Custom Style

Sewing that's Retro, Geek, and Chic

A Denim Spearmint

Back in October, I was a pattern tester for Lolita Patterns and got to test the pattern for the new Spearmint coat.

I’m not sure I would have originally chosen to make myself a coat in this style, had I only seen the pattern for sale. After all, I already have 4 (store-bought) fancy coats to wear when I’m dressed up and I wasn’t sure I could justify a fifth.

Technical drawings of the Lolita Patterns Spearmint Coat.

But the collar was interesting, and the more I considered it, the more I could see myself finding a way to make it my own. Plus, pattern testing for a designer is always a fun challenge because it forces me to try styles I may have passed over otherwise. (How can you grow if you won’t step outside your comfort zone?)

I’m intrigued by Lolita Patterns for two basic reasons:

One, they are based on the Japanese style of dress called Lolita fashion that is both girly and conservative, meaning you get the cute anime look without the sleazy, Halloween-costume vibe. (Lolita fashion. Now I finally have a term for that style!)

And two, the pattern sizing is based on two separate blocks and has very little design ease. Technically, my measurements were not on the chart, so I was hoping that the “very little ease” part would work in my favor.

Disclaimer: My version of the Spearmint coat is based on the test pattern I was given. The test pattern needed more work than Amity originally anticipated, and the final pattern being sold has been corrected, but I’m not sure exactly how my end results compare to the finalized pattern.

Also keep in mind that this is being labeled as a “top coat” for a “California winter,” or a “transitional coat” for more extreme climates, and some of my alterations were done to allow me the option of wearing thicker layers with mine. (I plan to wear mine most during Spring and Autumn.)

I chose to make the shorter version of the coat, which is actually 6 inches shorter than the final pattern – it’s now drafted to hit more at the knee.

I went digging through my fabric stash and came up with 2 yards of heavy weight 100% cotton blue denim (I bought it 5 or 6 years ago because it was only $2/yard). I also had 2 yards of an amazing dress form print quilting cotton that I thought would make a fun lining.

The pattern called for 3 yards of each, but I am “The Queen of Eking” and I was determined to eke it out of something I had.

Blue denim for the outside and fun print for the lining.

No matter how much I wanted to like the shade of the denim’s blue, I just wasn’t feeling it. It was a bit mom-jean blue or something. It might have worked well if I distressed it after making the coat, but since I couldn’t be sure, I didn’t want to take the chance.

So I pondered my options while I made my two mockups and preshrunk my fabric a total of 3 times (washed in hot and heat dried). I didn’t have any fabric to spare, so there was no room for error.

Ultimately, I deliberately decided to use the wrong-side of the denim as the right-side. It has a slightly heathered grey-blue look from a distance but it’s definitely a twill weave up close.

Is this back-side of the fabric great, or what?! The heathered-looking denim and contrast topstitching would add a casual vibe to the dressy coat design, making it easier to dress up or down, depending on the occasion. I couldn’t find topstitching thread in the coral color I wanted, so I used outdoor polyester thread because it’s thicker and shows better than regular thread.

I simply liked the wrong-side color more, and it even coordinated better with the lining print. And, as you would expect, no two pairs of jeans in my closet are the same shade of blue, so I knew a coat this more neutral color would go with all of them.  Besides, the head-to-toe matching denim look is a total fashion no-no for me anyway. My personal rule of thumb is: make whatever you wear look intentionally styled. If someone has to wonder if you meant to do something, you didn’t make the contrast obvious enough.

As I mentioned before, two mockups were made, and this was so I could be sure my alterations were satisfactory. I only tested the outer layer, and didn’t bother with the pockets for my mockups (Not bothering with things like lining or under collar saves time and muslin too, but I did make corrections to all the paper pattern pieces for the lining as I went.)

The chopped & marked up version of the first mockup. It’s really wrinkled from being carried around in a bag for a few days.

