Sewing Your First Coat: 5 Tips For Success

5 tips for sewing your first coat. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.

Are you in the market for a new coat this season? If you’ve never sewn a coat before, this is the time to make one, even if you’re still a fairly new sewer. Coats are easier to sew than you think, and they’re usually significantly less expensive to make than buy. Here are our five tips to help you sew your first coat:

Tip #1: Take a look at RTW and designer coats you like first, for inspiration. Pin them to a Pinterest board or clip examples from magazines. Getting organized—by determining what you like and don’t like before you look for patterns and fabric—will save you lots of time. Also go to the store and try on coats to see which styles flatter you most.

looking at coats for sewing inspiration, on the McCall Pattern Company blog
source

Tip #2: If this is your first coat to sew, stick with patterns featuring a loosely-fitted shape with minimal details. And you’re in luck, because that’s the style in coats this season. Take a look these RTW coats below, for example:

looking at coats for sewing inspiration, on the McCall Pattern Company blog
J.O.A. coat, Shopbop; Doublecloth coat, J. Crew.
looking at coats for sewing inspiration, on the McCall Pattern Company blog
Funnel neck coat, Ann Taylor; By Malene Birger coat, Stylebop.

Tip #3: Choose a solid-color, quality 100% wool. There are many coating options out there, but for your first coat project go with a medium-weight wool in a solid color, so you don’t need to worry about matching plaids or patterns, and so the layers aren’t too thick to sew. Texture is ok as long as it’s a tight weave. Trust us, wool is wonderful to sew and press, and it keeps you nice and warm. (Steam-press it to pre-shrink it before cutting out your pattern.)

sewing your first coat: examples of wool coating fabrics
Wool coatings, l-r: Fabrics & Fabrics, Gorgeous Fabrics, Fabricmart.

Tip #4: Select a lining fabric that’s warm and easy to work with. We like satin linings with a flannel backing, often called Sunback or Kashi linings. The flannel-backing provides extra warmth, and the thickness of this fabric makes it easier to sew.

Tip #5: Pressing is as important as the sewing. Press coat edge seams open first, then press them to the side as directed. Use pressing tools to help you press seams in tight areas, like collars and corners. A well-pressed garment makes you look like a sewing pro, even if you’re still new to sewing.

pressing tools to make your first coat. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.
Pressing tools available at Nancy’s Notions.

These five tips will help you get started on your first coat. Seasoned sewers, please feel free to add your tips for first-timers in the comments section. Coming next: Coat patterns for beginning sewers.

19 comments
  1. Congratulations on the “Pea”. It looks lovely.
    I am almost finished making my first coat which was meant to be a spring coat but has turned into an autumn coat. It is the currently trending shape and I made it from a pattern that is about 15 years old, so it must have been fashionable back then too.
    Can anyone tell me how I add a photo here ?
    Thanks
    Helena

    1. Hi Helena! I don’t think there’s a way to upload a photo to a comment (though I could be wrong). You can send it to us at blog@mccallpattern.com, though.

  2. Excellent tips. I love that funnel coat. In a more vibrant color it would be stunning.

  3. Great advice overall! Regarding #3, I’m wondering if you have any advice if you need an alternative to wool. I made a coat last year, so I’m hoping it will last awhile. But I’m allergic to wool (hives were involved the one time I wore a hat made from it), and finding fabric to fit the styles of coats that I like is frustrating. Last time, I had to resort to polyester boucle, fully lined with Thinsulate. It was quite the process, and I’m curious about what else is out there!

    1. Hi Becky! Hmm… Maybe some of the new techno fabrics might work for you? Like, a poly blend bonded to a neoprene or something like that. Where do you live and what fabric stores are available to you?

      1. I live in Delaware, so my options are basically Joann’s and the internet. Like I said, it’s not a pressing need, since I did make a new winter coat last year and it’s still in good shape. I’m hoping to get several years out of it!

    2. Hi Becky! I love making my coats out of polar fleece and lining them with a nice flannel. Very warm and not as pricey as wool so can make many in different colors. I think my last coat cost me about $15 for all materials since fleece can go on sale as low as $3/yard.

  4. Thanks for this very helpful information. Sure wish I had read this before I made my first coat last week. While the coat looks okay, I made a bad choice in fabric and coat style. Lesson learned though. Question: What is the clapper for? There was reference in the pattern I used to pounding the seams after pressing. I had no idea what that meant, so I skipped that step. I’ll be making another coat soon and will be sure to use a wool fabric.

    1. Anita, coat seams can be very thick and bulky. Pounding them with a clapper helps flatten the fabric, so the intersections aren’t so thick. Apply steam, then press hard on the seam with the clapper to flatten it. You can do this with denim, too.

      In reference to the 5 Tips, one thing I would mention is—don’t skip pressing the seam flat after you’ve sewn it! Yes, you should press it open, and to the side, as mentioned above, but first you must press it flat to meld the stitching. Then you can press it open—from both sides of the fabric to ensure a flat seam. You should probably use a pressing cloth if you’re working with wool, or synthetics, or anything that can’t take high temperatures. Otherwise, you risk the fabric turning shiny.

  5. If you wish to substitute a wool for another fabric, I would suggest you look at FashionFabrics.com for their many cotton corduroys. Wonderful colors and many wales, even cordless. All are machine washable, make lovely coats and it is in style again.

  6. Do NOT press the seams directly with an iron as it will damage the fabric. I always use some kind of cloth between the fabric and the iron, to avoid getting the fabric all shiny. There is a wool-setting normally but still, you’d end up with shiny fabric along the seams.

  7. What a great post! Thank you for these tips, and those from the commenters as well. After reading this, I feel like I could avoid a few beginner mistakes right off the bat when I make my coat.

  8. When pressing seams where both seams are facing the same direction, it helps to use pinking sears on both edges of the sewn seam or grade seam allowances by cutting one side of the allowance by about 1/8″ to take out some of the bulkiness.
    Thanks for posting these helpful hints.

  9. Hi,

    Beautiful coat! You saved us a lot of searching. I live in Texas so I don’t need a big heavy coat but I would like to make my own trench coat some time.

    Regards,
    Barbara Harris

  10. I love the style and shape of the lavendar doublcloth coat you pictured. Right down to the zipper and lack of collar, it is the style i would like to make. Do you know of a pattern that style? i have tried making a muslin of 2 coat patterns so far but they were not the shape i was looking for.
    Thanks for the great tips!

    1. Hi! This pattern would work perfectly: https://voguepatterns.mccall.com/v9123. Just convert the button front to a zip front.

      1. Thanks! I got the pattern (v9123) and I noticed the recommended fabrics are gabardine, lightweight woolens and damask. I want my coat to be made of heavier wool. Will this pattern still work? Should I make my muslin out of something heavier than muslin?

        1. Yes, a heavier wool will work. This pattern has a lot of ease; you may want to make a muslin just to determine in advance how much ease you want.

  11. Thanks for the great tips. I’m going to have a go at a simple style of reversible wool coat could you give me any tips please?

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