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The Sherlock coat

8 April 2014, 13:30

Sewing a coat is always a big accomplishment, but this coat in particular has been a long time in the making. I first told James I’d finally make him a coat like Benedict Cumberbatch wears in BBC’s “Sherlock” for his birthday back in early December. I drafted up a pattern using the details provided in this livejournal post, then made a muslin for him later that month. With only a few tweaks needed for fit and style (I made the lapels too big, for starters!), I then moved on to purchasing the wool coating, cotton flannel underlining, and black acetate lining.

But this is also where the first delay came in, as he wanted a black wool coating with faint blue and brown checks from Crescent Trading, who turned out to be closed over the full Christmas period, when I was hoping to get a lot of the work done. All of the above are detailed more
in this “progress report” post from January.

I then had more hurdles involving the hem bubbling (which meant I had to baste it in place, flip it back wrong-side out, handstitch, re-press, etc), waiting for some woman on Etsy to make more replica buttons (which we finally gave up on and just made our own with gold enamel paint), and getting the right upholstery thread to do all the buttonholes.

But it’s finished, it looks fantastic on James, and the proportions are really flattering on him, too! So the lengthy making process shall soon fade away in the light of the finished coat. He definitely prefers it open (as dos Sherlock himself), but it can be buttoned up in the coldest of days, too:

It’s a very warm coat, having underlined the body and sleeves in flannel, a trick I picked up in previous coats to stop the wind.

I can’t take the credit for these, as James was having fun with photoshoot ideas!

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The Sherlock coat - progress report

21 January 2014, 11:07

I mentioned briefly back in December that, for James’s birthday, I gave him the promise of a custom-made coat in the style of the one Benedict Cumberbatch wears in Sherlock. Or as it will henceforth be known, “the Sherlock coat”.

A few others online have made this coat (including a few FehrTrade readers, hello!!), but I found the most helpful resource to be this livejournal entry from a lady who sketched and measured a lot of the details after analysing screen grabs. This was a big help in taking James’s TNT short jacket pattern and adapting it to look more like the coat on screen!

I first made an approximation on his paper pattern and sewed up a muslin. From this the only real fitting problems were that the upper back was too tight, and the Centre Front needed to be shifted by about an inch, but it was otherwise fine. I guessed a bit wrong on the collar and lapel shape though, but it was fairly easy to just draw a nicer shape onto the muslin itself and transfer it to the pattern.

Once the muslin was settled, I then bought the wool coating (delayed a bit as Crescent Trading were closed over the holidays) – not the exact black and grey small houndstooth used in the original (simply because I couldn’t find any locally), but instead a black/grey/brown check which still had the same feel. I also bought the black acetate lining at the same time, but the black cotton flannel for underlining came from Minerva.

I then settled in for the mammoth task of cutting out all the pieces in wool, underlining, interfacing, and lining, then fusing the crap out of everything that needed interfacing. With two patch pockets (and flaps), plus two welt pockets, two back belt pieces, sleeve cuffs, and a collar, (not to mention facings!), there was a good day taken up just by fusing alone!

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A gathered merino wool cardigan

4 June 2013, 14:02

It’s June, I hear you cry – why is she sewing a wool cardigan in June??!? Well, I selected this cardigan in my Spring 2013 Sewing Ideas because I’m a realist, and I recognise that I need a lightweight cardigan for 80% of the British summer! I’m grateful to not have the disgustingly hot & humid East Coast summers I grew up with (nor the swarms of mosquitoes everywhere!) but it does mean some wardrobe concessions must be made.

This cardigan appeared in the March 2013 Burda magazine (or it’s available for purchase as a pdf here) and I thought it was one of the nicest, prettiest, and most versatile cardigan patterns I’d seen in a long, long time.

This is a basic, slim-fit cardigan with shaped, faced bands, front gathers, and button closure. I love the slim fit, the beautifully drafted, curved bands, and the delicate and pretty gathering. I get annoyed when patterns have skimpy gathering, but there’s a nice amount here, which is a great detail and offers bust shaping.

