Concluding the Journey Towards the Only Coat in the World
Welcome to part two of my Philip Sparks bespoke coat saga. The coat is complete, and it's glorious. Philip and Craig poured their hearts and souls into this garment, and the heaviness of the coat feels like loving hugs from the both of them. The previous post ended with the muslin finished, and it was time to move onto cutting the fabric and preparing the skeletal baste.
As a client, I don't get to see the sausage being made so to speak, so I asked Philip to talk to me about each stage of the bespoke process. Philip usually omits the muslin stage unless he's unfamiliar with the shape. He'll move straight into the skeletal base stage with many of his traditional projects. Since my coat was unusual, I got this extra step in the process. The coat is my third project with Philip, and I've had a muslin each time, so this was news to me.
Breaking up the pattern on the fabric was unthinkable, so we worked on the placement of pattern details. Philip and I talked about where to place certain parts. We focused on where the pattern would end on the coat and what part gives emphasis at the waist. Philip noted that this step isn't something he has to worry about with his traditional business.
The elaborate fabric resulted in intense fabric cutting strategy sessions between Philip and Craig. It wasn't as straightforward as cutting tweed or pinstripe material. It was critical to get it right the first time. Fabric cutting took longer to accomplish because each piece had to be individually cut. It was too thick to cut in layers. They also bonded interfacing to the pattern pieces that stabilized the weave of the fabric and serged all the edges to prevent unravelling.
Panels of canvas lined pieces of the body of the coat to add extra warmth and wind blocking properties. Finally, stabilizing tape placed strategically within the coat helped keep the structure hold up under its weight. As Philip is explaining the process, I realize this coat is extra special because of all of these additional steps.
Now, it's time to build the skeletal base for the first fitting. This garment doesn't have sleeves attached, and there is no lining. The canvas panels for warmth and wind resistance in the body aren't permanently affixed at this point either. During the fitting, Philip is looking at the proportion and balance of the coat. He'll set the correct pitch of the sleeve using pins and makes notes of adjustments needed. Pitch is the angle where the sleeve attaches to the body. After the fitting is over, the coat is taken apart to incorporate alterations. The alterations made to the physical coat are also merged back into the original pattern file. Philip uses a computer to make his pattern files these days instead of the traditional paper.
Button and lining choices came after the skeletal base stage. We had two shopping trips for lining and buttons. Philip has a button collection, but they weren't the right ones for this coat. I had similar feelings about the lining he had. We wandered the massive warehouse that is Fabric-Fabric in The Junction looking for the perfect lining.
Holding out for the right set of buttons was the best idea because we found them at Neveren's Tailoring Supplies on Queen West. Boxes of buttons from floor to ceiling lined a back corner of the shop. With so many button choices, I was overwhelmed. Philip suggested that we don't go the colourful route because they would get washed out by the fabric. So we doubled down on black and found some black and silver accented buttons that were the perfect size. Unfortunately, there were only three left in the box, and we needed four. I was ready to cry, but thanks to the excellent staff at Neveren's they dug around and found enough to make the set. Now it was time for the next stage, the full baste.
The coat is taken apart and put together once again during the full baste stage. This is the point of no return for a lot of details in the coat. The body has the canvas panels permanently incorporated. The lining is hand basted to the coat which allows for easy adjustments. The removable vest is finished but is missing the buttonholes. There are no buttons on the coat at this point either.
During the full baste fitting, Philip is looking at the harmony between the lining and coat structure. It shouldn't be pulling anywhere. Check out this video from that fitting. The fur collar isn't complete at this stage, but it's cut, cleaned, stretched and brushed into shape. We ordered a dyed blue fox from Winnipeg based, Bill Worb Furs. Fur requires a specialized sewing machine, and Philip loves using the vintage one he acquired a few years ago. The full baste stage is the last time I'll see the coat in progress before the reveal.
After the fitting, the coat is closed up. The lining is permanently hand stitched to the body. Most of the coat is hand stitched except for the very long seams. Philip finishes off the fur collar and attaches it's lining. Buttons are the last items to sew which takes a long time for my coat because there are almost 40 on the damn thing. Philip remarked that my coat was one of the more difficult challenges they've faced and they enjoyed every minute of it.
On February 2nd I went to the studio for the conclusion of this coat saga. The results of my bespoke journeys with Philip get better every time. The coat goes beyond all my expectations. It's like the Maserati of coats and fulfils all the functional requirements I needed. It's unbelievably warm. I laughed when faced with Ottawa's cold weather during my business trip last week.
Aesthetically it makes me want to cry. It's the most beautiful thing I've ever owned. The fit is perfection. It's incredibly heavy at almost 9 pounds, something that surprised me but that's what you get when you use nearly 5 meters of fabric. The coat gets lots of compliments which is fun. It brings me so much joy, and I can't help feel delighted when wearing it. I've found my winter soulmate.