I finally wore the coat


Remember this coat? I think I finally finished in April?  May?  Well, technically, it’s not finished yet, as I have not decided on the fastenings for the front.  Snaps or buttons?  Or hooks?  I’m leaning towards my new obsession – hand-worked buttonholes (Actually, this is more of a necessity than an option.  The coat will not fit into my machine for machine buttonholes, so I’m stuck with hand-worked ones if I want them.  Not that I’m complaining.  🙂 ).  I just need to find the perfect buttons.  No matter!  I’ve still worn it a few times.  The occasion in these photos was the first opera of the season back in October with a good friend.  Sometimes dressing up requires a LOT of energy and the right mindset, but this particular night I felt like wearing taffeta and the new coat in my closet.  The skirt is from Vogue 8287, which is from my pre-blogging days.  I have worn this skirt a lot for dressier times in my life.  I really like the swish of taffeta, and this tea length works for a dressy, but not formal look.  And it’s purple, so what can I say?

DSC03517The coat is actually quite comfortable and cosy enough to wear if it’s chilly, but I don’t think it would keep me warm at the freezing point.  I cut the sleeves on the bias because the fabric is an upholstery fabric, and I wanted a little more give in the sleeves than the straight grain would allow.  I must say I’m pleased with the way they move with me.  I did my best matching up the CB seam.  My original intent was to make a mirror pattern down the CB, but the design would not allow it, so here it is looking like one big piece of fabric.  This is my only disappointment with the coat.

DSC03527 I’m really happy with the fur cuffs and collar.  It’s one thing to wear a fur coat, but having just the trim is special.  I’m pleased with how this turned out, and intend to wear it until the cuffs fall apart…. or I get tired of the fabric pattern and put them on a different coat.  Who knows!

And because it’s been a while, and you may be curious to see the construction process of this coat, I’ve provided links to all the construction documentation here.  Happy reading!

Cavalli VII: Lining

lining & piping

The day after my last blog post the lining arrived.  Crazy choice, eh?  Ah, well, I guess the coat is a Statement Coat, so I thought I might as well give it Statement Lining.  It’s silk charmeuse from Printed Silks.  I’m always looking for economically priced silks, and while strolling through blog land one day came across a blog post somewhere (this is not helpful, I know) about silk T-shirts.  The writer named Printed Silks as one of his favourite silk jersey sources, and, of course, I had to check them out.

I chose to line the sleeves with ivory bemberg, and pipe the edges of the lining in the same fabric.  I thought the stylized leopard print may compete with the subtler spots of my cuffs, and thought I would play it safe.

collar & cuffs

I haven’t put on any fasteners at this point.  The fabric frays under stress, so I can imaging buttonholes will be a bit of a disaster.  And there was no way a bound buttonhole would be less than 1/4” thick in this fabric, so that option is out of the question.  I could have done snap buttonholes, but the fabric is heavy and an organza facing would not keep it from fraying, anyways. I’m leaning more to the big snaps idea for two reasons:  they will be relatively invisible from the outside, and hence will not interfere with the fabric pattern; and they will be easy to put in. 

Cavalli Part VI: Collar & Cuff Details

cutting fur

I thought I’d share some details regarding the collar construction of this coat.  The picture above shows how one cuts fur – with a very sharp blade.  My furrier gave me two, and it’s amazing how nicely they cut.  They also dull very quickly.  I’ve used one on just my little bits of collar and cuff and it’s lost it’s extra sharp edge.

underside of cuff fur cuff fur

Here’s the wrong and right side of the pelt I chose to use for one of the cuffs.  I wanted my cuffs to be about 3” wide, so I’ve trimmed the pelts in order to get all the spots and not so much of the brown back fur.

collar pattern

As mentioned in a previous post, there are no seam allowances when working with fur, so you have to create them with twill tape.  I used selvedge from medium-weight muslin.

adding selvedge to fur

The trick is to keep all the fur away from the edge of the pelt so that it will lie free from the seam.  A zigzag stitch is perfect, as it catches the edge of the pelt and tape and can also lie relatively flat when opened or stitched to the garment.

hand understitching

After stitching the fur to the undercollar, I really needed to understitch it.  So I used a bold overcast stitch to keep the twill tape in place.

turned undercollar

Here is the undercollar with the fur fully attached.  You can see the twill tape edging, but I’m not really concerned about it since the fur is long and will cover this up.  I’m also not too worried about it because I can see the about 1/8” of the twill tape where my furrier attached the fur collar to my leather jacket.  All that matters is that it’s secure and not visible through the fur.

I decided to attach the fur directly to the sleeves for the cuff as this would eliminated a lot of fabric bulk.  And I wanted the fur to be secure, not moving around.  I would probably have to tack a lined fur cuff to the sleeve to keep it in place, so why bother with the extra work of lining it?  Simple and effective is good in my sewing books.cuffs pinned to sleeve

I measured the width of the pelt between the muslin strips and marked the corresponding measurement (3 1/4”) from the cuff.  Then I carefully pinned the muslin strip to the sleeve, making sure that all the fur is away from the seamline.  I wanted the muslin strip on the bottom of the cuff to actually turn to the inside, as I intend to make the lining flush with the sleeve edge.

inside of cuff

Then I turned the cuff down, folded the remaining muslin strip over the sleeve bottom, and securely stitched it into place on the inside of the sleeve.

