So very close!

When we last left our heroes… I had started putting together the lining and interlining with the outer fabric, and I was waffling about how to add the inner pocket. While I was pondering the issue, I started to assemble the pieces. This is always a fun part of the process, and it’s great to see the garment come together. In this case it was also an educational one.

I wasn’t sure of the best way to finish the seams. Typically this isn’t something I’d worry about in a coat, because the lining and outer fabric would be assembled separately, so that when they were finally put together the seams would be hidden between the two. After sewing the first seam, connecting the back and side back, I thought I might just cover the inner part of the seam with twill tape, and proceeded to trim the seam allowance.


This turned out to be a bad plan. The pattern instructions call for ironing the seams, but since I happened to get an interlining that doesn’t do well with ironing (another lesson learned), that’s not really an option. So I resorted to my usual ironing substitute – top-stitching! In this case, the process was to trim the lining and interlining (but not the outer wool fabric) from the seam allowance, then fold the seam allowance open and stitch it along each side of the seam:


This served to both make the seam lie flat, and add a decorative detail to each seam. So the inside of the coat ends up looking like this:


Still contemplating my pocket issues, I started working on the sleeves. Unlike the body pieces, the sleeve linings and outer fabric pieces were sewn together separately and then assembled.


The two piece are connected at the wrist. The opening ended up being a bit bigger than I expected, so I’m wondering if I should try to modify them or add some way to close them up a bit when needed.

Here’s what the coat looks like so far (the sleeves are not attached yet):


Now, back to the inside pocket. The issue was further complicated when I realized the pocket couldn’t be centered on the front piece, but would have to be placed either on the lining or on the front facing piece. My original pocket piece was too wide to fit on the facing:


At this point it still made more sense to me to have this pocket on the facing, since it would be easier to reach when I wore the coat, and I wouldn’t have to cut through the lining and interlining to add it. I decided to just make the pocket narrower, to fit in the available space. i had already cut the pocket pattern pieces from the lining fabric, and decided I’d rather keep it that way, and have it be a fun contrast instead of re-cutting it from the outer fabric. I ended up trimming an inch off the pocket pattern to make it fit into the facing.


The next step was to sew the facing onto the body, turn it to the inside, and hand-stitch the inner edge to the lining.


The next step will be to finish the hem, and attach the sleeves. I still need to figure out what kind of buttons I want to use, and order them, but that’s really the last step in the process.


Progress! It may not look like much, but progress has definitely been made.

My next step was to add diagonal(ish) welt pockets to the front pieces. After doing these on vests a few times, I’m getting comfortable enough to be able to modify the original pattern. If you ever get a chance to pick up a copy of McCall’s M4890, definitely go for it. It’s out of print now, but it’s a great men’s vest pattern, and will teach you how to do welt pockets really well, if nothing else.

Welts with Instructions

It’s important to run a stitch around the perimeter of where your pocket opening will be, to reinforce it and also mark where subsequent rows of stitching will be. For some reason the marking pencil I was using on the wool was not showing up as distinctly as I would have liked for something so precise, so I decided to draw the correct outlines on paper, pin that to the fabric, and just stitch along the lines.

Reinforcing the pocket

Afterwards the now-perforated paper rips off very easily, and I have a crisp outline. The welts get sewn on first, and then the pocket and pocket lining pieces (which have not been sewn to each other yet). You end up with something that looks kind of like this:

Pocket on the outside

Next, you need to cut the pocket opening, and turn the welt, pocket and lining pieces to the inside. Which looks more or less like this:

Pocket on the indside

At this point you sew the pocket and pocket lining together, in such a way that you catch the welt and a tiny corner of the surrounding fabric in your seam. You’ll want to arrange these pieces very carefully to make sure that the finished version will lie flat. Of course, a quick round of ironing will help with that too.

Finished pocket - outside

Here’s the finished pocket from the outside. It intersects one of the darts just a tiny bit but that didn’t cause as much trouble as I thought it would. On the inside, I made sure to reinforce the pocket stitching with an extra row, and a zigzag stitch to help prevent any fraying (since this is one of the areas where my current wool coat is showing some significant wear and tear).