Main changes made to the pattern, based on my first mockup:

  • Reduced the width of the collar – mainly at the shoulder and back – so it wasn’t so overwhelming on my small frame. I anticipated the need for this because I often have to shrink large scale design elements. (Photos of the first mockup show the collar at a stage where I had taken it too far in my experimenting.)
  • Narrowed the center front opening so it wouldn’t try to spread open to the sides of my bust in an unflattering way (the princess seams were in the correct place, but the neckline wanted to shift everything out to the sides).
  • Added just a slight bit of room to the center back.
  • Increased the armseye and sleeve ease so I could comfortably wear layers.

The second mockup turned out to be unnecessary because my alterations were good, but I’m glad I took the time to be sure and didn’t jump right to the real fabric.

Second mockup. Much better fit.

Side-by-side comparison of fit.
These mockup photos look like fancy lab coats, especially since I was wearing my glasses. Mockups for science!

You can really see how badly the sleeve was pulling on the first version. It was so tight it was hard to bend my arm. The sleeves also look a little short on the first compared to the second because they caught on my sweater underneath. I did not change the length of the pattern pieces.

These are perfect examples of why mockups are necessary! And don’t feel like you have to make a completed item! I didn’t do a lining, pockets, buttonhole, or true hems (I just folded edges once and basted down to check finished length).

So it was finally on to the real fabric!

Sure enough, I managed to eke everything out of the 2 yards of fabric. It helped that I had reduced some of the collar width and that the pattern has only 3/8 inch seam allowance. (Note: you may want to add to the seam allowance if you make a Spearmint with fabric that frays easily.) Astonishingly, I only had to piece two pieces!

I put a seam in the center back of the neck facing, which I then topstitched and mostly covered with a tag.

My tag.

And I creatively pieced one side of the under collar, which no one will ever see unless I lift the back of the collar to show them.

After cutting out all the other pieces, I laid out my fabric scraps until I could fit the collar pattern (being careful to cut the mirror image of the piece I already cut out). I didn’t really bother with making sure all the scraps were on grain – in any case, it was just the under collar. Then I pinned and stitched the scraps before cutting.

For the most part, I followed the written instructions just as they were. I did, however, make a few exceptions based on personal preferences:

  • I did not use the horsehair canvas in the ruffle collar. My denim was plenty thick and I knew the two layers of the collar would be more than stiff enough to hold its shape on its own.
  • Nor did I use necktie lining to ease in the sleeve caps because I didn’t want to add thickness to the denim. (The pattern did fit really well together so there wasn’t much need for ease assistance.)
  • I chose not to turn the coat through the sleeve lining for two reasons. 1. Thick denim. 2. I like to construct collars completely separate before attaching them to a garment. There is more control, thus, the end result looks better. I turned my coat through an opening at the center back hem that was about 8 inches wide and slipstitched the lining to the coat hem to close it by hand.
  • For easier on and off, I used antistatic lining fabric for the sleeve lining instead of the same fabric I used for the rest of the lining.
  • I added tons of decorative topstitching.
  • I added a coat hook loop.

Ruffle collar assembly.
Constructing the collar separately allows for easier pressing of the edge seam (tailor’s ham inserted inside in bottom left photo). I also topstitched around the outside edge before attaching the collar on the coat.

Added coat hook loop at center back where the collar joins the neck facing.
I used the selvage printing dots from my lining fabric. I love how the dots add interest and still coordinate with the lining.

Outside and lining both constructed.
Final try-on before joining the two together. The lining reminds me of a kimono with its combination of fabrics.

After joining the coat to the lining and adding one large button, I had a completed Spearmint!

Finished Spearmint Coat.

And here are a few more photos of some of the details:

The fun print lining!

The pattern’s included instructions for the bound buttonhole are wonderful. I added topstitching around it to match the rest of the coat.

Because I did so much topstitching on my coat, I chose to reinforce the pockets to match. I decided to close my pockets up about 2 more inches after realizing the opening was a lot bigger than I needed it to be – thus, there are two bar tacks on the bottom. This also allows me to carry my phone in a pocket without worrying about it falling out.

Overall, this is a great pattern! The pieces fit together very nicely and I love the separately drafted lining and finishing details. The instructions may be a little brief for a beginner, but with the extra tutorials and sewalongs on the Lolita Patterns blog, most sewists of any level should have no trouble making this lovely coat for themselves.

