Sunday, July 1, 2012

Operation Raincoat

Warning: distinctly un-humble and boastful post to follow...
I have made this; my first ever raincoat...  :0 and I am thrilled!!!!! with how it turned out!
Making a raincoat is one of the scary things I have always wondered was too hard for me, whether the technicalities were beyond me.  Now I have successfully made one I feel like I have achieved another small step toward having an entirely me-made wardrobe.

Thank you so much to all who left a comment regarding good quality raincoat fabric sources  :)
I checked each and every one of your recommendations.
I found extremely helpful this article written by Caroline, the link sent to me by bloodsweatshoptears.  Caroline wrote about making a waterproof cycling jacket and included bundles of relevant and very interesting information for the outdoor-gear sewing newbie like myself.  And the jacket she made is so awesomely fantastic and inspiring...  
Caroline's article included a link to another very very informative article on how to choose rainwear, which I read and reread.  This article really helped me to honestly assess what I actually wanted from my raincoat... which was: another raincoat almost exactly like my old one!
I had bought my previous old raincoat at Kmart for our eldest son Tim when he was about ten years old.  After he had worn it for a coupla years I had to buy him a new official school uniform one, so his old navy blue one became mine.  I have worn it and worn it pretty solidly every rainy winter's day since ... and Tim is now 22 years old, so you can see the old raincoat has done very good service!  The only reason I am replacing it is because it is finally starting to fall apart....  so, I did a close inspection of the old one to work out what to copy and what I could improve.  And this is what I did, and have learnt...

