Winter Coat Miniseries Part 3: Construction

Hello loyal miniseries readers! When last I wrote I had completed the first muslin of my Butterick 6385 and had some fitting adjustments to decide on. After much consideration and lots of suggestions from my Instagram followers, I chose to move forward with a broad back adjustment first. I headed over to the instructions on Helen’s blog and got to work. According to Helen, the maximum width that can be added with this method is 3/4 inch so I decided to go with that. Having compared my back measurement with the finished garment and seeing there was really only just over an inch of ease, closer to 2 inches sounded perfect.

I was a bit worried I would somehow mess up the armscye, but comparing the two pieces put me at ease. The original side back piece is on the right, the BBA version on the left. Laying one on top of the other I could see that the curve remained unchanged.

I was a bit worried I would somehow mess up the armscye, but comparing the two pieces put me at ease. The original side back piece is on the right, the BBA version on the left. Laying one on top of the other I could see that the curve remained unchanged.

The new muslin post BBA

The new muslin post BBA


After the broad back adjustment, I felt I could still use some more room in the upper arm, and to test that idea I did a bit of unconventional fitting. I cut a slit in the area I felt needed attention, and took a photo to observe the gape. I have no idea if this is even technically correct, but I am lazy and did not want to make an adjustment that wouldn’t help. I took this gaping as a sign and headed back for more help from Helen, to complete a full bicep adjustment.


Awkwardly pinning a scrap of fabric under that gaped opening I determined I needed to add 5/8 inch to the bicep. This pattern has a two part sleeve, but I took that number to the upper sleeve pattern piece only. Since I had already fudged a frankenversion of the adjustment, I didn’t bother making a new muslin piece for the sleeve. I figured I had planned and agonized long enough and it was now time to start on my actual coat!


The last thing to decide on was the interfacing I’d use. I settled on this 100% cotton stuff from JoAnn because I liked the idea of not gluing plastic to my wool and it seem to have a nice medium weight.


Up next after cutting and interfacing was underlining all of the wool pieces with my flannel fabric.  In my opinion the best method is a running hand stitch within the seam allowance.  I started off like this, but grew impatient with the slow progress and moved to the machine.  Please don’t follow my example.  It is so much harder to keep your pattern pieces perfectly aligned, and a machine baste is much more of a pain to remove later. 

After stitching each seam, the underlining was trimmed down to a scant 1/8” to reduce bulk. 

Interfaced wool and flannel layers

Interfaced wool and flannel layers


After all the planning and muslining I had done, the sewing itself went along swimmingly.  I made good use of so many sewing tools I’ve collected over the years, with the MVP being my “new” vintage tailor’s clapper.  I’m so glad I bought this before starting this project.  I can now 100% swear by a combination of one of these guys + a self fabric pressing cloth to achieve the most beautifully tailored garments.  When it comes to coatmaking, you really do get out of it exactly what you put in.  Want a hard-wearing, professional-looking coat? Don’t skimp!


At one point while I was still fitting a very saavy sewist recommended raising the armscye 1/2 inch to aid in mobility.  Excellent advice, but then I remembered I had forgotten to try on my muslin with the 1/2 inch shoulder pads the pattern calls for.  As soon as I did, the armscye raised itself into the perfect position.  I have no idea how to properly install shoulder pads, so I machine stitched the loose Velcro strip to the shoulder seam allowance, secured the pad with its own Velcro, then reinforced the two together with a few hand stitches.

To follow are several guts shots, none of which capture the color of my beautiful wool accurately.  I also failed to take any photos as I attached the lining, but I did so with the bag out method, mostly following the Closet Case sewalong.  The process does work like magic as promised but since this pattern is written for a different lining method, I was left a tiny bit confused when it came to the bit of hand stitching required at the end.  Suffice it to say, hand stitching is easily fudged, and I made it work.  The coat is now completely done buttons and all, so stay tuned for a final wrap up post with photos!!!


Winter Coat Miniseries Part 2: Assessing the muslin fit

As promised, I’m back today with some photos and thoughts about the muslin for my B6385. After having a look at the finished bust, waist and hip measurements I decided to start with a size 10 up top and grade out to a 12 at the hip. This pattern also very helpfully includes cup sizing, and the difference between my bust & high bust put me in the C range. (For reference my measurements are 35 1/2 bust, 34 high bust, 28 waist, 39 1/2 hip) I realize I took a bit of a risk here going with a smaller amount of ease but I really don’t want this tailored coat to come up big.

My test fabric is a stiff mid-heavy weight cotton-like fabric that was passed on to me. It’s not something I’d use as a main fabric so I was happy to have it on hand for this project. I don’t know if it’s just me but I feel like I’m dressed for a stage production of Oliver Twist. I’m finding that a bit distracting, so I hope the black & white filter will help us focus! It also disguises the sweaty fluster of wearing a coat in 90 degree weather.

Fist Impressions

Off the bat, I think the front looks pretty good. I’m not hugely critical of a coat’s fit so I may be oversimplifying here, but I think this is fine. I think the cup sizing gives some nice shaping without being too fitted. It’s a bit longer than I expected, and I’m pretty average at 5’5”. I may shorten it a bit, I’ll just lop it off the end - no pattern adjustment necessary. The bigger problems start when I turn around.

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Clearly there is an unacceptable amount of pooling at the lower back. I presume this is a result of extra room around the waist up against a snug fit around the bum (more on that later). On the positive, the upper back looks pretty good to me.

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The side view is okay with me as well. The sleeves are not hemmed, just tucked under, but the length seems good.