You can buy the Spearmint coat pattern (#5013) from Lolita Patterns in either paper copy or instant PDF download.

The paged PDF is 64 pages, so if you get the PDF, I highly recommend using the print shop version and having a place like Staples print it on large paper for you. I love having the ability to print off small “fit to page” copies of the large print shop version before I taking it to the printer, and the copies also made handy references to overall pattern while I was working.

As payment for being a pattern tester, I was given one copy of the paper pattern.

Obviously, I do not need another copy since I have already altered and adjusted the test pattern to my liking. So it’s Giveaway time!

If you would like a chance to win a copy of this pattern in its beautiful packaging, just follow these simple rules:

  1. Leave me a comment on this post and be clear that you want to enter. (Any comments are welcome, even if you don’t want to be entered in the drawing, but you have to let me know if you are entering!)
  2. In your comment, include your plans for your version  – fabric, color, etc. How do you intend to make it your own?

Giveaway is open to all locations. Winner will be chosen at random.

Deadline for entry is closed at 11:59pm on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 United States Central Time (GMT -6). I’ll announce the winner in a post on the following day. Winner announced in this post.

Good luck and Happy New Year!

And now if you’ll excuse me, Wensley sees that I am wearing a coat and thinks we’re going for a walk…

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32 responses to “A Denim Spearmint

  1. Barbara January 1, 2014 at 9:45 am

    I love your new coat and can’t wait it see it at church. The collar is so eye-catching, and I love the topstitching in a contrasting color.

  2. Laurie January 1, 2014 at 10:02 am

    I am so glad you made a denim one! I was wondering how it would do and it looks great. I like that you used the “wrong side” of the fabric too. Like you denim on denim is a no no in my book! ;) Nicely done on the piecing too! I really like this “experimental” Spearmint!

  3. Joy January 1, 2014 at 10:08 am

    I want to enter and I would make mine out of boiled wool.
    This is such an awesome coat if I don’t win I’m buying it anyway :)

  4. Bird and Bicycle January 1, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Love this denim version! You did great! I would love to win a copy as well. :)

  5. aem2 January 1, 2014 at 11:05 am

    I don’t want to enter the contest, but I felt you should know that denim on denim is called a Canadian tuxedo. :) And yours is is a very fancy one!

    I have some denim that is also sadly mom jean blue. I’m thinking of dyeing it darker before I cut into it.

    • Brooke January 1, 2014 at 2:45 pm

      lol – “Canadian tuxedo”!

      I briefly considered dyeing my denim. I did a tiny test with a scrap in turquoise dye to see if I could brighten up the backside a little. It was so ridiculously subtle that it wasn’t worth doing to the coat. (I would have needed some really dark dye to change the color of the right side of the denim without bleaching it first.)

  6. LolitaPatterns January 1, 2014 at 11:13 am

    I love all your construction pics and final versions! And all the detailed information! So glad we can see how awesome Spearmint will turn out if made in denim!

  7. Fwaire January 1, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    What a gorgeous coat!! :D I will definitely enter!!

    I would love to play around with the Lolita style and find some japanese and Lolita inspired fabrics for it as well as simple stripes, maybe even polkadots! Ah i think this could be adorable with so many different fabrics! :D

  8. Helena@grayallday January 1, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    I am entering! I think it would be interesting to make it up in a dark coat plaid. I have a perfect one already I would like to try, so pick me!

  9. Chuleenan - C Sews January 1, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    Lovely job on your Spearmint coat! I love all your details – topstitching, your label, lining fabric,and especially the selvage coat hook (great idea!). I love seeing your pattern testing process. I have been eyeing this pattern and wondering how it would fit with my wardrobe. I don’t have a knee-length coat so this would be a good addition. So yes, you can enter me in your giveaway!

    I think a coat-weight wool is what I need – not too thick but something appropriate for a Northern CA winter. And I’d like to have a fun contrasting lining. I’ll definitely add a coat hook and maybe make the collar using contrasting fabric rather than all one color.

  10. Fifty Dresses January 1, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    You look great in that coat, Brooke! Using the wrong side of the denim was so smart, and I love the small details, like the coat hook and how you applied your label. Although this coat design would not be for me, I can see how you will get much wear (and many compliments) from it.

