Thursday, November 15, 2012

Finally Finished: Toggle Jacket!

That's the smug smile of a real sewasaurus. 
I've always felt that one couldn't be a real sewasaurus, much like the Velveteen Rabbit, until one produced a credible piece of outerwear, preferably of wool. I know, I know, that's just an arbitrary standard that my brain came up with, and I know plenty of other sewing bloggers who've never made coats that I consider to be real. My brain just works in weird ways. Anyway, in my quest to sew a wardrobe appropriate for San Francisco weather, I decided that it was finally time to tackle an honest-to-goodness jacket/coat. (What is the difference, anyway? Is it length? thickness? material? personal label preference?)

ZOMG I love that the sleeves are actually long enough!

Although I've got a lovely piece of red wool coating laid away, I'm too much of a chicken to dare working with it just yet. I decided to make a more casual, more machine washable, wearable technique-muslin* of sorts out of navy blue anti-pill fleece instead. At $5/yd on sale at Jo-Ann's (plus my teacher discount of 15%!), it's definitely cheap enough that I feel free to make mistakes, while still (somewhat) getting the experience of working with such thick material and the types of techniques that requires.

Side view.

Back view.

This project actually works nicely for R&RtRTW, too. I used to have a charcoal gray fleece jacket that I bought for cheap at one of those little Forever21-level-of-quality stores at the Tanforan Mall several years ago. It was light since it was fleece, and warm enough, considering that it was unlined and cheap. I wore it everywhere and wasn't afraid of getting it dirty since it was just fleece and could be thrown into the washing machine. It pilled like crazy after a while, though, and I sadly retired it after the beating it took in a two-week Hong Kong trip. I've missed it in the intervening years, as my wool peacoats sometimes look too formal (or are too heavy) for just going out to run errands. So this fleece jacket steps into the gap between expensive long wool coat and waterproof ski jacket.

I made View C, but even shorter.
I chose Butterick 6775 for my pattern; I picked it up a year ago at a thrift store in a big bundle of patterns, but never thought I'd actually use it. The insets just looked kind of weird, and the "semi-fitted" description scared me since I thought everything should be extremely fitted back then (now that I'm an older and wiser seamstress, I realize that outerwear shouldn't be fitted within an inch of its life, because otherwise how will it fit over your actual clothes?). When I took the pattern pieces out, I realized that the sleeve and collar were both missing; thankfully, the previous owner of the pattern had thoughtfully replaced the one-piece sleeve pattern with a two-piece sleeve from another pattern, and the collar was pretty easy to make up.

Since I only purchased two yards of fleece, I was barely able to fit in all my pattern pieces, and even then I had to make the collar shorter than I wanted. Frustratingly, I ended up cutting about five inches off of the bottom of the coat because it looked awkward at the original length, which meant I could have made a taller collar if I'd, you know, planned ahead and tried holding the pattern pieces up to my body. Rookie mistake, I know.

You can really see the sleeve head dimpling here. 
Initially, I was afraid that the jacket would be too small, since it's meant for a 32.5" bust, but I needn't have worried. That whole semi-fitted description was serious; I ended up doing an SBA on the front inset (which incidentally is a very clever design feature -- it provides shaping like a modified princess seam, but doesn't look like one at all) and shaping the side seams more by taking it in at my waist and gradually tapering to almost a 1/4" seam allowance to accommodate my hips (hello pear shape!). The two-piece sleeve was quite easy to set in once I took out the excessive sleeve cap ease and took in the underarm seam by over an inch! I mean, I know my arms are spindly, but these sleeves were really quite ginormous. I'm pretty pleased with how they look now, although there's still some dimpling at the top. Maybe I need to go back and put in an actual sleeve head.

Figuring out the toggle placement was actually one of the most frustrating parts of sewing this. I kept sewing them on misaligned or crooked, and let me just tell you that ripping seams out of fleece is so. freaking. difficult. The seam ripping frustration might also have been compounded by the fact that *ahem* I didn't baste the toggles first and just went straight for sewing them in "permanently" every time, hoping against hope that the placement would be miraculously correct. I promise, one day I will learn.

Finally more or less lined up!

The pockets were also an ordeal, trying to get them the same size and fit them onto the little space I had on the sides of my coat. I opted to make them without the flap, and with an angled hand entry like kangaroo pockets. One of my biggest pet peeves with the RTW toggle coat I already own (but wool, and much heavier than this one, so not redundant in my wardrobe) is that trying to stick your hands into pockets vertically is really awkward and uncomfortable, so this was my attempt to remedy that bad design.

In hindsight, I probably should've added stay tape to the opening to keep it from getting stretched out. 

