Fuzzy Tailcoat




Introduction: Fuzzy Tailcoat

About: I run Neal's CNC in Hayward, CA, an expert CNC cutting and fabrication service. Check out what we do at http://www.nealscnc.com/. I'm a founding member of Noisebridge, a hackerspace in San Francisco, and Ace …

I made a reversible fitted tailcoat from some leopard print fleece and curly orange knit in a mad dash for some reason a few months ago. It did not fit me quite right so I gave it to [http:///member/canida/ Christy], whom it fitted very well. She has been wearing it to various Instructables events and is constantly asked, Where did you get that? So this Instructable is the answer.

The version I made to Instructablize is shaped a little differently, and the construction is better. Neither used a pattern, I drafted the pattern directly onto the fabric before cutting. If you have a pattern for a coat by all means use it, but if not I am including a brief description of how to draft this one. (Note that a coat with a collar presents difficulties for a reversible garment - if you're not that experienced yet I suggest not using a collared pattern.)

Step 1: A Note on Fabric Choice

You'll need two fabrics, one for the inside and one for the outside (whichever way around you wear it). I have made this with one side of polar fleece, and the other side of some kind of fuzzy knit fabric that has a similar stretch. I recommend using stretchy knits for this as they will absorb small errors and you don't have to be as precise in your cutting and sewing.

Buy about 2 to 2-1/2 yards, unless you are very big or very small, or the fabric is very skinny. If you're using a commercial pattern, follow its suggestions, otherwise if you're not confident of your yardage estimate, you may want to draft a paper pattern first and lay it out to see how much fabric it will truly need.

Step 2: Drafting the Pattern

Measure your bust (or chest), waist, and hips, and the distance between them. Also measure the width of your shoulders - it's easiest to get someone else to do this but you can also use a yardstick and a mirror as pictured below. To the circumferences, add one to three inches for breathing room and for other clothing worn underneath. Add a half inch to your shoulder measurement for each inch you added to the circumferences.

Divide your circumferential measurements (modified versions) by 8 and note down the results. This will be the approximate width of the four pattern pieces you will be drawing (you'll cut with the fabric folded in half so the total pieces to sew will be 8).

Now draw shapes as in the sketch below - see the notes for important details. You'll want to move a little bit of width from piece to piece to match your shape, but remember to keep the total values the same. For example, the hip measurements are usually mostly rear-end, so you'll want the back pieces to be a bit larger at the hip than the front pieces, to let the garment hang correctly.

(If you have a commercial pattern, you can skip this step and the next entirely.)

Step 3: Draft the Sleeve Pattern

Take the following measurements:

  • The length of your arm from the point of your shoulder to your wrist (or wherever you want the sleeve to come down to)
  • The armscye you'd like - armscye means the seam that goes around your arm at the shoulder, to attach a sleeve to the bodice of a garment. Wrap the tape measure loosely around your shoulder and make some arm movements to ensure it's not too big or too small.
  • The bicep - this is a highly variable measurement depending a lot on how tight or loose you want the garment. Try to measure what the sleeve ought to feel like, rather than the actual distance around your arm. You won't add any ease to this measurement.
  • The wrist. Same notes apply here as to the bicep measurement.

I didn't sketch the sleeve shape on paper, but here's what it looked like before I cut out the fabric. This pic shows the sleeve on its side, with the shoulder part to the right and the wrist to the left. There's a center line down the middle which is just there to assist in drafting. Don't cut on this line!

Step 4: Draw the Pattern Onto the Fabric

Lay out one of your fabrics, folded lengthwise with the right side inside. A dining room table is good for this, or that old standby, the floor. Make sure the edges match up and there aren't any wrinkles.

Transfer your sketch onto the fabric using anything you like that will mark on your fabric: chalk, felt-tip pen, water-soluble pen, sharpie... If your fabric is white or very thin you may choose to draw your patterns onto paper first, newspaper taped together works well. Of course you can do that anyway if you don't like the idea of drawing on the fabric - but all the markings will be in between the two layers when you're done, and not visible from the inside or outside of the garment.

If your fabric is wide enough, you can exactly copy your sketch onto it, but you will probably have to move at least one of the pieces lower down.

I used red ink which showed up fine while I was working but has not come out well in the pictures, my apologies.

VERY IMPORTANT: make sure to leave at least an inch of room between each piece you draw, for seam allowance. (A commercial pattern may, depending on brand, have the seam allowance included.)

Step 5: Cutting Out the Body Pieces

Cut all the pieces out, not forgetting to add a half inch of seam allowance all round the edges.

Lay out your other piece of fabric and, using your first set as a pattern, cut that out as well. You should end up with four of each piece, two of fabric A and two of fabric B. Each pair cut from the same fabric should be mirror images.

Step 6: Body Seams

Stitch the vertical seams, starting at the top, using the 1/2" seam allowance. The only seam that needs any special consideration is the center back one. Stop stitching about 20" from the bottom, or at whatever point you want the tails to start at. It's usually best to mark this point with a pin or two, so you'll notice it when you get there.

Step 7: Sleeves

Stitch the shoulders. Stitch the lengthwise sleeve seams. Turn each sleeve right side out and pin it to the body, with right sides together, and matching the underarm seams. The sleeve end and the armscye (the hole the sleeve fits into) should be about the same length; any minor difference can be eased in throughout the length of the seam.

If the lengths are off by more than an inch, you have a couple options. If the sleeve is too big, check if it is also big on your arm. You may be able to simply restitch the underarm seam, which will reduce the length of the armscye. Alternately, you can cut the armscye on the body a little bigger (be careful here, a small change goes a long way).

