A Camel Overcoat

This particular make was the source of a lot of interesting conversations on my instagram a couple months ago, and it all started with curating my closet and defining my color palette. In culling a wide assortment of beautiful looks on pinterest to get a better understanding of my style goals, I found myself coming across the same duster over and over again. It was usually camel colored and in a very lux, expensive looking fabric, hitting at the ankles and unadorned with lots of bells and whistles. I loved the clean lines of these RTW dusters and how easy I knew it would be to wear with so many things in my closet, since camel is in my seasonal color palette already. I also happened to have the most exquisite, luxuriously soft cashmere wool coating from The Fabric Store in my stash that I had been saving for years, which was perfect for the look I was going for. I was planning to make By Hand London’s Rumana coat with the cashmere but once I discovered the boxier, less tailored style of these pinned RTW looks, I decided I would use the fabric for this instead, since I knew I would be getting lots of wear out of it.

All I needed next was a pattern, and here is where this sewing tale takes a detour into darkness, folks. I have a handful of great coat and jacket patterns in my stash, but nothing that checked all the boxes for this particular make. So I did a little online research and asked around IG for any recommendations that had the design details I was looking for: unlined, simple, boxy fit, a proportionate collar and lapel, and a drape that allowed the coat to kind of hang open on it’s own; I wanted this duster to be a compliment to whatever outfit I wore underneath it, not the main attraction. After receiving a few good suggestions, I settled on the Hot Toddy Coat by a company called Our Lady of Leisure because it seemed the closest match to what I was looking for. It was boxy, loose fitting, the perfect length, and the collar and lapel were exactly what I was looking for. The only thing I needed to change were the pockets- as designed, they are simple patch pockets stuck onto the fronts, but I wanted hidden side pockets that didn’t detract from the smooth lines of the coat. I hacked my pockets from the Oslo coat onto the Hot Toddy Coat and it worked a treat. Sadly that’s about the only thing that went smoothly with this make, lol!

I made the smallest size provided because I was in between a size 2 and a 4 and I didn’t want the coat to end up being super huge on me. When I decided on this coat I asked on IG if anyone had ever made designs from this pattern line before and I didnt get many hits (red flag number one). Two people reached out to say that their makes of different patterns from this company fit a little on the large side, so I thought I was safe in choosing the smaller of the two sizes I fit between.

I printed out the tiled PDF pattern, taped all the pieces together and then started cutting them out. I immediately noticed that there was an error in the layout of the sizes. This pattern uses letters for sizes (size A=US  2, size B=US 4 and so on) and nested patterned lines to differentiate between them, but one side of the same pattern piece would have backwards lettering, so that the dotted line for size A on one side of the front coat piece would suddenly turn into size G on the other side. I’ve been sewing for long enough that I know how to follow the right line for my size even if it’s not properly labeled, but for some reason the nesting of these pattern pieces was extremely hard to follow. I couldn’t tell if the pattern line for one specific size was mislabeled or if the letters were out of order, or both. So the ensuing fit issues I ran into? I am still not sure if its because I cut the pattern pieces out incorrectly due to their mislabeling or if the drafting was really that off. I think it’s the latter, but I honestly have no idea (you are required to add your own seam allowances to this pattern, which I did). The reason this ticks me off so much is because this was not a cheap pattern. For a $12 PDF, I expect there to be no major, obvious errors with drafting or labeling of pieces- if you are charging people this much money, you got to deliver the goods, and they simply did not. It’s one of the reasons I scoff good naturedly at BURDA patterns all the time- their instructions are atrocious and you have to add your own seam allowances, but their PDF patterns are usually no more than 5 bucks. You get what you pay for!

Once everything was cut out, I constructed my pockets and sewed the main pieces of the jacket. It came together very quickly because there is no lining and it’s already a very simple design, but even with such a beginner-friendly pattern I noted that the accompanying instructions were really poor, which was red flag number 2. The illustrations didn’t make sense a lot of the time, because if I recall correctly they didn’t differentiate interfacing and regular fabric in the drawings. Furthermore there was no information on pressing anywhere! Like, at all! I don’t just mean they didn’t specify which direction to press, I mean they didn’t suggest you press at all. On a wool coat! As my sewing wizard friend Grace says, “Pressing is sewing!”  For a pattern marketed to novice and beginning sewists, this pattern left a LOT to be desired.

Not crazy about the bright white pockets inside this coat cause they obviously dont blend in well and you can get glimpses of them if I am sticking my hands in my pockets or something, but honestly…these are the least of my worries with this coat lol!

I basted one sleeve onto the jacket, tried it on, and was very surprised at how ill-fitting it was. It’s a two-piece sleeve so I assumed it would have a pretty nice fit right away since it was built to allow ease of moment for your arm, but it was so tight that it got stuck halfway up my arm and I had to yank it down. The seam of the underarm was also so high that it cut into my armpit. On top of that, not only was the sleeve itself way too tight for a boxy coat that was supposed to fit my measurements, but it was also puckering all around the armscye. I took the sleeve out and redrafted the pieces with an additional 1.5-ish inches of ease while also scooping out the bottom of the armhole of the coat. Sewed everything back up again and tried it on. Thankfully the sleeve fit much more comfortably now, but the wrinkles and puckering around the armholes hadn’t disappeared at all. I went up to my mirror for closer inspection and turned my camera around so I could have a better view of the back and it…was…my god. What a nightmare.

The drag lines in the back made clear that there was simply not enough room in the body of the coat to lay across my shoulders smoothly. Because it doesn’t close in the front, I had no idea how badly it was pulling in the back when I first tried it on, but now that I could see it clearly, I was devastated. There was no way I could (or would even want to) get away with wearing such an ill-fitting coat. I kicked myself for not making a muslin, then admonished myself for feeling guilty- at a certain point in your sewing career, you can comfortably make all kinds of simple projects without doing a muslin first, and should have been one of those patterns! It’s got a boxy fit, simple design lines, no darts or curves to fit onto the body- by all means this should have been an easy project to sew and adjust without having to rely on a muslin. Anyways, I digress- I was just super disappointed in both myself and the pattern. I hated that I had saved this cashmere coating for over 3 years, just waiting for inspiration to hit, and I had ultimately squandered it on a pattern that didn’t work well at all for me.

Camel Coat From Hell

this is my “Im too mad to talk” face

I decided to walk away from the coat, to take a long break. I knew that after a couple days of letting it marinate on my brain, I would either decide to move forward with trying to save it, or…gasp…throw it in the trash, attempting to save as many large, unencumbered pieces of the cashmere fabric as I possibly could (to do what with? Who knows! But saving some of it felt better than trashing all of it). As much as I tried to get the jacket out of my head over my “break”, I was unsuccessful. I couldn’t stop thinking of ways to fix it, wondering which would be most efficient, which would lead to the sleekest looking final piece? I was dreaming about this thing! After my break, I knew I couldn’t move onto another sewing project before trying my best to save this one, so I got to work. I took out the back seam, cut out a 2 inch-plus-seam-allowances panel from my remaining fabric (from here on out I will be referring to this panel as my “racing stripe” lol) and sewed that to my back pieces. Because of adding 2 additional inches to the back body, I knew this would have to transfer to my collar and neck facing pieces so I recut all of them with the extra 2 inches included. These additional two inches would also mean that the coat would fit differently in the front, and I was hoping that the new neckline wouldn’t sag out or droop down too much.

After adding the racing stripe, I tried the coat back on and it was…not perfect, but definitely better. Still a few drag lines around one of the sleeves, and I actually kind of hated the idea of the racing stripe, but it was way more comfortable than before and didn’t look like the nightmare it started as. I ran into trouble again at the kick pleat (which, as designed, seemed to include way more fabric than necessary, but whatever) and the mitered corners. FYI hate mitered corners! They look so beautiful when finished properly but I always find it hard to get them even on both sides of a garment. This coat was, unsurprisingly, no exception, and after lots of fussing and seam ripping, I ended up just cutting the excess hem and kick pleat fabric off, omitting the pleat entirely and extending my racing stripe all the way down to the hem. Fin. UGH.

