Play with Patterns by Yuko Takada – Oval Coat
This is a saga of a coat. A coat that was never part of my plan. A coat inspired by a meeting with an amazing pattern maker. A coat that travelled many international miles, smuggled home disguised as a blanket. Such a mysterious coat.
To start at the beginning, we travelled to Japan in May. Naturally we visited Nippori Fabric Town, and naturally we ended up spending hours in the famous Tomato store (the main one). On the train into Nippori I swore to Kate that I wouldn’t be filling precious bag space with heavy wool coating. A couple of metres of wool takes up a quarter of my bag, so I vowed to stay sensible and buy lots of lighter fabrics for maximum case cramming. Clearly my brash statements tempted the fabric gods – sure enough within seconds of arriving at the first Tomato (there are five!), a wool caught my eye. I stroked it. I walked away. Just one more pat. Kate encouraged me. Next thing I’ve committed to lugging three metres of wool coating back to Australia.
While we were in Tokyo we met the Japanese pattern book and clothing designer Yuko Takada of Mannish Style fame (we’ll post about that adventure soon – it’s a work in progress waiting for a few translations!). We visited her studio, we nearly died over her lovely sample rack, and on our departure Yuko gifted us with her two latest pattern books. This one, Play with Patterns, features coats and was entrusted to Kate. The other featuring skirts was in my hot little hands. Devastatingly in the stress of trying put my shoes back on gracefully I ended up leaving the skirt book in the studio entrance. Such regret. Luckily Play with Patterns is an instant favourite – I knew I needed to start making coats the minute I got home.
The saga part of the story was getting the fabric home. I spent hours cramming my suitcase for the flight home, doing my best to force a shedload of ceramics, gifts, fabrics and aprons into a very average-sized case. I’m usually a reluctant shopper but something happens to my brain when I’m in Japan. I go crazy. I have boundless retail energy. I’m a fiend (don’t blame me – blame that lovely Japanese aesthetic and craftsmanship…) So I finally managed to force the zipper shut on my bulging bag of guilt, only to get to the baggage counter and learn I was ONE kilo over. Having just scraped our way into the check in before it closed (we came heart-stoppingly close to missing our flight), I wasn’t in a position to argue when the attendant shrugged and ordered me to ‘take something out of the bag’. Kate the clear thinker ordered me to take the coat out. So the coat fabric became our plane blanket. We both snuggled down under pure wool goodness to survive the overnight flight home – warm as toast as we endured upright sleep torture.
Once home I had the hard task of choosing which Yuko pattern to make. It’s a very clever book. She has four base patterns and of those four patterns she does a further four variations. So if you master one you can take that knowledge and build another reincarnation of that coat.
I chose this oval coat pattern and made a toile first because I was terrified of cutting into my hard-won wool. I’ll show you the toile in another post because although it was just for practice I’ve been wearing it regularly.
I made the largest pattern and the toile fitted perfectly. I did lengthen the sleeves because I’m not a petite Japanese girl despite my fervent wishes – oh they wear clothes so well. It’s an unlined pattern which makes for a quick sew, but I decided to line this one because I’m a glutton for punishment (I documented the lining adventure/fail/journey here). Now that I’m wearing the coat I am glad I lined it – I like to think it makes an extra pocket of warm air and it also makes the coat slide on with ease. But really if you want to halve the time it takes to make a jacket just do the unlined version in the book. Only you will know.
I have two favourite pattern features on this ‘oval coat’: the dropped shoulders and the slit pockets. The pattern book supplies many pocket options that I’m hankering to try, they make such satisfying features. And the drafting of the drop shoulder is sublime. I think Yuko gets the shoulder curve perfectly right – it sits neatly on your shoulder and curves beautifully down to the dropped shoulder seam.
The end result is quite a pared back coat with a cardigan feel and a great slouch. I worried the line of the lapels would be too ‘dressing gown’ but with this fabric I think we have enough going on here. It’s super comfy to wear and I have to make myself take it off when I get home because I just wanna mooch around the house and enjoy that pyjamas-all-day vibe. I’ll confess after a flurry of coat making activity I’m feeling a little coat fatigue and plan to move on to simpler projects (a singlet would be nice!). But I’m secretly hoping winter will hand around a little longer – I have three new coats to wear.