A Long Journey

Some time ago, I got around to starting the Sewaholic Robson Trench coat. Not in beige cotton gabardine (classic? bah! boring!), but in a slubby black-cream silk. Lined and underlined with chartreuse silk!

I’ve intended to make more sewn winter wear for a while, but always wanted to start with a thick wool coat. The Robson pattern, with its waist shaping through the tie belt, recommends either using lighter fabrics or adding shaping through pattern changes with a thick fabric. I didn’t want to mess around too much with a slightly unfamiliar construction, so I settled upon the silk+silk combination to provide warmth while still remaining thin and allowing me to belt. Anyway, I’m not planning on Arctic exploration with this one, although the original trench coat, made out of tightly woven cotton, was the outerwear of choice for Shackleton’s Antarctic exploration. Who knew? Cotton at the poles!

I was a bit leery of the Robson pattern because of all the little bits and pieces and also because it’s a Proper Trench Coat. But making Sewaholic’s Minoru proved to be so easy, and I still look at it in awe, not quite believing I made it… so I figured Robson from the same pattern company couldn’t be that difficult.

It did take me a while, though, so I’m breaking the sewing across posts. The key to this project is to approach it knowing it might take weeks or months (depending on how much sewing time you can devote to it). Each stage was pretty intense, so I took breaks in between.

Stage I: Size Selection and Pattern Changes
I ironed all pattern tissues and stuck them to ironed newspaper for strength. Then I rough cut the pieces, and measured them at the shoulders to determine size 0 was a good fit (trench shoulders are supposed to lie along the outer shoulder line, so they can be worn over another layer). I also measured at key points at the bust and hip, and decided to cut a size 0 throughout…

…except that I did an illegal FBA at the bust: instead of the proper procedure, I just graded the lines out to the next size and back in again at the bulgiest parts of the princess seam. I’m sure this would be disastrous in a usual princess seam of a close-fitted dress. But the waistline in this coat is created mostly through the belt tie, and the bust falls almost straight to the waist. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my illegal manoeuvre will work!

002 grading

Next, I raised the waist a bit, to create the waist indentation at a higher point. Which meant repositioning the buttons and pocket openings. Finally, I also drew in optional shorter hems (7 inches less), which I think will be more flattering for me.

Stage II: Fabrics and Cutting
I always wished to make it a lined coat, but shrank a little from the work involved in drafting the lining pattern. Even in the original (unlined) pattern, I must admit I was bewildered by the sheer number of pattern pieces. Eventually I sorted them out. In the original pattern, there are two fronts, two backs and two sides which are single layers. Two front facing pieces cover half the front pieces from the inside. Then there are collars, storm flaps, pocket flaps, etc, all self-lined with the main fabric. For simplicity, I used a combination of lining and underlining and with my pattern changes, squeezed everything out of 4m of both fabrics.

I used these fabrics:001 fabrics

a) Black-cream matka silk, in a slubby herringbone weave – outer shell and pockets

b) Chartreuse silk – lining and underlining
(i) The large outer pieces (fronts, sides, backs, sleeves, pockets) are underlined, meaning the chartreuse pieces are joined to their corresponding black pieces before they are sewn together.
(ii) Some pieces (the storm collar assembly) are lined, meaning the black pieces and chartreuse pieces are sewn independently, then joined around the edges and turned the right way out.

c) Gingham cotton print – as sewn in interfacing for the bits and bobs (pocket flaps, epaulets, etc), meaning the gingham is basted to their corresponding black pieces. I interfaced pieces according to pattern instructions except the front facings since that area would already be four fabric layers thick with underlining.

Here’s the cutting diagram:

003 pieces

a) Everything with red lines is cut out of black outer fabric.
b) Everything with green lines is cut out of chartreuse lining fabric.
c) Everything with blue lines is cut out of interfacing.
d) Lines going in one diagonal indicate pieces to be cut once from folded fabric, giving mirror image pieces (separate or on the fold).
e) Cross hatching indicates that piece has to be cut twice from folded fabric – ending up with four pieces. However, I went overboard with this; only the pocket flap, pocket and belt loop need to be cut twice (the second belt loop piece forms the key strap). That is why there are exclamation marks reminding me to cut the other cross hatched pieces only once! once!
f) Finally, are you curious about the thick green incomplete outlines? Check out this really cool method of underlining and seam binding in one go! Of course, this only works on vertical-ish lines, that’s why the fabric extensions stop at the curvy parts of princess seams. In the first stage of basting, with just the outer edges lined up, they princes seam areas look like this:

004 side1

And after the lining is folded to the other side, and the remaining raw edge stay stitched (the matka silk was determined to fray), it looks like this:

005 side2

I’ll finish the raw edge with actual bias tape once the princess seam has been sewn and curved seam allowances clipped.  Think of the advantages of doing things this way! No endless seams to bind with bias tape, while manoeuvring large pieces through the machine! By the time you start sewing pieces together, their edges are already bound!

As you can see in the cutting diagram above, I cut a couple of lining squares to make bias tape; these were much smaller than I would have needed to finish all seams this way!

Ok, enough for now! Sewing next!


4 thoughts on “A Long Journey

  1. I love this! You are so well organized, I definitely want to try your color-coding system with my next project. And I can’t wait to put your seam finishing idea in my jar of tricks! Thank you!

  2. I’d never thought of colour coding either! that’s a great idea.
    I made the Robson coat last spring and it didn’t take me that long to do it, at least less than I thought it would. Pity I’m not wearing it very often thanks to a bad fusible interfacing! I’m loonking forward to the next steps you show us

    1. Yes, that’s what is so surprising about the pattern — it actually comes together quickly once you start sewing. I of course over-complicated it with my modifications!

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