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Start to Finish, an Embroidered Fortuny Frock Coat

Threads #180, Aug./Sept. 2015

I shared how my fascination with Fortuny fabrics began and wrote about the company’s compelling history. Here’s my latest Fortuny project.

I recently came into another gift of Fortuny fabric (you’ll remember the Fortuny shirt and the fabulous Fortuny coat I previously shared), and decided to make a frock coat. I wanted an embroidered 18th-century-style coat, but made like a jeans jacket. The good people at Penn & Fletcher in Long Island City, New York, kindly allowed me to make use of their computerized embroidery machines to realize my vision.

The first step was to get a working pattern for the coat. I borrowed an 18th-century jacket from Penn & Fletcher, and took a pattern from it. Read more about them here, and here. They had embroidered a set of jackets for a Broadway production of the play Dangerous Liaisons, and were kind enough to lend them to me.

fortuny frock coat
After creating a series of muslins (three in all, so for those who want to avoid that step-DON’T), I got a pattern that fit well and was stylistically correct.

Then, Penn & Fletcher experts scanned the pattern into their embroidery program. They adjusted their house pattern for the Dangerous Liaisons coat to fit my pattern. They printed out the coat fronts, which allowed me to mark my fabric.

I cut the pattern on the stitching lines, so I could mark the fabric easily. After placing the embroidery pattern onto the fabric, I thread-basted the pattern’s stitching lines onto the fabric.fortuny frock coat

The next step was choosing colors, and stitching out the design. Ernie at Penn & Fletcher put me on the smallest machine and programmed the pocket flap.

fortuny frock coat
This enabled me to sew out the design in variations of my color choices, to see what I liked best. I ran five combinations by changing the threads in the machine.

Once I chose the color combination, we moved on to the larger machine to sew the fronts. This machine is programmable, and we threaded it with the five colors I chose. Each color has a needle and each needle a number, which aids in programming the machine.

fortuny frock coat fortuny frock coat

Shown is the printout of the order in which the design was stitched. There were several embroidery layers to the work, to create the dimensional effects of this pattern.

This printout shows what was sewn and when, and that I needed to note which needle would be used for each step of the embroidery. Once this was done, we programmed the needles and mounted the fabric to the frame.

There was tear-away stabilizer in the frame, mounted in the machine. The program sewed out the front line of the jacket, then stopped. That allowed me to place the thread-basted front line of the fabric onto the machine stitching line. The fabric was held to the tear-away stabilizer with double-stick tape.

The design stitched out in successive layers. The total stitching time on the machine was 6 hours for each front (12 hours total).

fortuny frock coat
This view shows the work before the border is embroidered.

The other pieces are stitched on the machine in the same manner.
fortuny frock coat

Here are the cuff pieces. There is also a pair of pocket flaps, as well as a collar flap.

Total machine time clocked in at 40 hours, including the sampling.

Once the embroidery was finished, the construction began.

This is the finished collar.

The cuffs needed a bit of care to sew.

fortuny frock coat

fortuny frock coatThis close-up shows how the seam disappears into the flower. That is because the flower was appliquéd across the seam after the straight seam was sewn.

fortuny frock coat

All the small pieces-collar, cuffs, and pocket flaps-were finished and waiting (along with the lining, which is perfect) for the main event.
fortuny frock coat
I decided to set the front pocket flaps like upside-down single welt pockets. Since this jacket is unlined, the pocket bags occasionally will be visible. I constructed the pocket so the right side of the fabric showed and used French seams, so the pocket would be finished.

The upper portion of the pockets will be covered by the deep front facing.

fortuny frock coat

I made a single-welt pocket on the body facing for an inside pocket. This finish consists of a deep facing in the front and a half-lining on the back. After the pocket was installed, I sewed the shoulder seams and side seams and finished the raw edge with a turned topstitched edge.

The sleeves came next.
fortuny frock coat

I decided to sew the cuff and the lining to the sleeve in one operation. Later, I hand-finished the sleeve lining at the armhole, like an old-school tailored lining.

After sewing the shoulder and side seams, the collar was installed. The seams were sewn with double topstitching, to mimic jeans construction.
fortuny frock coat

This view shows the work after the sleeve was installed.

Once the collar is installed, the sleeves were set.
fortuny frock coat

I installed these with a flat shoulder pad (1/4 inch), and a flat sleeve head, to give definition, but not height, to the shoulder.
fortuny frock coat

The final step was installing the front facing and finishing work, such as the hem . . .
fortuny frock coat

. . . and the lining. The deep facing and lining were sewn to the body at the armholes. To finish, the sleeve linings were fell-stitched to the body lining along the armhole seams.

