Saturday, January 6, 2018

My Biggest Project Yet - A Confederate Majors Frock Coat

So, just because I didn't get to sew a lot for myself during December doesn't mean I wasn't busy - I was! It's taken me a few weeks to mentally recover from this project, which was actually surprisingly head-ache free. But the stress of planning it and figuring out how to make it and doing research for it was really, really heavy. Now that I'm a few weeks out from it I can look back and remember the great things about working on this. I'm super happy with how it came out, a little disappointed with a few things I wish I had done differently (there's always something!) and am so glad for the experience of making this and the mental boost it was to get it successfully done. Plus I got a new sewing machine just before starting this (my first Husqvarna!) and that made the construction of this coat so much easier than I had anticipated.

The coat isn't all that different from previous frock coats that I've made. The main difference with this one was the sleeve braid. I also wanted to make the skirts set better with more flare and I constructed the collar a bit differently. The sleeves are a little more full than the sleeves I've made on federal style frocks.
First time doing the waist buttons in the seam. I like how it looks!
The fabric is cadet grey wool from Richmond Depot and the body is quilted to an interlining of thin wool flannel. The flannel is actually from a dye job gone wrong a few years ago and is bright bubblegum pink! But it worked really well for an interlining and gave the body structure without much bulk. The lining is brown polished cotton from Needle and Thread. The silk buttonhole twist is also from Needle and Thread. I had a pattern to work from for the sleeve braid but ended up not using it as the design was a little too short to look well on the sleeve and was very unsymmetrical.

Since I had had a lot of time to think about how to make the coat the process of actually sewing it was pretty smooth. I listened to a lot of Christmas concerts on YouTube while stitching! (And some Franklin Turtle and Little Bear episodes courtesy of Rose and Benjamin). It was just mentally intimidating to actually start. I started with quilting the front bodies and then sewed the lining together sans front skirts. Then the outer shell. Then the collar, then the back pockets and then the skirts. Sleeves last. That process seemed to make the most sense to me.

The sleeves terrified me as I had no idea how I was supposed to draw out the braid design on the sleeve and apply the braid. Finally I decided to draw the design onto tissue paper, baste the tissue paper to the sleeve with contrasting thread and tear the tissue away to leave the design basted onto the sleeve. This worked really well!

Then I just had to sew on the rows, following the design of the basting. It took almost all of a day (the day before school got out for the holidays!) but I got it done. This coat has 3 rows of braid per sleeve with indicates the rank of Major.

Then the last was sewing up the sleeves, putting in the lining and setting them into the coat. This took a few tries and the sleeves still don't hang like I want them to. But I finally got them sewn in to semi satisfaction.

A few days before Christmas I had the opportunity to take some photos on a sunny day at the beautiful historic Old Methodist Church to test the fit. Whenever I make something for someone else I am on pins and needles til they can try on the finished garment. As I tell them, all I can see is how it looks when being worn. I don't know how it feels! For fitted garments the critical areas, for me anyway, are the armscyes (too tight and it's unbearably uncomfortable and too loose and you can't raise your arms freely) the neckline and the upper chest. Thankfully this coat seems to look and fit as it should.

Rosie and Malachi came along and insisted on dressing for the occasion. They love every opportunity they have to put on their historic attire! Rosie looked so cute in my yellow silk bonnet that I think she will have to wear it more often! Poor Malachi is in dire need of longer trousers!

So that was my big project for 2017! I am not sure what big projects this year will bring me but I feel better prepared to tackle anything that comes my way!


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