Holy Frock!

A tale of terror, tailoring, and tragedy.

The Coat.

Okay, I’m no good with suspense. I need to get this over quickly. I finished Osiris’s frock coat.  This is what it looked like Friday evening, as we headed out for a night on the town.


Here’s a slightly-clearer closeup.

And this is what it looked like Sunday afternoon…

The damage.

… after it got caught in the rear wheel of Osiris’s motorcycle.

Thankfully, he’s fine, and the motorcycle is fine, and he will never ever ever ever wear a long trailing coat on a bike again. I’m trying really, really hard to focus on that and not the fact that he FRICKIN DESTROYED HIS BRAND NEW COAT. Down that road lies madness, or worse, divorce. Not going there.

Anyway, the rest of this post I wrote triumphantly after finishing the coat, but before tragedy struck. And I just don’t have it in me to re-write everything to reflect the current situation. So I’m just going to go with it, as is, and then go and cry some more in a corner. And it’s a bit skimpy on the pictures because I didn’t get the chance to do a real photo shoot before…



I made a coat!

Hmm, probably that should be finished a coat. One that I started planning, oh, well over a year ago, and last worked on a little before last Christmas. That would be Osiris’s frock coat. I adapted the pattern (testing with two muslins) using Sherry’s RTW Sewalong, and got as far as assembling the shell when it became clear that all my muslining had failed to produce anything like a decent fit. Stymied, I lost steam and made him a shirt for Christmas instead (which I never actually blogged either, come to think of it—it’s black, he wears it a fair bit but it’s pretty much impossible to photograph.) And the coat sat.

And sat.

And sat.

Well, as I’ve mentioned before, we recently moved back to our hometown. While I’m still assessing what this means for me, what this means for my husband is that for the first time in half a decade, he has people around he’s actually willing to leave the house to see, and, maybe, show off for.

So he got a bug in his ear about getting the coat finished, and was even willing to head over to his mother’s (where my sewing room is now located) to hang out while I worked, in order to be on hand for fittings. Almost without whining. Almost.

So I re-fitted, pinned, re-sized, hunted down my lining fabrics… and realized that I had no idea where my painstakingly drafted lining pattern had gone. In fact, I have this sinking feeling that it was kicking around in a roll on the floor of my old sewing room and may have gone into the trash-can during the last, frantic stages of packing. Oops.

What to do? Make a rub-off, of course. Argh. This is where you stretch the various bits of a finished garment out on paper and copy the shapes, by drawing where possible and by pushing pins or tacks through the fabric where not. It’s laborious and, at least when done by an irate and impatient Tanit-Isis, not overly exact. (Note that I am not bashing the rub-off. I just didn’t do a good job of it.)

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

One of the things I had decided, back before last Christmas, was that the coat needed a lot more structure than the RTW sewalong called for, being more of a tailored kind of thing. Now, I have a fair bit of information on women’s tailoring (“dressmaker tailoring”), but not so much on men’s, and most of what I could find readily on men’s was a bit too advanced, specialized, and piecemeal. (I’m thinking primarily of the Cutter and Tailor forum and Made By Hand.) Some searching did eventually turn up a neat little booklet on Google Play called “Sewing Menswear: Jackets” (there’s one for pants as well.) It’s not overly detailed, but had a nice overview of the basic stuff I was looking for—what and where to put the extra interfacing.

Back Piece

So I made up a back piece (did I mention it would’ve been SO MUCH EASIER to do all this if I’d had pattern pieces to work with?, which I made in two layers, flannel and then hair-canvas when it became clear that flannel wasn’t quite going to cut it. I had eased the back shoulder in the fashion fabric quite a bit (not entirely successfully, although several steamings improved it considerably). On the flannel I replaced this with a dart, which I slashed and pressed open, and on the hair-canvas I cut out the dart and butted the edges, stitching them together with a triple zig-zag. The feel of the back of the coat was vastly, immensely improved by all this.

It was around this time, I guess, that the coat went from being a slick product of a RTW-lookalike sewalong to a sterling example of what I like to call bas couture. (And I suspect that it should really be basse couture, but I’m not certain, and anyway it’s possibly an even more apt name if I got it wrong.)

