Tag: winter coat

The Kitty Winter Coat Trilogy (that maybe isn’t)

Part 3: The actual coat.  Sort of.

So here’s Kitty’s winter coat, the end product of all that pattern drafting and testing.  Whee!  I got it done!  For a given value of done, anyway, as I shall explain.

The Good

I feel like it came out as a camo block that makes me look like the Abominable Snow(wo)man hunting snow moose.  But by golly, it’s warm!  Well, it’s super-warm most of the time (more on this later).

When the photos were taken, it was several degrees below zero in the snow, with extra windchill.  My fingers, feet and face were freezing, but my torso was completely cozy. 

The coat looks like it might be too big on me, but it isn’t really, since I want to be able to layer a sweater or two under it when the weather turns even colder.  Right now, it’s roomy, but not so it lets in too much cold air.


I included all the features I sketched out in my original design — the back and front shoulder storm capes, the funnel collar (to which I added a cross-over front and snaps), big patch pockets, back waist tab, and a full lining. 

Weird and Bumpy – As it should Be

By the way, you might have noticed that the front of the coat looks all weird and bumpy when laid on a table and not being worn.  That’s exactly as it should be; those bumps are the spaces that will house my not-precisely-modest bosom when it’s actually on me. 

Here’s some wisdom from your elderly Aunt Kitty: fitted, non-stretchy clothes for large-busted women should always look wonky (!) when they’re on the hanger or lying flat, with bits that stick up or out.  They should not neatly fold flat the way a man’s shirt does (think of it like folding a fitted sheet versus a flat sheet — you have 3-dimensional bits that need accommodating too).   Clothes that lie or hang totally flat will NOT do your curves any favours when they’re actually on your body. 

On Rory, you can see how the bumps and wrinkles disappear, magically transforming into a smooth fit over the chest and gently nipping in at the waist. 

What You Don’t See

You know what you DON’T see?   Those awful armhole wrinkles, or the straining across the chest, which you get when you try on clothes that don’t have any bust shaping.  (If you want some pictures of what I’m going on about, you can look here.)

The curves built into the bust and back areas also means that I can lift my arms and reach forward without feeling like the armholes are binding.  I could get into a snowball fight in this coat and never have any trouble lobbing overhand missiles.

The sleeves are hanging funny because Rory doesn’t have arms to fill them out.  But they’re made in two pieces with a seam running over the shoulders and all the way down to the wrist, creating a contoured fit that follows the bend of the arm.  It also makes enough room for my manly biceps, especially over several layers of shirt and sweater sleeves.

You can’t see it, but the entire body of the coat is interlined with fleece, meaning there’s a whole other coat sandwiched between the outside and the lining.  This adds a good whack of bulk, but that’s fine by me.  I’m far more interested in staying comfy in the chill than in looking svelte.

The Bad

All in all, I think it’s a reasonable first effort at a proper winter coat.  However, there are some things I’m not quite happy with.

First, the fabric.  It’s a lovely heavy cotton twill with a good amount of body and breathability — but as it turns out, cotton also gets waterlogged in wet weather.  When I got home from the snowy walk, I was soaked from all the melted flakes.  Unlike, say, wool, cotton loses all its insulating properties when wet, and goes clammy and cold.  I knew all this before I started, so I have no excuses.  It was just a dum-dum moment.

Next, the snaps.  They’re proper industrial-strength outerwear-weight snaps.  That’s not a bad thing, per se.  Unfortunately, I have tiny little kitty paws (the only delicate parts of me!) and I can hardly get them done and undone by myself.  Seriously, you could use these snaps to close straitjackets.  I need to try an easier alternative.

Finally, the storm cape/flaps.  Somehow I don’t fancy them as much as I thought I would.  On me, these details look not so much ruggedly outdoorsy as accidental, like I caught some fabric remnants in my stitching by mistake.  I’ve often observed that simpler lines just work better on me.  Much as I covet ruffles, flounces, bows, and all the extra details I admire on other people, I just can’t seem to pull them off.

And the Ugly

The really ugly part is that if I want a coat I’m genuinely happy with, I’m going to have to do this all over again. 

Well, not ALL over again.  I’m pretty pleased with the general design (sans some details) and fit, so I won’t need to alter the pattern, which is something.  But I WILL need to make a whole ‘nother coat.

Cutting, stitching, pressing, and finishing 50-plus pieces of fabric yet again feels a little daunting, to say the least.  But it’s got to be done.  And if it were done when ‘tis done, ‘twere well it were done quickly, as the Scottish Play says.  So as with many film franchises, this trilogy is turning into a quadrilogy.

Next time on the increasingly inaccurately named trilogy:

Kitty ordered fabric online for the first time!  It’s this new-fangled, high-tech softshell outerwear fabric she’s never encountered before.  If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to make your own water-repellent snow gear, you’re about to find out.  Hopefully it gets here before the next cold snap.

And also, we’ll explore the wonders of the zipper, because it turns out that even Ancient Aunt Kitty must be dragged kicking into the 19th century if she wants a coat she can get on and off in under ten minutes.

P.S: Photo Apologia

My apologies for the horrendous indoor photos in this and recent blogs.  We’re in the process of some opportunistic house restructuring, meaning that our usual photo area has been dismantled in preparation for being moved into a proper studio-ish setup (we’re going to have lighting and backdrops and all that jazz!). 

Until then, all pictures are being taken in a sliver of space between the corset storage shelves and the sewing machine tables.  Right under the delicious glare of my fluorescent work lights, which picks out every tiny shadow and turns it into a magnified wrinkle.  You’ll have to take my word for it that these items look much nicer in real life than they do in these photos.

Kitty Makes a Winter Coat – the saga continues

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 

Initial testing

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. 

Rory in My Bra, With Amelia by His Side

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:

Actual Arm Mobility

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:

Close-Up of Front Tuck Detail

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!