FInished pocket detail

With the pockets done, I could get back to the rest of my cutting list. Yep, there were so many pieces to keep track of that I made a list:

Cutting list

The bit at the top is a sketch where I was working out the welt pocket design. I cut the lining next, and then had the clever idea to use the lining pieces instead of the paper pattern to cut out the batting. That way they would already be pinned together and ready for quilting.

Cutting the LiningCutting the Batting

While it would probably have been easier to do the quilting in straight lines, I decided to make my life more interesting by trying to quilt around the brocade pattern on the lining.

Quilted Sleeve - lining side

Quilted Sleeve - batting side

This all took a bit more time, and more thread than I originally anticipated. After a stop at the fabric store for two more spools, and a ton of Netflix, all the quilting is finally done. The batting would sometimes shift a bit as I sewed over it, so I tried switching directions to make sure it wouldn’t go too far one way or other other. This turned out to look like kind of a cool braided pattern when it was done:

Quilted battingAfter this I started adding the wool pieces into the mix too, and while the fronts will have to wait (because I’m adding yet another pocket to the inside) the backs and side backs are done. It’s really nice to see all the pieces finally coming together like this.

Coat back - outer & lining

Side Project

I tagged along with Justin on his field trip to Tandy Leather today, and while we were there I decided to pick up a beginner-level project of my own. The knife sheath looked simple enough (famous last words, I know). And of course I could use a new sheath for one of my knives. So I grabbed the kit, which included the pre-cut and punched leather pieces, needles, thread and hardware, and a set of stamps that just so happened to be on sale.

I decided it would probably be a good idea to experiment with the stamps on some scrap leather, since I have no idea what I’m doing with any of this stuff. I played around for a bit, with mixed results, and then looked up some youtube videos with instructions on how to do this sort of thing properly. Turns out it works better if you dampen the leather a bit first.


This is the initial sample. Of course, Rex tried to help. He understood the core concepts, as far as the fact that the leather should be dampened, and generally needs to have holes poked in it. I haven’t yet managed to explain to him that chewing the leather is not the best way to accomplish this.


Here I traced out the sheath pattern on a piece of scrap to test the stamp pattern I was thinking of using. I like how the border turned out here, but I’m not entirely sold on the filler in the middle. I’ll either change the orientation of the stamp so that they form diamonds or leave it out entirely.

Whew, this once-a-year posting schedule is pretty strenuous.


A few weeks ago I was out shopping and tried to find a long black wool coat to replace the one I currently have, which is definitely starting to show its age. I didn’t think this would be very hard to find, but apparently I was wrong. Most of the coats I found were either made of a wool blend, (which wouldn’t do, considering how picky I am about fabric content) or if they were 100% wool (the shell, anyway. The lining is less important since that’s not the bit that keeps me warm) they were super expensive and the cut and design didn’t warrant my spending that much.

So, like any sane and rational person, I decided to just make my own.

I ordered the 1880s Late Bustle Coat pattern from Truly Victorian. I’ve used their patterns before, and found their sizing system very logical and the instructions generally clear and easy to use.

I found a 100% wool fabric to use for the outer part, which ended up being sort of flecked instead of a solid black, and a fun cotton brocade print (with tiny skulls!) for the lining. The batting is wool too, since apparently I’m really picky about these things.


The pattern wisely recommended making a mockup in case any adjustments to the fit were necessary. I initially thought I would have to lengthen the sleeves, but that turned out to not be the case. It was still helpful to have the mockup however, because it was at this point that I realized that I would need to add pockets to the pattern.


Between their generally accurate sizing system, and the darts at the waist, the pattern didn’t need any other adjustments.

I thought about putting in pockets at the side seems, but then decided this would put them too far back. My next thought was to try the same maneuver, but with the darts (cutting them open and adding a pocket) but then Veronica pointed out to me that this would probably just defeat the purpose of having darts there in the first place.

My final and most complicated option was to add welt pockets. I’ve used these before on my Victorian vests so I’m somewhat comfortable with this technique. I would just have to adapt the pattern to make them bigger, and angled on a diagonal instead of horizontal.


This seemed to work well enough on the mockup, so I decided to go ahead with the rest of the plan.