Haute couture is when stitchers of fabulous skill use gorgeous hand techniques to create the creme-de-la-creme of high-end, custom garments. Bas couture is when some half-asser like myself attempts to use grossly similar techniques to make up for their own lack of precision and foresight. For things like adding in back pieces after the shoulder seams have been stitched, and other offenses against the Sewing Gods.

Shoulder piece

In addition to the back piece, I made a front shoulder piece. On further fitting, I decided that I didn’t have enough room for the intended shoulder pads, so I replaced them with “pads” made from two more layer of hair-canvas. All of this was reverse-engineered and hand-stitched in, laboriously and not always correctly.

Shoulder “pad”

I should mention that this coat has the most hand-stitching I’ve done since the Lady Grey sewalong, and it doesn’t even have any pad-stitching. Bas, bas, bas couture.

Once I had the shell in something resembling good shape (it’s amazing the improvement an adequate amount of interfacing gives), I got to work on the lining. Oh, dear.

Since I was pretty sure my lining pieces were more approximation than accurate, I decided to insert it by hand. This let me fold and fudge bits as necessary, and there was plenty necessary. The shape of the bottom of the pieces came out remarkably well (my attempts at a bagged lining, not so well, since I was rushing by that point and didn’t take time to look it up), but around the shoulders things kind of went to pot. Despite my best efforts, my sleeve lining wound up not being long enough, and my one inch of pleat at the CB wound up being closer to 2″. I used a back stitch to insert the lining, which I’d never used before. It’s not hard, and goes fairly quickly. A men’s dressform would’ve made the process much less nerve-wracking, but I managed to resist the ones my mom found second-hand the other day (yes, the day we came home with the treadle.), so I have no such equipment.

I confess, the fact that I could do the hand-stitching at home in the evenings, rather than over at my mother-in-law’s, may have played a part in my decision to do so much of it for this project. Anyway.

Bias fudge

To make up for the too-short sleeve lining, I fudged a wide bias strip of lining fabric in between the two. Pretty? Hell, no. Illegitimate? Highly. Effective? Surprisingly so, although one sleeve is still binding a bit from the lining, so obviously the insert needed to be a bit wider. And it’s not at all noticeable now it’s all done.

I did two welt pockets on the inside, neither of which are quite large enough, and completely forgot to photograph them. They’re nothing special, though, except that I hadn’t done a welt pocket in ages.

I used my Greist buttonholer to make keyhole buttonholes. They’re not lovely, but at that point I had only hours to finish the damn thing before the Deadline*, so I was happy as long as they were in place and not full of big wadded knots of thread.

Oh, and it turns out (after all those muslins) the sleeves are too short. I don’t think I could lengthen them more than a cm without them looking freakish when his arms are down, but they pull back way too much when he raises his arms, apparently. I suspect the angle of the sleeve-cap is involved, but it’s a bit more than I can wrap my head around just now. If you know what I did wrong, please share.

He did, while we were at the fabric store picking buttons, pick out some purple brocade for a vest. I’m working on that now.

*For those interested in the true extent of our geekishness, a Vampire: The Masquerade LARP.



…. so the coat did survive through one major outing, at least. It did quite well.

It’s not actually irredeemably destroyed. I could actually cut it off  just above the slashed bit, make it symmetrical, and have a (to me) really nifty tailcoat sort of thing. Or cut it off at hip length and have a more ordinary sort of jacket. However, Osiris is pretty clear that he wanted a frock coat, dammit, and is not terribly interested in salvage. So I’m not sure what will become of it. His father (who has never shown a lick of fashion interest otherwise, to my knowledge, and would probably wear the same golf shirts and black jeans from now until the sun burns out) was quite taken with it when I was working on it during a family barbeque last week, and asked that his have a red lining. Maybe he’d like a salvaged (non-red) version. We’ll see.

Ok, now you can tell me about your biggest sewing disasters, please, to make me feel better?



Filed under Sewing

38 responses to “Holy Frock!

  1. SHRIEK OF HORROR! I vote for divorce, seriously. (Seriously, seriously, thank goodness your husband is alright!) And that coat was a work of beauty. Cut it off at the rip and make it a pea coat. I’m saying that, but I’d never have the energy to go back and do all that extra work. I don’t even know how to comfort you.

    PS: Do you, by any chance, live in Sylvan Lake?

