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Dec 4, 2010

Toggle Coat Take-off!

Good morning, hoarders, pack rats, and clutterbugs!

Feeling fresh and alive after my week of decluttering (which continues, albeit offstage), I trotted over to the garment district yesterday in search of wool fabric for my toggle coat project, otherwise known as Vogue 8452, an OOP mens pattern from 1992.

Readers, I had forgotten that wool is in a entirely different price category than the fistful of nickles stuff I'm used to purchasing.  I must have hit at least ten fabric stores, primarily on 38th and 39th Streets, and maybe I saw one thing less than $10/yd.  I guess it makes sense when you consider that wool is made from living creatures who must eat, sleep, and occasionally redecorate.  This costs money.

I'm inclined to embellish this shopping trip with excitement, mystery, and romance but it was actually quite cut and dry.  After perusing many wool plaids, I decided that for reasons of practicality -- I'm not  a fashion model after all -- the coat should be solid and dark.  For me that means either gray or navy since I don't look good in camel or olive green.

I found a lovely, medium-weight charcoal gray at Nahir on 242 West 39th St. for $10/yd.  He had an excellent selection, though nowhere near as good as Fabric For Less across the street (239 West 39th St.) -- marvelous mohair plaids for women -- but everything started at $16.99/yd.  I checked out A.K. Fabric: mostly $25/yd.  That's a lot when you consider that I needed three yards of fashion fabric and three yards of contrasting underlining fabric. 

Originally I thought I'd line it with one of those quilted polyester linings one sees so often, but then, upon close examination of the pattern, I realized that the coat deserves something zippier, since one sees the underlining, especially inside the hood and around the neck (the coat itself is not lined).  I decided to underline in a light-weight wool/cashmere blend I found at H&M fabrics at 248 West 35th St. (my favorite wreck-of-a-fabric store and the source of Cathy's much-heralded doubleknit houndstooth) also for $10 a yard.

So here they are --  gray wool (much darker in person):

And plaid wool:


I'm excited to get started.  I'll need to finish the inside seams with seam binding.  The cheap Wright's stuff is too stiff I think.  What should I use?  Can I cut bias from the underlining fabric (the lightweight plaid) or should I use something lighter still?  So many questions.

I swung by C&C buttons at 230 West 38th St. to price toggles.  They're not cheap, not the nice ones anyway.  I'll need four complete sets.  The leather part costs $3.50 each, and the horn (as opposed to plastic imitation) toggle costs $4 each.  So for four...well you do the math; it adds up.  But I've already sunk $60 into this project so I guess I should just go for it, right?  I can always sell another sewing machine.

Meanwhile, friends, look what arrived yesterday evening...

This vintage Sixties luggage wasn't without its (ongoing) drama, as all three pieces have damaged feet (or are missing a foot or two).

The seller described these as being in excellent condition inside and out, which they clearly are not, not now.  I contacted him through eBay and offered to send him photos of their condition.  He claims that when he sent them (in a large box via UPS with no padding or packaging materials whatsoever, just loose in a large box) they were in excellent condition.  (There were a few plastic foot fragments at the bottom of the box, but not enough to account for all the damage.)  He asked what I wanted him to do and I've asked for a reimbursement of half the cost.

Will they suit their purpose -- storage, play -- as is?  Yes, I suppose.  But I wouldn't have bought them if I'd known the feet were damaged.  And while the price was absurdly low as I was the sole bidder, the shipping was exorbitant, so I had the right to expect careful packaging, no?  Anyway, we'll see how this resolves itself.  I hate to be hard-nosed about it but as someone who has sold many, many fragile items on eBay, I would never ship something in a box with no packing peanuts, bubble wrap or something.  It seems negligent.

Still, the luggage is fun and doesn't it make you want to spend the weekend in Paris with Cathy -- even Paris, Illinois?  Alas, she'll be traveling alone.

Friends, that's it.  I hope to prep my fabric today (the dryer/damp-towel pre-shrink) and then we'll see.  This is all new to me as I've never underlined anything before or worked with wool of this weight and (I think) quality.

Happy Saturday, everyone!


  1. Don't forget Paris, Maine. You can also go to Poland, China, Mexico, Norway, Sweden and Denmark in this state. :-)

    Those coat fabrics are gorgeous - can't wait to see them made up.

  2. Lovely fabrics Peter, can't wait to see the finished garment. Am surprised you're not going to line it though, but in that case I would do a hong kong finish with your plaid, as that would look nice when you flash the inside of your coat. I laugh when you gripe at the cost of fabric over there - its so cheap compared to stores in Australia! But I guess its what you're used to. And as for the toggles, if you buy quality fabrics, then you need to buy quality fittings to match, otherwise why bother? you may as well go to Walmart & buy readymade.(shock! horror! oh the pain!)
    Anyway, I think this will look great, & can't wait to see it when its done!

  3. just realised you said you were underlining with the plaid, so in that case go for a red satin binding on the seams (to match the plaid) - that would look brilliant!

  4. Maybe Cathy can visit Paris, Texas!

    That fabric is gorgeous! I love the colors you picked out and I think the red satin binding is a fabulous idea.

    I've been in a sewing funk for several weeks now but this new project has me thinking about starting (or finishing) something... hmmm, what to do, what to do...

