Monday, November 26, 2012

Why fine fabrics are worth it...

I wrote this post years ago, and maintain that it is still as relevant today.  I have since changed the buttons (last year) on this coat to a far more interesting, bold, and stylish choice, and routinely receive great unsolicited compliments while strolling through the city.  Feels great.  And cozy. And like ME.  No one else.

All told, this exact coat probably cost is about $350 in materials to make, and, what I would estimate was $800 in labor or so.  And that was in 2009. So, no, not a coat I would choose to/could afford if it were even available for purchase.

Originally posted 10/16/09

Feeling like Kathleen Turner's character at the beginning of "Romancing the Stone", I just completed such a big, long-awaited, satisfying project, that, if I were a drinker, I would pour a glass of celebratory champagne. I never meant to be sewing this coat during the winter weather, but it isn't my fault. Seriously. I am actually right on time, and it is winter that has come early. 

In this mid-October "coldwave", I am now peacefully transferring my long-awaited coat from the sewing table to the closet. I promised myself that I would not post this until everything about this coat was complete, and now, with buttons on, hem done, final pressing finished, and stray threads clipped... it is ready to wear.

Completion date (10/16/09) Vogue Pattern 2038, issued in 1997, which marks exactly how long I have owned it.

Eventual HUGE (2 1/2" diameter) buttons I chose after writing the related posts.
Closure is false (no buttonholes) - closes instead with heavy snaps inside.

From original post: 

I put this plan into action several (make that many...) weeks ago.

Yes, I'm telling the story backwards. This post is what allows me to release the rest of the posts written earlier in the process. (See my old blog to read the rest of the tale.) Why? Because it is painful to try to live up to my own timeframe of how long I think each project should take, and trying to resist the urge to work hastily just to proudly post results on the blog. With a finished project, I can confidently and peacefully share the process, with complete knowledge of how things turned out, with a bigger picture appreciation of how it all came together, rather than dwelling on any obstacles I encountered, or minor changes I made... you get the idea. (Written 9/23, with a half-constructed coat)

Okay, so I can't throw it on to go to the supermarket or to run my daughter to dance class, although the shape and fit are casual. Why not? Because, worn with sweatpants or similar garb, this coat can easily go in the "Bag Lady" direction, despite the quality of the expensive (but totally worth it!) fabric used to make it.

This coat took me 3 months to complete. Not because it was so time consuming, but that's how much time it took me to find the free moments where I had enough energy, attention and passion to sew it. I made use of every little inch of creative personal time I could squeeze, and now I'm glad I started in the hottest blast of summer.

What I love about it most, though, is that during this process, I must have put this coat on at least 20 times, and now, with it completed, it really feels like a coat! I have full confidence that this coat will be as warm as any store-bought coat I own, and the weight of the fabric is just right for me.

Fabric source: Cashmere/wool blend from Rosen and Chadick
Buttons: M&J Trimming
Lining and binding: NY Elegant Fabrics

If you want to read the rest, start here, and click "newer post" at the end of the first post. And then, if you come back to this page again, click here for another.

That's a lot of back and forth, huh?  Maybe I'll pull some old posts over, with current commentary.

Oh, and I forgot to comment on why the title of this post is "Why Fine Fabrics are Worth It"  Did I mention that this coat looks like BRAND SPANKIN' NEW every time i put it on?  That it hangs like a dream?  That it feels like the coziest, most luxurious blanket you could ever imagine?  That the color is outta this world magical?  So... that's it.


  1. Oh Mimi! I also bought that pattern as soon as it was published. In 2001, I made it up in gray melton for my niece who was extremely pregnant at the time and her coats wouldn't close around both her and the baby bump! I lined it in red and it was just the thing to keep them both cozy until he appeared in March of 2002. I made the size Large, thinking she'd need it... Boy! that is one big coat. It got stored until last year when she returned it to me and a dear friend fell in love with it. Last winter I made it up for myself using a wonderful (sort of) wool velveteen I bought from Kashi at Metro Fabrics. I cut it a bit shorter than the short version and made the small. I'm wearing it already this year and am still in love with it!

    I particularly like the subtle color of your coat and now I'm wondering if I could fit another full-length coat into my closet!!!

    1. Yes, so you know what I mean!!!! Just a PERFECT coat pattern! I actually worked at Vogue Patterns when this pattern came out. I was in a full Miyake- worship phase of my sewing life then!

  2. I have this pattern and never made it up. I do know what you mean about good quality staying fresh looking. I have a cashmere and wool blend coat with silk lining and gorgeous large buttons and bound buttonholes that still looks good and I made it maybe 8 years ago?

    1. The fabric doesn't pill or show any signs from friction or wear, unlike some of the coats I've owned in the past, despite being subject to the same treatment.

  3. It is fabulous! I wasn't sure if I had this pattern, so I just dived into my Miyake drawer and found it. Very tempting!

  4. I look forward to reading your original post.

    I can understand avoiding expensive fabric because you're afraid of ruining it. I'm in that camp, but am working my way up. I do not understand using inexpensive, unpleasant fabric just to save a buck. As you said, your labor and time are more valuable than a few yards of fabric. And what about the time and money you spent on sewing education and tools? Amortized, they make expensive fabric look like a trifle.

    New York Sewer

  5. Thank You so much for this post. I'm constantly pointing out to my students the benefits of good quality fabrics.

  6. Gorgeous. I just spent an hour at Mood. There IS a difference in great quality fabric.

    1. Yup - although great quality fabric can also be found at a bargain price sometimes... depends where you look!


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