Sewing that's Retro, Geek, and Chic
A Denim Spearmint
January 1, 2014Posted by on
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
After joining the coat to the lining and adding one large button, I had a completed Spearmint!
And here are a few more photos of some of the details:
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.
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:
- 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!)
- 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…