The making of a BETTER coat...
Whether you are coat-shopping or idea-shopping, oh trust me, you want to read this...
Didya notice my older coats are cheaper? There's reasons for that and if you have a minute, let me share some tidbits with you. If you've been lurking here and are just stuck on which coat to choose, this might help too... or, if you're a sewist just trying to improve your own work and here looking for ideas, I welcome you as well, in the interest of the handmade community evolving our talents to draw more people into the handmade-movement. Fighting against cheap, throwaway garments made in sweatshops? YES!! 😎
Naturally, any artisan perfects their craft over time, but let me show you some of the tiny details in the evolution of my coats that you might otherwise overlook and I'll share what I've learned along the way... I'm going to try to start at the beginning and work forward, so bear with me... but oh yes, whether you are patron or fellow artisan, read on... there are good things herein...!Machine-needle-felting
My very first few coats weren't felted at all. I still have them hiding away, and they pale so much in comparison that I don't even want to sell them. 😥 They weren't any better than the sweaters they were made from, and just didn't feel sturdy enough. I'm SUPER picky about my garments.. All too often, I have a favorite item only to discover a hole in it. ARGH!! So frustrating.. then I discovered machine-needle-felting 😍, and in the evolutionary timeline of my sweater-goodies, that was like the "Sudden-Extinction-of-the-Dinosaurs K-T boundary" with clear before/after distinctions. Sure, you can wash the sweaters in hot water and pray to the Laundry Gods that the result is what you want, but the machine-needle felting gives a lot more control over this process. Instead of throwing the sweaters in the hot water and hoping for the best, I'm actually doubling the layers with the felting. I don't want to reinvent the wheel here, but I have a blog post which talks about felting a bit more. That's over here.
Disguise/embellish the ends of the belt ties
While there's nothing wrong with just attaching the belt ties to the waistband (and I don't want to cast aspersions at the other makers out there who sew them on this way and most do), I simply realized that this was a missed opportunity for further awesome details. 😱 Here's the belt ties on one of my very first few coats. This is what you'll commonly see with Katwise-inspired coats. 👇
But whether you have an itty-bitty waist or voluptuous curves, the waist is an area of many garments that gets a well-deserved accent piece.. otherwise why else would the world be full of all sorts of decorative belts?? 😁 Witness this lovely close-up of The Arborist. So not only did I disguise the end of the belt ties, but now it has this lovely accent piece with ✨sequins✨. Oooooo lookie, lookie! 👇
I must warn you, if you tell me that the undisguised belt ties are better than those awesome sequins on that amazing faux appliqué, I'm gonna give you the hairy eyeball and we cannot be friends. 🤨 (Just kidding... we're all pals here.)💖😁 Not all of my newer coats have sequins on this part, but I try to do some sort of accent piece to disguise the ends of the belt ties. I think it's awesome!😎
Earthtones not your thing? Here, here's something in purple instead... same concept - cleverly disguised belt-tie ends... I even matched the color of the sequins to the fleece pattern. This is on "Up All Night". 😎👇
Sometimes with more abstract-design fleeces, there's not really part of the pattern that's suited for an appliqué design-specific "fussy cut" type of accent, so I just use a generic shape, but it still looks neat. Here's a sideways heart-shape from Madazulu, one of my latest works.
If you look at a set of toggle clasps, you can sort of see this same theme/concept.. there's always a sort of "finishing touch" to cover the ends. It just makes complete sense now, doesn't it?? 😃👇
Okay, now we need to backtrack a bit... let's look at Blue Fires for a minute.. this coat has the older bodice style, which does not use princess seams. This was really limiting, as I could only make bodices as big as the sweaters I could find... and I almost never find larger size merino wool/cashmere sweaters. So... there are no Goddess size coats using this bodice style, and that would be why.
