Tips for Quilting Coats, Jackets and Fashion Garments

Tips for quilting your first coat or jacket. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.

Making my first quilted coat was one of the most pleasurable sewing experiences I’ve had in a long time. It just felt very creative and original to be making my own fabric—which is essentially what you’re doing when you’re quilting layers of fabric and batting together and coming up with this new quilted fabric. I actually can’t wait to sew my next quilted garment!

So, as previously promised, here are my tips on sewing and quilting a coat or jacket, or other type of garments:

1) Having quilting experience helps. Not going to lie here, I was immensely helped by the fact that I’ve taken several quilting classes and have made a few quilts. You can still sew a quilted garment successfully without having quilted before, but think about taking a beginner quilting class sometime. You’ll learn a new skill and meet some new sewists. I’m finding there’s more crossover these days between quilters and fashion sewers, with each group dabbling in both fashion sewing and quilting.

2) Choose a pattern with simple lines and a looser fit, at least for your first garment. Avoid lots of seams and details until you get a little more proficient at quilting garments. For my coat I chose Vogue Patterns V9123, which has very simple lines:

Tips for quilting your first coat or jacket. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.

3) Hobbs wool batting has a nice loft and will keep you warm. (Loft is how much puffiness you get when you quilt it.) Marcy Tilton uses Hobbs wool batting when she quilts garments. Feel free to test other types of battings; I think which batting you choose is really a matter of personal preference. Make large (at least 10″ by 10″) quilting tests first to determine which batting to use and how far apart you want to place your quilting lines. Your batting supplier will have stitching info on the packaging.

4) Think about the properties of your outer and inner fabrics. The outer fabric is your fashion fabric and the inner fabric is your lining. How will quilting lines look on your outer fabric? Do you want them to pop or recede? Solid fabrics tend to show off quilting lines a little better than prints do, but don’t be afraid to use a print. For my inner fabric I used a quality poly charmeuse and it makes my coat heavenly to put on and wear. Plus, when charmeuse or other slippery fabrics are part of a quilt sandwich (outer fabric + batting + inner fabric) they become completely easy to work with and don’t shift on you.

5) Cut your pattern in a slightly bigger size, then take in the seams if you need to. I recommend you first make a muslin of your pattern to get a general idea of how it fits you. I did this with V9123, and discovered that without quilting it ran a little big on me, so adding quilting would probably make it fit just right.

6) Quilting may “shrink” your fabric, though probably not by much. Joining your outer fabric to batting and inner fabric through stitching may cause some shrinkage of the layers. For me, I didn’t experience any shrinkage width-wise of my outer fabric but I did in the length. Fortunately, because hems were added in the pattern to the sleeves and the coat, this didn’t matter as you don’t need those hems anyway (all edges are trimmed to appropriate size and then bound). Cutting your pattern in a larger size will help combat shrinkage.

7) Cut out your pattern pieces in your outer fabric first. Then use those pieces to cut your inner fabric, cutting about 1 to 1.5 inches extra fabric around the pattern pieces. Do the same with the batting, leaving extra fabric around the pattern prices. Then, after you’ve finished your quilting, you can trim each quilted piece again—cutting away the excess batting and inner fabric you cut as a safety in case of shrinkage—using your pattern tissue pieces as the cutting guide.

Tips for quilting your first coat or jacket. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.8) If you have a dog who likes to rip the stuffing out of all the toys you buy him, do not let him near your batting. I cut my batting pieces and fabric on my dining room table, moving the unused batting to an ottoman in my living room, just to get it out of the way for the time being while I finished spray basting. I happened to look over to see what my dog was doing, and there he was, tearing into the batting like it was a new chew toy. (Fortunately I was able to get it away from him before he did too much damage, but who’d have thought he’d eat my batting?!)

Busted! That's my spaniel with a mouth full of batting.
Busted! That’s my spaniel with a mouth full of batting.

