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Quilt coat assembly basics

Up to this point, things have been pretty tame in your quilt coat journey. Everything has been flat; it's basically just normal quilting up until now. But this is the point where the anxiety really ramps up; time to make it 3D (duh duh duh!!!).

Here's the general steps you will need to follow to assemble your quilt coat.


Before we get started, a few reminders:

  • Remember to backstitch at the beginning and end of your seam.

  • Use polyester thread for garment longevity (read more about that here).

  • Use the seam allowance indicated in your pattern. This is most likely NOT the 11/4" you're used to as a quilter.

Step 1: Attach the shoulders

The first step in any coat pattern is to attach the shoulder seams. If your pattern has raglan sleeves, this is going to look a little different. More on that in a minute.

For a conventional coat pattern, this is done by sewing the relatively short, straight seam across the top of both front and back bodice pieces to essentially make a vest shape. Just like this:

shoulder seams of a coat attached

See? Not too bad.

If your pattern has raglan sleeves, your pieces won't have that flat shoulder seam on the bodice pieces. instead, you'll create the shoulders by sewing the sleeves to the back piece, and then to the front pieces to the sleeve pieces. The result will be a circular piece that when finished will create the shoulders.

sketch of raglan sleeve assembly
Image Credit: Learn Knitting

These seams will be mostly straight, but will likely have some curve to them towards the bottom of the seam (where the armpit will be). Just pin/clip the beginning and end of the seam and then ease the fabric in between aligning the edges. It may look a little weird right now, but trust the process.

If your coat has a hood or collar piece, you want to attach that now before adding the sleeves. This will just get sewn into the circle that is your neckline created by sewing the front and back pieces together previously. Most hoods are just two semi-circular pieces stitched together, but occasionally a pattern will use a slightly different construction method. Follow the instructions for your specific pattern pieces.

Step 2: Attach the sleeves

If your pattern has raglan sleeves, you'll be skipping this step; you've already attached your sleeves. However, for a conventional pattern, the next step is to attach the sleeve pieces.

Now, your pattern may want you to sew the side seams and sleeve tubes before attaching the sleeves into the armhole. However, I recommend going a little out of order here because it allows you to sew your sleeve seams while they're flatter which makes things much easier. Any coat pattern can be sewn this way, even if the instructions say otherwise.

Start by pinning/clipping the beginning and end of the armhole seams (curved end of sleeve piece to semicircle of arm hole on main piece). Meet the corners of the fabric up so they're aligned and place a pin/clip.

Next, pin/clip the center of the armhole seam. Typically, this will be marked on your pattern piece with a dart (the little triangular marking on the edges of your pattern) and it will align with the shoulder seam sewn in Step 1.

Now that those 3 points are sewn, ease the fabric in between the pins aligning the edges and pinning or clipping to hold in place. It's going to fight you a little bit since these seams are curved. Just work with it until everything feels reasonably aligned the sew your seam. As you sew, use a stiletto, tweezers, or a chopstick to hold the edges of the fabric together as they go under the needle. They will likely want to pull apart, again, because the seam is curved.

Repeat this process for the other sleeve. You should now have something that looks like this.

quilt coat will all pieces attached but the final seams not sewn yet

Phew! That's the hard part done!

Step 3: Sew the armpits

The final major step in constructing your quilt coat is sewing the armpit seams. You'll do this for both conventional and raglan sleeve patterns. This is the very long seam that will go from the hem of your coat to the hem/cuff of your sleeves.

Like before, start by pinning/clipping the beginning and end of this seam (at the hem and cuff). Pin/clip also the armpit seams (where the armhole seams from Step 2 started and ended) so that you can make sure it stays aligned through this process.

Next, align the edges of the fabric between the pinning/clipping points easing in any fullness that might exist (there really shouldn't be any, but sometimes if your pattern pieces got a little wonky there can be just a little bit. That's OK).

Sew the seam, back stitching at the beginning and end. This should be pretty easy because it's more or less straight and flat. Sometimes, it can be helpful to start the seam from the armpit and sew towards the cuff/hem, then flip the coat over and start again from the armpit sewing in the opposite direction to complete the seam. This makes it impossible to end up with a misaligned armpit seam (if that bothers the perfectionist in you).

Do the same thing on the other side to complete the major construction steps of your coat. Easy peasy!

coat pinned and ready to have the armpit seams sewn

Step 4: Finish the lining

Finishing the lining can come in two forms:

  1. Birthing

  2. Binding

If you'd prefer to birth your coat so that you don't have to deal with binding and end up with completely finished seams inside your coat, check out this blog post for instructions. This is by far my preferred method!

If you'd prefer to bind, you'll need to make enough binding to go around all the seams in your coat and all the hems. Generally, this is going to require 4-6 yards of binding. It's also helpful (but not required) that this is bias binding so that it has no issue stretching around the curved seams of your coat.

The edges of your coat, including the bottom hem, front edges, and sleeve cuffs, should all be bound using whatever method you prefer for binding the edge of a quilt. It works exactly the same way. One layer on the edge getting bound.

The seams (including shoulder seams, armhole seams, and armpit seams) will all be bound by first sewing the regular construction seams, then sewing your folded binding strip to the seam with the raw edges of both the binding and the seam aligned. Here you have two options:

  1. You can fold the finished edge of your binding around the seam and stitch down, just like you would the edge of a quilt. However, this leads to a pretty significant ridge where your seam is that isn't super comfortable.

  2. You can fold the finished edge of your binding over the seam and stitch flat to the other side of your coat. This stitching can be done either by machine or hand. If you use a machine, you are going to see stitches on the right side of your coat next to the seam. It's up to you if that bothers you.

Step 5: Accessories!

There are a number of additional features that you can add to your quilt coat depending on your preference. We're going to talk through those next week, but it's important to know that some of these need to be applied before you sew the construction seams of your coat.

Those items include:

  1. Pockets

  2. Elbow pads

The remaining accessories need to be sewn before you finish the lining on your coat. Those items include:

  1. Toggle buttons

  2. Zippers

  3. Garment label

Only traditional buttons can, and should, be installed after the lining is complete. More on all of this to come next week!


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