Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Silver Seam: Outlander Coat

Outlander Coat

Alright, folks, time for a little experiment. I'm going to start a column.

By column, I don't necessarily mean, content that will be posted consistently. I more mean, content that will have the same title and theme. I'd like to do it once a month, but a month seems to go by very quickly in blogland, so hey, ain't promising anything.

I love movies and TV shows, and I very much enjoy looking at the costumes, especially in period pieces. Sometimes I watch things just for the clothes and sets. That's one of the reasons I've always loved movies - they let you go places you can't go in real life.

I usually end up wanting to sew some of the things I see. But barring an unexpected exploration of cosplay, renaissance fairs or severe split personality disorders, I have no outlet for costumes in my life. So I thought it might be fun to sew things that aren't literal copies of cool movie wardrobe pieces, but are instead inspired by them. It's like wearing a secret costume only you know about.

I was tempted to call this column Sew Reel, thereby uniting my two least favorite puns of all time [with very limited exceptions] into one formiddably abhorrent entity. But I didn't trust myself to wield that sort of dark power responsibly, so instead I'm calling it The Silver Seam.

The Silver Seam posts will just be plan posts. They might be things I actually make, or they might be things I never make but just have fun planning. Maybe they'll provide inspiration for you, and you'll make them. That would be awesome! [If you do, please tell me!]


I am currently tearing through a book series called Outlander that takes place, at least initially, in mid-18th century Scotland. When I saw it was just made into a TV show for Starz, I promptly devoured it.

And now I want this coat, worn by main character Claire.




So I started planning.


Claire's coat appears to be some kind of olivey-brown tweedy wool coating. The hood is fully lined with fur, and there are fur cuff accents, which I'm sure did not escape your attention.

I've narrowed the main fabric choices down to two that I swatched from Mood:


Neither one is exceptionally olive hued, but that was actually kind of difficult to find without going all the way to green, and I don't want it to be green. On the left is this chocolate herringbone coating. As the description says it is pretty heavy and substantial, with a nubby texture that makes it feel a bit rustic. 

The one on the right is this brown herringbone coating. It's lighter weight and feels a bit more refined. I was initially leaning towards this one, but after seeing the pictures I think I'm actually going to go with the other one. Nubbies for the win! Thoughts?

For the fur, I ordered eight faux fur swatches from And let me tell you, if you're feeling down and want to brighten your day, go order eight faux fur swatches. The ones I got are huge - like 6-7" squares - and they are all so fluffy. When I order the yardage I'm going to get one more swatch so I can make a furry patchwork throw pillow.

The one I decided on initially is Canadian Fox in Stone, although now it tragically seems to be unavailable. But there are lots of others...Russian husky? Norwegian husky? Siberian husky? All the huskies. I'll get one that's similar.



To start my pattern search, first I looked to see what the distinguishing characteristics of the coat were:


If you're wondering why that flounce is in such an extreme state of flouncing, it's because in the 18th century women wore undergarments that were essentially stuffed muslin innertubes tied around their waists to give them extremely exaggerated hips. This would explain the need for a giant pleat on the back:


This fullness was probably also for ease when riding a horse. Since I won't be wearing any 18th century undergarments nor, unfortunately, riding many horses while wearing this coat, I am going to keep the flounce to a minimum and possibly omit the back pleat.

So all things considered, I think I've decided on this Burda pattern, 12/2012 #104.

burda pattern

If you're thinking, "Ummmm what," just hear me out: it has the asymmetrical front, minimal collar action to contend with and it has waist seams so I can work on the bottom separately to add a flounce. I'd leave off the sleeve details, epaulettes and collar.

There are too many seams on the bottom half for my liking, but I'm thinking I can combine some of the pieces when I add the flounce...yes?

I'll admit, this does sound like a lot of work. Is this a terrible plan? I did think about the Jamie Christina Abbey Coat, which is really cute. But I'm not sure how I feel about the dropped waist flounce, I'd really like it to come from the natural waist. And it feels like that would be harder to adjust on that pattern. Thoughts?

For the hood, I'm thinking self drafted, since it's so big. I want to make the hood and cuffs removable in case I need to make a more understated appearance somewhere. 


Outlander is also partially set in the 1940's, so you get a double dose of period wardrobe. The costume designer, Terry Dresbach, has a really interesting website with lots of photos and some behind the scenes stories about making the costumes.  It's easy to forget that in a sweeping period piece like this, all the costumes are custom made. All of them. And the [very large] cast has multiples of everything. It makes me exhausted and overwhelmed just to think about.

Sidenote, there's also a lot of good knitwear eye candy in it too. Cowls for days.

And other kinds of eye candy.

I will leave you with this...


You're verra welcome.

So since is the first time I'm doing this, please comment if you have any feedback! Or on this project specifically...better ideas of how to make the coat? Pattern suggestions? Have you read Outlander? Is Jamie Fraser your phone wallpaper? Have you found a working stone circle yet?

