falling for coats

Simplicity coatI’m finally showing the 8th project of my 2017 Make Nine list. Yeah, that’s right, I’m well over half a year late in blogging this! I actually started writing this post last winter, but didn’t have an opportunity to get pictures before yesterday. This coat had been on my list since the previous fall/winter, when I ran into a big chunk of days that were ridiculously hard to choose outerwear for. You know those days where it ranges somewhere between a low in the 40s and a high in the 60s Fahrenheit? We get those pretty frequently in the fall and spring around here. And it always ends up that my Thinsulate-lined winter coat is too hot by the afternoon, but my unlined jacket is too cold for the mornings. I have this vintage leather jacket that was my mom’s in the 70s that I used to wear on days like this, but alas, it’s too snug now. Plus something I can wash more easily is helpful these days, with my messy little boys. So it was time for another coat.

Simplicity coatMy sewing process over this last year or so has been to keep one project going at home and one at my mom’s sewing room, and this was the latter project from last September through January of this year. I was hoping to finish this by November, but obviously that didn’t happen. I used Simplicity 8262, which is a design by my favorite Project Runway winner, Leanne Marshall. I just couldn’t resist that huge double collar! I’d originally thought to do the longer version with the asymmetric hem, but decided that the shorter version would work better with the lack of drape that I’d be working with. My workaround for my skin’s lack of wool tolerance was to underline a cotton twill that I had on hand with fleece. It was quite the process; first I hand basted the fleece to the outer pieces, then I trimmed down the seams, then I catch stitched the seams down to the fleece since the thickness wasn’t pressing as flat as I wanted. I ended up topstitching down the lengths of several seams because of this as well, and I like the sort of corded effect that was the result.  (You can see it on the back princess seam here.) For the record, I traded the fleece for the best quality woven interfacing I can buy around here on the collar and facing pieces, to avoid the bulk. Then the whole thing was lined with a gold Bemberg that I’d originally purchased for a Reglisse dress lining, before the size I’d traced but not cut yet became too small.

There were a couple of things in the directions that I really wish had been written differently. It’s hard to plan ahead for changing the steps when a project takes a solid 4+ months. The flared hem was tricky to navigate, with its partially bagged lining. That’s not a technique that I’ve really had a chance to work with, but I think it would have sewed better if the hem had been completely by machine and the lining got closed up in the back seam or something. I also wish I’d sewed the toggles on before putting in the facing, both for ease of installation and to avoid the obvious mess of stitching inside.

Simplicity coatThese toggles literally brought me to tears, though thankfully I like the finished look, at least from the outside. The last time I tried to sew leather was several years ago, and it did not go well for me at all. So many stitches got skipped that the resulting bag was unusable. I’d hoped that this time would go smoother, since the toggles were mostly a single layer of leather and I had access to an actual leather foot and needle this time. But nooooooo. I realized quickly that the stitching was still skipping, even when I switched to a triple stitch in hopes that it would catch more. I ended up just sewing over it to punch holes in the toggles, then having to go back and hand stitch over at least half of the edges to reinforce them. The inside looked like such a mess after this that I ended up sewing small patches of the twill inside to hide the stitching. So I didn’t get pictures of it, but it makes the facings and lining look a little odd in those spots. I do wonder if not having the extra layers of twill and interfacing inside would have helped it sew better, but I’m also wondering if maybe I just wasn’t meant to sew with leather. (So frustrating, since a project I’ve been plotting for a few years now involves stashbusting some pleather I bought and never used for a costume that didn’t work out. I’d still like to make it, so any tips? Especially from Bernina users?)

Simplicity coatI didn’t get to wear this a whole lot last season, since our spring warmed up very quickly. Just a couple of random warmer days in February. But it did prove to be the perfect weight for those days, so I’m hoping to get some good use out of it this fall. It’s been the go-to coat pretty much this entire week, and I didn’t freeze or sweat during an extended time on the playground, so I think I nailed what I was going for! As a bonus, I already had the perfect set of hand-knitted accessories to coordinate, with this hat and handwarmer set that was one of my first successful knitting projects. Since it is taking me ages to knit anything these days– seriously, I’ve been working on the same cardigan for over two years now, and though I do have a scarf I’ve been leaving at my parents’ house, I really haven’t been working on it more than one row every few months– it’s nice to know I can pull from my accessories stash on this one. Thanks, past me.

With the exception of the toggles, I did enjoy the process of making this coat. I do like doing those really involved projects every so often, since those are the ones that often help me the most with building skills. And with all of the hand sewing that seem to accompany my coat builds (and the lack of opportunity to wear more formal dresses in my life), they’re the best way to practice my couture techniques! This was a good stashbuster as well. The twill was actually free, destashed onto me from my husband’s grandmother. The fleece was all remnants I had on hand, so if this Instagram shot actually links (I have the worst luck with IG embeds on here, the pictures always show up blank), you can see some of the weird hodgepodge of the underlining. There’s something like 3 different colors in there! And, as mentioned, the lining was from a dress that ended up not happening. So now I just need to figure out what to do with the outside fabric for that, haha. The toggles were from an Etsy shop based in the UK, and were the only thing I had to buy new other than the pattern. And though the pockets are useless for hands, they’re a good size for my phone. So overall, I’m satisfied with this project!