THIS PATTERN RUNS VERY SMALL! One reason I sew so much Burda is because they’re always so consistent, so I’m very, very glad I read the other reviews first.

When I compared the front and back to my self-drafted knit sloper, which has 10% negative ease (perfect for tight-fitting running tops, which is my usual usage), this cardigan pattern was even smaller still! If you can – go up a size, but if you’re the largest size already, like me, I recommend cutting larger seam allowances throughout the waist and hips at the very least. I personally tapered to about 1” allowances on the waist and hips in the side seams, then sewed ~3/8” (1cm) from the edge.

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A gathered merino wool sweater

27 February 2013, 14:41

I’m not actually doing the Burda Challenge again this year, but I keep seeing so many great patterns in each issue that I want to sew – like this quick, gathered raglan merino wool sweater from the February BurdaStyle magazine (or to purchase as a pdf download here). And I am powerless to resist.

I bought this plum merino wool jersey on etsy along with some brown as well – the purple is sold out but there’s some brown merino wool jersey left and it’s luscious and so soft – nice and thing for layering but so warm, too. Amazing stuff! So cheap, too – 5m for £30 is an absolutely steal. I often see Antipodean sewists going on about how lovely merino wool is to sew, but it’s something I’ve never, ever seen for sale in Europe so I jumped on this when I saw it!


(Worn in these photos with the jeans I made in November)

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Wool sweatshirt & denim-look pleated leggings

19 February 2013, 18:08

I’ve been meaning to sew both of these pieces for a few months now, but it didn’t occur to me exactly how well they work together until I went to do the photoshoot and realised, hey – these make for a great transitional weather casual outfit!

The wool sweatshirt


I mentioned it in my Burda Challenge roundup but I abolutely adore my turquoise chic sweatshirt from the September 2012 Burda magazine (or you can purchase the download pattern here), and I wear it so much I’ve been plotting another ever since. I’ve had this wool blend fabric in my stash since our honeymoon in 2010, when I bought it at Elliott Berman in NYC. I’m not sure if it’s a jersey or a woven, and it’s got a bit of loft and stretch, but it’s not as spongey as your typical loden. And for a wool, it’s super soft and not scratchy in the slightest.

So I made another “chic sweatshirt” out of this wool – does this make this one my “luxe sweatshirt” or something?

As before, you’ve really got to baste those curved front darts carefully so they’re accurate when you sew them. I always do my hand basting with silk thread (hot pink so it stands out against pretty much everything I sew) because it pulls out so much easier than polyester or cotton thread when you’re done.

I really like the detail of the curved, darted sleeve head, which makes the construction of this more like a raglan sleeve than a set in one.

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Catching up...

15 February 2013, 12:24

A month on, and I’m still ravaged by the shingles attack that hit me in mid-January. Absolutely everyone who saw my torso said it was the worst case they’ve ever seen (doctors included), and lucky, lucky me, the little bugger caused nerve damage, which means the pain in my side could continue on for months or possibly a year (again, lucky, lucky me). I’m on four different prescription painkillers until the neural-specific one hopefully starts working soon, so I’ve been stuck at home Resting (I hate resting.). The good news is that the doctor says I can now go do the odd half day at work and very easy run here and there as it’s driving me crazy not to, but I’m not to overdo things. But even that’s better than being chained to a couch!

Anyway, I’ve done as much resting as it’s humanly possible for Melissa to do, which means I’ve been lying flat on my back and sleeping for most of the days, but I managed to squeeze in some sewing, almost entirely in 5 minute segments, followed by 20 minutes of rest. Rinse & repeat… These will have photoshoots and proper posts coming hopefully next week!

The amazingly simple-to-sew Style Arc Marita dress:

A grey wool “chic sweatshirt”:

A pair of pleated, My Image denim-look leggings:

A quick, gathered raglan merino wool sweater from the February BurdaStyle magazine:

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The MyImage Purple coat

21 February 2012, 13:56

This coat originally appeared on my Fall 2011 sewing plans, so it feels good to finally finish it just as the weather’s starting to defrost (I hope anyway!). I’ve been wearing my muted turquoise coat for most of the winter, but I’m hoping to wear this to transition into Spring!

