I thought long and hard about this one. I have a coat in mothballs that needs to be finished (Butterick 6385) for starters. Secondly, my body is changing as a result of my recent athletic endeavours. Did I really want to put the time, effort and money into a winter coat I might not get much wear out of? Not really, was the answer. Then I noticed that linen was a potential recommended fabric for the By Hand London Rumana coat, which was this month’s #sewmystyle2018 featured pattern. I happened to have a 4yd length of mid-blue linen/canvas that I had been wondering what to do with, it being a little too stiff for the original trousers I had in mind. Hmmm. And there it was. An experimental spring coat in linen/canvas.
The Rumana Coat
The Rumana coat is named after a lovely contestant from The Great British Sewing Bee (bring it back! bring it back!) and is a classic, fully-lined coat with princess seams, welt pockets, two-piece sleeves and a nicely proportioned collar/lapel. It’s a full-length affair and I kept the length and made a size 14/18 (I am 5’6″ but wearing fairly high wedges in the photos for reference). I would say that the sizing is spot on and that if you intend to wear your coat with any sort of chunky clothing, you may want to size up a little. It is a teeny bit snug in the middle and I’ve seen a few people mention the same thing. I think that’s somewhat intentional as some of the styling pics show no fastenings, but I will need to lose just a few more pounds before I can add buttons without strain! 🙂
My main change next time would be to size down around the shoulders and add a full bust adjustment. The shoulders were originally quite wide and I have some excess material around the upper chest area. I think the above measures would fix those issues.
Two important facts
So, let me start by telling you two important things about the Rumana coat. Firstly, this is a very nice coat. You will see many beautiful versions around the internet from fellow #sewmystyle2018 sewists and it does seem to be universally flattering. However, you’ll also see something else mentioned by the majority of us, which is that the instructions are somewhat lacking for anyone who hasn’t made a coat before (i.e. me). If you have, you may well find them sufficient, but I found it very hard to understand what was going on in a few major sections and resorted to other online help to get through it, as well as help from the #sewmystyle Facebook community page. My main warning is: this is not a set of instructions for beginners. BHL started posting a sewalong right as were finishing off our coats and this may change things – I just wish they’d managed to post it a little earlier, before the deadline. These things do take a while to prepare though, I suppose.
I usually get a little wordy and technical with my posts, because I find those kinds of posts really helpful from other people. But there was so much in this construction that I guessed or pieced together that I don’t want to mislead any other beginner coat-makers, so I’m not going to get too technical today and, to be honest, I didn’t take too many pics in the second half of construction. Instead, I’ll try and highlight tricky parts and give you the sources I used.
Sticking it out
Let’s begin at the beginning. Man, the pdf sticking for this project is rough. And I quite like pdfing. If you don’t, I wouldn’t even bother trying – download the copyshop version and hand over a few more dollars or pounds to get that sucker printed. Believe me, you won’t regret it: there were over 100 pages I think and that was before the myriad cutting of fabric, lining and interfacing this coat involved. Whew. It took me a good few days to get it done with an hour here and there, but in the end, I managed it.
Then there was the fabric cutting, the interfacing and finally the project! I mean, to be fair, you would expect this with a formal coat, but it was still very time-consuming. I don’t know the exact composition of my shell fabric because I bought it from our local fabric consignment store here, but it was nice and stable to work with. The one thing that concerned me was the creasing – I’ve never really been into that creased linen look. But, you know, it’s really not bothering me at all in the end. You can see it a little in the pics and I think it’s sort of charming. For lining, I used some $1/yard rayon I bought yonks ago in an LA Finch Fabrics sale. I knew it would come in useful! I’m doing pretty well with the stash-busting so far this year.
I should mention that the notches are quite annoying – in quite a few places when I was notching all the sizes looked the same and I couldn’t tell which notch was my size. If you traced the pattern off it’s probably not an issue, but I cut it out from the pdf and it was an issue as I ended up making some incorrect marks. In addition, I wasn’t sure where to put some of the interfacing pieces on the shell – so my coat doesn’t have some of them. Perhaps I missed the direction on a diagram, but I really wasn’t sure when and where to apply them.