[If your comment has spoilers, please warn! :) ]

Monday, December 8, 2014

Colette Patterns Dahlia Dress - Version 1

Colette Patterns Dahlia Dress - Version 1

Here is the other result of the Dahlia sewalong!

Colette Patterns Dahlia Dress - Version 1

This dress is Version 1. Like nearly everyone else, after seeing the gorgeous model pictures for the pattern release, I couldn't bear to make it out of anything other than plaid.

Colette Patterns Dahlia Dress - Version 1

The fabric is this Italian wool flannel from Mood. I thought it was on the border of being too thick to work with the gathers, but I loved how it looked and felt so I followed my usual methodology and just went with it. This is actually the first real wool garment that I can remember owning, except for a pea coat from the Gap that has been tentatively carbon dated to the High School Era and possibly an ill-fated sweater that found its way into the dryer.

Colette Patterns Dahlia Dress - Version 1

I mostly don't have wool because of where I lived, and I also don't lead a dry-clean-only lifestyle. Plus, wool sends some mixed signals. It feels all soft in your hands, and then you put it on your body and it's like, HA! tricked you, I'm actually gonna BE ALL SCRATCHY. It keeps you warm when it's wet, yet you can't wash it. And the smell of damp wool fills me with conflict - I think it's kind of gross, but it also makes feel vaguely pleasant?

All that being said, I've decided I do like to wear wool, and I'd like more wool things.

Colette Patterns Dahlia Dress - Version 1

So let's talk about fit. When I first made my muslin, I cut a 2-4-6 based on my 33-27-38 measurements. Everything was pretty ok, except the shoulders were way too big. Like falling off too big.

If you look at the original sample pictures, it's quite a wide scoop neck on the model, and as I've said with annoying frequency, I have pretty narrow shoulders. I decided that I didn't just want to do a fit adjustment - as in, adjust it to look proportionately the same as it does on the model. Instead I wanted to redraw the neckline so that it was a bit higher up. That way I'd be sure it would stay up and there would be no peeking bra straps [a major pet peeve of mine].

So here is what I did to the pattern pieces:

Colette Dahlia - my fit changes

On the sleeve, I did a couple of things. First, while wearing my muslin, I decided how much further in I wanted the neckline to be at the front raglan seam - I think it was 1.5". I extended the front raglan edge towards my neck by that amount. I also angled it slightly to shave off a bit from the width of the sleeve at the neckline because it was kind of gapey. The amount I angled it was determined by how much I pinched on the muslin.

On the front bodice, I lengthened the raglan edge by the same amount. I also angled it because it was hitting me too high, and also to take out some of the neckline circumference.

Not pictured, I also removed a 1/2" wedge from the center back at the neckline, blending to nothing at the bottom. Because of this I moved the dart points each away from center by 1/4" to keep them on grain. [1/4" was the width of the wedge even with the dart points.]

Colette Patterns Dahlia Dress - Version 1

The yoke and skirt fit fine, although I think I could have cut a 4 in the skirt instead of going out to a 6, but with the lining and the zipper and everything I'm not changing it!

Speaking of lining - I added a sleek and shimmery Bemberg rayon lining to deal with the aforementioned wooly itch factor. Cliff notes version is that I made a whole second dress out of the lining, attached it at the zipper, and stuffed it to the inside. The process is detailed further [and with pictures] in this sewalong post if you want to learn more.

Colette Patterns Dahlia Dress - Version 1

Other sewing notes - after finishing the dress, I decided that I'd rather have the skirt be pleated rather than gathered. With the thicker fabric and the plaid I just thought it might look a little cleaner. It was a really quick alteration, just a matter of undoing the yoke seam where the gathers were, squeezing out a box pleat and restitching that section. Since I had a separate lining, I omitted the inner yoke, meaning all those seams were still exposed and accessible.

Colette Patterns Dahlia Dress - Version 1

I also took in and shortened the sleeves, which I suppose belongs in the fit section, but I did it later after things were happening. The lining was already in when I shortened the sleeves, and I cut them together as one layer. I think I must have cut the lining too short somehow, because now the bottom edges of the sleeves are a little wrinkly like they're getting pulled. Grrr...

I think the last thing to mention is I made the bias tape 3/8" finished instead of 1/4" to account for the thicker fabric.

Colette Patterns Dahlia Dress - Version 1

I'm very satisfied with how this turned out, although because of the dry clean factor I probably won't wear it as often as I would if it were machine washable. Or, I will just have to expedite my acquisition of more wool things to make the trip worthwhile. I did have a dream about ponchos the other night... [not kidding].

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Colette Patterns Dahlia Dress - Version 2


The Dahlia Sewalong is wrapping up over on Colette's Sewalong site. Here's one of the resulting dresses!


This is Version 2. I picked a summery seersucker since it's a strappy sundress, but I think it actually works well with tights and a sweater too.


Before starting I was way more excited about Version 1 that I made out of a wool plaid [yet unblogged], but after finishing them both I think I might like this one more.

