Two for one for you! Original concept for this 'one' coat was let's make it long, let's play around with mixing similar prints like color blocking (print blocking), and create shape where possible with gathering. I did explore the original concepts and achieve them in the final long version design. But inspiration hit as the waist seam was about to get stitched on the longer version. The upper body (bodice) of the coat looked amazing on its own. What do I do?! Do I proceed with the long or do I make it cropped? Well why not both, cause I can and because I was curious. So here are both versions for you.
During this process, it reminded me that it is completely fine to let a design evolve. Being curious is a beautiful trait. Let yourself be curious in the creative process, it will yield new and exciting results. It could also yield a disaster, but then I just let myself learn from the new mistake. In this post, I go over some of my mistakes but I cannot wait to go forward and make the next versions even better!
In late Feb, I visited Maiwa Supply Store on Granville Island, after having taught a workshop at their School of Textiles. While browsing the store, three separate black and ivory hand blocked fabrics caught my eye. Each was so different and yet they complimented each other well. I felt inspired to create something that combined these fun prints. So I did! If you’ve been following us, you might remember our Draft and Sew-a-Long series for the Tie Knot Bag. Well, we decided to take this lovely combo even further by creating matching coats!
Hand block printing is the technique of imprinting a desired design onto fabric by means of wooden blocks and is one of the earliest known techniques for textile printing. A hand carved wooden block is dipped into color trays and then stamped onto fabric, thus leaving a permanent print design. This technique is applied by use of hands only. You will notice slight inconsistencies in the print, but I think this makes it more beautiful- just like life.
As usual, there are a ton of design elements within these two coats, but I want to focus on the elements that I learned the most about and the elements you can learn from as well. Below, I chat about fake two piece sleeves, how to sew a clean seam finish, experimenting with gathering and how inspiration can hit you when you least expect it.
Two Piece Sleeves
The sleeve appears like it has an upper and a lower sleeve, but it's all an illusion. It still has an under arm seam but I placed a back seam to provide the visual of a two piece sleeve. This back seam runs right into the placket opening and cuff area.
Typically a placket opening is finished with a tower or a bound seam finish. But because we have a seam running right into the placket we can simply apply a clean seam finish to the full length of the seam. Never heard of a clean seam finish? To me, it is like a mix between a hemming and a seam finish. It is the complete opposite to a French seam but just as clean and beautiful. To sew a clean seam finish, follow these steps.
1. With right sides of fabric facing each other stitch seam from top of sleeve cap down to placket opening notch.
2. Press seam open and continue pressing into placket area the width of the allocated seam allowance.
3. Turn raw edge in and under the pressed open seam allowance and press the entire length of seam from top of sleeve cap down to bottom of placket opening at wrist.
4. Edge stitch along folded edge or slip stitch down to garment.
Gathers can be found in many areas of both coats. I wanted to really explore the element of gathers in a variety of ways. In the short coat, gathers are evenly distributed along the upper back bodice towards the yoke, but at the bottom of the back bodice, I centered the gathers just at the center back above the hem facing. I think in the future it would be nicer to distribute the gathers evenly across the whole width of the back to create more of an architectural silhouette. There are no gathers in the front of the short coat. Going forward I want to put gathers at the bottom of the front bodice to create some shape there. I have worn this coat already and it’s a bit too flat in the front.
With the long coat, I went all out with the gathers. I wanted to see how two gathered pattern pieces would interact with each other. The gathering in the front skirt section worked lovely as it was stitched to a stable bodice with no gathers. BUT the back had gathers along the waist in both the bodice and the skirt. Obvious now, but at the time I thought the gathers would hold with a secure straight stitch while sewing the waist seam. NOPE! This was not the case. I had to secure the seam with a bound seam finish to ensure the gathers would not just fall out over time.
Another problem I ran into was along the front waist at front opening. I gathered the skirt all the way to the front opening. Do not do this if you have a fold back button/buttonhole extension. When it folds back there should be no gathers in that section to allow the area to lay flat. I still made it work by pressing just so, and hand sewing the back to gain full control over the fabric.
Bound Seam Finishes
In both coats, bound seam finishes can be found along the waistline, armholes/sleeve cap and bottom of yoke seam. It is a great way to hide away the gathered edges of fabric.
As mentioned above, this was done to secure the seam with a bound seam finish to ensure the gathers would not just fall out over time.
Fabric Covered Buttons
We have an ongoing love for fabric-covered buttons here at the studio. Fabric-covered buttons can add a special touch to any design and are also a great way to use up fabric scraps! You can find a button-covering kit at most fabric and craft stores.
So...initially I was only designing the long version coat. BUT midway through the construction process, inspiration hit and I had to follow. The exact moment came right before I stitched the waist seam of the bodice to the skirt section. I placed the bodice with sleeves on the dress form and it just looked so good on its own that I immediately started drafting a hem facing for a shorter version to be made. I was lucky that I had just enough fabric to cut out a second coat.
All dressed up with nowhere to go (due to self-isolation) but that hasn’t stopped us from brainstorming future fall outfits! The studio staff agree that fall is our favorite fashion season anyways, so why not plan ahead? The first look features Sheila wearing the long coat with a forest green shirt, black paper bag pants, and black heeled booties. Black pants balance out a statement piece like our block print coats. For a pop of color, Natasha chose a rose red dress to pair with the cropped coat. Both completed their looks with a black baker boy hat.
For our final look, Sujitha took the matchy matchy route and paired the long coat with a simple white tied t-shirt and black printed dress pants. At first glance, we wondered if introducing yet another print into the mix would overwhelm the eye but this was actually our favorite look overall!
Final Designs & What I Learned
I think it is very important to allow yourself to explore and make mistakes freely. This provides you with better insight into your design aesthetic and improves your technical skills in both drafting and constructing. With these two coats, I gained a better understanding about different types of gathering and collar dimensions.
Gathering is essentially a very simple concept— excess fabric pulled together to create shape or volume around the body or in a specific area for movement (ease). As you read earlier, I experimented with different variations of gathers in different seams. Going forward, I would never place two gathered pieces together (ex: bodice and skirt) with a woven fabric. The straight stitch that connects the two does not control the gathers and the gathers will just fall out. You need to secure a gathered piece always into a solid pattern piece like a waist band or in my case; I improvised with binding the interior waist seam allowance to ensure the gathers did not fall out.
A small change I would make to the collar is the width. The collar is currently 2", which is a traditional width for a tailored shirt. However, due to the nature of the garment, a 3"+ width would sit nicer as it rolls away from the neckline. I may also experiment with adding slash lines in the collar to create a bit of flare around the collar. The wider a collar is made, the more flare is required to sit with ease around the neckline of the garment.
Designing your own wardrobe and wearing your personal creations is an empowering experience. If you would like to learn how to draft and construct outerwear, contact us to book lessons.
Designed, photographed and written by Sheila Wong Studios.