How I Created The Ashby Coat {The Flora Modiste Sewing Projects}

The Flora Modiste
by The Flora Modiste

And the monthly sewing project for December is... The Ashby Coat! I love love love this coat. I love all coats really. My love for outerwear started when I was attending FIDM. I didn't really consciously KNOW that I loved outerwear until my later classes. The epiphany happened when I presented one of my first collections I had ever designed, and my teacher just assumed that it was an outerwear line based on the way that I had designed it. I had never really thought about loving outerwear until then..

I LOVE working with heavier, structured fabrics that can produce full, voluminous shapes. (Felt is my JAM. I could sew with Felt ALL day long.) I love all of the beautiful, insanely complicated detail that goes in to making a coat. I'm talking structure, sleeves, shoulder pads, facing, lining, buttons.. The list goes on and on. Coats pretty much do it all, which is what made it the perfect monthly sewing project here on The Flora Modiste.

IMHO, coats are definitely the most complicated and time consuming garment to make. But that's also what makes them the most rewarding TO make. In the winter, coats pretty much define a wardrobe. I think that's also what I love about them: They play such a HUGE role in a wardrobe, and are so incredibly important. It's not something that's going to be tossed out after a single wear, or a single season. So much thought goes in to buying a coat because it's something that you are going to wear EVERY day for months at a time. Which is exactly what makes the Ashby the perfect monthly sewing project for December, the "real" beginning of winter.

No, but really. It does get cold here in San Diego. Not east coast winter cold--But in the coldest weeks it's typically in the low 40's. (Maybe even the 30's in the early morning?)

This kind of winter weather is what makes the Ashby Coat perfect for San Diego. It's heavier than your basic jacket, but isn't too heavy where it's ridiculous to be wearing it here in Southern California. The hip length is perfect--A long coat just isn't really necessary here. (Although I will be a baby sometimes and bust out my knee length coat from NYC.. HA.)

I mentioned above that my love for outerwear first started when I was at FIDM. This coat was actually a design from my final collection that I made while at school. I WISH I had the final garment that I sewed up while at school--It was a truly beautiful piece.

The outer shell of the coat was this beeeeautiful creamy beige woven linen, with a lightweight tan lining inside. The piece was actually featured in a show a few months after I graduated, but by the time I could have gotten the piece back I was already living in New York and crazy busy.

When I was thinking of what the monthly sewing project for December would be, I knew I wanted it to be something a bit heavier and more involved.. And this coat from my time at FIDM came to the forefront of my mind. The Ashby Coat.

The coat itself is hip length, with asymmetrical seams running along the front and back. The band running along the left side of the coat is a pretty dominant feature, and is a perfect option for some fabric and color contrasting. I'm typically not a huge fan of color contrasting--I think it's a weak design option in most cases. But with this particular design, I think it would work perfectly. There is an inseam pocket along the left hand side as well, a perfect fit for your phone or small wallet. (We will be going in to some serious detail on how to sew an inseam pocket in the next post. Stay tuned for a brand new tutorial, all about December's monthly sewing project: The Ashby.)

The coat closes with a hidden zipper along the right hand side, where the left and right side overlap. There are also giant hand sewn snaps above and below the zipper, as well as along the inseam pocket to help keep it closed.

I particularly love the slight cowl along the neckline, a last minute design decision.

The coat is also fully lined (obvi) to finish it off. When sewing a coat, using a heavy and structured fabric is essential. Heavier fabrics hold their shape much better than lightweight ones, and can withstand the wear and tear that coats experience with every day use. The fabric that I chose to use for this project is a bonded faux cotton suede. The faux suede has a good weight to it, and a beautiful hand--Almost velvet-like, perfect for the shell of a winter coat. A heavy poly knit was bonded to the back of the faux cotton suede to give it additional weight and structure. Again, perfect for a winter coat.

The fabric was so incredibly easy to work with, it cut and sewed like butter. The biggest challenge with using this fabric (which is also what makes it perfect for this project) was the thickness. While the thickness was perfect for sewing, it made it incredibly difficult to hand sew. And there was A LOT of hand sewing with this project. Because of the velvety nature of the coat's shell, I wasn't able to press it from the outside of the garment, otherwise it would burn. Which meant that in order to keep all of those seams flat and pretty, I had to hand stitch every. single. seam allowance to the garment. Was that absolutely necessary?

