Fox Coat- Getting Organised

Last year Toby’s Bunny coat was one of my favorite makes both for the process and the finished garment, so I decided it would be a shame not to make him another animal coat in the next size up. This time I’m going to make the fox coat from ‘The Fox, the Bear and the Bunny’ in the age 2-3 size.

For a more involved project like this I don’t really have the right fabric and notions at home in my stash or available locally so it takes a bit of planning and preparation. I’ve been ordering samples of corduroy and wool for the main outer body of the coat, trying to find one that has the right foxy rusty shade of orange! I’m still not sure any of these is quite the right thing. Though I like the colour for some of them, they are a bit ‘soft’ and lightweight so the search continues.

I’m going to use the same faux fur as on the bunny coat for the foxes ear and tail appliques, and probably for the front accent too. I haven’t yet decided if I will line it in the fur again, or whether I will choose a fun coordinating cotton for the lining. The bunny coat is so soft and fluffy inside that I am leaning towards using the fur. I have seen some cute fox print cotton’s though too so that is also an option, perhaps with a flannel or thinsulate underlining to help keep it cosy.

The other big task before I can commence cutting and sewing has been tracing off all the pattern pieces. I am not always a tracer- on PDF patterns for me I usually just cut them to the right size, but for children’s patterns where I’m planning to use multiple sizes and pattern books I always trace. I did find the patterns in this book a little odd the first few times I used them and I took a while to find the tiny grainline arrow, but now that I know what I’m looking for it is much simpler!

I know lots of people swear by different methods of tracing. Personally I always choose this squared dressmakers tracing paper from Amazon. I like having the squares to help me align things to grain, it is a nice weight- not to thin and flimsy, and it can arrive next day with prime if you are halfway through something and run out!

I still have a few more decisions to make and notions to order but i’m pretty exited to see this coming together.


Roar like a lion

Toby has only just started fitting into his penguin dungarees, and although the body fits pretty well at the moment, the legs are still a little long. We have had some lovely adventures wearing them already!

For this next pair, I decided to size up to the 18-24 month size, but keep the length of the 12-18. I think that it might suit his slightly stocky proportions (and bulky cloth nappy) better!

These are the same Fox dungarees pattern from ‘The Fox, the Bear and the Bunny” and felt very quick to sew up this time. They really are very simple with just two front and two back pieces in each the lining and outer fabrics. This time I’ve used up the remnants of corduroy from Toby’s Bunny coat, and another fun printed polycotton for the lining.

Just like with the penguin dungarees, I chose an image that I liked for the pocket animal design and sketched (or traced) it at a suitable scale. The lion face seemed like a good theme to co-ordinate with the cream corduroy and yellow suns on the lining. Just remember to keep the outer shape really simple. I did decide to simplify mine when I was considering adding the seam allowances on. I realised that the more points there were, and the tighter the curves, the more difficult it would be to turn through the lining neatly.

I finished the hems in the same way was the previous pair, folding and pressing the lining 1cm shorter than the main fabric. This prevents the lining from sticking out at all when they are worn full length and is almost like a mini facing. It gives a really clean finish that I’m happy to have visible when they are rolled up too.

About the only change I did make was to swap the direction of the buttonholes on this pair. The penguin dungarees have horizontal buttonholes at the top of the bib, and I have noticed them pulling slightly sometimes. I’m hoping that making them vertical this time will solve the problem

I did slip another of these little Kylie and the Machine labels in the side seam. It’s nice to be able to show off a little with some cute finishing touches!

Once again I’m not expecting them to fit right away, but I’m expecting sewing time to be a bit thin on the ground in the next few months so it is nice to have something finished to look forward to using! I can see that this is a pattern I am going to keep coming back to as Toby grows so I’m glad that the sizes in the book go up to 4-5 years. Now I’ve got the hang of designing my own pocket animals I’m sure I will be taking requests as he grows up!

Bunny coat- all finished and ready to wear

So, I’ve managed to finish a coat! This is quite a picture heavy post because there are lots of details to look at, and I had to show off my gorgeous little model! There are some more pictures of the construction process in my previous post, so I thought I’d focus on the later parts of the construction like the lining, and the finished coat for this post. This is also another tick from my make 9, so I’m feeling pretty smug with 7 out of 9 complete!

The lining of the coat is designed to be a couple of centimetres shorter than the outer, so that when it’s all put together the hemline is really cleanly finished, and the intersection between lining and outer sits on the inside. It just takes a bit of precision in the folding and sewing, and trust that it will come together as planned!

