Grainline Studio x Britex | Tips for Choosing & Working with Wool Coating

Grainline Studio x Britex | Tips for Choosing & Working with Wool Coating

I know that sewing a full on winter coat can seem a bit intimidating but they really are a most rewarding project, and one of my favorite things to sew! In this post we are going to talk about choosing the right fabric as well as construction tips to get a professional and long lasting coat. The pattern used in this tutorial is my Birchwood Toggle Coat pattern, which will be available in my shop shortly, paired with this unbelievably beautiful and warm Double-Faced coating. I’m also kind of freaking out about the toggle closures as well. So beautiful and actually made from quality materials. The colors really are a perfect match with this wool!

Grainline Studio x Britex | Tips for Choosing & Working with Wool Coating

The first step on the road to your new winter coat is choosing your wool. This can be a bit of an intimidating process, there are so many types and weaves. Lets start out by talking a little bit about wool and the many properties that make it an ideal cold weather fabric

  • Wool is a natural protein based fiber shorn from one of many types of sheep.
  • Wool is an incredibly resilient fiber which means it has the ability to spring back after being crushed. In addition to resiliency cutting back on wrinkles, it also adds to the warmth and insulation wool is able to provide. Since the air pockets within each fiber of wool don’t become crushed over time they are excellent for trapping body heat.
  • Wool fibers have wicking properties that allow them to absorb moisture equal to around 1/3 of their weight, because of this wool will not only keep you warm, but also dry.
  • Wool is more flame resistant than other fibers because of the higher temperature it takes to ignite it.

Grainline Studio x Britex | Tips for Choosing & Working with Wool Coating

Britex has a pretty great selection of wool coating, from double face to melton to bouclé, but which one is right for your coat? Lets talk a little about each type.

  • Boiled : this fabric has been knitted and then felted to create a dense fabric that falls somewhere between a knit and woven. It does not fray much.
  • Melton : consists of short haired fibers which are tightly woven and then felted to create a dense, warm, stable fabric. Fraying on Melton is at a minimum.
  • Tweed : a rough, textured wool mottled in color which can be woven with a plain weave or herringbone weave.
  • Double Faced : double faced wool consists of two layers of wool linked together with a thread and then felted much like a Melton would be.
  • Bouclé : loosely woven fabric made from a bouclé yarn which is usually 3-ply and has one thread looser than the others. This results in the nubby loops bouclé is famous for. Bouclé definitely needs to be lined and will fray badly when cut.

Keep in mind while selecting your fabric what sort of end result you’re looking for. Do you want something warm and tailored? Try a Melton. A coat with a softer drape? Perhaps boiled wool for a warmer coat or a bouclé if less warmth is needed.

Grainline Studio x Britex | Tips for Choosing & Working with Wool Coating

Once you’ve selected your wool it’s time to get to work! Below are a series of tips that I’ve found result in a more professional looking coat that lasts year after year and looks great the entire time.

PRE-TREATING YOUR WOOL

Grainline Studio x Britex | Tips for Choosing & Working with Wool Coating

There are a lot of methods out there for pre-treating your wool fabrics. Some people like to toss them in the dryer on air dry with a damp towel and some people like to get the yardage dry cleaned as they would treat their finished coat. What I do is give the wool a nice press with a steam filled iron. I’ve never personally found any shrinkage to happen when dry cleaning any finished wool garments I’ve made but if you feel more comfortable, the above two methods are options.

INTERFACING APPLICATION

Grainline Studio x Britex | Tips for Choosing & Working with Wool Coating

I really can’t underestimate the importance of proper fusible application. Wool is an amazing fabric, it molds itself and can transform shapes under heat and stress which can enable some really wonderful tailoring at times, but that also means that wool can stretch when you don’t want it to at points of great stress. Typically on all of your garments you will be fusing your facings, but with a wool coat we’re going to add a few extra places. You will want to fuse the front and back shoulder areas of your coat extending down along to the armholes. These parts of your garment are under constant stress and also get a great deal more body heat than the rest of your garment and by fusing them you are ensuring they don’t stretch out of shape and hold up over time.

Grainline Studio x Britex | Tips for Choosing & Working with Wool Coating

The hem is another place you’ll want to make sure is fused, again, preventing any unwanted stretch and it also helps keep a sharp press along the bottom of your coat.

