Thursday, May 9, 2013

How-to on the Minimalist coat

So ... as promised ... the how-to of the seams on double cloth...
Double cloth is two layers of fabric stitched/tacked together throughout, so that you have a double-thick fabric.  I've only ever seen it in wool - I don't know if this fabrication is possible in other types of fabric.  It's sewn together with what, essentially, is a fancy version of a flat-felled seam.
Think of this as attaching 4 layers, but you sew 3 of those layers together, then hide the seam allowance between layers 3 and 4.  Clear as mud?
Once you've cut your pieces, you have to decide which way you will be pressing your seams - i.e. to the back or to the front.  I chose to the back.  I had to peel the fabric of the back piece from the edge to 1/4 inch beyond the seam line.  To make this easier, I basted at 7/8 inch .  Only later in the process I realized that basting with a bright coloured thread actually made it easier to see when I had finally reached the basting line, because you can see that stitching between the layers of fabric.
Peeled edge
Peel ever so carefully, snipping the little threads.  I tried the seam ripper, but then switched to my smallest scissors.  No holes allowed. 
Next you pin the unpeeled piece to one layer of the peeled piece.  ( I believe that this is an armhole seam in the picture, which is why it looks curved.)
Then you stitch the seam at 5/8 inch.
After stitching - all seam allowances get cut down to 1/4 inch.  On the straight seams, I used a rotary cutter and my little 6 inch gridded ruler ( I like to torture myself), checking constantly to be sure that I was right on the line.  On the armhole (curved seams) I marked the cutting line and cut with scissors.
Press the seam allowances of the "3" layers into the opening, and the 4th layer is turned under to enclose all the raw edges - somewhat like adding binding.
And then - you stitch by hand.  I used tiny little felling stitches, which I find easier to keep even than a slipstitch.  After pressing, they sink into the fabric and disappear quite well.
What really had me puzzled was how to deal with the ends of seams that would then be turned in on the edges of the coat.  I figured it out when I got there.  You have to peel both edges right at the very end, to give you the two layers on the edge that can be turned in for the "hem".
I left very long threads  at the ends of the seams and then used that thread to finish off the seam stitching by hand.
This can now be turned in from each side to make the hem.
The hems have to be stabilized somehow, or they'll surely stretch.  I looked for very narrow twill tape, but couldn't find anything narrow enough.  What I found in my trims box, was silk knitting ribbon (now where did that come from???)  It's very  narrow - just what I needed, and very thin - no unnecessary bulk, and very stable - also what I needed.
The ribbon got sandwiched into one turned edge of fabric, basted (because it wasn't behaving well, and had to be put in its place), before the other edge was turned in and and the whole edge was slipstitched.
So that's the story of my grey coat, plain and simple.  (I have to admit, sewing while holding a camera in one hand is not the easiest feat.)  Since we had cold weather lasting for much longer than anyone wanted, this coat has had quite a number of wears.  It's surprisingly warm, incredibly light-weight, and I really am glad that it finally made into the closet.
If you want professional pictures of the process, in pretty colours - not my blah grey, check back to Issue 123 of Threads from February/March 2006 - there's an article by Anna Mazur on this wonderful fabric.  (Page 60 - to be exact.)


  1. Your coat is beautiful. It may be minimalist in style, but not in construction.

  2. Thanks for this tutorial. I'll pin it for future reference.

  3. Brilliant work. So elegant in it's simplicity.

  4. Great technique. I wish there was more instruction like this and less narcissism on the sewing blogs!

  5. What wondeful information Irene. Thank you so much for all the details.

  6. I love the simple lines of this coat. You did a remarkable job photographing your meticulous work along the way. Great to see you blogging again!