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Accessorizing your quilt coat

Updated: May 1

By now, you're probably feeling OK about the basics of constructing a quilt coat. We've covered all the steps as well as the basics of pulling a garment together. But maybe a vanilla quilt coat just isn't quite fabulous enough for your sassy soul. It's time to accessorize!


Elbow Patch

I might showing my millennial colors here, but I love the look of elbow patches! Something about them just puts the uniqueness of your garment over the top.

They're also super easy to add. All you need is a bit of fabric to use for your elbow patches and a template.

For the fabric, I like to use stretch faux leather or faux suede, but anything you want to use as an accent (stretchy or not) will work. However, it's best if the material is non-fraying (so you don't have to turn the edge). That's why I recommend some sort of vinyl/faux leather.

For a template, you can truly use anything. You can even print off character silhouettes and cut those out of the patch material. However, if you're looking for just a basic oval that's the right size for an elbow, you can download the templates I use here:

Use the template to cut 2 pieces of your accent fabric. Next, fold one of your sleeve pieces (prior to garment assembly) in half, wrong-sides-together, with the side that will attach to the back bodice piece facing up. Now you're essentially looking at what will become the back of your sleeve.

Position one of your elbow patch pieces in the center (vertically and horizontally) of the folded sleeve piece. Pin, clip, or use masking tape to hold the piece in place. (Pinning through a non-fraying material will usually leave holes so masking tape is often a better option.)

Folded sleeve with elbow patch positioned in center

Unfold the sleeve piece and stitch down the perimeter of the patch to finish attaching. Bam! Elbow patch.


Pockets are another must-have for any garment in my book. There are a couple of different ways to add pockets, but I'm going to walk you through my favorite (and the simplest) way.

Start by cutting out your pocket templates. You can use the ones that came with your pattern, or just large squares. However, if you go the squares route, you'll want to angle the edges symmetrically. This will make it more comfortable to put your hands in the pockets when wearing the coat.

symmetrical pocket cuts

If you start with 8" squares, measure 2" down from the upper edge of one side and then cut the line that connects the 2" mark to the opposite top corner. Repeat this on the other pocket piece, but angle the opposite direction.

dimensions of quilt coat pocket with angle along the upper edge.

Cut the same pieces from your lining fabric, then layer your exterior and lining fabric pieces right-sides-together and pin/clip in place.

Sew around the perimeter of each pocket piece with a 1/4" seam allowance (or whatever is stated in your pattern) leaving a 4-6" turning hole on one side. It's best if this is the top edge so that you can close the hole by topstitching before attaching the pocket to your coat.

Clip the corners on an angle to help them turn better and then turn the pockets right sides out and press.

Sewn pocket with the corners clipped before turning

Topstitch ONLY the top edge (opening) side then position the pockets onto your quilt coat pieces (best to do this before constructing the garment).

Pin or clip in place then topstitch around the sides and bottom of the pockets to attach them to the coat. Remember to backstitch and the beginning and end to secure. That's it! Pockets complete!

Pocket sewn and attached to quilt coat front

Square/rectangular pockets are probably easiest, but you can do whatever shape you want. Sky's the limit. Just remember to have some sort of angle towards the coat sides so that the pockets are more comfortable when wearing. Straight pockets (like I did on my first quilt coat) are uncomfortable to wear.

Regular Buttons

Flat buttons with a buttonhole are super easy. If your coat wasn't designed to have buttons, you'll want to add about 1 1/4" to the center side of your coat front bodice piece. Just extend the whole piece with a rectangular segment from neckline to hem.

If your coat pattern was designed to have buttons, you don't need to add this. It's likely already built in. All this extra fabric does is provide enough give in the garment to overlap the front pieces slightly to fasten the buttons.

Sew the rest of your coat according to the pattern until its completely finished. Now, all that's left is to decide how many buttons and their placement. A good rule of thumb is to place enough buttons to have them be 4-5" apart. Mark the locations of the button placement and then transfer those same locations to the opposite front piece. These will be the locations of the buttonholes.

Use the buttonhole function on your sewing machine to stitch the buttonholes in the opposite coat panel. If you're like me, you've probably not used this function before/don't remember how. Just go to YouTube and search "[your sewing machine model] button hole tutorial" and more than likely you'll find a step-by-step. When in doubt, pull out your machine manual.

