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Steel Panther

Well, going back to work after the Christmas break was pretty savage. (Pretty savage? Extremely savage).

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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 😨

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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.

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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.

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Minerva gifted me a couple of metres of this lovely black panther faux fur – and I knew I had the perfect pattern to make with it: vintage Simplicity 5225, a fur jacket pattern from the 1980’s.

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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.

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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 😂

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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 🙌🏻

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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 🤷🏻‍♀️😂

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 🤔)

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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 ✋🏻

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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 ✌🏻

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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 🙌🏻

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60 thoughts on “Steel Panther

  1. Just gorgeous and the piping gives a flash of luxury as well. I was very amused by the polite cat in your gif, so classy! Have a great year ahead of of you, and beat those horrible air-con systems

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    1. Haha, that gif is the BEST isn’t it! The cat is just so polite but so savage 😂
      I had no idea at the time what I would ever use that piping on, it was just SO shiny 🤩 but it goes perfectly with the fur and lining!
      Air con systems are the WORST aren’t they… so unnatural, I just want to open a window and let some real fresh air in! 😩

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  2. Looks lovely and snuggly! I’d like to make a fit and flare coat, maybe blue because I do wear a lot of blue. I’m the same with pockets, I like them in rtw clothes because I have a constant need to have a tissue on me at all times, but if I ever put them in garments they hang weirdly 🤷‍♀️

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    1. Thanks Romy!
      I made a fit and flare coat (McCalls 7373) and I love it… except the ‘fit’ bit is a little *too* fitted and, well, it doesn’t fit lol. If I didn’t have the photographic evidence of me actually wearing it, I’d say I was never small enough to get in it 😂 But it was a good pattern and allowed for some cool fabric choices!
      Tissues (and maybe hair elastics) are acceptable to put in pockets – purses, lumpy keys and other things like that is just weird 🤷🏻‍♀️

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    1. Thanks Cindy! ❤️
      I really love the lining… I’ve still got some left over because I think I bought about five metres of it, intending to use it on multiple coats!

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    1. Ah, awesome! I mean, that teeny tiny little shrug thing is SO impractical, but the coat isn’t too bad! I love the option to use two different fabrics – I have some fur leftovers which would be perfect for this pattern! ❤️

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  3. fab coat, reminds me of one I had in the 80s. Sometimes, in amongst the love of colour, a few plain black or white garments help to leaven the cake lol
    I’m currently working on a SWAP plan of monochrome mix-and-matchers, most of them unlikely to be worn in monochrome outfits. Pity you’re only a tiddler, I’d have that coat off you in flash!

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    1. Thanks! ❤️ What happened to the one you had in the 80s – do you still have it?
      I do have a LOT of black jeans and plain black tshirts, but that’s where I draw the line!
      I reckon if you scouted eBay you’d find another copy of the pattern… 👀

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  4. Black shows off your hair. The coat is smashing.
    A few of the socks from my last knitting binge are succumbing to entropy so I’ve got to get back on that horse and replace them.
    Here in the states the weather is ungodly warm – 60F today when it should be below freezing. But they tell me climate change is a myth! Idiots.
    I’m contemplating trying to do a quilted kimono jacket. I’ll probably hate myself.

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    1. Thank you! 💕 I don’t tend to wear a lot of plain black on my top half, which is silly really because it would highlight my hair 🤔 I can’t wear pink tops for the reason that they clash with my hair 🤦🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️
      I think I’m hooked on knitting socks now – I can’t wait to knit another pair! How long do you find that the socks last? I think I’ll be heartbroken when my first pair needs replacing!
      Ooh a quilted kimono jacket does sound amazing – a lot of work, but amazing – DO IT 💪🏻
      It’s below freezing here today so I’ll gladly do a weather swap with you if you like! 😆

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    1. Thank you! I was a little nervous about using the plain black fur (as it’s not my usual style!) but I think the coat needed it in order to make the most of that lining 😍

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  5. BIG CATS! ❤ You + and the lining are a pair of sophisticated big cats. I agree with Pence who says the black shows off your hair – it's a good background for a wild bag, too!

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    1. Thank you!

      And ommmmmmmggggg yes – how good would a proper shiny-metallic gold bag look against that fur 😍😍😍😍😍😍😍

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  6. i agree with the other two readers, that you hair is shown to its best advantage in this coat. You look amazing in it. Wear it more!

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    1. Thanks Sheila! 💕 I love fur coats but once I start sewing them I always remember how much effort they are 😂
      Totally worth it though!