Look ma, no princess seams! (Bonus points if you noticed the lack of embroidery/sequins as well)👇
But notice one more thing. There's no zipper. Look again.. I feared zippers for a long time, and so my oldest coats just fastened with clips. They aren't bad, and if you want a little breeze-in-the-bosoms to keep you less-than-roasty-toasty, they're awesome.. but most jackets and coats use zippers (and sometimes buttons), it's what most folks are used to... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Look ma, no zipper! 👇
So.. in penance for fearing the zipper for so long, I lowered the prices on my non-zippered coats so if you really want one of my coats but the cat got cancer and you're flat broke, I'll help you out a bit. (My cat got cancer too... OMFreakingG I know that pain! 😭 She survived because she is loved, but rest in peace, my wallet.💀😅) But yeah... Am I not generous?? 😎 Ooo but I'll do even better for my fellow sewists... if you Fear The Zipper like I did for the longest time, here's how I sew them now. 😁 Spoiler alert - the result is a zipper-tape that's fully encased on both sides and has enough support that it's not all weird and wavy (which happens when zippers are attached to thinner fabric that's too light and doesn't have enough support.)
Another element of The Great Coat Evolution is that I realized that fleece at the end of the sleeves just feels better. Whether there's thumbholes, or no thumbholes, it just has a better feel to it. I owe you a future blog post about how I sew the sleeves. Spoiler alert - it's not the "normal way" at all. OMG why would you endure such unnecessary torture?! Such blasphemy. I found this "sleevil"-avoidance trick works well for sleeves with thumbholes too. Quick! Someone get me a thumbhole.. okay, here we go. This one is from Winterfell.
Coats with fleece not your thing? That's okay. I CAN make coats 100% cashmere, no fleece. It won't have the patterns that you see here, but it can be done. If you wish to throw down the gauntlet and challenge me to do this, you can do that over on Fashion By Demand. The thing I like about the newer sleeves that I do, is that the overlocked seam isn't right at the edge. Let me fetch a photo of what looks like, so you can see. <hunts thru prior coat photos>
Okay I seriously owe you a better photo so I'll update this but for now, this will have to do. <sigh> As you can see, the overlocked seam is right at the edge of the sleeve. I'd often overlock twice, or hand-sew sequins on top of this to make it more sturdy, but I still like not having an overlocked seam right over the hands... because you use your hands a lot, so this part gets a lot of contact and potential wear and will be more prone to catching on things.👇
See, there's really a lot of thought and engineering that I put into these coats, so that's why my sleeves evolved over time - my endless pursuit of a longer-lasting, more wearable garment. Like seriously, I do NOT want these coats stuck under plastic for eternity. (I grew up with friends whose parents covered the furniture with plastic to keep dust off and it was like... creepy). Nooooo! I want you to wear the thing! That's why it's art-to-wear, rather than art-to-hang-up-and-forget-about. 😏
Another thing I have learned is how to make the hoods better. I'd been felting the pieces worn about the head for awhile, and at most they were double-thickness. They had to be, in order to support the machine-embroidery and sequins that I like to add to the hood. We have to go back to Up All Night for a minute and take a closer look at that hood. It's SO pretty, isn't it?? Not only that machine embroidery but there are sequins on BOTH the inside and the outside of the hood... I used the same color in the bobbin thread on the embroidery so I can get away with this and it looks awesome. I don't always do sequins on both the inside/outside of the hood, it just kinda depends... but is this not an absolute masterpiece? I know, I am shamelessly fishing for compliments now..😏 👇
Still though, as I kept making these coats, I figured something else out. As much as I LOVE that awesome purple hood, I like the look better when I use fleece for the edge of the brim, so the hood is less "wavy" right on the brim. Here's the hood on Icicles where I used this technique and oh yes, it still has sequins!
Icicles is an AWESOME coat (OMG that blue...💙) but after making it, I realized I wanted even more structure in the hood brim.. It adds a couple of hours to the coat-making time so my prices on these newest coats are a lil' higher (hey... I gotta keep my utilities paid too 🥺, please and thank you for understanding 😅), but I started taking strips of quadruple-felted material and stuffing those inside the hood brim to give it even more structure. The result is a heavier hood-brim that doesn't give up in a breeze and hangs better. Okay, it's eyeball-testing time... Look at Kubula Ma for a second... can you see how the brim is less wavy and hangs better? At the same time, it has none of that overly-tubular "unsightly sausage" look that Katwise warns us about.. (you know it when you see it, it looks like someone stuffed one of those animal-making twisty balloons inside the brim). So if you want a hood that holds its structure around the brim and hangs nicely without collapsing too easily on your glorious noggin or that yields too quickly to a slight breeze but also doesn't look overly stuffed and weird, THIS is how it's done.😎 👇
If you're at all confused by "hood brim", here... I'll highlight it. It's this section that I'm talking about... 👇
Utopia was the first coat that has this, and every coat I've made subsequently has it. On all my newer coats that have this, it's noted right here in the sizing section, so you'll know right away. Look for "has upgraded hood brim" and now you know what I mean! 👇
Bottom hems and felted skirt-sections
Did you happen to notice in the photo above where it says "pixie point..."? Here, let's look at that again...👇
I had been getting some requests for "pixie length" or "pixie hem", so the first coat I attempted this on was The Arborist...