I used my old raincoat to help me draft a new pattern: I didn't have to chop it up to do this, but this would be an excellent plan for someone who hasn't done much self-drafting.  It has raglan sleeves, a hood and a high, inner collar.  I incorporated a few, very minor, fitting alterations and small design improvements at this stage.
I decided my raincoat doesn't need to keep me warm, just dry; so: waterproof, non-breathable fabric, something like nylon ripstop would be the best.  I knew from my old one that this kind of fabric does keep one plenty warm enough in our climate already.
I wanted a full lining in my new raincoat.  My husband's raincoat has a polyester net lining; something akin to the fabric school sports shirts are made of; that is smooth and comfortable and very nice against the skin.  I added this to my shopping list.
Now, I am sure everyone is dying to know where I bought this awesomely gorgeous fabric (hehe, kidding!
Well: I browsed the online fabric stores, and had even bookmarked a few and was pretty much all set to BUY, when, like, the next day, I happened to be passing Spotlight and thought it would be worth going in to check out the separating zips.  Well, you never know whether the ones you are buying online are dearer than Spotlight, and I've always found their zips, while not plentifully stocked, to be very reasonably priced.  And while I was there, I idly checked out the fabrics; and hey, whaddyaknow? Nylon ripstop!  The colour selection was not huge, but it was definitely cheaper than any I had seen online, so I picked up some royal blue plus a glow-in-the-dark green for trim, just for fun.  Polyester net?  They didn't have exactly the same sort that was in my husband's raincoat, but they did have some that seemed pretty good, so I picked that up too...  Velcro? check!  Zips? check!  Cording and cord-stops? check and check!  Spotlight is a much maligned store, and frequently by me, too  :) but I have to eat my words now since they had almost everything I needed!  The only thing they did not have was some of that marvellous Seam Grip I have read about to waterproof my seams... but I recalled reading that its primary use is in tents and camping stuff, and barely 50m away from the front door of my Spotlight is a BCF store (Boating Camping and Fishing); practically next door.  So I popped in, and yes of course they had Seam Grip.  I promptly bought some.  I was all set!!
The nylon ripstop can be cut just with ordinary household scissors, so I did not blunt my good dressmaking shears on it... bonus!
One can't use pins willynilly since it has to be waterproof!  But when necessary I pinned within the seam allowances.
Not for looks (since the raincoat is fully lined) but for extra waterproofing, I sewed all the seams as French seams; bar some of the internal pocket seams which are inside the coat and so are not a waterproofing issue.  
I ironed the seam allowances "up", against gravity (another waterproofing tip) before topstitching in place.
Seam Grip is messy stuff.  Apparently it is the best product around for this job, but check out the fine print; it contains toluene.  This is nasty... back in the dark ages when I was an analytical chemist I would have only opened a bottle of this substance in a fume-cupoboard.  Not having access to a fume cupboard anymore, I worked outside and used disposable rubber gloves.  I cloaked Bessie in plastic bags to protect her (not that she is susceptible to carcinogens....) and draped and pegged my half-finished coat inside out to do the seam sealing.  
I left it to cure for 12 hours, and kept on going out regularly to pull apart the bits like the underarms, that were sticking to themselves; to ensure nothing became permanently glued together.  Even when fully set I have found the Seam Grip has a tendency to stick to itself.  Having the lining in has alleviated the problem somewhat, but not completely.  I sure hope it de-stickifies eventually  :S
Ventilation: meaning, an aperture for one's body heat to escape outside; is a must in waterproof non-breathable garments.  So I copied a feature from my old raincoat and hammered in two eyelets under each of the arms, at the back.  These, as well as the eyelets in the hood for the cording (pictured below), are each re-inforced on the inside with an extra four layers of self-fabric, for strength.
Quick and simple velcro-lined tabs to tighten the wrists.  I've used something like these on my old raincoat for the last dozen or so years: so they're second nature to me and I am accustomed to them, so I copied them exactly for my new one.  No need to re-invent the wheel, right?
Waterproof pockets; an essential.  These have a full-width flap that is an extension of the upper front, covering a zippable pouch that is an extension of the lower front.  These are similar in design to the ones on my old raincoat; I simply extended them so they are much wider, thus eliminating seams.  In fact, at the sides they extend out to and in to, the side seams and the front placket.  Less stitching therefore simpler to construct and finish off, and you get wider pockets!  What's not to love about that?  (I can do a tute on these pockets, if anyone is interested.  I'm frankly a bit terrified of doing tutes now, but I am pretty chuffed with how they turned out, so please let me know, ok?   :)  )
This has been a fun learning curve.
Of course, eagle-eyed Perth readers will instantly see that I could not possibly have taken these photos during the last 4 days, since it has been unrelentingly sunny.  Truth: I raced out to take these during some early morning showers last Wednesday, but have been too apathetic to even look at my photos since then, let alone write up this post.  But anyway, here we are.  And I am sure we will get more rain soon.  Hopefully.
And yes, flushed with my own sewing success, another raincoat is already in the pipeline, this one for Cassie....  ;)  stay tuned!

Details:
Raincoat; self-drafted, with the help of an old one, nylon ripstop with polyester net lining
Skirt; Vogue 1247 lengthened and lined, red cotton velveteen ombre dyed brown, details here and my review of this pattern here
Leggings; self-drafted, red cotton jersey, details here
Boots; Andrea and Joen, from Uggies in Dunsborough (now renamed Eco-boutique)

47 comments:

  1. I'm impressed that you managed to complete this project so quickly after your return from your holiday. Great job on the rain coat - I love those pockets!

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  2. Nothing like striking while the iron is hot, so to speak. Great jacket and I am sure even though you don't get a lot of rain in your climate, a good raincoat is a must have.

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  3. Beautiful coat Carolyn :) can I just add my two cents worth regarding tutorials. I have very much appreciated all the tips you have given on your blog. As a beginner it is immensely helpful to have this information and everything you do is so well documented and photographed. I really appreciate all the effort you put in, thank you :) I recently read an article where a boiler engineer had to have part of his aorta replaced and he designed a new procedure which was much better even though he was an engineer not a doctor. I think the principle could also be applied to sewing tutorials. Sometimes not having 'formal' training enables innovative ideas. Here is the link to the article if you're interested and thanks once again for your wonderful blog! http://www.ted.com/talks/tal_golesworthy_how_i_repaired_my_own_heart.html

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  4. I'm impressed! Lots of tricky things to consider and do when sewing a raincoat. I love the colour too.

