project winter coat: setting in the sleeves

having to set in a sleeve can strike fear in the heart of many a sewist. can’t say i was much different until i discovered this super awesome technique. i wish i could say i am the genius behind this little trick, but truth be told i found this while scouring gertie’s blog a while back for tailoring tips (HERE). i first tried this when making my knit blazer and then again on my coat. seriously, it’s like magic.

once your sleeve is sewn together, make sure you have a few points marked: where the cap crosses the shoulder seam, the two ease points and the point where the sleeve crosses the side seam.

now grab some polar fleece (which just about everyone has lying around) and cut two 2″ x 12″ bias strips.

mark the center of the strip with a notch and line it up with the top of the sleeve cap. then stitching at 4/8″ (assuming a 5/8″ seam) pull the fleece quite tight as you stitch it on. with a heavy coating, you will really need to tug at the bias strip; less so for something lighter weight. continue pulling and and stretching the fleece until you get to the ease mark, then you can release to light pulling until you get to the end of the fleece.

turn the sleeve around and do the same thing from the other direction. it’s important that you start your stitching at the top of the sleeve, even though it’s a bit awkward. if your machine doesn’t have seam allowances marked on the left side of the needle, just put a piece of tape on the machine as a guide.

turn your sleeves right side out and make sure you know which sleeve is which (right or left). mark it if you have to, the last thing you want to do is try to attach the sleeves to the wrong side.

turn the coat inside out and place the sleeve inside the armhole. you’ll see that it fits in with no further easing necessary, no pulling of gathering stitches, easy peasy. pin it in place, matching all your notches and dots and whatnot. you can baste the sleeve in place first if you want, or just stitch if you’re feeling confident.

once your sleeve is in, round off the ends of the bias strip. lightly and carefully press the whole seam allowance toward the sleeve just with the tip of your iron. you don’t want to get too far into the sleeve or you may get some unwanted creases.

now, step back, breath a sigh of relief and admire your handiwork!

next up… how to make shoulder pads!

—lisa g.


project winter coat: in-seam welt pocket

once everything is fused and cut it’s…

wait for it… 


so now you’ll do your major construction of the shell. after all the laborious (and boring) prep work this will feel like a fast forward moment. sew, press, repeat! just remember all those things about not pressing directly on the wool (use a press cloth) and other words of wisdom. later i’ll have some tips to post for the collar and sleeves, those can be the tricky bits.

since there isn’t much to write regarding the main body construction, i’ll show you how i made my in-seam welt pockets. the pattern has the pockets in the side seam, but i prefer they be in the front princess seam. less bulk on my hips this way! in case any technique with the word “welt” in it makes you run in fear, this is about as easy as it gets. in fact, an in-seam welt pocket is virtually the same as a regular in-seam pocket. just with the addition of a welt.

shall we?

i drafted my welt so that once sewn it would be as wide as the distance between the two dots on the pocket piece, which is just the width of the pocket opening. begin by making your welt. you need to sew around the three sides of the welt, turn right side out and press. top stitch the edges if desired. i hope you can use your imagination on that one as i don’t have a picture. 

the fact that my nail polish matches
my coat lining is pure coincidence!

baste the welt to the seam (right side of the welt to the right side of the coat), then sew the pocket bag directly on top of your welt basting (just over the pocket opening) then press the pocket bag back. baste the other pocket bag to the adjoining seam, again stitching only along the pocket opening. press the pocket bag out and under stitch if desired.

now lay both pieces on top of each other with the pocket bags sticking out. at this point you want to make sure your seam lines up accurately. i place a couple pins over the pocket opening to hold it in place, then turn back the shell and stitch around the pocket bag then finish the seam.

now you can pin the rest of the coat seam together and sew above and below the pocket opening; stopping at the pocket opening, then picking back up again on the other side. when you get close to the pocket opening, make sure you grab that corner of the pocket bag so it doesn’t end up caught in the seam. then press the princess seam toward the center

i am top stitching along the princess seam and had to do a little manipulating so i didn’t sew the pocket shut. on the inside, i pinned the pocket bag out of the way, then on the front top stitched the part of the seam that crosses the welt.

then i unpinned the pocket bag and pressed the seam toward the middle and top stitched from the top down, pivoting inline with the top stitching on the welt, then stitching over the welt securing it to the coat, back stitching at the end to reinforce it.

i feel like this is a lot easer with pictures than with words, sorry if all i’ve done is confuse you more! really, it’s far easier than it might sound.

future posts will include some tips about setting in the sleeve, how to make a custom shoulder pad and how i plan to add an interlining for warmth. exciting stuff people! my coat is finally coming together (i’m a bit farther ahead than these posts) and it’s looking awesome. can’t wait to show it off!

