This is the last in my series of blogs dedicated to replicating RTW garments. Over the last three months I’ve recreated some of my favourite wardrobe staples, starting with a simple T-shirt then a summer shirt and now ending on the trickiest project.
Last winter I had to nurse my favourite coat through the season, patching holes in the lining and pockets every other week. I knew it wouldn’t make it through another year so decided it was time to sew my own replacement piece. This was not a quick project, but I’m so happy with the results.
I chose a camel-coloured Cashmere Wool Fabric for the outer shell. I’ve always wanted a coat in this beautiful colour and it immediately seems to dress up an outfit (even a simple T-shirt and pair of home-sewn jeans.)
The first step was to unpick my old coat and use the pieces as a cutting pattern for the new garment. This worked well for the main front/back/sleeve pieces but most of the intricacies had to be re-engineered from scratch using YouTube videos and a little help from commercial pattern instructions.
I was really proud of my welt pockets—two exterior and one interior—all created without any pattern pieces. I wanted to keep the finish as clean as possible so the visible topstitching around the pocket is minimal.
I reused the slim shoulder pads from the dismembered coat. I was a bit confused at first but a friend of mine is studying for his Masters in menswear fashion and he helped me position the pads and explain what the attached pieces of binding were for (apparently it gives a tiny extra lift just beyond the shoulder seam).
I love the large Natural Wood Buttons, they are big and bold but at the same time don’t overpower the look.
Every piece of the fabric was interfaced for warmth and structure and there is a lot of top stitching along the seams for a decorative finish.
I had to figure out how to create the back vent using old patterns and youtube videos, but amazingly it all came together without too much effort.
I went for a higher-end Lining Fabric than usual and now I think I am hooked on these Paisley pattern linings…they are fully opaque and have a gorgeous shimmer to them.
I was a bit nervous about the lining as I didn’t have any separate pattern pieces, so reused the coat pieces and added an extra pleat into the centre back for ease. It looked like it was going to come up short but once it was in place, the length was perfect.
In all honesty, I think I have sewn the buttons on too tight as they do pull slightly on the fabric and are a real effort to get through the buttonholes, not because the buttonholes are too small but because the buttons are so close in to the fabric. I might just have to bite the bullet and cut them off then resew. I anchored small buttons on the inside for reinforcement as there’s nothing more frustrating than having a loose dangly button, but I seem to have gone too far the other way and they are practically clamped on! Oh well, a nice cuppa and half an hour of hand sewing should get them sorted.
So what's the verdict on copy-cat sewing? Well, I think it’s the way forward for me. Even when using commercial patterns in the future I’m going to compare the pieces to existing garments, because the common theme over these last three blogs has been the fit—unsurprisingly, everything has fit perfectly because I’ve been copying garments that already fit well. I’d definitely encourage every sewist to try duplicating ready-to-wear. I’ve learned so much over these recent blogs: understanding how clothes are put together, where you can and can’t take shortcuts, and developing the confidence to improvise and play around during the process. All of this is quite easy to overlook when you are blindly following step-by-step pattern instructions.
This is my favourite make to date, partly because of the effort involved and learning that came out of it, but mostly because I think the fabric is beautiful—if there’s a guaranteed way to feel good about the imminent winter weather, it’s a fab new coat! See you next month and, until then, happy sewing :)