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  5. You are amazing! So many finicky details going into this raincoat. Looks fantastic.

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  6. Really nice! It looks great and so functional! I'm very impressed at all your hard work!

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  7. Wow Carolyn - your raincoat is fantastic!!

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  8. Ah, Carolyn, well done - goodonya; 'checked' this as well in your life! (more tasks to 'check' probably anyway yet hopefully fair enough life to do them as well! )

    Concerning 'our shops' here: they're definitely not bad and one certainly can get nearly everything* in this country. Only problem: WHO has got the items one ist searching for and (worst): WHERE! ;-) (tyranny of the distance!).

    Love,
    Gerlinde


    * somebody in Imports thought, we 'customers'
    might/have/will/madly want to need - eventually!
    ;-) which seems to be too risky guesstimate for some; hence we're at times 'late with new/modern items'

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  9. CAN'T BELIEVE IT! Setting a new standard of What Can't Carolyn Make! I've often wondered about those plastics (after my bike dress last year, I've been intrigued) and waterproof fabrics! AMAZING

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  10. Oh! This is so cool! You are right to be feeling thrilled, I hope you are telling everyone you pass while wearing it that you made it yourself. Looks like a lot of hard work - but oh so satisfying!

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  11. Nicely done Carolyn. It is so neat on the inside I feel a little ashamed of how little attention I give some of the garments I make.

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  12. Who would have thought this has been my fave post this weekend? Raincoats? we have 40ºC outside!!
    I´m always impressed by your sewing skills and well written posts.
    Thanks for taking the time to share with us.
    María

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  13. Is there nothing you can't sew? I really like the green trim on that. As for the tutorials, I've always enjoyed yours and found them very useful so do please keep them coming.

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  14. Amazing! Was there any kind of warning/directions for using the Seam Grip? I hope so, since it's apparently toxic!! Good job on the raincoat - hopefully it'll last you 10 years like the inspiration coat did. :)

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  15. Great job Carolyn! A very timely post since only yesterday I traced and cut out the pattern for DD's raincoat-to-be. I will line it in polarfleece and satin (this being Germany, not Perth!) and wonder whether holes for making it breathable make sense then?! Also, my instructions ask for sealing tape so that's what I ordered; I suppose you used a spray sealant? At any rate, I'm glad you found it enjoyable; I'm looking forward to the challenge myself!

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  16. Very nice Carolyn. The pockets just make perfect sense and nice to hear that Spotlight had it all too. I found 10 metres (no less) of ripstop fabric in fluro pink at the op shop a about a year ago(for $10) and will eventually (try to) make a raincoat too. Thanks for the BCF tip for the seam sealer. I like the fluro pink but alas my son won't want a raincoat out of it!

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  17. Very good! It looks like you're set to have this one last as long as the previous one :-). That's the very satisfying thing about raincoats, as long as you don't get tired of looking at them the nylon is practically eternal..

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  18. Wow! Impressive job! It looks great and it works! A raincoat would be a very useful project for life here in the UK, but it just looks so intimidating. You are making me feel inspired!

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  19. Very impressive! You really will be creating your whole wardrobe soon - although I think shoe-making should be your next challenge, as all the sewing is looking too easy :-)

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  20. Great raincoat, and thank you for all the detail. A raincoat has long been on my to-do list.

    Interesting that you were an analytical chemist. I hold a chemistry degree also, but decided the biological sciences were more to my liking. I've found a good number of us science types who have a strong creative side - sewing, art,, music.

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  21. yes, you are amazing and should be proud. I like the color - brightens up a rainy day.

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  22. Very impressive! Impecable job you´ve done there. And those pictures are really good, your raincoat really stands out with those grey clouds.
    Congratulations!

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  23. I am really impressed with your sewing skills, I have read this post over and over again and everything was like a wonderful experience!

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  24. Looks fantastic! Glad that link I provided was so helpful, and thanks for linking to me :-)

    Zena

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  25. Well its fantastic! I am thinking you can make anything after the items I have seen on your blog!

