Well, going back to work after the Christmas break was pretty savage. (Pretty savage? Extremely savage).
Getting on my bike at some unearthly hour of the morning (morning? I think it was actually still nighttime because it was DARK) to cycle ten miles to work was not received well by my legs, and the journey was made longer by the fact that they’re digging up most of the roads to make way for – wait for it – a cycle lane. I’m sure it will be worth it when it’s done, but atm it’s causing some pretty dramatic traffic queues. I bet the drivers who already hate cyclists would be just buzzing if they knew their delays were due to the construction of something that benefits the cyclists they hate so much 😂
I spent all of Monday (and most of Tuesday, if I’m honest) walking around the office like a zombie, wondering how I’d gone from rolling out of bed at 10 am each day, wearing sweats and not having to brush my hair to having to wear proper clothes and hold adult conversations 😨
They’ve given me a new desk, too, round the other side of the office under what seems to be the most extreme air-con vent ever to grace the planet. I swear, more than ten minutes at my desk and I’m starting to feel like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
I’m already scouting out knitting patterns for cardigans so that I can bundle myself up and not freeze to death 👀
Anyway. It’s pretty chilly outside too – so there are some fresh morning cycles going on, which I don’t actually mind – but that also means it’s time to get the big coats out.
And ‘big coats’ means fur coats.
I don’t know why, but it seems that sewing patterns for fur coats are all vintage. It’s like nobody wants to make sewing patterns for fur coats anymore – sure, you get the odd long coat with a fur collar but no actual all-over fur coats. Why? Is it a dying style? Am I living in the past? I’m not sure I actually mind, if that’s the case… the 80s had the best music, and the best films AND the best coats. The Breakfast Club is such a classic movie. I really should watch that, it’s been a while.
So, my 80s fur coat. I’m not sure I totally agree with the ‘fast and fabulous’ claim on the front of the envelope – anyone who has worked with fur will agree there’s nothing fast about it, once you’ve taken into account the time you spend hoovering up the mess it makes when you cut it and the hours you waste stripping the seam allowance of all the bulk. Yep, it’s pretty labour intensive. I’ve actually thought about using hair clippers before, to take down the seam allowance, but I reckon it’d blunt them pretty quickly and it seems like a pricey option 🤔
This fur is different from the furs I’ve used so far – the pile is a bit shorter. Kind of like the way my cat feels, rather than the way you’d expect a muppet to feel. I used my previous learnings from working with fur to help with this jacket – that is, to cut with scissors instead of a rotary cutter (so you don’t chop the pile and end up with a dodgy haircut), use a ballpoint needle (so that you don’t split the fibres of the backing), and don’t iron the fur pile from the front (just TRUST ME. Don’t).
Disclaimer: even if you cut with scissors, you still won’t avoid the carnage. It won’t be pretty. And pets might not be able to resist curling up on this new luxury blanket that was put on the floor just for them 😂
You’ll be hoovering yourself as well as the floor, FYI.
What I really love about vintage patterns is that they don’t half-ass you on the pattern pieces. None of this ‘cut here for lining’ crap on your template – you get a separate piece for everything. No ‘cut on fold’ rubbish either – I hate that with a passion! You get a piece for each sleeve and even pieces for the interfacing. YAS 🙌🏻
Because of the sheer thickness of the fabric, there’s no easy way to pin or otherwise fix your pattern pieces to the cut fabric so you know what’s what – the only pieces that weren’t obvious were the collar pieces so I just ended up writing on them which one was which 🤷🏻♀️😂
One thing that I’ve figured out about coats that have inseam pockets is that the pockets are never big enough for modern life. If you’re nipping down to Tesco to get an emergency tub of ice cream or bar of chocolate (both of which totes acceptable), you have to take a bag because the coat pockets don’t fit a phone, or a small travelcard wallet as well as your hands/keys. To be fair, neither the phone or the travelcard wallet existed in the ’80s, so I guess we will let them off the hook – but I’ve made some modern Vogue coat patterns that have pathetically tiny pockets. Like, even hobbit’s ain’t getting their little hands in ’em. Let me just say now though that I am not – absolutely not – one of those people that harp on about garments having pockets. I couldn’t care less if dresses or skirts or trousers have real pockets – I won’t be putting anything in them. I have a bag for that, rather than filling my pockets like Buckaroo and making weird lumps on my body. Every time someone enthusiastically cries ‘IT HAS POCKETS!’ I die a little bit inside 💀
Anyway. I’m sure there are some pocket lovers out there that probably hate me now, but meh 😂
The husbeast complained about the size of the pockets on his fur coat, so I decided to enlarge them for this one – which was intended to be shared between us. Luckily, we’re pretty much the same size chest (his shoulders are a bit wider than mine, though) so loose-fit tops, jumpers and coats will fit both of us 🙌🏻
I got my curved-ruler-thing out (which I bought a while back and don’t really use as often as I probably should) and redrew a slightly larger pocket bag.
