So it seems I might have a bit of a thing for making coats… I’ve just embarked on my fifth!
I spent most of the autumn pondering and hunting for my perfect coat, and then – bam – By Hand London released the Rumana pattern just before Christmas and that was it. I love everything about this design, but I’m especially enamoured with the longer-than-hip-length, the back shoulder darts, the wide lapels and the princess seaming.
All the other patterns I’d considered (strong contenders were Lisette for Butterick 6385, McCalls 7058 – inspired by Sew Manju’s lovely version, and an improved version of my pre-blog New Look 6006) just weren’t quite right, and I didn’t feel like making design alterations as well as the inevitable fitting alterations.
So Rumana was the one for me. I’ve chosen some inexpensive midnight blue wool melton for the shell and a loud hot pink floral viscose challis for the lining. That’s me all over – sensible on the outside…
This project isn’t the kind of thing you can knock up in a weekend though. There are 25 pattern pieces, a notched collar, and it’s a close fit on the upper body. I haven’t sewn a BHL pattern before, and since I’ve shelled out nearly £80 on the fabric alone I wanted to make a toile to test the fit. Using a weird mix of leftover coating scraps and calico I sewed up the shell – including the pockets and one sleeve but leaving off the collar.
What did I learn?
- Get it printed at a copyshop! There are five A0 sheets, so you’ll save yourself around 4 hours cutting and sticking. Even then some pieces are longer than the paper so you’ll still have to cut and stick those.
- There’s not a lot of ease in this design when you look at the finished measurements. If you’re planning on wearing a wool coating version over a jumper or a suit jacket you’ll need to size up. I was between sizes so I went for the larger of the two – US12/UK16. Pick your size using your high bust measurement so that the fit at the shoulders and upper chest is close but not tight and then adjust everything else to fit. If you can’t be bothered with the full toile, just the top half of the bodice and one sleeve would be a worthwhile investment.
- It’s a loooong coat. I was worried about it looking too formal at full length, so I’ve shortened it by 15cm to hit just below my knees – I’m 5’10”. When you’re shortening you need to think carefully about the proportions of the back vent. Pin it shorter and have a good peer at it, remembering to try walking and sitting down! I took all 15cm out of the vented section and left the hemline alone.
- It’s worth considering shoulder pads. They’re not mentioned in the pattern instructions, but I’m wearing some in these pictures, and unless you’re relatively square in the shoulders you might want to too. If you’re lopsided, like me, it’s also an opportunity to even things up a bit with an extra layer of batting on the lower side. (I didn’t do that in these pictures, but clearly I should in the real thing…)
- If you’re tall, you’ll probably also need to lengthen the sleeves, and you might want to check the pocket height too. I added an inch to the sleeve length (some above and some below the elbow, since I didn’t want to tamper with the shape of the elbow area), and I’m going to lower the pockets by an inch.
- My toile was straining over the chest because BHL patterns are designed to fit a B-cup. I slashed open the princess seams in the affected area and measured the amount I needed to add to each side, and then used the sewalong tutorial for the FBA. You’ll need to FBA the side front lining piece separately because it doesn’t exactly mirror the side front for the shell.
- If you need to grade in or out at the waist or the hips, then there are tons of seams in this garment to help you. Since I also wanted to lower the waist point (which isn’t marked on the pattern – grrrr), I didn’t follow the instructions in the sewalong for grading out at the hips, I just marked on my toile where I needed to start adding more width and then released each vertical seam except the centre back by 1/8″. That gives you an additional 12/8″ or 1.5″ circumference at the hips which was enough for me.
After all that, I started examining the button placement and the roll line for the collar. My tailoring knowledge is pretty basic, so I’m not sure yet whether I’ll attempt bound buttonholes or chicken out and make a belt closure or covered poppers instead – both of which could be done at the end of the process instead of near the beginning.
The pattern instructions don’t mark or mention a roll line, but my tailoring reference book is adamant that marking and taping this is vital, so I haven’t worked out what to do about this yet, or how it’ll be affected by the FBA…
I’m going to try not to be too perfectionist about this make and just aim to make a better-structured, better-fitting coat than my last one. Oh, and to get it finished before the weather gets too warm to wear it – wish me luck!