I “cut my teeth” on men’s outerwear, and I still find it incredibly satisfying to make. It almost always involves wool, which is a dream to work with; and there’s the opportunity to have something that just isn’t available in the ready to wear market. That’s a huge draw for me.
I hope my journey inspires you to give it a go. That’s been the upshot of this blog from the beginning. All the lugging, tugging and swearing can pay off in the end. Truly, if I can do this, you can too!
Where to begin… there are usually a few key details on men’s outerwear. Not many, but what details there are need one’s full attention. They’re usually front and center; things like pockets, flaps, button tabs on sleeves, shoulder epaulets. If they look sloppy you’ll hate your coat and kick yourself forever. So I start out at a crawl, focused on the little details, knowing that the pace will pick up further down the road.
On this coat the main feature is the pockets — a welt pocket in a patch pocket. Dramatic and different. Sadly, Vogue’s instructions for making them are beyond horrible.
I hate when the directions can only lead to disappointing results on a project that will take hours and hours of work. It’s no wonder people give up on sewing. So instead of following the directions and creating a cheap imitation of a welt pocket, why not make a real one instead!
As usual I pull out my trusty Cabrera text on menswear tailoring. This pocket is really just a larger version of the pocket that would be found on the front of a suit coat. It’s simply a matter of making an oversized pocket bag, and then trimming it down to fit within the patch. Pretty simple actually. The stitching isn’t pretty, but it doesn’t have to be. (Please don’t see all the thread tension mishegas going on here!) It’s all concealed in the end. What matters is that it’s a real pocket, not just a cheap imitation that you’ll hate forever.
Lesson here…. if you can make something better, something that will give you more satisfaction down the road, take the extra time and do it. Worried that it may not work out? Do a “test run” with muslin. BTW, the black fabric here is Fashion Sewing Supply’s Pro-weft Supreme Medium fusible interfacing. I used it to “beef up” the welt strips. I don’t use many fusibles; but when I do, this is my “go to”.
More experimentation. My Janome Magnolia makes nice buttonholes, but I had serious reservations considering the loose fluffy weave of my fabric. I decided that bound buttonholes would be a safer alternative. They’re really not hard to make, and I love the way they look. They scream couture IMO. Plus, they’re a good example of one skill leading to another. If you can make a welt pocket, you can make bound buttonholes, and vice versa. It’s pretty much the same. I tried a couple different widths on some scraps, and decided the narrower welt looked best. The buttons are 1″ diameter, the buttonholes are 1.25″ long. They could actually have been even longer.
Whip stitching the “lips” of the buttonhole and the pleats that form at the back make the work easier. As always, I recommend Laura Mae’s outstanding tutorial over at her blog Lilacs and Lace. You’ll be fearlessly making bound buttonholes in no time!
Tools! I’m a notorious cheapskate when it comes to buying things that can actually make life easier. I can talk myself out of things very easily, figuring that I can “make do” with what I have. I finally broke down and purchased a walking foot, point presser and clapper, and I’m so glad I did. Without them I would never have been able to achieve the results I did. The clapper in particular was worth its weight in gold. Who knew a block of wood could be such a game changer.
I relied heavily on the few tailoring texts that I own. Edna Bishop may come across as a crotchety Home Ec teacher, but I love her use of traditional tailoring materials. Her section on making a coat inspired me to add some decorative stitching to the under collar. I also use her hemming techniques. Roberto Cabrera is all about structure, and I can honestly say I’ve never regretted any amount of structure that I’ve put in my makes.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of this whole enterprise was inserting the lining. I was not able to use the lining pattern pieces due to all the alterations I’d made. (Warning : should you consider making this coat….Even without any alteration the lining pieces would be skimpy at best). I had to improvise wildly, especially around the neckline. In many places I backed the loosely woven wool with bits of silk organza for additional strength. Otherwise, I felt that I was slipstitching into air.
Perseverance and abundant swearing are sometimes the only way to cross the finish line!
Backyard photo shoot soon. As always, I appreciate all the support I get from the sewing community.