Part 2: pattern-making and testing
Previously on the Kitty Winter Coat Saga, I sketched out a design and put together a wish list for my perfect coat. That’s always the fun and easy part. Now comes the slog!
Making a pattern
The next step is to turn my drawing into a sewing pattern. While I could have tried to find an existing pattern that I could modify for my design, I decided to make one from scratch, for a couple of reasons.
- Even if I could find something close enough to what I had I mind, I would need to make so, so, SO many pattern alterations to force it to conform to my weird proportions that I’d probably start barking before it was done.
- I already have a personal sloper, which was made by having Felix wrap me in duct tape (that’s a whole separate story). A sloper is essentially a basic fitting pattern which, if I sewed it up as-is, should fit me like a second skin.
So I chose to create my coat pattern from scratch using my sloper, tracing it off, cutting it apart along my design seam lines, adding wearing and design ease (that’s extra room for moving and to make it look the way I intended, respectively), and so forth — all the fun details that turn something into a working sewing pattern. This looked like an awful lot of pattern pieces for someone who prefers instant-gratification projects, but I soldiered on regardless.
I drafted a tab for the back, which is purely decorative, and big pockets and storm flaps, which are anything but. I almost made the pocket piece too small because I measured around my hand to get the approximate size as usual. Luckily, I remembered in time that winter pockets need to accommodate hands encased in thick gloves or mittens! The final pocket pattern piece look big enough to carry a corgi, but it’s based on the measurement of my hand while wearing my favourite insulated glove.
Whenever you make a pattern from scratch, you test the heck out of it before you cut into your nice fabric. More than once I’ve had a nasty surprise when things didn’t fit or look anything like I intended once things were translated into 3D.
Maybe this doesn’t happen to the kind of people who measure 1/8 teaspoon of something for a recipe, but I’m a fairly slapdash person in pattern-making, as in cooking. So I cut out the basic pieces (just the body and sleeves, no collar, pockets, or other details) from some black cotton for a quick initial test.
Those of you who have read my previous blogs will notice that these photos aren’t taken on Amelia, my usual female-shaped dress form. She’s about five sizes too small for me, and has a pronounced waist and hips, which I really don’t.
This one is Rory, my technically male dress form. At some point, I realized that if I slapped one of my bras on him and stuffed it with some fabric scraps, he makes a decent enough approximation of my figure for me to do some rudimentary fitting.
My utter lack of hips and super-broad shoulders actually works better with the traditionally male mannequin shape, and Rory’s hip measurement is pretty close to mine. Plus I’ll do anything to avoid pin-fitting a garment while I’m wearing it!
The good news: the first test shows that the pattern pieces all fit together, and that the length, girth, and cup size are roughly correct. Which meant that I could proceed onto the next step.
The “wearable muslin” (aka the second test)
A test garment is sometimes called a “muslin” in sewing circles because an unbleached cotton fabric, sometimes called muslin in North America, is often used for the purpose. Where I grew up, “muslin” referred to a very fine, delicate cotton fabric used for summer tea dresses, so this is a bit strange to me. But I digress.
A “wearable muslin” is when you make up a pattern in a fabric that isn’t your final material, but will be good enough to wear if the fit turns out okay. In my case, I chose a mid-weight sweater fabric, because I’m NOT about to launch into a full-out coat construction project without some further testing.
After all, I’m planning to fully line my coat, as well as interline it with insulating fleece, meaning I’ll be cutting out each main pattern piece at least three times (four times for the pieces that will need interfacing). Plus the tab, flaps, and so forth, which are many more details than my normal projects contain. Hence, I made this coat-cardigan-cross thingie:
I tried it out in the unseasonably early snow, along with my daft-looking (but warm!) pink brain hat. One can always use some extra brains, especially when testing new patterns.
The verdict: I like the length, which I had worried might be too long, and I need to change the collar shape a bit so it will overlap more against the wind. But overall, it feels pretty darn good. And I have full arm mobility, which I’ve never had in an off-the-rack coat or jacket:
I made the pockets and the collar for this test version, but didn’t line it. The lack of lining AND interlining made the whole thing far too loose, which was just as it should be; I’ll need that extra room in the final coat for all that toasty padding.
To make this “coatigan” wearable, I tucked up the excess circumference (over 4 inches!) into mock front plackets, which actually created a nice vertical detail next to the front zipper AND made it quite fitted:
Next time, the actual coat!
The fit was good enough that I feel confident moving right into sewing the fully lined and detailed version. I’ll need to hustle my behind; as you saw in the photos, we’ve got snow in October. That’s quite abnormal for us here in (relatively) southern British Columbia, so the winter promises to be cold.
So expect the next instalment quite soon. No excuses for procrastinating when one is racing against the weather!