Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wrap Coat + Electric Blue Fur = 7 Pounds of Awesome



And, if you thought it couldn't get any more awesome, ladies and gentlemen...

That electric blue fur collar is completely detachable. :D

(Not like anyone would ever actually want to go without such a glorious turquoise mantle, but for the sake of versatility and laundering.)

This work has been in-progress for so long, it's almost embarrassing. I made the coat over a year ago, and the fur came before the outerwear. 

I found this fur at the Mood in New York. It was not a case of love at first sight; I was inclined to jest at the nearly phosphorescent nature of the fabric. Fortunately for my wardrobe, it was a case of love at first touch. I will endeavor to help you comprehend through visuals the textural euphoria of this textile:

The turquoise tips conceal a dark grey undercoat

The pile is over an inch thick :0
All I can say on the subject is that in the store, touching this soft furriness was so giddying that I almost cried with joy. And then I decided to buy some with no idea of what I could possibly do with it. I vaguely figured I'd make a pillow (so I could rub my face on it--that soft) or maybe use it as trim for a pair of really awesome boots. 

And then I found this

V1276, A Sandra Betzina Vogue wrap coat. Classic, elegant, flattering, and characterized by a salient lapel transitioning into a capacious hood in the back. 

Promptly I was strategically laying out pattern pieces on my blue fur trying to make the necessary pattern piece--this funky-looking thing that encompassed the lapel, the hood, and the whole front breast facing--fit within the confines of the fabric. I only actually purchased 1/2 yard of the blue fur, but the prescient fashion gods were on my side, and I ended up getting half a yard of the full breadth of the fabric and another half-yard of a partial piece that was on the end of the bolt score!!!

The fabric that I used for the rest of the coat is a grey (boiled?) wool that I bought from my native Mood in LA (the marriage of the two Moods!). 

I like this fabric because it's subtle (which it needs to be if I'm going to make a full-length coat out of it) but the knobby texture and coloring still makes it interesting. Also, the gray matches the undercoat of the fur. Oh, and I went out of my way to find turquoise lining :) 

I could have just sewn the fur directly into the coat, but my mom convinced me that it would be a good idea to make the fur detachable. That way I could easily pair the coat with other outfits (didn't you hear? Turquoise is the new black?) and it would make the whole thing easier to wash. And it seemed nice to be able to compartmentalize making the coat and figuring out how to design and sew a fur collar (I was still pretty new to sewing then).

Unfortunately what happened is that I made the coat and then it was spring and I never actually got around to making the collar...


Basically what I did was duplicate the strange-looking hood piece from the coat and cut out two pairs of hood/lapel pieces: one out of the fur, and one of the lining. I then sewed the two fabrics together to make a self-contained piece and applied snaps and hooks so that it could be temporarily anchored to the body of the coat.

I did some research on the topic of sewing fur. Here's what I did:

1. I started by tracing the pattern piece in sharpie on the back of the fur. I made sure to lay the nap in the same direction for both pieces: I wanted the nap to face upwards on the lapel, so that the strands of fur sort of fall open when worn so you can see the gray coat underneath.

2. This was my favorite fur-managing trick. Do not cut with scissors; use some sort of razor or knife to split the back of the textile without splitting the actual strands. This was a pretty easy way to cut and it did a good job of maintaining the integrity of the fur near the cut and leaving me with minimal turquoise fluff.

3. I pushed the fur into the seam as I was pinning and sewing. This did not work completely ideally. I think the best way to handle the actual seaming of the fur would be to comb the strands away from the seam on either side, but good luck A) locating the exact site of the future seam and B) keeping the fur obediently parted while sandwiched by another textile. I also didn't hand-baste the seams beforehand :/ but what I did do was use a machine baste stitch to make it easier to pull the fur hairs through the seam on the good side and help conceal the junction.

I still had a sort of strange-looking situation around the central seam of the hood: 

Either the strands near the seam were getting snagged, or my tactic of combing the fur towards the seam meant that the tips of hairs from farther away were emerging only partially. At any rate, my seam was a sort of terraced valley, which was particularly visible because the ombre dying of the fur emphasized the different heights of the pieces. I eventually  just left it because this seam, on the inside of the hood, was going to be concave anyway so this whole effect would be minimal. I also realized that this was probably an unavoidable side effect of a nearly 360-degree seam around the hood with the fur joining at all awkward angles with no nap concordance whatsoever. I mean, I also had this going on:

That is a fur Mohawk.
Pretty much the opposite of the valley effect.

But enough about sewing fur, and on to the real question: how is this heavy and irregular piece of fur anchored to my coat so that it is visually fluid, secure, and yet leaves no traces of connective hardware when removed?

Well these have been my best friends for the past few days:

7/8 inch diameter snaps. They're big, but unlike smaller snaps they usually hold until you want them to let go. I used them liberally on the inside of the coat because you can't see them anyway.

Notice how I put the flat half of the snap on the inside so I didn't have knobs sticking into me while wearing it.
I put snaps on the front and inner edges of the front facings, the top shoulder seams, and at the notches between the shoulder and the hood.

But I was still worried about how I was going to secure the edge of the lapel and the hood, where any device I used to hold the two pieces together would end up showing.

And then I came up with this :D (yes I'm pretty happy about this)


I put the curved, more visible half of the snap on the fur part and the flat, inconspicuous half of the snap on the UNDERSIDE of the collar. Which means...

When you fold the lapel back over you don't see anything!

Do you see any snaps?

Of course  not ;)

(Note: I focused mainly on the fur collar in this post because that was my most recent project--the body of the garment I finished a while ago. But I'd be more than happy to talk about about the pattern or construction of the coat, so please leave any questions, observations, or tips in comments!)


  1. Hi there - looks fabulous! I am making this coat too. I have a question about the belt. Did you sew it in to the seam or just leave it as a tie-on? I am not sure if I want to attempt the sew-in option. Thanks for any advice.

  2. I did sew the belt into the seam. It wasn't hard--if I recall correctly you just insert the seam allowance on the belt casing into the waist seam--but it was a little messy. Around the edges of where the belt seam allowance entered waist seam, there was a little gap in the casing where you could see the elastic. I ended up stitching up that hole by hand. I do like having the belt sewn in because it keeps it very secure, but if I made the coat again I might just create the belt separately and then tack it in place. Hope this helps!

  3. Thanks for the advice. I sewed in my belt yesterday and had the same problem. I took the stitches out and redid it - it was perfect on my second try. One more question - my hood doesn't fold over into the shoulders and back as neatly as yours. It sticks out a bit. Any advice on how you folded yours to lie flat? Thanks.

    1. I'm glad to hear your belt worked out well! Honestly, getting the hood to cap over the shoulders was just a matter of fiddling with it and arranging it once I got my garment on. I'm afraid if I'm transitioning quickly between using it as a hood and a collar it doesn't work out so neatly. I also topstitched the front edges of the coat and the edge of the hood, which might have helped it lie correctly. I hope this helps!

  4. Thanks for your advice. I finished the coat last weekend with topstitching and have worn it several times, to great compliments. My one regret is that I did not shorten the bodice a bit so that the in-seam belt would lie at my natural waist. It's a bit low - between waist and hip. Looks like it fits you the same way. Anyhow - happy sewing!

    1. You're very welcome! It sounds like your coat was a smashing success! I think the coat was designed to be a little more slack/saggy and that's why the waistband was positioned oddly. But it would be so cute to see it snugly tied around the waist! Thanks for your comment!