9) Hold your layers together using a spray baste. Because things like sleeves and coat backs and fronts aren’t very big, spray basting will hold the layers (outer fabric + batting + inner fabric) together nicely. First I placed my charmeuse sleeve piece on my table, wrong side facing up, sprayed it lightly with spray baste, and then placed the sleeve batting piece on top of it. Next, I sprayed the sleeve batting and placed the outer fabric sleeve piece on top of that, with the right side of the outer fabric on top. I repeated this for each pattern piece, which in my case was two sleeves, one back and two fronts. Important: Make sure you’re working in a well-ventilated room if you are using spray baste; or, better yet, do this part outside. And cover your table with an old sheet to protect it from the sticky spray residue.

Tips for quilting your first coat or jacket. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.

10) Determine the quilting pattern you want to use and draw it on your outer fabric. For me, quilting a diamond pattern worked best as the fabric print actually formed diamonds. To better see where to stitch, I used a water-soluble fabric marker and ruler to draw stitching lines on the pieces.

11) Quilt in the middle of your pattern piece first, then move outward. You want to anchor the piece in the middle with your quilting stitching, then radiate outward. This will prevent your layers from bunching and shifting on you, and will help keep your piece smooth and not curving because the layers are pulled in different directions. Check your layers frequently as you stitch to make sure they’re not bunching or pulling. Alternate stitching direction with each row: Stitch one row starting from the left side of the piece, stitch the next row starting from the opposite side, and so on. This also helps prevent bunching.

Tips for quilting your first coat or jacket. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.

In the illustration above, the blue lines indicate the first two lines to be stitched. Stitching first in the middle like this helps to anchor your garment piece and keep the layers from bunching and shifting as you stitch.

12) Surprise, quilting actually goes quickly. Because you’re working on relatively small pieces that aren’t very wide, you can get this part of the process done fairly fast. It took me just a couple of evenings to quilt my coat. Using a walking foot helps ease the layers through, so attach yours and use it if you have one. Important: Do not worry about achieving perfectly straight or parallel stitching lines. It’s actually more desirable and chic for your garment to look hand-quilted rather than machine-quilted in a factory.

Tips for quilting your first coat or jacket. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.
Using a walking foot to quilt helps move the layers through your machine’s feed dogs.

13) You can stitch a regular 5/8″ seam, or wider if you choose. I stitched 5/8″ seams, pressed them open and Hong Kong seam-finished them. Unless your outer fabric is really thick, working with quilted seams is not a challenge at all. Try other seam finishes. For my next quilted coat, I may bind all the seams and make it reversible. See this post for more photos of my coat.

14) Use a quilting binding technique to finish your raw edges. I cut 2″-wide bias strips from cotton velvet for my coat. because I needed the stretch in a bias cut for the curve around the neckline. (Normally in quilting you can cut strips on the straight of grain, because there are no curves in most quilts, but garment generally have curves at the neck.) My strips were folded in half and then stitched to the right side of my coat’s edges, raw edges together. Then, I turned the binding in to the wrong side of the coat and hand-stitched it in place. Watch this video by the Missouri Quilt Company to learn how to sew a quilt binding.

Tips for quilting your first coat or jacket. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.
My coat before the edges were bound.

I hope I’ve encouraged you to try quilting a garment. Seriously, it’s fun! If this sounds overwhelming, you can always start small and try quilting a little jacket for a baby or toddler. Leave any questions for me in the comments section, and let me know if you’re intrigued enough to try quilting a garment. Good luck!

Tips for quilting your first coat or jacket. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.

We’ve been sewing since 1863.

  1. Thanks for the mention! I DO love the Hobbs wool batting, it is beautifully soft and malleable without some of the stand-alone stiffness of batting designed for quilts. I’ve used Clo-chalk to mark the quilting lines when I want a more abstract quilting pattern. It disappears over time or when pressed. Once I used a copper metallic thread on a brown silk padded vest, using a sharp topstitching needle. You are right, the stitching goes quickly and is one of those quiet repetitive processes that is really enjoyable. I’m enjoying all your posts.

