Choosing Easy-to-Sew Coating Fabrics

Yesterday we talked about choosing easier, simpler sewing patterns for coats. Today, let’s talk about choosing easy-to-sew coat fabrics! As always, I’d love to hear your suggestions. Especially since it’s been a while since I was a beginner!

The coat fabric I’ve chosen is surprisingly easy to work with, even though it looks complicated! So I thought of some tips and things to look for when choosing a fabric, to make your first coat project sew up smoothly:

Say Yes to Texture

Texture hides mistakes! Choosing a textured fabric for your first coat project is a great idea. Smooth, flat wools will show every mistake and require careful pressing to avoid shine. Instead, look for nubbly tweeds, thick flannels, and other coating fabrics with textured surfaces.This texture will help your stitches to sink into the fabric and distract people from noticing any  mistakes. Texture adds dimension, elegance, and makes your handmade coat look high-end. Bonus: the texture hides dirt, too! Not like you’ll want to let your lovely coat get dirty though.

Basketweave wool flannel from Gorgeous Fabrics – click the image to view more! This type of texture is surprisingly easy to work with and adds dimension to your winter coat. Plus, it’s forgiving to sew with!

Designer wool boucle – this texture is lovely! Click the image for more info.

Medium Weight

When looking for a coating fabric, weight is important! Of course, you’ll want to think about the climate where you live. Are your winters mild, or will it be forty below? In general, thicker fabrics are easier to sew, but if your coating is too think it will be harder to manage. Aim for medium-weight coatings – you want to be somewhere in the middle. Thick enough to be obviously coating material, not too thick so it’s impossible to ease those seams in. The pattern you’ve chosen will give you some guidelines, too. If there’s gathering – make sure your fabric is not too think to be gathered!

Angora-blend coating. It’s hard to demonstrate fabric weight with a photo, but you can see the thickness and soft brushed surface of this lovely coating in this image. Click the photo for more info!

Pattern (but not plaid!)

The coating I’ve chosen for my wrap coat has a slight pattern to it. You want to avoid stripes or plaid, as they need to be carefully matched. (Here’s a tutorial on matching plaids and stripes if you do decide to go for plaids!) Pick a pattern that doesn’t need to be matched.

How do you know if it should be matched or not? Generally, I only match plaids, stripes, or patterns that would look awful if they weren’t matched. Small-scale patterns, patterns without obvious lines or directions, and patterns that are tone-on-tone or mostly texture don’t need to be matched.

 Beautiful coating from Gorgeous Fabrics – click the image for more! This type of pattern doesn’t have to be matched and it would be a lovely coat.

Natural Fibres are Best

I’m biased here, because I really dislike synthetic fabrics. Acrylic and poly-blend coatings are a big no to me! I want to work with wool. Wool presses nicely and keeps you warm. You can steam and shrink wool. And if you’re planning to add traditional tailoring techniques, wool is the best. Synthetics pill, especially if they’re blended with other fibres. Although if you’ve had success with synthetic-blend coating, I’d love to hear it!

I look for 100% wool fabrics, or if it’s a blend, wool and nylon blends. The nylon adds durability and strength to the wool. If you knit, you’ll see the same thing happen in sock yarn! For durable socks, you’ll see 80% wool 20% nylon, or 75% wool 25% nylon – something close to those proportions.

This Italian novelty flannel is a wool and nylon blend, so it’s beautiful and strong! Click the image for source and more info.

My theory on coating fabrics is to aim for natural fibres, and buy the best you can afford. If I’m going to spend a month (or perhaps the entire season!) making something, I want it to be the best quality possible. All of these images are from Gorgeous Fabrics, which has an amazing range of beautiful wool coatings for sale!

Fabrics to Avoid

Super flat, super tightly-woven wools – think high-end suiting. These will show every teeny flaw! Plus, it’s easy to over-press this type of wool and cause shine.

The other extreme – very loosely woven fabrics. I’ve seen some lovely coating fabrics that are so loosely woven, you can practically pull them apart. To work with this kind of fabric you’d want to pre-fuse the entire thing for extra stability, to keep the fabric from warping and pulling apart. Plus, if you do interface the entire thing, it’s very important to interface it with the grain perfectly straight. Best to avoid this type of fabric at the start!