Edge of quilt coat with button hole sewn and cut

Attach the buttons on their marks (either by machine or by hand) and you're done. There are lots of good options for quirky, unique buttons out there that will give your coat lots of character.

Toggle Buttons

Toggle buttons are a little easier to attach. You do not need the extra fabric along the front of the coat because the buttons don't need to overlap to close.

Sew your coat according to the pattern until you get to the point where you're ready to finish the front edge, either with binding or with a drop-in lining. This is the point where your toggle buttons have to be added.

If you're finishing your coat with binding, you'll want to purchase toggle buttons with vinyl attachments like this. Just choose your placement on the coat front and topstitch both the button and closure to the coat a few inches from the edge on the vinyl attachment piece.

If you're finishing your coat by birthing with a lining, you can construct your own attachments with loops of cording approximately 5" long. You'll need 2 for each button (one for the toggle button attachment and one for the toggle loop). Determine where you want each button placed and mark that placement on each side of your quilt coat front. Again, you'll need enough buttons to place them 4-5" apart along the opening of your coat.

Thread one of your attachment cords through the toggle button then take the ends and pair them together basting in place onto the front of your quilt coat. You want the raw edges of your coating to hang off the raw edge of your quilt coat piece by approximately 1/2". Create a loop (without a button) with the paired piece of cord and baste in place similarly on the opposite side of your quilt coat front. Do this for each button.

Toggle button loop basted to the edge of a quilt coat.

Now you can finish your quilt coat . When you turn the edge of your quilt coat and topstich, the toggle buttons and loops will pop out towards the opening so that they're pointing the right direction. Easy peasy!


Adding a zipper is a great way to put a professional touch to your quilt coat. You'll need a separating zipper at least the length of your quilt coat front opening. A 25-30" zipper is usually more than enough. Grab a nylon teeth zipper to make your life easy.

Separating zipper unique features

If your coat is meant to have a traditional button closure, you'll want to remove 1 1/4" from the front bodice piece on the opening side to remove the extra material needed for overlap before cutting out your coat pieces.

If you're binding the edges of your quilt coat, bind and finish your coat like normal. Unzip your zipper so that it's in two pieces and place the bound edge of your coat along the right side of your zipper so that the zipper is laying along the lining side of your coat. topstitch along the edge of your binding to hold the zipper in place. It's sometimes helpful to have two rows of stitching to secure the zipper. Do the same for the other side making sure the zipper bottom starts at the same spot on your quilt coat.

Attaching a zipper to the edge of a bound quilt coat

If you're using the birthing method to line your coat, you'll want to baste your zipper to your coat front before attaching the lining. unzip the zipper and baste one half on each side of the opening with the raw edges of the zipper aligned with the raw edges of the coat opening. Once it's basted, you can proceed with adding the lining, turning, and finishing the coat. When you topstitch the edges of the coat, the zipper will lie nicely flat.

zipper basted to the front of a quilt coat sandwiched between the lining

If your pattern uses a seam allowance larger than 1/4", you'll want to modify that when sewing the zipper edge. Always sew a zipper with a 1/4" seam allowance. If you have a zipper foot (a narrower foot that puts your needle on the edge of the foot), now is a great time to use it. If you don't have one, just move your needle position as far to the right as you can when sewing the zipper edge so you can get your presser foot as close to the zipper teeth as possible without having to put the presser foot on top of it.

If you need to cut your zipper (for either method), cut your zipper approximately 1/2" longer than where you want it to end. You should be able to cut your zipper right through the tape and across the teeth (if they're nylon) with a pair of PAPER scissors (don't use the good fabric shears here, the zipper teeth will destroy your scissors). Use a lighter to melt the freshly cut ends of the zipper tape so it doesn't fray.

Pinch the zipper tape along the marked line to create a triangle and then use it to create a right-angle turn in your zipper so that the teeth are pointing toward the edge of the tape as shown. Stitch this in place with a couple of machine stitches, or melt the edge of the zipper with the fold to stick everything together. This will create a stop at the top edge of your zipper tape replacing the one cut off.

Zipper with turned edges

If you're using binding, you'll want to use a little piece of scrap binding to finish the raw edge of the turned zipper before securing it to your coat front. There's no need to worry about this if you're using the birthing method of lining; the raw edge will be secured within the coat.

Binding the turned edge of a zipper

Ta da! Now you have several ways to accessorize your fabulous, handmade quilt coat!


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