This last year, I made a lot of health and life style changes. As a part of that, my body has changed quite a bit. In the winter, it was not a very big deal from a wardrobe stand point, but come summer the lack of sleeves made it very obvious things did not fit. It was a new Rifle Paper fabric to the rescue. I wanted something that was easy to wear for a back yard BBQ, as well as something nicer like a wedding or christening. After letting the fabric speak to me, I set about patterning and doing the first fitting. Even after all the years that I have been sewing, I still do multiple fittings. With some projects it only takes one fitting to check all is in place, but some take more than I can count.
The biggest challenge was the flounce. It is one piece, so I the wrap effect required exact patterning in the skirt.
I absolutely love the way that it turned out. I feel elegant and fun when wearing it.
I am a sucker for a pencil skirt. Always have been, might always be. They are just so sensual and elegant and impracticable, that they are hard to resist. They work for so many occasions and you can dress them up or dress them down. I have tried many different pencil skirt patterns over the years, trying to find the great oracle, so when I first saw the By Hand London Charlotte Skirt pattern, there was no doubt in my mind that I would try this baby.
Working in my Spring 2019 color palette, I found this lovely cotton poplin on Mood. When I received it, it was a little lighter weight than I was expecting, so I decided it is definitely going to need an underlining. I believe the underlining will give me just the right amount of coverage, so all my lumpy bumpy bits stay only for those a little closest to me to view. I have also lined the skirt and added a kick pleat for a little bit more modesty.
The directions on this skirt are great. By Hand London is a pattern company out of the UK. I appreciate that they have both the metric measurements and the imperial measurements. The pattern fit beautifully. I am on the shorter side, so I had to shorten it by 6 inches, but the circumference measurements were perfect. I took about 3/4″ in at the hip,but everything else is as out of the pattern
I lined the skirt with an old bed sheet that had a little whole in the corner. The fabric was still super soft and there was a huge amount of good fabric. I bagged the hem, for a clean finish. I hand closed the slit in the back though. As I was sewing the skirt, I got over excited and closed the slit in the back. When I tried it on, I quickly realized that walking was going to be an issue. No big deal when you have a seam ripper. With my trusty unpicker in my head, I got to work. I left a 5″ slit up the back and clean finished it by hand. I went with an invisible zipper. I also went a little crazy with the snaps. I put three in the waistband closure. I was considering four, but that felt like overkill.
Over all, I love this sew. The skirt is easy to wear and a quick little sew. This pattern, without a doubt, will be a stable in my sewing wardrobe.
The story of the trench coat begins in 1823 with Scottish chemist, Charles Macintosh. He took a by product of tar and created a paste that would repel water. He sandwiched the paste between two pieces of wool. In the same year, he was grated a patent on the waterproof fabric. It was later claimed that he had copied the method from a Scottish surgeon, James Syme.
Either way, the technology had some beginners pains. The first issue being that when stitched, the waterproofing was compromised and the wearer would get wet. The second issue being its would become stiff in the winter and sticky and smelly in the summer. The smell was so strong that it regularly had to be perfumed. Due to these issues, tailors would not use it, so Charles began making his own rain coats.
Jump forward to 1839, Macintosh partnered with Thomas Hancock, to use vulcanized rubber, which solved all the issue with the first iteration. The Mac was born.
In 1853, John Emery invented a new version of waterproof wool and combined it with his experience as a Regent Street tailor. He founded his brand Aquascutum as clothing for town and country, but it quickly took on a military bent when the officers in the Crimean War began buying his hard-wearing overcoats.
Come 1879, Thomas Burberry threw his hat in the rain coat ring with the discovery of gabardine, a waterproof cotton twill that was far more breathable than any of the wool/rubber/tar iterations that came before it.
Twenty years later, Burberry’s waterproof coat was unofficially adopted by much of the British Officer class. The coat at the time was call The Tielocken, because the tie around the waist would lock you in. This the the precursor to the Trench coat, with its waist belt, double-breasted front and knee length.
