New Coat New Year

I have been working on some upcycled knits for Fashion Revolution week this year, so a lot of sewing is getting put to one side for ‘after April’.

I had been meaning to make a new coat for a while and had a navy 80s ‘Jimmy Hourinan’  (high end Irish clothing brand) coat that I was looking forward to remaking. I had bought the coat 2 years ago in the charity shop. It was a generous 80’s cut and beautiful fabric (wool cashmere – so light and so warm) and sadly it also would have originally been at least 12 inches longer. Someone donated the coat cut to a shorter length and pins still in it!

Its hard to describe the cut and the photograph does not fully show (as I took these photos late evening 2 years ago). The sleeves were a low cut doman/raglan, and there was a generous collar. The front of the coat shaping is a ‘princess seam’. When I took the coat apart and there was less fabric than I had hoped. I had hoped to get a funnel neck coat or asymentric coat (and few contenders), but as the length was no longer there my options were limited.

I always think it is ultimately best to find a pattern with similar lines and work from there.

The Butterick pattern I had seemed to have this as it has a simple cut, raglan sleeve and I could potentially ‘squeeze’ in the neckline. The neckline here is a subtle funnel neck with a nice front detail. The sleeve heads were shorter because of the neckline (and the original sleeves were shorter because of the big cuffs).

I adapted this butterick pattern to include a seam down by moving the ‘french’ dart to a bust dart and then put a seam down from the dart point, and incorporating the coats original seam here.

I graded it out a bit here and there as the fit of the coat is slim. I used the front seam to keep the pockets in-seam as in the previous coat. The pockets are smaller than the original coat as one panel was moved up to accommodate the neckline.



One the pattern was drafted and cut, it was relatively straightforward, except for

-there was a notch/cut in the previous centre back seam which I did not notice until after so I had to darn it after.

-the sleeves needed a small cuff added to make it longer.

Took these photos of it a month ago on Christmas Day


there were five buttonholes and five buttons when I got the coat. I took the coat apart and had everything stored well.

The cut incorporated the original 5 button holes but could only find four buttons!

so I omitted the lower one and I am waiting for it to reappear in my workroom, which I do hope is soon as anytime someone admires the coat I inevitably point out the missing button…. why do we do this!!!


embroidered wool coat

I don’t know if this is a general habit for others, but often if I am working on a long/boring/difficult project I start to plan a nice/interesting project in my head and this project becomes the treat that I can look forward to.  So while I was plodding away with the Irish dance costume, wondering when it would all end….. I was planning to embroider this coat on the left below.

embroidered red coat

The coat is a nice quality wool, and in its day, it would have been a mid-range coat with a basic (ie not satin) lining, although the wool by contemporary standards is excellent.  It had the 80s shoulders (big), a generous cut in all (I think everyone wore big jumpers in the 80s too).  It didn’t sell for €20 didn’t sell for €10 and I bought it at €2.  I was never too sure on the colour as it was a dull rust red so I left it for a while until I figured what pattern to use for it.

I used simpliciy pattern 6733.   The cut is similar to the one I drafted last year, but the simplicity pattern has no darts, and a bit more generous in the cut, and I managed to squeeze it in.  The cut was quick enough – centre front and buttonholes and pockets carefully lined up and cut (and useful to have them all done) – back equally easy to line up.  The sleeves were a squeeze and I find this each time I recut a coat, so as long as I got 2cm past hem line, I could do a faced hem!  The collar was part cut from collar and I cut as short as I could so I would have sufficient fabric for a hood.

I dithered over the design.  Originally I was going to go with one colour only and do a grid of this motif, but it did look and feel a bit bland – a friend of mine suggested the scale of the design was insignificant got me thinking a bit more and I went searching for a another motif so with some other tiny scraps I did another test using this new motif, and loved it as the red and pink seemed to lift the colour and I could do some borders also.  I used motifs from   Originally I was going to try and do a tiled design but once I did the finished the large motifs and placed the half motif I figured it looked a bit busy so left it.  The coat  has 2 borders – one in red, and the other in brown, and there are 8 large motifs around.  The sleeves just have the borders, and I used standard sewing thread for the embroidery.

embroidery  samples

final motifs for embroidered coat

Out of the left over fabric, I recut some back and side facings, and reused the lining, and also cut a hood.  I did not re-cut the lining as the cut was so similar to the coat itself, I just took it in a bit at sleeve head and sides.  I did use some gross-grain ribbon on the hem to give a make a bigger hem, and I like the way the ribbon looks on the inside – I also put my label on the lining with the original! (these are school labels – and I am finding them useful especially for knits so I know the back and front!).  The hang loop was reused.



