Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Coat Making: Choosing Supplies

I spent a LOT of time selecting fabrics/supplies for my husband's Albion coat. I did plenty of research and I think it would be helpful to share my thought process and how I chose one thing over another.

The shell:

If money had been no object, I would have ordered wool melton from Mood. But at $20/yard, needing 4 yards, it wasn't in the budget. Instead, I ordered a 100% wool coating from Fabric Mart for the exterior shell. It was thinner than I expected (seemed more like a suiting weight) but as I worked with it I was glad for the weight. Some areas of the coat had 5-6 layers of wool, and it would have been impossible for me to sew that much bulk with a thicker fabric. I read that the tightness of the weave is just as important as the actual weight, and since this fabric is heavily felted it's still warm. The finished coat is SO. HEAVY. that I can't imagine using a thicker fabric, so I was lucky.

The wool was very easy to work with, which was nice since it was my first time using wool yardage! Here's a close-up of the fabric. It has a very subtle herringbone design that gives it some visual texture:

It was a closeout deal, so there isn't any left (sorry!). The only thing I didn't like about it was its attraction to pet hair. Even with excessive lint-rolling there are always cat/dog/people hairs sticking to it.

The lining:

I considered all kinds of things for the lining. Silks, flannel, flannel-backed satin, quilted yardage, Thinsulate, on and on. All of them had drawbacks. Silk would have easily slid over clothing, but it's expensive and breaks down when it interacts with sweat. Flannel is warm, but difficult to find a high quality and doesn't slide over clothes. Flannel-backed satin would have been my ideal choice, but the quality at Jo-Ann's was unimpressive, and it was hard to source elsewhere. Quilted yardage is expensive. Thinsulate can't be pressed (it melts) and is more appropriate for a puffy ski-style coat (so I read). Ultimately, I decided on a flannel lining for the bodice, and Bemberg rayon for the sleeves.

The plaid fabric in the first photo was my eventual choice. It's flannel from the Platitudes collection at Jo-Ann's. Most flannel from there tends to be thin and terrible, but I made two shirts from Platitudes flannel last year and they have held up very well. I was happy with this flannel except that it was off-grain.

The grey lining is Bemberg rayon from Mood. While shopping in some nicer stores over Christmas (J. Crew, Brooks Bros.) I studied the suit jackets and they were all lined with Bemberg rayon. If it's good enough for a $400 suit jacket, it's good enough for me! While a nightmare to cut, the Bemberg was easy to sew and press. It was a bit fiddly to hem, and ripping stitches out was frustrating. Overall, I'm kind of meh on it and might consider something else next time.


Originally I thought I would make my husband a tailored pea coat, and that opened the door to many types of interfacing. But given the simplicity of the Albion pattern, it didn't need a lot of tailored work. I went with a mid-weight fusible interfacing. I've found that anything stronger than mid-weight is awfully stiff, and makes buttonholes much more difficult (although I ended up sewing them by hand anyway).

I'm kind of torn about the stiffness of the stand-up collar (which is two layers of wool, each interfaced). Owning a similar coat myself, I know that a stiff collar is useful when you want it around your face, but I'm also constantly pushing it out of my way because it bugs me. I guess a mid-weight interfacing is the best compromise.

Odds and ends:

The buttons are all from Jo-Ann's (yay for buy one get one free on Black Friday!). I'm sure there's a nicer choice out there, but a few dollars here and there on so many details adds up over a whole project.

The white piping inside the coat is also the store-bought poly stuff that everyone hates. Sorrynotsorry that I didn't make my own, but my time is worth more than the cost to purchase.

The ribbing inside the collar is from Wawak. It's heavy-duty ribbing made specifically for jackets, and it comes in a pre-cut size. To have enough length, I ordered the "waistband ribbing" and cut it down to fit. I was very pleased with this ribbing and the price is right.

If anyone was curious, I probably have around $100 in materials in this coat, half of which was the coating fabric (I got a good deal!). It's by far the most expensive garment I've ever made. Coats can be quite the investment piece!

Tomorrow I'll go over the resources I used to learn about coat-making and include links to some helpful tutorials.

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