Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Making a Sweater Coat Part 3 Desiging the Patchwork Pattern

So my basic coat pattern has 17 pieces, but I will end up cutting it up to have more than a hundred.  I drew several different designs for coat patterns in my sketch book.   
The only one I really like is a harlequin-style coat with large diamonds, like a checkerboard on point.  This is a very impractical design for several reasons:  It’s virtually impossible to alter and every piece is a different size and shape. For these reasons, I really don’t want to use this as my design, but since I haven’t come up with anything I like as much, I’m going for it anyways.  Oh boy.  There’s no turning back now.
 The one good thing about using diamonds is that almost all of my short seams are straight, but the long seams change slope from patch to patch, and they’ll look curved as they fall around the body.  Also, I will have large, medium and small pieces so I can cut my fabric accordingly. 

To make my pattern, I draw lines on my large pattern pieces, from which I can make my smaller pattern pieces.  It takes me a couple of tries to copy my diamonds correctly from my sketch onto the pattern pieces, and I realized what a pain the back slit will be, with so many pieces.  So I’m omitting the back slit.  Too bad because I kind of liked it, but so long, good bye to the slit.  

After I draw my diamonds, I have to move some of the points of intersection to get more graceful lines.  (The pencils are showing how I moved one point.) At some point in this process, I decide to keep the side seams for sure.  It will make the final construction easier.  Plus, the side diamonds are bigger on the pattern than they are in my sketch, and I can’t have any really big patches or they won’t fit on my shrunken sweaters.  So keeping the side seams will turn those large diamonds into two triangles each.

I find that I have to label the diamonds to organize my thinking.  I’ll need to do that at some point, and now’s the first time I need the labels.  The front is has columns of diamonds I label ABCD, the back is KLMN and the sleeves are VWXYZ.  Each column has between 4 and 6 pieces.
 Here is the column of L pieces.
Here I am cutting out the K pieces which go down the center back. Notice I removed the center back seam.
Here are the K pieces all laid out on what used to be the back seam.
 In a few ways, I see that my sketch is not perfectly to scale with my pattern.  The side pieces are larger than I sketched.  I hope the lines will still be graceful.  I decide that I want to use one cashmere sweater for the six pieces that go across the shoulders (front, back and sleeve cap). I cut the gray cashmere sweater on a few seams to compare with my shoulder pattern pieces.  The patches on the shoulders are also much larger than I expected.
So I add more seam lines to the shoulders. I continue to make adjustments by moving the points of intersection around a lot, until I get a little frustrated, and I decide to stop with what I have. 

I add diamonds to the sleeves, merging triangles on one of the seams so there will only be one major sleeve seam. Again, this seam will make things easier later.  I put more diamonds on the sleeves than I expected because I want the pieces to be pretty small there so I can use the scraps after cutting the pieces for the front and back of the coat.  I ended up with nearly 60 pattern pieces, which will result in 125 patches of fabric.  Eek.  Too many… oh well…  I haven’t worked out the details on the hood yet because I’m anxious to cut and sew fabric.  I’ll leave the hood until later; so those numbers are approximate.  It will likely only go up.

This photo shows how I mark the points of intersection for patch M2, which goes across a princess seam on the back. Four corners define the boundary of M2.
Here I am using my ruler and rotary cutter to cut a 5/8 inch seam allowance.  The pencils are pointing at the dots where the corners are.
I think I want the seaming to mostly be on the outside with black thread so the seams become a design element.  I will still do the main seams (down the sides, shoulder seams, etc.) with the seams on the inside.  I have a patchwork coat that does the seaming this way, and I like it.

On columns C and M, where the princess seams were, I removed these seams by combining two triangles into a diamond everywhere except over the bust (piece C4), since there is too much curvature there.  So C4 is two pieces but I’ll sew it with the seams on the inside so as not to draw attention to it.

I visited two local Goodwill stores in my area and bought up most of the pure wool or cashmere sweaters they had in stock, men’s and women’s.  Everything I bought was plain (except the blue cashmere one with cables).  I got 19 sweaters, 3 of which are cashmere.  I hope it will be enough for two coats, but I’m sure it will be enough for one.  I got lots of blues and grays, and a few greens, plus one in every color of the rainbow.  I’m going to save the rainbow set and use just the blues and grays, adding a green or two if I need them.
I washed and dried and washed and dried the first batch and they shrank a lot, even through the second washing.  The only ones that sort of fit me are the XXL.  Many of them now look child sized, however, the seams don’t shrink proportionally so they would be ill fitting and uncomfortable for sure.  I noticed that the cashmeres didn’t felt as much as the wools, but they retained their delectable softness.  Yeah!  This is some of the most delectable set of fabrics I’ve ever played with.  They are thick and are wonderfully springy.  I’m a little nervous about sewing with them, but sergers are made for sewing stretchy fabric, so I’m trying not to worry about it.

In Part 4, I start cutting my recycled sweaters...


  1. I find myself reading this with great excitement. Can't wait for the next installment! As a former sewer, I still have love of the craft and this project is so enthralling. You have such talent and are so creative, I'm sure it will be a beautiful coat.

  2. Thank you Sally for your kind comments and the vote of confidence. I've been wondering if anybody is reading this, but I'm trekking along in any case. Currently, I'm cutting and cutting, seemingly endlessly cutting...

  3. You have at least two readers. (Although my comments keep disappearing.)

    I am impressed by your abilities.

  4. KJ, thank you for chiming in to let me know you're reading this. I appreciate it! If I were you, I'd reserve your impressions until you see the finished coat... hehe.

  5. LOL

    I think the coat will be stunning! You have good materials. You seem to be technically capable. You have a great eye, as is apparent in your bead work. Plus, it is a classic pattern, and I love classics.

    I am glad my comment is showing up. I have no idea of what the issue was.

  6. The materials are definitely great, much thicker than anything I've ever worked with, except faux fur.

    I'm glad your comments are showing up too. It's nice to hear what my readers are thinking, at least every once in a while. So, thank you very much for your comments. I really appreciate it. I'll try to get part 5 up sometime today or tonight. It's starting to get a little more interesting, or at least, a little more photogenic.


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