Made by Me!

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Why Raymond You Are A Handome Devil!

I present my Raymond coat from Republique Du Chiffon - he's a real looker don't you think? Made from a teal coloured boiled wool from Dragonfly Fabrics (my fabric of choice for coats this season it seems) and a dotty lining from Fabric Godmother which was beyond annoying to cut and work with but I think is very pretty. I chose to make this coat as I wanted a shorter, more casual silhouette than my previous winter coat - check it out here - and I thought this was lovely. The patterns came out last year and I bought it immediately, and without any knowledge of French.... Now buckle up its a long post this time - apologies in advance.
I think teal works really well with my colouring and is pretty complimentary for me - I should make more things in this hue. I am so glad I bought loads of swatches as it’s hard to tell what the best match is for you over an Internet page - and its cheap to do as well so well worth it. They seem to keep the stock of colours in constant circulation so if you order your favourites you can keep them for future reference too.  I am sending a warning out though that it will make you want to buy more than you need!!

This jacket in reality is of a relatively simple construction but I chose to make it into a rather long winded umming and erring process by deliberating over a million and one decisions! Not only that but I broke two needles, screamed at my machine a couple of times and looked perplexed at the instructions on more than one occasion.

One of the decisions that stalled me was whether to use Thinsulate. Thinsulate is a material used in a number of outdoors jackets to provide some wind resistance and warmth - apparently it is one and a half times as warm as down. I tested it yesterday before photographing it and I have to say it does the job along with making the coat feel a little like a dressing gown in cosiness! My last coat proved that whilst it keeps me warm in cold weather, when it gets windy or down to zero the fabric isn't sturdy enough to keep the chill out. That suits me when moving between the tube and street on a daily commute when I get overheated on a regular occurrence but for weekend casual wear or super cold days I wanted something that I could reliably know was going to be a little warmer.

Thinsulate is not easy to find in the UK - I eventually got it from Profabrics after a protracted Google search. I deliberated a long time about whether it was the right thing to use after reading loads of reviews which say its bulky, hard to clean etc.... but in my opinion it isn't that weighty and this coat pattern is designed to be loose enough in fit to accommodate some extra padding. Whilst it may not be dry cleanable I can stick it in the washing machine (and I washed the fashion fabric at a low temperature to make sure it wouldn't shrink when I did - I didn't wash the thinsulate as I am pretty sure it would shred and as a synthetic I don't think it would shrink anyway). In terms of thickness when new it does puff out to about 5mm wide; to visualise the material think of the batting you use between the layers of a quilt, it is essentially the same thing with one side covered in a papery feeling layer with thinsulate written all over it. Now from reading about how others have used it I went against the grain and decided to pin the outer fabric to the thinsulate and use it as one, so using it as an underlining. This allowed me to use the sturdiness of the Thinsulate to add a more heavy and structured appearance to the coats fashion fabric, which isn't very thick at all. Other people suggest quilting the Thinsulate to the lining which I did think about but I found the fabric so difficult to manoeuvre I thought it may look a little bit amateur when finished!

I didn't use Thinsulate in the arms as I was worried about bulk in a tight space, although I sat on that decision for about two weeks, flipping between grading the Thinsulate down at the shoulders so only my torso is covered or using it everywhere for continuity. In the end I used some left over fleece from my Rigel Bomber which I felt would be a thinner alternative whilst still keeping me warm - I now debate whether its thinner but it seems to have worked. It also meant there wasn't a really obvious transition between padded and none padded areas of the coat. The back arm pattern piece goes right across the back of the coat and so I think without another fabric backing the boiled wool you would notice the difference in thickness.

I am not going to lie, some areas are a little too bulky for my liking. When I was putting the front of the coat together I realised the combination of the Thinsulate and facings when the coat was buttoned up would essentially make me look a little like the Michelin man!! I therefore cut out the thinsulate from underneath the facings and it worked a treat. Well until I finished the coat and realised the way you tack the bottom of the coat up means there is a definite change in thickness at the front of the coat and it kind of juts out a little now. Bit sad about that. It could be rectifiable by unpicking the lining and the bottom hem and cutting out the excess thinsulate but I am happy for it just to be a live and learn exercise - life is way too short! I also still think this coat possibly at some angles makes me look HUGE!! Ha ha!! Not sure. I keep walking past mirrors of all kinds - in shops, shop windows, in car windows (I think you get the picture) and taking a peek at myself to make sure I don't look like a loon...I still like it though. And it seems that's how everyone else is wearing them this season....still it doesn't mean that it always suits you does it...! I think sometimes it takes time for my mind to readjust to new shapes on me.

