The Harlequin Coat #8

Well, rats

Those ribbon froggings were a spectacular fail. I pinned them on and got stitching… endlessly. Only to discover towards the end of the process that the ribbon coils were held together with a single thread that wasn’t properly secured. They not only fell apart very quickly, they were also pretty hard to use successfully because the satin ribbon was very slippery and the turk’s head knot that was the ‘button’ would not stay inside the loop once any slight pressure was applied.

I re-did all the tedious hours of stitching. But in reverse. 😬

Time for Plan B.

I found these black metal clasps on Etsy and ordered two pairs. I’m hoping they’ll do the trick. Otherwise I might end up having to use the dreaded toggles; this is not a duffel coat. On the upside, I got the pockets on and the coat is done apart from the closures.

In other news, as if I didn’t have enough on, I’ve decided to make myself a purse/backpack to match the coat. I’m no bag designer, so I once again resorted to Etsy to find one that was a) simple and b) interesting. There are so many of them out there, but I wanted an adult/classy version without a frenzy of pockets and zippers.

In the end, I chose this Batala backpack design from Pink Pony Design, and while mine won’t be in purple and green with a tiger on the flap, I promise you it’ll look good with the coat, since I have a large piece of my favourite fabric left, plenty of the dark blue and some fun contrast fabric for the piping. Fingers crossed I don’t discover any issues on this project. All reviews of the pattern are very positive, and I’ve seen photos of some completed examples which look great. I really like all her bag designs, so this may not be the last one I make!

Now I just have to hurry up and wait for those clasps.

The Harlequin Coat #7

And it’s a full garment at last.

The sleeves are in, after much swearing, stitching, ripping, re-stitching and poking of self with sharp pins. But they look decent, the inside is immaculately tidy and they aren’t going to fall out any time soon. The coat begins to look as I’d imagined, at last. I was silly to think the patchwork part was going to be the most time-consuming thing about this project…

Next step is binding all the open edges. The silk backing is fraying a little here and there, and stitching is opening in places, so the sooner I secure all that, the better. It’s going to be narrow, like the top edge of the collar, and double fold straight-grain binding for durability. Same inky blue as all the rest.

And finally, I’ve found some froggings for the closures!  Black satin rolled ribbon with turk’s head knots in place of buttons. I bought a pack of 6, so I have some flexibility. They had red as well, but I wasn’t quite as in love with the idea; the dark colour contrasts so well with the colourful background. Not sure yet how best to attach them, but it’ll probably involve insanely tiny  hand-stitching around the outside edge. Or maybe straight through the middle of each coil. Anyone got any suggestions or experience of these?

In the home stretch now. The final push will be the pockets, which need to be located once I’ve got this thing on and can decide where I want to put my hands!

Melbourne, get out your sunglasses and brace to be dazzled 😀

The Harlequin Coat #6

I’ve managed a few short sewing sessions.

The collar is bound and on. It looks so much better than I’d feared, and I have great hopes for the finished effect. Overall, things are looking really good, but I’ve realised that as it’s a winter garment, I need to be able to wear knitwear underneath. Which meant that in its current form it was a tad on the snug side. There was, fortunately, a simple solution, which was adding an extra strip down the front left (as you wear it) side. Most of this will be covered by the wrap-over, but it will allow for an easier fit. You don’t really notice it, so long as you overlook the extra strip of sashing.

The sleeves are still patiently waiting to be pieced in. It’s by far the trickiest job and I haven’t been mentally here for such fiddly work over the past days. I thought I might give you a sneak preview of the lining silk, though…

Hopefully in the next couple of days, I’ll feel up to the potentially fairly demanding job of inserting them. Can’t wait to try on the fully assembled thing!

I think I can promise this will be ready for our much-anticipated trip to Melbourne in June!

The Harlequin Coat #5

It’s all going rather well.

Perhaps I should be concerned, and anticipate some huge imminent disaster, but even the bits I thought would be scary (like spray basting the silk backing onto each piece) turned out fairly, well… straightforward.

So, as you can see, all 7 main pieces are sandwiched and quilted.  The bodice parts of the coat body have vertical quilting 2 inches apart, which splays outwards as it goes towards the hem, following the line of the coat skirts. The sleeves have straightforward vertical lines from sleeve head to cuff. The collar has parallel lines half an inch apart, following the curve of the top edge. For the quilting I used Rasant cotton-wrapped polyester-core thread in a lively shade of bright purple. Not that you can see the colour, really, but I know it’s there. The silk lining is also very, um, lively and I love it, but I’ll save the reveal of that for a later date.