These hems evolved too... After making The Arborist and Icicles, I realized I wanted them to be able to be a bit longer, so I thought to add fleece at the bottom... thus, my pixie coats evolved to look more like this, and the positive feedback I've gotten has been overwhelming, so most of my new coats will probably be made this way.. (The Victoriana coat here is flapping in the breeze a little but for the most part, these pixie points are fairly symmetrical so keep that in mind, they are not as irregular as they look in the photo) 👇
On the pixie bottom coats, I even needle-felt the skirt pieces too.. so they are the awesome super-soft double-thickness... which allows for embroidery and sequins on that section too! Ah, the level of sparkle that you just now realized you really want. 🤩 It's not quite as visible in the photo because the ones in this photo are black, but I often attach various types of bells onto the skirt, or sometimes on the pockets - in addition to my common practice of attaching little bells to the ends of the hood and the belt ties.. not to mention, this provides sturdier backing for the pockets.
Here's a better picture of bells at the end of the belt-ties/hood on another one of my coats.. so before you ask, YES... when I use the "clapperless" bell style, I know that two of them must hang together to make them jingle. 😁
So my newest and very best coats with all these supercool elements are a little bit more, and if you're willing to give my older stuff a new home, you get a bit of a break. And if your feeling is "OMG all your coats are an arm and a leg"! ... know that Kubula Ma was like 45 hours of work. I am not kidding - I literally timed how long it took me to make (I do that with all my newer coats, actually). See for yourself.. 😱👇
So yes! I do ask for an arm and a leg and your firstborn child in payment for my coats.. just kidding - your firstborn child is safe, rest assured! 😇
And yeah, I detest using concepts like "flash sales" and things like that to try to lure you. Nah, if you really love my coats, you'll buy the one you want when you are ready... and I'm all too happy to have you check in from time to time to see what's new. That said, understand the the lower prices on my older coats reflect less completion time, coats without princess seams or zippers, coats without embroidery/sequins, not 100% cashmere, etc. The other side of that is my newest coats use the best materials, best techniques and the most time, so the prices just are what they are. I have to be fair to my spouse, and me working a whole lot of unpaid hours isn't fair to anyone. My nicest newest fanciest coats just aren't going to be priced lower like the older ones. The purple coats also don't get a break - purple cashmere (and wool) are in highest demand, hardest to find and most expensive for me to acquire. If a coat is just unattainable, that's why I also make needle-felted hats, arm-warmers and leg-warmers, so you can still have a treasure, and my work doesn't have to be undervalued. 😇
I do hope this has been an enlightening read that explains a lot... Can you tell that my favorite "subject" in school was "Show And Tell" from Elementary school? 😁 Anyway my main point here was to do a few things, which hopefully I have now accomplished:
- Demonstrate how my coats have evolved and improved over time
- Give more attention to all the tiny insane-level details that go into these coats that really make a superior coat.
- Provide ideas to other sewists on things to try to make their own coats better
I think I'm with Katwise on this one. When you make something amazing, someone will always try to copy.. so it's just better to embrace rather than fight against this. Serious, serious shout-out and gratitude to her. (Did you buy her tutorial?? You totally should. If you like my funny rambling, hers is even better)
And... If I help you make your own coats better so that consumers of handmade goods have a better experience, that's awesome, and I'm thrilled to play any part in that. That said, if you use any of my techniques, I'm also with Katwise in that I'm going to ask for just a tiny little shout-out somewhere.. pretty please? ...As I have no advertising budget and rely solely on word-of-mouth. It costs you nothing, is an excellent show of grace and I appreciate it so, so VERY much.😭💖 Whether you're on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, etc... please feel free to tag me! I'll even make it easy for you. Here I am on social media:
Thanks for reading.🥰