Hi there! If you follow me on Instagram at all, you’ll know already what my latest make is as I’ve been way too excited about it to remove all sign from my account. Yep, I finally tackled the Closet Case Patterns Kelly anorak and I’m totally and utterly in love!
This project has been building for months now. I had been day dreaming about having the skills to make myself a lighter weight coat for a while and then, on the same day, Guthrie Ghani posted photos of their new soft shell fabric and Rach posted an Instagram story showing her running the fabric under the tap. Yep, this glorious stuff is showerproof on the outside and fleecy on the inside; can’t you just see yourself snuggled up in it already?
I gave in to temptation, headed to the Guthrie Ghani site and ordered the pattern, the fabric, the open ended, chunky zip, the drawstring, the poppers and even the matching thread. I sobbed quietly to myself as I entered my credit card details, I can tell you! But I reasoned that I would spend that much on a good high street coat and I wouldn’t have the joy of making it.
I waited excitedly for my bumper parcel to arrive, only to receive quite a small parcel and an apologetic email. There’d been a mix up on the website and it had taken payment from me for fabric they didn’t have.
There was a fair amount of to-ing and fro-ing but I can’t fault the customer service; Guthrie Ghani kept me informed with regular phone calls on their restock efforts and offered refunds on a regular basis until finally, a couple of months later, I finally got a big parcel full of deep blue, soft shell fabric.
As I believe I may have mentioned before, I am by nature a tracer of patterns. I lack the confidence to destroy all hope of going back and picking another size at a later date.
So obviously on this one, I cut right into the tissue paper!
I don’t really know why, other than there are a LOT of pattern pieces involved and I just ran out of enthusiasm for trying to trace such a mammoth project. As it was, I took it with me on a work trip to Edinburgh and spent a peaceful few hours in my hotel room cutting out pieces of tissue paper; my life is so rock n roll! I even ironed the tissue first to ensure accurate cutting.
I generally prefer a bit of room in a coat, given my reliance on multiple layers to deal with the vagueries of our office’s heating system, so I decided to err on the side of caution and size up on the pattern. I cut a size 12 and I have to say, it’s absolutely spot on. If you’re wondering about length, I’m a reasonably well proportioned (i.e. not exceptionally long legged) 5’7″.
To line or not to line
I knew when I felt the inside of the fabric that this was a texture I wanted access to; it’s like a big cuddle! So I was happy to leave the majority of the coat unlined. But I couldn’t get the image of a contrast lining in the hood out of my head. I don’t really know why, it just wouldn’t go away. And then Roisin posted a photo on IG (that place really is lethal) of some absolutely perfect Liberty tana lawn, printed with storm clouds and lightening bolts…. I was sold.
I popped into Shaukat today because, in all the times that I've stayed in South Kensington, I've never been in. Well. It would be very easy to lose your head in there. I thought I was quite restrained with these two beautiful lengths #sewing #sewcialists #libertylondon #libertyartfabrics #shaukatlondon
She kindly told me the name of the pattern and after a LOT of searching, I found it on Shaukat’s website. But I also found one that featured rainbows as well, so I bought that instead!
This one’s called Hiding.
I was turning over and over in my head the best way to draft a lining, having never made a hood before, when Closet Case Patterns released a lining pattern for the whole coat! So I decided that, having spent so much already, there was no point second guessing and I bought the expansion too.
Fear and procrastination
By this point, clearly we were well into spring and suddenly the idea of a waterproof, fleece lined coat wasn’t top of the sewing list. So my supplies sat, all together, looking a little sad and neglected (and messy) in my living room.
Honestly, I was scared. I didn’t know if I had the skills, I’d never cut into anything so expensive before, I found a million and one reasons not to cut into the stuff whilst still reading lots and lots of blogs by other people who’d made the coat.
Until I suddenly realised that if I didn’t crack on, it would be late autumn and too late to bother with it again!
So, one evening in late August, I decided to just. Bloody. DO. IT.
I kid you not, despite referring to the cutting layout and even ticking each piece off there as I cut it out, it took me over 2 hours just to cut the soft shell out. 2 hours! And that’s just cutting, not adding pattern markings either.
The problem was the fabric. Not only was it very, very thick and therefore rather troublesome for my rotary cutters, it was nearly impossible to get it to lie flat and on grain. Each layer stuck to the other layer, I couldn’t lay the whole lot out at once because the floor just wasn’t big enough and I basically spent FOREVER smoothing each bit out.
Yes, I could have traced out the pieces so I didn’t have to cut on the fold, but I was WAY past tracing by then, I’d never have got it made!
Eventually, I had a lot less soft shell and a big pile of cut out pattern pieces, interspersed with the tissue paper to avoid any doubt about which piece was which.
Tackling the monster sew
So at this point, I realised that the instructions for the lined version and the instructions for the unlined version weren’t the same. Big surprise, right? So I started comparing each step to determine whether they were the same and which ones to follow. I got about half way through before deciding I was procrastinating once again and starting work on the pockets.
It’s quite scary that these are the first thing you do, given you have a load of topstitching and the first poppers to do. Thankfully I’d read on several blogs that the tutorial on the Closet Case Patterns blog was really helpful, so I followed that.