The hood was a tighter cut, and I had tried to make it more dramatic originally, but when I tried it on I did not like the bigger hood at all, and as the idea of the hood for me is practical, the bigger hood has less weight and would probably blow off occasionally so I trimmed it and had to use some embroidered scraps in the edging.  I put poppers along so its not detachable.

embroidered coat with hood and without

Verdict- so delighted with the coat and wearing it loads.  This red, despite my original misgivings,  is a perfect shade, and the embroidery seems to ‘lift’ it.   It nicely replaced last years red coat which I did not wear that much as the red was a bit overwhelming for me.

I did a stall at a local market and sold some makes and last years red coat was sold.  It a great shade but too bright for me.   The stall was a bit of an experiment as sometimes donating back makes to the charity shop potentially increases their workload, and it could be interesting to find out what people think of the remakes directly.  I priced the makes at secondhand clothes prices – as charging labour time would have been unrealistic,and I wanted to clear the excess makes.  I see these makes as sample sews and considering doing a stall occasionally in the future as I like the making but sometimes I make more than I wear and and sometimes, I make for an experiment.


blue coat with embroidered sleeves – and MeMadeMay makes

I really have far more than I can re-sew currently, and yet when my friend Petra mentioned she saw a coat in her local charity shop she thought I would like, and I liked the sound of it (wool), and so the next time she was at the shop, it was still there and she got it.  One reason it was probably still there, was it’s navy, which does not seem to sell, and yet I find it a better colour for me.

It still had its tags, and the maker label – Miller Raynor Danco .  I looked them up and it seems they are a brand (still going) that make ship uniforms and this one was from the 70s or 80s as they had some name changes.  I could not figure the size but think it an 16 or 18, and it felt a bit big on, and the cut was rather boxy and school-ish.  Its a light-weight wool so it really looked like a useful summer/mid-season coat.

I left it a few weeks before I cut into it.  The main changes I wanted to make were to take out the button thing at the sleeve, and take it in, and I had in mind to add embroidery.  I unpicked the seams to the neckline, and tried to work on the coat without fully taking it apart.  I used my raglan coat pattern for the front, and trimmed about 4cm off the side seams on the front panels and tapered it the sleeves.  When I lay the rest of the pattern on the coat, my pattern was slightly bigger than all the other pieces so I resewed them all up without cutting them.

I dithered a bit on the embroidery and settled on a ‘lawn’ motif, and in a single colour.  Originally I wanted to embroider the centre front or around the hem.  Doing the centre front would have been tricky,  and I would need a bigger motif and a machine that could take a bigger hoop for the around the hem, and after a fair bit of deliberation, and dragging another friend over for a consult – the sleeves seemed to be the way to go.

It was relatively straight forward, and once done, I decided that the collar had to go.  I was going to keep it, but really thought it too severe – so I just tidied up the neck-line until I decided on whether to go for a bound edge on the neck or a ribbing (as in what you would get on a ‘bomber’ jacket).  So the plan is to wear it as is, until I figure it out – I still have to change the buttons and I will go for covered buttons in the same fabric and sew up the top buttonhole and replace with decorative button and popper underneath.

I enjoy MMM (me-made-may) postings but I don’t post any,  a lot has to do with my delaying in organising photos, but as I was very happy to have ended up packing for a trip with mainly me-makes – I figured I better get some photos of them.  We went on a small trip away to York and Leeds

I packed a DKNY dress (I made this a while ago, and never blogged about it).  Its a brilliant pattern and the dress wears well with a base layer or on its own and I have worn it loads since its January make.   I tend to wear it with a hand-drawn baselayer.  Another make I have never blogged about as I didn’t think much of it as I made it 2 years ago and yet I use it constantly – so much so, that I found white sleeve tee in the charity shop last month and made another!  Basically its just drawing strips with permanent marker, and then brushing them with methylated spirits to disperses the pen and then when its dry -wash  it well (as the fumes stay in the fabric).  The reason I was disappointed originally was that the tee looks particularly cool when its meths soaked and dries rather flat later, but its since become a staple, and now I have 2.  In all I was really pleased with my packing as other times I go away, I bring too much of the wrong stuff and dont wear it all – the amount I brought this time was just right and I was able to layer on the two cooler days and wear less on the 2 warm days.

