Making a Raincoat!
Let’s make a raincoat!
In true ‘fearless’ style, sometimes I can jump right into a project that I might otherwise feel was a little beyond me. Sometimes it pays off, I feel proud and have a huge sense of achievement, not to mention a fabulous new hand made garment to wear.
Sometimes it doesn’t pay off at all and I feel like the project was a slog and I am not happy with the end results.
This raincoat is in that second scenario and as I reflect on my recent lack of sew-jo, I think I can attribute quite a lot of that to this project.
I started out with the right intentions. I wanted a waterproof coat that could weather the rainy dog walks of the winter in Auckland and of course, I decided I needed to make it myself. From the point I had decided it would be made, there were a number of ‘signs’ that I should have listened to.
Raincoat Patterns for Plus-Sizes
The first thing that should have told me to think properly about my plans is the huge lack of patterns for what I wanted to sew. I didn’t think I was asking for much.
I wanted a longer-line anorak style jacket; I wanted it to be lined; ideally not raglan sleeves; a hood; and a size range that wouldn’t need too much reworking.
2 years into my sewing journey, it still frustrates and surprised me at just how many patterns don’t cater to my size. I don’t really consider myself to be especially plus sized (disillusioned maybe) but I was horrified at just how many of the patterns I found for this project had to be discounted because of their woefully inadequate sizing – Pauline Alice, Tilly and the Buttons, I’m looking at you – and a host of others.
There were options I could have chosen that would have meant a big compromise on what I wanted to make. I really wanted a lined jacket as I don’t like the idea of waterproof fabric on my skin, and I didn’t want the hassle of creating a lining myself and so patterns such as the Closet Core Kelly Anorak and Fibre Mood Abby were discounted.
I found the Amy Nicole Whitney coat and it ticked almost all of the boxes. It has a great size range, long-line options, with lining, I only had to concede on the raglan sleeves.
This was all way back in March when I started to make a toile for the Whitney jacket. I measured up, cut out my old bedsheet and then hit real problems pretty quickly with the fit on the shoulder. Even taking to Instagram for some advice from the community on this fit issue didn’t help and the way it looked was a real problem for me. I spent some time looking at more images of this pattern made up on Instagram and I could see lots of other people had this problem too and I just wasn’t keen to carry on with it.
I scoured the internet looking for another option and I was just abut to give up on my me-made raincoat plans when I found the Rebecca Page Andie Anorak.
Actually, I came across Rebecca Page as this wasn’t a pattern company I had heard of before, Again, the Andie looked like it ticked my boxes. The size range is great, it’s lined, long-line, the only compromise was that again it had raglan sleeves.
A quick check over of the pattern and I thought I would give it a try.
Finding Good Waterproof Fabric for Home Sewing
The second sign that should have told me that making a raincoat might not be my best project was the lack of decent fabric options. I found some waterproof nylon but the colour range was so drab and I didn’t want my make to look like a school coat! I found some fabric that looked good in a blue shade. It had a sheen on it but didn’t feel too plasticky or waxy and I thought it would work.
It still felt like it might look like a school coat though and I really wanted something to brighten it up. It turns out in NZ we just don’t have that option so I took to my good friend Google. I found some fabulous options from a fabric company in Germany, except I only realised at the checkout that shipping to NZ was not an option! Grr.
I searched a little more and found Flamingo Fabrics in the UK who have a pretty big range of waterproof fabrics. I was taken by a few options but when I landed on their aqua leopard print, I knew it was what I wanted and would contrast with the blue fabric perfectly.
It took somo time to get to NZ though, so from a project that kicked off in March, I finally started cutting out and making it in early June.
7 things I have learned about sewing with waterproof fabrics
This is the first time I have sewn with waterproof fabric and so clearly, I am no expert. I did learn a few things along the way though and wanted to share.
1. Waterproof fabrics are not all the same
Sounds obvious right? I was so overjoyed that I found some fabric in a colour that was ok, that I didn’t stop to think enough about whether it was really the right kind of fabric. There are lots of different types, nylons and polys to coated cottons and they will all handle and sew up differently. The plain blue fabric I used for most of my jacket is quite light and prone to being pulled along and out of shape by the foot/dogs (see collar close up 🙁 ). The leopard print fabric on the other hand, even though lighter weight, has more structure and actually sewed up really nicely.
2. Will it press?
Have a think about what you are making and how much pressing might make a difference. The blue fabric could take a press and would hold the crease but the leopard print did not. I used extra top stitching to account for this.
