So, things have been pretty quiet on my blog and instagram lately. I’ve had a lot of other commitments and a new role at work, but mainly it’s because I have just finished the most challenging, time consuming and technical garment I have ever attempted – a hand-tailored Thread Theory Goldstream pea coat, for my partner James’ Christmas present.
As James not infrequently mentions his love of a well made coat, I was pretty nervous making him one. Based on my experience of making him a Fairfield shirt last year, I knew that there were probably going to be some challenges. However, as it was a special present I really wanted to make an extra effort, so I decided to follow this pretty intimidating hand tailoring sew along on the Thread Theory website. It’s written by a pattern tester called Dana who is clearly a very talented tailor – I would just like to thank her for this amazing tutorial and the level of detail she goes in to. Honestly, the first 20 times I read it, I didn’t have a clue what she was saying, but she recommended ‘Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear’ (hereafter CTTFM) by Roberto Cabrera and Denis Antoine, which I bought. I am so glad I did. Not only did it help me understand some of the techniques, but it also helped me with the alterations James wanted.
So, onto the coat – James chose to have shoulder epaulettes and slim fit darts – which were all included in the pattern. However he also asked for double piped flap pockets and an interior piped pocket, which were not – luckily, I love a challenge! Enter CTTFM, which showed me how to make these pattern alterations in brilliant detail. After a couple of practices I managed to get it right, and I am so pleased I now have these skills under my belt.
In terms of sizing, James sort of fitted into the XL size, although exactly like the Fairfield shirt pattern his neck didn’t quite go – once again thanks to CTTFM I worked out why it wasn’t fitting and compensated with a tight-neckline adjustment. By widening the back seam by 2cm at the neck and 2 cm at the shoulder seams, the problem was fixed without too much trouble!
After making a second toile I was ready to go! I ordered a beautiful charcoal grey ex-Rag & Bone wool from Mood Fabrics – after searching all the UK shops the options were either completely inferior or just too expensive. James chose a striped viscose lining from Fabric Godmother (although I ran out when it came to cutting the sleeves and had to use some leftover polka dot viscose and acetate lining from Ditto fabrics – which I would highly recommend). I also got the tailoring kit from Thread Theory (which contained a horse hair canvas front, collar interfacing and shoulder pads). Although it was sold out at the time, Morgan kindly made me one up, minus sleeve heads which I made myself – thank you Morgan! Making all my adjustments and gathering supplies took ages, and sadly in the rush up to Christmas I completely ran out of time and had nothing to give James on Christmas Day. I promised to finish it by the 31st of January.
When I finally got around to making the coat, I took my time, and did everything slowly and properly. When I felt myself getting impatient and wanting to rush or cut a corner, I stopped and went back to it the following day. Cutting out the pieces, marking and tailor tacking alone took a whole day. Throughout the construction I anchored every dart and seam allowance, as the wool was very thick.
I would definitely recommend reading the tutorial, as everything was done in a different order to what I am used to. Instead of creating the shell and lining separately and then bagging the lining at the end, the two are sewn together in pieces as you go – it was strange to get my head around but not too complicated. I found the process of basting everything really reassuring as I was sewing above my level and so it allowed me to have so much control. Whilst in some ways I’d like to go through every single step I went through in sewing James’ coat, we’d be here forever, plus Dana’s tutorial does it much better and is illustrated very well. I pretty much stuck to it like glue, only deviating in her patch pocket instructions and thinking ‘f*** this’ when it came to sewing the sleeves by hand! In particular I really enjoyed padstitching and ‘draping’ the collar, and basting the canvas to the coat fronts, it was so interesting and satisfying to see the results.
After I attached the sleeves and got James to try the coat on, I realised that I had made a pretty bad error when I sewed the lining. As I mentioned, I attached the lining to the coat very early on in the process and at the time didn’t allow for enough ease. Thankfully, I had left enough in the inside to solves the problem. I sewed the buttonholes by hand – this was also illustrated by CTTFM but I also found this amazing tutorial by James Williams on the Williams Clothiers website. It look hours practising, but was so worth it – although I nearly lost it when I had to take chisel and hole punch to the front of the coat.
I finished the coat this weekend, 3 days past the 31st Jan – but James doesn’t seem to mind too much! To say that this was a labour of love is an understatement – a special present for my very special man.