Laurens latest make

Grainline Patterns Cascade Duffle Coat
Part one - Fabric, tools and tips

Blog / 3 October 2018

For the past three autumn/winters I’ve invested a good chunk of sewing time to making a coat or jacket. I started out making the big bow coat back in 2014, I skipped a year when I was pregnant in 2015 and then in 2016 I made the Closet Case Patterns Claire Coat. Last year I made the Closet Case Patterns Kelly Anorak and made it more of a winter coat with quilting thinsulate lining.

With each project I’ve challenged myself, learned new skills and I feel like with each new project it makes me realise that with a bit of determination and patience you really can make anything you set your mind to.

So this year, I’ve managed to find a gap in the jacket and coat wardrobe department and have taken on making the Grainline Patterns Cascade Duffle Coat. Over the next two blog posts I’ll show you my progress along with my construction tips and fabric choices, so next week I’ll show you the finished coat!

I’ve made a Youtube video too so you can see some of the aspects of construction in more detail, check that out below, or read on for more pictures and notes.

The pattern

Style - The Grainline Patterns Cascade Duffle Coat came out back in 2015 – I have to admit it was a bit too much for me back then, I thought it was a bit above my sewing skills!

It’s a classic duffle coat shape with a slight a-line cut, hidden zipper band and toggle closure. You can leave out the zipper if you want too!

There are two length options – View hits at the hip and view B falls to mid thigh. You can also opt to have a hood or collar with either length option.

Difficulty – I think this point is worth addressing in a clear way. The pattern is rated as advanced but I still think it’s worth considering why before you rule it out as an option.

There are a lot of pattern pieces (40 between view A & B) and there are about 60 steps. Both of these things can be quite overwhelming…BUT if you break each part down and take your time, each actual step on its own isn’t that complicated.

It is a simple shape and as it’s a coat it’s not that fitted so taking each step on it’s own, it is just sewing seams at the end of the day….just a lot of them!     

The fabric

If you missed last weeks post about choosing a coat or jacket pattern, check out this link as I go into more detail about different types of fabric.

The pattern recommends

“Medium to heavy weight coating fabrics such as melton, boiled, or felted wool. View A can alternately be made up in canvas or twill for a lighter weight jacket. Recommended lining is rayon bemberg or a similar fabric. If you’d like a pop of color or pattern try cutting your hood lining and zipper bands from flannel.”

I think fabric can make a big difference to the complexity of this project.

Choose a plain medium weight (rather than heavy weight) and it will be easier to handle and work with.

Choose a plaid fabric and getting everything to line up will be an extra challenge. Choose a very thick fabric and that can also pose an extra challenge in terms of getting it though your machine, especially at the zipper band.

Main fabric- The fabric I choose for my version is some of our new wool/cashmere double-faced coating fabric in a steel grey colour, we also have it in classic navy too. It is absolutely beautiful (and ex-designer!) and is probably the most luxurious fabric I have ever used. I know that if I was to buy a coat like this from the shops, made of this fabric, it would probably be hundreds and hundreds of pounds.

It is thick and weighty as it is double faced. That means it is two layers of fabric that have been invisibly sew together. 

This fabric does have a nap (so when you brush it one way it feels smooth, the other way it feels more rough). It’s really subtle and I actually didn’t realise until I had cut all my pieces out, so just pay close attention to that if you use the same fabric as me

Interfacing – I used black woven interfacing and interfaced the sections that are suggested in the pattern. I have in the past interfaced the whole of my main fabric before cutting it out (see this post) to give it extra durability and prevent bagging out, but as this fabric was already thick and sturdy I didn’t on this occasion.

Lining fabric – It took me a week or so to decide on this. At the time we didn’t have that many lining options in the shop. I wanted the lining to look really nice and special too so in the end I choose to use a liberty cotton lawn for the bodice and the zipper band and I used some silk that I had in my stash for the sleeves. Using a cotton for the bodice does mean that it will stick to your clothes a bit more, but I decided I could live with that as I loved the design so much!

Other supplies

Toggles – you can either buy these randy made or make your own – that’s what I did but I’ll go into more detail on that in next weeks post.

Thread – I used gutermann sew all thread for seams and for top stitching and I needed two spools!

Separating zipper – either 18” or 22” depending on the length you are making. We now stock both of these lengths with black tape.

Sizing and fabric requirements

My body measurements fit into the size 4, expect my waist varies so is sometimes a bit bigger! But going from the finished garment measurements table it’s clear that there is enough ease in the pattern that it would be ok. If you are between sizes I would recommend looking at the finished measurements chart to help you choose a size.

For view B with a wide width fabric that pattern recommended 3 yards which is 2.7m. I used 2.3m.

For the lining I used 1.5m of the cotton lawn and for the sleeves I used 70 cm.

For the interfacing (I think) I used about 1m. I usually just have a stash of interfacing rather than getting a specific amount for each project.

Sewing tools and tips

Pins - As my fabric was so thick, quite a few of my pins ended up getting bent! I’d make sure you have long pins, or even use the little fabric clips to help keep extra bulky layers together.

Needles - I used a regular size 80 needle for most of the seams but I did break a few needles while making the coat when I went over thicker areas. If you find stitches are skipping you can use a stretch needle. The eye of this needle is slightly higher so it means a bigger loop is created when the stitch is formed and this means the stitch can cope with the extra bulk of fabric.

Hand wheel on the sewing machine - Using the hand wheel on the sewing machine to do a few stitches was also a useful way to help get through thicker layers.

Walking foot – I didn’t use a walking foot, mostly as I was intrigued to see if I could do it without one. I think it would 100% have helped on some of the thicker areas so if you have one use it!

Stitch length – for seams I used a 2.5mm stitch length. For topstitching I used 3mm.

Hump jump - Keep a scrap of the thick woollen fabric handy to create a ‘hump jump’. This is when you fold up a section of fabric and place it at the back of the foot o the machine to make sure it is level when you sew. It’s really helpful when you go from sewing two layers to sewing more and helps the fabric feed through the machine much easier. 

The picture below left shows how tilted the foot of the machine is at the start of a really chunky seam. Below right had the 'hump jump' which levels out the foot level making it easier for the machine to feed the fabric through. 

Pressing cloth – Any time you are pressing the outward facing side of the fabric make sure there is a cotton cloth between the iron and the fabric to prevent a sheen from appearing and flattening the fabric.

Clapper – I used my wooden clapper when pressing all the seams of the woollen fabric and it made such a big difference to how flat they sat. It’s an investment to get on, but will give you a much better finish. It’s also useful when working with thick denim too, or any thicker fabric.

Once you have pressed and streamed the fabric with the iron and its hot and a bit damp, use the clapper to squish the fabric (pressing cloth is place). You can see below the difference between the two seams - the picture of the left has just been pressed with the iron, the one of the right has been pressed with the clapper. 

I'll be back next week to show you the finished coat in all it's glory!