Introduction: Draft & Sew a Custom Fit Reversible Coat
First Prize in the
Sew Warm Contest
I am a bit of a hack when it comes to sewing... I don't really know what I'm doing, but faking it until I make it has worked out reasonably well. Approach your project with a masterful gaze and keep the seam ripper handy!
I sketched this coat while spending an unusually cold weekend at the beach this past Halloween, spent the holidays wishing I had constructed it while in blustery East Texas, then seeing the notice of the Sew Warm contest in the February 25th newsletter, Instructables has motivated me to finally get on with it!
This -able will walk you through measuring, drafting a pattern, cutting the fabric, sewing a reversible funnel neck coat (avoiding set-in sleeves because they are the bane of my drafting, and sometimes sewing, existence), and making fabric covered buttons for it. A multi-able, of sorts.
If you get lucky, like I did, having a few components at hand and thrifting a couple of fleece throws/a jar of buttons for a dollar each, you can make a cozy coat for $3.25 USD.
Step 1: Bits 'n' Pieces
-basic sewing skills
-flexible tape measure
-ruler/semi-rigid tape measure
-gift tissue/news paper/leftover Christmas gift wrap... any large scrap
-tape to repair miscuts/tears or piecing together [pattern paper]
-cozy fabric, two equal sized pieces -- coordinating/contrasting/different/identical -- roughly 3 - 5 sq. yds. total. Retired blankets, flannel sheets*, store-bought fleece... any warm fabric will do. I will be using (2x) 50" x 60" fleece throws**; washed and wrinkle free (I skipped this part, as you will see)
-sewing needle and machine, if you have access
-many pins (quilting pins are helpful when using thick materials)
-8 - 16 largish (3/4" to 1-1/2" -- big enough to operate with gloved fingers) [buttons, checkers, scrabble tiles, craft marbles] (anything that could withstand a tumble dry on low heat) or you could assemble a grip of matching/coordinating buttons and skip the covering part)
-Mozart's piano concertos
* flannel is a woven material which will fray -- use proper stitching techniques (serge, use zig-zag in addition to straight, French seams, double hems, &c.) to maintain seams and hems, adding extra allowances as needed. For the sake of this -able, directions will only be written for using non-raveling materials such as fleece or (felted) wool.
**is enough material to make a reversible coat with a largest body measurement (be it bust/chest, waist, or hips) of 40". Larger sizes may require more material depending on how one drafts their pattern pieces. As an alternative, the coat can be made non-reversible, which would require slightly more than half the amount of fabric, allotting more seam/hem allowance at collar, button panel, cuffs, and hemline.
Step 2: Measuring
Using your flexible tape measure, all measurements should be taken loosely over clothing to ensure proper over-garment ease (I didn't and my coat is quite fit -- it will be limited to being worn over snug t-shirts... good thing fleece has a little stretch); have [notepad and pencil] at hand to write identification letters (A-L) with corresponding measurements.
A: Collar Circumference
Determine the desired height of collar and measure circumference of head/neck at this point, leaving a little slack for comfort. Round up to nearest inch; note this number.
I wanted optimal neck coverage because I recently freed myself of hair, therefore my collar will be very high, which should add a bit of flair when unbuttoned.
B: Collar Height
Measure distance from the top of the will-be collar height, straight down to your trapezius. Round up to nearest inch; note this number.
C: Shoulder Breadth
Measure distance from the bottom point of collar height (at trapezius), measure out to the edge of your shoulder. Round up to nearest inch; note this number.
D: Yoke Length
Measure distance from the bottom point of collar height (at trapezius) to about 2" below the top of the armpit crease (or whatever distance is most comfortable for your sleeve to sit -- having a bunch of fabric jammed up in your pit is never nice :p). Round up to nearest inch; note this number.
E: Arm Circumference
Measure distance around arm (at bottom of yoke length -- should be the thickest part of arm). Round up to nearest inch; note this number.
F: Sleeve Length
Measure from bottom of yoke length down arm to desired sleeve length (for 3/4 sleeves, measure to midpoint of forearm; otherwise, to wrist, fingertips, and beyond!). Round up to nearest inch; note this number.
