I want to tell you a story about a handmade wool Clare Coat that began with a very special cut of fabric. It makes my wool coat extra special and valuable to me.
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Last Fall I was thrifting like I do every month or so. I always check the material/fabric section just in case. I usually only find quilting cotton and lots of vintage polyester fabrics. During this trip I found lots and lots of good apparel fabrics.
Once you start working with good apparel fabrics (wool, linen, rayon, even cotton) you are able to recognize and feel the quality right away. I found this striped fabric (that I used for Flint Pants), I found three coat weight fabrics, and I found a taupe rayon linen that had a handwritten note with the fiber content on it (that I used for a summer dress)! I did a burn test to figure out what the unmarked fibers were. From that I determined that the striped fabric was a natural fiber, and the three coat weight fabrics were all wool.
While I was looking at this gorgeous gray, pink, and green wool I found a screen printed stamp that said “Harris Tweed Woven in Lewis” with an orb image at the top. It was basically impossible to capture in a photo! because it was so faint! I researched it online, and Harris Tweed is a specially hand woven tweed from some isles in Scotland, and it’s really valuable fabric. I found other cuts of Harris Tweed wool online selling for around $20 a meter. I could’ve sold it and made some good money from it, but I decided to keep it for myself because it has such a special story. I wanted to make myself a really good wool coat. I even placed facing over the Harris Tweed stamp so I could preserve it on my coat.
The fabric had originally had a label sticker on it showing what it was and how many yards it was. It was 5 3/4 yards, but the width was only like 25 inches so it’s more like I had a total of 3 yards. I decided to keep the label and sew it onto the facing right next to the Harris Tweed stamp.
A couple of years ago I fell in love with a gray coat on Pinterest with a giant collar, and I wanted to recreate it with this Harris Tweed wool fabric. It wasn’t exactly the same color, but it has a lot of texture and variation. I have actually been looking for a pattern with a giant collar and was never quite happy with what I found.
Most patterns like that didn’t have a big enough collar or were made for knit fabrics. I remember when the Clare Coat Pattern came out a couple of years ago, and I don’t remember being wowed by it. I don’t remember looking at the line drawings though. (Pattern line drawings sell me on patterns way better than a finished garment image.)
While I was looking for a coat sewing pattern I came across the Clare Coat Pattern and after looking at the line drawings I realized that version B was almost exactly what I was looking for. I wish I would’ve come with a zipper, but other than that it was perfect.
The alterations I made to the pattern were to add 2 inches to the sleeves above the elbow dart. After getting most of the way done with the coat, I realized that the sleeves would still be a little short so I hemmed them lower by 1 inch and added essentially a sleeve facing to give me more length. That means I added about 3 inches to the sleeves total: 2 above the elbow dart and 1 below the elbow dart. (If you need extra help you can learn the basics of how to sew darts.)
I decided not to add length to the body because I already have a long coat and wanted a different look. I also liked the shorter look of the inspiration coat. I’m taller than what the pattern is drafted for so it hits me higher than where is was drafted. I actually wish it was about 1 inch shorter, but once I was to that point in sewing the coat I didn’t want to add anymore work for myself! The only other alteration I did was I added a little bit at the shoulders for a broad back adjustment. I just hate feeling like my upper back is constricted.
The instructions for the Clare Coat pattern are really good. I sometimes have a hard time just reading instructions because I need to visually see each step, and there are some illustrations I wish would’ve been added but I still successfully made a coat. The drafting is well done, and I didn’t have any trouble printing the pattern or assembling the coat. It’s actually designed really well because there’s a minimal amount of pattern pieces, there’s separate lining pattern pieces, and it’s designed to be easily altered. It’s a really smart design. It would be a great first coat pattern to try!
I had an Etsy gift card so I decided to get some extra special lining fabric to go with my extra special wool fabric. I wanted a lining that had green and pink to pick up the green and pink in the wool. I decided on Cotton and Steel Menagerie in mint rayon* for the lining, and it couldn’t be more perfect. The fabric was so fun with a really cool selvedge which I decided to save and make a loop. I cut about a 1.5 inch wide by 5 inch tall piece along the selvedge. I folded the raw edge over .5 inch and then another .5 inch enclosing the raw edge and leaving the selvedge right on top. Then I sewed it into the coat. I also added my brand sewing tag. It just makes making handmade clothing so fun and special to add little details like this!
Instead of underlining the wool like I should’ve, I decided to added a layer of fleece to all the lining pieces. Which means there’s a fleece jacket inside of this coat. I wanted the extra warmth and stability without seeing it! I don’t know if this is the correct way of doing it, but I’m happy with the result. The coat is really warm and snug. You might be able to tell that my lining looks almost puffy in places because of the fleece.
I added the flowery rayon to the pockets too. I wouldn’t say that Cotton and Steel rayon is the most slippery fabric and some people would want a more slippery fabric for lining, but I love it. I think it’s the perfect amount of slippery, and I love that it’s not polyester and staticky. It’s pretty amazing how well it coordinates with my wool fabric.
Since I couldn’t figure out how to add a zipper and I didn’t want to do version A or an exposed zipper, I decided to just add giant invisible snaps. It works well to keep my coat closed and they are invisible from the outside. I kind of hated them while I was hand sewing them on because I hate hand sewing, but they work great. I was worried about how they would look when my coat would fall open, but they actually look nice in these photos and don’t bother me at all. lon
I wish I could’ve met the person who had all that gorgeous apparel fabric (and I still regret not buying the multiple cuts of apparel fabric that I left there that day!) and heard the stories he or she had to tell. Were the fabrics hand-me-downs or from traveling? If only the fabrics could talk and tell me where they came from.
(Save the wool scraps to make wool felt balls!)