3. Will your waterproof fabric drape?
The blue fabric I used has a fair bit of drape to it and because it also has a sheen all the ripples in the fabric show. In hindsight, I actually don’t think this fabric has enough structure for the pattern I made and I didn’t stop to consider the properly. If I were to make this again, I would really re-think the whole fabric combo and I would not use an exterior fabric with as much drape.
4. Carefully consider your lining.
Not necessarily aboout the waterproof fabric, but more about how the fabrics work together, I learned a valuable lesson with this project about lining. I chose a lightweight merino to line this with. I wanted a warmer, natural fibre layer. This wasn’t a good choice though with such a lightweight and drapier exterior fabric. Even though it was lightweight, the lining was too heavy for the fabric and I have created a weight issue with drag lines all over the place and a hem that doesn’t sit properly.
5. Check your iron temp on a scrap first
Check your iron heat on a scrap piece before taking it to your seams. The highly synthectic nature of waterproof fabric means one touch from an iron too hot will melt it into a messy mess. Check the limits of your fabric before you press your seams.
6. Waterproof your seams to keep the rain out!
If you want your jacket to be truly watertight, you will need to seal your seams. You can get a bonded tape to do this, or a gel-paste. Again, options for this in NZ were really limiting so I had to use what I could get. I managed to find a sealant paste from an outdoor/tent shop. It worked and was straightforward enough to apply but I would use the tape if I’d have had the option just as it would be less messy, with less of a delay for curing. I have a review of how I sealed my seams here.
7. Be careful where you put your pins
With waterproof fabric, be careful where you put your pins. I used clips as much as I could to keep the puncture holes away from my project. Where I did need to use pins I made sure they were within the seam allowance.
Sewing Up My Andie Coat
The Andie Anorak sewing pattern has a lot of extras, straps at the wrist, on the hood (which is also an optional extra), pockets and epaulettes. I could have left them all off the keep things more simple, but of course, I added them all.
I found the early stages of making this coat really satisfying. The instructions, although lacking on the illustration front, were straightforward to follow and making all the neat little additions to the jacket was a good way to ease into handling the fabric.
There were a couple of steps in the project where I couldn’t follow the image. They have used photos rather than illustrations and used a really busy print for their guide project which was not the best idea for clear images IMO.
The jacket itself came together pretty easily but by having ALL the extras, I did make it a much longer project. Not only this, but also due to my inexperience with the fabric, there were just a few things that didn’t go right or that I didn’t anticipate or plan well for.
1. My fabric choice: The blue fabric that I used for the main coat actually has too much drape and not enough structure for the pattern. It wasn’t the right choice for this longer lined jacket. It doesn’t hang right from the shoulders and I have pull lines (not from poor fit I think?) just becauase of the way the fabric hangs, and the way it interacts with the other fabrics I used. This was especially problematic on curves – cue attaching the collar where the fabric dragged and distorted. I think I kind of knew that the fabric wasn’t right quite right when I bought it, but I went with it as there wasn’t another option at the time.
2. Not being able to unpick: Usually, finding problems and tackling them as I go is all par for the course with my sewing. I am good friends with my seam ripper and not afraid to use it. Except with this fabric which can’t be unpicked without leaving puncture holes, so my mistaks are there for good.
3. I should have tested the fasteners first: I really struggled with the poppers/snaps on this project. I have concluded that they just weren’t right for the fabric. When trying to pull them apart it feels like the fabric will rip/stretch. I should have tested them first and I’d have made changes – either adding a zip or some sort of toggle fastening.
I don’t mind a longer project, in fact often it’s what I am looking for as. I love to be challenged and learn. It is a bit disheartening however when you finish a long project that has taken a lot of effort and don’t like the results. Exhibit A.
The combination of a few too many visible mistakes and not 100% liking the fabric mean that this project is, in my head, marred and has created that feeling of dissatisfaction with the project. This overspilled a little and knocked my sew-jo for a while.
All that said, I made this to wear for wet and muddy walks, not for a fashion show and for that it is perfectly fine. I have work it quite a bit in these last few weeks, in some pretty heavy rain and while I wouldn’t wear it for anything else, it kept me warm and dry!
So, what can I take from this? I definitely will stop to consider that if I am not 100% sure about a fabric, it probably isn’t right, but it definitely won’t be the last time I jump into a bigger project both feet first without thinking.
That’s all part of the fun right!
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