So now everything has been cut out of the wool, and I still need to cut out the lining and batting. The batting part should be especially interesting, since it came in seven separate yard-long pieces instead of one chunk. At this point I think there there shouldn’t be any problem with stitching those together, since it won’t be visible at all once the coat is finished.

The instructions tell me to flatline the outer fabric, batting and lining all together before the rest of the construction. I’m making a minor modification to this plan, for the aforementioned reason of adding pockets. So far I’ve sewn the darts into the front pieces, and then ironed them flat. I’m trying to be as careful as I can with the construction here, and ironing the seams made a very clear difference with a fabric of this thickness. Once the lining pieces are cut, I can add in my pockets, and then continue with the instructions as planned. (That’s the theory anyway)

I’ve also yet to order buttons for this. The pattern comes in lengths from hip to ankle, and options for one or two rows of buttons, so I completely understand why they don’t suggest a number of buttons. I’ll just have to wait until it’s assembled enough that I can measure the finished length and figure out the spacing. In the meantime I should probably decide what kind of buttons I want to get. Plain black would be more subtle of course, but I’m also thinking about some kind of a silver, quasi-military style button, which would be fun with the double-breasted look. We shall see.

And how it’s awesome.

Here’s a great example:



Notice how the left side is all weird and poofy, while the right side is neat and crisp. Guess which one has been top-stitched? (well, all of it will be, eventually, once I finish writing this)

Yes, I know, you can iron things to make them lie flat and be neat and crisp… but this way, it stays ironed. Without the use of actual ironing, which your fabric may or may not like.

And this is why Veronica and I use the phrase “topstitch all the things!” so often. (all credit to Allie Brosh, of course)



Currently working on making one of these.

I’ve made countless poofy Renaissance/pirate type shirts over the years. This is a great place to get started if you’ve never made one before.

Anyway… here is a brief outline of the process so far:

  1. “Oh, I’ll just throw together a shirt real quick, after the vest is done (the end goal of this exercise is this).”
  2. “Ok, it’s a later period shirt, so it’s probably going to be a little more complicated than ye olde Ren shirt, but how bad can it possibly be?”
  3. [upon opening the pattern, and 5 (double-sided!) pages of instructions] “Oh…”
  4. “Well, shit.”
  5. “Better start reading through this stuff.”
  6. “So for view A, we’ll need pieces 1 through 14, but skip the pocket and I think #7 might be optional?”
  7. “Fabric, why do you refuse to lie flat?”
  8. “Umm… we need to cut two of that piece… I mean four. And I guess I’d better start marking all the pattern notations on the cut pieces. They’ll probably come in handy later.”
  9. “I feel like I should get partial credit towards an engineering degree for figuring this out.”
  10. “Pattern! Why are you specifically telling me not to iron this one bit when it would actually be pretty helpful to have it ironed?”
  11. “Seriously? We’re ironing at every 3rd step here…”
  12. “This is definitely the nicest shirt Justin will ever own.”

At this point, the cuffs still need to be attached to the sleeves, the sleeves need to be attached to the body, then some fun times with the collar and on to buttons and buttonholes.

Wow, it doesn’t actually sound like I’m that close to finished when I write it all out like that. But in theory this can all happen in time for the Watch City Steampunk Festival this weekend. Hurray for deadlines!

The last major piece of the puzzle was the beard. I experimented with a few different methods (cotton ball beard and cotton yarn beard) before setting on the one that looked the most like real hair… because it was real hair. I got a skein of mohair/silk blend yarn, attached the bits to a piece of yarn, and then felted it a bit so the pieces would stick together.

I also used some yarn left over from one of the failed beard attempts to make a little braided belt for Gandalf Timmy.

And now for the fun part – photos!

The Fangorn Forest photos are pre-beard.

Special thanks to Veronica from Storied Threads for taking the indoor photos.

Timmy is ready for his close-up!

The details under the cloak

The bottom layer

So now the costume is on its way back to ThinkGeek, and the Timmy clone is hanging out by my sewing machine, waiting for more costuming adventures.

What will he wear next? Can we look forward to a Pirate Timmy?

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