After making the universally popular Polar Bear, I was keen to see how the Burda 9596 Pattern for a girl’s coat would turn out in a different fabric.  My brief was to make a fun and smart cover-up for those colder days that await us in the next 6 months of our so-called British Summer Time.  I wanted to use corduroy.  As a little girl, I loved the corduroy flares that my grandmother had made me, and when I’d grown out of them, she converted one of the bell-bottoms into a pencil case for me!  There was something very friendly and tactile about those velvety ridges.  

It took me a while to find the right fabric.  The shops had a limited range of corduroy in colours too dull for childrenswear, though some great needlecord samples came in the post from Brisbane Moss and Myfabrics.  But a trip to Goldhawk Road proved decisive.  I found a vivid purple at Orya Textiles and though I had some misgivings about the thick ridges (5 wale  is the kind of thick corduroy used in upholstery), I spotted some lime-green cotton satin  a couple of doors down in Unique Fabrics and, being a big fan of purple and green together, I grew determined to make the two work.  The total cost of the fabrics came to £20 with another £4 for the buttons from MacCulloch & Wallis

View A of the coat is  quite fancy – with a peplum, topstitching and contrast cuffs.  Much as I love it, I realized that the lime and white polka dot fabric that I’d bought for the cuffs would have been too much!  So I made a last minute decision to go for the subtler View B with the length of View A (so as to keep the swingy skirt).  I used the polka dot fabric for making the bodice lining, i.e. the inside parts that don’t need to be as slippy, whereas the sleeves and the skirt were lined with lime cotton satin.  The only other modification to the pattern was the coat hook I added (pretty essential in a coat, I think).  It was made from a tube of fabric and inserted between the collar and the back facing (pattern piece 14).    

I’d say that there a three parts to making the Burda 9596.  The first involved cutting out the 15 pattern pieces, marking them and applying the interfacing.  This seemed to take ages.  It was nerve racking having to stick to the grainlines so carefully: the up and down ridges would have given away the slightest mistake.  But the second part – machine stitching – was relatively quick and straightforward.  It’s a real moment of joy when the first sections come together and the coat begins to reveal its character!  

The last part involved lots of handstitching.  After a couple of hours of sewing the lining to the thick coat hem (which I haven’t done entirely evenly), my fingertips were so sore I had to take a day off before being able to face the buttons.  

My daughter has named her coat Violet and seems pleased with it, though wondered why the lining is in two fabrics (the spots alone would have done!).  She also pointed out that the coat is too big.  I wish I’d know that a spring coat doesn’t need to accommodate layers of warm clothing underneath,  or I might have graded it down.  Hopefully, by the time I get to make Burda 9596 again, I’ll be closer to being a pro sewista and will manage to pull off a perfect version!

Finally, a couple of literary references that kept popping into my head as I wrote this.  For the youngest readers and their mums, my daughter and I recommend “Corduroy” by Don Freeman.  This  beautifully illustrated story features a teddy bear in corduroy dungaress and a kind girl called Lisa. 

Corduroy also features in the opening lines of one of my favourite  Anne Tyler novels, “Ladder of Years” :

This all started on a Saturday morning in May, one of those warm spring days that smell like clean linen. Delia had gone to the supermarket to shop for the week’s meals. She was standing in the produce section, languidly choosing a bunch of celery. Grocery stores always made her reflective. Why was it, she was wondering, that celery was not called ‘corduroy plant’?



Polar Bear

Three weeks it took to gather the courage to cut into the luxurious expanse of this polar-bear faux fur, one of the most expensive fabrics I’ve ever bought.   The fact that I’d never made a coat before added to the apprehension, but the instructions to this the Burda 9596 pattern were clear and soon as the first few seams of the bodice were stitched, I began to suspect I was onto a design of some style. 

I love the generosity of the  coat’s collar – so nice to nestle the cheek against – and how the skirt flares grandly from the fitted bodice.  The fabric isn’t too posh to wash in the machine and it’s certainly a super-warm coat so whilst both its owner and I like it very much, I have to confess that in the making of it I made two big mistakes  that render the execution of the project far more amateur than pro:

  • Firstly, I pressed the fur without testing.  Yes, what a brute…  It didn’t so much matter when pressing the seams open (I gave that up pretty quickly) as the fur just kind of shrivelled and hardened to a seal.  The greater damage was done when I tried applying fusible interfacing to the skirt openings.  Even hovering the iron gently over the wrong side of the fabric was enough to alter the sheen on the right side.  And these were the largest pieces of the pattern so there wasn’t enough fabric to cut out replacements. 

Luckily, some vigourous brushing with a pet brush re-fluffed things a little bit but to my knowing eye the coat just doesn’t look as perfect as it should.

  • The other mistake was to line the coat with the cheapest acetate.  A slightly more expensive satin would have been less likely to snaggle in the inevitable wear’n’tear.

Tips on sewing faux fur

  • Use a zig zag stitch and, on the right side, comb the fur out of the seams to restore the fluffiness in the joins.  I scratched away with the blunt end of a flat-headed pin but you could also use a wiry pet-hairbrush or poke in a chopstick.
  • For this kind of very plush fur, you might find that once the two pieces of fabric are flattened under the presser foot, the fluff pokes out from the edges of fabric and completely obscures the seam guidelines.  Two ways of getting round this are to ‘trim’  before stitching and you could also mark the seam lines first.

  • Oh, yeah, and have a lint roller…

By the way, the view is B with the added length of A.  I made the coat a size bigger (8) than I needed to because I was in a mummy mode and thinking of all the sweatshirts/jumpers that the coat would have to accomodate, which it does.