Welcome to a post about a recent make, taking in brief, pattern hunting and fabric selection as well as the sewing bits. It’s a project that wasn’t without some fitting and construction queries, all of which I thought might be worthy of a bit more discussion than is possible on Instagram.
As one does from time to time, I found myself in need of a more formal, dark coat earlier this month. I have cosy winter coats but since we’re heading into spring I thought it might be an opportunity to use a lighter-weight wool for a cross-season coat.
I didn’t want anything too long and flowing (a trench coat update is in my longer-term sights…) and I set off on my pattern research journey with a shorter length coat in mind. I had a vague notion of finding one with a collar that buttoned up to the neck, rather than lapels. I was planning to wear a decade-old Hobbs dress with a silk organza lace neckline that hinted at a Peter Pan style collar – I thought it might be good to echo that with my coat collar.
The pattern search
I was quite surprised how few patterns I found that fitted what I expected would be a fairly easy brief. I realised that what I was looking for was probably not at the cutting edge of current style, but I did think it might come under the heading of ‘timeless classic’. Possibilities included…
The ‘Merci’ Coat by Atelier Scammit. However the cut seemed a little narrow and utilitarian for this project.
This Vogue 1537 Jacket & Dress pattern is a classic ‘occasion wear’ coat but I’m not a fan of princess seams. It’s just a personal thing – but neither were the flapped patch pockets to my taste and 3/4 length sleeves tend to make me look as if I’ve outgrown a garment. Both pockets and sleeves were adjustable of course, but they’re both key to the style of the garment.
I took to trawling through the ‘jacket’ rather than the ‘coat’ options and came across the TPC 27 Puff-backed Jacket from Trend Patterns. I love this jacket and have been looking for an excuse to make it. However the fabric I had in mind was too draping to hold that fabulous shape at the back. One for another time…
Then I came across the ‘Ninot’ Jacket from Pauline Alice.
I loved the details – that inverted box pleat at the back had me at ‘Hello’. I saw the possibility not only for lengthening it but also making the most of its movement potential with the draping fabric I had in mind.
I’d already worked through our stock and chosen ‘Ennismore’, a midnight blue wool venetian.
Venetian wool has a distinctive satin-like weave on the outer surface, which particularly in such a deep blue colour, helps reflect the light a little and gives a lift to an otherwise very dark fabric. It drapes beautifully and has plenty of weight for a good swing when it’s in motion.
I’m afraid the remaining ‘Ennismore’ was cleared out the evening we posted my ‘Ninot’ on our Instagram feed – however most of our lighter-weight wool suitings would work a treat. Had I not been in need of a dark garment, I would have been torn between some of those wool suiting fabrics; they’re either Italian or British in origin and finely woven. Our pale blue ‘Mayenne’ or vibrant raspberry ‘Opéra’ would have been fabulous for some optimistic spring colour.
To reduce bulk in the collar as well as the tabs on the sleeves and across the rear pleat, I planned to use a lighter-weight fabric for the reverse side of these elements. Our ‘Nocturne’ navy silk crepe-de-chine is a slightly lighter shade of navy blue but I was happy with the obvious difference in shade.
In other circumstances I might have opted for a contrast lining but with this project I went with our plain navy blue viscose lining fabric. It meant that my coat would work better across the rest of my wardrobe, either as a contrasting or toning garment.
Adjustments (actual and wishful)
With a 36″ bust I went for the Size 40 on the Size chart. My waist is slightly bigger than the 29″ on that size point and my hips are smaller than the 38.5″ but the style of the coat meant that these were unlikely to be issues.
The pattern has two versions and I wanted to combine the collar and lining of the shorter ‘View A’ jacket with the longer length of the unlined and collarless ‘View B’.
I noted that the Pauline Alice patterns are sized to a 5’5″ height and as a long-armed 5’7″ I added 4cm to the sleeve length. Finished garment dimensions would really have helped – but comparing my cut pattern pieces and working to my dress, I calculated that I needed to add 12cm to bring the length of the longer ‘View B’ jacket down to a length that would work for me as a coat. This process was very easy – I simply needed to extend the side seams of the front and back pattern pieces, retaining the gentle A-line angle. For my 150cm wide wool, the fabric allowances proved very generous and I should have enough left over for a matching skirt at some point.
