Introduction: A Warm and Wooly Winter Coat

About: I adore sewing and knitting, mostly vintage or vintage-inspired patterns. I hope to inspire others to create lovely and lasting garments that speak of a past era and yet remain timeless and elegant.

Another Winter season, time for another winter coat! I have been really drawn to the 1940s lately, so this particular silhouette is especially appropriate.

Step 1: Finally Doing Something About That Unfinished Project!

In an effort to reorganize my sewing room, I have been going through a lot of boxes and bags, some full of old projects. This was one off those.

Years back, I got as far as constructing most of the lining, and began work on a bright pink textured wool blend for the exterior. Unfortunately, I never really loved the fabric, and so the project was set aside.

So I decided to ditch the pink, and finally found a use for this periwinkle wool coating that I have been trying to match to a project for years. Win-win!

Step 2: Marking and Facing the Fabric

One of the challenges with this particular wool fabric is that it doesn't like to take marks from pencils, chalk, fabric pens, etc. And with all of those exposed darts, I didn't have much of a choice. There was a lot of thread tracing to do!

One other challenge I faced was pressing the fabric. As you can see in some photos, this particular coating wrinkles, but a good press with a clapper was smashing the loft of the fabric. The solution was to use a press cloth. This was not something that I expected from this fabric, but I was lucky that I experimented with a scrap before messing up a portion of my coat.

But I did have to use the clapper to properly press the seam lines, go figure. This fabric was touchy!

I also added a cotton facing to the upper portion of the front and back bodice pieces. The fabric has a lot of give, and I thought this would be a good solution to keep everything from stretching widthwise. (The cotton does not have any extra slack when on a dress form or a body although it looks like it in the photo!)

Step 3: Reinforcing a Corner With Silk Organza

One of my favorite parts of the coat design is the pleating in the front skirt. To construct this portion of the coat, it is necessary to clip into a reinforced corner. The instructions suggest that a line of stitching will do the trick, but I prefer to go the extra mile with a scrap of silk organza and an old standby.

This particular wool doesn't really fray all that much, but it still makes me much more comfortable to have an added layer of protection when I am slicing into corners.

Step 4: Lapped Seam Construction

At one point, the entire body of the coat is attached at the shoulders and the side seams of the bodice and coat, but not the dropped waist seam. The pleats are then basted into place. I did this by hand with silk thread, knowing that I did not want to fight removing those bits of threads later in the process.

And then it was time for the lapped waist seam. I marked the seam lines in chalk on the wrong side of the wool as best I could, and thread traced those seam allowances, making them visible from the right side of the fabric. Then that seam was lapped and basted into place by hand. The coat was fairly heavy at this point with all of that fabric, and there was no way that topstitching that bulky seam was going to go perfectly without a little bit of basting help!

HINT: Silk thread is especially helpful with basting because it can be removed easily without pulling on the fabric.

Step 5: Special Sleeves

One of the first things that drew me to this pattern was the exposed darts. They are used (rather ingeniously, I think) to attach the sleeves to the front and back bodice pieces.

First, the underarm seamline, from notch to notch, is stitched as normal. The outermost dart on front and back bodice is basted and the lapped over the edge of the matching sleeve, and finally, stitched along the dart. The final step is to fold the sleeve right sides together to stitch the shoulder seamline.

This is the first coat I have ever come across that is constructed in this manner. There really is nothing like vintage patterns and designs when it comes to clever construction techniques!

Step 6: Bound Buttonholes and Rayon Seam Binding and Arrow Tacks, Oh My!

The coat is closed with a single button at center front. I worked a bound buttonhole (of course!) but used the technique that is similar to a welt pocket instead of my favorite bound buttonhole. The two separate lips work especially well with thicker fabrics. I can think of two other modifications to bound buttonholes that I have used in the past . . . my choice really just depends on the fabric I am using and the look I am going for.

I added a piece of seam binding to the front opening edge for stability. Twill tape works too, but it was easier to lay my hands on the seam binding. (There are issues with reorganizing the sewing room - some things have a habit of playing hide and seek until they find their new forever home.)

Arrow tacks cover waist seam join, and I was thrilled to finally find a project that uses this lovely vintage technique! Of course, practice makes perfect, and I tested a couple of thread options before working the embroidery on my actual coat. In the end, the embroidery floss worked best. I also worked matching arrow ticket on my covered button to tie everything together.

Step 7: Hemming

The lining was almost completed when I pulled the original pink version out of the storage bag. It was wrinkled, but nothing an iron couldn't fix; which is why I jumped right into the periwinkle wool version.

If I had my druthers, I would have picked a slightly brighter blue lining to pair with the lavender toned wool, but I think this works nicely. And it's certainly preferable to being scrunched up and left unfinished in a plastic bag!

But to continue with the sewing . . . the sleeve hem was catch-stitched in place on the wool coat.

And I used my beloved rayon seam binding as hem tape for the skirt hem.

To avoid bulk at the seamline, I clipped diagonally. This particular wool is not prone to raveling, but since the lining hangs free of the hemline, I thought this would be a nice finish.

Step 8: Joining the Lining and Some Finishing Touches

The lining was attached to the shell at the armholes and basted into place. The sleeve lining was then hand stitched to the coat. It's a technique that you often see with vintage coats, and it makes it very easy to remove if the lining ever fails since nothing is machined to the wool.

If you have ever come across a vintage coat, it is likely that the lining fabric has shattered if it is silk, or may have sustained damage over the course of its life. The coat itself, however, is often in excellent condition. So if all you have are hand stitches to pull out, it is very easy to remove the lining sections and replace, giving new life and adding another forty or fifty years to the life of the coat. Alterations are also easier when you can access the innards with minimal effort.

I had a bit of trouble removing some of my basting threads (not because of my silk thread, but because they were stuck in a permanent stitching line), until I decided to use tweezers - they work great!

Step 9: Hemming and Finishing

I also used seam binding to finish the small portion of raw edged facing that is not covered by lining at the hemline. The facing is trimmed before turning it right side out.

Then I get to do a bit more hand sewing. The catch-stitch is becoming one of my favorites!!

This particular lining is free hanging. Because it isn't all that thick, I decided to fold the lining under twice instead of using seam binding. Then the lower inches of lining get hand stitched down. Which covers up the final raw edges of the garments.

To keep the free hanging lining in place while being worn, I made a couple of thread tacks to join the lining to the coat at the seamlines.

Step 10: An Extra Finishing Touch

And as a final touch, I added one of my new labels which happen to match this particular shade quite well.

And here is the completed coat. It certainly adds some lovely color to my coat closet!

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