Three decades spring trench

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.

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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.

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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.

fabric on table

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. DSC09555

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 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.




55 thoughts on “Three decades spring trench

  1. I too have this pattern and I am now toying with making it after seeing your coat. I love your coat. That blue is beautiful andvv5he faint outline of tharr vivid fabric is lovely. Thanks fo f2f bthe warning re the shoulders. What a crazy fsshion that was.

    1. This pattern seems to be unobtainable so it’s great that you’ve got it. It is so easy to make that you should give it a go. I would advise sorting the shoulders out before you cut into your fabric. Perhaps overlay a different pattern and cut the armholes and sleeves together.

  2. You have done an amazing job turning that hideous (sorry!) fabric into a lovely colour and the coat looks great. Also, typical man hating it one minute and loving it the next!

    1. No, you’re right, it was hideous and I came so close to inflicting it on you (just joking, but I nearly gave it to the op shop!). Had to laugh about your comment re men. Mark is usually so supportive that when he told me to bin it, I really gave it some thought.

  3. Fantastic trench, you have certainly worked your magic on this garment, love the story behind it and also reading the Knit with story, my Mum did the course not sure if she still has the certificate.

    1. I found the Knitwit story fascinating and immediately hunted through my stash for the patterns. I think I may have given some of the more extreme ones away which is a shame.

      1. I caught up with a girlfriend on Friday morning and she gave me her mother’s Knitwit binder and cutting board, need to have a better look but I don’t think there are any patterns.

  4. Great looking trench! I love the look of the overdyed fabric. Brilliant solution for dealing with vintage fabric from era when “the brighter, the better”. I definitely have some of it in my stash.

  5. The trench coat looks terrific, most people would not notice anything. Why are we sewiists so hard on ourselves, feeling we have to point out every little mistake?

    1. I know, I am the worst at pointing out the mistakes in case someone does it to me first! If I bought this I would think it was pretty well made.

  6. Wow! You have done a fantastic job of turning what could have been some ugly fabric into something fabulous. Sometimes having what we consider ugly fabric really does get the creative juices flowing and in your case make something really super.

    1. Thank you so much Christine, I have come so close to giving this fabric away but it’s lovely fabric, just a horrible design. It’s nice to be wearing it.

  7. I’m blown away at how much you changed the look of your fabric — that’s some neat thinking! And your trench coat came out really nice! 🙂

    1. Thank you Tammy, this must be the easiest trench coat to make – ever! I am now looking to see if I can redesign it a little bit for another one.

  8. I really enjoyed reading your account of this coat, Sue, and your description of the “robust discussion” made me chuckle! The 3 decades coat is great, and a super homage to a lifelong love of sewing and fabric.

  9. I really like this the overdye makes it a bit fancier than a plain blue it’s fab. I LOVE KNITWIT, I buy all my knit fabrics from there and they are posted all the way from WA to sunny Brisbane!

  10. Good that you were stubborn and did not throw the thing in the bin when Mark suggested it! Between you and me, that’s a typical reaction with men and this is why I gave up asking Richard’s advice on my makes. 😉 Anyway, your coat turned out great. How satisfying to know that you were able to recover a pattern AND a fabric. Bravo!

  11. I love that you carried on after Mark suggested binning this! Your ability to dye fabric has really been useful here – although I have to confess I kind of liked the original colours- and your trench looks great. Absolutely a ‘go to coat’ 😃.

    1. I really was finishing because I hate to leave things unfinished and thought I could donate it if it was finished. It really is a go to coat!

  12. I’m so glad this worked out! I saw your post on FB and you sounded really unhappy about it! It looks really great! Hope you enjoy wearing it loads!

  13. No one can go wrong wearing a trench coat. These type of coats are so classic, stylish and comfortable to wear. Your version shows that even a pattern from three decades is still great to use.

  14. I didn’t believe that those are both the same fabric! It looks soooo different after you’ve dyed it! I love it! I like the whole coat and I like that it is a little wider, looks casual! 🙂

    1. Oh, thank you so much! I love the idea of taking loathed fabric and turning it into something more interesting (or less interesting!) with a bit of dye.

  15. Hello! Trying to make contact. Would you kindly get in touch. Thanks so much. Regards, Linda

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