There are both poppers and toggles to fasten the coat. I like the way that from the outside it is just the toggles that are visible which looks quite traditional, but the poppers add a lot in terms of functionality. They help to keep that baffle tightly closed against a breeze and make sure that the coat stays cosily fastened right up to the neck. I installed mine with Vario Pliers, because I find it a lot more precise than hitting everything with a hammer.

Like the penguin dungarees, the pattern doesn’t include markings for either the toggles or the poppers, but does include good instructions to help you position them for yourself. I used wash away tape to hold the ‘leather’ for the toggles in place while I sewed because I didn’t want to put extra pin marks into them.

I decided to include a hanging loop which isn’t in the instructions, but will make this a bit more practical for everyday use. I made sure to sew it in twice, because the finished coat is fairly heavy, and that little loop will need to support the whole weight of it. I also included one of these beautiful Kylie and the Machine labels. I’ve not really used labels in the past, but I thought that for such a special sew, with all the work that went into it, it needs to be celebrated! These little ‘handmade’ labels come from a pack with an assortment of rainbow colours, so I’m sure you will be seeing them again in things that I’m feeling especially proud of.

The bunny ears do make the hood quite heavy, but look so cute hanging down the back! When the hood is up they flop down either side if the head rather than stand up tall because they are so heavy and don’t contain any interfacing or stiffening.

I like the little peek of fur at the end of the cuffs too. The lining is cut slightly longer than the outer on this version of the coat to facilitate this, but on the other coats in the book the lining stays hidden so it would be easy to change it in this coat too if you preferred.

The sleeves are too long on Toby at the moment, but rolling them back looks fine because you just end up with a bigger furry cuff!

This is going to be one cosy coat! It just feels beautifully weighty and soft. Having tackled this first coat for Toby I think it would be a nice tradition to make him another next winter but perhaps choose another of the animals. I’m definitely tempted by the fox for next time! Maybe finishing this one will give me the boost that I need to finish off my Taylor Trench for myself too.

Bunny coat- sewing in progress

This coat is coming together so much more quickly than I anticipated! I am just loving seeing it come together, and that it great motivation for fitting in just one more little seam. Initially I wasn’t sure what the experience of sewing with the fur would be like, especially with the constraint that it can’t really be pressed so many of the seams need topstitching flat, but so far it hasn’t been a problem at all.

Speaking of the fur, it is so satisfying teasing the trapped sections of fur out of the seams once they have been sewn. On the seams where there is fur sewn to fur you can hardly see the seam once it’s done because it gets covered over by the pile.

I did a few test swatches of the settings that I planned to use for the applique sections and ended up choosing a much shorter stitch length than the book recommends. I just preferred the way that the dense stitching completely covered the cut edge of the applique piece.

I also found some suitably coloured and themed quilting cotton to line the pockets. The patch pockets would be so bulky if they were lined in fur like the rest of the coat, so it was definitely a good choice. I like these leaves because they remind me of autumn which seems appropriate in a coat.

The hood is also partially constructed now, including these amazing bunny ears! They are pretty heavy, and I was impressed that my sewing machine coped with 7 layers of corduroy and 2 of fur plus seam allowances without complaint! I did switch to a slightly chunkier needle for that section though. The inside of the hood is just so soft and snuggly!

The only problem that I have run into so far with sewing this up was entirely of my own making. When trying to topstitch one of the seams while keeping the fur out of the way I managed to stitch through my finger! ouch! fortunately it was only the skin at the very tip and it seems to be healing nicely but I’ve been a lot more cautious and careful since then!

I still have the lining to construct, and I’m hoping that it won’t stall me in the same way that lining my Taylor Trench seems to have! I really need to get back on to finishing that coat project too at some point soon! In the meantime, I’m really enjoying the process of creating something which will hopefully be a treasured hand me down for children in my family for many years to come!

Bunny Coat- an introduction

When I made my penguin dungarees, in my mind I was using them as a test run of instruction style before diving into a more complex project from ‘The Fox, the Bear and the Bunny’. In my make 9 this year, I planned to make Toby a cute coat and there are three suggested designs in the book, one for each of the title animals. I went with the bunny coat, partially because I don’t know if Toby will let me dress him in a bunny coat next year, but figured that at 18 months be was going to be too young to protest!

The patterns from the book do have to be traced because they are double sided and overlapping in some places, but you would probably want to trace children’s patterns anyway so that you can make them again in the next size up. One thing to look out for though is the tiny arrow on each piece which is the only indication as to the grainline. Its much smaller than the convention on most patterns, so definitely takes some getting used to!