Britex13 Grainline Studio x Britex | Tips for Choosing & Working with Wool Coating

If you’re adding pockets to your coat, place a square of fusible on the back of the garment slightly larger than the pocket you’re sewing on. This way when you’re waiting out at the bus stop in the freezing cold you can jam your hands into your pockets without worrying about stretching out the points where the pocket joins to the body of your coat.

REDUCING BULK THROUGH GRADING

Grainline Studio x Britex | Tips for Choosing & Working with Wool Coating

Things get bulky very quickly while making a wool coat and because of this it’s a good idea to grade as many seams as possible. In something like the above photo, two seam allowances pressed to one side then topstitched, grading slightly reduces bulk and allows for a more beautiful seam line.

Grainline Studio x Britex | Tips for Choosing & Working with Wool Coating

Britex08

When working with a part of your coat where you have layers and layers of fabric such as the center front closure, grading becomes more than helpful, it becomes a necessity. Without grading the center front would be bulky and hard to turn to the inside of the coat.

Grainline Studio x Britex | Tips for Choosing & Working with Wool Coating

If you’re working with a double faced wool like I was you may want to consider separating the two layers for your facings. Since you want to interface your facings, they can get a bit bulky if left as the two layers.

PRESSING YOUR WOOL

Grainline Studio x Britex | Tips for Choosing & Working with Wool Coating

Grainline Studio x Britex | Tips for Choosing & Working with Wool Coating

When working with wool, the best way to press it is with a lower temperature (the wool setting on your iron) and lots of steam. Because of the properties we listed above wool responds remarkably well to a good steaming. What I like to do is press my wool seams on top of the wool side of my ham or sleeve roll and then after pressing the seam with ample steam, use my hand or a press cloth to press the seam till the heat and steam has dissipated. This allows the steam to really set the seam crisply.

SEWING WITH WOOL

Grainline Studio x Britex | Tips for Choosing & Working with Wool Coating

If your sewing machine comes equipped with a walking foot it could be your wool coat making best friend, especially if you’re making a plaid one like this! A regular foot can have a hard time with the thickness involved in a project like this but with a walking foot you just glide on through. A sharp, heavy duty needle and a slightly longer than normal stitch length are also a great idea to get you through this much fabric.

Grainline Studio x Britex | Tips for Choosing & Working with Wool Coating

I hope you feel a bit more confident with the idea of making your own wool winter coat, it really is a fun time and all your friends & family will be so impressed with your work too. Just take your time, breathe, and follow these tips and you’ll have a quality garment to last the years over!

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54 Responses to Grainline Studio x Britex | Tips for Choosing & Working with Wool Coating

  1. Amy Alan says:

    Your coat is amazing, Jen! I can’t wait to get the pattern and make one!

  2. Ginny says:

    Oooh, outstanding coat! Very much looking forward to the pattern release.

  3. Thank you so much for this – I literally just cut out a wool coat last night, so this is super helpful for me. Any tips on the type of interfacing to use? That’s something I’m kind of hung up on now…thanks!

    • jonathonwatercolour says:

      I used fusible the last time I made one, it does work but I thing sew in would be the most advisable:perhaps using fabric glue to secure it before pad-stitching into place?

  4. Jana says:

    Thank you so much for the tips, Jen! I will definitely need a new coat next winter, so I’m bookmarking this post right away. Don’t want to lose it in the depths of the Internet!

  5. ThreadTime says:

    Thanks so much for the many tips!!

  6. sarah says:

    what a lovely looking coat, looks very warm and snugly, just what I need in the winter. Thanks for sharing your tips too 🙂

  7. Gillian says:

    So many good tips! I’ll be rereading this when I get around to sewing with wool!

  8. Rochelle New says:

    Beautiful coat and excellent tips. I’ve wanted to make a coat for myself for some time now but the fabrics did seem a little daunting to me. Not anymore! I’m very excited for your new pattern release 🙂

  9. Megan says:

    OMG! I can’t believe I just bought my first coat pattern ever, and a few days later you come out with this amazingly perfect looking pattern. Good thing the other pattern was only $2 during the recent big 4 sale (I couldn’t find any indie patterns that I liked the looks of). Now I can still justify buying your pattern, I can’t wait! I know that I stand a much better chance of making a successful first coat with your excellent patterns and directions!

