Pea Coat Sew-Along: Fabric Files.

Hello everyone joining me & McCall’s for the V1467 Sew-Along. 
Today we will talk about suitable fabrics for our pea coats. The design suits varied weights of fabrics and I’m concentration on wool.
There are two classifications of wool: woollens and worsted. Those categorisations are made accordingly to the yarn the wool are woven. Woollens are usually soft, with fuzzy texture. The yarns are made of short fibbers, loosely spun with a low to medium twist and are used to make bulkier, heavier and warmer fabrics such as bulky tweeds, coatings, washable wools and flannels. Compared to worsteds, woollens are easier to sew but pill and soil more easily. Worsteds are smooth, strong and more lustrous. The yarn have a medium to high twist and the weave is quite prominent. Worsteds are used to make lighter weight fabrics such as gabardine, serge, ribbed and suiting. Worsteds wools press well but shine easily.
If you are thinking to make your coat of boiled wool be sure you stabilised the neck, shoulders and pockets. Avoid topstitching. Boiled wool doesn’t required to be pre-shrunk (Boiled wool is actually wool jersey shrunk).
My favourite choices for this coat are melton, boucle or flannel. Here are some of the samples I been gathering:
1//2//3 New Wool blends (soon to be online). 4//Melton 5// Melton 6//Melton ( Not wool but feels like it)
For those who have wool allergies Minerva Craft has washable wool substitute. This red colour is beautiful. The mix is viscose and polyester but feels and looks like wool. 
I’m still undecided by what fabric I will use for the sew along. I would love to sew a print but none of the lovely topstitching will show. It needs to be something you can see well over the screen while still be something I really love.
I recently acquired some lovely green vintage buttons that matched well with some of the samples.
What do you think? I’m quite in love with this luxurious italian wool but I already have in my stash a very similar tooth hound print. To buy or not to buy.
When buying fabric.
If the wool is extremely fibrous it may irritate your skin. My suggestion is to consider using an alternative fabric on sensitive areas, specially near the neck. Merino wool has good reputation for been skin friendly. To find what combination of fibbers works best why not look at the composition of your favourite coat for inspiration? If you choose a heavy/ bulky fabric you may find tricky to sew multiple layers. You can reduce the bulk replacing under collar with lightweight fabric.
Pro Tip: Squeeze fabric in your hands, than release it, good quality wool fabrics will spring back unwrinkled. Some of you may be considering what type of thread to use with wool. I’m considering to sew with silk thread because it has more elasticity than cotton.
Some fabrics are easily identifiable between the right/face or wrong side. When both sides are similar there a few details you can watch for:
  • Most wools are folded right sides together on the bolt.
  • Generally the selvage is smoother on the face/right side.
  • The face/right side has fewer imperfections, knots and slabs than the back.
  • Printed fabrics are brighter on the face/right side.
  • Or is the side you prefer. Just keep sure you stick with it during the cutting/ sewing process.

 Interesting facts about wool characteristics.

  • Wool absorbs moisture well meaning that it can take up to 30% of moisture without feeling wet.
  • Wool is water repellent, flame resistant, resilient making it a perfect choice for outwear.
  • Wool is easily damaged with improper pressing and hot irons.
  • Wool can stretch 35% when dry but 50% when wet. That is why your pressing have to be very careful. Tailors commonly shape wool with steam.
Wool preparations:
Wool fabrics labeled “needle ready” or “London shrunk” are ready to sew. Don’t forget you must pre shrink your lining.
There is a little trick you can use to determine if you need to pre shrink your wool:  Cut a 10cm by 10 cm sample fabric and cover with with dry press cloth and steam throughly for ten seconds. Allow fabric to dry and examine the area. If an imprint of the iron shows, or the fabric has shrunk It must be treated. Examine the nap and finish to determine if there are any other undeniable changes in the finish and appearance.


