Things have been moving a bit slower than I would have liked, but I am making some progress. On Daryl’s advice, and after testing several options, I bought a yard and a half of tightly woven plum-colored flannel to use for interfacing. I drafted the interfacing patterns, cut out the interfacing, and marked it with roll lines, buttonholes, darts, and center front. I am just about ready to start tailor-basting the interfacing to the coat, and padstitching the lapels.
This is where things get a bit confusing. Claire Shaeffer’s book, while it covers the main points, doesn’t provide a complete blow-by-blow description of the process. For example, she doesn’t specify when to add the buttonholes or when to add welt pockets (though she does give instructions elsewhere in the book for creating both). She does say that couturiers add the buttonholes near the end, not during the initial construction. But since my last experience in making buttonholes was at least ten years ago (and I have never made a bound buttonhole), I’m not sure I want to wrestle with buttonholes in a nearly-finished jacket. Doing them earlier just seems smarter considering my experience level. So I think that, for this first coat anyway, I will do the buttonholes first.
Of course, doing the buttonholes early means that you have the buttons ready. Since I had planned to make the coat with suede buttons (using the same suede as for the collar/lapel), this meant making the buttons myself. So I spent some time this evening experimenting with make-your-own-button kits, and discovered that they just aren’t designed for material as heavy as suede.
So instead I took a slightly rounded button with a long shank and covered it with suede, the old-fashioned way. I cut a circle from the suede, about twice the diameter of the button. Then I sewed a gathering stitch around the edges, put the button in the center, and pulled both ends of the thread until I had a nice tight gather right around the shank, and the button was smoothly covered in suede. Looks really nice (except on the back side, which nobody is going to see) and the results are quite durable, I’d expect. I used heavy-duty thread to reduce stretch and to make sure it held.
That part was easy.
Now I am reading through books to make sure I understand the assembly process. It is a slow process, because I have three good books on sewing jackets and they sometimes contradict each other. So I am reading all three, trying to understand the motivations of the author in making that recommendation. Sometimes it’s speed, sometimes it’s simplifying for the inexperienced, sometimes it just seems arbitrary. It’s a little overwhelming, but I’m letting myself puzzle it out because the important part is not actually getting the coat done; it’s learning how to think about fabric, how it behaves and how to work with it. And the way you learn how to do that is not by blindly following instructions, but by reading and thinking closely about what you are doing and why. This takes longer, but I’ve got patience.
So I am back to my high-school and college days: reading texts, taking notes, and writing in my notebook my understanding of what they are recommending and why, and also my plans for moving forward. Because it’s easy to get bored, confused, or just plain overwhelmed with this much information, I plan to do this in tandem with a couple of fairly straightforward things: padstitching the lapels and collar, making the buttons, and practicing bound buttonholes. All of these are relatively simple and relatively time-consuming, giving me plenty of time to think while still making progress.
So stay tuned…in a day, a week, a month I’ll start to understand this…and then, by all the myriad gods, THERE WILL BE FIREWORKS!!