I lined the coat in this fuzzy plaid flannel; I actually cut it from a cheap RTW poncho that was gifted to me. I felt slightly bad cutting it up, since it was a gift, but I'm telling myself that I would never have worn it in its original form, and at least this way it's going to good use. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough yardage to line the sleeves, so I just finished the armscyes with seam binding and tacked it to the seam allowance at the shoulder and armpit. This makes the insides of the sleeves look really ugly, but hey, nobody's going to see it, right? I might go back and add sleeves at some point if I find a similar-looking flannel, but for now, it's fine.

Looks normal enough when the jacket flops open...

...but when the jacket's flipped inside out, you see what a lie it all is -- there's no sleeve lining! Oh, and that flannel was so loosely woven and unstable that I couldn't get the plaid to line up at the center back seam. Oh well. 
Closer look at the inside...I love how the the other side of the cording stitching looks on the facing, and the way the lining looks with the dark blue makes me so happy!

I'm thinking of adding some kind of closure to the bottom half,
like a large snap or a hook and eye, since it tends to flip open.
I'm not sure what exactly to put there, though, since I still want
to be able to wear the jacket open and a large snap might be
kind of distracting. Thoughts? 
Summary:
Fabric: 2 yards anti-pill fleece, one Korean poncho's worth of 80/20 wool-poly blend (it looked just like this, but in black and white)
Notions: 2.5 yards of cotton cord, 4 wooden toggle buttons, seam binding
Techniques: grading seams, topstitching, setting in sleeves
Hours used: Erg. A lot. I made it through a whole season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer working on this thing, and that's not even counting all the times I put it on pause to sew particularly tricky bits.
Will you make it again? I love the toggle look, and am totally intrigued by this inset feature, but I think more than one coat with this design is unnecessary. Also, as mentioned, I already have a RTW toggle coat. The two-piece sleeve, though -- I am totally using that on future coats now that I've adapted the pattern for my arms!
Total cost: $17. This is probably the ultra-discounted sale price of a similarly shapeless polyester coat at Forever21 or one of those generic Korean import women's fashion boutiques that are ubiquitous in SoCal, but I made this one so it's got extra value to it! Also, it kind of bothered me that the toggles and cording were more expensive than the actual fabric.
Final thoughts: Maybe it's one of those biased mom thoughts, you know, my-child-is-gorgeous-and-perfect-because-he's-mine sort of things, but I really really really like this coat. I am so thrilled with myself for making real functional outerwear -- it's actually quite warm (at least for California...it wouldn't begin to pass muster in a Canadian winter!) and navy blue goes with almost everything, it's casual but not sloppy, it has that vaguely military look I love because of the cording, and I get the satisfaction of saying I made it! I'll wager that it's better made than any other similarly priced fleece coat with no interfacing that you can get at the mall, and oh gosh I just can't get over that I made real outerwear! I'm totally psyched about making my red wool coat now, even though I know it will probably be next winter by the time I get around to it. And can I also congratulate myself for persevering through the 80+ degree days and trying this coat on countless times and sweating because of all the poly and wool, because now I am totally prepared for the fact that winter is coming. Seriously, I think this is the first time I've actually done season-appropriate sewing ahead of time!

Apparently winter is coming from behind me. 


*Although this isn't the pattern I intend to use for my red wool coat, it does give me practice with the techniques that I may need to use, so it's a technique muslin, get it?

80 comments:

  1. OMG! I love that coat! It looks so great. I would never have been able to envision it from the vintage pattern!

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    1. Thanks! I only envisioned it because I knew less seams would be better for a fabric as thick as fleece, and this was the coat pattern I had with the least seams, but even then I was unsure how it would end up...I'm glad it turned out well!

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  2. Love it! It looks great, and I never would have thought it was fleece in those first few pics. Nice job!

    I made a jacket out of sweatshirt fleece that I've been wearing this fall and I feel pretty satisfied wearing my me-made outerwear.

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    1. Oooh, a jacket from sweatshirt fleece sounds awesome! Isn't making your own outerwear so satisfying?

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  3. so impressed! very cute & suits you well.

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  4. Wow this looks amazing on you! And it's reminded me of and old plan of mine. I love fleece for its warmth and snuggle factor but so so so many fleece garments look like sacks. Warm snuggly snacks. I had this plan to make classy nicely shaped things from fleece. This is a prefect example of the concept and has got me all fired up to follow through. It'll have to wait until after summer though! This is basically just fantastic in every way and a very classy piece. I already thought you were a real sewasaurus but you definitely deserve to feel pretty damn smug.

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    1. Yes!! I did not want a fleece garment that looked like a sack, so I really tried to elevate the material by making a slightly more structured (but still snuggly) jacket. I hope you do try it when summer is over, as it's pretty satisfying and smug-inducing to make outerwear!