I’ve used “coat” in the title, but is it really a coat? Is it a jacket? Where’s the line drawn, anyway? It’s short like a jacket, but wool and warm like a coat, so I’m not quite sure what to call this.

This pattern appeared in the Winter 2011 MyImage magazine (along with that awesome cowl top!) and it’s still available to buy if you fancy it (and holy crap, it’s on sale right now for €1.95/US$2.63, too)!.

You can see some in-progress photos of this coat here and here. The nice thing about working on a project for a while is that you get to see a lot of the “guts” as I work! The downside, of course, is that I have the attention span of a gnat and I get bored when projects stretch over the fortnight mark…

The first thing you notice about this coat is that Big! Collar!! It’s a “whole lotta look”, but I totally dig it. Your mileage may vary! I’ve worn it out twice over the weekend already and the collar is great – it’s substational enough and close enough to the neck that I don’t need a scarf!

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MyImage Purple coat - in progress

9 February 2012, 13:41

Yesterday I mentioned that I’ve started sewing the asymmetric, collared coat from the Winter 2011 MyImage magazine, and after a prep period that felt like forever (probably exasperated by the fact that my ironing station is hovering around 0C/30F), I’ve now got some progress to show you!

I’m sewing this up in a wonderful purple basketweave/boucle coating, which was another gift from Claire (she’s so good to me!) at the end of last winter. I always like to underline my coats when I can to just add that little bit of extra warmth, but it made even more sense here as it will help to stabilise the coating fabric and prevent any bagging out that might otherwise occur with looser-weave fabrics. The alternative is to block-fuse the coating with a lightweight interfacing, like I did with my Patrones duffle coat.

For this coat, all the facings were interfaced (the usual front and back facings, plus the front and back hip band facings), and pretty much everything else was underlined in black cotton flannel. This meant there was a lot of prep – everything but like 3 pieces needed underlining or interfacing! I love sewing, but prepping is dull dull dull work!

I machine-basted the flannel underlining to the coat pieces here, because frankly, the prep work was tedious enough as it was. I normally hand baste my underlinings, but in this case, the coating and the flannel “grabbed” each other quite nicely, so this, plus the walking foot, plus a long basting stitch meant it felt okay to do it by machine. I still made sure to never turn any corners though (when basting underlinings, you always stitch to the edge, cut the threads, reposition, and stitch the adjacent side so that you don’t create puckers at the corner)!

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Manequim draped collar sweater

30 January 2012, 15:34

There came a point about midway through the construction of this where it suddenly dawned on me that I was creating my second draped collar sweater with pieced sleeves of the month. Clearly the sweater knits in my stash were calling out to me, and I’m naturally drawn to drapey styles. Though I really must remember when I’m in fabric stores that 2m really isn’t enough for long sleeves and a big collar!

This the Michael Kors-inspired, collared sweater from the June 2011 Manequim magazine. Last week I showed you details on the construction of the various pieces and altering the size “Small” pattern to my basic knit tee pattern.

The only problem was, when I was laying out the pattern pieces onto my awesome, ex-Versace sweater knit from Ditto in Brighton I realised that yet again, I didn’t have enough fabric to lay out the sleeves without piecing them, argh! I didn’t want to back down since I’d tried to use this fabric for something else last winter, but 2m of a really narrow fabric really limits your possibilities. So I carried on, introducing two seams in the lower arms. Frankly, sleeves tend to bunch up so much around the sleeves that I find the seams kinda get lost visually around that area anyway.

In the end, I was forced to cut the collar on the bias simply because the fabric was too narrow to place it on the cross grain!

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Draped collar winter warmer

4 January 2012, 14:53

Paco Peralta is a Spanish couturier who has recently started making some of his designs available to buy as patterns. Late last year I purchased his “Draped Collar Tunic” pattern when he was having a special offer, and I’m so glad I found time to sew it already!

