A Simple Guide To Tailoring A Coat

V1537 coat

We need to talk about the innards of this beast. How do you sew a coat or jacket and avoid failure?

Start with the details. This coat pattern has 76 – count ’em – steps.

Ignore the running order of the step-by-step instructions.

Read ahead.

Begin by sewing up the smaller details and putting them to one side for when they’re needed. (Below, sleeve tabs marked up for top stitching with a Pilot Frixion pen.)

This tactic really does speed up the sewing.

how to top stitch sleeve tabs

Once that’s done, move on to the guts. Oh, the guts. Crucial!

Even though my IKEA curtain fabric was fairly robust, I don’t trust fabric alone to support the structural needs of a coat. I didn’t want fabric bagging, stretching or flapping like a limp piece of lettuce. So I fusible interfaced every pattern piece of the fashion fabric with weft insertion. Every piece. All over. (Apart from the sleeves, where you do want some fluidity. I only interfaced the sleeve heads.)

This was the single biggest game changer, in my opinion.

fusible interfacing on fabric

This step also allowed me to catch stitchย the edges of every raw seam down to the interfacing. Stitching doesn’t appear on the right side of the make, and the seams of the coat lay flush to the garment.

If you would like to see exemplary details of this type of tailoring, check out this blog post from Sunnygal Studio.

attaching a back stay sewing

Let’s not forget the back stay, already blogged about here.

how to top stitch

The V1537 pattern involved a lot of top stitching, so I used top stitching thread and needle.

Go slowly. If you rush, your machine shall skip stitches and you shall lose accuracy.

When I wasn’t top stitching, I had a go at prick stitching by hand along the top of the pockets and around the edge of the collar. I didn’t really know what I was doing, this was my first attempt at prick stitching and – oh my goodness – I disappeared down a rabbit hole of perfectionism. My work isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough. (And I’m now slightly fascinated to explore this technique more.)

prick stitching

Why don’t all sewing patterns tell you to insert shoulder pads and sleeve head rolls? This is another deal breaker in successful coat and jacket projects.

I never quite know if I’m inserting mine correctly, but these certainly did the trick. I use English Couture for my supplies.

shoulder pad and sleeve head roll

And then there are all the scary details of making bound buttonholes and opening up the rear of the bound buttonholes. For these techniques, check out my ebook. Below, details from opening up the rear of the buttonholes.

rear bound buttonhole

rear bound buttonholes

And that’s your lot. Phewee! Looking back, HOW did I sew this coat in only three weeks?


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29 Responses to A Simple Guide To Tailoring A Coat

  1. Glynis Murray says:

    Hi. Just purchased the buttonhole e.book but it hasn’t come through yet. Should it arrive immediately.

  2. Nice job, well done! You certainly upped that fabric with the interfacing, essential step in coat construction -the upper bodice at least-. Lovely buttonholes and lining too! And it looks great on you, congrats!

  3. Elena says:

    Hi, that friction pen looks so interesting! But I am a bit confused: it says on their Amazon page that the ink re-appears at -12C. Does it mean that all the markings will become visible in winter? ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Ok, we don’t get such temperatures in Britain often, and you probably would be wearing something warmer if it does get this cold, but just for the sake of the argument. Could you perhaps do a tester: mark up and erase a scrap of fabric, then put it in the freezer for a few hours to see whether the marks re-emerge. This is what they recommend on their page.

  4. Uta says:

    Gorgeous coat, and beautiful picture of you, Karen. I still remember the blue coat you made, drool-worthy!

  5. Mary Ellen Eckels says:

    Absolutely brilliant! I haven’t tailored a coat in years, but will be this winter. Love the weft insertion piece. I had totally forgotten doing that on some pieces making a men’s suit – too many years ago. Love the fresh update. And yes, the coat is stunning on you. Beautiful job and thank you.

  6. You never cease to amaze AND inspire me. Jaw-dropping coat — I don’t even know how you managed that in three weeks! <3

  7. Elaine says:

    Your coat is lovely Karen. I am avidly reading these posts as I hope one day to make a proper winter coat but I don’t have the skills yet. I’ve tested out my coat pattern and made a wearable version in Gaberchino, lined and with shoulder pads, so I’m very interested to learn how to make a proper wool version. The main problem I had was not marking and lining up the pockets properly. They were set into the princess seams with a sewn down flap and they ended up being too high. I will be referring back to these great posts. Thank you.

  8. Laurie Myer says:

    It’s gorgeous! Well done

  9. Beth Duffus says:

    Thank you for sharing so many details and tips. I am gearing up to try my first coat/jacket this autumn and these posts will be invaluable.

  10. The coat looks wonderful! And there’s so many great tips in this post, I’m definitely going to be investigating the erasable pen! Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Hazel Prescott says:

    You look beautiful in that coat !

  12. Love your coat! You have inspired me to sew one for myself. Many years ago I made wool dress coats for the children, but have forgotten all those skills. I have a question though. You said that you interfaced with weft fusible the entire coat except the sleeves, but it looks like when you applied the back stay the fused interfacing is only at the upper back. Am I missing something? I love you blog and follow through Bloglovin.

    • didyoumakethat says:

      Good catch! Yes, I applied the back stay and only after that stage realised I wanted to interface the entire pattern piece – so on the back sections that was applied after the back stay.

  13. Alex says:

    Thanks for the recap Karen! I am also attempting a first proper coat this autumn and I will be sure to refer back to this post.

  14. Alice says:

    Amazing coat Karen! I absolutely adore the colour on you. Thank you for sharing the great tips.

  15. Lila Hester says:

    Great work, its always the most challenging jobs that give the most satisfaction when completed well… Love the lining, great job on bound button holes. When inserting the pellon for shoulder roll I always insert it from the sleeve side of the seam not the jacket side,,,, have I got this wrong? I may well have, but even so, I have been really pleased with the roll of the sleeve seam when I am done.
    Isn’t it great to have good fabric and doing a good job, you just cant stop patting the fabric touching it….. Ohh oo I think I have just revealed myself as a strange fabric toucher.

    • Beckyjopdx says:

      Me too… I’ve been studying (over and over) and using the 3 Alison Smith classes in Craftsy, and she has the sleeve head foam in reverse of yours… so I slip stitched the strip, bound side, to the sleeve seam, and the rest goes out into the sleeve/head with the seam. The shoulder pad is butted up against it. But, hey, if it ain’t broke for you, no sense in stressing about it. It turned out perfect!

    • didyoumakethat says:

      Aha – thank you!

  16. What a beautiful coat. The colour is superb. You look radiant in it. That photo of you is lovely. I would really like to make a coat this year so thank you for sharing these tips. The link to the supplier of the weft interfacing was very handy. Xx

  17. Jessica says:

    Beautiful work. ๐Ÿ˜€

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