  2. PS: I just realized I have no idea of how “shriek” is spelled.

  3. I don’t even know where to start! GAH! The frock coat is AMAZING and even more so from the amount of work you put in and the crazy challenges you faced. But the motorcycle tea-rage? Heart breaking. On the plus side, it makes it look more hardcore and that should totes add some epic storyline elements with VtM. A tailcoat save could be a winner here!

  4. I’m so relieved that he is okay. I’m sure you’ve already thought about it…but it could have been bad.
    I would salvage it and make it shorter. Better than leaving it as it is to mock you from storage.
    Biggest sewing disaster? Probably the disintegration of the Touch of Asia dress. The only thing that gives me comfort is that the zipper didn’t rip along the side seam while I was wearing it in public…

  5. oh noes!!!!!!!! I’ll go through my photo’s from the LARP and see if I captured you guys. D: D: D:

  6. Mary a.

    Maybe cut it off just below the buttons, add a new lower half (assuming you have more fabric) and call the new horizontal seam a design feature?

  7. The fact that he destroyed the coat would not lead me to divorce (the horror mixed with the relief that he is OK probably balance each other out); however, the fact that he iisn’t interested in a salvaged version might, indeed, lead to discussions about divorce…..

    My biggest disasters were projects that had to be worked, and re-worked, and re-visioned, and worked on some more. Something might end up sitting for months, but dammit, if it’s as awesome as that coat I’M A-GONNA FINISH IT!!!! Here’s to you finding a way to do it. For someone!

  8. Oh. My. Goodness. I am SO glad that everyone is OK. I’m absolutely reeling with the horror of everything you didn’t tell us. Eeeek! And I’m so sorry (which sounds ridiculously trite, for pete’s sake) about all the work and thought and tinkering and hand stitching and agony that went into that beautiful coat, And I’m sure any words of encouragement would probably sound pat right now, but here’s mine: I know you will come up with a brilliant idea for it, and I’m also sure, down the line somewhere somehow, Osiris will still have a long frock coat. 😦 Sending a universe of empathy and sympathy and encouragement your way. And to answer your question about disasters: many many many many. ARGH. I keep telling myself the materials cost less than an actual sewing course in, oh, I don’t know, FIT, maybe? Or DRAFTING? And experience is a good teacher, right? RIGHT?! The worst was a beautiful silk tweed jacket that was finished in charmeuse, underlined in organza, bound buttonholes, all the interfacing put in by hand, blah, blah, blah. And it looked like s**t on when it was done. Oh, and a cashmere jacket, too. I trashed them both. Didn’t salvage anything. I just wanted them OUT OF MY HOUSE. 🙂

  9. I once made a dress, and after wearing it only once or twice, I washed it, and it came out looking like it just disintegrated. I had pre-washed the fabric, so I don’t know what happened. When I took the dress out of the dryer, it looked like I’d used the kind of basting tape that dissolves in water to make it (I used regular thread). I didn’t put nearly as much work into that dress as you did into the frock coat, but there was still that frustrating, sinking feeling of disappointment over wasted time making it and lost future wearing opportunities. I’d say start over with a new one later, and keep the current version, preferably framed, in it’s current state. It’ll be good as an icebreaker/conversation starter during dinner parties, a step up from “wanna know how I got this scar?”.

  10. OMG!!! That’s awful. I don’t know if I would still have a husband after he did that to something I made regardless if it was an accident or not. I hope you are feeling slightly better about it. It was a beautiful coat and maybe you can salvage it.

  11. “No capes!” – Edna Mode
    Glad that only the coat suffered a horrible fate!

  12. First of all, thank God your hubby is OK, because that could have been seriously bad. And, the coat was freaking awesome before the incident, so you should be very proud! Maybe he’ll come around to a salvage jacket, or maybe your FIL will decide that it’d be great for him.

  13. Patti

    Well, I don’t have suggestions about the coat, but if he survived the accident, I think I would kill him for not thinking about the coat getting caught. :-). After I was over being glad he survived, of course. It would be a cold day before the coat got fixed, replaced or anything else.

  14. lloubb

    Saaaaaaaad! Glad he is ok, though. Once again, though– ssssaaaaaaaaadd!