I wanted a good overlap of my mitten cuffs, so I measured to my knuckles.
G: Cuff Circumference
Determine desired cuff circumference at base of F (where cuff ends). For straight sleeves, use measurement E; for tapered sleeves, measure circumference at the base of F and add an inch for ease.
To avoid cuff conflict between coat and [mittens], I opted for a slightly belled sleeve (4" wider than E). A fancier option, which would also play nicely with [mitten] cuffs, would be a leg of mutton style cuff, measuring as if using 3/4 sleeves, belling at this point (~4" wider than E); measuring circumference of forearm at this point, distance to base of hand (just past the wrist bones), and circumference of wrist at base of hand. For the ease of use of this -able, I will only be writing directions using straight, belled, or tapered sleeves. Should you choose to go leg of mutton, do an image search and use your creativity to work it out :)
H: Yoke Breadth
Measure across body outside arm to outside arm at the base of D. Round up to nearest inch; note this number.
I: Chest Circumference
Measure at largest point of chest. Round up to nearest inch; note this number.
J: Body Length
From H/base of D, measure down to desired coat length. Round up to nearest inch; note this number.
K: Hemline Circumference
At the base of J, measure circumference of body (hips, in my case; but if any part of the body is larger than this point, measure circumference at that point for a flattering fit), round up to nearest inch, add 2" ease for a straight body (the ease will allow the coat to fall back into place when going from sitting to standing). Note this number.
Continuing with the belled theme from the sleeves, I used a slight a-line shape for the body, adding 6" of ease instead of 2".
L (not pictured): Body Depth
Place a ruler or semi-rigid tape measure under dominant arm where E was measured; using the arm to hold the [ruler] between arm and body, measure depth of body from front of arm to back. Round up to nearest inch; note this number.
Step 3: Drafting: Collar/Yoke
Time to break out the news/scrap or tissue paper and a pen/pencil/marker.
Using measurements A through D and measurement H, we will draft the collar/yoke, starting with the largest measurement: H
Add 1" to H for 1/2" seam allowances, measure out and mark on paper.
Add 1" to D, measure up this distance from both ends of H and mark.
Using C, measure inward from top point of D on both sides and mark.
From the inner points of C, measure upward the distance of (B plus 1/2") and mark.
Connect the upper points of B. This distance should equal (1/2 of A) + 1".
Slightly slope C and round out the corners made by the intersections of D and C.
Cut out this pattern piece; mark as "collar".
Step 4: Drafting: Back
Using measurements I through K, we will draft the body, starting with the largest measurement: K
Divide K in half and add 1", measure out and mark. Also mark the half-way point of this measurement.
From both ends and the half-way point, measure up the distance of (J plus 1") and mark.
From the tops of the J marks, centering on the half-way point and using the left and right marks as guides, measure (1/2 of I) + 1" and mark.
Connect the right and left ends of I to the respective ends of K.
Cut out this pattern piece; mark as "back".
Step 5: Drafting: Sleeves
Using measurements E through G, we will now draft the sleeves.
Take G, add 1" and mark on paper, also marking the half-way point.
Add 1" to F, measure up from both ends of G and the half-way point, mark.
Take E, add 1" and center on the half-way point. Using left and right marks as guides, mark.
Connect these at the right and left ends of E to the respective ends of G.
Cut out this pattern piece; mark as "sleeve".
Step 6: Drafting: Shoulder Insets
Using measurements C through E, and L in conjunction with "collar" and "back" we will determine the size of shoulder insets.
On "back", measure in from the outside (1/2 of L) plus 1/2" on lines K and I, both left and right. Mark and fold inward.
Center "back" at bottom of "collar" and measure the part of "collar" that extends past "back" (note this measurement as M), and subtract 1/2". Double this measurement, add L, then subtract this number from E, and add 1"; measure out onto paper and mark, also marking half-way point.
Add measurement C to D plus 1", measure up this distance from the half-way point; mark and connect outer points to form a triangle.
Cut out this pattern piece; mark as "inset".
Step 7: Drafting: Marking Button Placement
Using pattern pieces "collar" and "back" we will determine and mark button panel placement.