But. It was still A LOT of hand sewing.. And my little fingers are still a bit raw. It's times like these that I REALLY wish I could stand wearing a thimble. Anyways. Coats are always a bit challenging to sew, and the Ashby is no exception. Since I had already sewn this before, I was a little more familiar with it, but it was still a bit of a challenge. (It has been almost 6 years since I sewed up the original.)

Matching the 4 corner point on the back of the coat was a challenge--If it was even a hair off, it would be completely obvious.

The inseam pocket was also a challenge, especially since it's in such an unusual spot. (But no worries--We are going to have a brand new tutorial on how to sew that next week. Stay tuned!)

It's always a challenge to attach a coat lining as well--Even without the unusual shape of the Ashby. I was able to get everything attached though, and I think it looks pretty fantastic. Am I right? Look at those curves! Sewing a coat is definitely a challenge.. Mostly because there is just SO much that goes in to it. After I sewed up this beauty the first time, my appreciation for coats increased 100 fold. But coats are also definitely a statement piece, which makes all the hard work of December's monthly sewing project worth it. IMHO.

I considered naming this monthly sewing project after some dear memory of living in San Francisco while attending FIDM.. But I really couldn't think of one. We paid WAY too much for a tiny little studio in a pretty shitty part of the city, and put ourselves in so much debt that we are just now paying it off, 5 years later. So. I started to think.. What does the month of December itself represent? December is the end of the year, the end of an era, if you will. We always make resolutions at the beginning of each year, resolutions that we hope to carry until the end of the year, to December. I only made one resolution this year: To read 50 books in 2017. I have been thinking about this resolution a lot lately (I'm a bit behind, trying so hard to get to 50!) and decided to tie it in to the sewing project for this month. Because to me, keeping a resolution is a big deal. I don't make them lightly. As of writing this blog post (early November) I have read 38 books this year. (12 to go! I think I can do it.) The Ashby Coat is named after my FAVORITE book that I read this year: The Resurrection of Joan Ashby. This is a thick ass book, over 500 pages. And I read it in 3 days. Not even kidding--I didn't work for 3 days, and just read this book. It was that incredible.

The book had me from the start, and I want to share the first lines with you: "It does not matter what you choose--be a farmer, businessman, artist, what you will--but know your aim, and live for that one thing. We have only one life. The secret of success is concentration; wherever there has been a great life, or a great work, that has gone before. Taste everything a little, look at everything a little; but live for one thing. Anything is possible to a who knows end and moves straight for it, and for it alone." I read that first excerpt from bed one night, and didn't stop reading until I finished the book. (The excerpt wasn't even the start of the book--It was the epigraph. The book is about Joan Ashby's life, one that she didn't expect to have. Without going in to too much detail (because I really, really want you to read this book, it's incredible) know that Joan is an incredibly strong and independent woman, and a character that I can relate to in so many other ways. After a devastatingly traumatic event happens in her life, she up and leaves the life she has always known. This is where the "resurrection" aspect of Joan Ashby comes in. In her new, resurrected life, she is forever know as Ashby, instead of her given name of Joan. Ashby lives the life Joan always wanted to live, in the place where she always wanted to be. She completely upends her entire life in her 50's, displaying the courage that so many of us would never have in that situation.

Joan's courage and devotion to herself is something that I admired intensely while reading the book, something that has stuck with me months and months after finishing it. She is a strong, self devoted, independent force of a woman that could never be defeated by hate. I hope that you love the Ashby Coat as much as I do, and that a sense of strength and independence resonates throughout this blog and particular monthly sewing project. Has anyone else read The Resurrection of Joan Ashby? I could talk about it ALL day long! (P.S. Ready to make your own inseam pocket, like the one on the Ashby Coat? Grab the printable tutorial here!)

The author may collect a small share of sales from the links on this page.

The Flora Modiste
Want more details about this and other fashion and style ideas? Check out more here!
Join the conversation
4 of 8 comments