Top bulkiness points go to the collar which was machine struggled like hell here even with a walking foot and I had to unpick it a number of times due to the stitching going crazy. It wasn't perfect when I finished but I was so annoyed at sewing and re-sewing that seam I couldn't bear to unpick it again - I think I probably should have done as I look at it in disappointment every time I put the coat on but maybe I see it more than others. Here's hoping!! When it was done I had to do some serious seam grading - there were so many layers!! However I think I have managed to keep it from showing through on the outside. The sleeve openings are a little bulky too but it was a little difficult to cut out the fleece from this area as I had sewn the fabric to the wool to keep it together. I decided to just leave it and again hack away at the seam to grade them down a little. I think overall it looks okay.

Lastly the buttonholes were a nightmare - the machine didn't want to sew them at all to the point I thought I may have to take them to someone to do for me. In the end I had to pull and push the fabric through as it just wouldn't feed properly. It went wrong a zillion times until I managed to get one right (this all being on a practise piece of fabric) and then I went for it. All but two worked. I unpicked one 20 times!!!!!!!! It just would not work. And then I realised I hadn't put the foot down for more than several attempts and I kicked myself. At least the fabric doesn't show the amount of times I unpicked the damn thing!!

As you can see my desire to get another winter coat sewn up has created some minor hurdles for me during the making process. I wont lie aside from my indecision on fabrics it’s been a rather frustrating experience - a self-created one admittedly - but I couldn’t really work out all of the sewing terms in the pattern so it kind of stalled my ability to sew it up quickly, requiring me to rely on Reverso or Google translate a little too much - FYI Reverso was by far the more reliable. I think the fact the instructions were in another language just made me unsure of each step. Google translate is a brilliant tool but when you realistically have to rely on common sense and pictures more than the translated instructions (some things Google just can’t translate and I suggest it updates its sewing terms!!) you know you just have to plod on and hope for the best. You kinda know you are doing it right from previous experience and by logic but it doesn’t really help much when you are so used to being told how to do it!! Or maybe it’s just me doubting my own ability!! It reminded me of my early experience with the book drape drape and the many other Japanese books out there - so many cute patterns and so little understanding of what’s going on in each step!

I could tell by looking at the pattern that it wouldn’t be a hard make in the sense that I wouldn’t encounter any really difficult tailoring but without it being in English I just questioned my every move. Now I would have bought the pattern in English but the translations take a little while to trickle through and I have a feeling this one won’t be available for a while - and by nature I am impatient so I saw it, wanted it and bought it as soon as it hit the shelves - to hell with sewing confusion later down the line!! If the whole instruction booklet had drawings in it then I would  have been fine as you can kind of decipher the meanings, but the part after sewing the collar in is a little too vague for me as translation tools just spouted gobbledygook!! I even tried to see what other people had done with the pattern and checked a few blogs to try and see pictures of the lining to work out how it was inserted but alas I couldn’t find anyone who blogged pictures showing anything of the insides of their coats until after I had inserted it! Boo! Eventually (after a lot of slow sewing!) I realised Republique Du Chiffon have really good tutorials on their site which if you look at the Michelle coat you can see similar steps. Now it is only in French but the pictures are awesome and that's all I needed to take me to the next step. Take a look here. Its only after looking at this that I realised that they are bagging the lining which is actually very easy - you essentially sew the right side of the lining to the right side of the facings/ coat and leave a section open to turn it out the right way round. The only slight struggle was the second sleeve.... I hand sewed part of it in the end but its definitely a new skill learnt! Yip!

So this coat took a little while to finish as a result of indecision, misunderstandings and translation issues but as you can see I worked it out in the end and you know maybe the fact I had to stall a few times wasn’t a bad idea as I think it is sewn up in a more thoughtful manner. If anyone out there is as rubbish at working out French sewing terms as I am then I can help a little on this pattern! Just ask. I can also point you to a few web pages that cover the basics which are enormously helpful.

My favourite part of this pattern is the collar. I think it is a really lovely shape. The whole coat is quite flattering and teams well with skinnies and heels, my outfit of choice. I feel I may not get as much wear out of it now its getting warmer and that is such a shame. Its been on and off my sewing table for the last two months as I deliberated with it but if I don't use it fully this year it will always serve me well next year. I think its by far my favourite coat pattern so far. What do you think?

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