  2. Thank you for the quilting ideas for making coats. Your example shows a 65 degree angled diamond and was glad to see that as it is more the industry standard rather than quilting in a square and putting that on point. At a quilt show some years back, I purchased a special ruler called “The Original True Angle” by Quint Measuring Systems. You can mark any angle easily using this ruler. I make/quilt cross body purses and use this all the time. Check online for the rulers, also available at art stores, Staples, Amazon, and so on. First establish the center vertical line on your fabric, use the ruler on this line and I might mark the line with chalk (see Marcy’s comment above), but most of the time I use blue painters tape in long strips to mark where I want to sew. From the first two lines established, one can make the diamond any size you want. Experiment on scraps to see what you like.

  3. Great tips! I’m both a quilter and garment sewist so I agree with all of your suggestions. Since I live in the South I use silk batting which handles well for quilted garments.

    1. Ooh, silk batting, I need to try some!

  4. I am also enjoying your posts and the sharing of your experience and expertise. As a quilter and returning garment maker I have one little add. I have discovered over time that I prefer to quilt a larger piece of fabric and cut the smaller pieces from the larger. It does waste a bit of fabric but I find it more stable and accurate for those little pieces. Example: side panel of a princess seamed vest. I also like it for collars or collar stands for bias placement. This way I do not stretch the fabric trying to quilt it on the bias. I quilt it then cut it on the bias. Hope this makes sense 🙂

    1. Cheryl, thanks, good tip!

  5. These tips are great. I have add – depending on how much your wool (fabric or batting) smells like wool, you may have to keep an eye on your kitty, too. Best case scenario is extra fur from a warm nap place. Worst case is a lot like guilty face above.

    I have figured out how to do a herringbone design as continuous line quilting and am so glad you started this very inspiring thread!

    @Marcy: Brown and copper sounds heavenly.

  6. Great tips! I’m starting a quilted jacket project soon. It might be the sewing trend of the year end.

  7. I have never quilted but all of the above information is interesting and useful. Oh and I love your doggie…cute little rascal!

  8. Love your quilted coat! I’ve been sewing garments for many years and just recently tried some free motion quilting which I enjoy much more than piecing. You’ve inspired me to make a quilted coat like yours as I’m hoping for a more fashionable look than my tattered old barn coat. Thanks for the tip on wool batting too.

  9. Thank you for posting these very helpful ideas for the process of quilting garments. I, too, recently took a free-motion quilting class, and I would like to get started using some of these ideas when I make garments. Your description of your experience of making a coat has made me think seriously about actually doing this!

  10. These are great tips!!! This is as close as I will ever get to quilting!!! Lol I will definitely have to give this a go one day!

  11. Personally I prefer a heavy quality cotton flannel that has been washed a couple of times. Being short, quilted garments can make me look like Poppin’ Fresh. I’ve tried all the options mentioned over the years and flannel is my winner.

  12. Many sewing machines come with an add-on piece for your walking foot that you can use to keep your rows the same width apart. I mark only the first line in each direction. Then I put on the quilting bar and set it to the width apart I want. All my rows turn out even this way. Also, you need to read the batting package to see how far apart your rows can be. Most will state a maximum distance the rows can be. if you make your rows too far apart your batting may migrate inside your garment. This is more worrisome for quilts than smaller garment pieces, but you need to check. The batting washing method should be compatible with the fabric washing method, so you can clean the coat. You can also use some of the simple decorative stitches on your machine, like the serpentine stitch to make your quilting lines. Use the smallest needle that works for quilting your fabric. If the needles holes in the fabric are too big, tufts of batting may pill to the outside, especially if you use a poly batting. I don’t quilt but all my sewing guild friends do and I have learned a lot from them.

  13. I’ve no quilting experience but have just made a quilted jacket following your instructions and I’m delighted with the result. I used a frixion pen to mark my fabric, it makes a fine line and can be ironed out. Just don’t wear your garment in freezing conditions unless it’s been washed. Apparently the marks return at very low temperatures.
    I did find setting in sleeves difficult and wondered if it’s feasible to quilt just up to the seam allowance, so that seams are less bulky. Has anyone tried this? Did it work?

  14. Thanks for the tips, i have been wanting to make a quilted jacket! Your dog looks exactly like like my english cocker Wyatt. He steals batting too!

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