Downsizing a Coat

How do you feel about doing alterations?  About as much fun as a wet week-end in Margate?

So, round of applause please, for the simple fact that I’m getting to grips with trying to size down a coat. (OK. I do know that at least one reader performs daily miracles on ill fitting clothes, but the flesh is weak here. I need all the encouragement I can get)

Unpicking  was time hungry.Why did I make it so thoroughly in the first place! I decided to see if there was any way of not unpicking the bound buttonholes, and left the hem in place  in case I can get away without redoing it.

Then I got lucky, finding an overgarment block already drafted in the size needed. Here, I’m checking out if the top front bodice will fit on, dart moved to the waist position.

Quick Check on Bodice

Non sewers assume that if a garment is three sizes too big, there’s surely enough fabric, but where the armhole curves in is critical. Happily this is a super close woven wool I bought at Crescent Trading and the snips into the armscye curve haven’t frayed. I’m going to have to stitch right up to a couple of them. You might be able to see in the  photos below that the new armhole and wider bodice turnings make for almost no turnings space at the corner where the pin is in the bottom picture. My new fitting line curves in right through the original turnings.

Close Call on Underarm Seam

Armhole Shape

I roughed out the required flared shape, drawing in slash lines from hem to shoulder in the pattern and cutting through, but not opening them up until the pattern was positioned on the front and back pieces, so I could arrange the flare in situ.

Flare Arranged in situ

Tailor’s tacks

Then another rare event occured – I marked round with tailor’s tacks.

Tailors Tacks on Armscye

This is a method of marking through 2 layers of fabric at once, having the added advantage of showing up on both the right and wrong side of the work. They’re especially handy where you can’t use the width of your turnings as a guide to the stitching line, on  interior shapes, or like here, where you aren’t going to trim away the fabric accurately along the seam line at cutting out, because you’re squeezing your pattern out of an odd shaped piece or maybe haven’t decided on the final lines.

Other advantages of this marking method are:-

it’s done first on the cutting table with the work flat so pattern and fabric don’t shift

you’re not left with chalky marks on your fabric.

Tailor’s tacks are easy – use double thread and make a running stitch but leave a loop each time the needle comes to the top.

Gently pull the two layers apart so that the loops become a ladder and snip through the stitches between the layers.

Stitch Ladder

You get a line of single stitches on each side.

Downside – a lot of  thread bits to pull out later. The best tip I have for this is to press sticky tape along the seam and rip it off. It takes most of the threads with it, like wax strips on leg hair. Try this for unpicked stitches stubbornly clinging in a seam too.

Next rare event – I tacked the seams.

Seams Tacked

You can probably see that there’s interlining in. I didn’t want this to shift about under the machine. Hand tacking holds much better than pins.

While I’m raking out the trad methods, do you know this little tip for keeping tacking straight on long seams with less measuring and pinning?  Hold the thread from the needle as a straight line between  the first stitch and the pin, mark or tape measure you placed on the stitching line, using it as a guide as you make a few stitches, then repeat.

The needle’s at top right here, the long loop of thread from its eye is held out to make the line to stitch along. A useful dodge when you want to avoid a lot of pins or marks, yet need tacking to hold the pieces e.g. long bias seams on a sheer or satin.

Tacking Tip

It’s surprisingly quick and accurate when you get the hang of it.

I hit a snag . The original sleeve head wasn’t the same shape as the overgarment block.

Sleeve Head Shape

If I lower the block to draw a new line, I lose length, and there’s not a lot of hem.

The length round the sleeve head is quite similar though. I decided to wing it with the original shape. Here it is set in, as yet no shoulder pads or sleeve heading. I’m hopeful.

Sleeve Set In

The hem is looking ok too, phew!


About jay

I design and draft patterns
This entry was posted in Sewing methods, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Downsizing a Coat

  1. I love that colour. Is it blue? It looks blue in the last photo. So lucky that the arm hole fit in so well! And some great tips too, thanks!


  2. jay says:

    More navy actually, though the velvet trim is a bit lighter.


  3. Kim says:

    Lots of work there! It will be well worth it when you are done though – and a better made coat than the majority available for sale too


  4. Fabrickated says:

    It is a lot of work, but the coat is already looking really nice. I would have winged the sleeve too – easier to do than with trousers. I really like these clever detailed posts. Thank you Jay


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