The stripe tee looks well with the yellow cardi I upcycled in January, and this works well with my denim cigarette pants, which also work fine with the McCalls summer top from last year, so between that and  a few shoe changes I was packed!

I used the boots, cigarette pants and long sleeve baselayer and navy sweater for the travel (Navy sweater only item not a MMM) on the Wednesday.  Thursday was a beautiful warm day in York – I didn’t not bring my coat at all! -and I changed shoes going to dinner later.

Friday was cooler, and I wore the DKNY dress with baselayer and coat for a trip to the Leeds Armoury (swanky photo above) and shops (including seeing the All Saints sewing machine window display – WOW*, as well as the M&S Archive), and on Saturday, wore the cigarette pants, boots, yellow cardi baselayer etc for musuem and gallery visits before heading back.   I was well glad of my choice in footwear as we walked loads – the only issue really was the trip was too short and we could only do so much – so thinking of heading over again sometime.

So after wearing the coat for the weekend, I am still undecided on collar and will take the coat in a small bit more on sides.  Very chuffed with coat – and will be repeating the embroidery on some summer linens.

*there was a Tesla car on display opposite the All Saints shop and I never even noticed it- I was only told about it later by my sister who went there on the the Saturday –  I was inspecting the machines it didn’t register!

red coat remake

Probably one of the more exciting things that happened this week was whenever I got to change flavours in cough sweets.  I have been rather bogged down by a sore throat/lost voice all week, so sounding like Kathleen Turner (how cool) but punctuated by hacking cough (how not cool) and feeling a bit peeved by it all and with only myself to blame (as I went out with a cold, came home with no voice).   I did manage to refocus the sewing, and finish this red coat .

red coat remakeIts probably my longest sewing project as it was done over the course of 6 or 7 weeks, and yet it only really took 2 or 3 days.  The coat is a divine cherry red wool, in an 80s cut, and the buttons were of the same ilk (and just look plain old tacky).  So I took it apart, brushed it and steamed it and rested it for a few days before the cut.  The lining was in good condition so I took a chance and put it aside to reuse.  I used the same self drafted pattern I used on last years coat, and decided to cut front from front etc, and reuse both the pockets and the buttonholes (as there was not enough fabric to redo the buttonholes) and in all this seemed all like a good idea and both the coat and lining were sewn up in a day, over a month ago…… and left there.  After making it up, I decided I was not sure about the darts (I have since relented and like them but would omit/change them if I was using this cocoon-style coat pattern again), and then I dithered on how best to finish (there is no best way, the only way is to get on with it).

red coat remake

In truth, the only delay was finding better buttons, and I ended up using ones that came from the button box that are a dark metal.  They are the right size and seem to work well. So then it was trying to tweak the already attached front facing into joining the rest.  I cut the back facing from the left over scrap and also made the sleeves longer but adding a deep cuff, I thought I wanted the coat shorter, but preferred it a bit longer when I had it near done, so I added bias binding to the hem to maximise the length.  I left the wool label in place…..but don’t think I will ever ever reuse those gold buttons…..

red coat remakered coat remake

Finishing took a day, and I was rather pleased. So I steamed it and clamped it and broke the Ann Ladbury rule (of resting coats overnight on hanger or manequin after making and pressing) and wore it straight away.

a summer jacket (from a euro coat)

coat upcycle simplicity 5256We went for a midsummer picnic this year.  It was rather brave as it was well wet and very windy.  Some years ago a group of us went one amazing midsummer picnic in the Burren (Limestone hills in neighbouring county) and it was a spectacular sunset, and every year since we have tried to do one (and each time it doesn’t come off).  This year we made it a definite, and decided to go to a lovely beach and cliff nearby.  And I wore my ten-year-old-2-sizes-too-big windcheater.  Which I have had for years and its awful.  Its mank.  Fine for walking woods and doing firewood, but really……I decided that night I was not going to go to next years midsummer in that jacket.

Two weeks later, there are coats on the euro rail, I bought 3 (which means I now have 5 coats to upcycle…no pressure).  I had great plans for this green coat, but in the end went for a simple make using Simplicity 5256 as one or two small holes appeared in the fabric when the 80s detailing was removed.  The worst hole was a few inches up the sleeve, and I decided while sewing that to sew an obvious patch, which could look like a deliberate  detail (and I am sticking to this).


