Five months ago I first blogged about this project, designing, weaving, and sewing a Victorian style topcoat. After co-hosting a Victorian make along with Kristin from the Yarngasm podcast, (I didn't finish the coat by October 31st for those keeping score,) I did however end up finishing the fabric, which I talked about in the second part of this blog series.
I learned a ton of lessons while working on this coat, which I will discuss after the image gallery. This coat ended up being about 5 inches shorter than I had planned, but I added a hood and different closures, so it all evens out. Please look at the photos below and then skip to the bottom where I talk about the process, and the lessons I learned!
At first, I was intimidated by this project. I had just woven yards and yards of fabric using a yarn with blend of wool and alpaca; not cheap stuff. I wasn't intimidated by cutting into the fabric, but was terrified of sewing the pattern itself. I think after the weaving, the next part that took the longest in this process was finding a pattern for me to use.
First Lesson: There are not a lot of men's sewing patterns out there, especially for outerwear, and even more so when it comes to Victorian patterns. There was a wealth of patterns for women's patterns, both modern and Victorian.
After realizing that I wasn't going to find a men's Victorian topcoat pattern I was going to have to find a suit-coat pattern and then alter it.
Second Lesson: There are a few suit coat patterns out there, but many of them are pretty expensive. I also learned that I could easily draft my own pattern based on my own measurements. So I decided to find an online tutorial and went to town.
I started by taking my measurements twice, just to be sure that I was going to get a good fit. The drafting process wasn't hard, though I wish I had bought drafting paper. I used pieces of sketching paper taped together which worked just fine in the end, and the resulting pattern pieces are more durable now.
Third Lesson: I used the cutout piece of the arm pattern piece to frame my fabric since it was two-sided to decide which pattern I was going to use for the right-side of the fabric.
Once I cut all the pattern pieces out it was time to move to sewing.
Anytime you work with handwoven fabric I would HIGHLY recommend using fusible interfacing to stabilize your fabric, I decided that my current skills were high enough that I didn't need to do it for this pattern. I decided to use the reverse side of the coat as a finished object as well, but with a punk twist, so a rough finish inside was going to be ideal!
I cut the pattern pieces out of the fabric with a generous 1" seam allowance.
1. I didn't want to screw up and ruin my fabric.
2. This was going to add to the punk look later.
Fourth Lesson: Lay out your pattern pieces on the fabric one more time before cutting. When I added the extra seam allowance this shifted my pattern pieces significantly, so I ended up having to piece together some pieces of fabric in strategic places.
Once I sewed the pieces up, It was just a matter of sewing in darts and finishing the punk side.
Fifth Lesson: I think overall, the lesson I learned from this project was "Be Fearless." I know I have mentioned this before, but when you're about to cut into fabric that took hours of preparation and creation, it means a little bit more. When you have a big idea, go for it with fierce intention.
Read Part One here. Read Part Two here.
As we learned in part one, I am a crazy person. However, I love a challenge, and sewing a Victorian Topcoat out of handwoven fabric is just the challenge to currently keep me going. I started this project in June, and while it is October, I haven't been slacking off, I have just been busy weaving.
I think this is a good time to talk more about the actual process behind my Victoripunk Topcoat, as we got more into the why in part one.
Let's first start with the yarn choice.
I picked out Blue Sky Fibers Extra for this project for a few reasons; I have knitted with it before and enjoyed it, I love alpaca fiber, I had quite a bit of Marsh leftover from a previous project, and I knew it weave up into wonderfully dense and warm fabric.
Next, the weave structure.
Knowing that this was going to be a garment (though it is outerwear) I decided that a twill would give me the flexibility and movement necessary for a comfortable coat. I also needed the twill to achieve the conceptual part of this project. Ivy snakes up the sides of buildings, and I wanted to replicate that look in fabric. The twill made that possible.
The fabric itself is actually quite fascinating. The right and wrong sides look different (which makes sense) but they really do give a completely different effect when looking at them. One side seems to show off the green more, and the other side, the green is more muted. I think I am still going to use the more bold side, but I am not going to make any final decisions until I see it on the mannequin. Another aspect of the fabric that I was not expecting, was that depending on the angle in which you view the fabric, the pattern changes.
If you look at the sketch, the overall effect looks more muted and blended, which will be the case from far away, but up close the fabric will be quite striking.
Stay tuned for part three when we get into sewing.