This version of the ‘Ninot’ Jacket is an updated one. If, as I did, you want to retain the distinctive welted or bound buttonholes at the front, then don’t forget they’re going to be one of your first sewing steps on the garment, not the last! Pauline Alice have a tutorial, but I really like this one from Threads Magazine.
Rashly, I didn’t sew up a toile. This was partly because I was sewing to a fairly tight schedule; also because I assumed the non-fitted waist and hiplines would make fitting easier. I checked the various blogs and no-one had reported any difficulties with fitting. Oh, how we are undone.
What I hadn’t realised is that this design is comparatively closely fitted across the upper part of the shoulder. I might not have been swimming much over the last year, but I have very square shoulders and defined deltoid muscles – that’s the bit they jab at the doctor’s! I read on a blog post that many makers had inserted sleeve heads and pads to give some shape at the shoulder; I figured that I would just leave those out if there wasn’t room. Here’s what the jacket shoulder should look like.
In the event, I really should have toiled and extended that shoulder seam out as you can see in the picture below. The lower armscye and sleeve width were fine – it was just the sleeve head and shoulder line that were a problem. The green dots below show my shoulder line; the pink ones illustrate where I ought to have adjusted if I’d taken the time to fit properly and insert a shoulder pad and sleeve head. Compare the angle of my armscye seam with the image above to see how it’s being pulled out of shape.
That’s what lengths of butterfly do for you. Not only was there absolutely no space for a shoulder pad, but even my extended sleeve length proved to be way too short since the sleeve head was being pulled right up over my shoulder. As a result my sleeve hem is minimal and the sleeve length is at least an inch shorter than I’d like.
The actual sewing bit
Shoulder fitting aside, the actual pattern came together well. On occasion I found myself referring to ‘personal favourite’ instructions for the welt pockets as well as those buttonholes. Notches and seams matched and my fabrics behaved themselves.
I was particularly happy with my decision to use the silk crepe-de-chine for the undercollar and the reverse of the sleeve and back tabs. It made for a much cleaner finish.
There were a couple of areas where I’d still (politely) question the pattern design. One is the yoke, which I understand used to be a two-part yoke. I’m not sure how that worked, but I was concerned that there was a conflict between the outer yoke and the internal facing and full-length lining. I know that it’s an accepted technique to allow the lining to ‘blouse’ down to the hemline rather than follow the pleat of the outer fabric. However I’d rather have had a separately lined or faced yoke and a closely-lined back pattern piece that followed the pleat. For comparison, here’s the rear view of the coat with that lovely pleat…
…and here’s the interior, showing how the lining falls from the back facing, skimming over the top of the yoke seam and gradually wrapping around the pleat on the way down to the hemline.
My lining was lightweight enough that it didn’t compromise the drape of the outer pleat, but it means that it’s difficult to press the lining without creasing that back pleat – and vice-versa. If you’ve an opinion on this then please do post a comment below – it vexed me greatly but perhaps I should have just rolled with it?
Finally, I would have loved to take the time to insert some piping into the seam between the lining and the facings. Partly to elevate the garment generally, but also because an ivory piping defining the seam would have made a visual link to the dress I was wearing.
Here’s the final garment! I do like it a great deal, even though I wish I had fitted it better. That pleat is my heart’s delight though and I’m thrilled I went with a fabric that made the most of it. You can see me give it a twirl on our Instagram feed.
Navy blue is a difficult colour to photograph and light consistently – also please bear in mind that I promise I have a haircut booked in for next month as soon as lockdown permits! I’m running out of hairclips here, as I suspect are the rest of you.
Thanks very much for dropping by – I’d love to hear of your ‘Ninot’ experience if you have one – as well as alternative patterns that I might have missed – do share!