Monday, August 20, 2012

Quilted wool batting in Civil War (repro) overcoat

I've been asked by a few reenactor friends to photograph my largest and warmest Civil War era paletot (overcoat).  The pattern I used was from Katerina Gnagey under her pattern name "Kay Fig".  I have added a foot of length to the bottom of the pattern all around.  All of Kay's patterns are very well researched, documented, and contain notes and information for an accurate reproduction of the original garment or garments used to create the pattern.  The paletot is shown to the right, and I made it bigger than usual so it would accomodate a thick wool dress, a knitted sontag (vest) and another unlined wool shorter paletot.  The day was very cold, and I had to stand outdoors at a memorial ceremony for over an hour, yet I stayed warm except for my feet.

I put the wool fabric for the body of the paletot together and then added the velvet ribbon trim.  I put the lining fabric right side down, put a layer of wool batting on top of it, and then flipped each piece so that the batting was on the sewing machine bed and I stitched on the fabric in a square pattern.  I didn't need paper or any type of stabilizer, but you might if you're using a finer fabric such as silk.  I had made my first paletot ever in a class with Carolann Schmitt, and when asked if the batting should be "sandwiched" between two layers, she had replied at that time that the original garments that she'd seen only had one layer of fabric attached to the batting. 
I was using real wool (from a fleece) batting that I had processed (washed, picked, carded, and made into a batt) by McClellans's Frankenmouth Woolen Mill from some fleeces I bought from a shepherdess.  I'm a spinner so I always have wool fleeces around the house.  I love these batts in quilts as well, they're warm but not too warm.  The consistency of this wool is different than the wool batting you buy at a fabric store but either works just fine.  My lining fabric is cotton.
I did each piece of the lining separately and then when I was very close to the edges, I put the pieces together to form the lining.  Then I went back and finished up the quilting to the edges of the seams.  I hate hand work, the entire paletot is done by machine except for sewing on the buttons, hooks, and eyes.  Here is a view of the batting quilted into the coat. I put the body of the coat together with the lining and sewed it together around the edges at the sides and top, leaving the bottom hang free.  I hemmed the lining and the wool separately.  Don't forget to add your collar while you're sewing together the lining and the wool.
Here's another view of the inside of the coat.  The piece sticking out at the bottom is from the front side of the coat, it just happened to be lying that way.  You can see where I opened up the seams and then quilted them in that position.  Also I usually turn back a portion of the front edges (lining and wool together after they're sewn together) on each side to make a nice opening treatment but since I was making this paletot to go over a lot of clothing I didn't do it this time.  This allowed me plenty of room for all that other clothing underneath.
Here is one of the armseyes.  When I was applying the batting, I tried to keep the wool out of the area that I knew I would be sewing into the seam.  You can see that I've done the same type of quilting in the sleeve lining.  I did this in the same manner as I did the body, I added trim to the outside of the wool, then I added the batting to the lining (before I sewed it into a circle) and then sewed the lining to the wrist portion of the sleeve, carefully matching up seams.  At this point I pulled out a bit of the batting that had expanded into the armseye area, sewed the sleeve into the armseye, and trimmed down the excess batting.
This photograph shows the buttons and closure of the paletot.  I used large hooks and eyes for the closure since I don't like to make buttonholes by hand, and I wasn't sure if I'd need to change the fit for the future.  The area in which the eyes and buttons are located is the area which I would normally fold in half down each side and whip stitch to the back to have a smaller front piece as well as a nicer opening.  This one looks just fine though, so either way will work.

I added a piece of velvet ribbon in the mid-back at the Civil War waist and put two buttons on it, but I'm glad I promised to do a photograph, I noticed that I'd lost one of the buttons and need to replace it.  I probably would have worn the paletot again with a missing button if I hadn't really looked at the entire piece.  Please let me know if you have any other questions by replying and I will answer you as soon as I possibly can.

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