Next job is to trim all the pieces out to the exact pattern size less seam allowance (joining edge to edge, remember?), and then start joining. I’ve already cut sashing strips. I know I said I was going to use black, but I’m actually going to use a very dark shade of navy. I tested both colours against the coat background, and the black was just too… dead. From a distance it will look like black; close up, you’ll be able to see that the colour has a bit more life to it. I’m also using a slightly narrower than usual doubled strip for the back of each join. Normally, I’d cut a 2.25 inch width for this and stitch in the ditch on the front to catch the doubled free edge on the back. For this coat, I think I’m going to hand stitch the free edge down for a more perfect finish, which means I need only a 2 inch doubled strip. More work, yes; more beautiful, also yes. Some projects are worth it.

Joining on the sleeve heads and collar is still exercising my brain, but I’ll work it out in due course. I also have to make the pocket fronts, but for that, I’ll need to be able to put the coat on to determine the most comfortable location for the pockets. Once that’s established, I’ll know what colours to use on the fronts.

Still plenty to do, but at this stage there’s no doubt this coat will be ready for our trip south in June. Exciting! I can’t quite believe how fast it’s going.

Let’s hope I haven’t just invoked Murphy’s Law…

The Harlequin Coat #4

It’s going well.

I’ve got the colours for the fronts and sleeves sorted out. The front strips are sewn together but I haven’t yet attached all the strips to each other. I’ve only shown one sleeve, but the other one is laid out too. That leaves only the pockets and collar strip to assemble.

Two fronts, one sleeve. Once again, the colours are rubbish, with everything taking on an orange cast and the darker patterns flattened.

Once they’re finished, it’ll be time to assemble the quilt sandwiches. I’m going to trim out fairly close to the seam allowances so I can gauge exactly where to place the pattern piece on the fabric – with luck I can align most/some of the seams. The plan is to quilt in vertical lines from shoulder to hem, following the pattern outline. So the quilting will flare out at the hem and be less dense, hopefully allowing the skirts to move more.

I’ve worked through various options for assembly. Currently, the plan is to proceed as follows:

  1. Make the two bust darts. Trim out inside if necessary and cover with sashing.
  2. Join the two halves of the back with a flat sashed seam.
  3. Join the two fronts to the back at the shoulders using a flat sashed seam.
  4. Join the two fronts to the back by the side seams using a flat sashed seam.
  5. Make the sleeve seams. (I have to work out if I can get in there with the machine as they’re basically two tubes. If not, hand stitching may be called for. Sash over the seam.
  6. Bind collar top edge and attach collar with a flat sashed seam if possible, using bias sashing if necessary.
  7. Insert the sleeves into the armholes, using bias sashing. Hand stitching may be necessary.
  8. Bind all open edges (hems, cuffs, front edges).
  9. Bind edges of pockets. Attach to front of coat.
  10. Attach closures/fastenings.

Anyone see something I’ve missed? The only thing that’s worrying me really is whether the final coat will be so stiff that the skirts stand out rather than falling in folds. If that happens, I’m considering cutting slits to allow the panels to lie flatter, and binding the edges. Hopefully this won’t be required, but I should be able to test it once the body of the coat is done and before the sleeves and collar are attached.

The lining/backing will be quilted into the garment and is silk (another first for me, and I hope it goes OK!), so that’ll make putting the coat on a bit easier.

I’m going to bind the edges in black to make the colours pop by contrast. I’m also looking at various kinds of corded or silk froggings for the closure so I don’t have to attempt buttonholes through so many thicknesses and batting. There are some lovely black or black and red silk ones on Etsy. I briefly considered trying to make my own. I’d love to have a go, but not for this project. Life is too short.

Onwards with the job of joining all those lovely squares…

The Harlequin Coat #3

Who knew it was going to be this much fun?

Well, this part, at any rate. I stared at a table thickly covered in colourful squares. In no particular order, mind you. No organisation, just a saturated puddle of brilliant hues. I looked at my design wall, back at the puddle, and I dived in.

Harlequin coat back panels

So now, here we are. One coat back panel is pieced, enough and to spare around the outside. Another is curated and is in the process of being assembled. So far, so hugely enjoyable. Of course, the photo is completely hopeless and flat, not even slightly representative, but it gives you some idea of the variety. Roll on the day when I can put it on and walk outside for a decent photo with natural colours.

Tomorrow, I will finish the second back panel and make a start on the fronts. It will be necessary to exercise some self control, so that I don’t end up using all my favourites on the 4 body panels, leaving the smaller pattern pieces to be made from fabric I don’t really love.

