A winter coat for grocery shopping

I’m a bit late blogging about this project as I finished it almost 5 months ago already, but better late than never! Last month we got snow on April 1st (no joke…), so I finally took some proper ‘finished’ pictures of me in the coat, taking advantage of the scenery. And then it took me a while to actually write this thing, but here we are!

This Christmas break, I decided I would finally make myself a black wool winter coat. I’ve been wanting to do that for a while, but it was always a rather daunting project, as I’d never really made a coat before. The holidays were the perfect period to really dig into this project though.

What I wanted aside from wool+black, was to have a coat which would be very versatile. And honestly, it was mostly prompted by the fact I didn’t have a good winter coat for a quick trip to the grocery store. These past couple of years I’ve been wearing 3 coats during winter. One outdoor coat which is great in all weather, but profoundly practical and really too long+narrow to be worn over a wide skirt. Perfect for pant-wearing outdoor activities, but not so much for wearing over a regular skirt-wearing grocery trip. The second a very lovely burgundy red vintage-style coat from Collectif with faux fur around the shoulders and hem. Very fancy, perfect for a trip to the theatre, but a bit ‘much’ for grocery shopping, and not the most convenient to carry a heavy grocery bag with. The third a grey wool coat to the knee with some flair, which is really more an in-between coat as it’s a rather thin (probably fake) wool, so not great for the colder days.

What I wanted was something warm, with a fitted top and flared out bottom, which you can dress down or up depending on what you wear it with. Given how difficult finding a good flared wool coat can be, I decided to make my own.

I’d already bought McCalls M7442 a while ago, and decided to use this as a base. I planned to leave out the pepulm and lace overlay though. Although cute, it does make the coat a little less ‘classic’, and I want to be wearing this for years, so classic is good. I also loved that this pattern had a hood. Perfect for when a light drizzle starts on the way to the store!

I started by looking for fabric, which was a bit more challenging than expected. I wanted a really nice quality wool which was both smooth, densely woven and fairly heavy, yet under 40,00 euros per meter. Eventually I ended up ordering a whole bunch of swatches from Mahler Stoffe in Germany (because on a picture 5 black wools all look the same) and picked one for my coat. I also decided on a whim to order another one to make into a split skirt, which I then promptly made first.

I also ordered lining fabric from Mahler, and decided to go for a pretty patterned lining.

Finally, I wanted to have something to interline the coat with, and make it extra warm. The pattern dindn’t call for this, but I get cold easily, so extra insulation is always good. I ended up ordering the ‘thin’ thinsulate fabric from a Dutch store. This stuff is all polyester (to the point where it melts if you touch it with an iron), but has a reputation for being really good at adding warmth.

And then it was time for mock-ups! I used an old molton fabric which came from my grandfather’s workshop. I have no clue what exactly it is, but it was the heaviest I had for mock-ups in my stash.

In the end I made two main alterations. I took in the center back a little above the waist, as the pattern was a little wide in the shoulders. And I had some space above the bust, which I solved by taking a dart out of that spot and rotating that shut, which is possible given the horizontal seam accross the top.

And then it was time to cut the fabric! I don’t have a lot of pictures of the construction process as photographing black fabric in the middle of winter is a challenge in my room which doesn’t have perfect lighting. But the first thing after cutting was to interface the top body pieces with the thinsulate. The main body and sleeves were interlined, with the exception of the darts. Then the main body was constructed, and the seams pressed open very carefully with a pressing cloth, as the thinsulate melts as soon as you put an iron onto it. The long ‘tails’ you see in the second picture are the facing of the center front, which runs all the way down to provide an extra layer for the closures.

Then it was time for skirts! I ended up cutting the skirt just a little longer than the pattern originally called for, to give extra length and warmth. The skirt isn’t interlined though, as it would add stiffness and not be super helpful warmth wise anyway. At this point the hood was also made, lined and added.

And then I could add the lining! The whole coat is lined in the patterned lining fabric I got. I made a little mistake on the ‘edge’ between the bottom facing of the center front and the lining. The original coat only calls for a lining in the top, and I wanted to extend it down so the coat would not ‘stick’ to any layers on the skirts. However, I sewed the front facing shut before realizing I should have left that open. I ended up just stitching it on in the seam allowance, and it looks fine. (Plus, it’s the inside, so barely noticeable anyway.) I finished the bottom skirt lining by hand, leaving a bit of extra room at the bottom and folding the lining up, to create a bit of a ‘baggy’ effect. It’s probably not excactly how you should do it, but this extra space avoids the skirt pulling oddly because the lining is stretching differently than the outer fabric over time.

The final steps were buttons, button holes, a little loop in the neck, and the belt. I was a bit annoyed that the pattern didn’t tell me to add the loop when I stitched the hood onto the coat, as I could have hidden it neatly in the seam then. By the time I thought about adding a loop (it wasn’t in the pattern at all) I had to stitch it on top. Ah well, it works. As a belt buckle, I am using a plastic one I had lying around. It’s fairly tight, but that also means it stays shut nicely.

I admit I’m mostly wearing the coat without the belt, partly because it takes time to close it due to the tight buckle, but also as there are no belt loops in the coat. This is another strange pattern thing, no belt loops are included, and it means the belt doesn’t stay on the coat when untied. Not practical if you want to take the coat off somewhere. I might add belt loops later, but I definitely recommend adding them to the side seam when constructing the coat if you want a belt. That makes it so much neater…

And then she was done! I’ve already worn this coat quite a bit, and I’m happy with how it turned out.

Something I did do after wearing it a couple of times is to add two hook and eyes (the wide flat ones) between the buttons above the waist. I moved the buttons a little more to the edge than stated on the pattern, as with the layers the fit was still a bit tighter than planned in the mock-up stage. As the buttons on the pattern are spaced fairly widely, I got some gaping on wearing the coat. Next time, I’d definitely just use more buttons and space them closer together, to ensure it stays shut better.

As an overall conclusion, I really love my new coat, and I learned a lot while making this. I think this pattern has a lot of potential in terms of general shape. However, it also has some ‘shortcuts’ which I didn’t appreciate. No hanging loop, no belt loops, no lining in the skirt and very widely spaced buttons means it’s faster to sew, but much less practical to wear. I’d rather spend a bit more time to add things personally, and I’ll definitely keep that in mind the next time I make a coat. Also, even though I used a heavy mock-up fabric, it still ended up a bit tighter than planned, so next time I need to make even more room if I use heavy fabrics and/or multiple layers. I could fix it by moving the buttons this time, but that’s not an ideal solution.

As a bonus, snow in April did mean some pretty pictures of flowers in the snow: