I live in the Seattle area. You may not have heard this about Seattle, but it rains a fair bit here (ha!). In fact we broke rain records yet again this year so a raincoat is a timely project. Of course I finished it just in time for May flowers instead of April showers (or all winter long incessant drizzle as the case may be). But I can promise you that this raincoat will be getting plenty of wear over the years.
Though I didn’t finish many projects this winter, I really took my time with what I did sew to make them as perfect as possible with deluxe fabrics and this coat is no exception (my wool & silk Fumettere and quilted velvet puffer vest being prime examples of what I mean). I used Sewaholic’s Minoru pattern (that I’ve had and been meaning to sew since it came out over 5 years ago) because, as a fairly simple coat, it wasn’t too complicated to waterproof most of the seams. It also is a cute pattern so I won’t look like a schlub in my raincoat that, as I mentioned, will be getting a lot of wear here in the Pacific North Wet.
For (almost) all my seams I felled the seam and then used Seam Grip seam sealer to seal the seam. I bought an 8 oz tube not knowing how much I would need and I could probably waterproof another dozen jackets with this tube, so you could easily buy the 1 oz tube if you’re looking to sew your own raincoat. There was an old post on Sewaholic’s blog talking about how to sew waterproof garments that I found helpful, so I’d recommend it as a resource. One thing I learned is that you absolutely can’t get this sealant out of your brush so after ruining my paintbrush with the first application I just used my finger to spread it across the seams for future applications (while wearing gloves of course). The sealant is stinky and toxic so make sure you apply it outside. I wouldn’t have guessed that the smell of toluene would make me nostalgic for my days as a scientist, but it certainly made me miss having access to a fume hood :)
It actually took me friggin’ forever (that’s the technical term for the length of time I spent) to sew the coat as I didn’t really think through my plan of attack. After every seam I sewed I waterproofed it and then had to let the seam cure at least 24 hours before sewing the next seam. I’m sure a thoughtful approach to some planning ahead could have cut down on the number of different pauses I had in my sewing. Oh well. Next time.
I lined the coat with silk. It feels so luxurious! I found the heavy silk crepe at the thrift store so it’s a frugal indulgence :) I also interlined it with a layer of flannel so that it’s breathable but warm. I have a lightweight rain shell and super bulky waterproof winter coats but I really needed a coat that could be worn in Spring and Fall rains. I’m also a big fan of having unexpected linings in my coats (see my bomber jacket and trench coat for examples), something inspired by bespoke menswear I guess.
I opted to add a lining to the hood and to line it with a heavy black satin. I didn’t want greasy hair (or purple hair dye) to leave noticeable marks on the hood lining so I pulled a scrap of the satin out of my scrap bin. Also, while I may love the color orange, it doesn’t play nice with my skin tone, so I’ll be much more flattered by the black lining next to my face.
Fitting-wise, I made a major change to the sleeves to get them to fit my shoulders. I have strong shoulders and strong shoulders don’t play well with raglan sleeves. Fortunately, the Minoru has gathers at the top of the raglan sleeve into the collar anyway, so I just added several inches of width to the top of the sleeve pattern so that it would go over my shoulders and gathered up the excess along with the other gathers.
I also made a couple of design changes. I added an extra lining to the collar so there wouldn’t be any raw edges inside (hat tip to Shams for the idea), a weird
bug feature of an otherwise thoughtful pattern.
I added a panel of fabric behind the zipper since I didn’t buy a waterproof zipper (since I happened to have both front and collar zippers in the right size in my stash. One of the perks of being a
hoarder stasher) so that when the zipper gets wet the coat will still be dry. I also added inseam pockets since I didn’t think my silk lining would hold up to any weight in the internal patch pocket that was a part of the pattern.
I also left off the elastic at the waist. I would have liked to include it, but there wasn’t any way to waterproof the elastic channel if I sewed it as written and if I made a separate waterproof channel it would have gathered the outer layer but not the lining and I thought that would have been a bit weird. I do think the coat is fitted enough that it looks shapely and doesn’t suffer from the missing waist elastic. Of course it’s always tempting to overfit a coat, but I made sure to try on my muslin on top of a bulky sweatshirt so that I knew it was actually wearable over clothes.
I didn’t stitch through the bottom for the hem as per the instructions because there wouldn’t be any way to waterproof the seam so I hand stitched the lining in place to the lining/interlining. It leaves a slightly puffy hem since the waterproof fabric doesn’t crease at all, but I think it looks fine. While the fabric sewed like a dream on my machine, it wasn’t so fun to hand sew through, especially not over the seams that I had sealed!
So, now that we’ve clarified all the sewing details, how about we pause to ogle my fabric? I designed it and it was printed for me by Contrado. Holy cow do they have a lot of fabric options for a custom fabric printing company! I highly recommend ordering a swatch book for the sake of ogling and inspiration. They have an assortment of waterproof fabrics and I opted for the breathable waterproof fabric because I liked the weight, the soft feel of the right side of the fabric, and the fact that it was breathable.
The fabric was actually incredibly easy to sew. It didn’t stick to my presser foot or machine plate like you might predict from a waterproof fabric (though my sealed seams certainly did). The only hard thing about it was that I couldn’t use pins. I used wonderclips to hold seams together (which I highly recommend having on hand for any sort of non-pinnable fabric or very bulky fabric) and only had frustrations with easing the cuffs into the sleeve. It did make pattern matching difficult since I couldn’t baste or re-sew seams but the only place I tried to pattern match was between the fronts and their corresponding zipper plackets since I was barely able to eke my pattern out of my fabric and I couldn’t lose any of it to pattern matching. It turned out close enough.
The only downside to the fabric is kinda my own fault. Apparently my design was of by a pixel or two so it didn’t tile smoothly. There’s a thin white line going horizontally across my fabric at the intersection between each of my tiled patterns. I placed it at the waist thinking I would cover it with the topstitching for the elastic at the waist but then I opted not to put in the elastic for waterproofness reasons (one place where a little more forethought would have helped) so there’s a white line around my waist. Oops. I think it’s a pretty minor glitch that doesn’t stop me from loving the coat, but I am pretty frustrated with myself for making that mistake in the first place.
The design uploader to Contrado isn’t my favorite of custom fabric companies I have ordered from. I almost ordered 3 repeats of my pattern (which would have printed as 3 separate panels) instead of 3 yards of fabric (I know Michelle had the same confusion) but their custom service was super helpful at answering my questions. I also wish there was a way to zoom in enough to see how your pattern is tiling that I could catch that tiny white line mistake (a flaw of every company that I know of). But that aside, I’m enamored with the fabric and the experience and my finished raincoat!