Colette Patterns Dahlia Dress - Version 2

Fit wise, for my 33-27-38 measurements I cut 2-4-6. Most of the fit changes I did were on the front bodice - I actually trimmed quite a bit off both sides of the point where the strap is. I did it first after I made a mockup of the bodice, and then again after I tried the dress on before the straps were attached. Since it's sleeveless and the straps are just bias tape, it was a super easy alteration to do [although I did have to rip and redo a portion of the underarm bias tape, but it was worth it!].

The pattern called for 1/4" bias tape, but I made 3/8" for slightly wider straps.


I also ended up shaping the skirt a little less - there are angled portions of each seam near the top that were sticking slightly out on me, which was probably exaggerated by the fact that I cut out to a larger size at the hip. So I just went back after the fact and took those portions of the seams in a bit, then trimmed the pattern pieces to match so they'd be ready for next time.


My great-grandma knitted the hat I'm wearing. She seems to have threaded elastic through the edge of it to keep it from stretching out, which I think is very clever.


I waited forever for a train to go by on the trestle and bridge above me - there are so many trains in Nashville! - but it was freezing and I finally gave up. Right as I was starting my car to leave one came barreling by, naturally.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Christine Haynes Marianne Dress

Christine Haynes Marianne Dress

I've never really felt like the thrift store gods are on my side.

I don't think they're working against me, necessarily. But I'm not usually one to find amazing cheap things in thrift stores. They just don't reveal themselves to me.

Until I found this pre-lit white Christmas tree at Goodwill for $15.

Christine Haynes Marianne Dress

When I saw it I nearly pounced on it, and I clutched it against myself for the rest of my visit, eyeing the other shoppers suspiciously but, I hoped, confidently. An employee offered me a cart; I refused. This tree was mine

When I got it home and plugged it in, one of the light strands was burned out, but I managed to find the broken bulb and replace it. This only fanned the flames of my white-Christmas-tree-finding euphoria; under the influence of raging bargain shopper's adrenaline, I may or may not have shouted "YES!" and clapped to the empty room. After a moment of basking in the fully-lit Christmas tree glow of victory I poured a glass of wine, blasted a Spotify Christmas playlist and dragged out my box of ornaments. It was a most triumphant night.

Christine Haynes Marianne Dress
the smug face of said triumph

So anyway, on to the sewing! This is the newest pattern from my friend Christine Haynes, the Marianne Dress. It's a loose and comfy knit dress with kimono style short sleeves that become drop-shoulder sleeves when you add the longer sleeve option. There's a faux button cuff detail and also a peter pan collar, should you be so inclined.

Christine Haynes Marianne Dress
attempted 'flattering' crossed leg position makes weird twisted fabric in back.
note to self: not flattering

It comes together really fast and the color blocking makes it such a good scrap buster! I have so many knit scraps that are too big to throw away but aren't big enough to make anything out of. They are perfect for this.

This gray fabric is a soft and lightweight jersey from Wanderlust (out of stock, but they do have it in lilac and mulberry). The green interlock I've had forever, and I'm pretty sure it's from one of the big chains.

Christine Haynes Marianne Dress

The pattern calls for three buttons on each sleeve, but I didn't have enough so I just did two. Which I liked anyway! Size wise, I cut a size 4, which was the size I should have cut based on my bust but smaller than my waist and hips. The pattern has generous ease so I figured it would be ok. I think next time I will cut out to a bigger size in the hips as I should have done based on my measurements. It's not too small but I just think I would prefer it a little looser there.

Christine Haynes Marianne Dress

I will definitely be making more of these. I think I want a shirt version. The cuff is barely more effort than your usual cuff but it looks so chic and polished. Because, duh, it's Christine.

Christine Haynes Marianne Dress

What's that? Oh, you want a closeup of some ornaments?

Christine Haynes Marianne Dress

I really like Christmas ornaments. The bird is from this phase I went through when I thought someday I'd have a full sized tree with ONLY bird ornaments on it. Because I make plans like that. This tree marks a momentous occasion because I finally got to use the icicle ornaments I've been hoarding, unused, for at least six years. They're the long twisted silver ones. I got them at Pier One after Christmas because they were only $1 for a box of seven. They're made out of glass! And they're sparkly! I bought like ten boxes. How could I not?

I've never had a tree big enough for them to not look ridiculous. But now I do.


Thanks, thrift store gods. I'll never doubt you again.

Christine Haynes Marianne Dress

Thursday, November 20, 2014



Ok so if you're sick of my travel posts, don't worry, THIS IS THE LAST ONE. It's kind of long, but I have a lot to share about Prague!

On the final weekend I was in Berlin, my brother had a three day weekend, so he, I and his lovely girlfriend Gesine took a trip to Prague. I've always heard people say, oh I love Prague! But no one is every really that specific about why, so I wasn't even sure I was going to go. I'm so glad we did!


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