—lisa g.

light jacket: burda 9487

i’m interrupting the tedious winter coat posts to show you a jacket i finished for my daughter a few weeks back. see, around these parts the seasons change from fall to winter very quickly so the window for a light jacket is pretty small. regardless, she needed one because cardigans just weren’t cutting it.

i used a heavy duty canvas (about the weight of a denim) i found at an awesome local fabric shop for $3-$4/yd. i had to wash this stuff 3 times before it quit turning my hands blue! but i really like this color for fall, and it works well with just about everything in her closet. and even if it doesn’t match, she wears it anyways.

i used burda kids 9487 which is an unlined jacket. it is slightly cropped and swingy, perfect for her slender frame. since i didn’t line the jacket i opted for a hong kong finish on the exposed seams.

the only change i made was to pleat the back instead of gathering it as the pattern suggests. i didn’t think there was any chance i would be able to get this canvas to gather, and i thought the pleat looked better anyways. i made her a size 7 (EUR 122) and this pattern certainly does not run big. i probably could have gone up a size to ensure that it still fits in the spring, but as long as her arms don’t grow too many inches, it should be fine.

i have to say, i’m really impressed with the burda kids patterns. there really are some gems over there, and they have all the details in styling and on their patterns i’ve been lacking with the regular simplicity, mccalls, etc. this jacket has a two piece sleeve for a nicer fit and the pattern even had the roll line marked. the instructions don’t have you tape the roll line (though i did) but it’s so nice to have it included without me having to fumble about or just guess.

made her that knit dress over the summer. unblogged… sorry!

burda, i appreciate your efforts!

the sleeve head is not actually puckered, i threw this jacket
in the wash as soon as i finished sewing to help break it in.

she loooooooves this jacket and hardly ever takes it off. she made her friends at school guess whether it was store bought or home made. the consensus was mixed, but i believe she received many compliments. i’m glad she’s still young enough that home made is still acceptable. perhaps the tide will turn some day, hopefully not too soon!

—lisa g.

project winter coat: the roll line

okay, computer is back and fully functioning… woot!

i believe last week i posted about what coat pieces need fusible, so i’m just going to expound upon that for a moment. for the main pieces i did a block fuse, which just means that you fuse a large piece of fabric and then cut your pattern pieces. to do this i figured out my pattern piece placement, traced around them, fused them, then cut them out precisely. easy peasy and most accurate!

if you’re following sherry’s RTW sew-a-long i’ve roughly covered steps #4-7 at this point. i didn’t really follow the pattern amendments as i wanted to keep my full seam allowances (she has you reduce them) because i am a ninny and don’t trust my own muslin fittings that much.

moving on… one thing you’ll want to note from your muslin is where the roll line falls. evidently many patterns are now just putting a randumb dart in the front piece that gets stitched into the collar instead of marking the roll line. side note: i finally found that step in the directions where it tells you when and how to stitch that dart: halfway through the collar insertion! obvious.

no idea what a “roll line” is? it’s the line where the collar folds down and the lapel folds out.

it’s really one continuous line that begins just over the top button and goes up and around the collar. on the collar i’ll use an extra piece of fusible later. the collar line must meet the line on the lapel. if there isn’t some treatment here (tape or dart) the collar won’t lay nicely. with your muslin on you or a dress form, pin the collar and lapel where it naturally falls, making sure the ending point on the lapel crosses about 1″ above the top button at the seam line. then pin right along the fold line so you can lay your muslin flat and transfer this line to the pattern pieces. on the under collar we will fuse a small strip (essentially the collar stand portion) after it has been sewn, since the under collar is two pieces.

i marked the collar stand on the upper collar because i am cutting
my fusible on the fold and my under collar has a seam in the middle.
this piece will be fused to the under collar.
sorry if that is confusing!

