Beginner Sewist Coatmaking: Thoughts on Butterick 5822

I’ve been in tedium town all morning since I got out of bed at mid-day, pinning and ironing and sewing rayon seam binding.

I decided to take a break to write about coats. Mainly, this coat:

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Last year, when I was just beginning (just beginning) to sew regularly, I decided the thing I should make NOW was a coat.
My logic was something like this: cute coats that don’t keep me very warm coat cost like $300. I think I can make a warmer one for cheaper.
And I succeeded! Mostly. It’s certainly not perfect, but I pulled it out of the closet this week when the temperatures fell like something that falls really hard and fast. And actually! I was pretty pleasantly surprised at what three-maxi-skirt-sewing-experience-Wasted came up with.
I didn’t blog a pattern review at the time, aside from writing about the quilted lining I did in the upper back. (Which, for someone who didn’t know you could buy thinsulate: smart!). So a year on, here are some thoughts about the thing, and about first coat-making.

First, my biggest tip to avoid new sewer coat-making disappointment is to MAKE A MUSLIN OF YOUR COAT. I’m really happy with 2013 Wasted for taking the time to do this. I’ll grant you: it’s pretty sad when you’re standing there amidst a pile of beige cotton with nasty read dots and pen marks on a Sunday night, almost in tears and you realize you can’t finish the coat TODAYTHISWEEKENDIWANTTOWEARITTOWORKONMONDAYPLEEEEASE. But. If you want to pull it out a year from now and be pleasantly surprised with yourself, make a muslin. Particularly if you are new-ish to sewing, the muslin serves two purposes:
1. It lets you know how the coat fits, so that you can figure out if you need adjustments (you know, if the thing is bigger than your shoulder width, you chose a size too big, etc, etc.).
2. It’s a practice run of the construction process. Suuuuuuper helpful if you don’t yet have in your brain a general idea of how things should flow.

On the pattern itself, which is now out of print, but still for sale on the Butterick site:

1. It’s a genuinely good pattern for an ambitious beginner. It’s an easy silhouette, with only a few seam lines and no darts.  That means no heart-wrenching questions like ‘do i press my darts open’ and ‘what does that even mean’. There are only in-seam pockets, because eff welts, and the collar will do the stand-up work all on its own if you choose a super-heavy wool. So if you don’t know what pad-stitching is, you don’t need to. (I still don’t really, but I do read about it a lot with anticipation/dread.)
2. If you are just starting out, don’t drive yourself crazy with fitting the thing too close to your body. Worry about the length and making sure the shoulders sit right on your shoulders, but if you’ve got a mod-ish or boxy style pattern, go with it. I mayyyyybe took the fitting advice from the internets a little too close to heart. I might have even done a sway-back adjustment. Do not do a sway-back adjustment.
3. DO reduce the sleeve cap height. A lot of background and links to three separate tutorials on A Fashionable Stitch. This tutorial is super-easy to follow.
I haven’t been reducing the sleeve cap — or seeing if I need do — in garments lately and I should be. It means I’ve been gathering too many inches in the sleeve cap before sewing the sleeve into the armhole, and I’ve got some wonky-looking sleeves to show for it. When I took this thing out of the closet, I was really impressed with how nice the shoulder seams look for someone who’d never set in a shoulder before.
A few other things I wish I’d read on the internet beforehand:
1. Silk dupioni/shantung is not a lining fabric. Mine’s holding up okay except for the hip area, where I sit and shift on the coat on the bus or train. It’ll have to be repaired at some point in the not-too-distant future.
2. Get some super-heavy melton wool. I bought mine from Pendleton, and I would really recommend it. Pendleton has sales twice a year, March and September, unless memory is failing me. The stuff is dense, heavy and warm. Because it’s already felted, you won’t be too too horrified if your pre-shrinking method goes a bit awry. (There are other pre-shrinking methods, but this is my favorite one because it cuts corners. Do not attempt to shrink 3 yards of wool with the steam from your iron unless you are the kind of crazy who would enjoy that kind of thing. I think it’s horrible).
3. Use your final muslin as both your pattern and your underlining for the final coat. All your markings will be there. Because, efficiency. Which brings me to:
4. Use an underlining. It adds a little structure to the garment, holds that outside fabric up a bit stronger, and you can write notes to yourself all over it (in pencil! pen will bleed through). Also, if you are having trouble getting your seams to lie flat, you can just catch-stitch them to the underlining. Which brings me to:
I was high on the Susan Khalje couture class on Craftsy then, so I think I’d just had some really, really solid techniques beaten into me as THE ONLY WAY TO SEW. It’s definitely not the only way to sew, but I would heartily (heartily!) recommend that class to a new sewer. That and the internet were my only guides at the time I made this. Learning those slow and steady techniques before you know they aren’t the only way to do things gives you a lot of control even though they are a bit tedious.
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 **Neither Butterick nor Craftsy (nor anyone else aside from my real employer, for that matter) pay me. Hearty endorsements completely unsolicited or compensated **


  1. Thank you for this post–I’m toying with the idea of starting on a coat soon, and have never made one before; it’s always nice to see someone else’s “wish I’d known/here’s what helped” list(s) for a project like that, IMO. Your coat looks nice and very warm!

    1. I’m glad it’s a little useful!
      Id say the coat was one of the more satisfying things I’ve made and I’d really encourage coat-making attempts. Let me know how you go if you do it.

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