  11. thevintagetraveler January 1, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    So many great ideas! I love the look of the reverse denim, especially with the topstitching. And this is a terrific example of why a mock-up is so important. It’s really pretty!

    Ruffles are not my thing, so I’ll pass on the giveaway.

  12. purplepincushion January 1, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    Sign me up! What a fun coat. I love that you used the “wrong” side of the fabric. One of my favorite rules to break :-) I have some beautiful, medium weight, olive green wool – I think it is military uniform surplus fabric. It’s my favorite color and has been begging me to make it into something!

  13. laurahoj January 1, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    Please enter me in the giveaway! I would probably start by making this for my daughter. If I make it for myself, I will draft a shawl collar instead of the ruffle, as I have issues with ruffles from childhood. :)

  14. G January 2, 2014 at 4:54 am

    I’d like to enter the giveaway. I think I’d make the short version in a light drapey fabric to allow the collar to fall nicely. I’d cut the undercollar with a few millimeters less than the upper collar and make sure to understitch. ah, I can picture it. Please let me win!

  15. Bobbi January 3, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Please enter me! I’ve been seeing different versions of this coat around the interwebs and it looks so good. I’ve been on a red kick lately – I’d like one in a dark red, slightly wine, maybe. Or purple. I’m always in the mood for purple!

  16. witness2fashion January 3, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    I don’t want to enter the contest — too many other projects — but I love the way you walked us through the whole process, and your use of details like the selvage hanging loop. The lining is a delicious secret — the coat is quiet on the outside, with lots of fun hidden away inside. Just like some of the most delightful people! P.S. Your post on what a costumer does — complete with photos of the trailer — was excellent!

  17. jackienj January 5, 2014 at 5:54 am

    That was a lot of work but totally worth it for a fabulous coat! Throw my name in the hat for the pattern.

  18. Nikki Gillette January 5, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Such a beautiful coat! It would be a great ‘running around’ coat for winter here in Michigan when you are just going from house to car/car to store. I’m definitely checking out that pattern.

  19. Gjeometry January 5, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    DENIM!!! Who woulda thunkit? And, a to die for lining, I love it with that greyish denim. The coat looks so pretty on you, I’m glad you sewed one up. Your label is really cute too!

    • Gjeometry January 5, 2014 at 3:09 pm

      PS, please don’t enter me into the giveaway as my current climate does not allow for a coat that opens like that in the neck/chest area, so better it go to somebody in a more forgiving climate that can use it.

  20. Carol January 6, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    I absolutely love your coat and love the cut. You were very wise in making a mock-up first because you were able to tailor it so nicely, I love that you used the wrong side of the fabric- I’ve done that many times when I’ve made costumes for a theatre company I’m involved with in order to give more depth to a look from the audience’s perspective. I was researching ruffles and found your blog. I would love to win this pattern! This would be great in a linen fabric too, I think, for warmer months. Oh, and now, I’ve just looked back at the rest of your blog and you also do costuming! I’m not a great seamstress, but I work hard at making things look decent! I’ll be sure to become a follower of your blog now…

  21. Katie January 8, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    I’d like to enter! I really, really want to make this hyper-feminine coat in a bright colour that contrasts both the ruffles and the winter weather – I’m thinking grape purple or electric blue :D

  22. Pingback: Spearmint Pattern Winner | Custom Style

  23. Pingback: Brooke’s Spearmint | Lolita Patterns

  24. Penny hooper January 17, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    I defiantly am entering! It’s a lovely coat, I would make the long version out of a burgundy mid weight fabric, so it had lovely fall to it! I am always up for frills!

  25. jojococonut March 2, 2014 at 2:16 am

    Love the coat… But I can’t stop eyeing up you scissor necklace! Where can I find such a beauty?! :)

    • Brooke March 3, 2014 at 9:39 am

      Thank you! I think I found the necklace at Modcloth a few years ago. I remember having to wait for them to restock it because it was sold out when I first saw it. Not sure if they still carry them. I changed the hang direction of it because both sides of the necklace hung from the points of the scissors and it looked a little like eyeglasses – so I just moved one of the jump rings to a handle.

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