Centering the button panel is the quickest and easiest. If making a high collar, as I am, you probably won't want a button against your nose or mouth, so my pieces will be set up for constructing with an asymmetrical button panel.
Vertically fold "collar" in half; mark top and bottom of this crease (center crease or button crease, if centering buttons); unfold. If you are not centering your buttons, vertically fold pattern piece where you want your buttons to fall (button crease); mark top and bottom of this crease; unfold.
Repeat this step with "back", folding at center and if not centering buttons, where buttons will be.
Line up the [center crease] at the top of "back" with the [center crease] "collar", ensuring that the button crease on "collar" lines up with the button crease on "back".
To the left and right of the button crease on both pieces ("collar" and "back"), measure out 1-1/2" from crease at top and bottom; mark; connect these marks by drawing vertical lines.
Step 8: Drafting: Right & Left Fronts
Using pattern pieces "collar" and "back" we will draft (trace) left and right fronts. This is an ease of use step than can be skipped by using "collar" and "back" as folded for making left and right fronts to cut fabric.
Fold "collar" on the line to the right of the button crease. Trace this shape onto another sheet of [scrap]; cut out; mark as "collar right".
Fold "collar" on the line to the left of the button crease. Trace this shape onto [scrap]; cut out; flip over and mark as "collar left".
Repeat these steps with "back", marking as "right front" and "left front", respectively.
Step 9: Pinning/Marking Pattern Pieces & Cutting Fabric
Lay out Fabric A and place pattern pieces in as tight a grouping as possible. Keep in mind you will be cutting two of "sleeve" and two of "inset, leave necessary fabric.
Once you have a grouping that pleases you, begin pinning or marking (chalk/marker -- all of these marks will be hidden after sewing) pattern pieces onto fabric and cutting the pieces out. Remember to cut two of "sleeve" and two of "inset".
Lay out Fabric B and repeat process, pinning/marking pattern to/on fabric and cutting pieces from fabric. If you are not centering your buttons, be sure to flip all asymmetrical pattern pieces and note the right sides so that the inner and outer shells align.
Step 10: Assembly: Collar/Yoke
Divide your pieces and put away those that would be the [inner shell]. I am using the shoulder insets of Fabric B with the other pieces of Fabric A to make the [outer shell]. Mix and match to your heart's desire :) If some of your pieces are similar in shape/size, make small identifiers.
With right sides facing, lay "collar right" atop "collar", lining up the curved edge; pin the collar edge together.
Repeat, pinning "collar left" to "collar".
Sew these two seams.
Step 11: Assembly: Shoulder Insets
Lift up the curved edge of "collar right", line up the base of "inset: with the bottom edge of "collar" and pin together, following curve.
Repeat, pinning "inset" to "collar" and sewing.
If there is any gap left between the collar seam and the shoulder seam, connect the two.
Snip off the tip of "inset".
Repeat this process with the other shoulder, pinning and sewing "inset" to "collar" and "collar left".
Step 12: Assembly: Body
Find and mark the centers at top of "back" and bottom of "collar".
With right sides facing, match centers; pin.
On "back", measure in the distance of M from the outside edges; pin.
Sew from M pin to M pin.
Open "collar right" so that are looking at the right side.
With right sides facing, align the top and edge of "right front" with the bottom and outside (opposite shoulder) edge of "collar right"; pin
On the inside edge of "right front" (should be eclipsing shoulder inset), measure in the distance of M and pin.
Sew from the outside edge to the M pin.
Repeat this process, pinning and sewing "body left" to "collar left".
Pin the inside edges of "collar left" and "left front" to "back" (this is a good place to test fit and make any little adjustments... carefully! pins!); sew
Step 13: Assembly: Sleeves
Fold sleeves in half vertically, pin, and sew.
Mark the center (at fold).
Turn coat body inside out; align the sleeve seam with the side body seam, pin; find center of "inset" and pin "sleeve" center to "inset" center.
Follow the edges around the sleeve opening, pinning fabric together.
Sew... which can be kind of fiddly, so take your time, hand-sewing if it is less nerve-wracking.
Repeat with second sleeve.