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Here’s the part I’m a bit stumped at. Mobility. I am very squirmy/twitchy and I don’t like to feel restricted. So, how much mobility should I expect to have in a coat like this? I think I have plenty of room around the upper circumference of the chest/back so the issue must be in the arms. The armscye seems to be fitted right and the sleeves don’t feel tight when they’re at my sides, but when I move around they do.

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It feels tightest right about here. Would this be considered a full bicep adjustment or do I have broad shoulders? The affected area seems to be in between the two regions. Or should I not expect to have this much range of motion? This fabric is pretty stiff and I know my wool will give a lot more… Plus I think the sleeves look pretty good, I don’t want them to look disproportionately bigger… What should I do???

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First thing I did was let the two back side seams out, grading down to a scant 1/4” starting at the high hip.  I knew it wouldn’t hurt to have some extra room around the bum and I think that resolved most of the pooling at the lower back.  After that I fiddled around with taking in those same seams at the waist and above, but it really didn’t help smooth it out and I don’t want a tight overfitted coat.  At that point I put the whole thing aside.  I had settled on hoping that the combination of my wool plus flannel underling would disguise the current rippling well enough.  But a couple hours later I had an epiphany!

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I am very short waisted!  Maybe the extra fabric is a lengthwise issue, not a widthwise one.  Since there is no waist seem it didn’t hit me at first but, duh! - there’s no reason I can’t shorten it there anyway.   I had already moved on to making dinner by this point, so I quickly pinned in about 1/2” at the center back horizontally and tapered it out to the side seams to snap a quick photo.  I think that just may be the ticket!

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At this point, I’m planning to keep the size 10 at the top but now grade out to a 14 at the hip.  I’m also going to shorten the length about 1/2” at the waistline across all pattern pieces.  In the meantime, if anyone has thoughts about my arm mobility issue, I’d love to hear your feedback.  I should probably read about both fit adjustments to educate myself but honestly I’d rather get the abridged version from you all.

Thanks for following along!  It may be a while until the next installment of the series is ready.  I’m about to embark on the treacherous adventure of lace wedding dress sewing, so we’ll see how much selfish sewing I squeeze in the next couple of months!

xo April

Miniseries: Winter Coat 2018

I thought it might be fun to chronicle the making of this year’s coat in something more interesting than a finished garment post, but not so involved as a sewalong. Cue the miniseries! Miniseries are my favorite to watch as they allow for more depth of content than a film without the commitment required to watch a full length series. To be perfectly honest I’m making this up as I go along, but I’m envisioning a four-parter, presented to you in (relative) real-time:

Post #1 Planning and gathering supplies

Post #2 Choosing a size and muslining

Post #3 Progress and challenges with construction photos

Post #4 Final Reveal with outfit photos

Fancy following along with me? Let’s go!


Last year I made my first two outerwear pieces ever in preparation for some Fall travel: a boyfriend style wool Bamboo coat for Amsterdam and an all-weather Kelly Anorak for Iceland.

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My inspiration for the wool coast was in a rich dark rust, but I sadly could not find anything like it in my price range.

image c/o New Darlings

image c/o New Darlings

For that project I settled on a light camel on clearance from and while it worked out well, that inspo pic haunted me.

Later that winter the obsession to find the perfect colored wool intensified when I saw this beauty on Pinterest in a very dark toasted caramel. I just love this look!

photo c/o Fashion Jackson

photo c/o Fashion Jackson


I’ve been periodically scanning online fabric sites ever since hoping to find an off-season steal but found nothing too tempting. Last month, completely fed up with summer I scoured and without much expectation ordered a few samples. The winner for me was a medium weight Riley Blake Melton Wool (90% Wool, 10% Nylon blend) in the color brown. The color in person is much lighter and a lot closer to the inspo pic. I thought the price was pretty good at around $25/yard and a 20% off sale was going, so I ordered 3.5 yards

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It felt so good to finally have my fabric, but the question of what pattern to use was unresolved. I had the Grainline Yates printed by Patternsy and ready to go, but the posiblity of a more tailored silhouette kept nagging at me. The boxy oversized look is everywhere and I do love it, but it isn’t really what I wanted for this coat. I did a lot of hunting and I finally settled on Butterick 6385, specifically the funnel neck version. It’s a completely different collar design & it doesn’t have all of the elements I wanted, but I think that in the end the fit and silhouette are most important. As a bonus, the lovely Fiona has a very comprehensive blog post on her B6385 and if I look half as cute as she does in her, I’ll consider this a success! I’m also scheming moving those welt pockets up along the princess seam and adding a jetted pocket with flap. Let’s see how brave I’m feeling…



The wool is slightly lighter weight than I wanted, so I picked up some brown 100% cotton flannel from JoAnn as an underlining. Also from JoAnn is the ambiance bembeg lining I chose, in the color medieval blue. In my opinion this is the best & only lining to use. Here’s a shot of my fabrics together. The colors are extremely tricky to capture on camera, but here’s the best I could do with a little editing. Also pictured are the first shoulder pads I’ve ever purchased in my life. I wonder if wearing them will make me feel as great as the model seems to…

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Still to decide on are buttons and interfacing. With regards to the interfacing I think I’ll have to test and see what works best. The buttons may end up being covered, or I might go with one of these two I saw the other day.

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Next up I’ll be prewashing my flannel and lining as well as “steaming” my wool in the dryer. While that’s happening I’ll have a look at the finished measurements of the pattern to decide what size to make and whether I need to make a quick muslin.

Feel free to let me know what you think and if you’ve got any tricks under your me-made sleeves. And stay tuned for part two!

xo April