My sewing challenge: Making the 1960s coat and bagging out the lining

MeInMyCoat1May I proudly present my very first coat!  I actually finished it three months or so ago, but have been wearing it nonstop ever since.  These full-length photos were taken as soon as I got home yesterday evening – which also explains the natural light.

This has long been a dressmaking ambition of mine, and I still can’t quite believe it has been realised.  When my Sew Over It family first conceived the 1960s coat class I was delighted: I could learn about coat-making whilst in the hands of some of the most professional people I know.  Yes, I do teach knitting and crochet there; and no, this is NOT a sponsored post – but being biased doesn’t necessarily make me wrong!

I wholeheartedly recommend this class, and this pattern, if you can already sew but want a solid introduction to coat-making.  The first thing to note about this coat is that the fit issues are minimal and the construction is simple.  I only needed to add about 5.5cm for the fronts to overlap properly on me, but the pattern is also easy to tweak if you’d prefer a single-breasted coat.  There are no real lapels (although you could allow the fronts to fall open rather than fastening them up all the way, as I’ve shown here; to see the coat done up, look at Sew Over It’s images), just simple front facings and a back neck facing.  The ultimate benefit of this simplicity is that you have the headspace to learn about tailoring techniques and working with wool fabric without being overwhelmed.  Plus, Julie is a *FANTASTIC* teacher 🙂

Because I have enough handfinishing in my life, I chose not to hand finish the lining of the coat.  Actually, I don’t know if I would be keen on handfinishing if I didn’t knit or crochet…  It does look lovely – but it’s not for me.  Each to their own and all that.  So, with some internet research and moral support from Kate, I decided to tread extremely uncharted waters by bagging out the coat lining.  Nothing like stepping outside of the comfort zone!

For the uninitiated or curious, ‘bagging out’ is what dressmakers call it when you attach a lining to the garment shell, wrong sides out, and turn it through to have a magically finished, immaculately lined garment; the only thing left to do is give it a good press and wear it with pride.  They do it all the time in industry, so have a look at your own trusty coat for an example.  Everything is machine stitched, so you need courage and commitment – especially the former!

Prior to this project I had no experience of bagging out linings, so I was in awe but keen.  The two best guides for this were by Grainline Studios and In the Mood for Couture.  With their diagrams there is little chance of getting the sleeves twisted, but if you’re anything like me you’ll check twenty times anyway!

To prepare, I trimmed the lining pieces of the sleeves and body to account for rolling in, i.e. so that the lining doesn’t show on the outside of the cuff or hem, calculating how much suited my measurements.  After that I arranged the lining and coat pieces as per the diagrams online (I found that ITMFC was clearer than Grainline).  When you’ve done this, you can pin the lining to the facings and coat hem, and then sort out the sleeves.  This is how my coat looked when I was on the brink of sewing it up:

PurpleCoatBaggedOut1 PurpleCoatBaggingPrep2





And here are a few photos I took as I went along:

PurpleCoatSewing BaggedSleevesPurpleCoatBaggedOutSleeve







I sewed the sleeves first because I felt that the tight circumference of the cuffs was best got over with.  Then I sewed the linings and facings together, and the hem last.  Finally – although you can do this at any time before the magic happens – I unpicked part of one of my lining sleeve seams for turning through.  You can leave it unsewn, but I like Grainline’s idea of using the crease of the seam as a guide for resealing.  In a way, it doesn’t matter where you make the hole in the lining, but Kate recommended the sleeve because it would be completely hidden away.  Inconspicuousness is the name of the game ;-).  I made a hole of about 15cm, again as suggested by Kate.  Believe it or not, it was enough!

And here are a couple more shots.  I don’t know if I did things awkwardly – on reflection, it’s probably because I sewed the sleeves first – but I had to lift the machine through the loops created by the sewn sleeves and the body when it came to sealing up the main seams.  Slightly weird doing this, but it had to be done, and it wasn’t the end of the world.

PurpleCoatBaggedOut2 PurpleCoatTangledAroundMachine





And so the time had come.  Time for THE MANOEUVRE.

Lovely Alex was beside me for the birth moral support, but she ended up helping me to pull the coat through the opening in the sleeve!  Quite a bit of force was required in places, which was matched only by hysterical giggling!  There is something quite primitive about this part of bagging out.  I’ve never had a baby or witnessed childbirth, but the physical effort and nascence of pulling an adult-sized coat through a 15cm hole made me wonder!  I wish a third person could’ve filmed Alex and I, but never mind.  What I will say is this: I’m glad I decided to grab the collar first when I reached through the hole in the sleeve.  Having something substantial to hold onto from the start helped A LOT.

At first the coat came through the gap easily.  Then, about midway through, it seized up.  This is when the hysterical giggles began – and the second pair of hands came in, well, handy ;-).  Alex held down the coat whilst I pulled and pulled as hard and as carefully as possible.  This seemed to take ages, but probably didn’t – although I will say that at this point I was determined to make it work because there was NO GOING BACK.

Then, suddenly, the coat became yielding and malleable again, and the remainder practically poured out of the sleeve.  The Magic had happened!  IT WORKED!  Here are some close-ups of the inside:

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After an inspection and an initial try-on (Alex too – it was the least I could do), I sealed up the birthing hole (sorry), rolled up the coat and put it in my bag, ready to take home later.  And that was that.  All that remained was to give it a really good press, mark the button/buttonhole positions – and wait for the weather to warm up a little bit.

And now we’re in May, and the weather really has warmed up.  Perfect time to be writing about a winter coat.  Because it’s so light, it’s more of a spring/autumn coat anyway.  So there 🙂


6 Comments Add yours

  1. thehookstook says:

    Did someone say summer? I was out today in persistent rain with a coat on, and gloves, and still felt cold! Didn’t help that we were standing round lots, doing a garden tour.. Must say, I love the idea of sewing, but not the reality – threading needles tests my patience. Think I’ll stick with the knitting/crochet, but well done you for making a coat. Excellent!

    1. Thank you ☺. And re the weather, that’s so true! Absolutely miserable day today, the rain hasn’t stopped. That’ll teach me to tempt fate…

  2. crackedbutcrafty says:

    Wow, love this coat! Looks fabulous!! x

    1. Thank you! 😀 x

  3. Diane Hamilton-Harris says:

    What a fabulous read! I was silently laughing on the train as you related your birthing pain.

    The coat is gorgeous, well done xx

    1. Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it. I’ve been looking forward to making myself another coat ever since. They’re now one of my favourite things to sew xx

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