14 May 2016

The Backfat's Back - so I made a capacious "Cloat"

The title of this post is facetious, though not entirely irrelevant. When I began sewing again after a 20-odd year break, I discovered I could browse and buy patterns from Sew Direct. Oh joy ... I was like a sugar-starved child in a sweetshop, snapping up many more than I needed; and I often chose from the patterns which were listed out-of-print but still available. Well, I'd already missed out on enough designer gems over the past twenty years and I wasn't prepared to let any more escape me if I could help it.

This pattern by Pamella Roland is one such purchase.

Now, arguably a new "cloat" (Ha! there I go again, coining another new word for the English language  - you're welcome :) I've already invented strot and Beautive. This time it's cloak/coat, get it???) was not a garment I needed, but then I seldom sew because I need the finished article, but because I NEED the creative process itself, and I found that the design of this rather extraordinary item of outerwear piqued my interest. I made it from an utterly beautiful length of light, supple, textured velvet which had been given to me donkey's years ago by my wonderful friend Jon - "Curtainmaker to the more fortunate!". I added body by carefully applying fusible interfacing to the entire length before cutting out the pattern, and my only regret was not having quite enough fabric to perfectly pattern-match the back seam - (gnashes teeth).

I made shoulderpads, and interlined the yoke and collar. I also underlined the main body pieces and the sleeves (which I lengthened by 6cm, though they could have done with more!!!). Choosing to underline, and then tacking the underlining to the main fabric may seem like a lot of unnecessary effort, but once that's done you just get on and sew the layered pieces as one; and the benefits are huge. True, this cloat has two ENORMOUS pattern pieces, wrapping round from the centre back, folding twice over the arms to then meet in the front, and it seemed to take ages to sew the underlining to the velvet, but when I'd finished, it not only improved the overall drape .... 

....but it provided that necessary layer of fabric which enabled me to anchor the facings and hems in place without having to stitch all the way through the outer shell. I chose not to quilt the lining as the original design required, making it more of a mid-season garment (though goodness only knows where on earth I'll wear it when I move to Favignana!)

I cut the lining from the same polyester I used to make my Jungle January Wild Girl dress. Yes, this is she ... again!

The design calls for jumbo snaps to close the front, and I covered mine using scraps of velvet. But it was a mistake to sew them with stitches passing through all the layers to the outer side because it causes the front to drag most unfetchingly when I have my hands in the pockets ...

You'll be pleased to hear I've finally got around to removing them, but I haven't got round to sewing them back on again! Why not Sally??? Here they are, held in position with safety pins, all ready to be reattached, but just to the facing and underlining this time!

Anyway after having cluttered up my sewing room for a good 10 months as a pile of cut out pieces of fabric, The Cloat had finally manifested, and needed to be photographed. So, on the last day of the Easter holidays, with the sun weakly shining, I decided that if I was going to take advantage of the only willing "photographer" among my offspring it was now or never (well, at least 'til the summer holidays came around). So I slapped on some makeup, got all decked out, gathered up some props for the photo shoot and wrestled my son Filippo into the car to drive to my chosen location. Good Lord, it was only 10 minutes away, but within 5 minutes disaster struck; the sky clouded over and one of the props had pooed in the car. So we turned round and came home. 

The offending "prop" in question is pictured below - he's the beige one on the right. He's also the reason I still haven't bought a decent camera as I had to dip into The Fund ... again! Since our last dog died 18 months ago I'd been girding myself to be sensible, knowing I'd be moving into a rented house soon and not wanting to complicate matters with having to accommodate a dog in my plans. But I was clearly asking too much of myself. I became DESPERATE for a dog again, so I sought (and found) the perfect little chap. He's a French Bulldog and he's called Gaiety, which sums him up nicely. Yes I know his ears should be UP, but as I'm descended from Bulldog breeding nobility (which may be a subject for a post in the distant and hazy future), I picked him on purpose because he vaguely resembles a mini British bulldog. 

My theory about dog ownership is "Two are easier than One" (a theory I also apply to children), so simultaneously adopting Nauma, our adorable Italian Mastiff  seemed an obvious step.
My autistic son Umberto has grown up with all kinds of dogs, from Newfoundland, to Boxer to Bulldog, Bulldog, Bulldog (I'm partial to a molosser) but he has developed a special bond with Gaiety

They have both utterly stolen our hearts

Filippo with Gaiety and Nauma

But I still had a cloat to photograph, and my photographer was going back to university the next day. So we made do with no sun, and home for a backdrop. 
Looking at this picture I feel like Alice in Wonderland after she drinks the potion which causes her to shrink and get through the little door into the garden beyond. This house dates from 1580 and although this wooden door isn't original it's still hundreds of years old. Carts would have passed through the archway into the courtyard. Here is the other side of the door.

I knew a hat would enhance my outfit, but I didn't have a suitable one. So I experimented with the felt top-hat I bought in Venice, wrapping it in a long silk scarf which I cunningly draped, tucked, knotted and scrunched with a hair elastic. Yep, that'll do!

The next shot is the one which justifies the title of this post. I challenge any amount of back-fat to successfully announce it's presence under The Capacious Cloat 

Getting back to the cloat itself; I know it's a little odd, and it wouldn't be to everyone's taste, but I actually really like it. The pattern is graded Advanced, and although constructing it kept me on my toes, I would personally judge it to be no more than Intermediate - even Easy if you omitted the lining altogether, which I could well do. I think it could work nicely as a voluminous cardigan, made in a fairly stable knit. 
These picture can't do it justice as it needs to move to show off its full potential. I usually wear it with jeans, with heels or flats - and NO hat.

I really wanted to publish this post complete with extra shots of the cloat styled more casually and with "the prop" in tow, but I've lost my photographer for the time being - and time has run out. So I'll finish with a few pictures which I hope show that the cloat can be easygoing when she has to be!

Must dash! I have a truly star-spangled post to publish next and I want to be at the height of my post-publishing powers - because the revered guest of my imminent post is ......

..... the Fabulous, the Philanthropic, 
the Globetrotting..... 

This blog is pro-autism.


  1. Top effort with the Cloat, it is amazing. I keep meaning to get into my sewing but I get side tracked by other things. You may well have inspired me. By the way, your dogs are adorable and I agree on having two, I have two dogs and two sons!!

    1. Thanks Sue, I know exactly what you mean! "LIFE" is so downright distracting!!!
      I've just visited your gorgeous blog, and seen the incredible charity-shop finds you can snap up in New Zealand. Being able to easily access such great clothes probably also takes the urgency out of getting down to sewing. My favorite makes are the ones that are fun/challenging to execute, but for which I've given myself no deadline. I can allow the creative process to take over and become the reason to do it; having the finished garment becomes secondary.
      Baci Sxx

  2. Beautifully made cape and I love the fabric!
    Ivona x

    1. Coming from you Ivona, that's a compliment indeed! Thank You.

  3. What a wonderful post! As a complete newcomer to real sewing (as opposed to a bit of mending and hand stitching from time to time) I am enthralled by all of the stages required to produce this amazing garment. I think the addition of your made up hat is very fitting, as is your confection of a frock underneath. Totally awesome, daaaahling x
    Must share this link to my post about back fat http://www.annasislandstyle.com/2015/07/honey-she-told-me-youve-got-backfat.html

    1. Thank you Anna. I remember it was when I read that very post in your link that I realised "backfat" was an item. So with the expression already coined, the title for this post was obvious to me.
      So you see, your influence stretches far and wide! :)
      Baci Sxx


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