Our guest today is a self proclaimed "professional quilt coat lover," but I feel the need to correct her modesty and title her a professional quilt coat maker and designer. Brittney Frey has made many beautiful quilted coats in multiple sizes and styles and has finally sat down to share with you all of her hard-earned tips on how to sew a quilted coat.
Well I'm happy to report that she's willing to give you all of that! Later on this year and into early next year, Brittney will launch sales of her one-of-a-kind coats. If you are motivated enough to make your own, you're in luck because this tutorial will cover:
- How to make a muslin/toile pattern sample.
- How to select fabric for your quilted coat.
- Tips on color placement for your patchwork coat.
- How to scale a quilt pattern for a coat.
- Tips on piecing, cutting, and assembling the various parts of a quilted coat.
- Tips for choosing how to finish your coat.
Now it's time for me to pass the mic to the star of the show...
Are you ready to take a ride on the quilted coat train and want to know where to hop on? You’re in the right place. This tutorial will cover some tips and tricks to give you the confidence you need to turn a coat pattern into a quilted masterpiece. Grab your favorite coat pattern, or two, and buckle up!
How to Make a Muslin Pattern Sample
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of making your own clothes, you’re not alone! I didn't start off as an expert myself, but you know what they say about practice.
Regardless of your comfort level, it's always a good idea to do a test run with your pattern before you add any quilting into the mix. It would be a real bummer to do all that work just to make a wrong cut and have to start over.
A muslin or toile is a test garment sewn from inexpensive fabric (like muslin or toile), so you can check and alter the fit of the garment. It’s also a great way to verify your size. Do the measurements given on the pattern work for you or do you need to size up or down?
Keep in mind that quilting will add a little bulk so you’ll want to round up if you’re on the fence about sizing. Consider using a quilted fabric or an inexpensive quilted bedspread to practice with so you get a better feel for how the finished quilted coat will fit and how it will drape.
NOTE: Not all coat patterns were designed to be quilted coats. Keep that in mind as you work through your test piece.
TIP! Also think about if there is anything you want to omit from the pattern. Little details won’t be missed when the quilty goodness steals the show. It could be something as simple as omitting additional stabilizers/interfacing because the quilt batting will be sufficient enough.
For example, the Sapporo Coat by Papercut Patterns calls for fusible interfacing along the outside edges of the lower front and bottom back pieces. However, I leave that part out in lieu of folding over my quilted edges to get the stability I need.
Similarly, think about any modifications or simplifications you want to make to the pattern to better accommodate your quilt design.
For example, with the Sapporo Coat, the pattern calls for 3 separate back panels. I knew pattern matching with patchwork would be tricky. Luckily, the panels sewn together created a flat piece, so I made a combined template before cutting out my quilted back piece.
As you work through the pattern for the first time, take note of how the pieces go together. Which areas/intersections are most important to get right? Are there certain seams that will show more than others where you’ll want to be mindful of pattern matching?
Pockets and side seams are two places I like to focus on because it’s possible to get a nearly seamless looking seam if the pattern matches up nicely.
Most importantly, give yourself some slack because rules were made to be broken and seams were meant to be fudged. Don't be afraid to make mistakes and experiment a little bit. The possibilities are endless so maybe plan to make one or two...dozen quilted coats!
How to Select Fabric for Your Quilted Coat
You've done the hard part, picking your pattern and studying up. Now for the fun stuff – shopping for fabric! This bit will be totally subjective based on your own personal preferences.
You know what you like but maybe you're overwhelmed by the millions of choices. I find it helpful to look for starter kits: fabric bundles or collections that visually draw me in. You can even replicate specific quilts like I did with the Gather coats!
Above is the Gather quilt pattern. Get it here!
Many of the fabrics from the original Gather quilt are also used to make these matching coats. The lining for the adult coat is even the same flannel backing as the quilt! (All of the quilt fabrics are listed here, in case you're curious.)
Fabric requirements will be one of the biggest variables based on your quilt design and which coat/jacket pattern you’re using.
When I make my classic patchwork coats, I cut 4” squares, so I typically look for 20 to 30 fat quarters or quarter yards. This gives me enough breathing room to repeat my layout but I also always end up with various amounts of extra fabric. I then use the extra fabric to make matching bags and pouches so there’s less waste in the end.
Most fabric bundles/collections don't come with 20 to 30 fat quarters, hence my use of the phrase “starter kit”. If that is the case, I build out my starter kit with coordinating/complimentary patterns and colors.
When picking fabric, I like to have a good range of light to dark within each color set. I always think in groups of four to six per color for a total of 5 color groups. I’ve found that to work best for dispersing the color and diversifying my coat panels while not making them overly busy.
Tips on Color Placement for Your Patchwork Coat
This section will talk about arranging your colors and pieces and will probably be most relevant to a patchwork quilt coat design. Again, this is very subjective so skip along if you already know what you want!
Regardless of what style you're going for though, always start with the back panel first as this will be the largest piece of real estate on your coat. It functions as a great roadmap for laying out the rest of the panels.
When it comes to arranging, I like to start by laying out my fabrics in a nice gradient that runs dark to light within each color set. I try to place adjacent color groups together to make the gradient flow better.
I often find myself anchoring the top and bottom with some dark/bold colors and using some of the quieter tones in the middle to add more depth.
Once I have my order figured out, I start laying out the rows. I find that ~2.5 rows per color group is a good mix but this will also greatly depend on the size of your coat pieces, the number of different fabrics you’re using, and the overall look and feel you’re trying to achieve, etc. I start with 2-3 rows of each color.
When I get to the end of my first draft, I snap a photo. The colors tend to pop more on screen making it easier to see which areas need to be reworked and blended a little better. I’ll bend the rules a little more each time I make an adjustment, snapping photos along the way, until I’m happy with the overall balance of colors.
