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!

MA-1 jacket

For years I’ve heard great things about the Japanese pattern books of Ryuchiro Shimazaki. Specially on The Japanese Pattern Challenge by Duane (mainelydad). I had asked, and received, all three books for birthdays or Christmasses. Now it was finally time for me to try to make one of these.


I selected the MA-1 bomber jacket. And since I’m not a big fan of olive drab, I opted for a nice navy fabric, figuring it would look nice with the orange lining. The main fabric was found locally at Pacific Fabrics, although I had swatches come from multiple sources. The lining came from Mood Fabrics. The original MA-1 jackets had wool for insulation, but I wanted to make it lighter and got some Primaloft from Seattle Fabrics.

I’m glad I waited a while before diving into these Japanese books. There are some good resources out there to assist with the translation (Japanese Sewing Books, Google Translate), and they’re a great help. Yet I’m glad I didn’t try this without a good amount of experience with different types of patterns and construction. It made it a lot less confusing. I don’t think I would have been able to make the welt pockets with the translated instructions as my only guide.


You have to add your own seam allowance to the pattern pieces, something I’m not so used to. Although the pattern pieces are scattered all over the included sheets, they’re very well separated and easy to trace. It just takes a little while to find them all, with only the Japanese characters to guide you. A smartphone with Google Translate helps a lot here. It’s also somewhat fun, for Google will give the pieces interesting names. One of them is now called ‘Pocket Mouth’.

The largest included size is a ‘L’, and that was a bit too narrow for me across the chest. by creating two muslins and changing small bits to address that, I ended up with a good fit.


Making 2 test versions also allowed me to figure out how to construct the rib knit collar. I had never worked with this type of fabric before, and it was quite an adventure. Lots of pins, a walking foot, and patience gave me an acceptable result. Good thing I bought a lot of extra rib knit.

I first sewed the Primaloft to the lining pieces, then sewed the lining together, and at the end cut back all the Primaloft from the seam allowances. This worked pretty well. The stuff comes with a backing that I peeled off at the last moment. Since it was rather thick insulation, I removed some layers of the Primaloft itself too. Otherwise the jacket would have looked like the Michelin man.


What I really liked about this jacket is that it looks casual, yet you can spend some time getting all the little details in order. There is a fun pocket on the left sleeve, welt pockets with flaps, a flap across the front, and the collar. It keeps it from being a pattern you just put together, and makes it something where every step is interesting.

The sleeves were different from any I had already made. The under sleeve needs to be gathered in along both seams before attaching it to the upper sleeve. I added two lines of basting stitches on the sides of the seam, and then pulled the thread on one side of the fabric. This gave me great control over where, and how much to gather.


My usual approach with lined jackets and coats is to bag the whole thing. And since I couldn’t really understand the Japanese instructions anyway, that was what I did with this jacket too. The zipper I shortened and inserted without an issue. The rib knit waistband and collar did create a challenge. It looked like you should double them up and then sew them to the outer fabric. I did that with the collar, and then sewed the lining to the same seam allowance at the same spot where I had already joined the outer fabric to the rib knit. With the waistband I only sewed one side of the rib knit to the outer fabric and then sewed the other side to the lining. Then after turning the bag, I joined both sides with the top stitching. I’m not sure which technique worked better, and I might do both the way I did the collar next time.

Joining the sleeve lining and outer fabric is always a puzzle to me. I did it the same way as with the waistband, attach the rib to each side and use the top stitching to join them. Of course, only after turning it inside out multiple times to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes. Flashes of knotted sleeves were going through my head the whole time. My modern sewing machine is the only one that has a free arm, and it was barely small enough to do the top stitching on for the sleeves.


After this was done, all that was left was do a round of top stitching along the outer seams, and close the hole in the lining side seam I used to turn it inside out.

It was a lot more work than I initially envisioned. Mainly because there were a bunch of new techniques involved, more details that I thought, and the instructions were only somewhat helpful. Yet the whole process was fun and I really enjoyed the project.


Of course, I only completed it when the weather started to become warm and dry. I’ll be wearing it next year.