New test: Grainline Cortland Trench

Say hello to the Grainline Cortland Trench! I tested this coat wayyy back in September last year and it was actually the first time I tested for Grainline. I had been slowing down my testing last year actually, but then a couple of companies I admire got to the testing stage for their extended size ranges in a big way and requests started coming in. There is a bit of discussion on pattern testing right now and I will cover that separately I think, but for now I’ll tell you that I was more than happy to test for a company that is trying to expand its sizing range in a professional and considered way. I enjoy the chance to give “real” feedback on a product that fits my type of body, which the designer may or may not have a ton of experience with. Grainline does recompense us with a small cash sum and a pattern from its collection, but one of the big reasons I enjoy testing, and one that I haven’t seen anyone mention in the current discussion, is that I get something out of it personally in terms of sewing skill. I think it’s a great chance to work personally with a designer and I’ve previously focused on testing patterns that I 1) like – so I’ll wear the final product and 2) that are a challenge for me skill-wise in some way. This is a different form of “payment”, but it has been an important one for me.

Anyway, there’s no better skill-improver than a jacket and when I saw this would be a short swingy kind of trench, I was immediately interested. Just the sort of autumn project to get my teeth into, I thought. Whatsmore, the Cortland features bound seams as a seam finish, which is a technique I’ve been wanting to try for some time, so that totally sold me and I agreed to test the 18, which is a D cup and pretty much bang on for my measurements (which are 44, 37, 46).

Okay, so that’s the preamble, but let’s get to the point of the things and say: look at these insides! This is exactly what I was hoping for and I can only assure you that photos don’t do justice to the weight of the thing, the feel of the thing, the shine of the thing. I’ve found it to be true with other jackets too – the Wiksten Unfolding Jacket being another example – and it’s only when you can see the stitches and love in real, actual in-front-of-your-eyes life that you get a sense of the toil and permanency of the project.

Pattern and Fabric

But first things first – the pattern: The Cortland Trench is described thus: “With its modern swing shape and length that hits mid-hip, the Cortland is an update on the classic trench”, which is a fair description. Now, long trenches always looks lovely – they call to my inner Diane Keaton or Faye Dunaway – but whenever I try them on in shops, I look like I have a busty mono-boob.

This has a lot to do with the front storm flaps (In defense of the design, I’m sure you don’t care about monoboob in a Category 6 storm, but then I’m unlikely to be wearing a cropped trench either) but the Cortland has just the one, nicely shaped flap at the front and then a choice of two flap styles at the back. (I also have to tell you at this point that “flap” is up there with my most disliked words, but that’s another story). With the swingy shape and slanted welt pockets, this design feels as much nautical sailor coat to me as it does Inspector Gadget, but then the wide statement collar pushes it back firmly into the 70s period and, indeed, Jen from Grainline has mentioned that the 70s era was one of the influences on this design.

It’s definitely a roomy jacket. The raglan sleeves and shoulders are generous, so fitting any sort of chunky jumper underneath shouldn’t be an issue. I really like the fact that there are two ways to wear it as well – either with the right side buttoned right up to the top via a clever little button underneath the collar, as in the first photo, or more open with the lapels showing, as below. I wear it a lot the first way when it’s windy out!

The fabric is a lovely royal blue corduroy I bought in person from The Confident Stitch in Missoula, Montana on the way back from Yellowstone last year. I *think* it’s the Robert Kaufman 14 wale in navy (although not as dark as what I would call navy), but don’t hold me to it. It’s been a while! I think it’s a good fabric for the jacket as it’s not too heavyweight a corduroy, but Grainline does mention that you should make sure your chosen fabric has enough drape for the swing shape, so something even finer could be an option.

Sizing and adjustments

The pdf is well laid out and I cut the straight 18. I had every intention of muslining this (it is very wise to muslin a coat/jacket), but between vacation and Covid and Labor Day weekend and wildfires, my pattern arrived later than anticipated and then I got sick (it was quite a month), so I just didn’t have time.

The one thing I did do was to measure the pattern. Grainline give you some extra handy finished measurements and, by checking my own against them, I deduced I needed to take 2 inches off the sleeves, which ended up being the right decision. Apart from that I made the unadjusted 18 D cup version and I’m informed there haven’t been any big changes to the pattern since I made it. Normally for a jacket I would size down for the shoulders and then do an FBA and grade up further down the body. However, with a D cup, my smaller frame should have been taken into account somewhat, so I went with the straight size.

The pattern is available in two ranges: B cup for sizes 0-18 (32-44″ bust) and D cup for sizes 14-30 (40-56″ bust).

Construction

There are 15 pieces, which isn’t a crazy amount for a jacket, so it didn’t take long to prep the pattern for sewing. I increased my workload slightly by opting to make my own binding. I actually rather like making bias tape when I’m in the mood for it, and since I was waiting for my patterns to arrive anyway, I was. For this amount of bias tape (15 yards , although I made 20) I used the continuous method of preparing it, which didn’t take too long. I also got the 20 yards from just two 20″ square pieces of fabric measuring, so there’s that too! I would mention that, in my opinion, if you’re making your own bias tape, there’s no need to spend time double-folding it. I did, but then you unfold it anyway and I didn’t think the double fold came in especially useful.

The instructions are fantastic, as you would expect from Grainline, and they really provide excellent clear illustrations all the way through. With welt pockets, collar and lapel and all the binding, this pattern is deservedly an intermediate level pattern, but the instructions are so good (and I’m sure they’ll supplement those on the website) that a confident beginner would get good results too I think.

Patience is the key here and I think the part that I found trickiest was binding the armholes, but with some care I got them done and they look ah-mazing!

There’s not a great deal to say about the construction. It takes a while because it’s a jacket, but there’s something very satisfying about raglan patterns. They seem to come together quickly and with none of the annoying fiddly bits that set-in sleeves require. The storm flaps are also sizeable, sturdy pieces and the whole endeavour feels very solid and permanent, somehow.

Facings and lapels can sometimes trip me up, but these were nice and straighforward and I just love the extra details like the hanging loop and how the whole inside facing looks upon completion.

Overall, the important thing is wearability and as you can see, I wear this jacket with dresses as well as jeans and trousers, as you’d expect. It’s stylised enough to make something of a statement, but still functions as an all-round workhorse too. I suggest checking out the other tester versions on Instagram or Grainline’s blog to see how different it looks in different fabrics too. This was a fun one!

3 thoughts on “New test: Grainline Cortland Trench

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