  15. nooooooo! i suppose we should be focusing on the fact he is OK rather than that he TRASHED THE LOVELY COAT AFTER ALL THAT HARD WORK!

  16. First- I am SO glad he is okay. Something getting caught in the wheel could have been way worse than a torn coat.

    Second- I’m sorry your hard work was ruined. It was a beautiful coat. I second the notion that you cut it even and make it a short coat. It seems like enough is left of it. Even if he says he isn’t interested, you never know whether he might pick it up.

  17. NOOOOoooooooOOOOO!!! That must’ve been horrifying, but glad he is OK, even if the coat didn’t exactly come out unscathed.

    The top half still seems to be fine – and that is where most of the work was, yes? You could cut it off just above the rip all the way around, then use the unripped half as a pattern for cutting a new bottom half out of black leather (or pleather). Got to be worth trying to save it, after all those hours spent on it?

    • You know, that could work. Make the horizontal seam a design feature. I recently picked up a leather coat second hand to salvage the leather (knee-length Danier leather coat for $20? Yes please), and they have a horizontal seam at about hip length too. Might be an option to salvage this into the length he’d still be interested in.

  18. Oh my gosh that’s terrifying. I’m glad he’s alright though, and the only casualty was his coat (as sad as that is). My Dad wiped out on his bike once, and while it destroyed the bike, his leather jacket and leather pants (no not those kind, the biking kind), he walked away with a few bruises and some road rash where his jacket rode up.

    That said, OH GOODNESS NOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Aw man, just when you got it done too! D: It looked really good on him too. I’m sorry that all your hard work got ruined. ):

    Also, dammit you finished his coat before I finished mine. And here I had this tiny goal/comfort that I’d be finished before you. lol

  19. Oh, I was so sad for you I couldn’t comment when I first read this. All that work! I’m sorry it’s trashed. You did do beautiful work though, I haven’t had a hand-tailored disaster, but I once decided not to prewash a rayon knit. You can imagine the hot mess that sweater was the first time I washed it. It grew so wide that I could have fit two of me in it, but it was barely long enough to go over the girls. That was a sad day.

  20. Oh nooooooo! I made a top (very early on in my sewing career) that I was super excited about. I wore it to work the next day and got acrylic paint all over it when a first grader walked in to me with a wet painting. Ruined my pants, too, though they were not me made. I am so sorry about the coat. Glad you hubby is okay. It looks like it was fantastically made.

  21. Amy

    I’m crying a bit inside. Poor jacket. But, I am so very glad that everyone is okay. When looking at that coat together with that motorcycle before your story, I would have only seen an image of a long coat trailing in the wind. An awesome image. Now I know better. And, wow. I do vote you rescue the coat. Maybe the shorter coat will grown on him (or someone in your family) over time?

    • Oh wow! Gorgeous frock coat – and I’m glad no-one was injured, but absolutely gutted for you after you put in all that hard work. I have a suggestion to add to the solutions you’ve already thought of: Victorian frock-coats had a waist seam… could you cut it off at the waist, make another skirt the same as the before, and attach the two together? I’ve made a couple of mid 1800’s frock coats for living history this year, and both were made like that. It looks really nice, The button at the waistline does up through a gap in the waist seam stitching, rather than a standard buttonhole. You could add a belt for extra quirky awesomeness!

      Good luck with the restructuring. I hope it turns out brilliantly 🙂

  22. That is so, so , SO terrible. I think if it were me I would still be hyperventalating. So much incredible work…. Stupid boys, they can’t be trusted with anything 🙂

  23. Sufiya

    i AGREE.I can NOT believe that a grown man would not be aware of the extreme danger that wearing a long trailing coat on a motorcycle would present! He is goddam lucky he wasn’t KILLED! The dancer Isadora Duncan had her NECK BROKEN when her long trailing scarf got caught in the wheel spokes of the car she was sitting in (this was back in the 20s or 30s)

    I have an adult tricycle and I also frequently wear long skirts, and i have a collection of BINDER CLIPS at the ready to clip them up to avoid this sort of thing happening! I don’t care if I “look silly”; better that, than DEAD or injured!

    That being said, the damage to the coat you put so much work into is ALSO a tragedy…but I agree; I am sure one could easily remove the damaged bottom part and replace it, provided one can find MORE of that material!

