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How to Sew a Velvet Frock Coat

Nov 15, 2016
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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.

how to sew a cut-velvet frock coat

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.

how to sew a cut-velvet frock coat

Cutting it in a single layer enabled me to make sure I could mirror the fabric print, left to right, for all the pieces.

how to sew a cut-velvet frock coat

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.

how to sew a cut-velvet frock coat


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.

how to sew a cut-velvet frock coat

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.

how to sew a cut-velvet frock coat

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.

how to sew a cut-velvet frock coat

First, I constructed the pocket flaps, cuffs, and collar, as shown.

how to sew a cut-velvet frock coat

Then I sewed the sleeves and installed the cuffs.

how to sew a cut-velvet frock coat

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.

how to sew a cut-velvet frock coat


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

how to sew a cut-velvet frock coat

The backs and fronts were then sewn and the body was assembled.

how to sew a cut-velvet frock coat

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.

how to sew a cut-velvet frock coat

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.

how to sew a cut-velvet frock coat

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.

how to sew a cut-velvet frock coat

You can see the shoulder pad sandwiched between the body and lining fabrics.

how to sew a cut-velvet frock coat

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.

how to sew a cut-velvet frock coat

This is the finished interior before the hems were sewn.

how to sew a cut-velvet frock coat

To finish, I made a trip to Star Snaps in Manhattan to have 22 jeans buttons and rivets set down the jacket front.

how to sew a cut-velvet frock coat by Kenneth D. King

The result was a beautiful statement jacket that I am proud of.

how to sew a cut-velvet frock coat by Kenneth D. King back view

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.

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  1. IreneMM November 9th

    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.

  2. User avater LuvThreadsMagazine November 11th

    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').

  3. aussiesewinglady November 12th

    Love the embellishment around the buttonholes! Great job!

  4. User avater Yvonne_M November 15th

    Work of inspiring. You are the best! I feel honored to be able to take your classes. Y

  5. user-4765226 November 15th

    Absolutely gorgeous perfect for Fall season, very clever . Also looks good on you .

  6. Mamato8 November 15th

    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?

  7. KiwiLee November 15th

    Glorious. Such a terrific use of the pattern, Kenneth.
    I'd love more detail on how those back pleats were stabilised.

  8. Ox4dpl November 15th

    Absolutely awesome! You are so talented and have creative vision like no other!

  9. Rabia November 15th

    FABULOUS, Mr.King! Haven't yet found a bedspread to cut up, but I have a few embroidered tablecloths I have plans for!

  10. Rabia November 15th

    Oh, and I just wanted to say: I ALWAYS look forward to a K.King feature in my mailbox!

  11. User avater KarenQuiltsTexas November 15th

    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!

  12. marijkapaprika November 16th

    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.

  13. User avater user-4346287 November 16th

    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.

  14. catstexas November 16th

    Magnificent ... as usual. What great and broad skills you have. You're an inspiration.

  15. BossLady4me November 16th

    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.

  16. user-2418800 November 17th

    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.

  17. User avater KennethDKing November 17th

    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.

  18. cynsew November 18th

    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!

  19. User avater KennethDKing November 18th

    Thanks for the kind words, Cynsew! And as for Sandra Betzina, I truly adore her.

  20. JDaniels60 November 22nd

    I will do one for my husband. He loves jackets like this.

  21. cdesigns December 5th

    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.

  22. cdesigns December 5th

    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 !!

  23. carolwisman November 20th

    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.

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