Change of coat making plans: now I’m doing a vintage pattern!

Hello, friends! No 2016 roundups or 2017 plans from me, although this is my first post of the new year. There’s so much crap going on in the world that it’s still sometimes difficult to focus on seemingly inconsequential things like sewing and knitting when you want to tear your hair out at the madness of it all. But when those things bring you great joy and pleasure and ease stress, to help balance out other things or provide a much-needed distraction, then I guess they aren’t really so inconsequential, are they? And now that’s the extent of the year end/beginning navel-gazing you’ll get from me. On to some maybe-not-so-inconsequential-after-all sewing.

Early in December, I did a muslin for the Clare coat I was planning to sew. I was so excited, but it was a big fail. Ugh! I’ve seen many lovely versions, and the muslin was promising except for a couple of major areas that I just didn’t/don’t currently have the patience to power through: while I sewed my size as indicated by the chart, the raglan sleeves should be roomy and weren’t at all, and the underarm was horribly constricting for anything but the lightest of clothing under just the cotton muslin. I knew there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d fit a sweater under, let alone Thinsulate interlining for the coat, and a pretty thick wool fashion fabric. I mean I should have probably thought to go up a size since I knew I was interlining it, but that being said, the fit would never have worked for me even with a thinner fabric and no interlining. Not in any way I’d consider comfortable, at least.

This was all somewhat perplexing too, as I have thin arms and narrow shoulders, so I wasn’t expecting it. And the torso fit well (well, darts were too high but this is typical for me). I guess I should have sized up, in fact maybe even 2 or more sizes (an FBA alone certainly wouldn’t have cut it as the constricting bits were mostly above the fullest part of my chest), yet I cut the pattern tissue to my size instead of tracing like I normally would (because it’s sooo tedious tracing the bajillion pieces for outerwear). Frankly, I just don’t feel like trying to figure that all out right now. I’m left with grading it up or tweaking the fit myself—and I’m not very familiar with fitting two-piece raglan sleeves—or else purchasing the pattern again and hoping a larger size it better. So, I’m bailing on Clare right now. I’ll try again in the future with some other fabric! I still have some mustard cashmere blend that’s gorgeous and more lightweight, so it might be better suited for it, though I will still have to tackle the weird fit issues. But it would be beautiful in that fabric.

Instead, right now, I still want to use my gorgeous black bouclé wool for another coat, but this time I’m going to use a vintage pattern! Which of course comes with its own set of issues and challenges, but that’s part of the puzzle and fun of this type of mega(ish) project! (By the way, this time last year I wanted to sew a vintage hooded swing coat… which got pre-empted by my Cascade duffle coat. Well I still have the fabric for that and definitely still intend on doing that project someday, too. But this one first!)

vintage Simplicity coat patterns

These three are basically the coats I’m selecting among. And it’s possible I may try to mix-and-match a bit! I’m definitely doing a somewhat shorter length, about at my knee or maybe a bit shorter, but I will decide once I do a muslin.

I really like the idea of raglan sleeves like Simplicity 1286, but I prefer the more dramatic collar of 3630.

simplicity 1286

simplicity 3630

And the sleeves on 3630 are interesting because they’re two pieces like a raglan (so seam down the outside of the arm), but they’re actually set in. I think the sleeve width (going by artwork alone) for 3630 is what I’m after, and I’ll do a three quarter length, like my favorite vintage coats. (Don’t worry, I’ve already knit elbow length cabled gloves to keep my arms warm, though I haven’t blogged about them yet!)

I also like the collar on view 1 of 5103. That’s the red and leopard print versions at the bottom right of that pattern envelope—you can do up the collar with 2 hooks and eyes which is kind of neat. Though I would prefer to catch the closures in the seam allowance so they aren’t just sewn to the under collar after (like the pattern indicates), and I’m not quite sure the best way to go about that.  Maybe just sewing over them super slowly, using the fly wheel by hand to make sure the needle clears the metal bits of the hooks and eyes? I’m a bit concerned about this though, because if it doesn’t come out looking perfect and closing up exactly the way I want it, I will be mega angry. So that makes me lean back towards sewing 3630 instead.

simplicity 5103

I did an extremely preliminary check of the patterns and it’s worth noting how pattern artwork can sometimes lie. Given the drawings, I would guess that 3630 has a wider and more boxy shape, but when I pulled both it and 1286 out and compared body pieces, they were nearly the same width! I haven’t checked 5103 yet but I’ll be curious if it’s similar, or narrower through the body.

I’ve also been going back and forth about pockets (a lot of people weighed in with a variety of opinions on Instagram). I think I’m mostly settled on doing angled single welt pockets like 1286. I’ll definitely be doing some practice runs though, for single welt pockets and bound buttonholes, as both are things I haven’t done before!

The nice thing is that because I adore vintage coats so much (um, a bit too much), I have some I can use as references. Thankfully I tend to favor longer coats with free hanging linings, which means I can peek up into the innards without taking anything apart! Because frankly, that’s well beyond my upper limit of “things I’m willing to do to study details for a project”.

So coming up soon, if I can take any photos worth looking at (which is possibly doubtful since I’m not taking them apart), I may do a post that summarizes a few inside details of my most-worn vintage coats. They’re a bit more simple than I expected! Stay tuned for more coat making… I better get started soon, so that I’m not finishing it when it’s too warm to wear it! (Hey, a girl can dream of spring, right? 😉 )

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Golly, 20 Comments!