I have to say that this is where I am rather critical of this pattern. I don’t think much to the instructions; there are a lot of places which were utterly head scratching for me and the diagrams were not amazingly helpful. In many cases, the online tutorials actually added to my confusion, because they would do things in a different order again and I was already looking at two lots of instructions between the original pattern and the lining. And the lining pack has you make the whole thing up in a totally different order, so I did struggle.
Head spinning yet? Because mine was!
Anyway, I would say in general that, for the bits there are tutorials on the blog, go by the blog; the photos are a hell of a lot clearer than the pattern booklets.
The pockets were also the point at which I realised I might have a bit of a problem in terms of fabric choice; I suddenly had a LOT of skipped stitches where my machine just had a complete dicky fit over such thick fabric. This was despite doing a lot of testing on scraps of fabric before starting in on proper sewing (get me, doing the things you’re supposed to do!) I eventually found things worked better with a longer stitch length (somewhere around 3) and a microtex needle, but it was by no means foolproof and I replaced the needle several times.
My first moment of real fear was installing the first popper. Right around the time it tells you to make a hole through the pocket flap.
The snaps came with tools that supposedly would help with this, but I found that nothing short of an awl was making a hole through the super thick soft shell. Once I came to terms with that, and marked REALLY carefully where things had to go, it was actually surprisingly easy to tackle with my Prym Variopliers. I found that if I installed the top section and then rubbed the underside of that with my Chako chalk marker, the loose chalk would then mark where the underside of the snap needed to be.
Taking it slowly
One of the things I really made myself do on this project was to break it down into small tasks and make myself be happy with walking away each night at the point I’d decided to reach, rather than trying to keep going and achieve some kind of finish.
This is not easy for me, but I found that it actually made me enjoy the process more. I lost that feeling of pressure all the time and just took pride in finishing each new thing.
The tricky bits!
So which bits did I find especially tricky?
Generally, you’re talking about the bits where there were more layers of fabric to stitch together and the tricky came from my machine not wanting to cooperate. There are a lot of areas of topstitching that involved me going over the same stitching line multiple times in order to get a complete line of stitching.
The cuffs spring readily to mind; thanks to Rach’s blog and comments on Instagram, I knew she’d had difficulty with the cuffs and consequently took a lot of time in grading the seams carefully there. I also turned the speed on the machine right down when topstitching.
I was really unconfident on this area; the instructions mean that you end up with part of the wrong side of the fabric on show where the sleeve meets the cuff. I still don’t know if that’s what was intended, but I folded it every which way and could only make it work one way, so that’s what I’ve ended up with.
I also found that the instructions in various places to fold the raw edge under 1/4″ twice to finish various places made life a lot harder with this fabric; in the end, I substituted a bias bound finish for this technique so as to reduce bulk.
I decided to go with faux flat felled seams for most of the coat to give it as much strength as possible. My overlocker dealt with the fabric better than the sewing machine, giving a lovely, neat finish.
I also decided that, since the inside was unlined, I wanted it to look as nice as possible so made some bias binding from the same fabric as the hood lining, as well as cutting the drawstring channel from it. I ended up finishing the bottom of the coat and the zip plackets with the bias binding and love how this looks now it’s all finished, although I think it gave me some headaches when matching up the top of the plackets and the hood as the plackets ended up a little wider than drafted.
I did have to unpick it and re do around the bottom of the coat; I honestly don’t know whether I cut wrong or whether something stretched, but when I put the coat on my dress form it was instantly obvious that the bottom wasn’t even approaching straight. When I measured down, I’d somehow ended up with a hem that waved around 3″ difference in length!! So after a little sobbing and a lot of cursing, I VERY CAREFULLY marked a straight line around the coat, trimmed to that point and re-attached the bias before stitching up the bottom hem.
I was originally going to just use a buttonhole for the drawstring, but decided on a whim to order the little eyelets part way through, since I was getting more and more confident with the pliers. I definitely think this was the right call, as it looks so much sturdier. I also got arglets (thanks Rach for the name!) for the ends of the drawstring, which also look really smart.
Was it all worth it?
If you’ve made it this far, really well done!
Oh hell, yes!
I love the style; the pockets are great (although, like Jen, if I made it again I would install the poppers so that they hold the pockets against the body of the coat) , the drawstring is really flattering, especially since you try on before installing it so it is EXACTLY where I wanted it to be and where it’s most comfortable.
Seriously guys, I have a big head and thick hair; you can’t imagine the joy of owning a coat which actually keeps ALL my hair dry, rather than just the back bit. I finished the coat on the Friday morning we were heading down to stay in St Albans with friends; the next day involved a trip to Whipsnade Zoo with all 5 of our children and the weather gave me the chance to test the hood’s functionality; it’s all good!
We also got to feed an elephant (or at least, 4 of us did as it was an extra £6 per person to do that; the two youngest kids had been taken home at that point so me and the two dads remaining ended up coppering up between us to find enough change to get the 3 girls in to see the elephant with an adult!) So I can officially say I have tested it and found this coat to be elephant proof!
I’m finally a proper dressmaker!
Pattern : Closet Case Patterns Kelly Anorak
Measurements: bust 34″; waist 31″; hips 41″
Size cut: 12
Adjustments made: None, other than to place the drawstring channel at my waist which was slightly lower than marked on the pattern piece
Future adjustments: none, it’s perfect
Make again? Yes; if I ever need this style of jacket again, this is absolutely the pattern I will reach for. It’s amazing!