Fabric Ideas for the Robson Trench Coat

Hello, everyone! I’m thrilled that you guys love the new pattern, the Robson Trench Coat. It’s always exciting to see a positive response to each new pattern!

Now that the pattern has been released, I’ve finally allowed myself to start wearing the blue sample, and it certainly is a eye-catching garment. People aren’t used to seeing such a bold-coloured trench coat, it stands out in a crowd of black and grey!

robson coat 2

Several people asked about fabric recommendations for the Robson Coat, and rather than have the answers buried in the comments, I thought I’d address fabric ideas in a separate post.

So, what kind of fabrics can you use? I’ll give you some ideas and examples, and hopefully that helps you get started with choosing a fabric!

The key is to find the right weight. Too stiff and thick will be uncomfortable, tight and won’t belt nicely. Too light and the collar will be floppy and limp. Also, I prefer if my coats aren’t too prone to wrinkles. I want to be able to throw it on and go, not worry that I’ve sat on it too long last time I wore it and left creases in the back. Your wrinkle-tolerance may vary!

Cotton twill

You can’t go wrong with cotton twill. It’s just the right weight (as long as you don’t pick one that’s too stiff) and it breathes, which is great in warmer weather. It washes well, it feels soft and it’s crisp enough to hold its shape. It also topstitches well, which is great as there’s a lot of topstitching on this coat!

Pros: breathable, soft, easy to care for, easy to press

Cons: requires pressing, can be on the heavy side, may wrinkle, may fade over time

cotton twill - you can see the diagonal lines(you can recognize cotton twill from the diagonal lines on the surface)

Cotton-nylon blends

The blue sample is a cotton nylon blend, called Monsoon from Telio. Cotton-nylons are more water-resistant than pure cotton, while not completely water-repellent it does help in the rain. Raindrops will bead on the surface rather than soaking right into the fabric.

It’s not very wrinkly, except for the intentional wrinkled texture. (Does that make sense?) The surface of the fabric isn’t completely smooth, it is shiny and picks up the light on the right side, but dimples quite a bit along the topstitched edges.

The only thing to consider is that with that water-resistancy comes a lack of breathability. If water can’t get it, then perspiration can’t get out!

Pros: lightweight, water-resistant. Less likely to fade than 100% cotton.

Cons: can be hot to wear as the fabric doesn’t breathe.

cotton-nylon(cotton-nylon blends are a little bit shiny, with a more slick feel than plain cotton)

Nylon and other sporty fabrics

Nylon would be very lightweight and sporty. You’d have no problem with bulk if you chose nylon. It’s water-resistant and may even be waterproof! However, nylon is not very breathable so you may find it too hot to wear. Some nylons will leave hole-marks if you have to unpick your stitching, so be sure to test on scrap so you know what you’re dealing with.

Along the same lines as nylon are microfibers, Gore-tex, and non-technical, fashion fabrics that have the look of technical fabrics but have no special properties. (Think of those shiny, faux-sporty jackets in runway fashion shows. They have a sporty appeal but wouldn’t be practical for outdoor use!)

Laminated and coated fabrics fall in this technical and semi-technical category, too. Check to see if they will be too stiff to wear belted. If there is a rubbery feel on the inside of the fabric, think about whether you’d want that next to your skin as the Robson Coat is unlined.

Pros: can be waterproof or water-resistant, will resist wrinkling, lightweight, compact (you could fold a nylon jacket into a very small packet for traveling!), bright colours that aren’t likely to fade.

Cons: can be sweaty, some fabrics will leave hole-marks if you have to remove your stitching, some like Gore-tex can be very expensive.

Linen

For me, I don’t want my trench to get too wrinkly. I don’t mind a linen for a short jacket, but for a longer coat that will be sat on, I like a little less wrinkles. A linen-look that’s not 100% linen might be a good substitute, to get the look of linen without the maintenance. Cotton-linens would also be a better bet.

Pros: breathable, natural texture and look, easy to press

Cons: wrinkles galore!

cordova jacket in linen(Here’s a linen version of the Cordova Jacket – you can see how much it wrinkles and it hasn’t even been worn!)

Cotton sateen

Cotton sateen will have similar features and benefits as cotton twill, but with a smooth, satiny surface. Because it’s cotton, it breathes, which is great in warmer weather. It washes well, it feels soft and it’s crisp enough to hold its shape. The smooth surface does make it a little more obvious when it wrinkles, as the light reflects off the slightly shiny surface and highlights the peaks and valleys. Cotton sateen comes in solids and prints. A printed trench coat would make a bold statements!

Pros: breathable, soft, easy to care for, easy to press

Cons: requires pressing, can be on the heavy side, may wrinkle

cotton sateen print(an example of a printed cotton sateen – you can see that the surface does not have a distinct twill line, but is smooth)

Denim

Denim is going to have the same features and benefits of cotton twill. Denim comes in a variety of weights, from shirt-weight to stiff, unwashed denim that could stand up on its own! Pick one that’s not too stiff for best results, lighter weight than what you might want for jeans. Because it’s cotton, it breathes, which is great in warmer weather. It washes well, it feels soft and it’s crisp enough to hold its shape. It also topstitches well and it’s a great choice for contrast topstitching – traditional gold or yellow, white or tan, or a surprising bright colour!

Pros: breathable, soft, easy to care for, easy to press

Cons: requires pressing, can be on the heavy side, may wrinkle, fades over time.

denim(denim doesn’t have to be blue, or solid! You might find striped denim, colourful denim, or even smooth, slightly-shiny denim)

Silk dupioni?

Why not! Wouldn’t it be so elegant to make a gold silk dupioni trench coat, with gold metal buttons, as a lightweight evening coat?

close-up of silk dupioni(Silk dupioni is the most crisp silk fabric, but it’s quite lightweight as well! It catches the light with a dull sheen.)

Stripes and Plaids

So much matching! If I were to make this trench in a plaid, I’d turn some of the pieces on the bias so they didn’t have to match, for example, the flaps and maybe the pocket welts. A plaid trench would look amazing if you were to put in the effort though! How about plaid with solid-coloured piping around the collar and lapels? Plaid with a solid, coordinating belt, sleeve tabs and epaulets?

Pros: depending on the fibre content, cottons are easy to care for, easy to press, synthetics will resist wrinkling. It would be an impressive feat to sew a plaid trench coat and match all of those seams!

Cons: matching plaids and stripes, which in turn requires extra fabric and extra time. Here’s a link to a post on matching plaids and stripes if you’re feeling brave!

matching plaids - bring lots of pins!

What about wool?

Could you make the Robson Trench Coat in wool? I would say it’s best for a lightweight wool, along the lines of a suiting weight fabric. Any thicker, and it’s going to be bulky and stiff. I would not say it would be good for a winter coat, unless you took off the storm flaps and changed the silhouette to be more form-fitting without a belt. Also, you may want to go up a size or two if you’re using a thick fabric. The armholes will be too tight, you won’t be able to put your arms down!

How about stretch fabrics?

Personally, I find that stretch fabrics are a little springier and stiffer than the same weight of fabric without spandex or Lycra. However, if you like the idea of stretch, the coat is unlined so the fabric will be able to stretch properly. It may be more comfortable to wear if you’re bending, stretching and moving around a lot in your clothes – like most people do!

For stiffer, thicker fabrics

You may want to line the flaps and other external pieces with a lining fabric. In the pattern it calls for them to be self-lined, which is why this pattern uses so much fabric! Again, you may want to go up a size or two if you’re using a thick fabric. You want to be careful to avoid tight armholes and restrictive sleeves.

Still unsure? Seek inspiration from real, finished coats.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine what the perfect coat fabric will feel like while it’s still on the bolt. It may seem too light, but once you cut and sew 6 yards of it, it’s just right for mild weather. Or the opposite, it feels like just the right amount of crispness and structure, but once it’s covering you from neck to knee it’s way too much. Time to window-shop! Check out the mall, nicer boutique shops and look for trench coats. Touch them, make notes on which colours and textures you’re drawn to, and see if you can find similar fabrics at the fabric store. It’s the right time for trench coats to be in-store too!

I hope this helps! There’s a lot to consider when it comes to fabric selection, so here are some ideas to think about and suggestions to help you get started. What kind of fabric are you planning to use for your Robson Coat?

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17 Responses to Fabric Ideas for the Robson Trench Coat

  1. Jenny March 19, 2013 at 6:27 am #

    Thank you so much for putting together a fabric post on this coat. It really helps to narrow down the process of selecting the right fabric.

  2. Jennifer March 19, 2013 at 6:42 am #

    Thanks also for the very close up photos of the fabric^ I’m not always too sure about the fabric names (and as I’m in Korea I don’t know the Korean for some of them either^) so seeing the fabric as close up as possible is very helpful.
    Thanks^

  3. nothy March 19, 2013 at 7:05 am #

    I love this pattern. I can’t wait until mine arrives – literally, I went ahead and bought fabric. I bought a light weight cotton/poly blend in the upholstery section and it has stars on it. I wnet to get a cotton twill and this caught my eye. I plan to cut it out as soon as my pattern arrives which I hope will be today or tomorrow.

  4. Sabrina B. March 19, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    This coat is probably a bit more ambitious than I can manage right now, with two kids and a job, but I can dream, right? So here is my question, would you recommend this pattern for someone without a pear shape? (I’m fairly rectangular, not curvy.) It seems like it could work, perhaps with some modifications to the lower half to make it more A-line and less full. Ideas?

    • Nothy March 19, 2013 at 11:31 am #

      Hi Sabrina, I’m a hourglass/rectangle shape and the only modifications I make is to cut waist and top pattern pieces out with an inch seam allowance, so I can fit it to my size. At least, that’s what I’ve done with the Renfrew and the Cambie dress…

  5. Lucy March 19, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    How about garbadine?

  6. Diane @ Vintage Zest March 19, 2013 at 8:19 am #

    I’m in the same boat as Sabrina. Too ambitious for me right now, but it’s on my wishlist once I can get more sewing under my belt. Cambie, here I come!

  7. Doortje March 19, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    Looks like a really great pattern! Is on my list after Alma and Thurlow.

  8. Leila March 19, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    You got me with the silk dupioni. That would be awesome!

  9. Kelly March 19, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    This is such a great guide for any light jacket! Thanks for the reminder that long coats get very wrinkly when sat upon too. I once had a lovely cotton trench that looked pretty terrible 90% of the time, but totally forgot about that detail when dreaming of fabrics for this pattern…

  10. Maggie March 19, 2013 at 11:19 am #

    Great post! I will have to bookmark it for when I have time for this pattern :)

  11. Juli March 19, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    I love these fabric suggestion posts! I never would have thought of using silk dupioni… but WOW, that would be a fantastic coat! It would be a little too formal for most of my everyday wardrobe, but what a great idea and I think it would look absolutely beautiful! :-)

  12. Josje March 19, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    Thank you so much Tasia, this is very helpful, not only for this trench but for many other projects as well! xx

  13. Laurie March 19, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    I just ordered the pattern… I can’t wait to make a few – Wanted a basic and a bright… but now I want a silk dupioni one too! How lovely that would be! :)

  14. shawn March 20, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    I have to tell you that yesterday as I was getting ready for leave for work I said to my husband, “I really need a new trench coat.” and then what do I find, a post here talking about fabrics for trench coats – perfect timing!

    I’m wondering though – is it possible to treat fabrics with something like a stain guard when they are going to be worn for something as ‘hard worn’ as a coat would be. if so, how? and do you do it before, or after the coat is made?

    • Tasia March 20, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

      Hi Shawn! I don’t have any experience treating fabrics with stain guard, I am sure it is possible though. I would imagine – and this is just a guess – that you would do it after the coat is made, so you don’t end up treating the fabric that isn’t used, and also so the stain guard can cover the seams? But I have no idea, really.

      I checked online and got this – http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110810201631AAqQOYY but all they tell her is not to use it on baby items. Perhaps if you have a good local fabric store, the staff there can help? Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful!

  15. Lora April 17, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    Tasia:

    Thank you for the fabric tutorial. It helps me to clarify what I want. I appreciate you showing us the examples your testers made as well. Their interpretations are helpful in developing my own spin on the Robson. Next pay check, I’m placing my order for the pattern. It will be my first Sewaholic purchase. I’m a little uneasy about all the details. It will be the most difficult project I’ve taken up since beginning to sew again after a long break. I may come running back to your blog for help. :-)

    Please keep pumping out the patterns. I love seeing your ideas become reality. I am in awe of your highly developed ability to focus and your strong work ethic that is constantly apparent.

    Lora

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