A new winter classic: By Hand London Rumana coat

Phew. I finally finished it.

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Pictures taken at Malvern Priory. Dog – my own!

Longtime readers of this (intermittent) blog might just recall that back in the spring I posted about fitting a toile for this coat. I did begin sewing the actual coat (proof here) but then I discovered I’d made a mistake cutting out the lining pieces and couldn’t quite face up to fixing it while we were in the middle of a major heatwave. There was no way I wanted to be handling several metres of wool melton when it was 28 degrees outside…

But I picked it up again as the leaves began to turn here, and – just in time for Christmas – it’s finished and ready to wear. Did I mention how much I love it yet?!

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I love all the vertical lines created by the topstitching on the princess seams
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I have a very weird Mona Lisa-type expression in this picture, but it shows the coat nicely, so never mind.

The pattern

If you love sewing outerwear Rumana is the real deal. A proper, tailored, love-and-wear-forever, Maxmara-type wool coat. The sort of thing that you lust after in Selfridges – where it costs £1,500+ – and then try to convince yourself that the £95 Zara knock-off you actually bought is almost as good. Rumana is the coat you always thought you’d wear when you were grown-up.

I love the topstitched princess seams, the pocket detail, the vent, the short/mid-length/maxi possibilities, and the v-neck notched collar. It has two-piece sleeves, which give you more shaping at the elbows and add a couture touch. (And I also love Elisalex’s wrap version, which I would probably have opted for had I started it this autumn. NB The sewalong did promise a tutorial for converting it into a wrap front but I don’t think it’s been published – yet.)

So those are the good bits of my first venture into a By Hand London pattern. There are some downsides too though. Firstly it’s enormous – I strongly recommend the copyshop option if you value your leisure time. Second, the instructions are a bit patchy. You’ll need to use the sewalong alongside the pattern instructions – neither one on its own gives you enough to go on and even then there are still one or two headscratchers in there. Third – why do the seam allowances keep swapping between 3/8″ and 5/8″? This drove me up the wall. And finally (and this is becoming a bit of a broken record with me on indie patterns, I admit), but why are there no lengthen/shorten lines anywhere, or any waistline, hipline or bust point markings?

My post on fitting has the details of the size I chose, and the alterations I made – including shortening the length.

The fabric

For me, nothing would do but wool melton. (OK. That’s a lie. I would’ve settled for cashmere if my budget had allowed it!) There are some great versions of this coat in other fabrics, but I wanted a classic wool coat – and that meant melton. My original aim was to make this coat for less than £180 – the cheapest one I’d seen in the shops that I thought was both beautiful and well-made. In the end all my supplies plus the pattern came in at just under £125. I bought:

  • Dark navy wool melton fabric from Fabworks at £12/m.
  • Viscose challis lining fabric from Fabric Godmother. I love the print on this, and it’s soft to wear but it’s not that slippery, meaning it’s that bit harder to slide your arms into the sleeves. Acetate sleeves would be fine, as would a Bemberg rayon lining fabric, or a paisley print silk charmeuse!
  • Shoulder pads, sleeve heads and tape for the roll line from English Couture
  • Vlieseline H410 – a weft insertion fusible interfacing that comes in white or charcoal
  • 400m of thread
  • Scraps of calico for reinforcement
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Obligatory showing-off-the-lining picture…

Construction

I’ve already done a post on fitting, and I’m planning another one on the tailoring elements so I’ll try to keep this part brief.

Just to say that my tips would be:

  1. Look closely at the lining cutting layout diagrams and you’ll see that for the back pieces the fabric should be in a single layer, wrong side up, with the pattern pieces right side up. If you do what I did and cut the fabric right side up, then your lining won’t match the vent, and unless you’ve skipped the topstitching you can’t just flip the vent to the other side!
  2. Do more tailoring than the instructions suggest. You don’t have to spend your life handstitching hair canvas – although if you want to, the results will probably be amazing – but a few more steps will give you a better finish. This is that kind of garment where the guts matter more than either the outside or the lining.
  3. I didn’t do bound buttonholes, but I wonder if I should have. If you’d like to, you might find this tutorial helpful.
  4. Combine the sewalong and the instructions – neither one is clear enough on its own.
  5. If you don’t have a walking foot yet, this is the perfect pattern to get your money’s worth on. The wool fabric won’t shift and it’ll make it waaaay easier to sew the two together at the end. I used mine all the way through and it made a huge difference.
  6. Get a press cloth if you’re using wool, and get friendly with your iron. NB My Prym press cloth left imprints on the wool fabric, so I had to switch to a piece of silk organza… .
  7. Hang on in there – you can do it!

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Verdict

I love the result! I can see myself reaching for it year after year as my winter coat for work, days and nights out – anything not involving mud or small children.

I wouldn’t recommend it as a first-ever coat project, but if you’ve made another coat or jacket before and you’re ready to step up, then dive in. It was hard work, but it’s one of those learning curve projects where you come out the other side feeling as though you can take on the world.

How do you feel about coat-making? Are you up for a challenge or would you rather stick with something you can complete quickly?

Thinking of sewing your first coat and fancy something simpler? This one was a breeze. Or start small with a child’s duffle coat – no tailoring required.

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