“Make a quilt coat” they said. “It will be fun, easy and fast”! Um, no. It was fun. Fast and easy, no. It was an adventure.
This is a really long post and very garment-centric. Some of you may not be interested in the details, so feel free to scroll through the pretty pictures!
Several crucial decisions were made, some of which made it more complicated than it needed to be:
- My choice of pattern, the Tamarack by Grainline includes set in sleeves, which is a bit challenging when using quilted fabric.
- The pattern I chose did not include darts. I’m not busty so it worked for me. Darts would be a real issue with a quilt coat if you need them. A dart by definition would include 8 layers of fabric and four of batting – yikes!
- Oh did I make the right batting choice! I used a “half batt” of wool (I teased wool batting into 2 skinny layers and used one). Even the skinniest cotton would have been waaaay too stiff.
- My choice to make it reversible. Oh my, I had no idea how much more complicated that would make it!
- I added 2 1/2″ strips between the blocks. That made my repeat 13 1/2″! When you’re trying to match patterns, that is a huge repeat!
- The blocks were hand pieced, old and very imprecisely pieced.
Now a word about garment making. I co-led a garment making group as part of the American Sewing Guild. My co-leader Anita is a Master garment maker and fitter. I learned a lot from her. I have been making garments since grade school and have studied tailoring. I have a few opinions:
- Fit, proportion and detail are EVERYTHING in garment making:
- I wanted to match my repeats across the garment. This elevates the look. I did have an obvious fail on the sleeve. Even though I started with a quilted piece that was something like 60” square, there was not enough fabric left to cut another sleeve. This. Will. Bug. Me.
- Fit: I am passionate about good fit. So many women who are unhappy with their bodies do one of two things: hide it under yardage, or, plop a stiff, oversized garment on top to “hide” their body. A well-fitted garment is flattering! It skims your curves and balances your proportions. Ill-fitting garments scream that you are unhappy with your body. Yardage and oversized garments are unflattering.
- I took the extra step to dial in the fit on a toile, which I wrote about it here, time well spent. Proportion is key also. I hits me at high hip in front and just above the lower curve on my behind.
- I adjusted the shoulder to accommodate my slight forward bend. It’s an easy fix and a small detail, but that makes me look upright even though I have a bit of a slump already. And I made sure that the arm scythe hits right. at. my shoulder, another detail that flatters the body. Good fit starts at the shoulder.
- I was thrilled with how well the collar laid! Many “craft patterns” are not well drafted and I was going to be very disappointed if the collar looked janky.
- I put a discreet label that I got from Wunderlabel. I put it on the quilty side, it’s less obvious there. Nice little detail, no?
A word about my pattern choice. You will notice that many quilt coats are made with a raglan sleeve for good reason – it shows off the uninterrupted flow of the quilt. You’ll also notice that most photos of a raglan sleeved quilt coat shows the wearer with their arms out. If you saw that same coat with the wearer’s arms at her side, like they would be in real life, you would see bulk at the armhole. Just me, I don’t care for that so I chose the set-in sleeve.
Seam finishing was a huge issue. Because I wanted the garment reversible, the seams needed to be neatly finished. I am not going to do a tutorial on what I did; I used techniques from several finishes to get the look and function I wanted. There are areas of this coat that have TWENTY layers!
Please note, my seam finish is NOT: Hong Kong, lapped, Turned and Stitched, flat felled, bias bound or French, it is “JR”, Jenny Rigged😊
Things that made this process easier and better:
- A proper mannequin. I am soooo thankful that I got this mannequin back in the day. The garment industry changes their slopers on occasion and I picked this one up greatly reduced when they changed slopers.
- My LauraStar. Yes, I am an Ambassador, but I would have lusted after this no matter. For a garment maker, I think a steam generator is key. Look at the way my armscye lays, isn’t that gorgeous? It’s a lot harder to get that press on the curve with a regular steam iron. And it rocks for quilting by the way: the board can suck your fabric to the surface for pressing pieces and blow away for pressing yardage. I can press yardage lickety split. If you are thinking of getting one, I’ve got a coupon for you….
- Good feet. I used my quarter inch foot with the dual feed engaged and the edge stitch foot throughout the process and it made for a more professional finish. And my BERNINA just plows through 16 layers, no problem.
- An arsenal of pressing tools. I used every one of these in the making of my coat and was happy to have them.
Details – the good and the bad.
- The cuffs are a little long. I may go back and fix that.
- I had a LOT of quilt left over, yet not enough to cut a new sleeve. These quilt jackets take way more fabric than you think!
- Even my BERNINA could not plow through 20 layers. I had to hand sew in many places….through 20 layers. That’s the kind of thing that gives you arthritis!
Use my mistakes and consider these to make all this easier:
- Use an old and pliable quilt for your fabric, a much easier choice to work with. And hand quilted will drape much nicer than machine quilted. I mindfully chose an open design (stipple) in a fairly large scale to help with the drape. If I had used a closed design like bubbles, it would have been considerably stiffer.
- Use a hoodie as your pattern. You may recall I was going to take a class at Meissner with Sue Raspberry but it was moved to a date that I couldn’t make. Locals, take her class! Don’t make it hard like I did!
- Don’t make it reversible!
How do I feel about my coat? Pretty good! I am a little mortified at some of the less-than-ideal details, but I am pleased with the fit, the reversibility, the silk “lining”, the length and it’s overall look.
My biggest concern was that it would look “Happy Hands at Home”, which it actually kinda does, but I am seeing this all over in high fashion, so there! Even the Kardashians did a spread with quilts (pun intended) for Calvin Klein. Pshhhh, if the Kardashians can look cool with quilts, so can I, right?😊
If you read my newsletter (which you can sign up for here), you know that I had Big Plans for my Christmas/New Year’s break. I am actually thrilled that I completed this One Big Thing! And all of a sudden, I have a clean studio; what a treat! But not for long……
I’ll be sharing at: