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Why Don’t You . . . ? Sew a Travel Garment From Bedding

In a travel-themed Harper’s Bazaar column of fabulous challenges, Diana Vreeland asked:

Why Don’t You . . . travel with a little raspberry cashmere blanket to throw over yourself in hotels and trains?

Dressing for the trip

As any good sewist would, I love dressing for just about any occasion. But since falling in love with my “safety first” husband, dressing for travel has been an issue for me. In the first years of our marriage, our treks mainly consisted of road trips to his Southern hometown—it was not what you’d call a hub back then, so a 23-hour car ride was our best option. When the first direct flight down south opened up, I had just taught myself to sew, and was packing to board a little propeller jet with a handmade technicolor outfit. Rob immediately overruled my decision. It was then I learned that my man dresses for safety when flying. That means natural fibers, simple lines, and flat, closed shoes. My highly flammable poly crepe phoenix-print wrap dress and wedge sandals were NOT going to make the cut.

Luckily, my stash held an estate sale find: a set of cotton bedsheets, circa 1970s, with a floral print that Rob immediately recognized from his childhood. How fortuitous. I whipped up one of those Butterick reprint “walkaway” dresses (they were “easy” and popular among new sewists, and I wouldn’t recommend them). The gargantuan sweep of my hem and my flat-soled strappy sandals were met with a raised eyebrow, and a sigh of compromise. The flight was très comfortable, and ever so chic. I probably ruined the effect by telling everyone who asked that I was wearing old sheets. Sheet chic, baby!

Marcy Harriell's new travel garment, a hooded coat made from prequilted yardage
The itinerary

For this travel garment challenge, I thought: Why go blanket, when you can go blanket coat? I seem to have a penchant for flight-worthy bedding. My blanket of choice: a quilt. But as I considered my handmade candidates, I thought “safety first” might be a good idea here as well.

Before picking out an actual quilt, I decided to make the pattern as a wearable toile, in something less heirloom-y. To Madame Joann’s—the chain fabric store— I went, where I found myself in the quilting section. I’ll be honest with you. Ever since my freshman year of sewing dresses with the stiffest, cheapest quilting cotton I could lay my hands on, I give the quilting section at Joann’s a wide berth. But lo and behold, at the end of an aisle stacked with fat quarters sat several bolts of double-sided, prequilted fabric. This blew my mind. I could have a quilted  travel garment without ruining a quilt.

For my test of this travel-friendly pattern, I chose a raspberry-hued, floral-themed fabric in an ode to that long-gone walkaway dress.

Floral travel garment, a hooded coat, shown from the back

Test flight

I’ve made New Look 6585 once before, but not as drafted: I realized as soon as I took the pattern out of the package that I didn’t have enough fabric. So I taped the front and back sleeve pattern sections together, thinned out the hood, reduced the width of the panels, and lost almost all of the length. The resulting jacket has a hood that will never, in a million years, fit my mass of hair; a hem that hits just below the booty; and a center front that doesn’t close.

The only alteration I left in for this travel garment run was the sleeve modification. Double-checking the work of my past sewing self, I thought it was a good call to change the center sleeve seam to a dart. I simply taped the two sleeve pieces along the seamline until the seam curved, letting it release into a dart. I like a two piece sleeve, but not one with a seam running smack down the center of my arm.

A closure-free, hooded, floral travel garment worn by Marcy Harriell
Marcy Harriell wears her travel garment, a long, hooded coat
The hood, shown up, on Marcy Harriell's quilted fabric coat

All other pattern pieces remained as drafted. I did find a couple of areas I’ll change next time. For example, the hood is definitely not ‘fro sized. It’ll need about 5 more inches of height to accommodate my mane, and probably 2 more inches of width. The pattern advises to press the center seam of the hood to one side, clipping if necessary, but that’s unsightly on a unlined jacket. Next time, I’ll reduce the seam allowance and clip the curves, press it open, and cover up the evidence with flat bias tape.

The same goes for the center-back neck seam: It’s ugly. There’s a facing piece provided, but that seemed like a lot of bulk. It’ll get the tape treatment as well.

Close-ups of darted sleeve and frog closure on floral coat

I made the pockets gigantic, iPhone sized, as it’s clear I like my technology big. All my handmade pockets are resized based on the promise of a bigger screen.

As for the length, this coat is long. I was too firm in my decision to make this pattern as drafted. A quick check of length would have saved about two feet of fabric. But, the blanket vibe is in full effect.

Full-length images of Marcy Harriell wearing her long travel garment

Travel approved?

Sadly, this raspberry-hued blanket coat is not Rob-approved for air travel. The batting of the prequilted fabric is definitely a poly blend. However, this travel garment will do nicely for Vreeland’s travel recommendations on trains (subways), in hotels, and in cold rehearsal rooms and drafty theaters.

Now that I’ve got the pattern where I want it, I’m eyeing the real deal. Yes, I fully intend to ruin a quilt. And by ruin, I mean upcycle a quilt into something that will live on my body, rather than in a dark closet with a bowl of mothballs as its companion. It’s time to pull a few all-cotton candidates out of storage.

Editor’s note: See more of Marcy’s Diana Vreeland-inspired posts here.



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