I have so many conflicting feelings about this coat. On the one hand, I am SO PROUD OF MY STICK-TO-ITIVENESS! In the past, I have given up on far less complicated makes, or fixed things in ways that made them wearable, but not as aesthetically pleasing. This jacket, though not the initial vision I dreamed of, toes the line between the two- it is absolutely wearable (which I know is true because I have been wearing the CRAP out of it since I finished it) and the weird racing stripe is in the back so I really don’t have to look at it and be reminded of how much I hate it! But on the other hand…I am still frustrated at myself for not making a muslin, which should be par for the course when working with fabric that is precious to you, or working with a pattern from a company you have never sewn before. And of course, I am frustrated with the actual pattern.

The coat elevates pretty much any outfit I wear it with, but it can also go from casual to dressy without a hitch. This is face is because someone handed me a box of french fries with caviar, and I do not think they go well together at ALL.

Which leads me to the tricky part of this blog post: attempting to offer an honest, personal review of a pattern without tearing that indie pattern company down. It is important to me to show respect to everyone in the sewing community- those who sew the patterns, and those who make them, but I also want to be specifically careful with discussing indie pattern designers, whose work and growth I want to support whenever possible. It’s easy to complain and nitpick and judge what we have purchased when it’s brought us grief, but the truth is that I don’t know the first thing about designing patterns and managing a small business, so I can’t comprehend all the work that goes into it- it does NOT look easy. If I had made tons of patterns from this company and had issues with every single one, I wouldn’t hesitate in telling folks to be weary- I’ve done it before and I will do it again! I have had consistently bad experiences with both bigger and smaller sewing pattern design companies, and I try to be very transparent about my experiences with them- I’m not offering honest contributions to the maker community if I am afraid of speaking my truth because I don’t want to offend anyone. But, although I don’t plan to make any Our Lady patterns in my future, I want to remind you all that these are my experiences, and not necessarily indicative of what other people have experienced- after sharing my rough journey with this coat on IG, I had a few people write in to say that they also had a terrible experience with this specific coat pattern, but others wrote to say that their makes from other designs by this company came out great! So what is the truth? Well, like so much in this world, it’s not binary. My experience with this pattern wasn’t great. But someone else’s experience with it was terrific. Above all, this pattern company seems to be helmed by passionate, enthusiastic makers who want to share the joy of sewing to a broader audience, and I don’t want to get in the way of that. I wrote an honest review on their etsy page so if they are interested in taking constructive criticism about what could be better, they have the opportunity.

There you have it, y’all. This was my weird experience. This is my weird coat. I get compliments on it every time I wear it. Sometimes the world makes no sense. We just gotta keep stitching!

Thanks to Claire for the photos! And FYI the dress underneath is another Rachel Wrap Dress in forest green ponte from Blackbird Fabrics- unfortunately I think they are sold out but they restock popular fabrics all the time 😉 !

20 replies
  1. Naomy
    Naomy says:

    So I too made this coat, I actually wrote you on IG and said I loved it. After following your stories I realized I had most of the same issues as you did but I chalked them up to not being very experienced in sewing, I’m intermediate at best. So I thought I was the problem, not the pattern. I love how it turned out because it was difficult and still I managed to do it, I love it because it’s the first coat I’ve ever made, and I love it because I want to love it. But you are so right and I’m glad I now realize it wasn’t all me screwing up. Thanks for that.

    Reply
    • Jasika Nicole
      Jasika Nicole says:

      Oh this message makes me so happy. I am so sorry you had troubles with your coat too, but THRILLED and impressed that you pulled through and ended up with something you love! Way to go, us!!!

      Reply
    • Jasika Nicole
      Jasika Nicole says:

      aside from the fact that this is nowhere near my style aesethetic and i dont want to draw more attention to the racing stripe on the back, I am also very uninterested in unsolicited advice. thank you for understanding.

      Reply
  2. Cheryl
    Cheryl says:

    You tried something new, you learned something, you have a lovely coat and anyone that thinks the strip down the back wasn’t an intentional design element has too much time on their hands.

    Proudly wear that sucker until it’s threadbare – it looks great on you!

    Reply
  3. Anneke Caramin
    Anneke Caramin says:

    I really appreciate your honesty. Whenever I come across a pattern by a company that I haven’t used before I’ll turn to blog posts to see if people had issues and what they were- and this can only work if people are honest. I also think it’s fair towards the companies themselves, honest customer feedback is a great way to find out about issues and do something about them.