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  5. Wow, it's really nice and it suit you well. For me the difference between a coat and a jacket is the length. top->jacket, dress->coat...

    It is nice, you can identify so fast that something does not fit and you can just shorten it...

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    1. Ahh, that makes sense...so it is a jacket! I think identifying fit issues comes through experience, but even though I've only got a year or so of sewing under my belt, I already know that SBAs are standard for me, as well as fixing the shaping on the side seams to accommodate my waist to hip ratio.

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  6. Man, you are just knocking it out of the park these days! This is awesome! As someone who is still a little afraid to tackle a coat, I think you deserve to brag, and brag hard! Excellent work!

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    1. See, that's why I made a jacket from fleece...it's a cheap enough fabric that I'm not too afraid to mess up! I think you can totally tackle a coat, though -- it's just a matter of doing your homework beforehand, it seems. Thank you for your very kind words about my jacket!

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  7. It's fantastic and now you can tackle a coat without so much worry. I really trying to get courage to sew a coat too

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    1. Thanks! If anyone can successfully tackle a coat, it's you, Rachel!

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  8. I'm so impressed with your coat! It looks so stylish. One thing you could do instead of trying to find matching plaid for your sleeves is to use black lining fabric. That would also have the advantage of being easier to slip on and off, although it might not be as warm as plaid. Nicely done! You have the right to feel proud.

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    1. Hmm, that's a thought! I'm going to have to be on the lookout for nice lining fabric. Thanks!

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  9. Really nicely done, good choice of pattern! It looks trim yet comfortable.
    -Sandra

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  10. Wow! I am usually skeptical of fleece, but you've made it into something that looks polished but still really wearable and snuggly! I really like that you lined it with the plaid too. If you decide to finish the sleeve linings, maybe you could use something that's a little more slippery so it's easy to put pull your arms in and out. Then the different sleeve lining and body lining would be intentional. I have seen other coats finished this way. Very nice work!

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    1. That was totally the goal with this jacket -- snuggly, but not the normal shapeless look of fleece jackets. I'm glad it worked out! And yeah, I've definitely noticed that the fleece's friction makes it more difficult to pull my arms out, so it looks like that's a good solution for my not-enough-plaid dilemma. Thanks!

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  11. Be on the lookout for dire wolves! Also, the jacket is awesome! I didn't know those things were called toggles, but I really like how they look.

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    1. I love toggles too! It's too bad they're so expensive. And I will definitely look out for dire wolves :)

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  12. Your coat turned out great (even if the cake is a lie)! I really like the vintage pattern you used!

    I love fleece for the warmth in the winter, too. My favorite work coat is a freebie I got that is a three-in-one coat (a fleece jacket that zips into a nylon shell) so I can wear it as a warm raincoat/windbreaker. When it finally gets worn to death, I will definitely be making a new fleece jacket for myself.

    Those are some cool boots too!

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    1. Oooh, that three-in-one jacket sounds awesome. I look forward to seeing you recreate it someday, because I want to make one too!

      I am totally in love with these boots...yay Payless!

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    2. It's a rather boring and shapeless jacket but oh, so practical! (At least it is a nice sky blue color and not something ugly.) If I ever end up making one, it will be a better fit. You can sort of see a photo of it in my most recent post - the one where I'm holding all the coats.

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  13. Wow, that blue looks great on you!

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    1. Hehehe, calling everything a muslin is how I convince myself it's okay to experiment!

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  15. This jacket is looking very trendy. Blue color looks great in jackets, it is very impressive.

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    1. I was definitely inspired by all of the toggle duffel coats I've seen floating around Pinterest!

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  16. love the fleece jacket! it looks put together but casual at the same time. and the toggles are really great, even if it took some hair-pulling.

    i second the using of a slippery lining for the sleeves if you get around to it. i picked up some flannel backed satin (from the baby blanket section at joanns) for a kid's coat. warm but still easy on/off!

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    1. Heh...hair pulling doesn't even begin to cover my night where I redid each toggle three times, not even joking! And thanks for the suggestion, I'm going to have to look for flannel-backed satin; it sounds perfect!

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  17. I love this! It looks so cozy and comfortable, but very stylish!

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    1. Thank you! It's definitely cozy, glad to know it looks stylish to other eyes as well!

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  18. Fantastic! The toggles really look great! You are indeed a sewasaurus rex!

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    1. I thought those toggles were going to be the death of me, but I'm glad they were worth it!

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  19. This looks fabulous! It looks like the perfect medium-weight jacket.

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    1. Thanks! I think it's pretty awesome, but then I'm its mom :)

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  20. Beautiful coat, I love toggle coats. Great job with the pockets!