There were no darts, so I ‘graded’ the pattern by tracing it without seam allowance (how technical is that!).    The only concessions I had to make, were the sleeves had to have a seam down the centre, and the hood has a small insert in the back.  The sew was straight-forward, and the only changes are that the pockets are side opening, and I did originally put them in -wrong….   I was going to reuse the strange lining (and padding) but didn’t (I thought it would be ironic, but luckily there was insufficient fabric), so I used some green lining from the lining scrap bag for hood and sleeves, and left over check lining for the main.  I had hoped and thought I may re-use some of the epaulets etc but it was beginning to feel a bit fiddly and was simpler to leave as it was.    Its turned into a useful jacket – very pleased with it, as it will also serve as a working model for the next coat to jacket remake!



green car coat to ‘racing green’ coat with a hood

……… …………this is the jacket that started it all and now that I have finally started working on it one year later, I am wondering how I picked up such an odd one!  It was 2euro, the colour of my old school uniform and it’s like wearing 1983 – you may not be able to see it clearly, but there is a tab space for missing epaulets, and some strange panel at the back, the buttons are a pewter shade, the wool quality is gorgeous..

After the issues with the last coat, I thought that perhaps I should make a pattern for what I had rather than making a pattern fit to the coat and it seemed like a good plan, especially as in the taking apart, I had ripped part of the front…. (one way to establish grain – not), so I darned it and thought I could hide it in a neck dart …..maybe…..(and it turned out maybe not).  The coat length is what my aunt calls a  ‘car coat’.  which I think refers to above the knee length – but longer than a blazer.  

I drafted a overgarment block, and then made a raglan block, and made a toile that was far too fitted, so I drafted another bodice block, and sleeve,  and gave it extra ease, and there wasn’t enough fabric in the panels using this one.  So then I went a made a deep raglan from the fitted block by the time it came to making the toile, I didn’t know if I wanted it to fit or not as (a) the pattern drafting was getting cruder each time and (b) every-time I smooth the fabric to put pattern pieces on the green wool – it was like a precursor to laying out snooker balls (and of course once you get an idea like that in your head, its hard to remove it)

The deep raglan toile had too much room at sleeve front and back so pattern re done, toile/lining recut, and coat cut. The lining/toile fabric is a sheet.  The coat made up quick enough considering I was a few days messing with drafting.  The pattern is a bit basic and I will use it again, but I will refine a few markers, especially the centre front ones as they are incorrect for sure…..  

The pockets are set in seam, the original coat has welted pockets in the same location, and I figured easier in the re-cut to put in seam.   I tried some top stitch across the pocket seams but it looked a bit odd so I took it out.

I had also thought of adding two toggles or decorative clasps but when it was sewn, I went off the idea, however, there was a buttonhole from the old jacket that ended up in the mix.  I knew it was there and left it there so to get maximum cut – and thinking it may end up in a seam finish (it didnt) as I kept as big an overlap as I could, so I left it.  I have secured and darned it the hole and will figure something in time to conceal it better.    I left the sleeves ‘bracelet’ length.  It was the longest I could get them with small cuff and 2cm hem (the only other spare fabric pieces left were the strange back panels which I needed and collar – wrong grain direction for cuff).  

The back panels were then used to make a hood, which I thought would be even better if it was detachable, and thought it may look better also lined in some nice leftover lining from last summers green coat. 

I have never drafted (or made) a hood before.  I have pattern instruction from fashion college (I never use those notes as they are in inches, although I do like my notes as I drafted all my pattern notes to scale!), and I used that with Helen Armstrong Jones (rarely draft from this – inches again), and did a mix of both.  I am really pleased with the hood, apart from it being immensely practical, it also sits well on jacket and due to fabric restrictions I did a small curve to the front hood which really holds it in place on my head, the hood facing was made from a collar which had a bias to it and not the correct grain, but it was the only piece of fabric left so it was used (well technically 3 pieces left, 2 pocket flaps and that strange button piece at neck in first photo!)

I will decide on what do about the ex buttonhole at the top later, I may just put a button on it to cover it – currently the scarf covers it fine and the hood conceals it well.    The photos are blurry towards the end, as I dropped the camera – twice. 