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  26. Excellent raincoat.
    Seam sealing stuff does untackify eventually in my experience.
    You write very clear and thorough tutorials and sew beautifully.Seeing how you have carried out particular tasks is always interesting. I really hope that Bunny's valid post doesn't stop anyone from sharing their personal sewing experiences!I felt that she mainly wanted people offering information to be honest about their skills ie: This is the first time I have applied hair canvas and these were my results, rather than- This is definitely the only way to apply hair canvas and pay me $5 for the rest of the photos to learn how to do it (badly) ;)

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  27. I like the idea of the huge full-width pockets - minimising seaming, and providing extra space all in one go? Well done.

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  28. All the sewing bits that you needed were available when you needed them. That's really impressive.
    Your rainjacket is very well done. No wonder Cassie is getting one too.
    I bought seam sealant for my next Minoru jacket but I think I'll hit BCF for Seam Gripper instead.
    Thank you again for a wonderful write up.

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  29. That is so cool. The raincoat looks great. I didn't realise that rip stop nylon was waterproof if you just sealed the seams - it opens up many new possibilities! Did you know you can buy it from Homecraft Textiles in Vic Park along with some other lovely trench-coaty nylons? Chemist hey, I don't suppose you went to Murdoch did you? I was there in biology/vet from 88-97. That would be a coincidence!

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  30. Absolutely splendid! Such a beautiful blue

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  31. oh holy cow what a TERRIFIC raincoat!! i've bookmarked the sources you linked to as i'd like to make a trench coat this fall... i LOVE your tutorials, keep 'em coming!! also, i didn't know you were an analytical chemist, how cool!!!

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  32. Beautiful raincoat, gorgeous colour and splendid work. I LOVE your tutorials, keep them coming!!

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  33. Chock full of hints and so fun to read! Thank you for taking time to share so generously-I love your new raincoat and it looks terrific in the photos. You know, since moving to south central Oregon, I have never had to use a raincoat. Isn't that sad?

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  34. Oh, wow! That is truly amazing. All the details that went in to making this- that really took some foresight. And I can't believe you found all your supplies locally. Pretty cool. Also, I think my husband will be interested in seam grip for any other tipi making adventures he partakes in.

    I meant to drop you a note when I posted about my dip dye dress to tell you I was linking to you. But I forgot. Hope you didn't mind. And my dress definitely DOES NOT out-coolify your skirt! The things you make are so inspiring :)

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  35. Thanks for all the raincoat tips. I am planning on making a Sewaholic Minoru this year and I need all the help I can get. Thanks for a great post.

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  36. It turned out really good! I think the colors are really fun. :) And yeah, that seam grip stuff is a mess. I was making it in the dead of winter, so going outside to do it wasn't really an option for me. (I get cold ridiculously easily.) So I limited it to the basement in order to minimize fume inhalation.

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  37. Oh , can I come and steal your terrific new raincoat - it hasn`t stopped raining in my part of the world for ages .

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  38. You worked on every little detail of it, wow, nice job!

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  39. What a great raincoat - I could use one of those right now in the UK! I will store all the information about how to make one (including your waterproof pocket - thanks!) for a later date when I get an opportunity to make one myself.

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  40. amazing!! It looks really great - but difficult aswell.

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  41. Congratulations on a fine project well done, Carolyn. I SO enjoy reading about your process as you think through a project.

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  42. When you first said you were going to make a raincoat I thought why would you bother - just go and buy one, it's too hard. But after reading your post I see you were up for the challenge and definitely met it head on. Your work towards a totally handmade wardrobe is truly inspirational.

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  43. Thanks so much for the detailed description of your process. I love your coat and will bookmark this for later tips when I decide to attempt a raincoat. Bravo!

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  44. thank you for taking the time to write all this up - love the jacket and a rainproof jacket is on my "to-do" list so I'll be coming back to your instructions again.

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  46. I'm come back to this post as I'm considering making the Sewaholic Minoru (with a placket over the zip) in ripstop from Spotlight to take to London in April - just wondering if you think this is a good match?

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