About 3 years ago I made a coat. It was my very first attempt to sew outerwear and it was as far from flawless as it gets, but I loved it anyway. At first at least… Then, as my sewing skills developed, I slowly grew out of the “better-than-nothing” attitude, and the weird, sloppy collar; the way too long sleeves; the wonky “piping” and the general ill-fitting started to bother me. Which is why, when I picked up a vintage Harrods blanket to make a tailored camel coat out of it, I decided to take my sad little grey coat apart and practice tailoring methods on it.
I never quite worked out what went wrong with the collar the first time around, but I think I must have cut out and inserted an extra pattern piece by mistake. With the new coat I meticulously hand sewed the hair canvas onto the undercollar, before steaming it to the shape required. Truth be told, I had to re-cut the undercollar from some leftover wool and while doing the turn of collar adjustment, I managed to cut too much fabric off, so the different fabric it is now showing a little…
The tailoring of the lapels took the longest time, but I must say it was worth it. It’s hard to see on the old photos where I am actually wearing it, but one of the things that bothered me the most about the old coat was how bulky and shapeless the lapels were. On the dressmaker’s dummy it’s a lot more visible (no, that is not a hood, that’s the extra pattern piece sticking out from the neck. ), especially when compared to the newly improved version on the right. I used the Singer Sewing Reference Library’s Tailoring Jackets book, which is incredibly well written and due to the many great pictures, very easy to follow. By the way, it is available for pretty much peanuts on Amazon if you are happy to wait 2 or 3 weeks, as it is usually shipped from the US. (If you do live in the US, just buy them all!)
As for the lining, I actually bought some fabric and made it up, all ready to insert it, but in the last minute I listened to my gut feeling and re-cut the whole thing out of the oldest fabric in my stash. I have been saving this remnant piece (with a wintry forest print on it ) for something special, and I thought 3 months of hand-sewing a coat that has already seen a lot of work is special enough.
Now, life is anything but simple, so of course after all that hard work, 3 years ago and now, I am still not in love with this coat. There’s something weird going on at the hem, it still feels slightly big, boxy, too grey, too long, and definitely too warm for cycling in London. That being said, when we were taking the photos with a friend of mine, for a few hours I managed to forget everything I hate about it and somehow ended up just enjoying wearing it in all its warm greyness.