Bears, bees, birds, deer and squirrels

One of the unexpectedly fun aspects of this enjoyable task is identifying all the animals in the fabrics. It was to be expected that the Tula Pink Tiny Beasts range would feature a creature or two, but it turns out that they’re everywhere. Birds, bears, bees, butterflies, squirrels, deer and foxes are frolicking over my coat. Especially birds, it seems. I must try and remember to do a post about it, further down the line.

Once I have all the pieces made, the next task will be to sandwich and quilt them. I have bought a wool/polyester mix batting for this, in a pale charcoal colour. This will be warmer than cotton, but lighter and less lofty than pure wool, so it fits the bill for me. I also didn’t want a pale batting because I want the colours to be intensified and enriched by their dark backing, like underpainting on an oil painting. The backing/lining is a surprise. It has to function as lining, be non-boring and respond well to quilting.

Testing will be required… And I fear it is not only the fabric that will be tested.

The Harlequin Coat #2

Well, you know me. Everything has to be named.

Harlequin it is, although historically speaking the patches should be diamonds, but who’s checking? So after  the other day’s template-fest, I sat and stared at my fabrics for a while, and then I eliminated a handful of them. Too pale, too sparse, too stark, too bitsy, that sort of thing. I like what I’ve ended up with, although I don’t discount eliminating a few more as we go along. I suspect some of the more uniform batiks will end up going, or I’ll only use a small section, for example. And to avoid making the garment look too ragged and motley and to keep things simple and easy to calculate, I’m going with uniform 5 inch squares.

A small selection of the fabrics

Anyway, on to the ‘quilt math’. I measured the templates and worked out how many squares I’d need to cover each one.

The fronts and backs each measure 45 x 20 inches at the longest/widest parts, which means I’d need 36 x 5 inch squares to make a panel to cut them from. Four of those is 144 pieces.

The sleeve panels are 25 x 20 inches, so I’d need 20 x 5 inch squares to cut them from. Two of those is 40 pieces.

The pockets are 10 x 10 inches, so 4 x 5 inch squares, or 8 pieces.

The collar is 1 square deep by 4 squares long, so 4 pieces.

That’s a grand total of 196 pieces, so I’ll make sure I have 200 cut in case of accidents, changes of mind or adjacencies that don’t work. To be honest, I thought it would be more, but I already have a bunch of squares cut, and plenty more fabrics to cut from, so it’s all good.

I do want to make sure that seams line up on the centre front and back. I’m not going to fuss about the sleeves, and I want to offset the pockets to make their presence known. I’m still debating whether to have the inside of the collar more patches or keep it the lining fabric, and the same debate about the reverse of the wrap-over lapel. A decision will announce itself as I go along, I think. Projects like this have a tendency to tell me what they want or need.

So, today will be lots of placing, stepping back and squinting.  O joy…

And now for something completely different

Only not really, of course. This is me, after all.

You’ll remember that I had thoughts nearly a year ago about making a patchwork coat. I wrote about it here.  Other things took over, other priorities emerged and the project went on the back burner. Well, having  just finished two quilts and a curtain for the caravan, with the Delft quilt top finished and waiting for more leisurely times to start hand quilting it, I couldn’t put it off any longer.

I took the coat pattern pieces I’d previously selected, and did a bit of adjusting. It’s now going to look less like this:

That red coat, in the middle

And more like this:

Imagine it multicoloured, not ‘military’

I want the quilting to be integral to each piece of the pattern, to help shape it. In order to be able to cut the pattern pieces from completed, quilted patchwork, I have to make large sections of patchwork, then sandwich and quilt them, and then cut out the pattern pieces from those, and join them afterwards. So today I made templates from sheets of butcher’s paper for those large pieces of patchwork. Larger than the coat pattern, to allow for shifting the pattern placement to let things line up  nicely. This was also necessary to give me an approximate idea how much patchwork I’ll need to make. It comes out at a good double quilt size, I reckon, so not a negligible amount.

That’s a lot of patchwork. I have to cut the sleeve, pocket and collar twice.

I’d also love to join the pieces of the coat with QAYG sashing, since this would make for a much tidier inside, but I’ll have to wait and see how practical that is. For seams that aren’t too curved it might work, and I could use bias cut sashing, but testing will need to be carried out. I’m also a bit concerned about making buttonholes through all those layers, so it may end up having different fastings. We shall see.

Collected bits of loveliness.

Has any of you made something similar, and if so, do you have any useful tips or suggestions? I’ll definitely end up with something wearable in the end either way, but if someone else’s experience can offer a shortcut or better finish, I’ll gladly listen.

Tomorrow, I’ll start doing some colour work with the fabrics.