It’s an oversized, hip-length tunic with dropped shoulder and large, draping collar. All his patterns are hand-traced by him, with Spanish and English markings on the pattern tissue, but no included instructions – he’s got good photo instructions for this pattern on his blog though. I made size Medium here according to my measurements, though I could’ve easily gone done to a Small, as there’s a lot of ease in this style.

Bonus – All Paco’s patterns are 10% off right now with the coupon code here!


(Sorry, there’s no tech drawing provided and I’m too lazy to draw one!)

I had a 80% wool / 20% polyester purple sweater knit I bought at Ditto in Brighton last winter that was SO lush and soft and I just had to use it for this! Funny that Tany also chose to make this in a sweater knit, though she lengthened hers into a dress!

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A wool maternity coat - finished photos

1 December 2011, 17:37

Last week I was nearly finished with Holly’s coat, and the week before that l told you all about underlining it, but finally I can show you completed completed photos!

If you recall, I used this maternity coat from the August 2008 issue of Burda, but after the first muslin we made some design changes (namely, eliminating the band and gathered sleeve caps) and an added dart as a consequence of an FBA (full bust adjustment) so it’s not quite the same as you see in the original tech drawing below…

Apologies for the slight blurriness and busy background – this is why I try not to do photoshoots after dark, but it couldn’t be helped this time around! At least you can see how it fits her, even if the photo quality isn’t great.

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A wool maternity coat - nearly there...

23 November 2011, 14:20

As you recall, last week I underlined Holly’s maternity coat and created all five bound buttonholes, but I had the day off work on Friday so I was able to make loads of progress over my long weekend! In fact, her coat is now 95% finished and ready to hand over, so I thought I’d give you a rundown of what I got up to…

I’m making this maternity coat from the August 2008 issue of Burda, but after the first muslin we made some design changes (namely, eliminating the band and gathered sleeve caps) so it won’t look exactly like this tech drawing:

As I constructed the shell of the coat, I took the extra step here to catch-stitch all the thick wool seam allowances to the flannel underlining. I started off just doing this on the sleeve seams as I feel the bumps are most noticeable during wear there (and therefore most likely to get annoying quickly!), but I carried on and just catchstitched everywhere.

I wanted this coat to be as nice for her as one I would make myself, so why not? I also noted that Gertie was asking last week how to make the seam allowances lie flat on her coat – well, the answer is catch stitching!


(I forgot to take a photo of all my stitching before lining it, though, so you’ll have to make do with a shot through the “window”!)

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A wool maternity coat - basting and buttonholes

15 November 2011, 14:01

If you recall from last week, my next project is this maternity coat from the August 2008 issue of Burda, which I promised a very good friend:


(The issue date is still wrong above – it is indeed in the 2008 issue…)

After we sorted out the fitting and design alterations (including a second, quick muslin fitting of just the upper bodice in the pub toilets on Saturday night!), my first step was to cut out all the pieces in the green wool and then again in the black cotton flannel I’d bought to underline the spongey wool coating and give it a bit more structure. The coating is wonderful, but I’m a bit concerned about it bagging out in places, and I wanted to give it some added stability as well as a bit of extra warmth (though if warmth were my primary concern, I’d call it “interlining” and attach it a bit differently!).

Here’s all the pieces hanging on the line in my tiny sewing room:

I then hand basted all the layers together around the edges of the pieces, plus through the darts, and then also marked out the placement lines for the five bound buttonholes:

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The Draped jacket & skirt suit

31 October 2011, 14:15

I’m very happy to report that my draped suit (Burda September 2011 #126 and 127) is finally finished! It feels like I’ve been sewing this for f-o-r-e-v-e-r and I am thoroughly sick of it now!

If you recall, it’s a two-part suit, with a draped, collar-less jacket and a pleated pencil skirt:

I’ve been sewing both of the pieces in parallel, so I’ve finished them at the same time. I like a lot of aspects of this suit, but to be perfectly honest, I’m not totally in love with the overall resulting look.

The jacket and skirt together!

Things I really like: