Winter coat

About a year ago I decided that I should make a new winter coat. Figuring that if I would decide that now, I may be in time for the next winter. Unlike my peacoat, which I finished in early March.

I’ve had the Men’s Coats pattern book by Ryuichiro Shimazaki for a while now, and I’ve created the MA-1 Jacket from his Military Wear pattern book. Since I first read it I’ve been attracted to the simple and elegant lines of No. 12. And the fact that it’s a raglan pattern added a nice additional challenge to it.

Luck may have it that I went on a trip to New York this spring. What better place to try to find some nice wool than the garment district? Mood Fabrics seems to always have what I look for; last time Peter Lappin found the perfect material for me for my peacoat, and this time I found exactly what I needed for this coat.

Some procrastination followed, because it’s not even summer yet. And then some more because there’s still a lot of time before winter, and I need more information from books I don’t own yet and haven’t ordered yet, and I need the fabric prepared, and I haven’t researched that either, and that can wait for this other project I should do first, and more of those things we’ve all been through. Until I couldn’t fool myself anymore and I just had to get on with things.

With my previous project from Ryuichiro’s books, and as I’ve read from other people’s experiences, his patterns run rather small. The measurement table had me solidly in the XL size. Since that is the largest size offered, I went with it. The patterns don’t include seam allowances, and those have to be added by yourself. I used an old sheet to make the first muslin, just to see if the fit is anywhere in the ballpark. It was actually not bad at all. Just a little bit constricting between the shoulders in the back if I move my arms forward. I adjusted this by adding some space in the centre back seam, which seemed to work without changing the way the coat drapes. If you can tell something like that by using an old sheet.


On to the next muslin to see if this would work. I had purchased some curtains that seemed to be the same thickness as the wool I had. But while cutting out the individual pattern pieces it was obvious that the integrity of the fabric was completely different from wool coating. I made it anyway, just because I had already cut it out and it was a fun fabric. But it didn’t really tell me much about the fit of the adjustments.

I made a final muslin in nice muslin fabric, both to make sure that I had the fit right, and to see how the collar construction worked out. This told me that with the poor drape of this fabric, the coat was still going to be okay. That was enough to convince me to stop procrastinating and start making it.

Getting the wool ready to work with presented me with the usual dilemma; how to pre-treat it? With my peacoat I used damp towels and threw those and the wool into the dryer. This seemed to work fine. For a while I played with the idea of using the London Shrink method. That seemed like a lot of work, and I had no experience with it. Then I remembered that my new dryer has a steam setting. And that is basically what using damp towels does too. So I tried a cut off piece to see what happened. And other than shrinking a bit, it came out great. While still being a little scared I threw in the whole cloth and set it for 20 minutes. It worked great. It shrank a bit, but otherwise looked great.

Next was figuring out what to do with the interfacing. Since this is a coat with raglan sleeves, there isn’t all that much information to build on. I found some scans of a German book on cutter and tailor, and tried that. Compared to just flat hair canvas the size of the pattern piece, I didn’t like the way it draped. So I abandoned that and went with a full hair canvas, with an added bias piece on the chest.

The top of the back got a piece of hair canvas added, just to keep it nicely in shape throughout its lifetime. And the tops of the sleeves got pieces of bias cut hair canvas added, for the same reason. I basted all this canvas to the main fabric just inside the seam allowance. It would then later be caught in the real seam, and I’d cut back the excess.

With all the instructions in Japanese, and Google Translate’s troubles of turning it into understandable text, I just resorted to looking at the pictures and making it up as I went along. I changed the placement of the front pockets a bit by moving them a little forward. And did the construction completely different. The book had some top stitching diagrams that made no sense to me. I think it may have been to give the pocket more strength. But since I had a fully interfaced front, I would not have to worry about the integrity of the fabric. After making a normal pocket with flap, I just secured the whole pocket bag to the hair canvas by hand. No matter what I would decide to keep in my pockets, the wool would not be stressed.

The inside pocket was changed slightly too. The pattern puts the pocket partly on the facing and partly on the lining. This is what I did with the peacoat too. With this coat I wanted to try to extend the facing into the lining where the pocket is. Adjusting the pattern was easy enough. Sewing the lining to this little extension turned out to be harder than I expected. My first attempt had small curved corners from the horizontal extension to the rest of the facing. This was too hard for me to sew neatly. The second attempt had straight angles here, and that was somewhat easier. With a lot of marking, basting, and careful sewing I got a reasonable inner pocket. It just took me way longer than I anticipated.

At the top of the back lining I cut out a half circle and replaced it with the main fabric. This way I had somewhere to put my logo.

The rest of the coat came together without many problems. It is really nice to have two sewing machines set up; one for all the seams, and one for just the top stitching. It made for simple switching from one to the other, without having to remember to change the stitch length, tension, thread, etc.

I do like the raglan sleeve type. It is a lot easier to set in the sleeve than with a regular sleeve. But it also has it’s drawbacks. No good way of incorporating shoulder pads, requires interfacing to keep the shape well.

The coat turned out just like I expected. It will be a nice alternative to the peacoat.

Thanks for reading!