Thursday, October 25, 2018

A Wonderful Wool Winter Wear Peacoat

Let me tell you about a very exciting text I received earlier this year. It was from my aunt. She was at an estate sale. And she sent me something along these lines: " I found a box of wool fabric. Do you want it?"

My response was quick:"Yes! Yes, Yes, Yes! Wool is one of my very favorite textiles to work with!"

My wonderful aunt brought the box of wool to me the next time she came to town, and I enthusiastically explored the contents. One of the first pieces of fabric I pulled from the box was a length of thick, soft, twill-weave, turquoise wool coating. Instantly, in my mind, it became a warm, casual, winter coat. All I had to do was actually turn the material into that coat.

As mentioned, wool is seriously one of my very favorite materials to work with, and I have a great fondness for making outerwear. So, clearly this was going to be a fun project. As soon as I actually got around to making it that is. To be honest, if left to my own devices, this coat probably wouldn't have been made until nearly the end of winter, like sometime in February. It would have been one of those projects constantly put off because of "more pressing things" such as Christmas Carol Costumes, or Christmas gifts, or Christmas dresses, or other such things. You get the picture. However, I was not left to my own devices to make this coat, instead, I joined the Winter Wear Designs "Outerwear" blog tour - just the push I needed to actually take the time to make my fabulous teal coat with that amazing piece of wool.

As soon as I found the Provence Pea Coat pattern on the Winter Wear website I wanted to make it. The coat has an absolutely beautiful shape and some great details. The eye catching seaming and yoke on the back drug me in. This was the coat my teal wool would become.

As far as good, heavy, warm, winter coats go, I have two - my torn up, bleach stained, and usually dirty chore coat, and the wool dress coat I made myself last winter. I definitely needed something in between those two coats. Something more casual than the dress coat, but nicer, and more socially acceptable, than the old chore coat. The Provence Pea Coat filled that gap perfectly.

Unfortunately, once I received the pattern for this coat and opened the PDF file, I was disappointed. The sleeve pattern was meant to be cut on the fold, meaning the front and back sleeve head would be symmetrical. To accommodate this, the front and back armscye were also the exact same shape. As my upper back and upper chest are not identical to each other, and human arms naturally hang slightly more toward the front of the body than the back, these symmetrical shapes were just not going to give me a well-fitting coat. Some pattern alterations would be necessary. So pattern alterations I did.

Now, let me just say real quick, over the past 6 months I have made an awful lot of Winter Wear Designs patterns, and I have been very pleased with them. They have been well-drafted and yielded good results for me. This is the first Winter Wear pattern I've had an issue with, and it's an older pattern, due for an update. I talked to Suzanne, the designer, and she told me this pattern is on the list to be updated, and once that is done it will have "anatomically correct" sleeves. As, at the time of the writing of this blog post, the update has not yet happened, I opted to alter the sleeve head and armscye pattern myself for my version of the coat.

The easiest way to "fix" the sleeves would have been to just trace the different front and back armscye shapes from a different pattern (such as the Button Up Top, or Fashionista Jacket also by WWD, and both with good sleeves and armscye shapes) onto the Provence Pea Coat pattern, and trace the sleeve head from the same pattern onto the pea coat sleeve pattern. But did I do things the easy way? No, I did not. And (for once) I had a very good reason for that.

Sleeves and shoulders are two things I've always had issues with when it comes to clothing - both in ready to wear clothes and clothing patterns. I have wide shoulders (and/or a broad upper back?), inherited from my father, and clothing just isn't made to accommodate that. You may have noticed, by reading this blog that I make my own clothes. Thus, I can easily just make my shirts, dresses, jackets, and coats with wide enough shoulders, right? Well, sort of, but it turns out getting the right shoulder fit is much easier said than done. In the past, I've messed around with the shoulder width on patterns, and made my clothing to fit better than store-bought. However, I've never quite gotten the "perfect fit". The, less than ideal, cut-on-the-fold, sleeves in this pattern forced me to really evaluate all the shoulder and sleeve fitting issues I've had in the past, and get them truly fixed for once. So, in the end, I wound up with the least movement-restricting coat of all time.

To correct the armscye and sleeve situation, I curved out the front armscye a bit, and added more of and angle to the front shoulder. For the back piece I slightly straightened out the curve of armscye. And, while I was altering the pattern I also did a broad back adjustment to accommodate my annoying shoulders. Then I moved onto the sleeves.

As the sleeves were meant to be cut on the fold, I essentially just had half a sleeve pattern. So the first thing I did here was trace that half of a sleeve onto some scrap paper, then tape the two halves of s sleeve together.

Just like with the armscye, I added a bit more curve to the front of the sleeve, and slightly straightened out the curve on the back of the sleeve head. This change of shape allows for normal arm movement.

With my pattern alterations done, I made a quick mock-up of the coat before cutting into my wool. The shoulders fit amazingly. The sleeves hung nicely. I thought I'd done it, altered the pattern to fit me perfectly. Then I tried moving my arms around, and discovered my range of motion was still limited, just as it always is for me in sleeved garments with no stretch. So, as I'd already altered the pattern some, I decided I might as well do a bit more. I just had to figure out what exactly I needed to alter. 