Step 14: Assembly: Fabric B
Repeat all of the previous assembly steps with Fabric B [inner shell], remembering, if your button panel is not centered, pieces "collar right", "collar left", "front right", and "front left" will be opposite from their respective sides on [the outer shell].
Step 15: Assembly: Trimming Excess
With both pieces turned inside out, trim off the excess seam allowances. I wound up trimming down from 1/2" to about 3/16"... use your discretion. Leaving less allowance will cut bulk, but it can also lead to a hole if cut too close.
Once trimmed, go ahead and try it on, one piece over the other, turning the first inside out.
Remove coat carefully, keeping pieces aligned as well as possible, and use pins to hold inner and outer shells together at edges and wherever else seems logical.
Step 16: Assembly: Tacking Insets Together
Removing only the pins necessary (to avoid too much shifting), go between the two layers with a needle and doubled thread and begin tacking the inner/outer "insets" together across the base of the [triangle], the point, and around the curves of the yoke.
Step 17: Assembly: Stitch 'er Up
We will begin closing up the layers by turning in the edges (1/2") around the collar, right/left body; pinning, then top stitching as close to the edge as you can -- 1/8" to 1/4" will do -- starting at the bottom of one side of the front, up the front, across the collar, and down the other front.
If using a machine, do not back-stitch at the beginning or end, if sewing by hand, leave a few inches of thread at the starting and ending points, because you may need to undo a few stitches to turn under the hemline
Step 18: Assembly: Hemline & Cuffs
Measure down from the bottom of the yoke to the hemline, ensuring it will be even; if not even, turn under the shortest point 1/2" and go around the bottom, turning under the hem, keeping it equidistant from the yoke.
Turn the corners as you did on the collar.
Pick up stitching where you left off on one side, back-stitching (or knotting/pulling threat taught, if sewing by hand), turning the corner, stitching across the hemline, turning the second corner, then back up to the terminal point of stitching on the other front, again, back-stitching.
Treat the cuffs as you did the hemline, measuring/evening length; turning under/pinning; then top-stitching.
Step 19: Buttons: Fabrication
Grab up your fabric remnants, your (will-be) buttons, scissors, a needle, and thread.
Cut a piece of fabric slightly over twice the size of your [button].
Run a basting stitch (with thread doubled) about half again the size of the [button] around the fabric.
Place [button] in the center of these stitches and pull the thread tight, encasing the [button].
Pinch up the excess fabric and, as close to the button as you can get, wrap thread tightly around this point several times (I go about twelve wraps).
Below the wrap, run the needle through across the breadth of the button a few times; wrap a couple more times; and tie off, leaving a significant tail of thread for sewing the button later (tail is only necessary on half of the buttons since we'll be sewing them together, essentially, back to back through the panel); snip off excess fabric.
Repeat, covering all of your buttons... for both sides.
Number of buttons and placement are entirely up to personal preference, just don't place them too far apart if your coat is snug fitting or it will gap. I am making four buttons per side, using the contrasting fabric, setting them 4" apart (on center), starting about 1" down from the top of the collar.
Step 20: Buttons: Placement
On the under-lapping flap, choose the vertical placement for the top button, and place a pin at this point.
Measure 1" in from the outside edge and place pin to cross the first. Your button will be centered here.
Continue in this fashion down the flap for each of your buttons.
On the overlapping flap, mark these same positions, as they will be the center points of your buttonholes. Check that your pins line up on both fronts.
Step 21: Buttons: Stitching & Buttonholing
Centering your buttons at the crossing of your pins, stitch buttons together, one on either side of the button panel, using the tail of thread.
Buttonholes! Measure the diameter of your buttons and centering this measure at the crossing of the pins on the overlapping panel, mark this distance either with pins or a marker.
Use this marking as a guide to sew your buttonholes, starting just above and ending just below, and snip out the centers.
I hope your buttonholing skills are greater than mine or, at least, if you're using a machine, it doesn't decide fabric is a delicious treat.
Cozy Up! Put on your coat and admire your handiwork! Turn it inside out, put it back on, and note how clever you are! You made it :D
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Please be positive and constructive.