  • So grateful to hear that someone else has had issues with Closet Case Patterns sleeves! I tried sewing the Nettie dress – the sleeves and shoulders were just unbelievably tight. I figured it must have something to do with my fabric not being stretchy enough (though I tested it against the stretch gauge and it seemed right). I have very narrow shoulders and Olive Oyl-esque broomstick arms, so it was really unexpected! Normally I have to do a narrow shoulder adjustment on every garment I make.

    I love the collar on 5103…it adds a really unique element to the coat. Good luck with the new project! Given that everything you make is lovely, I’m sure this will be no exception.


    • I think the collar on 5103 is particularly neat, too. In reading the instructions, I’m not sure what I think about the construction. You don’t construct is like a normal notched jacket collar (not that I find that easy as I did it once and had a wretched time of it), but sew through all the layers of the collar and facing and jacket together. I’m thinking in my fabric that I’m not even sure that would be possible, all that thickness! I may have to play with some layers and see, unless I decide on one of the other patterns. 🙂


  • Oh, I’m sorry to read about Clare Coat! I had an issue with tight sleeves when cut in my size, but luckily I’d traced so could go up a size and even added 3/8″ to the curved sides of sleeves to be on the safe side. It ended up in the margins as just a size up solved it. Keep us posted on your vintage coat, it’s going to turn up great!!


    • Thanks! Yeah, I can’t compare the pattern and I’m positive I can’t sew with a small enough seam allowance and still make it work. I’ll definitely have to go back to the drawing board at some point!


  • Intriguing that all three of these have 32 inch bust and yet vary between 12 and 14–maybe it is individual companies, or maybe differences in age of patterns…? Good luck with whatever you do!


    • Yes, age of patterns I believe! Simplicity is annoyingly bad at dating their patterns I’ve found, it’s kind of hit or miss. 5103 and 3630 are undated, but I would suspect maybe around 1960 or early 60s. 1286 is the one that’s marked size 14, and is dated 1955. So I’d say somewhere in the time they changed sizes.


      • Yes, that is annoying. I’ve always found lots of vintage stuff is undated. Different priorities back when.


  • These are all nice. They seem to be from different years. Is the first one the oldest?


  • You’ve inspired me to purchase a vintage coat pattern and make coat! no surprise since I’ve been sewing since I was 12 years old! look forward to seeing your finished product!


  • Use dental floss to sew your hooks and eyes on. That way you will have control to have exactly where you want them. This is also a good tip for coat buttons as they take a lot of stress. I recently made up a vintage coat pattern with a large collar. I’m not really totally happy with it. Even though interfaced with horsehair, I find it flops around a bit too much. Might make it smaller one of these days. Do a mock up of the collar before you put too much work in, you might find it is a little too big and floppy. Good luck!


    • Yes, that does echo one of my concerns about the collar for 5103, that if I didn’t wear it hooked up, it would feel excessively big. I’m leaning towards the collar on 3630 though and will do a sample of the collar on my muslin (whichever one I end up going with) to make sure I like it (and to figure out the roll line as it isn’t marked).


  • I’ve had the exact same issue with the Claire coat. Very small shoulders and arms and the arms are very constricting. I’m going to resew my muslin with smaller seam lines and see what difference that makes. I bought the pattern as a PDF so can reprint. I’m thinking going 2 sizes larger.


    • I’m glad I’m not alone with my issues on the shoulder and arms of Clare! Good luck figuring it out! Mine will be shelved until probably next year.


      • Tasha,

        I’ve made a successful muslin! The issue with the constricting shoulders was solved when I did an above the bust petite adjustment. I pinned it out first and then made another muslin. Best idea I had was to pick up a 3.99 throw blanket at IKEA. Worked like a charm. For the narrow sleeves take a look at the photo of Heather wearing the coat, It was a style choice and not how I saw the coat, so I simply moved the seam line out. Just was sure to start it after the shoulder.


  • I have lots of vintage patterns and the general rule of thumb I’ve found with Simplicity patterns is that the instruction sheet usually had a date if the pattern was from the 40’s or 50’s. Then they seemed to stop dating them for the early 60’s and around 1964 started putting a date on the envelope. Very annoying.

    I love all 3 patterns you’ve chosen and look forward to seeing which one or combo of pieces you put together for your coat. Which ever one you chose I think it will look amazing.


  • Is Thinsulate very voluminous? Like puffy as hell? If so, using it as a warm interlining for an oversized coat may ruin the coat all together. Oversized coat should have fall and drape. I am not trying to be a party-pooper.
    Give it a try before you lung into it. I have no idea what they are selling in US, but we have something called “feather touch” – thin but warm interlining.


    • It’s actually funny that you brought this up as I spent a good portion of this evening going back and forth about this for the very reason you mentioned. I’ve never heard of feather touch but I know Bergen tailoring supply shop sells lambswool, which is what most of my vintage coats (albeit woven when this is apparently maybe knit) are interlined with. I’m worried it won’t be enough warmth but it’s definitely much thinner and no danger of looking like the Michelin man.. I have the thinsulate on hand and I hadn’t pulled it out since purchasing it a year ago (when I first started this project plan) and did so earlier tonight… argh.I think it might be better suited for a shorter coat.


  • […] summer. My fall and winter is filling up quickly though. I have a jacket and a coat on tap (the vintage bouclé coat that got pre-empted by the jacket I sewed for London that I simply must share with you at some […]


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