Le Manteau Ernest: Or, Ooh la la, I made a Coat

Is winter still hanging around where you live? We’ve had a really mild one in my neck of the woods, (Salt Lake City, Utah, FYI) but around the end of February we had a few major snowstorms to remind us what season it actually was. Utah winters are really unpredictable, and I myself really love the snow, so I didn’t mind. I was especially glad because it took me  until the end of winter to sew my coat, but I still got a few chances to wear it before next year. So I thought that before we’re officially on to spring, I’d tell you about my experience making my Ernest Coat, or, en français, le Manteau Ernest, by République du Chiffon.

Ernest Coat

I first saw the pattern for the Ernest Coat about a year and a half ago, when my sewing skills and/or bravery where nowhere near up to the idea of coat making. I fell HARD in love with the pattern. I’d never seen a coat like it and it was everything I love and have wanted. Vintage vibes, feminine, a little bit dressy, PETER PAN COLLAR, and yeah. I was smitten. But I knew it would be awhile before I could tackle that kind of project and I try to be good with my sewing budget and not buy things that I’m not going to be making in the near future. At least most of the time.

A couple months ago, I noticed when I was stalking RDC’s website (I’m seriously in love with like all their patterns. That international shipping kills me though, otherwise I’d own like all of them) and I noticed that it said they were down to the last few copies of the Ernest Coat. (The pattern is currently not available; I’m not sure if it will be again or not…) I threw that bad boy in my online cart and ordered it right away, despite the fact that it was THE MOST I’ve ever spent on any pattern. When it’s true love, you just have to go for it in a big way sometimes.

The pattern arrived pretty quickly and beautifully packaged. I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as the directions and the translation factor. RDC is a French company and I believe all their patterns are available in English as well, but I was nervous about not understanding coat making techniques because it was my first coat. I have a background in French (I always hesitate to say that I “speak French” because it’s been years and I’m SOOOO rusty, but I studied it all through junior high, high school, and college.) but I definitely never learned sewing terminology. The pattern pieces are only labeled in French, but there is a handy cutting guide in the pattern instructions that translates them for you and also helps you keep track of all of them, because there are a TON of pattern pieces.

The Ernest Coat pattern is labeled 4/4 for difficulty. That was a bit daunting to see, but after having made it, it made me feel pretty rad that I could handle a 4/4. I’ve never thought of myself as an “advanced” level seamstress, but after I made this, I wondered if I finally might be!

The hardest part BY FAR about this pattern was tracing and adding seam allowances. That took me hours. Literally three nights of work to trace each pattern and add seam allowances, which I’d never had to do before. I found out after starting that I could have ordered a tracing wheel with adjustable seam allowances, but I didn’t want to wait for it to arrive and I’d already started. I’ve never used patterns that didn’t include seam allowances before, and I might be hesitant to do so in the future, just because it was SO time consuming, but for this project, I was more than happy to invest the time.

Actually sewing the coat was really a lovely process. The Ernest Coat pattern is BEAUTIFULLY drafted, and everything came together so nicely. The directions were actually really clear and easy to follow and I didn’t have any problems at all. Only two things tripped me up, but I figured them out in the end. The first was that I couldn’t figure out how to tack all the inner linings together to keep the lining in place. They have a full tutorial on their website on how to line and bag out a jacket, but their blog is only in French and a few of the finer points escaped me. I was able to navigate the bagging out process just fine from this post, it was just the hand tacking of the lining I couldn’t quite figure out. Eventually my brain made sense of it and I think what I did will work.

The other thing was at the finish line with the button holes! My machine was not having it and it was a nightmare. I sewed and unpicked so many buttonholes that I was about ready to die. And unpicking the perfectly matched red thread from a fuzzy wool was nearly impossible. I actually ripped a hole in my coat (cue panic attack) but through luck and a prayer (literally) I was able to sew a new buttonhole on top of the rip where I was going to rip it open anyway.

After all this trouble, I realized that it was because the pattern doesn’t instruct you to apply interfacing where the buttonholes will be sewn. I suppose I should have known to do it anyway, but having never made a coat I didn’t think about it. So I had to turn my coat back inside out and iron some interfacing where my buttonholes would be. After I did that, my machine sewed them up with no problems. The pattern recommends four to six buttons, and you can see I only did four. This is why, haha.

You’ll also notice that in some of my photos there are no buttons on the coat. I shared a photo studio with some local sewing blogger friends one day and I stayed up WAY late the night before we shot photos frantically trying to get my coat finished. With my machine hating those buttonholes there was no way I could finish on time so I just decided to take some photos with my coat unfinished. At the time I was really upset (because I tend to get worked up about ridiculousness that doesn’t in any way actually matter), but I’m glad I did because these photos show off the silhouette of the coat really well. Special thanks to my gorgeous friend Tami of Sew Sophie Lynn for taking them!

Once I finally got the buttons and buttonholes on, I had my husband snap some photos in our backyard (my process for photos 99% of the time). Not quite the same quality of photos (I just had him use my phone), but I wanted to show the final effect with the buttons. The fabric I used was a red melton wool by Riley Blake Fabrics; I was actually a lucky duck to have won it in the awesome #coatmakingparty that some lovely bloggers hosted on Instagram. I won enough wool from Riley Blake to make my coat and a gift card to the amazing Closetcase Patterns. Since I already had my Ernest Coat pattern, I decided to use my wool for that and I used my Closetcase gift card to get the patterns and hardware kit for a Kelly Anorak, which will be my next bigger project that I hope to tackle soon. A huge thank you to the amazing ladies hosting the Coatmaking Party. It seriously made my whole winter!

I absolutely love my Ernest Coat. Honestly I am a little afraid to wear it because it seems so fancy and I don’t want to ruin it. But I’m incredibly proud of all the hard work that went into its making. I absolutely will make another coat in the future; in fact, I already have the fabric all lined up. I might try the Ernest Coat again, just because I find I usually do better the second time I make something, but I might try something new. It’ll probably be awhile, but it’s happening!

Making a coat is an incredibly rewarding project and if you think you might ever attempt it, I totally recommend it. I’m finding that the more I tackle these bigger, scarier projects like jeans and coats, the more I learn and the more I feel that there’s really nothing I couldn’t sew if I try. The sewing confidence I gain from finishing these slow sews is really invaluable. It makes me feel like a real sewing warrior. Or something.

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