 I began to google how to fix this range of motion issue which happens to be the bane of my existence. After reading a couple articles, and watching a youtube video, I came to the conclusion that by lowering the sleeve head on my pattern, I would have a better range of motion. So, I lowered the sleeve head by at about two inches, made one more mock-up, and was thrilled to discover I could actually move in it!

I've finally discovered how to alter patterns to actually fit me! From here on out, I will be doing a broad back adjustment to just about everything, and lowering sleeve heads. After years of shopping and sewing frustration, I've finally got it - a cute coat I can actually move in!

My arms can go all the way up!

And all the way forward, with no discomfort at all!

I have literally never been able to do this in any cute, tailored, coat, but in my Provence Pea Coat I can actually move!!

So, the current cut-on-the-fold sleeves of this pattern may be less than ideal, but, they forced me to, finally, actually tackle the fitting issues which have plagued me since forever.

The rest of the peacoat pattern is great, and required absolutely no alterations. As soon as the pattern is updated with new sleeves, I will heartily recommend it. As it is, I still recommend it, just be willing to adjust the sleeves and armscye as necessary for a good fit. The sizing for this coat, as with all Winter Wear patterns, is spot on. I cut my size according to my measurements, and it came out fitting just as it should. The sleeves fit perfectly over other clothing without being baggy! (And I made no adjustments whatsoever to sleeve width.)

The pockets are excellent.

The back seaming is gorgeous.

The double-breasted front was the perfect place to use these beautiful buttons I found on clearance at Hobby Lobby months ago.

And I got to line the coat with this printed lightweight satin I found at an Amish store last winter - it features a bunch of people walking all sorts of dogs. How fun is that?

This coat was a great one-weekend project, and I absolutely love it.

Thanks to this blog tour, I now get to go into Winter with my wonderful, warm, teal wool Provence Pea Coat, and I am super excited about that! Now, for more fabulous Winter Wear Outerwear, check out the rest of the tour! Suzanne has several more jacket patterns featured on this tour, and I'm tempted by all of them!

Fall in love with every stop on the tour:

October 22
Ilse of Sew Sew Ilse

October 23

October 24

October 25
Meriel of Elli and Nels
Jessica of Jot Designs USA

October 26
Livia of Liviality


  1. Alyssa, you are AMAZING! I hope you realize that you have a gift for this! Your Aunt found you some treasures - those woolens are beautiful. I absolutely LOVE your coat. I have had the same problems with broad shoulders and long arms for all my life. I am so glad that you have the skill to realize what needed to be done to make a coat that will be a joy forever. I really like the slight "swing" in the back which makes it hang so beautifully. You're a designer genius.

    1. Thanks! I'm still almost in awe of the fact I actually managed to make a coat I can move in and love the shape of. The slight swing at the back is one of the reasons I picked this pattern :) I can't wait to use more of the wool as I come up with properly awesome projects for all of it!

  2. gorgeous gorgeous!!! I love how we can do personal alterations to make clothes that really fit us perfectly ;o)

    1. Thanks! I love the shape of this coat! Your patterns are great for using both "right out of the package" and the perfect base for adjusting to personal size and preference!

  3. Yes, the annoyance of broad is fantastic you have been able to hack it! I usually cut a size up and then have to take it in down the sides, but sleeves still don't fit the best and I never took the time to learn how they work, so they have remained the one part of patterns I haven't touched, but your amazing results have encouraged me to take the last plunge to having great fitting clothes :D
    Your coat is beautiful! LOVE the back seeming!! And the shoulder/arm fit looks superb.

    1. Adjusting sleeves used to terrify me - they seem so complicated! I wouldn't have attempted to change the sleeve cap shape at all had these sleeve not been cut on the fold - which I knew wouldn't work with my shoulders at all. Then, once I started adjusting the shape I realized it wasn't near as complicated as I thought it would be! So I highly recommend going ahead and giving it a go - it's way simpler than I thought it would be! There's a great tutorial on youtube by Threads Magazine about how to lower the sleeve head for better range of motion.

  4. Can you post some goat news.

    1. Right now there's not a whole lot to past about, the does should all be bred, the milkers are all dried off, and I'm expecting the first babies to arrive in early february.

  5. Congratulations on getting your beautiful coat done in time to wear this winter! I’m jealous of it and your box of wool!

    1. Thanks! I can't wait to find more awesome projects for the wool!

  6. You did a fabulous job on this! I love the detail! Love seeing what you make!! Isn't handmade so much better than purchased? Perfect fit!

    1. Thanks! Yes it is! But goodness, it took me a lot of years of sewing to figure out how to make handmade actually fit better than store-bought! I'm constantly amazed by the newer seamstresses who attack fitting issues early on - they are the ones who actually inspired me to figure out my own fitting issues and deal with them.

  7. Oh my goodness! You continue to amaze me😍. Yes you really do have some awesome talent. I think you should think about designing your own patterns. Love the coat. I’ll take one just like it. Lol :)

    1. Thanks Gram!I'm still learning when it comes to this pattern making thing, but I'd love to be able to draft most of my own patterns at some point!