The long way home: Seamwork Jill

Have you ever wanted a finished garment so badly that you had to force yourself to slow down in attempt to produce something that lives up to your vision?  This is the story of me and Jill.


Several years ago when the idea of sewing was just a glimmer in my eye, I bought an over-sized wrap coat at Target.  It was green and black tweed in a dreadful synthetic fabric but it was hooded and belted and perfect to bundle up in on cold early mornings on my way to work.  Of course almost immediately it began to pill- first under the arms and then everywhere else.  Me, I have extremely low tolerance to this kind of imperfection. Yet it served its purpose and so year after year, kept an undignified place in the back of my closet. 

This fall with a few outerwear projects under my belt, I impulsively let go of that old coat. My hope was that the obvious gap in my closet would push me to replace it. That definitely helped. But - as I generally find to be true when I’m searching for something too specific - that perfect green was illusive, as was the hooded wrap coat pattern. Sure I found some nice options in wool coating, but the high price and low potential for comfort when unlined just put me off. The weather was turning colder and I busied myself with completion of my proper winter coat, but that vision of green would not let me rest.

Now finding patterns is not my strong suit, and I admitted defeat on finding a match for this one early on. That may have been mostly once I saw Jill.  She didn't have a hood or a belt, but something about her loose cocoon shape, huge pockets and the allure of a quick unlined project drew me to her. What did not appeal was the nearly 4 yard fabric requirement. You do the math: 4 x any wool soft enough to be worn unlined = $$$. Then finally in late December I stumbled upon a very unique tweed-like 100% wool at 30% off. It seemed soft enough and the look and texture were much like my vision, only in black and white. I brought home the last two yards on the bolt, hoping I could somehow produce a coat out of half the fabric I needed. And so the hacking began. Literal hacking away at the pattern pieces to whittle them down to a size I could cut out of my fabric.

In the end I shortened my Jill by 6 inches. In order to preserve the back vent, I took off 4 inches at the lengthen/shorten line and the other two inches I removed further up on the body. Nothing short of a miracle, I was able to leave the rest of the pattern pieces in tact and successfully cut out the complete coat.

Off to the races, I threw myself into the construction. But soon into the sewing I realized that I would not be happy with the look of exposed seam allowances. It was clear that I needed to slow down. I had spent a good amount of money on the materials and wanted it to last, and so resolved to bias bind all of the seam allowances. It was quite the undertaking, but definitely worth it in the end.

On to the review!

Pattern and Fabric: Seamwork Jill Coatigan in 100% Wool from Michael Levine

Size:  Straight size Small

Fit:  My bust measurements (35) put me in the range for a size Small, my waist and hip (29-39) put me in a Medium. Really though, this is a very over-sized coat, and I think I would have easily fit into an XS (a pretty absurd thought). That being the case this pattern would be tough for an actual extra small person to wear unless they know how to grade down.

Changes:  I removed a total of 6 inches off the length due to fabric limitations. If I had enough fabric, I would have only taken off 2 inches to accommodate my 5’5” frame. I also chose to add a closure, which is not included in the pattern. I went for one large shank button and one invisible snap. I also modified the shape of the patch pocket to a straight rectangle for personal preference.

Verdict: As far as the pattern goes, I think the style is great. The cut feels modern, even though the length and fabric of mine have a distinct 90’s vibe (I know you were thinking it). And in theory the idea that this is to be a quick and easy make with few pattern pieces is also very appealing. But I did find the pattern instructions to be overly simplified and I personally am just not satisfied with the suggested finishes. For example, not all fabric types may require it but I think there should have been a mention of hem interfacing. I’ve learnt by experience that if you want a sturdy coat, you must interface your hem! And my wool is fairly comfortable to wear sans lining, but soft wool is really hard to find and wool by itself can be thin or loosely woven so isn’t always very warm. I’d suggest for anyone interested in this pattern to take a different approach to making it: Either make it in a heavy sweater knit (more beginner friendly and then exposed seams make more sense), or make it in a nice wool coating and be prepared to add a lining- what I still plan to do if I can muster the motivation!

Truth be told, through no fault of the pattern, this Jill has very little in common with it’s predecessor. And while I do wear it on my way to work on cold early mornings, it really isn’t that blanket of warmth I set out to create. More than anything it is the manifestation of so many of the less than desirable qualities I posses: myopia, exaction, impatience and willfulness to name a few. But in my sewing practice each garment that I make is like a journey and I embrace & appreciate everything it has to teach me. Like this one where I started off sprinting, then ended up taking the long way home.


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