If the sleeve is too small, you may be able to fix it if the difference isn't too great, by changing the angle of the sleeve armscye. In the first picture below, you can see how there's only about a 15 degree angle off of horizontal for the sleeve caps; you can make this angle greater by cutting away fabric, at the cost of shortening the underarm length. You may, however, have to bite the bullet and re-measure and re-cut the sleeves.

Step 8: Second Shell

Stitch the fleece shell together in the same way as the first. I recommend topstitching the seams on the fleece shell flat, to reduce bulk. (Other fabrics may or may not need this, depending on how stiff or bulky they are.)

Most of the seams should be topstitched as you sew them, but there are two exceptions. The armscye seams should not be topstitched at all. Because of the shape of the seams, folding the seam allowances back on themselves doesn't work well; also it fills the sleeve cap out nicely if the seams are folded towards the sleeve.

The other exception is the center back seam. Remember to stop stitching at the tail split - match this up to the first shell. You'll topstitch this one once both shells are sewn together, to stabilize them.

You will find it somewhat annoying to topstitch the sleeve seams, as you have to work inside the tube. This can be done by scrunching the fabric up as you sew, but you can also skip topstitching those if you want.

Step 9: Pin the Shells Together

Now you have two coat shells, each the same size and shape. Attach them in two parts: first around the edges, and later (in the next steps) the sleeve ends. Leaving the sleeves inside, lay out one shell with the outside up, and lay the other on top of it.

Start pinning at the back neck and work your way around. Pin every 6 inches or so. As you get down the sides, hold the two pieces up every so often to ensure they are hanging correctly - get your hands into the shoulder seams so they're hanging from the same point. This is kind of annoying with the sleeves all bundled up inside, so take care.

It doesn't matter if the edges don't match exactly around the tails, it is more important that the two shells hang at the same length. It may take a little stretching and a couple of tries to get the hang correct, but better now than after you've sewn it together! Don't worry about the bottoms of the seams lining up either, they will probably be a little off.

Step 10: Stitch the Shells Together

Again starting at the center back, stitch from there all the way around to the bottom of the tail, where you've left the center back seam open. Turn a sharp point and stitch up the center back, on the one side, until you reach about 6 inches down from the point where the center back seam starts. Backstitch and stop. Go back to the center back, turn the coat over, and stitch down again on the other side. Leave the center area of the tails open, so you can turn the coat right side out.

Your edges will not match up exactly as you get lower down on the coat, but follow the pins and make the curve a smooth one as you go. Also the fabrics will meet each other differently when lying flat than when they were hanging, so trust your pinning and follow its lead. It may be helpful to trim the longer pieces off before you sew, if the underneath layer is shorter.

Step 11: Turn and Try

Reach through the hole at the center back, grab the neck seam, and turn the coat right side out.

Try it on to make sure the edges hang well. If there are any problems it's not too hard to fix them at this point, just mark the problem area, turn it inside out again, pick out the stitches and resew (I do not think I have ever made a garment where I didn't have to pick out some stitches).

When you're satisfied, turn the points of the tail wrong side out one last time and trim the seam allowance to reduce bulk.

Step 12: Sleeve Hem Stitching

Now you'll sew the sleeve hems together, with the coat inside out, in such a manner that when you turn it back, the inner and outer sleeves slip correctly inside one another. I love this bit, it's just a little like magic...

First turn the coat right side out and insert one shell's sleeves inside the other's as if you were wearing it normally. Fold the sleeve hems together at the underarm seam, as if the hem were already sewn together from the inside, and put one pin in that one spot in each sleeve.

Now turn the whole thing back inside out through the tails and see how the pinned-together sleeves come out! They are facing each other lengthwise, like two pieces of tube held end to end! Pin the sleeve hems the rest of the way around, and sew each seam.

Now turn the coat right-side out again - here's what the turning right-side-out looks like:

A slight digression. There's a branch of mathematics called topology, which deals with the properties of shapes that don't change when you stretch them. It has a lot of applicability to sewing. A common thought problem is, can a torus (a hollow doughnut shape) be turned inside out through a hole in its side? It can, and it's still a torus; but the new torus's center hole is not the same hole as the original one. This is not really explainable in words, you have to try it to understand - and the reason I brought it up is that this is almost exactly what is being done here, with a double torus - the two sleeves of the coat form this shape.

If none of that made sense, don't worry, it won't affect the sewing process!

Step 13: Center Back Topstitching

The final step is to topstitch the center back. This does 3 things: match the side seams, hold the inner and outer shells together, and close the turn-hole down by the tails.

Lay the coat out smoothly and pin the center back seams together as shown in the pictures. Carry the pins all the way down to the ends of the tails.

Now stitch next to the seamline on each side, just like the other topstitching, only going through both layers. Backstitch at the neck and at the ends of the tails. (You can see the topstitching in the photos if you look closely.)

You are done! Wear either side out, depending on your mood. You will be very warm with all those fuzzy layers, and of course, super stylish.

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    8 years ago

    That guy in the background for the cover picture :)


    Awesome! Last night @ tEp, Carlos had a super-awesome rgb LED fringed fuzzy overcoat. I can't believe I left my camera at home, but it was AWESOME.


    13 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome! I like fuzzy coats... And I do believe I see Noah pigging out on rice in the background of the first picture... :D


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! (It's actually Ed, not Noah, but it's hard to tell.)


    13 years ago on Introduction

    Nice! I love it. I've always wanted to give one of these to a friend. Now I can!


    13 years ago on Introduction

    Yay, yellow robo-fleece. I suppose you tried it out with the Instructables Robot head that was on the table? :) I would imagine people making this in a black longhair fur for a Linux Tux outfit.


    I like how its fur without being fur, and has kinda an 80's feel to it. fresh. good job, not much else to say