Finishing also included setting jeans buttons and rivets at the pockets.

fortuny frock coat

In keeping with the jeans-construction idea, topstitching at the ends of the vents at the waist was reinforced with rivets, as well.

Finished Fortuny frock coat by Kenneth D. King

Here I am wearing the Fortuny frock coat! I paired it with the slashed jeans I demonstrated how to make in a previous tutorial.

Finished Fortuny frock coat by Kenneth D. King

And here is a back view of the finished coat.

What do you think of this embroidered coat? Do you utilize embrodery in your projects? Do you own Fortuny fabric? If so, what do you plan to create with it?


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  1. jennd | | #1

    Wow this frock coat is absolutely gorgeous!!! I do own a 6-head embroidery machine and absolutely love it, whenever I feel a garment I make need that extra touch I will embellish it with some embroidery.

  2. catstexas | | #2

    Gorgeous. You make everything look easy to do for a home sewist.

  3. User avater
    Countessa | | #3

    Awesome coat!! Love the embroidery. I have only a few designs on my machine, but it is a good start, as I am nervous about using the embroidery. My only project so far, is I did cute little hearts on the back pockets of my granddaughters denim outfit.(size T2) I don't have Fortuny fabric, but I have something similar, and I just might try a scaled down version of your coat. Thanks for sharing.

  4. User avater
    SLMiller | | #4

    Absolutely stunning, Kenneth!

  5. User avater
    kennethdking | | #5

    Wait until I get photos of me in the coat!

    Thanks for all the kind words....

  6. User avater
    LuvThreadsMagazine | | #6

    Senor King,

    Color me one more fan in line craning to see you rock the frock.

  7. User avater
    kennethdking | | #7

    I'm being photographed on the 19th, so watch this space!

  8. hmacski | | #8

    Nice coat, but the JEANS! Love the effect of the jeans with that coat. Nice touch!

  9. User avater
    kennethdking | | #9

    Thanks, hmacski! You can make these jeans if you follow the post--they take time to get as shredded as they are here, so don't be disappointed if they aren't as furry as you'd like on first washing. These have had some time to age and weather.

  10. Mira18 | | #10

    Another masterpiece Kenneth, you are an inspiration!

  11. User avater
    kennethdking | | #11

    Thanks, Mira!

    It was a lot of fun to make!

  12. IKL | | #12

    I own 1 meter of this faboulus fabric, bought direct at Fortuny in Venice.
    It is the most expensive meter of fabric in my stash.

    I don´t know what to make: first I thought to use it for a dress, then to sew a full-circle skirt but at the moment I prefere to make a bag with some embroidery.

    The ideas for the fabric need some time to ripe....

  13. IKL | | #13

    I own 1 meter of this faboulus fabric, bought direct at Fortuny in Venice.
    It is the most expensive meter of fabric in my stash.

    I don´t know what to make: first I thought to use it for a dress, then to sew a full-circle skirt but at the moment I prefere to make a bag with some embroidery.

    The ideas for the fabric need some time to ripe....

  14. User avater
    user-4943638 | | #14

    Such gorgeous work.

    I do use a lot of embroidery in my work, but it's always for someone else. I've wanted to do something like this for myself ever since I purchased a multi-needle machine, but it seems I can never free up the machine time.I need a second machine, and a second me. I wonder what percentage of the machine time was used for sampling as opposed to actual stitch out.

  15. User avater
    kennethdking | | #15

    Out of the 40 hours of total stitching time, I used 6 hours as the sampling time. So 34 hours for the sewing time--it was a really complicated, layered design.

    As the good people at Penn and Fletcher told me, they charged $10,000.00 a jacket for the original embroidery--so allowing me to run the program, and just charging me for materials (since I had some idea as to how to run these machines) was a really nice gesture.

    I would encourage you to make something for yourself, though--it's a luxury, but not. I wear this, and always hand out cards, so it will generate future business.

  16. chrisch | | #16

    I've done smaller embroidery projects on clothes and accessories--but nothing elaborate. I find that people knowing you have an embroidery machine is like people knowing you own a truck--they always want a favor !! So, I spend more time on other people's projects than my own. Love your designs and inspiration--and especially the step by step instructions/explanations. Can I ask--how much of the project is planned ahead and how much of this is improvised as you go along?

  17. catstexas | | #17

    Magnificient. Fortuna anything has always been a favorite and it's inspiring to see what you did with it. Yum, if I could only buy some of those beauties.

  18. User avater
    beckyo | | #18

    I've done theater for many years and one of the fun aspects is wearing wonderful costumes. I've often bemoaned the fact that we seldom get to wear spectacular clothing in our daily lives, opting for our comfy jeans and tees and sweats. I'm glad you have the verve to wear something so delicious, and I love the way you've worked in the modern jeans jacket elements. Thank you for sharing the process.