Velvets and corduroys. These are tricky to press! Touching the iron directly to velvet or corduroy can flatten the pile surface. At best, it’ll just look smushed and sat-in. At worst, you can make an iron-shaped imprint! Unless you’ve found the type of corduroy that can be pressed easily, skip velvets and cords for a first coat project.

Those are my suggestions and tips on choosing easier coating fabrics. I hope these help give you some ideas of what fabrics are best for beginners. Even if you’re not a beginner, it’s all right to choose an easy-to-sew fabric for best results.

What fabric you suggest for a first coat project?

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14 Responses to Choosing Easy-to-Sew Coating Fabrics

  1. Vicki Kate October 7, 2011 at 6:25 am #

    Ooh, fascinating! I was looking at some of the coating in my local store the other day. I think I’m going to have a go at a cape first as there are minimal fitting issues (and should we have another baby they are brilliant over a bump)! I was wondering what sort of fabric to go for and I think it’ll be a plain wool or wool/nylon blend in teal or aubergine. It had a similar texture to the angora blend. I just need to wait for the pattern to arrive so I know how much yardage I’ll need!

  2. Kerry October 7, 2011 at 7:12 am #

    Very useful post – thank you! I have a coat pattern in my stash that I’ve been thinking of making and I will keep these tips in mind when I go fabric shopping this weekend. I just MIGHT buy the fabric if I can find one I like!

  3. Tanit-Isis October 7, 2011 at 8:20 am #

    Hee hee! I think I mostly have used coatings on your “no-no” list ;). Well, not the suiting, but loosely woven, and lots of blends. I can’t seem to find any pure wool at Fabricland, and my budget usually leans towards mystery meat fabric anyway. Which is not to say that I don’t agree… I’d love to have a delicious pure wool fall into my lap!

    For loosely-woven stuff, I generally underline (ideally with flannel, but cotton works too). Block-fusing the whole thing would probably be good (better), too, but underlining works most of the time.

  4. arlene October 7, 2011 at 11:29 am #

    I am hoping to make a simple ‘vintage’ style coat from some beautiful wool I got from Fabricana in Richmond, BC….

  5. Cindy October 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    This coat series (if that’s what it is!) has already been so helpful! I was just thinking about attempting my own coat, and here come these extremely useful posts about pattern and fabric! I’m going to try to find something wool-based, but like Tanit-Isis, my budget tends to only allow for mystery fabrics.

  6. LM October 7, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    I just have to say THANK YOU so much for these coat posts! they are so helpful and i can’t wait to see the next ones. If you could please share with us all the steps of making a coat it would be wonderful! i imagine it makes time but they are so very helpful! I just ordered my Lonsdale patter today and can’t wait to go back through the sewalong posts. Yeah, i’m getting ready for next summer :) probably then, I’ll be ready to start the coat, too, Anyway, many thanks for taking the time to write the most wonderful posts!

  7. Katy October 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    LOL, I think I might be going to break every rule you have there. I’m allergic to wool, so no wool, and no texture in my coat – I found some very nice polar fleece in… plaid. I’ll put myself in the back of the class so I don’t influence others ;o)

  8. patsijean October 7, 2011 at 8:24 pm #

    I read this post by Kathleen Fasanella of Fashion Incubator regarding interfacings in coats and jackets and thought of you immediately. I like what she has to say about stay stitching too. She says not to do it, use fusible interfacing (tricot) instead.

  9. Erika October 8, 2011 at 7:15 am #

    Totally with you: Yay for natural fabrics! I began sewing in earnest while making medieval clothes, so the mantra was “The less artificial fabric contents the better”. And even when sewing modern (which in my world includes the entire 20th c), fact is that natural fibers are better. Nothing ventilates like wool, linen and silk!

    I do however continue to already have broken most of these coat making tips =) While my Melton coating is 100% wool, it’s a solid colour, with nap and a slight luster, making it rather hard to press without getting a sheen. Had I realised that before, I might have gone for another fabric, but hey! Now I know how to handle that =) The trick is simple: buy a half metre extra and do a lot of press-testing.
    A benefit from this weave/surface finish is the water almost-resistance. In my experience, the more texture and fuzziness, the more the fabric absorbs water. So I guess whether that kind of fabric is a good option depends a lot on what climate you live in…

  10. Pauline October 9, 2011 at 1:22 am #

    Hi Tasia,
    All those tips on coating have been so helpfull so far. I would love to try and make my own coat but i guess I wil wait for next winter as I bought one 2 months ago and I can’t wait for the temperatures to go down to wear it (it might be long as I live on the spanish mediterranean coast). But I bought a nice navy blue tweed yesterday for a cape. Can’t wait to start sewing it!
    Like LM suggested just above, that would be very interesting to follow your coat-making step by step, if it’s not too much of a bother…

  11. Laurie October 9, 2011 at 3:19 am #

    Hi, This is extremely helpful as I am a self taught beginner so far.