to tape the roll line, you can use a strip of fusible cut on the straight grain or you can use twill tape and do it by hand. whichever you do, cut your tape 1/4″ (smaller bust)-1/2″ (larger bust) shorter than this line. then pin it in a few places inside the line (toward the body, not the lapel) and with your iron, ease the fabric in (catch stitch if you use twill tape). press and steam on the body side of the taped line to ensure that it lays flat without wrinkles. the collar side will be slightly wavy.

marked roll line and seam allowances


catch stitched

after pressing

sorry if it feels like i’m moving at a snail’s pace here and you are effectively bored out of your mind (or just disappointed upon realizing that i am not famous). i’ve noticed other coat sew-a-longs are moving at the pace of a slow rocket ship and i see comments like: hey! i don’t even have my pattern yet! i just want to detail all the small bits that sometimes get glossed over and cause confusion. bear with me! actual sewing is NEXT!

like i said from the beginning, all this prep work will make the sewing zip right along. you will spend more time on the muslin/fitting/cutting/fusing/more cutting/tailoring bits then you will actually constructing this baby. i feel like the prep work is something sewists don’t talk about much, so those new the whole sewing thing are easily discouraged by all this extra work the more experienced people forget to mention. after my muslin, i worked on the fabric cutting and fusing in bits and pieces over the course of 5 days. or maybe i’m just slow. or have four kids so it takes me forever since i occasionally have to do things like feed and dress and clean up after them. or whatever.

—lisa g.

p.s. sorry about my crappy pics. white and black are very hard to photograph!

project winter coat: time to fuse!

i didn’t mean to have another rambling picture-less post but my dear sweet computer is having it’s graphics card replaced (or some such nonsense) since the monitor went ka-poot.

i have successfully pre treated my “fashion fabrics” (am i the only one who kind of hates that term? i feel like i am anything but fashionable–just a girl who loves to sew and can’t really afford the quality i want!) and am itching to start cutting. 

whenever i start work on a project that cost more then oh, $5 i kind of have an anxiety attack and become deathly afraid of cutting out the real deal. my muslin revealed a bit of bagginess on the back kind of near the armpit area. oh arms and everything about them have become my achilles heel! i think if i just shift the entire arm scythe in about 1/4″ (the shoulder was a touch wide also) then redraw the side seam i’ll be good. i tweaked my sleeve and just have to lengthen it by an inch, and i’ve decided to go with the welt pockets in the princess seam. hopefully i’ll be cutting in a few hours, i don’t plan to tweak and tweak and tweak. you can drive yourself crazy with fittings!

also, i’ve been on the hunt for the perfect silk buttonhole twist. evidentially, the only colors carried locally are black, white, red and maybe blue. me? i want fuchsia. i have it in my head to do hand worked buttonholes and really, why do all the work if it’s just going to blend in to (slightly boring) grey/black wool? i did find a tailor shop online somewhere that has the gimp and buttonhole twist i need. unfortunately, the giant spool of gimp is $18, the buttonhole twist is $1.50 and shipping is about $14. so basically, not including the buttons, these things are gonna cost me about $35. hmm… i thought, okay maybe i can find some other cording instead of the real gimp, but i was still looking at a $13 shipping cost for the thread alone! UPS is their only shipping option. i really didn’t even consider it would be so difficult to find my supplies! sigh. must dig deeper into the interwebs. i do live near boston and it’s rumored that there is in fact a garment district… perhaps a trip into town will be necessary! though i usually just end up in a long line in front of an italian pastry shop downing hundreds of calories in a shockingly short amount of time… ahem. 

anywho… mostly i just wanted to stop by and list all the pattern pieces i plan to fuse because that’s what i be working on over the next couple days as i ponder my buttonhole situation.  here goes…

to fuse:
-entire front of coat
-entire front facing
-under collar
-a second layer only under the roll line of the under collar (after the under collar center seam has been sewn. i’ll show pics of this later!)
-back neck facing (if your pattern has this pice)
-upper sleeve from the sleeve cap to the upper to mid bicep
-upper portion of the back. my pattern has a separate upper back pattern piece so i’ll just fuse that section
-the sleeve and coat hemline. you will want about a 2.5-3″ strip of fusible at the very bottom edge of these pieces. part of this of course will be turned to the inside of the hem. this just ensures that you get a good crisp edge.

