Make it, mend it

Suzie Blackman
Thursday, 21 January 2010

My neglected coat

I’ve not previously blogged about my sewing exploits as it’s been a while since I took on a big project, but today one landed in my lap.

This morning I noticed that the condition of my beloved coat had deteriorated from slightly raggedy lining, to a mere thread away from side-seam destruction.

The story of my coat starts in autumn 2004. The nights were drawing in, winter was approaching and it was time to set about making a new coat. I bought some fantastic vintage, checked, heavyweight tweed from eBay and found a great looking pattern for a large-collared, sixties-inspired trench coat – Vogue pattern 2449. Perfect!

The course of true coat love did not run smooth. It turns out that trench coats are not supposed to be made in a heavy fabric (duh). I had to make significant alterations, removing the mock back shield, epaulettes etc. I broke my sewing machine top-stitching the collar – it seems that four thicknesses of heavy tweed is too much for a domestic machine.

Vogue pattern 2449 (out of print)

When I finally got the outer-shall assembled, I discovered that it was vastly oversized and looked ridiculous on. I ended up taking the whole body apart and re-seaming it, taking it in by inches at the shoulders, back and waist. Of course, winter had come and gone by the time it was finished, but by the following winter, I had my dream coat.

It has lasted fantastically well, and from the outside you’d never know that it was suffering. The heavy-weight tweed is not only gorgeous, but extremely tough and warm thanks to its tightly spun threads. It has survived machine washing, clawing by cats and five winters of daily wear with not even a hint of pilling.

disintegrated lining and fraying seams

The lining material was not so great, I chose a brown/purple shot acetate for its colour and price, but the quality was poor, mistake #1. The lining seams at centre back ripped quite early on, and have now disintegrated at the sides and sleeves. This has left the tweed side seams exposed to rubbing and now they’re going. Mistake #2 was not taping the seams! The back vent has ripped at the seam and through the lining fabric. The belt buckle broke during the coat’s first week in the outside world, and although I have never missed it, I’ve got a new one ready.

The repairs

I plan to carefully remove the existing lining and to cut a new one using the old one as a template in a stronger fabric, maybe brushed cotton, maybe raw silk. I’m going to cut it to be larger at the centre back, where it first ripped. Cutting the lining the right size in the first place was incredibly difficult as I’d altered the pattern so much.

Vintage, heavyweight, wool tweed

With the lining out, I’ll repair the back vent and reinforce with grosgrain ribbon. I have to take in the sides of the tweed shell by a few millimetres where they are fraying, and tape all the raw edges of tweed to prevent this happening in future.

The lining will be re-assembled, reinforced at the seams with grosgrain ribbon, and hand-sewn back into shell, sleeves linings first, then body lining sewn onto sleeve lining. All raw edges will be overlocked.

The author

Suzie Blackman

The dyer, designer, photographer, creative technologist and maker-of-things behind It's a Stitch Up. She lives in East London in a home filled with colour, fluff and house plants.


  1. Pauline Denmark says:

    I am about to reline two M&S coats for my daughter, but am having great problems finding polyster or acetate lining material on line. I am disabled, so can’t trudge around shops looking for it. Would you be kind enough to let me know where you buy yours, if it is an on-line source in UK.

    Great to see someone with good tailoring skills – not enough of us about these days!

  2. Shuriu Lo says:

    Suzie! Congratulations for tackling this sewing project. It can be so tedious and not so fun to sew because of the machine (versus knitting! textile, texture, and just my hands with the needles!) and all the many variables that make sewing weigh one down. To me it sometimes feels like a chore from creative vision to implementation of a design idea. Good luck getting it done and ready before warmer weather returns this time, too. Perhaps London fashion week will inspire you soon!

  3. Charlotte says:

    Hi Suzie,

    I’m really glad I found your post! I have a favourite coat that is on it’s last legs lining-wise. As a novice sewer I’ve been shying away from doing the task myself, but the cost of paying someone else to do it – £70+ made me think again! Could you give me any tips on doing this for the first time? How much fabric will re-lining a size 8 coat need??

    • Suzie says:

      Hi Carlotte, well done for having a go! It shouldn’t be difficult. I would think that 2m would be enough (or 3 if it’s a very long coat). The easiest way is to detatch the old lining from the jacket and separate out the sleeves, back and front. You can simply cut round the old lining pieces to make the new lining. I’d start with the sleeves as they’re the easiest and you can sew them back into the coat at the shoulders before doing the rest of the lining. When doing the cuffs and and bottom hem, allow an inch of extra lining fabric, then iron a fold after stitching. This stops the lining tugging on the outer fabric.

      Good luck with it and let us know how you get on!


More posts...