Many years ago, before I learned to bargain shop and barter and inspect the goods I was buying, I bought a wool blanket. It was a beautiful Hudson Bay labeled blanket. I fell in love. The lady showed it to me and talked about how wonderful it was and I paid a hefty sum for it. I never noticed that she only unfolded it half way.
I took it home and completely unfolded it. It was moth eaten all along one main fold line and the bottom hem was torn, there were tiny holes along the other fold lines. And, it was excessively, violently dusty. I was quite upset.
I did what I could to make it usable, but that wasn't much and, consequently, it didn't get used much. And, I didn't know how to launder it and my attempts to hand wash it were not very successful, so over the years, it gathered even more dust. But, the fold of the good side made a beautiful addition to my linen closet. (these were my Martha Stewart days, after all.)
Let's say 8-10 years pass, during which it moves from storage place to storage place and gets dustier and sadder and more useless. And, I start to quilt. So, no need for itchy wool blankets anymore, anyway.
One day I was inspired. I pulled out a pattern for a bathrobe and used it to cut the blanket into a coat, cutting it to eliminate all the moth holes and the ripped hem. Then, I handwashed the coat (why didn't I wash the blanket??? I cannot remember. But Rob and I both remember suffering while I sewed away, like Linus in a cloud of dust.) I hung it to dry and then added a slick, silky polyester lining. Hmmm. A beautiful idea and it ended up being a beautiful coat...as long as you didn't get too close. Up close, it was a disaster. It wasn't big enough in the back, the topstitching was wavy. The button holes were a mess. And, it was still dusty.
Eight years pass and I see a blogger I follow make a wool coat (Thank you, Peter). And, I am inspired. I think about it and think about it. I remember that there are 4 inches of extra fabric in the back of that coat in some huge french seams. That's why it was not wide enough when finished. And, I have a better machine and have learned to sew straight lines and I can make a buttonhole.
Last night, I took it completely apart and I picked a new lining of a soft neutral denim with a little give to it. Of course, the original pattern is lost, so I ironed all those existing dusty pieces and used them to cut the lining fabric out. Then, I washed the wool and hung it to dry and ironed the heck out of it. Finally, no longer dusty.
I basted the lining together to use as a muslin. First alteration, fix the sleeve length. I had 4 inches of wool tucked up in the old sleeves. It made a pretty sleeve because you could never see the lining. But, I think I might be able to do that with just 2 inches folded up for a hem. Then, I have to decide if I'm going to try to change the collar. I like the rolled collar on this coat, but it hung funny with a twist above the top button. It doesn't hang funny on the muslin, so not sure what I'll do with that. It will have three buttons down the front and the botton holes will have to be hand sewn as the holes are already cut. I'll add a scrap of wool to each, between the outside and the lining, to make sure I get a pretty edge. Next, I'll need to adjust the length to fit the shortest piece, which is probably the back, where I had sewn two pieces together...badly, and turned the bad looking seam to the inside. Next time, I'll redo that seam and make it the hemline, which should work nicely. I definitely want the coat to come down to cover my behind, and I think there's plenty of length for that.
Then, when I'm happy, I can take the muslin apart to use as my final pattern. I tried it on this morning and it fits in the shoulders, with plenty to spare. A bit loose in the waist, but I might tailor it down a bit more in the side seams to get rid of that. And, I plan to add pockets. There's no wool blanket left, so the pockets will have to be invisible and set into the side seams. I'll try that on the muslin and see how it works out.
In short, I'm pretty happy for somebody that's working without a pattern. And, since it wasn't wearable before I took it apart, I really have nothing to lose if it doesn't go back together again except maybe a remnant of denim.
Wish me luck. As I run into a problem, I pull out my book to see how to solve it. If it works out, this might be the coat I wear to Minneapolis in a couple of weeks. It sure promises to be the warmest thing I own if goes back together. And, if I'm not too ashamed to wear it.