  19. whoneedlesthis | | #19

    Kenneth, what an awesome coat, I adore it, and I am not surprised it took forty hours to embroider, even with a multi-needle machine.
    Now I will have to start digging out patterns to modify, and sort through my embroidery designs, of which I now have hundreds, to make one of my own!!
    Thank you for another inspired project, and an idea of what to do with my Italian raggedy denim!!

  20. User avater
    ustabahippie | | #20

    Absolutely the best coat ever!! I hope you will be wearing it every day!!!!
    I don't have much patience for embroidery, but have a black knit dress I thought I'd get rid of because I find I'm not wearing all black anymore, so I found a book of instructions for ribbon flower embroidery and will do that around the neck of the dress, so I can still wear it!

  21. cemstress | | #21

    Truly a masterpiece! I was lucky enough to see parts of it in person. Let's see your James Brown moves! Lol

  22. user-4896475 | | #22

    Absolutely the most stunning piece I have seen. Congratulations on this spectacular piece of art.

  23. jupe77 | | #23

    I like it. It has a nice 18th century look about it, a time when men's clothes were at their most beautiful.

  24. curlysuzieq | | #24

    WOW! This is so stunning! I truly believe this will be in a museum one day! I have an embroidery attachment for my Bernina and have done some simple embroidery on garments--nothing like this! I just keep gasping at the beauty of this coat!
    Thanks for sharing!

  25. User avater
    kennethdking | | #25

    Thank, everyone, for the kind words! I'm really enjoying this piece--I can really wear it only a few times a year, but when I do, I really feel fine in it. I have another Fortuny fabric, a rosy beige ground with copper printing. I'm hoping next year, to do another version of this, only in differing shades of metallic threads, golds and coppers mainly. Watch this space!

    To chrisch : A project like this is really planned out ahead of time. I needed to make sure placement of the embroidery on the fronts was situated so the pattern of the Fortuny fabric reads across the center. Also, the patternmaking had to be thought out before construction, so I could finish the tops of the vents, as well as the backs of the pocket flaps--hence the deep facing in front and the half lining at the back. And also, chrisch, while it's nice to do things for others, aren't you worth some time on your own embroidery machine?

  26. Rabia | | #26

    It's like CHRISTMAS whenever I find an article about THE KING in my mailbox! I lovelovelove reading about any and all of your FABULOUS projects, Mr. King! I also have your book "Cool Couture" (also the OTHER version with different title, bought unwittingly!)I enjoy reading it for inspiration! Long may you reign!

  27. User avater
    kennethdking | | #27

    To Rabia: My apologies about that other, repackaged book. I had no idea that the UK publisher had the right to re-title it and get a new ISBN number. That said, thanks so much for the kind words!

  28. IKL | | #28

    how do you clean your gorgeous cloth of Fortuny fabric?
    I don´t think that it is possible to wash it in the washing machine.

  29. User avater
    Dori_A | | #29

    Superb! Another masterpiece, Kenneth! So appreciate you generously sharing your process!

  30. User avater
    CFields | | #30

    Love, love, love the coat. You have combined my favorite era of men's fashion with the iconic jeans jacket. Years ago I made a denim tail coat stitched like a jeans jacket, lined with fabric printed with Maxfield Parrish images for a friend who was playing keyboard with Joe Walsh's band. He wore it with highwaisted jeans and a Joe Walsh tshirt. He would flip up the tails and seat himself at the white grand piano they toured with. Rock on!

  31. User avater
    kennethdking | | #31

    To FemSub: I wash my Fortuny jeans in the washer and dry in the dryer. This piece, though, will have to be dry-cleaned, just to be gentler on the embroidery.

  32. SuperiorLiz | | #32

    Mister King; Go to a good Childrens Bookshop and buy yourself a copy of "The Tailor of Gloucester" by Beatrix Potter; Your coat/jacket is worthy of the stitching by all of the mice!.

  33. User avater
    kennethdking | | #33

    Thanks, SuperiorLiz! I actually have a copy, given by one of my students!

  34. vikranth | | #34

    My apologies about that other, repackaged book.

  35. User avater
    JennyD | | #35

    Very nice pattern, you work so well. You make your clothe so quickly that' is very impressive.

  36. User avater
    kennethdking | | #36

    Thanks, JennyD!

  37. User avater
    EmilyBint | | #37

    This is amazing, the frock coats are so in style now. I am novice at sewing and I can't make it, but my mom is a pro. She will make it for me.

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