Both daughters were in desperate need of new winter coats – and not just the pretty woollen kind. They need warm, waterproof coats that could be worn all through the British winter.
Warm, waterproof, winter coats have up till now been the one item I have shied away from making and bought in an outdoor shop (I find that coats advertised in ordinary shops as raincoats rarely actually are!). I have been making everything in their wardrobes (bar tights and socks) for a couple of years now but the limited availability of nice waterproof fabric and the fear of sewing with it had put me off coats in the past.Luckily my local shop Simply Fabrics has started stocking a larger range of waterproof fabrics in recent years so there is often a good selection of PUL fabrics plus waxed cottons etc., and after the success of the anorak I made myself earlier this year my confidence was bolstered enough to try making the girls’ coats too.
I had decided that I really wanted to make them parka style coats but was torn between buying a pattern or drafting my own the way I wanted it. There seemed to be a lack of patterns of that style available (I believe quicker patterns are more popular) although I liked the Lars Parka by Zonen09. I was put off by the fact that the parka pattern is an extension of a simpler coat so to buy the whole pattern would prove relatively pricey. Fate intervened though, in the shape of a 20% sale of children’s patterns at Upcraft Club so I took the opportunity to purchase the very reasonably priced Thyme Vest which I figured would save me some drafting time and be fairly simple to adapt to the styles I wanted.
The Big Coat
For my eldest’s coat I used a size 8 as a starting point, I added a good 6 inches of length to the pattern (a longer coat is a warmer coat) and redrafted the armscye to match a sleeve I borrowed from a coat pattern in an Octobre magazine.
The sleeve ended up too narrow – not too narrow to wear, but too narrow to wear comfortably over her ill fitting baggy school sweaters (the only bit of her uniform I can’t get away with making). As I didn’t have enough fabric left to re-cut the sleeves I simply added and inch wide strip to the underarm seam which worked perfectly and is virtually unnoticeable.
The fabric I used was two layers of contrasting cotton bonded with PUL, which I know is brilliant at repelling water (it is the same fabric I used for my anorak) whilst remaining breathable. It is reasonably easy to sew except that it does get quite bulky in places.For the lining of the coat I recycled the lining of her previous coat at my daughter’s suggestion. Whilst the coat was now too small in the arms and the outside wool getting very worn and shabby, the inside was still in quite good nick and my daughter was reluctant to see it go. The new lining needed adding to (as it was two sizes larger) which meant adding more patchwork and more quilted interlining behind. Some of the sewing became a real battle at this point (fitting multiple layers of double sided pul, quilted interlining and patchwork though the machine at once).Another necessity, apparently, was a fur trimmed hood. I achieved this by making the hood as the pattern suggested but adding a facing on the inside of the hood in the main fabric. I inserted poppers into this facing before sewing up the hood and made the fur trim as a separate piece which can be attached and removed.
The Little Coat
Before I set off to look for fabric for the coats I asked the girls what colour they would like – the eldest requested blue/grey or navy and the youngest asked for orange, red, pink or yellow, which pretty much sums their tastes up. Luckily the fabric shop stocked both a navy and this orange fabric which is much thinner, composing of a single layer of fabric and coated in PUL. This means it has a slightly shiny surface and whilst easier to get through the machine in terms of thickness is an absolutely nightmare for the feed and skipped stitch syndrome.
I remember vowing never to work with this type of fabric again when I was making nappies years ago but the orange was too cheerful to turn down and I made it work by pulling the fabric through the machine at the back and using tissue paper on some of the seams. These methods did mean some of the top stitching ended up not quite as neat as it could have been.
For this version of the coat I used a size 6, again adding some length. This time I opted to remove the gathering at the waist and redraw the side seams to create a slight cocoon shape. The lower back piece was also split in two to create a centre back seam with a split at the bottom. Apparently the fur trim was also essential on this coat but this time I integrated it into the hood. The other request was for a jazzy lining, so I pulled out a few different cottons and she selected this black and white one which makes a great combination with the orange. Again I added a quilted interlining to provide warmth.The brass poppers I used on the first coat didn’t look brilliant against the orange so I used smaller poppers and hid them on this version.Her older sister says she looks like a pumpkin and perhaps I should have thought twice about the cocoon shape combined with the colour, but I actually love it and my youngest has brushed off the pumpkin comment and declared herself little orange riding hood instead.I’m really quite jealous of their coats but not nearly jealous enough to make myself one – well not yet anyway. There is quite a lot of work in making these types of coats and hand sewing the hems gave me blisters. I’m also very much hoping I made them big enough to get two winters out of them not just one.