I spent all my sewing time in November working on the Cascade Duffle Coat by Grainline Studio. Because of the icy wind and usually clear skies, winter mornings can be bitterly cold here in Languedoc – most mornings it is colder here than in my native Northern France, although we do get much warmer temperatures around noon! I have a very warm coat that I made when I was in London in early 2009 (Vogue 8346), but I wanted a different style, with a higher collar, and I felt alternating between two coats would be allow my beloved purple coat to suffer less wear and tear. I did a thorough search of the various coat patterns available, and after much deliberation settled on Grainline Studio’s Duffle Coat pattern.
As I have already mentioned on Instagram, this has been hands down my most involved and technical project to date. In the 13 years that I have been sewing (all of which are documented right here – I started blogging at the same time!) I have made oodles of garments, two wedding dresses, and five coats – including the aforementioned Vogue coat that is detailed and nicely finished – but none of these comes close to the complexity of this pattern!
My first qualm about this pattern was the sheer price of it. At $18 for the PDF (!) version, this is definitely the most I have ever spent on a pattern. However, perusing the choice of coats designed either from independent or larger companies convinced me this pattern was the most put together, for a truly professional, top-quality finish. I know a lot of us do not necessarily sew with economy in mind, but I do. I thought long and hard about it, but in the end decided that splurging on the pattern (and fabric – more on this later) was worth the cost. I wear my coats for decades, and a coat is the cornerstone of any winter outfit – it is often all that anybody sees whenever you are out and about. As many of us who strive to wear an entirely handmade wardrobe, I have long made the choice of quality over quantity. (I am the same with shoes. I always prefer spending money on an ethical, well-produced pair of shoes and wear them to death for at least five years, to buying cheap shoes every year that don’t fit that well and are made in conditions that don’t ethically match the rest of my handmade wardrobe).
What about this pattern, then? Was it worth the splurge? Oh, absolutely. The amount of thought brought to the many, many pattern pieces, and to the instructions, is astounding. The number of pieces to cut out in the shell fabric, lining fabric, and interfacing, is enough to make anyone blanch at the prospect. If my count is correct, for version B, you have to cut out no less than 45 pieces in the various fabrics and interfacing! To me, however, whilst undeniably daunting, this number was also a token of the pattern’s extreme quality, exactness, and attention to detail.
To help you put the coat together, Jennifer also published many articles on her blog that were initially intended as a Cascade Sew-along, but can now be of use to anyone as a detailed step-by-step tutorial with many pictures. I found them extremely helpful. This is one of the reasons why it is wonderful to buy from independent pattern designers!
I really, really like that you have both toggle buttons and a zipper, which is sandwiched between a front and a back band to keep you extra warm. The zipper itself is attached to a slimmer band, which is such a stylish detail.
My one alteration was to swap the front pockets for side seam pockets. They just feel sleeker and more elegant to me. Also, I always have tissues in my pockets and just didn’t want to have bulging pockets on top of my coat.
This alteration was inspired by Martina – Ladulsatina’s version of the Cascade Coat. I thought her version looked super stylish!
- Outer fabric: A 100% wool coating from tissus.net, gorgeously thick and luscious. This comes in so many colours, too!
- general lining: black viscose with a paisley motif for a bit more interest
- zipper band and hood lining: a thick black double knit wool that I have had in my stash for probably over a decade.
- zipper: I had the hardest time finding a nice, sturdy separating zipper was that was silver-coloured and not gold, copper or antique gold! I absolutely wanted the silver though – from the start I just had this image in my head that the vibrant royal blue wool and pitch black lining would be best accented with silver (and because I am cool-toned, silver is also my metal of choice when wearing jewellery).
- toggle buttons: I had a hard time finding nice toggle buttons as well. I went to my local haberdasher’s, and naively thought the price of the toggles they sold (5 euros apiece) would be matched by their quality… Alas! the ties were badly glued to the leather and literally fell apart in my hands as I was just taking them out of the pack. I was able to get a refund, though, and found much nicer-looking toggles in a French shop on Etsy. They came the next day! These look so unique, and I feel they give the coat a perfect finishing touch. I attached them by hand, which took a couple of hours, then went back over them with my sewing machine for extra sturdiness. I went into each hole one stitch at a time, using the wheel of my sewing machine to bring the needle down and up again.
These materials were not cheap. In fact, this is not simply my most complex project – it’s also my most expensive one (honestly, my dupioni silk wedding dress cost me half this project!) I followed the same reasoning that I shared earlier, however. I wanted this coat to last for a very, very long time, and to be really warm. This explains why I took so much time on it. I wanted everything to be as close to perfection as I could achieve, and unpicked several seams when I felt they didn’t match completely perfectly, etc. … I shared a post on Instagram where I talked about my approach to the length of this project.
A note on my choice of lining for the zipper band and hood: I felt my gorgeous blue wool would be too thick for the zipper band; as for the inside of the hood, I didn’t feel like having a possible staticky lining against my hair – not to mention the black wool looks cosier!
So there you go… My Cascade Duffle Coat! I have been sewing mostly simpler projects this year, because it’s been such an exhausting and challenging time; so it feels wonderful to finish 2017 with a bang!
I wish you all a happy end of the year!