This month, we welcome Heather Lou of Closet Case Files to the Sew News blog for the Clare Coat sew along! You may recognize this coat from the cover of our new issue…we kind of love it! And everything Heather makes for that matter. The coat is figure-friendly and a great starting place if you’re new to sewing coats.
Take it away, Heather!
The best thing about making coats, besides the whole “I made a gorgeous thing that prevents me from dying of exposure” thing is getting to work with wool. I. LOVE. WOOL. It basically purrs when you apply heat and steam; it wants to become things. Sheep are like, “Yo, humans. You’re welcome.” It’s naturally insulative, water resistant, breathable, wrinkle resistant, easy to sew and shape, and finally, it takes dye incredibly well, so you can drape your bod in the most beautifully saturated colors.
Because the Clare Coat doesn’t have a lot of internal structure, it’s important that your fabric have enough body to create a clean, crisp silhouette. I highly suggest working with medium and heavy weight wools only; suiting weight is too drapey for this pattern. I learned this the hard way when I feel in love with a lightweight melton; even when I interlined it with cotton flannel it failed to have the body I was after and hung a little limply in the sleeves and across the back.
Most fabric stores will have a wool coating section. Wool can come from sheep (merino & shetland), alpaca, goats (mohair & cashmere), rabbits (angora) and even camel. If you’re allergic to wool, try experimenting with a sample of a wool alternative to see if you have the same reaction.
- Felt – wool fibers that have been been wet, heated, agitated and compressed so that it creates a strong, dense fabric. Felt can be deceptive; the really thick stuff feels like it would almost be too thick to be wearable, but fear not. It totally softens up with steam and handling.
- Melton – tight, densely woven wool cloth that is felted and brushed on one side to create a “fulled” texture.
- Boiled Wool – made from a woven wool fabric that is washed in hot water, shrunk and then felted to create a very dense, water resistant fabric.
- Tweed – rough, open weave of fabric in plain weave, twill or herringbone style.
- Boucle – soft, textured, loosely woven wool fabric
All of the above fabric will be appropriate for Clare, but keep in mind that looser weaves like boucle may require more aggressive interfacing then what I have called for in the pattern in order to give it the body it requires.
WOOL FABRIC TIPS
As I mentioned, wool absolutely loves heat and steam. It is frankly delightful to press your first wool seam open and see how it responds to the iron! Here are some things to keep in mind when working with wool:
- Pre-treating and shrinking wool fabric is a must. You can try to shrink on your ironing board with loads of steam, but I’m lazy and either throw my yardage in the dryer with a couple of damp towels, or bring it to the drycleaner to be block steamed on those big steaming tables they have.
- Press, don’t iron. Use an up and down motion with your iron as opposed to a back and forth one so you’re not stretching your wool out of shape. Try and let your wool cool a little before manipulating it; it’s very easy to stretch and distort when its hot and damp.
- Use a pressing cloth made from light cotton or silk organza (you can also use a light piece of wool!) A press cloth with help prevent marks from appearing on your wool.
- Use a seam roll and/or a tailors ham. If you’ve been putting off buying these tools, now is the time. They really make an extraordinary difference in the final garment, especially when it comes to those curved raglan shoulders! A seam roll will create a rounded surface to press on, so you don’t see the lines of the seam imprinted in your fabric.
- If you do get wool “bruising” even after using a press cloth and seam roll, lightly steam the area, spritz with water and let dry naturally so the fibers can stand back up again.
- Use a wood clapper for the crispest, most beautiful pressed seams ever.
- Over pressed “shiny” areas can be brought back to life with a solution of 2 teaspoons of vinegar in one cup of water. Apply to fabric with a spray bottle and then press gently beneath a pressing cloth.
Grab the Clare Coat pattern at Shopsewitall.com and join us next week for tips on constructing welt pockets.