The Trench Coat as we know if was born in 1912 and took its name from the trenches in WWI. From the Tielocken, epaulettes were added to display officer rank and keep bag straps in place, a storm shield at the back enabled water to run off the coat, a pleat was added for ease of movement and an extra fabric shield was added at the front shoulder for protecting the rain proofing from the butt of a rifle. The coat was given only to officers, which had a tragic unintended consequence. The officers were now very easy targets for snipers, especially as they would lead a charge. By the end of the war 17% of officers were killed, compared to 12% of the ranks. This caused a major shift in the make-up of the British Army, placing lower status citizens into officer positions, a position that would have been saved for lords. As the Americans joined the war, they adopted the style as part of their own kits.
Civilians in America began wearing the coat as a sign of patriotism. The advertising for the war effort would feature officers in the coat looking dashing. After the war, British government had a surplus of coats that they gave out to their citizens, helping to make it widely worn. Hollywood also adopted it as a sign of the war, adding to its glamour and elegance, cementing it’s place in the world as a classic piece.
I loved making this piece. It was an absolute labor and it took many hours of hand work, but it feels great to wear. The most intimidating portion ended up being the button holes and due to the thickness it did take hours to do them all. It was a great experience overall. In all my years of sewing it was the first project of this kind I have taken on. Given all the new things I tried and learnt along the way, I am very pleased with the result.
After I got all 108 pieces (yes 108!) cut out, underlined and interfaced, things began looking more like a coat. Marfy patterns do not have any instructions, or seam allowances and limited markings. They are a “challenging sew”. They are the most magnificent patterns I have ever used, but they are not a lunch time project.
We must begin with the constructing the gorgeous pocket flaps. These, along with the pockets are inserted into the princess seams. So, pocket flaps and pocket construction should be done even before interfacing the front panels.
The pocket flaps are basted along the princess seam. The pocket bags are sewn to the side panel and the center front panel. Under stitch the pocket bag on the pocket bag side of the seam. After this step, you can connect the pocket bags right sides together.
The side panel and center front panels are sewn together, stopping at the pocket bag stitch line and continuing again at the bottom of the pocket bag. The back panels are also sewn together at this time. We now attach the horsehair canvas to the front and the back as I laid out here. And we pad stitch, pad stitch, pad stitch. For women out there, you will want to have this interfacing go up and over your breast tissue, hence the unusual curve below.
Here you can see the front lapels before they are closed up. All the belting hardware for the jacket came from Pacific Trimming. It is fantastic! They have a great weight and professional finish.
For a great hem finish, I use a canvas interfacing, known in the States as Wigan bias interfacing. It is whip stitched into place. Given all the handwork already in this garment, I decided to had finish the hems instead of “bagging the lining”
I finally received all my fabrics for this project today and I am so excited I could burst. After a quick prewashing and drying, I began my next steps. This is where all the planning starts to take shape. Cutting each piece was time consuming for sure. There ended up being 108 separate pieces with the lining and the underlining included.
When first planning this coat, I referenced With My Hands Dream trench coat progress. In it, she mentioned Off – Graining. I was unable to do it with this particular project because this coat is being made out of scrapes of lace, so I had less leeway with layout. I was also concerned that the lace pattern would draw too much attention to the off grain, even if it is only 2 cm.
I thread traced the underlining only, just to save myself a little time (and thread). I laid the thread traced underlining on top of the twill and the lace to cut each additional layer and hand basted the three layers together. This will help them all act as one piece. It has a drastically different impact on the finished garment, than if the underlining was attached like a lining.
Okay, so this is where things get a little crazy. The internals of a garment is can take your project from, “so cute” to “wow”. And I am looking for a maximum impact and long term wear ability of “wow”. So, I decided to go with a more traditional tailoring route, slightly mashed with a modern tailoring. The placement of all the different interfacing I want to use is complicated enough that I had to make the below diagram to help me keep it straight. This doesn’t include things like the bound button pieces and I missed adding the shoulder overlay and the shoulder tabs. All the horse hair is edged with twill tape.
The horse hair is cut without seam allowance. So, as you can see in the diagram it is set just inside the pattern piece. I catch stitched it in place by hand. You want to do a catch stitch because it allows for movement as the jacket is worn. You cannot see in the diagram, but there is a second piece of horse hair, cut on the bias, in the shoulder area and than pad stitch, pad stitch, pad stitch. All the edges are finished with twill tape. The roll line on the collar also has a line of twill tape along it. All this interfacing helps to stabilize the shoulder, so that it does not start to sag over time.