    As for Burda, I use a lot of their patterns when teaching sewing classes. They do assume that you already know how to sew and I feel like a lot of their instructions are lost in translation, but the drafting tends to be impeccable. So if you are at a point in your sewing life where you don’t actually need extensive instructions to put a garment together the pdf or magazine patterns are a great deal.

    Reply
    • Frauke
      Frauke says:

      I also think as long as you also let the company know directly and not just complain “behind their back” (as far as a public post can be behind someone’s back), and just say what happened without exaggerations or insults, a negative review is completely fine and even useful!

      As for Burda patterns, I like them because they are not expensive and generally well drafted (I’m also apparently pretty close to their block, so they fit me reliably). Their instructions are pretty much for people who don’t actually need or want instructions and just read through once to get the intended construction order. I don’t think it’s mainly a language issue as I read them in the original German and they are *NOT* beginner friendly either.

      Reply
      • Jasika Nicole
        Jasika Nicole says:

        lol I don’t know why people are always trying to get me to like Burda patterns. I don’t like them, I’m sure I never will! I’m allowed to not like things that other people love. I’ve made plenty of Burdas in my sewing career to know what I like and don’t like about them. The drafting is great, but that’s just not enough for me- there are too many other pattern brands out there with excellent drafting who also create useful, sensical instructions. I would much rather pay more money for a smartly designed and instructed sewing pattern than buy a cheaper one and have to piece together the smartest way to construct it.

        Reply
  4. Christine
    Christine says:

    Your coat looks gorgeous on you! Kudos for a creative save, it would have been sad otherwise, and it looks fantastic. I totally want the same boxy classic camel coat in my wardrobe! I totally agree that the pattern choices for such a garment are not great right now… I’m still waiting for the perfect pattern! I’m sooooo glad to hear your honesty about this pattern, I think that is so important, and so many bloggers seem to be afraid to give criticism where it is due. Honest reviews help everyone, designers and makers! If someone doesn’t release a fab boxy coat soon, I’m tempted to try the pattern you tried, forewarned and with a toile or two!

    Reply
    • Jasika Nicole
      Jasika Nicole says:

      Yes to everything you said! I wish I was any good at designing cause I think it would be really fun to focus on designing garments for the little holes we find in the pattern world! If you don’t end up finding a more suitable pattern, you will totally do fine with this by making a muslin and adjusting accodingly! Best of luck to you!

      Reply
  5. Miranda
    Miranda says:

    Honestly it’s super impressive how you managed to turn this project around. Every time I get really stuck or frustrated with something, I often think “Jasika would find a way!” and if I’m lucky I can find a solution.

    That said, sometimes you have to know when to throw in the towel. But cheers for getting through this one! It’s a fabulous piece.

    Reply
    • Jasika Nicole
      Jasika Nicole says:

      LOLOL why you so salty? do you work for the pattern company or something?? your “obvious conclusion” has little impact since I already specifically acknowledged this in my post, but, to reiterate what I wrote since you seem to have raced through my writing so that you could leave a smug comment as fast as you could, Yep, I should have made a muslin. And they should have drafted a better pattern. The end. Enjoy your day, you seem like a real gem!

      Reply
      • Cathy
        Cathy says:

        I do work in the industry. Professionally. For more than 25 years. I’m a draper/tailor. That pattern was a mess from the beginning. Poorly drafted and that’s nothing to do with you. There were no pictures on their website of the completed project from behind(telltale sign that the pattern will have issues is that the designer is unwilling to post 360 degree pictures) And yes, I’m aware it’s a salty comment.

        Reply
        • Jasika Nicole
          Jasika Nicole says:

          OH MY GOD I THOUGHT YOU WERE BEING SALTY AT ME! I read it as “obviously you should have made a muslin- what were you THINKING??” (which is exactly what I DID think to myself when I first realizing what a mess it was going to be, and which I consequently thought I had made clear enough in my self- aggrandizing post lol). I misunderstood your comment, apologies! Thank you for the validation that this pattern should have been better and thank you for also for the reminder to pay attention when patterns don’t show more than a front or 3/4 view in their adverts. Never even realized what a red flag that should be…

          Reply
  6. Suzanne
    Suzanne says:

    I love everything about this post. The honest review, the problem solving, and your fiery replies. But I think I’d be much angrier at the pattern company. Such charity on your part!

    Reply

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