    The coat I’m planning make for Spring is a short trench/mac. Not sure if wool is the way to go. Somebody suggested gabardine, anyone else have any suggestions as to what might work well?

  12. Megan October 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    Do you have any pointers for sewing wool? I find I have to hold up the presser foot up just a little bit the entire time or it stretches the wool. I have a great 1947 Vogue swing coat pattern, (pic on my blog), I have been wanting to do but don’t want to get good wool then have it look like it was run over repeatedly by a bulldozer. It’s very discouraging.

  13. Olga October 10, 2011 at 4:09 am #

    Hi Tasia! I am following your posts with great interest, thank you for all the information! I was wondering if, when using a textured fabric, interfacing will give a different look to the interfaced pieces compared to the non interfaced ones (like the sleeved compared to the fronts). I keep thinking that interfacing would flatten the texture in the fabric.
    Also, are you going to refer to layers used in construction of the coat to give it extra warmth for cooler winters? I’m not sure if “batting” is the right word, but I’m thinking of something similar :)
    Thank you!

  14. Cheryl December 13, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

    I have had various results with fusible interfacings. When I began sewing in 1970′s I do not recall they were available, or at least our middle school Home Ec teacher did not utilize them. I took lots of sewing classes into hih school, and tailoring after school as well. For tailoring we never used fusibles, it was all woven, basted or hand pad-stitched.
    In the years since, I have used fusibles with a whole gamut of results: the best is when they adhere easily, support as envisioned, and wash & dry (or dry clean–rarely do) with the same-looking garment afterwards
    The worst is when I cannot get it to adhere to fabric, despite more heat/steam, leave it to cool til cold, no steam, less heat, putting aluminum foil underneath, Elna press, etc IOW trying a whole range of options. Or, after trying different fusibles, on same fabric, still not gettjng good adhesion. Some woukd say, then you must have a finish on the fashion fabric which needs washing out, but I nearly always pre-wash, or at least soak (test for color fastness). I’m usually sewing with natural fibers.
    Other worst results includes the later, more sinister effects, after wearing, washing, ironing, the fusible comes undone, or shrinks, or becomes very fuzzy–to the point of causing little bumps along a buttonband or inside a collar.
    The shrinking: some have said you must pre-shrink interfacing…. …..whhaaat? And they go on to describe folding it like origami, magically no two fusing sides touching, dunking it all intact into a hot water bath in kitchen sink, all while being careful not to agitate, lest the glues come alive and thus awakened, turn the whole contents of sink into an impossible glutinous mess.
    So I have never tried to pre-shrink a fusible interfacing. If this is my downfall, so be it. It defies logic to expect a heat & moisture sensitive fabric, directly into said conditions and expect it not to become fused.
    Other frustrations with fusiblefusibles have to do with poor waistband or cuff results—I have learned to use non-roll elastic for waistbands (no interfacing) and two or three layers of interfacing for crisp cuffs, when needed.
    On my husbands RTW shirts, I have been greatly perplexed when otherwise perfect dress shirts have developed a sharp wear line, directly along the fold edge of collar stand or cuff edge. Mind you all his dress shirts are washed in Eco mild detergent on gentle cycle and hung to dry (the dryer is murder on just about all fabrics).
    But these RTW shirts must utilize some magnificent interfacing, since when brand-new they all have superbly crisp collars & cuffs. So crisp, they eventually cut right through the cotton shirting fabric.
    I wish there were more information, exact information, about fusibles–and certainly the mfr’s ought to pre-shrink before applying the glues.
    I am always tempted to just use sew-in….perhaps because of my earliest teachers.
    BTW, a great place to purchase all types of interfacing and also shaping.fleece, by the bolt (sleeve heads, etc) is on Overstock dot com (I don’t work for them).

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