I started down this trench coat adventure knowing that I was going to be challenged. It wasn’t until I was trying to layout and identify the pattern pieces until I realized just how extra this project was going to be. It took about 10 minutes to just work through the pattern pieces. I was planning to combine Marfy 3511 and Marfy 3201. Unlike most modern designer garments, all characteristic feature of the trench coat were born out of practicality and have a purpose. I wanted to include as many classic features as I could. I will be using the body, pockets, shoulder shield, and cuff tab from 3201. The shoulder tabs and belt will come from 3511. I am undecided on which collar to use, so I will decide once toiled. I am also considering drafting a back vent to make it closer to the Burberry silhouette.
Marfy patterns do not include seam allowances, so when creating my toile, I traced each one and cut extra allowance around each piece. When putting the pieces together, all I could think was, “Holy pattern making, Batman! This pattern goes together perfectly!” It was so perfectly balanced and the seams matched perfectly. I had a couple of slight changes to make for fit. There was the regular old armhole change I had to make and the body was just a little wide through the back panels. If I was making it in a wool, I would have left that much ease. However, the cotton twill, even with the flannel underlining, might be a little too frumpy. This will also be more of a spring coat, so the sweaters won’t ever be too bulky either. And finally, I decided due to the visual busyness of lace, I would do a slightly shorter length. I took off 5.5″ in length. I am a petite woman and just wanted to be sure that I wasn’t going to drown in the visual impact of this coat.
During the toile fitting, I decided to go with the collar from Marfy 3201. The collar from Marfy 3511 did not have a collar stand and was a little bigger. It just didn’t have the classic feel I was looking for in this piece. Once I trimmed up the silhouette, the buttons were too far spaced. I added about four extras. Basically, I halved the distance between each button. Now on to the Layout.
Ahhh, October. The leaves have changed, the air is crisper, the nights are cozier and we in the sewing community focus on slow or sustainable sewing. It took me a few days to decide how to celebrate this slow sewing season, but as I was reaching for my wool overcoat this morning, it hit me. I have been wanting to make a Burberry inspired trench for a few years now, but full disclosure, I have been a little intimidated to begin. I wanted to do it correctly and build a beautiful coat that lasts. I also know how much time a project like this takes. For me, this is not an afternoon and done project. This Slow Fashion October project will most likely also move into Slow Fashion November.
I have always loved the clean, classic and traditional Burberry Tench, but I also appreciate how the brand isn’t afraid to remix the classic into something new and modern. I absolutely fell head over heels for the lace versions that the brand launched a few years back. It has been on my sewing dream team for a while, but I had a very specific vision for this garment. The vision is so specific that even with all the trench coat patterns out there, I could not find one that was a classic Knightbridge silhouette. I decided to added an extra challenge to this project and choose two Marfy patterns to combine. I will be using Marfy 3511 with Marfy 3201. Even with these two patterns, I will still need to make a couple of modifications. Neither pattern has a back storm flap and I would like a slim sleeve like the Burberry version, so I am thinking I may need to do a three piece sleeve. I will know for sure once I make up the toile.
In my stash, there is a cobalt blue lace, originally meant for bridesmaids dress (totally different story) that I wanted to use. The issue became what to use for the backing. I finally settled on this Kaufman Ventana Twill. It is not waterproof, but I heard that a local dry cleaner may be able to apply a waterproof coating to the fabric. It is certainly something I will consider. I am also planning to underline the coat with a cotton flannel for a little extra warmth. I do have a slight concern that this is going to make the whole thing too bulky, but we shall see. Now that the shell and underling fabrics are all sorted, I needed to focus on the internal structures. I will need, hair canvas, fusible interfacing, pellon Sew-in canvas and muslin. All of these extra inner pieces are used in traditional tailoring. Craftsy teacher, Alison Smith, is the brilliant teacher holding my hand through this process. For the trimmings, I am needing to source buttons, clear under buttons, buckles, and D-Rings.