I mean, it ain’t a work of art or anything, but it did the job 👌🏻
Another thing I’ve figured out about pockets is that making the bags from lining fabric is a Very. Bad. Idea. It’s too flimsy, to fray-y, plus it’s cold on your hands. Wanna know what a better option is? FLANNEL. Brushed cotton. Whatever your name of choice for it is, this bad boy is fairly cheap, WAY more sturdy than poly lining fabric, and suuuuuper warm on your fingies when it’s sub-zero outside. Plus you can buy a metre of a solid colour and just use it on ALL THE COATS.
As you can see, I’ve stitched the pocket bag seam and then gone around with a zig-zag just for good measure – even though the flannel is stronger I still like to super make sure that it’s secure because there’s no way I wanna be unpicking the coat lining to mend a ripped pocket bag.
You can’t press the seams once you’ve sewn them, because fur doesn’t play well with iron, so to get them to lay flat I actually go round and catch-stitch them down. Yes, this is as long as it sounds, but it means that you don’t get any weird ridges on your shoulders or anything from bulky seam allowance. Talking of shoulders, as the faux fur is essentially a knit fabric (and the weight of the coat will drag everything down), some stabiliser at the shoulder seams is a good idea. You can actually buy proper seam tape, but I’m using up a small roll of sturdy ribbon that I don’t have another use for – and it works just as well.
When you sew your seam, you sew through the layers of fabric plus the ribbon. The ribbon will stop the knit backing from stretching out of shape under the weight of the coat. Nobody wants a saggy coat 😂
Making a plain black coat was a big commitment on my part – it took a lot to pass by the furs with the lairy colours or pretty patterns. In order to jazz it up enough to be deemed acceptable, I used some lining fabric that I bought from Adam Ross fabrics (who now appear to be Pound Fabrics and have a minimum 3m order on any fabric). They don’t seem to have anywhere near as big a range of fabrics as they used to have, which is sad – looks like this lining will be my one and only purchase from them 🤷🏻♀️
We all have things that we hoard, hoping that one day it’s purpose will become clear amirite? Well, I had some pretty shiny-shiny gold piping stashed (apparently) just for this coat. It’s proper metallic. Like, if the light catches it, it’s gonna blind ya. I wasn’t sure whether to put the piping around the coat facing because of the fur – would you see the piping underneath all the fur pile? – but you sort of can. Just about.
Getting around that square corner at the top was harrrrrrrd (and perhaps don’t look at it too closely in real life 👀) but I did the best I could to align the all the layers properly and then in the correct position. Usually, coats have a nice curve at this point in the facing, so not sure why this one is square 🤷🏻♀️
There ain’t a chance in hell that you’re gonna be sewing buttonholes into faux fur – so fur hooks are going to be your weapon of closure choice. Just don’t do what I did and sew them too close to the edge of the garment so that they’re visible when it’s closed 🤦🏻♀️ Of course, you could always follow the ‘fur hook’ markings on the pattern piece, but good luck getting those visible amongst the pile… (any suggestions for that? I guess thread tacking would be the best approach 🤔)
I’m quite pleased with the finished coat, although I’ll admit that it doesn’t get worn too often – the fact that it’s plain kinda makes me reach for the other, prettier coats 😂 I like that the sleeves are in one piece though rather than having ‘cuffs’ sewn on to them – two other (vintage) fur coat patterns that I’ve used both have cuffs, and I just can’t make up my mind how I feel about them. I like the look of the ‘uninterrupted’ sleeve.
This coat has a little more structure to it than some other fur coat patterns I’ve seen – in my mind, the ones suited for longer pile fur tend to have more of a relaxed shape, whereas this pattern would suit a shorter pile. I actually have some super short fur that I picked up from Mood last time I was in NYC (in fact, it’s so short I don’t even think you’d consider it to be fur) that I might make another one of these from because it’s a pretty good pattern AND it has a snuggly collar on it too! Definitely what you need if it’s cold enough to wear a fur coat.
Despite me making it for both of us to wear, the husbeast has shown zero interest in getting it out of the wardrobe (which it takes up most of the space in, I might add 😱). Also pro tip: if you’re new to fur coats, be prepared for complete strangers to want to touch it ✋🏻
How’s your winter sewing going? Anybody making any coats? My knitting is in full swing, and I’ve SO NEARLY finished the second sock of my first ever pair! Once that’s done, I’ll be finishing off my Camaro Sweater (one and a half sleeves to go) and then seeing if I can power-knit a sweater for the husbeast before we go to NYC in a couple of months 💪🏻🧶
What’s on your sewing table this weekend?
Until next week,
Happy Sunday ✌🏻
On the blog next week – it’s the one you’ve all been waiting for… my Volt Sweater! ⚡️ Subscribe below to have it drop straight into your inbox 🙌🏻