This is quite a complex pattern with a lot of pieces. The book does helpfully give some indication as to how much of a time commitment each of their patterns are in the instructions. It will depend a lot on how much un-interrupted time you get to sew, and how fast you are comfortable sewing, but it was a helpful indicator that this coat would be around 1-2 hours of cutting and preparation, and 8-10 hours of sewing. Contrast that with the dungarees, which recommended 20 minutes for the cutting and 1-2 hours of sewing time.

I picked up most of the fabrics locally, and chose this cream/grey corduroy for the outer and a velboa synthetic fur for the lining and accents. I prewashed and dried a test swatch of the fur because ideally I wanted to be able to chuck the coat in the washing if it got too grubby, and apart from a little shrinkage the fur was absolutely fine with a wash and tumble dry- definitely a useful test!

This was a bit of a mammoth task tracing off and cutting out, especially as the fur shed like crazy when it was cut. Fortunately, I was able to do all the cutting on one day so that I didn’t get in a muddle over the nap of the corduroy, and actually interspersed it with some other sewing so that I didn’t get too bored or stiff working on the floor.

I still need to source some toggles for the front fastening. I’m not sure yet whether I will buy them ready assembled, or do as the book suggests and make my own. It does feel like one big hurdle completed to have the bulk of the sewing preparation done though, and now I’m starting to feel more excited about starting the construction.

Size-wise, I’ve gone for the smallest size again which is 1-2 years. Toby will be 18 months at the start of the winter so I’m hoping it will be a good fit. If it’s a bit long though I’m not too worried. We can always turn back the cuffs for him too if it’s too long in the sleeve. It means he might get a longer wear out of it too.

Penguin Dungarees

I was given The fox, the Bear and the Bunny for Christmas last year and it is full of lovely children’s clothes with personality! This is the first time I’ve used it, and I’ve tweaked the concept a little from the version in the book. These dungarees come from the fox section but the sky blue corduroy remnant that I had in my stash didn’t really fit that theme so I chose my own!

I didn’t have quite enough length of fabric to cut the back of the dungarees in one, so I needed to piece the straps back on. This fabric is the remnants from a very early make- my Tilly and the Buttons Delphine skirt. I picked up a metre of a Polycotton locally to use for the lining. I wanted one with animals on which would coordinate and ideally be non directional so that I could roll up the bottoms as cuffs. This penguin one was what I came up with, and so dictated the theme for the pocket too.

The book has applique templates for the suggested fox face pocket, but it wasn’t too tricky to find a penguin image that I liked and create my own templates. I wanted it to be pretty simple shapes, but I think it looks really effective. Because the felt doesn’t fray, you can just cut the inner shapes to size and zigzag them on. The outer shape needs a seam allowance included because that lets you add a lining and turn it out all neatly.

The dungarees have elastic in the back waist for a bit of shaping. I didn’t have any 40mm elastic at home so I just used 30mm. I’ve made the smallest size (12-18 months) so I thought that using narrower elastic might actually scale down pretty nicely.

The instructions are mostly text, but do have some illustrations for clarity. They do helpfully remind you which parts of the dungarees are most likely to experience stress when worn by an active toddler and instruct you to reinforce those sections. One thing that is left up to your own judgement is the size and position of the buttons and buttonholes. Unlike lots of patterns there are no markings on the pattern pieces, but I think on this project in particular the placement is fairly intuitive. I think if you have made a couple of garments before the instructions are more than sufficient to help you though the construction, just don’t expect a picture of every stage.

Construction-wise, these are pretty simple. There is a full lining which finishes everything neatly on the inside, and gives a great opportunity to use some of the fun cotton prints that are always so appealing, but don’t actually make very practical clothes for mixing and matching. The fabric requirements given in the book are a bit generous because they don’t list requirements for each size, just the largest. You can definitely be more efficient if you measure your pattern pieces and plan accordingly. In this smallest size, I could easily have got away with 90cm even with my directional print and napped corduroy rather than the 1.2m listed in the instructions.

I did make a few tiny tweaks to the finishing of them. I topstitched all around the neckline to help it lie flat and to stop the lining from trying to peek out. I also adjusted the turn ups at the hem for the outer layer. In the instructions it has both the outer and the lining finishing at the same point, but I thought I could get a better finish by making the lining a bit shorter than the outer corduroy. It looks really neat and tidy now when turned up to show the lining off.

These dungarees are a bit too big at the moment which is as I expected and explains the lack of modelled photos. Toby is on the shorter end of the spectrum, so I’m hoping they will fit nicely during the winter. This t-shirt is just a second hand ready to wear one, but I might have to look out for a suitably coordinating jersey to make a couple more to wear underneath before then too. Maybe something with fish or some more co-ordinating stripes.