Saturday 2 June 2018

A vintage trench - B6331

Or the blog post where I changed my mind a hundred times then made something anyway... And you know what? I kinda like it.

This trench coat was all about the fabric. I had to have it, and I had to use it somehow. When my friend @topbikephysio invited me round to her mum's house to rummage through the fabrics that were about to go to goodwill, one of the ones that caught my eye was this one.

As I pulled it out of the pile, topbikephysio's mum (let's call her Barb) exclaimed "oh, that's awful! I don't know what I was thinking"
No Barb, I said. It's fabulous and I know just the pattern for it.

I was thinking of this very pattern, the Lisette for Butterick B6331 cropped trench coat.

The fabric is curious, and like nothing I'd ever felt or seen before. It has a very tight weave, a moderate matte sheen and a feel almost like a laminate. It didn't feel greasy like an oilskin, neither did it feel tacky or plasticky like a laminate. All I knew was that it was destined to be a trench coat.

Barb was happy to see it go and I squirreled it away.

Of course I didn't cut it straight away, and in that time I fell hard for a completely different pattern:

Vogue 1564, a Katherine Tilton raincoat pattern was released and I snapped up a copy from the Vogue/McCalls US website when it was on sale. Of course I still didn't sew it up straight away (my excuse was it was summer after all) and a few months later, in Spotlight, I was so enthused about the idea of this pattern and this fabric that I bought the pattern again. Not on sale this time. Doh.

As the weather cooled I traced off what I thought would be my size, laid the pieces out on my fabric, found it would fit, and then hit up Jimmy's buttons for the perfect leather closures

Oh it was going to be so good! I had even made a muslin to check that the fit would be OK.

Finally it was time to lay it out and start cutting. It was then that I realised that I had no pattern piece traced for the facings. Given that the facing is the whole inside of the hood it's hardly a piece you can do without, although I hadn't needed it for my muslin fit check.

I went back through my pattern tissue sheets and it seemed I was missing three pattern pieces, so probably one whole sheet of pattern tissue. How fortunate then that I'd double purchased the pattern. Sure enough, the other pattern had one more sheet of pattern tissue and all the pieces present. But now it was apparent that while I had 4 metres of this amazing fabric, it was only 90cm wide (very retro) and was not going to be enough. Absolutely no way could it be done. There were tears.

By this time, the idea of a coat of any description made with this fabric was so entrenched (ha!) in my head that it was going to have to happen. Back to plan A then.

I only had the one size range of the Lisette B6331 and it was the larger 14-22 envelope. The 14 was bound to be roomy enough so I traced that off, adding an arbitrary 1" at the waist lengthen/shorten line and an additional 3" at the hem, which was as much as my length of fabric would allow. I used every last bit of this fabric and so it was now doubly obvious that a longer coat with a giant hood was always going to be an impossibility.

While I didn't make a muslin I did do a little internet research on the pattern. I found SewManju's version with extra sleeve and epaulette tabs and loved that. She had attempted a lining that didn't work out as well as she'd hoped and I also wanted to add a lining to mine.

I went with the easy-cheaty method of lining where one cuts an identical jacket from the lining and then just bastes the lining and the jacket together before attaching the facings.

The lining is from ClearIt and is quite cute: It has tiny birds and flowers on it and the words "tweet tweet, I am so sweet". While the green is an odd mismatch there is a purple in the lining that exactly matches one of the background shades of the main fabric. It's hard to see but 'behind' the green and black brushstroke pattern of the main fabric are little splashes of light blue and purple. I think it works, and heck, it's on the insides anyway.

The edge of the facing is finished with bias binding cut from the same lining fabric. And then the facing edge is slipstitched to the lining. The only changes I made in cutting the lining was to cut the centre back half an inch off the fold, then baste along that half inch line. Once the lining was all sewn in, I've removed the basting stitches and that has given me a 1" pleat centre back to allow some ease and movement in the lining.

Also the lining sleeves were cut to be shorter than the coat sleeves (of course) but then to have half an inch of extra length once seamed together to allow some extra movement up and down the sleeve.

The other snippet I learned from other people's experience with this pattern is that if you keep the original length then by hemming the garment you will stitch straight through the bottom part of your pockets.

They're dinky little inseam pockets anyway and would be utterly useless if they were cut short by a row of hem stitches. Thankfully my 3" extra hem length means the bottom of my pockets are just a scant inch or so above the hem.

For the perfect buttons I hit up Buttonmania. I knew I wanted a plastic button typical of a mackintosh button and it had to be this oddly blue shade of green, Of course they had just what I needed, and also had them in a slightly smaller size to use on my shoulder and sleeve tabs.

A point to note is that the button on the inside which helps to close the coat (the outside buttons on the wearer's right are purely decorative) should be a much flatter button. To have two chunky coat buttons on top of each other, one inside, one outside, would be a big lump.

Before I cut the fabric I did run it under the tap to see how it took to water. Water beads on it and stays there for quite a while before beginning to sink in. I haven't worn it in a rain shower yet and I know it won't be waterproof, but I imagine on a damp morning bike commute it might stay dry on the insides for just long enough.

I'd prepared for the worst in sewing the fabric. I bought a Teflon foot and got all worked up with memories (lets be frank, nightmare recollections) of sewing this one. But this fabric was a dream. It wasn't tacky under the sewing machine. It took a good ironing without threatening to melt or catch fire. In fact, it behaved just like a nice cotton. And you know that may well be what it is. In talking to Leslie of FibreSmith I mentioned the fabric and how much I was enjoying working with it and she told me about "polished cotton". Apparently all the rage in the 60/70's (Barb's fabric stash vintage), it was a cotton twill that was so highly polished and burred on one face so as to give it a super tight, semi water proof finish. Bring it back I say! - only in wider bolts than 90cm please.

And so there it is. A funny little garment. I wasn't sure about a cropped trench coat, and perhaps I'm still not. But it has it's benefits. I can cycle about in this one, whereas I suspect the narrow hemmed, longer Vogue pattern will be a pedestrian only coat. It definitely fills a gap in my wardrobe for a light, wind, and possibly shower, proof thing to throw on over a jumper on sports mornings.

Arguably this size might better fit someone with a larger bust than mine, and perhaps I should have gone out a size where I've added the extra hip length....

I still have a little burning candle inside me that's devoted to that Vogue pattern. So maybe that's what's stopping me declaring my pleasure with the mini trench. Or maybe it's just not me. But, whichever,
I'm wearing it most days for lack of anything else and I suspect it will grow on me day by day.

Pattern: Lisette for Butterick B6331
Size: 14
Modifications: added 1" torso length, 3" hem length. Added lining. Added tabs at shoulders and around sleeve cuffs.
Fabric: Vintage "polished cotton". Alannah hill lining from ClearIt
Buttons: Buttonmania of course


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Emily. It certainly turned out useful and it's always nice to make something useful out of old unused fabric.

  2. The perfect cycling trench and your method to line your trench is not cheating in my books it was the way I was taught to add a lining.

    1. Oh good, thanks Sharon, it's nice to know my made up methods are sometimes correct. I faint at the thought of trying to draft those curves to sew a lining to a facing, just covering it with the facing is so much easier.
      It does work very well on the bike, just maybe needs a tad more sleeve length for rising.

  3. I love it!! What a strange and interesting fabric! I wish I could have been with you raiding that stash - so fun!

    1. It was fun. And we had lovely soup for lunch afterwards. :)
      I hope my friend shows her mum as her expression of disgust when I found the fabric was hilarious. But then maybe she'll still hate it :).....


I get a real kick out of knowing you've visited the blog and love to read comments. Thanks.