Et voilà!

cavalli cuff

Now all that’s left is the hem and the lining, which still has not arrived. *Sigh* However, I shall finish up the outer shell for this and go onto something simple for a palate cleanser!

Cavalli Part V: Attaching the Collar


Whew!  The collar and front facings are attached.  I’m pleased with it!  It’s not as spotty as I’d like, but I intend to make the spots “thicker” on the cuffs, which I’m hoping will make them all stand out a bit.  And the pattern is perfectly matched down the centre front.  Yay!

Now on to the cuffs….

Cavalli Part IV: Playing with fur

cutting fur

I finally got up the courage to try cutting into the fur.

bad furThere’s a lot of pelts in my piece, and some are really ratty and falling apart, so I used them to get used to the techniques for sewing fur.  It also gave me the chance to play with the collar pattern to determine what works best.

tape fur

The first thing I did was remove the cotton twill tape that was blindstitched to the hemline of the fur.  Remember I’m working with the bottom 12” of a coat that’s been restyled.  When I checked my mink, the lining is actually handstitched to twill tape so that it’s flush with the edge of the pelts at the hem.

zigzagged tapeYou can also see the tiny overcast-type stitches on the wrong side of the fur.  Pelts are “let out” to length them or to make them wider and therefore get more area out of a single pelt.  Seams are also done in the same way, in effect eliminating all allowances – exactly like a butted seam.  So I trimmed all the seam allowances on the collar pattern piece.

collar patternThe seam “allowances” are twill tape zigzagged to the edge of the fur.  The fox collar on my leather jacket is attached to the leather using this technique.

tape pinned to undercollarOne other thing:  sewing fur is like having a cat constantly rubbing itself against your legs – fine hairs are everywhere and stick to everything.

Cavalli Part III: shell construction


I’m still working on it.  I can’t believe it’s almost the end of March and I’m not done this ridiculous coat.  But I’m still working on it….

cavalli lined weltBecause the fabric is so bulky, I lined the welts instead of using two layers to keep things as thin as possible.  I also, for a lark, used the reverse side of the fabric and the selvedge as the edge, again to eliminate as much bulk as possible.  The selvedge has this funky fringe thing happening, and I actually trimmed most of it off the edges of the fabric to use as a trim on some future project or other. cavalli weltUnfortunately my crazy idea is hidden by the pocket flaps.  I worked to carefully match the pattern…. well, at the front of the flaps, anyways.  It was time consuming… I think I cut one flap 5 times before I was happy with the pattern match.

cavalli flap

I finished up today setting in the sleeves.  I’ve ordered silk charmeuse for the lining, so I’ll work on the collar and cuffs next while I wait for that to arrive in the mail.  I’ve cut into the fur.. now I just have to plan it so I get as many spots as possible….. into the fur

Tomorrow I’m planning a lovely afternoon with my good friend Lisa, who makes jewellry.  I’ll be smocking my DD3’s Easter dress, so the cuffs and collar of this coat will have to wait until later this week.

Cavalli Part II: Drafting the Collar

Thanks to everyone who commented on the fabric for this coat.  It’s always so helpful having other people share their opinions.  I must confess, after cutting the darn thing, that looking at the pictures in my last post made me reconsider which side I was going to use as the “fashion” side.  Dumb time to reconsider such a thing, especially when I’ve some pattern matching to do!

But I’m going to change it up and go with the right side of the fabric.  All your comments made me reconsider, as did pondering the pictures.  I was going to start putting it together this week, but I don’t have lining for it … which is probably a dumb reason to not begin on the project … and then I discovered I don’t have matching thread!  Go figure.  It’ll have to wait until later this week after a trip to the Fashion District.

In the meantime, I have a leather coat with a lovely red fox collar that my furrier suggested I use as a template for the collar on this coat when I chatted with him about the spotted fur.

fox collar

It has a zip-on hood, which I will leave off, but I’m going to trace this collar and collar stand, true them up and use them for my Cavalli coat.  You can see that the undercollar is in two pieces, seamed at the centre back.  So, interestingly enough, is the fur to ensure proper nap i.e. fur lies down at the front.  I will cut my lynx the same way.

Cavalli Part I

Happy March 1st, everyone!  It’s bright and cold in TO!  Winter is not gone yet.  Actually, it never is in this part of the world, until the beginning of May.  There’s always the last dump of snow in April sometime that leaves you scrambling for the snow protection gear after putting it all away because it’s making such a darned mess in the entry way!

I heard that Environment Canada is predicting a cold spring – right through until May!  So it’s not too late to put this coat together, ‘cuz I’m sure I’m going to get some wear out of it before summer arrives!