  10. gingermakes says:

    Wow, these are great tips! I haven’t given any thought to wool stretching out at points of stress– you’ve saved me from future problems! I love your coat and am so excited that you’re releasing a pattern!

  11. Mika says:

    I was JUST looking for a toggle coat pattern today! This is perfect. I also spent ages this morning reading about interfacing coats – what a perfect post!

  12. juebejue says:

    oh man!! I wish this came out before i already made my yearly coat! I agree that coats are the most rewarding to sew. i’ve been looking for a good toggle coat that i can trust (too lazy to make muslims and dont trust new patterns from the big 4s with fancy wool). i will probably be using your coat pattern for my next year coat!

  13. Maddie says:

    Great post Jen! I’m working with wool on a dress right now, and I had to use several techniques you mentioned. One that I’d like to add (if that’s okay) is to let the fabric cool after steaming and before removing from the ironing board. I have found that if I don’t do this, my pressing is useless and the garment doesn’t take shape like I want it to!

    Congrats on the new pattern!

    • Jen says:

      Oh yeah definitely! That’s what I meant when I said wait until the steam and heat dissipates but the way you said it is much more straightforward. I think I’ll go back and add that in to clarify if you don’t mind!

  14. Bec says:

    Perfect fabric choice! What a great coat, can’t wait for the pattern! Here where I am in Aus it never really gets that cold, but I love the toggle coats I’m seeing around online. Maybe a loose weave or canvas version might be good for our winter!

  15. Molly says:

    Great post and pictures to illustrate! What kind of interfacing do you like to use for coats?

  16. -Z. says:

    Jen, I cannot thank you enough for making this pattern available, and for providing these amazing tips! Ever since you first posted your gray wool version, I have been dying for a pattern release, and now it’s almost here! Also, I think it’s great that you’ve incorporated a zipper closure behind the toggles: so many duffle coat patterns have the toggles only, and I’m always suspicious as to their effectiveness at keeping the cold out…

    I can’t wait to make one 🙂

  17. Kirsty says:

    Excellent post! Love the coat. I also would like to know what kind of interfacing you’d recommend for wool fabric 🙂

  18. kristin says:

    Wow what great tips, thanks Jen! would also be curious about the interfacing you recommend. I’ve made outerwear for my kids but never for myself, and you’re right it’s incredibly rewarding!

  19. Stephanie says:

    Oh wow. This is extremely helpful! I really want to make a coat or two, but it’s definitely intimidating. Thanks for explaining the benefits of the coating types too!

  20. ebonyh says:

    Swoon! This is such a gorgeous jacket! And thank you for these amazing construction tips. I’m about to try my hand at my first coat & will need all the help I can get.

  21. Michelle says:

    I can’t wait. Hope there is a sew-a-long. Visual learner is a curse sometimes. I think I am on my 10th archer 🙂

  22. Ariane says:

    So beautiful! And you make it sound so easy! I’ve always been scared to sew with thick fabrics, but perhaps I’ll work my way up to it eventually. 😉

  23. Thanks for this, the tips are so useful, and I’m just about to sew with some wool too. Perfect timing!

  24. Natasha says:

    I bought two wool fabrics three years ago, buy they’re still waiting for the right pattern.

  25. Anke says:

    You’re such an inspiration Jen! I love this coat. I’m only a beginning seamstress, but I might give this pattern a try next year with my Mum’s help:)

  26. sew2pro says:

    Thanks for the excellent tips!

  27. Vicki Kate says:

    Thank you Jen! I’ve always wanted to make a wool coat but been too intimidated to do so. This has given me a little more confidence!

  28. lisa g says:

    aw man, i had zero plans for making myself a coat this year but you may have changed my mind… love this!!!

  29. Siri says:

    Joining the hoards of people saying that this coat looks awesome! I love sewing with wool (except that it makes my sewing machine very fuzzy) and made my first coat last year. While I spent quite a lot of time swearing while making it the end result is just so rewarding.

    Really looking forward to eventually sewing this one up, it’s probably the first coat pattern I’ve seen that I haven’t wanted to alter in any way. I especially like that it has a huge hood, a front zip AND toggles – need that zip and front flap to keep the wind out!