more advise… for the large sections such as the front and front facing, fuse before cutting out your pattern piece. just in case there is any further shrinking that occurs while fusing you want to make sure your pattern pieces don’t lose their shape or size. also, things are just more accurate this way! have you ever cut your fabric and fusible from the same pattern piece only to have them not completely line up? i sure have. also, on the partially fused pieces cut the edge of the fusible with pinking shears. this will help reduce any ridges showing up on the outside.

i’ll address the taped roll line later when i have pictures to illustrate what i’m doing. this can be done with fusible or catch stitched with twill tape. 

okay, i think that’s it for now! see you on the other side when my fabric is cut, fused and hopefully i have my laptop back!

—lisa g.

project winter coat: fabric treatment and a few odds and ends

once your muslin is done and you know what pattern changes you have to make, it’s time to start thinking about the fabric and what to do with it before cutting. my shell is 100% wool and my lining is 100% silk. egads! we’re definitely in “dry-clean-only!-do-not-throw-that-stuff-in-the-wash!” territory. being that i have very little experience with these fabrics, i can’t give suggestions based upon my own experimentation. lucky for me the whole internet is at my disposal, so i can turn to the people who can say things like: “when i pretreat wool/silk i usually…” so here goes.


wool will shrink when cleaned (even dry cleaned) so before cutting into it you must preshrink it. the consensus here is that wool requires steam. loooots of steam. so you have basically four options:
  • dry clean it and have it professionally steam pressed. i’m not a fan of this option because the more i read about dry cleaning the more i’m convinced it’s just a crapshoot. maybe you’ll get good results, maybe you won’t. for me, it’s the expense and smell that keeps me from going that route any more than i have to.
  • the “london shrink” is another option and basically involves rolling your fabric up with wet towels or sheets, letting it sit wet for a day, unrolling, air drying then pressing.
  • grab the iron, load up the water chamber and (using a press cloth, of course) steam the living daylights out of it. of course if you don’t have a large area that you can use for steaming (i don’t know about you, buy my ironing board is about 12″ wide) this will get old reeeeeeal fast. also, the need for consistency is far higher than my attention span allows. so unless this just sounds really appealing to you, i would read on…
  • the third option is basically free and doesn’t involve standing over the ironing board for hours on end inside a cloud of steam. yay! throw it in the dryer with a couple very wet towels and let it tumble on the highest heat setting. for time, i’ve read 10 minutes up to an hour. i would expect 30-45 minutes would be sufficient. if your wool is likely to ravel, serge/zig zag the edges first.

if you still want or need to wash the wool, use a no-rinse detergent (such as this), soak it for 10 minutes (or whatever the directions tell you to do), then dry flat. agitation in a washing machine will cause the wool to felt. if you do chose to wash your wool in any way, test it with a swatch first!


  • silk it seems, gets a bad rep also for being difficult to pre treat. it’s shrink factor is pretty minimal (or so i read) so basically, you can just hand wash it gently then let it line or flat dry. if you’re nervous, do a swatch test first, especially if your silk has a print. i’ve read horror stories of ruined silks due to the colors running crazy!


  • if you go with a rayon lining, wash on a gentle cycle (or hand wash) then let it air dry. rayon and dryers don’t play well together.


  • your fusible interfacing may also need a preshrink. to do this, submerge it in hot water and let it sit for 10-15 minutes then air dry. some fusibles specify that they are preshrunk and some specify that they are not preshrunk. if you don’t know… better safe than sorry! you don’t want your fabric shrinking up as you fuse it.

other odds and ends before cutting fabric

  • are the pockets in a good place?
  • do you want to include any interior pockets? (i do!)
  • if your coating is on the thin side (as mine is) consider interlining with a cotton flannel. make sure you wash and dry it 2-3 times to eliminate shrinkage. unsure about interlining? i’ll address this later.
  • does your fabric need extra stability? underlining with a cotton batiste (preshrunk, of course) may do the trick.
  • what type of buttonholes you will do? if you are doing bound buttonholes this will be one of your first steps. if you plan to machine your buttonholes, start testing that now. if you’re not satisfied with how it looks, you may want to go with bound. hand worked buttonholes are another option (and the route i’m taking) but do your research first. it may be more work than you’re willing to put in!