And since Cinderella is away for a while, I thought I’d keep busy by cutting it out.  I’ve decided to use S3562.  I made this up a couple of years ago, and it’s probably the only “wearable muslin” in my collection.  It’s made of a Harris Tweed wannabe fabric that I got from eBay, and I must confess that I’ve worn this “muslin” a lot.

S3562 working muslin

I plan to lengthen it by about 6 or 8 inches, lengthen and narrow the sleeves to accommodate the fur cuffs, leave off the pocket flaps and re-draft the collar to make the best use of the fur.

The upholstery fabric that I chose to make my coat does not have a pattern that is a true brocade pattern.  In other words, there’s no mirror image to be had or created with the design.  So I decided I’d just keep it simple and match the centre back and centre front seams and not drive myself crazy trying to make something spectacular.  I also decided to use the wrong (rusty) side of the fabric as my fashion fabric because it just makes the spots on the fur “pop”, and that’s what I really want people to notice:  the spotted fur.

right side
fabric right side

What do you think?  I’ve not started sewing it up yet, so I’d really value your opinion on the wrong or right side!

wrong side
fabric wrong side


Now that I see both in the smaller pictures, I’m undecided again.  Any opinions?

Lessons from a furrier

On my trip downtown on Monday, I had the time to hunt for spotted lynx so I can make up my Cavalli coat.

One problem.  Spotted lynx in a faux fur complete with the long guard hairs is not available on Queen Street anywhere.  I want the long fur, not the short.  Plenty to be had in short faux fur, but I want the long.  I did find some interesting sculpted tiger faux fur.  It’s in my mental stash for future reference!

Anyways, back to the fur.  Dear reader, you know I’ve been watching eBay, but the price on a full coat that I’m going to cut up is way more than I wanted to spend.  I was hoping to pick up something for around $100 at the top end.  Dreamer…..

And no real spotted cat fur to be had at a furriers anywhere in the fashion district.  One furrier had two printed red fox collars and a headband that would have been perfect, but he wanted $300 for both collars.  Uh….. I don’t think so.

So I went to our trusted friend.  My DH had suggested going to the furrier we’ve done all our… well…. ahem…. my… fur business with to see if he had something.  And boy, am I glad I did.  I probably didn’t get the best deal on the fur…..


…. but I learned a TONNE (yes, I spell it that way – I’m Canadian!)  First of all, I felt and saw what the $$$$$ spotted lynx pelts are like at $300 per pelt.  (It takes an average of 11 pelts to make a coat).  I didn’t even ask the price when I he brought them out for me to see.  I knew immediately they were more than I wanted to spend. “I don’t want these pelts.  They’re more than I want to spend,” I told him.  He laughed.  “You don’t even know what they’re worth!”  “Yeah,” I said.  “But I know they’re more than I want to spend because they’re so beautiful!!”

“Well, tell me exactly what you want to do with this coat,” he asked me.  So I gave him the whole spiel about the Cavalli coat and that I needed the trim for the collar and cuffs (even though he’d told me last year that fur on cuffs is a liability because it wears too badly) and possibly the facing of the coat if I had extra; that I’d been looking on eBay, but hadn’t found what I wanted, so I was asking him for help.

He brought out the trimmings from a coat he’d shortened, which is in the picture above, and a very well-worn used coat which he said I didn’t want.  So I got the trimmings of the coat.


And one hour’s crash lesson in spotted cat fur, which is worth more to me than the price of the materials.  It was just a smidgen more than I wanted to pay, but well worth my time and money.  He helped me plan out where to cut the fur to maximize the spots on the collar and cuffs.  He showed me how to cut the fur carefully and how to stitch it on my little home sewing machine.  And gave me two blades.  My DH, when he saw them tonight, was impressed with them.   “You be really careful with these. They’re very sharp.”  Surprised smile ??? You don’t say!

BTW, I told my furrier that I’d love to learn how to “do” fur.  It’s on the list of things I’d like to try before I die.

And the information…..wow!  Did you know that the wider the pelt, the whiter the spotted area and the spottier the pelt the more money?  Or that there’s more spots at the bottom of the pelt that the top?  And that the spots only exist on the belly?  And the trimmings I got were the bottom of the coat, which means I got the spottiest part of the coat!  And if I’m able to follow his advice on cutting, I’ll have the non-spotted fur to play around with on another garment.

I have to say, I love fur.  I’m a northern Alberta girl, y’know.  Fur is the only thing that keeps you really warm in winter.  I was reminded of this on Monday walking around the Fashion District in –2o0 winds.  I have fox trim on my coat collar and hood, and when I put my hood up around my face the long guard hairs on the fur kept the wind from reaching my face.  Amazing.  My DH looked at me like I was out to lunch when I told him this.  “Well, dear, the animals do stay warm outside, so the fur’s gotta be doing a good job.  They don’t die from the cold!”  Spoken like the truly practical wise man that he is.