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  7. I adore the lining and gold piping in your coat. in fact, I love everything about it. Looks totally profess as well. Brilliant job.
    My sewing table is still supporting ‘the quilt’, which hasn’t seen any action for weeks. I have worked on a couple of UFOs, but they are still UFOs. I have been cleaning and tidying my sewing room this morning, as it had got to the stage where I really didn’t want to go in there. I have set myself a target for the end of January to complete said quilt, as in Feb. I must work on a big job for one of Hubby’s friends. I have digitised the designs (World War II images) and have everything I need. Just need the time and space. It will earn me brownie points, at least.
    Happy sewing.

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    1. Thanks Bren! 💕 Plain black isn’t my usual choice of colour, but I do quite like it 😍
      At least you have made progress in tidying your sewing area, and the UFOs are a little further along than they were 💪🏻 I really need to tidy the table that my sewing machines sit on (aka: the dining table 😂) as we’re eating breakfast surrounded by spools of thread, stray zips and bobbins 🤷🏻‍♀️😂
      How is the quilt going now? I would still like to make a quilt this year, but something simple like a jelly roll one. I have no idea how I even go about quilting the top 😂 The quilt for the husbeast’s friend sounds amazing, and they will be very lucky to receive something that has taken so much love and care to create 💜

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  8. I like you and we are still friends, but you are so wrong about pockets 😂 I’ve actually been wearing men’s trousers for a couple of years, just because their jeans have proper-sized pockets (also thicker denim, you still get the variety in style and it has a proper waistline!). If I can’t fit my iphone in a garment then it is not acceptable attire 😂

    Your black fur coat is gorgeous. I understand why you think it’s boring, but it isn’t because it’s a fur coat. If it was like black wool it would be bland, but fur is never bland!!

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    1. Okay, I should have put a couple of exceptions in the pocket saga: jeans pockets, and coat pockets. Both are required to be of a sensible size – the back pocket of jeans should absolutely be able to hold my phone, and the same goes for coat pockets. I don’t really care about front pockets on jeans, because it’s always awkward to get anything out of them and anything I do put in them is liable to be forgotten about and put through the wash 😂 But back pockets? Absolutely essential. Don’t even get me started on coats with miniature pockets.
      It’s people putting pockets in dresses and skirts that confuses me, because using them (most likely) affects the drape of the finished garment 🤷🏻‍♀️
      I’m intrigued as to what you mean by ‘proper waistline’ on men’s jeans… 🤔 until the release of Mom jeans, I’d never EVER got a pair of jeans that hit at my natural waist, and now I’ve had it, I can never go back!

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  9. Agree with you on the shrug. It is just muhahahahha! But I love the sleeves on this make and yes, the fact you can have two different colours or just a long lush fake furcoat 🙂

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    1. I do not even know how people think that shrugs are a good idea… especially a FUR one. I mean, if it’s cold enough for fur, you want more of it than that around you 🤷🏻‍♀️🤷🏻‍♀️🤷🏻‍♀️ Now all I can think about is a colour blocked (fur-blocked? 🤔) fur coat…

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  10. Love the lining! My 4yr old now wants me to make him a red coat with that lining, although he did think we had to go to the jungle to get it and was worried the cats would scratch his belly!

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    1. Ooooh, this 4 year old has GOOD taste! 💁🏻‍♀️
      Ahhh bless, it would be quite excited to go to the jungle to get it, but maybe not so good to have cats scratching your belly 🤔 if you could scratch THEIR belly, that might be fun ☺️

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  11. Love the coat. The lining is just sooo good. And that trim is just right. I’d want to wear it open just so people can get a peek at the lining. Thank you for your blogs, I read it every week, and have done so for over a year…. Just showed how much you have moved on, and with your encouragement so have I….

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    1. Thank you Nancy! 💜 I’m so happy to hear that you enjoy the blog, that’s made my day 😘💕
      And that’s excellent news that you’ve developed your sewing – what are you most proud of? What’s on the sewing table now?

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  12. Gorgeous coat! You’ve done a brilliant job on it. I’m currently struggling with some faux fur. It ain’t easy.

    I carry a bag out of the house for all my shit, but I still want pockets for when I’m in the house. It’s a long way from one end of my house to the other (narrow bungalow) so I want my phone, tissues, and lip balm on me at all times. They are also useful for storing random pieces of Lego I’ve picked up off the floor so that they don’t end up going up the Hoover. Bloody kids!

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    1. Oooooh there’s nothing worse than standing on a Lego brick 😨😂
      Yeah, fur is a tricky beast ain’t it.I don’t know whether I prefer short or long pile – I’ve cut out (but not yet started sewing) a full length, long pile coat, and I’ve also got some super short pile fur (not that I’d really call it ‘fur’) that I picked up in NYC which I haven’t yet used… I’m not really sure how many fur coats I need exactly?! 🤷🏻‍♀️
      What are you making with your fur? I’m sending you power vibes to get you through 💜

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