist of fabric freshener spray (Flatter is really good for this).
- Prior to cutting out, some people recommend steaming the fabric (you can just use your iron for this), others suggest putting it in the tumble dryer with a damp dish towel for a bit (times vary). If you were your coat out in the rain or get caught in a shower then it will obviously get a bit wet. Depending on how wet it gets, the weave of the fabric and the wool content in the fabric, it may shrink a bit or change shape. Usually a looser weave and higher wool content will shrink more. So, steaming or subjecting the fabric to dampness and heat prior to cutting out, in theory, can minimise the amount your coat might change shape once it’s made and gets wet.
- To give you an example…...when I made my Clare Coat (see this blog post for details) I tentatively put the fabric in the tumble dryer for about 15 minutes with a damp dish cloth before I interfaced it and cut it out. Honestly, I got too scared to leave it in there any longer, and I couldn’t really notice any difference afterwards. I’ve worn the coat for two winters and it’s been totally fine, hasn’t changed shape or shrunk in any way and it was made from 100% wool with quite a tight weave.
Choosing a Pattern
Style The Kelly has a classic fitted shape with an optional drawstring and hood. The original design is unlined, but you can line it in a few different ways. Either ‘flat-lining’ when you baste the lining to the outer garment fabric before constructing and then treat it as one bit of fabric. Or you can purchase a pdf lining expansion pack.
Difficulty level Closet Case have rated it as ⅗ in terms of difficulty. For me, the zip was probably the most head scratching bit but the sewalong is really good for this and made it much easier. It has set in sleeves and a cuff that makes it a bit more tricky.
Fabric choices The pattern recommends light to medium weight woven fabric such as twill, gabardine, ripstop, goretex and linen. I used the Millerain waxed canvas to make mine and I’m so pleased with the results. I’ve also seen some lovely versions in soft shell fabric which has a fleece back and water resistant outer surface.
Style This jacket is a lovely simple hooded jacket with two length options and an optional waist tie. It’s fully lined and features two large front patch pockets and button closure.
Difficulty level Papercut class it as ‘skilled’ which is 2/3. I think, as far as coats/jackets go, it’s one of the easier ones. The sleeves are raglan, which is much easier to sew than set in and the front closure is either buttons, or for my version I used the Prym vario pliers to insert poppers.
Fabric choices Your options here are quite wide open. The pattern recommends mid-heavy weight woven fabric including cotton, linen and wool. So you could make a more spring/summer version with some nice linen or choose a more structured wool for winter. For my version I used the Millerain waxed cotton for more of a rain coat feel.
Style This gorgeous simples coat has raglan sleeves and an a-line silhouette and is fully lined. View A hits at mid thigh, with a face-framing collar, princess sleeves, exposed asymmetrical zipper and welt pockets. View B has a more minimalist vibe; double breasted, it ends at the hip hip with inseam pockets, full length sleeves and a dramatic funnel collar.
Difficulty level Closet Case rate it as ⅘ but I think for a full on coat, its one of the easier ones. The raglan sleeves make it easier to set them in and for view B the front fastening can be sew-in press studs, which is easier than buttonholes or zips. I added bound buttonholes to my version but you don’t need to do that.
Fabric choices Medium to heavyweight coating fabrics (ie.melton, felt, tweed and boiled wool). You need something with a bit of body to help hold the a-line shape, otherwise I think it wouldn’t hang as nicely.
Style The fully lined Cascade Duffle Coat is a fresh take on a classic shape featuring a slight A-line cut, toggle front closure, and a hidden zipper band to keep the coat shut tight against cold weather. The hem of View A hits at the hip while View B falls to mid-thigh. Although View A is shown with a collar and View B with a hood, both are interchangeable allowing you to create your own perfect coat.
Difficulty level Grainline rate it as intermediate. The sheer number of pattern pieces, the set in sleeves and hidden zipper will add more challenges compared to say version B of the Clare coat. Having said that, once you break it down into small chunks it is achievable, you just need to take your time.
Fabric choices Medium to heavy weight coating fabrics such as melton, boiled, or felted wool. It can alternately be made up in a canvas or twill for a lighter weight jacket.
This is going to be my next coat project and I plan to use some of our gorgeous wool/cashmere fabric!
Style The chic style of the Yates Coat will instantly upgrade any cool weather outfit. Inseam pockets and a hidden double breasted snap closure keep the silhouette sleek while the slightly oversized lapel and mid-thigh length give the Yates a modern aesthetic. A full lining and two-piece sleeves ensure you’ll be wearing your Yates for years to come.
Difficulty level Grainline rate is as Intermediate and compared to the cascade duffle coat, I’d say this one is easier. From looking at it, I think making the notched collar is probably the most tricky bit.
Fabric choices Medium to heavy weight coating fabrics such as melton, boiled, or felted wool. You’ll need something with nice body to hold the shape of that collar.
Style Go bold with this dramatic cocoon silhouette and angled seaming. Choose lightweight fabric for a spring/summer version or cosy wool for cooler weather. This is a pattern for every season. Our fully lined Sapporo Coat also features cropped sleeves, tapered cuff and pockets hidden in the front seams.
Difficulty level Papercut rate is as ‘skilled’ which is ⅔. From looking at it and considering the fit is very loose and baggy, its going to be easy to fit and the pattern shapes are fairly straight forward. There isn’t a separate collar to make and it just sits open so no closures or fastenings to work out.
Fabric choices Can be made in any woven fabric; from a light cotton, rayon or silk right through to a heavy wool. The choice is yours!
Style This fully lined jacket features a capelet flowing over the shoulders and back, meeting at the front seams. The hip length, double-breasted design comes with Peter Pan collar and back darts. Omit the sleeves or go lightweight, you can tailor it your way.
Difficulty level Papercut rate is as ‘expert’ which is 3/3. The caplet and double breasted front panel are probably the reasons for this.
Fabric choices Options are really open for this pattern too as mid weight woven fabric such as cotton, linen or wool are recommended. The thicker and heavier the fabric, the more that caplet would hold its shape, which you may or may not want - depends of the look you want to go for.
Style The Hemisfèric pattern is a funnel collar coat with long raglan sleeves. Fitted through the waist and flared at hips, it has front and back darts. Closed by a hidden front zipper, it is fully lined. There are quite a few distinctive style features of this coat that make it quite different from some of the other more simple ones I’ve mentioned. The shaping at the back bodice has a curved panel at the upper back that then extends to become the sleeve as well as a fuller shape at the bottom hem.
Difficulty level Pauline rates it as 3/3, which I think reflects the hidden zip and the amount of shaping though the back bodice as well as it being fully lined.
Fabric choices The pattern recommends medium to heavy weight woven fabric such as woolens, felt, bolied wool, tweed or gabardine. I think the main thing you might want to consider with fabric choice is how you want that fuller shape at the bottom hem to sit. If you want it more rippley and to move around, choose something with more drape and flexibility. If you want it to stand out and hold its shape then pick something that is a bit thicker with more structure and body.