I was so very pleased with the jacket and wore it straight away and since, and the hood works very well indeed – tested soon after wearing thanks to the predictable Irish rain, the jacket/coat is a light weight and perfect for this time of year, and well into summer. This is now looking like the basis for the red coat remake.  I have also ceased to think of the colour as relating to my school uniform or snooker tables but prefer to compare to jaguar racing green! – 

blue coat remake to blue tunic

The best part on drawing, is not at the beginning or the end but something is often right in the middle, and the same goes for sewing!  This little project had its own moments, good and bad,  but there was a point just after the sleeves set in, that I knew it was going to work out just fine!

upcycle remake coat to tunic

I had in mind a few ideas for this coat and in the end decided on a tunic or an over-blouse.  I could have made a coat but as it was a mans coat originally, there was no excess of fabric on the hips, and the shaping darts at waist took away some more options, and I am also concious of going with the cut on wool due to pile.  The wool was lovely and although rather old, it wasn’t too worn, just some repairs here and there (which I like to see as it shows that it was a very serviceable item and worth repairing – not unlike my own ancient eiderdown tweed winter coat).

I did some drawings and drafted a pattern and made it up in a cotton which was to be the lining.  

The whole piece took about a week here and there to draft cut and complete and I put it away each time I was unsure of what to do next.  I got a bit flummoxed on how to cut the sleeves and figured the best thing to do at this point make an base-layer for underneath and as these take an hour to make up, at least I would have achieved something that day!  The base layer was made from a cardigan in my wardrobe – love the colour but those front bits get in the way all the time and there have been times I have used a clothes peg to keep them in place when I am working on something – and as a consequence, I no longer wear it, so it was to become a polo neck base-layer!  I used my knit-block, set in sleeves flat and put a band in for neck – using pretty much all of the cardigan to make it.

cardigan to pullover remake upcycle

The tunic pattern is straight forward.  I drafted a light jacket pattern, and then had the shoulder seams shorter than a jacket as I wanted a very fitted shoulder, and tight sleeve-head (I don’t know if that describes it correctly). I marked lines where the joins would be preferable on pattern worked the cut from there – the back panel has a yoke and bodice as does the front with a centre front seam.  I top-stitched each side of these seams.  The front was cut from the front, and back from the back.  The facings were cut from facings, and pockets from the coat sides.  I cut the sleeves from the sleeves – this was a dilemma for a while but I thought it best to leave it a 2 part sleeve as it was and I pressed and steamed the sleeve as much as I could before laying the pattern over it and cutting.  I cut the cuff on the crossgrain with leftovers from the back of the coat.  The cuff has a slight flare to it.    

upcycle remake coat to tunic

On one hand, the coating fabric is a heavy fabric for the tunic, and ideally it should have been made in a lighter wool with a zip back – however the coat fabric is easy to manipulate and works fine (no way was I trying to put a zip in this either!).  For a fitted piece, there is easy movement (I chopped some logs to check), which means it will work well as a ‘work tunic’ and as a mid-season jacket.   I am so pleased with the tunic – it is incredibly warm, and such a practical item, and the pockets are a bonus. Gold stars all around.

Butterick 2704 – green cloak to green coat

The Green Coat, Butterick 2704 - cloak to a coat

When I saw this green cloak in the charity shop – I truly could not resist it..  It reminded me of the original Irish Air Hostess uniform.  Its a full-on kelly-green woven wool cloak with hood.  My feeling is that it was probably made for either a primary school play or float about St Patrick, and also made a long long time ago!  With a cloak there is a natural progression to a kimono sleeve (I was given a cloak some years ago and made a jacket with sleeves from it, and it was only when I finished I thought the kimono sleeve …..) 

butterick 2704 upcycle cloak to coat
I used this Butterick pattern and had to make it about 8 inches shorter as there was not enough fabric, but that being said, the pattern length was too long for contemporary wear.  The sewing up was relatively straight forward, and its a great summer coat pattern,  I used the lining from the cloak to line it but it was a bit light and a bit scrappy, so I happened to come across a nice check lining by chance, and it has a better weight, so I relined it using a heavier lining and also decided to include side pockets.  The patch pockets did not look well at all, and the side ones work nicely. 
butterick 2704 upcycle cloak to coat

(I was tempted to make one of the hats from here to match ….. but that’s for another day)