Finally I got to the sewing… and the first head-scratching part, which was putting the front panel together with welt pockets in the middle. Admittedly I’ve never made a welt pocket before, but in the end I had to pretty much ignore the drawings and just work out what seemed logical. The main thing to remember, which helped me, is if you pin your pieces as you think they should go and fold them back as if you’ve sewn the seams, the pieces should lie straight, to form the front of the coat. It can often seem like you’re sewing something at an odd angle, but then when you flip it over, it lines up straight. Here a few pics of my pocket in progress:
Shell – much easier
The next part – putting the shell together – is very straightforward in comparison and just takes a little time. I followed the instructions exactly, piecing it together and grading, before topstitching the seams down. My linen/canvas was a bit of a frayer, so I have to admit I was wondering if I should be finishing the seams off with the serger… but I didn’t, so we’ll see what happens! I really enjoyed this – it looks so neat and I was quite reassured by how the fabric was shaping up. I used a stitch length of 3.5 and stitched the recommended 3/8″ from the seam. I wasn’t quite sure I had topstitched the vent correctly, but figured I could fix it later if not. In the second picture you can see that my vent needs a little adjusting and a LOT more pressing. 🙂
Next, my low point of the project – the sleeves. They were simple to construct but I found it really difficult to ease them in. I tried as directed in the directions, then ran a basting stitch around the sleeve cap a couple of times, which helped gather the ease, but I then ended up with a ton of little tucks. I must have ripped those sleeve caps out 4 or 5 times. One additional issue I had was that I was really trying not to work the fabric too much. As I mentioned, the canvas/linen make-up of the material was prone to fraying, and messing around with the shoulder did me no favours.
Eventually I realized that the problem with ease also probably had a lot to do with the fabric. When I made and set in the lining sleeves (with much trepidation I must say) it was an absolute breeze compared to the shell. That’s when I realized that all that extra ease must have been because the shell pattern was really intended for the thicker winter coat fabrics, such as wool. Oh man. I called it a day at some point and they are acceptable I suppose, but I lost a bit of shaping and there are still quite a few little ripples. My advice, if you’re thinking about making a lighter version, is either use the lining pieces for the shell, or be prepared to adjust the sleeve cap pattern. Perhaps BHL will cover it in their sewalong.
Speaking of easing in sleeves, I must drop in a little note here to mention that easing is one thing I feel very inept at, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Many instructions I’ve come across, even good full ones for beginners, tell you how to prepare sleeve pieces and how to pin them, but then just say something like “and now just ease the excess into the armscye”. But what does it mean, this easing? That’s the part I don’t know how to do! Am I missing a Harry Potter Easeioso! spell? Or is it some family secret your grandma passes onto you the Tuesday afternoon before you leave home? I don’t know. But I know that I actually started looking for better resources during this project and can recommend this Blueprints for Sewing tutorial on sleeve ease. Well done to you guys for actually talking about and showing exactly how it’s done. I’d also recommend looking at Angela Kane’s Sewing a Coat video sewalong for all sorts of things. I sadly only discovered it at the lining stage, but it was amazingly helpful, so I’m sure the earlier parts are excellent too.
Collar and facing
Next, I turned to the collar, which a number of people also had issues easing together. Luckily for me I found a wonderful little tutorial on Instagram from @silkenstitches. Go and check it out on her page or under the #rumanacoat hashtag. She has made a lovely pink wool coat and used a method of basting and snipping notches into the collar stand before trying to ease. It worked a treat, and she explains it perfectly.
The facing and collar are then attached to the main body before tackling the final main piece – the lining. Again, I found this difficult to ease nicely and it took a few little re-sewing attempts to get it fairly smooth. It’s still not perfect, but I settled for “good enough” at some point.
Lining and finishing
For the lining I had no bleedin’ idea what I was doing and this is when I found the Youtube Angela Kane sewing video I referenced above. She does it in a different order, but it really helped me get going and made sense of the BHL pictures. Once I’d got it all worked out, I catchstitched the hem and then turned it all out and – tada! A lovely pristine coat, complete with finished lining! It really reminded me of making a bag actually, which I love (and no easing – ha!).
I feel it’s possible that this post comes across as a little negative and I have to stress that this project has not put me off the pattern at all. I just think it’s good to be aware that if you’re a beginner, there are going to be some tough parts. But, believe me, if I finished it, so can you! This is a beautiful coat and when I feel ready to shell out some spondoolies for some fine wool, I will definitely revisit the Rumana. For my first coat, I am actually very happy! And glad to be moving onto a smaller project next! Haha!
Thanks to the #sewmystyle2018 ladies – I think you did a fine job keeping everyone’s spirits up and providing helpful tips and resources. Well done!