I have wanted to make a coat for absolutely ages.
Much like trousers, they’re one of those garments which seem hella daunting. It’s taken me years to finally brave it. But just before Christmas, I got there! Hurrah! Made from a fuzzy wool tweed and a satin lining, it’s the perfect slouchy coat and has certainly got me through the Winter months. The pattern is the Gerard by Republique du Chiffon. Marketed as a ‘boyfriend’ coat, the slouchiness makes it the perfect beginner coat. (Sadly the instructions don’t, but more on that later)
Basically even though I’ve just noticed the pockets are wonky (I MEASURED AND EVERYTHING WHYYYYY) and I had a minor social media meltdown over the pattern pieces, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve achieved.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Instagram will have seen all the ups and downs already, but here’s a little more about what I learned:
Tracing out a bunch of pattern pieces is a PAIN IN THE BUM
The worst part of this entire process was sellotaping and tracing the pattern pieces. I’m told it’s common in French patterns but I don’t expect to have to trace pattern pieces after printing out a PDF and sticking it all together.
While the instructions are translated into English, the pattern labels are not. Plus, they’re handwritten and it was often difficult to see which numbers were actually written on the pieces. I had to go through checking off the patterns with Google translate as a guide at one point. It was more or less plain sailing after that, but be warned: if you’re a beginner, the first step alone might put you off this particular pattern.
Don’t be lazy: make a muslin
When I first started sewing, I’d be oh-so lazy and not bother to make a muslin. A few disasters along the way, I’ve learnt my lesson: new pattern means a toile is a must. Because the Gerard coat is very slouchy, I didn’t need to do a huge amount of altering, except for the sleeves. Unusually for me, being a shortarse, I actually ended up lengthening the coat by some inches because I wanted a longer version.
Shop around IRL for fabric if you can
I’m one of those people who buys most of their fabric online – in part because I’m not used to living somewhere with so many fabric options on my doorstep (oh hey London) and also because it’s so much easier to get stuff delivered. I could have ordered samples of course, but I was a bit impatient to get started. Katie recommended Rolls and Rems in Holloway, where I immediately found the *perfect* black and white wool in their window. The staff were also extremely helpful when it came to finding the right lining.
Online tutorials are a lifeline
The pattern’s instructions are pretty scant when it comes to certain bits of the coat’s construction, particularly the collar and attaching the lining to the coat’s shell. Coat beginners like me definitely need a helping hand in both of these areas,
Luckily, the internet is your friend: I referred in detail to this Threads article on constructing a notched jacket lapel. And when it came to bagging the lining (which is super satisfying btw) Grainline Studio’s tutorial was top of my list.
Oh my god why didn’t I finish those edges better
I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER, but I only finished the lining seams with my pinking shears. A week after I finished the coat, the lining started to come apart, so I had to turn it all inside out again and get my zig-zag on. SIGH.
This isn’t really something I learned so much as an admission I couldn’t be bothered to add any fastenings to the coat. I was inspired by a coat without any fastenings so I think that’s what I had in mind the entire time. Every now and then I’ll use a leather obi belt to wrap it shut, so I may make a fabric belt for it at some point, as I’ve got some fabric left over.
My coat-making skills still need some work
Somehow, the sleeve lining ended up a smidgen shorter than the shell, so the sleeves bunch a little when the coat is hanging, as you can see in the pictures. But, given it’s extremely slouchy anyway, I don’t think it’s too noticeable when the coat is being worn. I’d also like to work on my bagging technique, as the bottom doesn’t quite have the same look as my factory-made coats. Also the pockets are bloody wonky. I’ll just have to perpetually keep my hand in one of them. (this is why I could never do the Sewing Bee)
Most importantly: it’s totally doable
Seriously, if you’re thinking of making a coat (or a jacket as Spring is on its way this end of the world), definitely do it. I’ve been putting it off for years, thinking I just couldn’t do it, but actually, it’s not that bad at all. I’d definitely recommend going for a pattern like the Gerard coat, because it does mean a lot less fitting and less of a headache at the end of the day. I’d love to try my hand at either a blazer-type jacket or a trench coat next.
And finally: I need to clean my bathroom mirror OMG
Sorry guys… I need to get a tripod really, don’t I? OH AND HI LONG TIME NO SEE