How to Sew a Velvet Frock Coat
Here’s a true tale of how I turned a vintage velvet bedspread into a stylish frock coat.
Shopping at flea markets in New York City yields some fabulous fabric discoveries, when you hit it right. I recently found this velvet bedspread. It looks like it was an Italian playboy’s bedspread in 1968. I was immediately in love—I needed it for a jacket. Of course, it wouldn’t be Like any other ordinary jacket. I chose a modified version of an old-time coat that is seldom seen in modern times.
This velvet bedspread is stunning and unique.
I knew a typical jacket design wouldn’t work for this fabulous fabric, so I decided to use my frock coat-inspired pattern. A frock coat, which originated in the 18th century and evolved through the 19th century, started as a knee-length garment with a waist seam and buttons to the waist. My version plays off that. Since I didn’t want the new coat to be too much of a good thing, I shortened my coat pattern by 7 inches, so it would read more like a blazer.
Cutting was a challenge. I wanted to exploit the design. After studying the pattern, I laid everything out on the reverse side.
Cutting it in a single layer enabled me to make sure I could mirror the fabric print, left to right, for all the pieces.
Before beginning the construction, I stayed the armholes, neckline seams, and front edges. I used the method for this that I had outlined in a previous post.
Finding the perfect lining was a challenge. I wanted a turquoise moiré for the linings and deep facing, but none was to be had.
I found a great metallic matelassé, which looks like a 1960s evening dress. The front facing, sleeves, and half-back lining are cut from this. As I like pockets, I installed a single-welt pocket in the left front facing.
The front facing was sewn to the back half lining. This assembly would finish the upper edges of the entire jacket.
This velvet has a deep pile. The pile is easily 3/16 inch deep, bordering on 1/4 inch. Sewing and pressing a crisp edge was impossible without some intervention.
Just as when I sew fur, to smooth the fabric I shaved the pile as close to the backing as I could along the seam allowances.
After sewing the seams, I added topstitching. Because the thread sat on top of the pile, I used a dog brush to meld the stitching into the pile.
Jacket Construction: Collar, Sleeves, Cuffs, and Pockets
When I build a jacket, I like to construct the components and assemble them later.
First, I constructed the pocket flaps, cuffs, and collar, as shown.
Then I sewed the sleeves and installed the cuffs.
Next, I installed the front flap pockets into the fronts.
Buttonholes: The only details that might read on this jacket would be buttons and buttonholes. I imagined that machine-sewn decorative buttonholes would show up clearly against the velvet’s pile, but that was not the case.
Experiments with pearl cotton yielded the buttonhole on the bottom. These showed up far better because they didn’t disappear into the velvet’s pile.
Jacket Construction: Body
The backs and fronts were then sewn and the body was assembled.
Next, I installed the collar. I also decided to apply piping to the front edges, as these needed a strong line to contain the pattern.
The sleeves were then installed.
The blue plaid inside the sleeve cap is the sleeve head, and there’s a shoulder pad to install, too.
The facing/lining piece was pinned and hand-basted before sewing.
The facings were turned to the inside, and the lining armholes were pinned to the body. These were hand-sewn in place.
You can see the shoulder pad sandwiched between the body and lining fabrics.
To finish the inside, I pulled up the sleeve lining and pinned it into position at the armhole. I then sewed the armhole seam with a felling stitch.
This is the finished interior before the hems were sewn.
To finish, I made a trip to Star Snaps in Manhattan to have 22 jeans buttons and rivets set down the jacket front.
What do you think of my frock coat? Have you ever turned linens or bedspreads into garments? Share your stories in the comments section.
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