Pressing wool

  • Wool is easy to sew but can be tricky to press because of it springy nature. Since pressing is a vital part of making a garment I recommend you spare a few minutes familiarising yourself with your fabric before cutting your coat.
  • Start by testing different pressing techniques on a scrap. That is because the amount of moisture, heat and pressure varies depending on your fabric properties. As a starting point try pressing with medium low iron temperature and steam .
  • Pressing wool garments take times. Some fabrics will require you to repeat the process a few times
  • To avoid impressions on the outside of the garment, use a seam roll or a rolled towel.
  • For flat well defined edges on flaps, collars and jacket edges cover the area with a damp press cloth and press the wrong side up. Remove the iron quickly and cover the area with a clapper while applying pressure.
  • Avoid sliding the iron all over. Lift the iron up and down. Each stage lift your pressing cloth to let the steam out from the wool. Let it dry before you press again to avoid distorting the fabric. Wool is the easiest fabric to mold and shape with heat and pressure.
We will be doing a lot of topstitching on the coat. Besides looking professional by doing that it helps control bulk. Since you are experimenting with your fabric why not do a topstitching swatch to determine the best combination. Start by lengthening your stitch to 4mm or 6 mm. Topstitching thread can be too bulky so you may choose to leave the bobbin with all purpose thread instead.  When topstitching, you may need to balance the presser foot. Just fold a piece of fabric on the end.


Lining & interfacing
Linings improve the durability, comfort and quality of a garment. This coat is half-lined but you can choose to fully line it. Most fabrics can be used for both lining and underlining. When selecting a lining fabric try to match the quality and suitability to the design and fabric of the garment. Colour, texture and weight, fibre content, weave and finish.  You can burn or damage one of your fabrics when pressing if they aren’t heat compatible.
Fabrics commonly used as lining include: rayon, 100% cotton, 100% silk, blended fabric rayon/ polyester, silk\polyester etc I sometimes use 100% cotton as lining but thats generally on very fitted garments that won’t be used over, layers with other fabrics. Bemberg is a good quality rayon lining and compared to synthetics it is more comfortable to wear, and compared to silk is easier to care and can be hand washed.
Interfacing like fashion fabric is constructed using a variety of fibbers and weaved differently. It is generally described in two ways: by the fabric structure (woven, non woven, knit, weft-insertion etc) and by application method ( sew in or fusible). Your interfacing must be compatible with the weight and stretch of the fashion fabric. The purpose of interfacing is to maintain the shape of the garment and add structure to selected areas of the garment. Similar to pressing, testing a variety of interfacing would save a lot of grief. When picking your interfacing for the coat try to select as close to the structure, colour and weight of your fabric.
  • Woven interfacing: Are woven fabrics with a stability in the lengthwise grain and a slight give in the crossgrain. Suitable for all woven fabrics.
  • Non woven: Felt like material with no grain.Well suitable for washable garments and knits. They can be machine washable or dry-cleaned.
  • Stable non woven interfacing: No grain and no give. Very firm and can be cut in any direction.
  • Knitted interfacing: are softer than woven interfacing, and have more stretch both lengthwise and crosswise. Knitted interfacings can have an additional warp or weft thread to create more stability. Combining softness and stability to provide structure to a garment without compromising the drape of feel of the fabric.
  • This is great information . I live in a very warm climate – is there a lighter weight option for fabric you might recommend ?

    • Hello Maryellen, I can sympathise ( and feel very envious of your warm weather). If I would be sewing this to wear in Brazil i would use cotton twill, cotton/ nylon blends like trench coat fabric, and denim. You can of course use light gabardine wool or any light weight wool too.

  • Thank you for this very comprehensive article. I am not joining the sewalong because this year I need outerwear with some kind of hood, but all this information is precious to me! Thank you 🙂

    • Hi Saralasarta, I glad you will find the information useful. This sew along doesn’t require signing up or keeping to the timeline. It’s to inspire and motivate. Happy sewing on your hood coat. The cascade from grainline, the waver from papercut are both fantastic if you need recommendations.

  • Thank you for the good information. I love your new green buttons and the swatch you show with them. The tooth hound would be pretty, too. I need to do some stash “shopping” for fabric to use. I’m tempted by the gorgeous swatches that you show. I do need to show some discipline and sew what I have. We’ll see.

    • I said the same thing Rose until i got so many amazing swatches. I have a great fuchsia pink on my stash too that could be a contender but the last two winters I made pink coats. So many options to think about but I need to get a move so I can pre treat my fabric. Good luck picking your fabric.

  • Thank you thank you thank you! This information helped a lot, proper fabric for coats has been a difficult determination for me. Until the article came I had decided on Melton fabric from Vogue Fabrics but hesitated to buy the fabric waiting for.your fabric suggestions. Now that I have this information I feel confidant in buying.