On long range wardrobe planning

I’m trying out a new method of bringing some more cohesion into my wardrobe, and since I didn’t manage to finish anything in September, I figured I’d write about that instead while I keep working on my projects!

I’ve known for awhile that I’m not a minimalist capsule wardrobe person. I honestly don’t feel like that 30 piece wardrobe is too doable with my climate. Especially since we have very sudden changes– it’s still in the 80s this week, and by the end of the month, we’ll likely be barely hitting the 50s! So I do need a fairly substantial wardrobe for both our sticky hot summers and our cold, damp winters. Plus layers to transition between the two.

I recently heard an inspiring interview on the Clothes Making Mavens podcast with Emily Hallman, about how she sews in mini collections to create pieces that can easily mix and match with each other and other pieces already in her wardrobe. So I started following her on Instagram, and love what I’ve seen! I’ve struggled to find inspiration on places like Pinterest, since all of the capsule wardrobes are full of taupe and other solid neutral blahness. And I have rather strong opinions about the place of neutral blahness in my life. Ahem. But she uses color! And prints! And still manages cohesion! I may have finally found a style icon, even though my mom life necessitates a more casual, washable take on things.

So, I’ve been creating palettes on a Trello board, and combing through my wardrobe to see what I already have that fits these color stories. I’ll need to go through my fabric stash at some point too, and see about what I have that can fill these out. It’s actually been a fun process so far, especially since it’s a way I could bring sewing into things like sitting through Friday night orchestra rehearsals where I don’t play for the first half hour of the piece. (One reason I didn’t finish anything this month, but Hobbit loved the family concert and getting to see what Mommy does when I’m not home on Tuesday nights, so it was worth it.)

Trello(Serious work in progress here, as I’d love to eventually add photos of the things I actually have done.)

The most thought-out one is the one on the left, based on that funky leaf-ish print that I have tagged for a maxiskirt. I already have several things that would work in that color family — a cream top, a plain brown skirt (and the thrifted top I’m wearing with it, actually), my Gabriola skirt, some RTW teal jeans and an olive Blackwood-esque cardigan.  I do have some solid plans for things I can add to it.

  • I have an olive green jersey in my stash that I have tagged for a top, I just need to figure out what pattern to use that won’t bore me since it’s solid.
  • Cute

I’ve had this outfit saved on my Pinterest for awhile, since I like the simple detailing of this button-down with tucks at the waist and the rolled-up tab sleeves. I don’t have fabric for this yet, but I’ve been thinking about hacking the Deer & Doe Bruyere blouse to make this look, since I have the upper part of the blouse fitted well at this point and would just need to figure out how to turn the darts into pleats and morph it into one piece instead of having that waistband in the middle. I think I actually would make this in a solid ivory, because it would go with literally every single pair of pants I currently own.

  • Black Knitted Sleeve Faux Leather Biker Jacket

Another picture I’ve had saved for ages. I even have fabric to make this, in the form of a yardish of a creamy sweater knit and 3 yards some brown faux leather that I picked up to make a costume for DragonCon that I ended up ditching long before I got to the leathery bits. So if I can figure out how to sew that without my machine making me cry (I have not had good fortune with leathery things), I’d love to make something similar to this. Though I also find myself wondering if the jacket would have more style longevity if I just make the sleeves out of the brown too, and use that sweater knit for something else. (Though I’m not sure what, since I only bought a yard. Any opinions?)

I’d also like to throw in a pair of Jalie Vanessa pants, since the one pair I have is very comfortable, but I’m not really sure what color. Maybe brown? Or olive?

So that’s my first one so far, though I have no idea when I’ll actually get to those few projects. I also am trying to figure out a good summery capsule, since I was definitely hurting for things like shorts and sleeveless everything this past summer. And the major capsule hole I’m stuck on is what to wear on my more casual at-home days, especially during the cold season, since I’m not really much of an athleisure girl but I also don’t want to wreck my jeans with a preschool art project or anything, so it would have to be easy wash. Maybe some Hudson pants? And some kind of long-sleeved tees because pretty much all I have are geeky t-shirts and those won’t keep me warm all winter? Mom wardrobes are HARD.

I think I probably will be posting more about wardrobe planning on here between projects, since it’s something that’s become increasingly important to me with my more limited time, and as I learn more about the sustainability aspect of sewing. I’m definitely able to slow down the actual sewing easily enough, but if I want to make the most of my time and fabric, I need a plan to avoid the wardrobe orphans I’ve been struggling with ever since my first post-partum days. And I reeeeeally need to have a plan when it comes to including knitting, because I have literally been working on the same mustard cardigan for over two years now. (Thus the mustard capsule, I need to make sure I have something to wear with it whenever I actually finish that!) So how have you been planning your sewing, or do you plan it?