  30. Sarah says:

    This is the MOST helpful post I’ve seen yet on interfacing a coat! I love the image with all the pieces laid out, and thank you so much for the concise explanation of why various locations need interfacing. Pinned!

    Echoing the above commenter’s request for info about choosing types of interfacing, and could you also discuss lining and interlining? The US is forecasted to have a long winter (hard freezes into Florida through the end of March!) so coats are super interesting right now!

  31. Hi Jen! I really love this coat! The plaid is so amazing but *eep* expensive! I’m so excited you’re releasing this as a pattern! ALSO, never knew there were two sides to a pressing ham for a reason! I just thought you were always supposed to use the white side! The things you learn 🙂 Now I’m going to research pressing hams! Lol

  32. Heather Lou says:

    Amazing tips Jen! Especially good to know about all that interfacing…. the coat looks gorgeous!

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  34. yosami says:

    Beautiful coat – can’t wait for the pattern and very useful post, thank you.

  35. Virginia says:

    Sounds really useful. I’ve stopped sewing autumn/winter garments till July but I enjoy reading. 🙂

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  37. Michelle says:

    Jen, the coat is amazing! I really love the plaid you chose. And, thanks for the tips with regard to working with bulky wool fabrics.

  38. Elizabeth says:

    This is beautiful! I can’t wait for the pattern release. I recently made my daughter a plaid wool winter coat and since that make I’ve been pining for one for me!!! Also the plaid matching links you provided here were a big help as I learned to match plaids for the first time!

  39. discodots says:

    I love this coat, so glad you are releasing the pattern. Some great tips there, thanks. Just wondered if there is a specific kind of interfacing you would recommend?

  40. What a cool pattern, cant’ wait to see it. I’ve not seen many patterns for casual style coats and I love how you’ve made yours. It looks really snuggly too.

  41. Pam Hunter says:

    Beautiful! Pattern? Did I hear the release of a pattern? I can’t wait! And I, too, am interested in the answer with regard to the kind of interfacing you would recommend. Thank you for such an informative post!

  42. alainae says:

    Perfect timing….just making my first wool coat.

  43. symondezyn says:

    These are some really great tips, thanks for sharing! Your winter coat looks amazing! 🙂 I’ve been wanting to sew a winter wool coat for awhile now – just waiting for the right fabric to come into my life ^__^

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  48. Jessamin says:

    Thank you for such an informative post! I am wanting to make winter coats for my kids. We are going to be headed to Utah for Christmas but live in New Mexico. I am trying to figure out what fabric to use. I don’t want a wool coat too heavy for them. I don’t know if that would be a problem but I want something that is nice and warm. Could you suggest a fabric that might work wether it is wool, a wool look alike or something else. Thank you! Here are the patterns I am looking at making.
    http://www.zonen09.com/products/lars-digital-version – with a hood
    &
    https://www.etsy.com/listing/183328507/chic-cocktail-swing-coat-pattern-and?utm_source=OpenGraph&utm_medium=PageTools&utm_campaign=Share – without the ears
    Thank you for your suggestions!

    • Jen says:

      You could try a lightweight wool or wool blend? I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with the climate of Utah and from my very limited knowledge of New Mexico it completely depends on where you live how thick of a jacket you might need. I’d recommend heading out to a fabric store and feeling for something mid-weight. You could get a lighter weight fabric and line it with flannel or something warm alternately. Sorry I just don’t know much about where you’re going to be wearing them or about the patterns you’re using.

  49. laurajane says:

    Thanks for this post! It’s the most helpful one I’ve found about working with wool. You answered almost all of my questions – pretreating, pressing, what needle to use, and how to deal with all that bulk! And now I finally see the value of that walking foot that came with my machine!! But how about finishing seams? Do you overlock them? I don’t have a serger but I do have a stitch that simulates it on my machine… but I don’t see how I can do it with the walking foot on. I’m going to line my skirt and jacket of course, but I don’t want to have the seams raveling away inside. Thanks again!!

  50. Julie says:

    Thank you soooo much for this post. I’m about to venture into making my first coat and was struggling with the fabric. This article was incredibly helpful, and I know i’ll refer back to it many times.

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