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    1. So nice to see all this toggle love! And the pockets were also a labor of love, but what's a jacket without pockets?

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  21. No, it's not a "biased mom thought", I like your coat too! Toggles really stand out and give it such a nice look. great job!

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    1. Haha okay, it's not just my motherly affection :) Thanks for the affirmation!

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  22. V. nice coat! Great combination and function + form. Would you consider a drawstring tie at the bottom? Maybe in navy, so as not to distract from the toggles?

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    1. Thanks for the suggestion; I ended up using a couple of hooks and eyes to close the bottom. I'll keep that drawstring idea in mind for the future, though!

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  23. I think it's a really lovely coat, you look great in it too! I can totally relate to you feeling like you've upped your game by sewing outerwear, it looks so professional. I predict you'll wear it a lot! Fabulous job. x

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    1. You know, it's partly thanks to you for the coat inspiration -- I loved both of the short blue ones you made! And yes, I've already worn it quite a bit now that it's finally gotten cold at nights.

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  24. Your jacket is beautiful. A button on the inside of the coat bottom and a loop on the other corner would work.

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    1. I went with a couple of tiny hooks and eyes, but that button+loop idea is a great one! Thanks!

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  25. That's a really lovely jacket! suits ypu perfectly.

    Joy

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  26. It's great! I normally only associate fleece with Old Navy Tech Vests but I love how you've made a cool and chic jacket with it. I'm a huge fan of Toggles but don't know how to sew them. Great jacket for San Fran!

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    1. Haha I think that's been my association for the longest time, and I always thought that that was a pity! Thankfully, this jacket isn't nearly as shapeless as those vests. The toggles were actually easy to sew, just not to position! I just stitched a rectangle over the ends so that the long sides of the rectangles went down the middle of the cord, and made sure that I stitched all over the ends so that they wouldn't fray anymore.

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  27. ZOMG I LOVE IT! And the pattern with its darling drawings, too. Good job! You could always line the sleeves in just a plain black flannel if you felt the need.

    Mmm. I want to make jackets. So many things to make...

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    1. It's really thanks to you that I gave this 70s coat pattern another look! And yes, you should make another jacket, because I am a total fan of all of your outerwear!

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  28. I can attest that this jacket is just as awesome in person as it is in pictures :)
    I also have not learned the basting lesson, and will always hopefully sew it for realsies right away because, hey, if I get it right I only sewed it once! Maybe we're just a new, super-confidant breed of sewasaurases who laugh in the face of basting! Ha ha! Ha ha ha h... sigh, where's my seam ripper?

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    1. Thanks, Aleah :) Good to know someone else hasn't learned the basting lesson...just like the no-muslins thing *wink*

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  29. Woah! That's tres cool! You are definitely a sewasaurus Rex! I love it!

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    1. Coming from one of the realest sewasauruses I know, that's a real compliment!

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  30. This is beautiful! perfect for a first jacket! I love the shape!

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  31. It's fantastic!! I do like the changes you made to the pockets, they look great, and are more practical. I admire anybody who can make a coat, that hardcore sewing!! :)

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    1. Is it still hardcore if it's cheap fleece? ;) And yes, practical pockets are a must!

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  32. Really, really cute! This has a vaguely Sgt. Pepper look to it, sorta faux-military/marching band. Cool!

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    1. I'm a huge fan of the faux-marching band look, so I'm glad that came across to someone! Thanks!

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  33. I love this coat too! Despite your comments regarding some of the issues, I think it is amazingly cute!

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  34. Congrats on becoming a true sewasaurus! What a fun coat! Perfect for the weather up here!

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    1. Thanks, Amy! It's finally getting perfect for the weather down here, too...LA finally decided that it was fall!

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  35. wow, wow, and wow, what a great post. You are now a sewasaurus!

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  36. Wow, that came out awesome! I don't know that it would have occurred to me to try it in fleece at all. Thanks for being so inspirational... someday I will stop plotting my wardrobe improvement project and actually get going on it!

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  37. That's really lovely! I've some left over blue fleece from another project... might be enough. :)

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  38. It looks awesomely unlike a shapeless generic fleece jacket - and being able to put it in the washing machine makes it so useful and practical. This is a very clever use of the pattern.

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  39. Hee hee i know what you mean about making a jacket to feel like a legitimate sewasaurus!! I always had certain things in mind that would serve as checkpoints for my progress: making a jacket and building a basic block are two of the main ones for me, and I've done neither LOL. You certainly nailed the jacket - it looks amazing!! I love the closures, and the fleece looks incredibly cosy! ^___^

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  40. How did I not comment on this?! I am coming to live in your closet. Your clothes are such epic wonders of delight and in this case, warmth. I love toggle jackets - I think they are pieces of fabulousness wrapped in practicality.

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