The Sewalongs and Sewing Contests Facebook group is currently running a competition and trench coats are part of it. I had no intention of participating in this as (a) I’m an admin and ineligible for a prize, and (b) couldn’t face making a trench coat, but somehow I got swept up into the general excitement and undertook to make one, knowing that I had this original Knitwit pattern in my stash, which I’ve always had a fancy to make.
The pattern is from the 1980s and was designed specifically for a fabric called “Doe”. I scurried off to Knitwit and enquired about the fabric to discover that it was stretchy suede (I can actually remember it) and that it is no longer in production. Okay. I need fabric.
This extremely lurid knit was bought back in 1979 when knits weren’t really a thing for me and I’ve had it out of the stash on many occasions but just couldn’t face wearing it.
I began to think it would be really good to toile the trench and then I could remake it in something more appropriate. I laid it out on the cutting table and then thought that the wrong side of the fabric might work, especially if I overdyed it, thereby saving me lots of trouble of finding more fabric.
I didn’t have enough fabric for a long trench à la the pattern drawing, but a spring trench that is short is nice, so I reduced the length of the pattern pieces and began cutting away.
Then I had to choose some dye – brown or blue? Blue or brown? I decided on brown but then discovered I only had blue in the cupboard, so blue it was!
I dyed the pattern pieces and a few large scraps and the wrong side of the fabric looked ok. This might work. I joined the shoulders and side seams and swanned out to my husband for an opinion who took one look and asked me why it was on inside out! A rather robust discussion ensued and he told me to not waste my time and put the whole thing in the bin. In the bin!!
I chose to ignore him and went back to the toile idea. I thought if I made it up as per the pattern I could see what issues I might have. I wasn’t overly careful with things like sewing on the pockets, and the tie is a multitude of scraps sewn together.
I stuck it on, went to show Mark, who said “actually, I like it” What? Now it’s all sloppily sewn (more sloppily than usual, that is).
I had a good look in the mirror and decided I quite liked it too. You can see all my joins in the tie in the above photo.
So, the colour and wrong side of the fabric got ticks, the general style was ok, but I had a bit of a problem with the width of the shoulders. This pattern is a product of the ’80s when power shoulders were very much in vogue. I put shoulder pads in, but felt they were still far too big, so set about unpicking the sleeves to see if I could make them a better fit. I took 3.5cm off the shoulders and could probably have gone to 5cm, but I was worried about getting the sleeve to fit back in. I can see from this photo that the back of my right sleeve has a bit of puckering from where I altered it, amazing that it doesn’t show when it’s off my body, but is clear as day in the photograph. The shoulders are still pretty wide, but I think I can live with them – unless I find the energy for more unpicking and some serious reshaping.
You can see that I also had to piece the sleeves due to severe fabric shortage.
I am not good with this sort of tie belt – I always feel as bit like a sack tied in the middle, but if I’m careful with the tying it doesn’t look too bad – unlike here where I just tied it up without a care in the world!
I named this my three decades trench because the pattern is from the 1980s, the fabric from the 1970s and the buttons are from the 1960s.
This pattern led me to investigate Vera Randall, who is behind all the Knitwit patterns that I own, and some of the Kwik Sew patterns too. I came across this article from the ABC archives https://open.abc.net.au/explore/63468 and I had a good laugh, as I was a certified knitwit in the 1980s! I was discussing this with a friend who came to the classes with me and she claimed to still have her certificate which I thought was impressive.
What made me a little sad is the knowledge that my local Knitwit store is the only one remaining from the fifty or so stores that had been in existence. We need to keep supporting them!
I have worn this trench three times since I finished it, and I think that it’s safe to say that it will be my go to coat for spring and I probably won’t make another one.