  24. I cannot believe it……all that blood, sweat and tears, from the first photos it looks as if it was an amazing fit also! I’m glad that your man is ok, but totally upset for you about its short but glorious existence…

  25. Sandra

    Ack! Phew that he wasn’t hurt (my hubby rides a ducati and I am always worrying that he is going to hurt himself), but yanno it could have been worse. Imagine if you had made the coat in leather! It was a damn fine coat too by the way. I agree with some of the comments that a horizontal seam could be a good way to salvage it, but then again, you could just hang it up next to the bike, as a reminder everytime he goes out to be careful, and a reminder to NEVER ASK YOU TO MAKE HIM ANYTHING EVER AGAIN!

  26. Laura Weldon

    What if you cut if off above the damage, added a zipper and made a new bottom section that zips on and off? That way he could wear the coat in a safe length for his motorcycle, then add the bottom part so he’d still have the frock coat. Plus, the right exposed zipper could look really cool. Of course, if he ever lost the bottom part of the coat, you’d have to divorce him. The coat is so beautiful, it even looks good post-accident.

  27. Sara

    This is a good thing. Now you never have to work on anything for your husband ever again. Any time he ever hints that you should make him something “What, so you can rip my hard work into shreds with your motorcycle AGAIN?” Instead of thinking of all the past hard work that was lost, think about all the future hard work that has been saved :).

  28. How awesome is Laura Weldon’s suggestion (done by couture e tricot a while back). Sorry but any motorcyclist (bicyclist for that matter) knows never to have things hanging long.. but I’m sure he knows that and in his excitement just HAD to wear it!!! Well don’t go for divorce just pull this out of the hat every time you need something..”remember the coat I made for you and you had for 5 minutes..”
    Glad no physical body harm done by motorbike or road.. wife; that’s another matter.

  29. LinB

    Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry about the coat! But the man is unharmed, and that is the important thing. I agree with many others above: cut off the torn bits and finish the coat as a peacoat. Try to forgive him for the disaster — it was not his fault! You are allowed to pout, however, and also to grieve the loss of all that work.

  30. oh my god oh my god oh my GOD. i thought y’all had a bike wreck, then was relieved, but after looking at all that work it *might* be just as bad… no. no, it’s not. BUT HOLY SHIT THAT SUCKS.

  31. Oh no… I think I’m going to cry in a corner with you. That just… hurts. I am glad that Osiris is fine and the bike is fine, but the coat, oh the poor coat.

  32. OMG all that work…. I’m really glad he’s OK (as I’m sure you were too, of course!) but once the relief settled, he’s also lucky he survived coming home afterwards!! I think if he’s not interested in keeping it, you should salvage it into a shorter version and sell it… it would fetch a fair price, as it’s quite beautiful and obviously so well made 🙂

  33. This story has haunted me so much I just had to comment. All that work! Full on. I’d stash it until your are spiritually recovered then get some more fabric and make a new tail for it. I’m very glad that he is ok though. You’re role-players 🙂 While not one myself I do hang out with quite a few of them. Very nice people of course!

  34. Words fail me. As the partner of a motorcyclist, and surrounded by dozens more (they seem to flock, like sheep), I am well aware of the damage a bike accident can cause and am so so very grateful that Osiris is unharmed.

    If this was me and mine, once I’d thoroughly checked him over and kissed him repeatedly and told him how pleased I was he was alright, and told him never to worry me like that again, I think I then would have gone COMPLETELY MENTAL at him for ruining my work of art! And then cried. This is heartbreaking. But worth salvaging. You’ve done so much amazing work and the style is great! The ideas above for a shortened coat, or a remade bottom half with a feature seam are all excellent. Then again, the idea to frame it is pretty excellent too! Whatever you choose, I think it is perfectly reasonable to bury it away for a while until it stings less to look at it.

    Also, that fact you guys are LARPers totally makes you cooler.

  35. Too bad about the accident. Your story made me remember when I was in college riding my bike and wearing a long knitted poncho. The fringe got caught in the spokes and started winding round and round… it was a similar disaster. 🙂

  36. I agree with the zip-off suggestions! Here are some examples of zip-off coats: Macy’s, Hilfiger, Burberry Porsum, BCBG.

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