There’s no right or wrong way to do this part. Once your beautiful coat is sewn together you’ll likely forget about how many times you rearranged your squares.
Most importantly, double check that your coat pattern templates fit the panels you’re making before you call it good and start quilting. That way you can go back and add more rows/columns as needed before it’s too late.
How to Scale a Quilt Pattern for a Coat
Do you have a favorite quilt pattern but don't know if it's the right fit for the coat pattern? Think about scaling it up or down.
The quickest way to tell is to measure the overall size of the back piece of the coat. Is it relatively close to an existing quilt pattern or will you have to chop off a lot of the design when you cut out your coat pieces?
Take the Gather Quilt pattern by Suzy Quilts for example. The finished baby size is 36" wide by 40" high. However, the rough size of the back piece for this particular coat pattern I’m using is only 24" wide by 32" high. If I keep the scale at 100% I'll lose a whole row of the design on the top or bottom. To solve my dilemma, I did some quick math.
The coat pattern height divided by the quilt pattern height = 32" / 40" = .8 (80%)
Therefore I scaled the finished block size down to 80% of the original size and voila, my new back panel is roughly 29” wide by 32” high. With this particular design, it was more important to fit the design vertically (in height) instead of horizontally (in width), so if it meant sacrificing slightly more on the sides, I was ok with it.
And of course, the same logic applies if you want to make some quilted coats for your tiny humans and furry companions. I used these two coat patterns for the matching family coats I made for the Suzy Quilts family:
Piecing, Cutting, & Assembling the Various Parts of a Quilted Coat
I have made many quilted coats so far and have found these tips to be helpful for better accuracy and consistency.
If you’re working with simple blocks and rows, like a patchwork design, it’s particularly helpful to iron your seams in alternating directions every other row. That way, when you go to sew the rows together, everything nestles into place resulting in perfectly aligned seams.
I prefer to press my seams open between rows. I know, I know, the great debate...open, to the dark side, or whichever way the wind blows. I find it helps to keep the bulk down and everything more evenly dispersed. It will also help the quilt top to lay nice and flat.
Because I make my coats from scratch, instead of cutting up a larger heirloom quilt or quilts, I make separate quilt top panels for each coat pattern template. You’ll want to quilt all your panels before you cut any of your coat pieces.
Each piece will be relatively small, compared to a full size quilt, so I find spray basting to be the quickest and easiest way to baste.
When you’re ready to start quilting your pieces, you have two options depending on which finishing method you plan to use (see next section). In short, if you’re adding a separate lining piece, you’ll only need to quilt the quilt top to a layer of batting.
If you’re going to bind your finished seams, you’ll want to make up the full quilt sandwich: quilt top, batting, and backing (lining of your coat). I don’t add any additional interfacing or stabilizers because the quilt batting is sufficient enough for what I want.
Most garment patterns will have pieces that instruct you to cut on the fold. When I’m cutting these quilted pieces, I find the best way to ensure symmetry is to cut one half using the template. I then remove the template and fold the quilted piece in half, aligning and pinning the adjacent seams on the other half before cutting the rest of it.
Similarly, for duplicate pieces like the sleeves, I use one trimmed sleeve to cut the second sleeve, aligning seams and pinning. This ensures both pieces have identical pattern placement and symmetry.
For pieces that will be sewn together, like your front and back pieces, be mindful of where you’re making your cuts. I like to work from the bottom so I align the bottom edge of my coat pattern template to the bottom edge of my quilted piece for all adjacent pattern pieces. That way, I can align my quilt seams up the side seam of the coat.
When you start sewing your coat pieces together, pin each adjacent intersection where you want your rows to align. I like to throw in a basting stitch along the seam first. That way I can check if everything looks good and pull it apart if I need to redo it before I do my final stitching.
Matching seams (and mismatched seams) will be most obvious when you sew your sleeves into a tube, attach the front coat halves to the back panel down the side seam, and possibly at the pockets. I like using this matching technique on all these very visible seams.
Choosing How to Finish your Coat
You’ve got a few options for finishing your quilted coat, but it mostly depends on the coat pattern you’re using and any modifications you plan on making. Your options are:
- Serged or zigzag the edges
- French seams
- Hong kong finished seams
- Bound seams
- Adding a separate lining piece
I’m not going to cover all of them here, but I will explain my prefered method – adding a separate lining piece.
Some patterns, like the Sapporo Coat, are designed to have a separate lining piece. Liners are great for hiding the guts of the coat and you don’t have to fuss with finishing edges. You get a really polished look without all the headache of being super neat and tidy.
As I mentioned in the previous section, if you are going to use this method, don’t bother adding backing to your quilted pieces, you’ll just need the quilt top and the batting because the backside will be hidden behind the lining.
With the Sapporo Coat, I followed all of the pattern instructions except for one change. The last step of the coat assembly calls for you to turn the coat right side out through a hole that you left in the side seam of the lining from a previous step.
To close that hole, you’re supposed to hand sew the hole shut. After losing a little bit of sleep wondering how the heck I was going to make an acceptable and hopefully invisible hand stitch in my otherwise thoughtfully handcrafted coat, it hit me - add an invisible zipper!
The first time I added an invisible zipper, I ended up sloppily sewing one in after the fact. I knew I wanted to properly install one in my next coat. Now I sew it into place while I’m attaching one of the front lining pieces to the back lining piece and then go about the coat assembly as per usual.
Think of it as a fancy seam that you can open and close. It is a game changer, yet not all that difficult to add. If you want to add an invisible zipper in your coat, check out my next blog post for a more in depth how-to.
Do you have a favorite coat pattern that could be transformed into a quilted coat? Tell us about your coat-making plans in the comments!