overwhelmed yet? i really hope not. basically you just want to plan out every detail and think it through. nothing is worse than getting far into your project then realizing some small detail isn’t functional.

sorry about the picture-less post… i had hoped to have my sleeve tweaks made and sewn on to my muslin but i’m waiting for a shipment of tracing paper (50 yard roll of tracing paper! wooo!) to make it to my front door. i’ve always used tissue paper, but i’m out and it’s really too thin for drafting anyways. i found tracing paper for a steal on amazon so hopefully it’ll show up tomorrow. if not, i’ll go back to tissue paper so i can get on with it already!

lest you think i just made this stuff up…

…here’s some links. add your own in the comments if you’ve come across other great advice.

  • the most referenced wool treatment link from off-the-cuff
  • recent post on coletterie about treating coat fabrics
  • fabric treatment round-up over on gertie’s blog
  • bound buttonhole tutorials on pattern-scissors-cloth: here and here
  • hand worked buttonhole research by poppykettle (seriously delicious sewing going on over there, by the way!) 

—lisa g.

project winter coat: the muslin

i finally got around to sewing up the muslin for my coat and i’m rather pleased with how it looks.

but… before i get into what i like about it, can i just vent for a moment about some bizarre pattern drafting? i can see that you are collectively nodding your heads in fervent agreement.

i’m calling this the WTF? dart:

i have the front pattern piece laying on
top of the front facing for reference

for seriously. why is there a random dart at the base of the collar? yes, presumably it is to take care of the collar roll because there is no roll line treatment or markings. however! nowhere in the directions does it even mention this dart. or what to do with it, or which way to press it. and. it. just. ends. mysteriously. what about that space above the dart opening? i guess it would get closed off when attaching the collar? comparing the front piece to the facing piece, clearly the dart is necessary to bring these pieces inline, but it’s just… weird!

see how the dart is just open at the top? bizarre.

maybe i’m overreacting, or just ignorant (it’s not like i’ve done that much tailoring) but i really don’t understand why that dart is there.

now, there is an alternate collar style with this pattern that is a shawl collar and i can see how the dart for that version would be helpful, albeit technically unnecessary. at least the dart on those pattern pieces is mentioned in the directions and that dart isn’t just mysteriously left open ended. soooo…. what’s going on simplicity??? can you ‘splain yo-self? and if any of you bright readers have an explanation, please kindly let me in on the secret!

i’ve scoured teh interwebs and while this pattern has been made several times, no one mentions this dart. but now i have, so consider this my public service announcement for the day. oh, and i totally cut out that whole portion of the pattern and replaced it with a tracing of the corresponding section of the facing since it all lines up and such. don’t worry, the facing lapel portion is still wider for turn of cloth.

okay, i have a few other disappointments/modifications with this pattern. nothing major, just thought i would give you all the deets while i’m at it:

  • lining: there is no separate back piece for the lining. typically the back lining is wider than the shell and cut on the fold; then pleated at the neck, waist and hem. this allows for sufficient movement and also keeps the lining from pulling at the front of the coat.
  • collar: other than the WTF? dart, there is no marked roll line. wah wah wah. since i made up a muslin i can figure it out for myself, but… well never mind.
  • pockets: this pattern has in-seam side pockets. i prefer that the pockets sit in the front princess seam, so that’s where i’m putting them. haven’t decided if i’ll be doing it in the seam or if i’ll do a fat single welt. probably going with the welt just for interest and the opportunity for extra top stitching.
  • sleeves: i prefer a two piece sleeve and this pattern is a one piece. not a big deal, but i think you just get a better fit that way. since the rest of the coat has nice seaming, it’s only natural that the sleeve does too. i drafted a two piece sleeve and only need to tweak it a bit!

so how is the fit? pretty darn good! i graded from an 8 out to a 10 and i think it’s just about right. i’ll need to raise the armscye so i have a better range of motion and can do crazy things like drive a car comfortably. once i have these little things done and my pattern adjusted i’ll be ready for cutting!

i’m totally loving the wide collar on this pattern!

but before i dive in full steam ahead with cutting fabric, i plan to do a little round up of fabric treatment options if you are dealing with wools and silks and probably even a word on interfacing and other random details to consider before cutting into the real stuff. so, that’s it for now! 

—lisa g.