  5. Are we talking poly satin? I know where I can get that but is it light and flexible enough?

  6. I bought wool on sale earlier this year, coat weight, for $9.03 a yard from And it was the expensive $25 a yard kind. I won't be using it for its intended purpose this year, though, because we found three coats in Evie's size at consignment sales this year. We lucked out, so I located another copy of the pattern we fell in love with in the next size up and I'll make it next year. Luckily, I bought 2.5 yards because I didn't notice that it was 60" wide, so I'll have plenty.... with leftovers to make a matching coat for her dolly.

    I look forward to your posts on this project. It gives me something to look forward to in my sea of pajamas. (Four down, nine to go...)

  7. Lovely fabrics!

    I've just returned from Parris Island, but I didn't see Cathy. Unless she had a shaved head and was wearing combat boots. ;-)

    Good luck working out a solution for the luggage.

  8. Nice fabrics, but I'd line the sleeves in something slippery or you'll have trouble getting it on and off over things like sweaters.

  9. looking forward to it. I need to make something similar for myself so seeing you go through it will help with my process. Thanks a million for blogging, I love your site.

  10. Plaid on the bias! Plaid on the bias! You'll find working with the wool this way is lovely.

  11. I love duffel coats- I can't wait to see this one. The plaid peeking out ought to be really neat :-)

  12. Wait: plaid on the bias for the bindings you mean?

  13. No point in spending the $ and time on high quality natural fiber fabrics, just to line or bind it with polyester. I really think that the coat should either be fully lined in silk for ease of putting on, or fully underlined with a solid (red?) silk and then Hong Kong finish the seams with your plaid wool.

  14. I love the material - I agree with the comment about hong kong finish and silk (a double weave silk would be great with that wool). One thing about wool though -- steam/press/steam/press -- a lovely sewing teacher showed me the miracles a clapper can do with a wool seam. Good luck! What a fun project!

  15. Plaid on the bias for the interlining.

    Silk or high quality rayon lining, at least for the sleeves. Silk twill is really nice and fairly sturdy. I have a wool coat with rayon twill lining.

  16. I vote for- using your plaid for the underlining, and do something red and silky for sleeve lining - ease of putting on and off is so vital!- and then red bias binding on hong kong seams in the body of the coat. I have a super cute gray wool coat and I am so glad my sleeves are lined even if the rest of the coat is not.

  17. Because I am a shameless copycat and in desperate need of a new hooded toggle coat, I picked this pattern up on eBay. (It is unisex, after all!) I admit, when I reviewed the instructions and saw that the coat was underlined, I thought to myself, "Oh, patten instructions, you can be so silly sometimes. Clearly this coat should be lined!" I love the idea of plaid inside the hood, but I agree with the others that you might want to line at least the sleeves with something slippery.

    I'm making my coat out of hot pink wool coating and lining it with a heavy rayon coat lining. I'm going to self-line the hood with wool, because I need it to keep my head warm. I'm also using Thinsulate insulation because I live in Minnesota where sub-zero temps are common. I think I may just buy wood toggle buttons and attach them to the coat using some kind of cording. My current RTW toggle coat is like this, and I like the look. But the toggles with the leather patches might be easier, so I'm still debating this one.

  18. Very nice fabric choices. Are you planning on having the yardage dry cleaned prior to cutting? Please say yes. And $60 for materials is NOTHING for a coat that can last you the rest of your life.

    So your interlining is the plaid or the lining of the coat? You could interline the coat in muslin or a batting if you wanted extra warmth.

    As for the bias tape, I try to tape everything in cotton. A shirting cotton or lighter. Its just a good fail safe/know how its going to preform fabric.

    Goooooooooood luck!

  19. Hi Peter, love the fabrics for this project. $60 isn't a huge amount to pay for a winter coat. I think it's about £45 and I've paid that per meter here in the UK (Don't tell my other half!)
    There is a saying "Don't spoil the ship for h'penny o' tar". IE don't skimp on the small things. If you used red silk organza for the Hong Kong finished seams that would give it a real "couture" feel, and I'm with the others re sleeve linings - an acetate satin (or silk) would be a great help for slipping the coat on and off.
    Good Luck, I'll be following your progress with interest

  20. Good luck on your toggle coat adventure. I'm so glad you're not skimping on the materials.

  21. Yes, for the bindings I meant. Make self-bias tape from the plaid underlining fabric. I can't abide with purchased bias tape. It's always so icky.

  22. I'm going to experiment with some black cotton sateen I have as well as with the plaid wool (if it's thin enough and I have enough left over) and see which works best for seam binding.

  23. I'm very excited about your toggle coat, I love the fabrics you've chosen.

    I just finished New Look 6920 in a wool blend. I serged all the pieces before putting it together as there was no lining and I've never done one before though I've heard they're not difficult. I also thought of bias binding but had nothing appropriate on hand.

    BTW, my Viking Sapphire 850 sailed through the cross seams with nary a sputter. I'm very impressed with her!!

  24. Love the fabrics for your coat, and ditto on making the sleeve lining something slippery. You can preshrink wool in the dryer, too ... check Gertie's blog (Lady Grey coat sewalong section) for the link to the blog that has the directions. And I'm with you on giving the eBay guy some grief for poor packaging. People are always trying to save money by skimping on proper packaging and then wondering why their stuff gets damaged in transit. Let me just say that if you've ever seen how things are handled by shippers, you'll know why the packing and shipping store folks recommend proper packaging!!


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