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.
The result was a beautiful statement jacket that I am proud of.
The back of the jacket is as stunning as the 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.
Your jacket is stunning! Bravo!
My choice of linens to cut up seems to be tablecloths. There are a few that have made it to my closet as summer jackets.
Oh, Senor King, it is magnificent! MAGNIFICENT!!
The rear view is as spectacular as the front view - such great details!
I've gone the other direction, turning clothes into a duvet.
Awaiting your next triumph (though not patiently, I'm just sayin').
Love the embellishment around the buttonholes! Great job!
Work of art...so inspiring. You are the best! I feel honored to be able to take your classes. Y
Absolutely gorgeous perfect for Fall season, very clever . Also looks good on you .
I found some bulk fabric made for pillowcases and used it to make Easter dresses for me and my two daughters. The pillowcase fabric gave me a border print to work with. I used the border for the hems and shoulders. That was fun!
So, what did you do with the leftover fabric? A vest or hat?
Glorious. Such a terrific use of the pattern, Kenneth.
I'd love more detail on how those back pleats were stabilised.
Absolutely awesome! You are so talented and have creative vision like no other!
FABULOUS, Mr.King! Haven't yet found a bedspread to cut up, but I have a few embroidered tablecloths I have plans for!
Oh, and I just wanted to say: I ALWAYS look forward to a K.King feature in my mailbox!
Wow, a very creative "reuse" design. Loved the peek into your workroom, tools and techniques. Curious about what sort of "shaver" you used... just a pet shaver? Also love the stands for your hams...!! you gave me a new way to see the antique linens I see at the flea market! Thanks for this great post!
This past spring I turned a very bright, very floral 60s tablecloth into a peasant blouse, and I regularly turn round and square vintage tablecloths into circle- and handkerchief skirts. I'm currently hoarding a few drawn-thread and embroidered linens for kimono-style jackets.
I love this coat, beautiful shape and the fabric is just stunning! I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for a gorgeous velvet bedspread now.
I love to read your items Kenneth and have taken a couple of your Craftsy classes, I very much enjoy your teaching. Next on my list is your book Cool Couture which I'm hoping will be my Christmas Day reading this year.
Magnificent ... as usual. What great and broad skills you have. You're an inspiration.
Stunning! It looks like it would be nice to have on if you needed to run outside for a quick trip in the cooler weather. Those colors are fantastic. Exceptional job as usual from you.
Back in the 60s when I was in high school, I made a pant suit out of gold brocade drapes. They were bellbottom with a longish jacket. The jacket sleeves ended at the elbow where I attached gathered lace, which was made from very nice curtains. This outfit received compliments when ever I wore it. Ah.....memories of Sonny and Cher fashion.....real fur coats were very indexpensive at the thrift stores in my town from which I made vests.
Thanks for the kind words, everyone! This project was really fun to make, and I got to wear it the first time, at a book signing event at the Fortuny showroom.
To KarenQuiltsTexas: This is my hair clipper, which I also used when I had a dog. You can get them anywhere.
To KiwiLee: The vents at the back are just that--vents. I topstitched the leading edge, which makes them "read" like pleats, and the returns are tacked together with swing tacks on the inside of the jacket.
Thank you so much for showing us your coat. I made your coat on the Craftsy classes. It was so much easier for me to understand exactly what you were doing now in the pictures.
Kenneth, you are my favorite. I read anything I can get my hands on that you write. I have followed you since your Sandra Betzina days!!! You are the best!
Thanks for the kind words, Cynsew! And as for Sandra Betzina, I truly adore her.
I will do one for my husband. He loves jackets like this.
Thank You for the pointers on making your velvet jacket. I purchased a vintage summer spread at an auction, this was a cover in the summer time on your bed. It is off white in color with a nice design emprinted on it. I laid my pattern for a long jacket with slits up the sides on it and lined up the design. I entered it in the county fair under recycled materials and got a 1st place ribbon plus many compliments when I wear it. When I explain where the fabric came from some knew just what I am talking about and had stories to share about this spread.
I also wanted to add that you came to our Sewing Guild many years ago in Sioux City IA and I was forever impressed with your work. Love reading your articles in Threads you are the best !!
Boo-te-full! A classic! Tablecloths are a favorite of mine. A friend gave me an vintage Chinese embroidered one. A little dye job and it was the perfect thing for a western style button down. https://sewing.patternreview.com/cgi-bin/readreview.pl?readreview=1&ID=140525
That coat is absolutely stunning! I never would have thought to use a velvet bedspread, but what a perfect use of a vintage textile!!!