Monday, October 28

Sewing Outerwear - Cascade Duffle Coat

A few years ago I saw people sewing outerwear and was sure I would never do that. It seemed rather daunting and very overwhelming. I felt like I wouldn't have the skills and that it would be too expensive of a project for it to turn out badly. Then somehow,  my friend Rachel convinced me to host the #coatmakingparty with her on Instagram. I made two coats that month. First was the Lola Coat, which is oversized and has no closures and seemed like the easiest coat I could make. It also doesn't have a lining but on my own, I managed to create lining pieces and figured out, with some trial and error, how to bag it. Then I made the Clare Coat, which was the easiest possible wool coat. Raglan sleeves and an a-line shape meant easy sleeve insertion and minimal fitting to deal with. I found both projects very easy and quite straightforward. So then I made a couple Joy Jackets and really started to love sewing jackets and coats. Now, two years later its possible I have an obsession with making outerwear. And its absolutely true I have an obsession with this Grainline Studio Cascade Duffle Coat.

There are a few things you can do to make sewing outerwear very approachable and possible for all skill levels. And I'm sharing all my tips with you!

Tip 1: For me, coat making is best if broken down into a series of very manageable steps. These are the steps I took, and there were some days off in-between some of the days. I find having just a bit to do each day made this project feel quite easy. Almost everything is just a series of straight seams, which anyone can do. And having just a little to do also means you can sew a coat even if you don't have tons of time to sew each day. Whether you work full time or have an entourage of littles like me, you can do this! Also, you can break down your steps into whatever works for you, and apply this to any coat pattern, not just this one. This is just how much I got through at nap time every day.

Day 1: Order copy shop or print pattern.
-I recommend ordering a copy shop print because this pattern in particular, is huge. If you bought the paper pattern, then you can obviously skip this.

Day 2: Cut out/trace pattern.
-I always cut out patterns because #lazy

Day 3: Do any flat pattern adjustments you need and cut out lining.
-I did a broad back adjustment. I've sewn lots of Grainline Studio patterns so I knew I needed this. And I like to cut out and sew the lining first because I can make any fit alterations on cheaper fabric than the wool.

Day 4: Sew lining together and do any necessary adjustments
-I let out the seam allowance of the sleeves for more room

Day 5: Cut out the rest of the pieces (main, lining, interfacing). There are a lot of pieces...

Day 6: Fuse all interfacing, start outer assembly (Front pieces, back pieces, pockets)

Day 7: Assemble zipper and center front bands

Day 8: Shoulders, side seams, sleeves. Do any fitting needed on outer.
-I knew I would need shaping because of my swayback so I cut my main back piece in two pieces instead of on the fold. Then I could take it in in the center. I took it in until it fit well, then trimmed the seam allowances back to 1/2 inch. I did this instead of adding fish eye darts later, like I did on my Clare Coat. They were bulky and I didn't love them so I figured I wouldn't mind the look of an added center back seam if the shaping looked better.

Day 9: Hood (Or collar if yours doesn't have a hood)

Day 10: Sleeve and hem facings

Day 11: Bag the lining! Press coat and hand stitch bottom pleats and sleeve lining opening.

Tip 2: Use wonder clips! Pins just don't work when working with such bulky seams. Especially when you start to bag the lining, the center front seams can be super thick and the clips are pretty essential.

Tip 3: Use a jeans needle or a stretch needle. The jeans needle helped me, but if you still have issues or  skipped stitches, you can use a stretch needle as the eye is higher and will help with the bulky seams.

Tip 4: Use a walking Foot I found this pretty essential. A walking foot can be big and hard to work around with such thick fabric like wool, but you really need one to keep all your fabric properly aligned. You may need to switch it out for different parts of the construction (like for the zipper, etc) but on the whole its super useful. (I used a zipper foot for my toggles because I had a very narrow areas on which to sew, so switch feet as needed. But I definitely needed my walking food most of the time.)

Some questions I've received about coat making are:

What interfacing should I use and how do I source the good stuff?
- I'm really glad I made the Clare Coat before this because that pattern and sew a long talk about interfacing whereas this pattern did not specify. So I learned while making the Clare that wool coats should use fusible weft interfacing. My JoAnn in Utah had it in the store, it feels kind of fuzzy on one side with the glue on the other side. My JoAnn here does not carry it but I found it on  Wawak here, and this is what I used. 

Is making a coat worth it? 
this is harder to answer because criteria for "worth it" will vary person to person. Are you trying to save money and comparing the cost of making one to the cost of buying one from the store? Are you trying to be more ethical and sustainable? Are you trying to find one that fits perfectly?

For me - the answer is whole heartedly yes! But that is because I am looking for something that fits well, and if it costs me more time and money to get that, its still worth it to me. But if you're on there financial end of things, I'll  share how much this project cost.

Wool: $60 (black Friday sale from Mood) I have a yard left over too...maybe I can use it for my daughter!
Flannel lining: $20
Slippery sleeve lining: remnant from an old project
Interfacing: $20 but I have lots extra, it comes in 5 yard rolls
Toggles: $13.06
Zipper: $3
Pattern: $16 (black Friday sale)
PDF Plotting for printed copy shop file: $10
I'm not pricing out thread because I had what I needed for other projects and didn't have to go get any special for this.
TOTAL: $142.06

While not inexpensive, considering its 100% wool with warm flannel lining, graded between three sizes, with shaping added to the back and a broad back adjustment all for a perfect fit, I'd say that's a good deal. BUT! There is also time factored in and if its not worth it to make your own, if you're easier to fit, and can find what you're looking for elsewhere - nothing wrong with that! I bought a beautiful, more formal, long fitted wool coat with all princess seams two years ago and have zero regrets about it. It's amazing. You don't have to make everything!


  1. What a work of art!! Beautiful color and fit!!

  2. You must stay careful when you are selecting any spine. sewing machine needle sizes

  3. Your detailed explanation is excellent. You are a terrific writer as well as seamstress Tiahna. So many talents. Love you.😍


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