    • Hi beautiful,I’m glad that my article helped. Cannot wait to see what you picked.

  • Dora

    I won’t be sewing a long due to the backlog of things needing to be finished! I love this pattern and like Mary Ellen, live in an area too warm to usually wear a real coat. I have been thinking of fabrics that would work. I think a very lightweight wool would be great because it would have that little bit of give that wool has. Cotton maybe with a little stretch, or I was even thinking to dress it up a heavy crepe.

    • Houseofpinheiro

      That would be cute, hopefully you can sew it once your backlog is finished.

  • Thanks Rachel. I needed this post to choose my fabric, I went to Joann Fabrics yesterday and had no clue of wool fabrics. I’m going with navy Melton and Bemberg for the lining. I live in MA and I need a warm coat and I always wanted a navy blue one 🙂

    • Houseofpinheiro

      How exciting.

  • Cheryl S

    Hi! Great fabric information, but I think I’m set with that. However, do you have specific recommendations about the buttons other than the size and that they be matching? Is it just a matter of personal preference? I’m so excited to make this coat with you all!

    • Houseofpinheiro

      Hi Cheryl, I recommend you use the pattern button size as a guide but take in consideration your shape/ height and the fabric. Best is to try a few when you sew your toile but either drawing the size or sewing one.

  • Colleen

    I have a wool gabardine and while you talk about it, you don’t seem to recommend it for the pattern. The pattern itself has gabardine as one of the suggested fabrics. What do you see as the drawbacks to gabardine besides the shine factor?

    • Houseofpinheiro

      hi Colleen, I do mention as a possibility because it’s such a lovely fabric. Just be mindful of your pressing. I concentrated on my personal preference for flannel, Melton etc but of course it’s your coat and you can play with so many textures. I don’t see drawbacks as its recommended by the pattern.

      • A few extra tips to work with Gabardine: Remember when cutting that the fabric has a nap. You will find that the standard presser foot works fine but you may ned to loose the top tension slightly if the seams are plucking. If you cut your seams 3/4 wider than normal it will be easier to press it flatter. If you can try a few interfacings before deciding because gabardine is a pick fabric and some weft interfacing lift off after a few dry cleanings.

  • Susan

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge of wool. I too live in a warmer climate, although med weight coats are necessary in the winter months. I was wondering if you could explain the pros and cons of a wool blend. Specifically blended with nylon and a wool/cashmere/nylon blend. Thank you!

    • Hi Susan,

      Wool blends tend to present multiple characteristics from both or multiple fibbers. Unless you know the exact percentage you can gauge based on the prominent characteristics. For example. Coating are difficult to press and relative stiff they retain the silhouette however rayon loose its body when machine erie, and wrinkle easily. Cashmere are affectedly adversely by steam so a high content could be difficult to use for the collar as we need lots of pressing. The hair fibbers get easily damaged. Acrylic fabrics can help when added to other fabrics as its washable and can be heat set . The viscose and polyester is a great alternative for warmer climates. The pros and cons varies based on mix of content and unless you test your samples its very difficult to say which is best.

  • Nancy

    I am so excited about your sew-a-long and have got the pattern. It is so classic! Was wondering if you plan to do a tutorial on matching plaids? I panic on the thought of having to match! I am always trying to read up on matching but it is SO CONFUSING!! You have very exquisite taste so excited to see what you choose as your fabric! Thanks for all this.

    • Hi Nancy. I won’t be doing a full on tutorial on plaids since there are great online coat tutorials for matching but i will be detailing some tips. My choice is plaid and stripes and i will me mix and matching it thought the pattern. If you have a question during that stage, drop me a line and I see what i can do to guide you.

  • Chris Bolla

    What about a double backed wool crepe? I ordered it from Mood, and it seems perfect. Not sure if it’s too bulky, though. What do u think?

    • Houseofpinheiro

      Should be fine. Best to try different interfacings and check thickness. Let’s see when arrive

  • Pollster

    Of all the wool samples displayed here, I don’t see one that is peacoat weight. I have seen some peacoats that claim to be 30oz and that is the fabric I am looking for. Any ideas where one can get wool that heavy?