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.

5 Ways to Make Cutting Out Patterns Less Tedious

Five ways to make cutting out patterns less tedious. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.

Ask any home sewer what she dislikes the most about sewing garments and she’ll probably say cutting out patterns. We’re all so eager to get sewing and working with our fabric that we hate anything that stands in our way. But the cutting-out-pattern stage can be almost enjoyable if you practice these five tips:

Five ways to make cutting out patterns less tedious. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.1) Don’t pin your patterns.

Cut your dependence on pins and I promise you will be so much happier! I stopped pinning my pattern pieces to the fabric years ago after I saw a video of the Chanel atelier working on a collection. The woman cutting out a gown used weights to hold the pattern in place atop the fabric, and she placed and re-placed the weight on the pattern as she cut. Not a single pin was used to hold the pattern to the fabric. I have four dressmaker weights like the one in the photo above, and find that this is enough to keep patterns in place. When I’m done cutting a piece I fold it with the tissue on it, and then place it in my project bag. Sometimes I’ll put a pin in a smaller piece, like a facing, just to keep the tissue and fabric together more easily.

Five ways to make cutting out patterns less tedious. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.2) Use the sharpest and best scissors you can afford.

Another game-changer for me was upgrading my scissors. I use Kai dressmaking shears and they cut through fabric like butter. I almost wept the first time I cut fabric with them, it was that delightful. Many people swear by their Ginghers. Use whatever kind of scissors you like: They should feel comfortable to hold and operate, and they shouldn’t give you any kind of resistance with most fabrics. Keep your scissors nice and sharp. And it’s ok to use your good scissors to cut through pattern tissue and pattern paper.

Five ways to make cutting out patterns less tedious. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.3) Cut out patterns during your cheerful time of day.

You will enjoy the cutting-out process so much more if you allocate it to a time of day when you’re feeling alert and generally cheerful. I like to cut my patterns out during the day on Sunday. I’ll cut out one to two patterns at a time, but never more than that, and I take my sweet time. Never cut out patterns when you are tired or your mind is elsewhere. You will have epic fails and you’ll do things like cut out two left front bodices and not have enough fabric to correct your mistake.

Five ways to make cutting out patterns less tedious. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.4) Cut on a table that’s high enough and big enough.

This tip can be a challenge for anyone living in a small space, like an NYC apartment. Think about other options that might be available. Can you impose on a friend? In the past I’ve used both a friend’s quilting studio and office conference tables after work. Just make sure you clean up after yourself—don’t leave threads and tissue scraps on the floor. Also, think about getting a folding table that you can store out of the way when you’re done cutting, like under your bed.

Watch something entertaining while cutting out patterns.5) Treat yourself to some entertainment while cutting out.

I park my iPad on my cutting table (also known as my dining table) and watch Netflix while I’m cutting away. I’ll save episodes to watch, so I associate cutting out with good things like watching a fresh season of a favorite series. Or, try listening to an audiobook or some music. Just remember not to get too distracted while you’re cutting, or else—uh-oh.

 

Five ways to make cutting out patterns less tedious. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.

5 Ways To Make Everyone Think You’re a Sewing Pro

5 ways to make everyone think you're a sewing pro. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.

Just think, with a sewing machine, a pattern and some fabric you can actually make your own clothes. Being a beginning sewer is exciting and empowering as you learn how to sew a wardrobe that’s uniquely you. It can also be really frustrating when you’re trying as hard as you can but keep churning out things that look “Becky Home Ecky,” an insult Michael Kors used to toss at struggling designers on Project Runway.

Relax, making clothes that look as nice as better RTW is within every beginning sewer’s reach. All you have to do is follow these five tips:% Ways to Not Look Like a Beginning Sewer

1) Know what fashion styles work best for you.

Just because you now have the ability to make your own clothes—which makes you a super-cool human being—doesn’t mean you need to turn into a DIY fashionista queen. Remember that while sewing may be your new passion, it does take time and money. Before you even think about sewing the latest fashion trend (ooh, culottes!), head to the store and try it on. Or search online and see how it looks on people with your body type. Think of all the time you saved but not sewing something that was going to look terrible on you no matter how well you made it.

5 Ways to Keep From Looking Like  a Beginning Sewer

2) Choose a fabric that makes you look like a pro.

Beginning sewers often feel their nascent sewing skills aren’t worthy of better fabric, so they limit themselves to low-cost fabric. (We don’t mean good fabric at affordable prices. We mean poorly-manufactured fabrics that are priced low because the quality is low.) One, cheap fabric will always look like cheap fabric, even if you sew well enough to meet Patrick Grant’s approval. Two, better fabric is a pleasure to sew with, and will help you be a better sewer because it will cause less frustrations at the sewing machine. Cheap fabrics fray easily, snag frequently, pill when washed, and are often printed off-grain. Three, better fabric can make the simplest of designs—an elastic-waist skirt, for example—look like expensive designer RTW.

5 Ways to Keep From Looking Like  a Beginning Sewer

3) Test the details first.

As a beginning sewer you’re going to have a lot of firsts: first zipper, first pocket, first buttonhole, etc. Grab some scrap fabric and practice sewing these details before you begin working on your pattern. Be prepared: You may need to test-sew several versions before you get it right. Only after you’re satisfied that your imaginary sewing teacher would give you an A+ should you attempt sewing your first [insert scary new sewing technique here] in the garment you’re working on.

basting stitches blog

4) Baste for greater control.

Sure, pins are perfect for holding things together and we use them all the time. But when you want to have real control at the sewing machine and achieve perfect stitching the first time, baste your garment pieces in place. Hand-stitching secures your fabric much more precisely than pins do, and it doesn’t come out like pins can. Sure, it may take you a little longer to baste rather than pin (though not much), but you’re so much less likely to need to rip out your stitching and try again. Use a thread for basting that pulls out of your fabric easily, like a silk thread.

5 Ways to Keep From Looking Like  a Beginning Sewer

5) Press for perfection.

Nothing screams “beginning sewer” louder than a garment that was sloppily pressed during construction. Invest in a good iron with steam and high heat, and pick up some pressing tools such as a tailor’s ham and a wooden point presser. Then follow the pattern’s directions and carefully press seams and sewing details at every juncture, not missing a single step where pressing is called for. The result will be a crisp-looking garment with sharp details.

 

Five ways to make everyone think you're a sewing pro. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.