Constructing the Outer Front Coat (and removing Dart Excess for bulky fabrics) - The Willa Wrap Coat Sew Along

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Today we are sewing in the Dior dart (darted princess seam) and constructing the entire outer front of the coat! While it's all pretty straightforward, it is a long one, BUT how exciting to finally start seeing our coat come together.

Before we start, there are a lot of markings included on your Willa Wrap Coat pattern and I use contrasting thread in tailor's tack form to mark all of these. 

Once you've trimmed these tacks apart though - so you can take your paper pattern off your fabric and open the 2 halves of your pattern pieces up - you can either leave them as is (only if they have long thread tails though, but you still need to be careful!), re-apply your tailor's tacks or use something like tailor's chalk or a removable fabric pen (check that these won't stain your fabric using a scrap) so that your markings will last until you need them.

Sewing in the Dior Dart aka Darted Princess Seam

Because my coat fabric is so thick, this provided a great opportunity to show you how to trim out dart excess if you find yourself in the same boat. This removes the bulk of a dart for a cleaner fit over the bust, as normally, you would press a side bust dart down (which is what you should do if your fabric is lighter weight and what you will do for your lining), but here I am trimming out the excess and pressing the dart open instead.

1. Locate the outer notches of your dart on the Centre Front pattern piece, along with the dart tip marking. I snip into the notches on my outer raw edge to mark them - if you want to do this as well (it's super quick and very handy!) just be careful not to cut too far in. You can sort of see these snips below, indicated by the arrows.

2. Right sides together, fold your pattern piece in half, matching outer dart legs and making sure your dart tip is right on the edge of the fold. Press.

3. Using some form of marking, draw in the dart leg line from the outer notch to the dart tip - this will be your stitching guide. I quite often use ball point pens, especially in garments like a lined coat where you will never see it, but use your commonsense here. If pen will show through to the outer side of your garment (this would be very unusual for a coat fabric though) use something like Tailor's chalk.

4. I like to start at the outer leg and sew into the tip. Back-tacking at the start and leaving long thread tails at the tip. This means I can sew straight off the fabric cleanly, and my machine won't accidentally chew up my fabric, for a crisp dart tip.

Tie your dart tip threads together.

At this point, you can either press your dart down using a Tailor's ham to get a nice shape (if using a lighter coat fabric or you're sewing your dart into your lining piece) OR, remove the dart excess, as is the case with my fabric...

Removing excess Dart Fabric

Bare in mind that if you have a fabric that fray's easily, you will want to be very careful when trimming out the dart excess. Make sure you have some anti-fray glue on hand to make sure your fabric is stable after doing this.

My fabric is felted wool, and there is almost zero chance of it fraying much at all.

1. Starting from the bottom, trim out a wedge of dart fabric, leaving a good 1.5cm (5/8") remaining in tact at the tip of the dart. Leave a good 5mm (2/16") of seam allowance from the sewn dart seam.

2. The arrows below indicate where I've still got closed dart fabric, I'm going to open this on my coat, using a pair of sharp embroidery scissors (so I can get close to the tip) but play it safe if you have a fray-prone fabric you're using.

3. Trim the remaining dart fabric open as close to the tip as you dare, without actually snipping into the stitching.

4. Press your dart open using a Tailor's ham and plenty of steam.

5. If your fabric likes fraying, use your anti-fray fabric glue (according to its instructions) along the raw edges of the dart and up to the tip. Leave it to dry before proceeding with the next steps.

Attaching the Side Panel

1. Right sides together, match the front side panel to the centre front coat. Match key notches first then ease in the rest.

2. Back-tacking at each end, stitch down the princess seam.

3. Trim down seam allowance and notch curves.

4. At this stage, the accompanying instructions tell you to press this seam allowance to the centre, HOWEVER, in this case, I'm going to listen to my fabric and press it to the side instead. 

As I've mentioned a lot over the last few posts, my fabric is thick, and pressing the seam allowance over the dart (even one with the excess removed and the dart pressed open) is still really bulky for my coat. This is just another example of those times where it's important to listen to your fabric and work with it, rather than forcing it to do something it doesn't really want too.

5. At this stage, you can choose to top-stitch your seam allowance down using the same coloured thread or a contrast thread. This is purely for decorative reasons though, and because of the thickness of my fabric, I've chosen not to top-stitch any part of my coat.

A little note on grading seams:

When a seam allowance is pressed to one side (rather than open) you may choose to grade the seam allowance that sits underneath a little shorter than the one on top. This is grading your seam. It helps remove additional bulk caused by the seams sitting on top of each other (rather than being spread out when the seams are pressed open) when opening seams isn't appropriate. If your fabric is especially bulky or doesn't like to hold a press, then you will want to consider doing this for all pressed-over seams, like the princess seam on both the front and back!

And that's it! Congratulations on assembling the front of your coat! Now you can tidy up, clean out your sewing machine from all that fluff (so much green fluff...) and get ready to assemble the back of our outer coat tomorrow.

You can purchase your Willa Wrap Coat pattern here.



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