I’ve wanted to make the Strand Coat by Merchant & Mills ever since I spotted the pattern while I was in The Natural Fabric Store near Lyme Regis a couple of years ago. I have an aversion to collars so this style is perfect and works well with a scarf.
Last month at Chi Stitch I spotted a boiled wool type fabric on the swap table. I’ve since done a a burn test and it’s clearly polyester-based but it is lovely and soft. Although I never wear brown I really liked the abstract pattern and decided it might work well for a first attempt. I went ahead and bought the pattern from The Draper’s Daughter during an open day at Winter’s Moon. Mr J-M was very extravagant at this event and bought two vintage wicker bar stools for our kitchen – and he’s not well known for home furnishing purchases! It may have been the three pieces of chocolate brownie he consumed that put him in such a jolly mood. I think he may also have just had a personal best at the Park Run! If you’ve never heard of Winter’s Moon you should definitely check out Julia’s website or visit her when she opens her studio in Chichester on a Wednesday and Friday.
The Strand is described as a “simple unlined coat for cutting a dash in the city”. I love Merchant & Mills. I have made the Trapeze Dress and Top 64 and really like the simple and clean aesthetic of their patterns. I have a whole collection of their haberdashery items – pins, scissors, tailor’s clapper, chalk etc. I also have their book and portfolio – the latter was a recent gift from Karen at The Draper’s Daughter and I’ve not yet been able to bring myself to sully its pristine pages! Going back to the patterns, I would say that in my opinion the envelope images don’t always do the garments justice.
I’ve found Merchant & Mills sizes tend to be quite generous so I made a quick toile of the bodice using some curtain lining and decided the size 8 would be fine. The final version is slightly wider on the shoulder than the toile but it does mean I can wear layers underneath it. I’m sharing this toile with The Draper’s Daughter as she’s also keen to cut a dash in the city with a Strand! The only alterations I made were to take FIVE inches off the sleeve length and a similar amount off the length. I’m 5′ with short arms but that’s even more than I had to take off the sleeve length of the Top 64.
I’m glad I started with the toile as there were a couple of head scratching moments in the construction. When I was inserting the sleeves I couldn’t work out why the sleeve seam didn’t line up with the side seam. A quick search on IG came up with someone else who’d had this problem and discovered they weren’t supposed to! There’s also a requirement to snip into the armscye to get it to lie flat at the front before inserting the sleeve. I was worried this snip would weaken the area so I reinforced it with a tiny piece of interfacing.
Otherwise construction is pretty straightforward and this fabric was a dream to sew with. There was no need to finish the seams as there was no fraying but the pattern suggests optional edge stitching the darts and most of the seams which I chose to do and this helped finish the seams off more neatly inside. The pattern is labelled Intermediate and you probably do need a bit of sewing experience. There isn’t a great deal of hand holding in Merchant & Mills’ instructions and whilst the hand drawn images are lovely they are not as helpful as a Tilly & The Buttons photograph!
The coat has FOUR pockets! Two inseam and two little ones set into the waist seam – similar to those in the Top 64. Someone online suggested these pockets are too small to be useful but I think they’re great. Just the right size for a train ticket, tissue, spare change etc. The main pockets are more than big enough for your hands. When I finished attaching the bodice to the bottom of the coat I thought something had gone drastically wrong because the small pockets seemed to be upside down but they weren’t. They just needed careful pressing downwards and then edge stitching to sit right.
I was very glad of my clapper for this make – it made a massive difference to the seams and short work of the area where the pockets overlap and there was quite a lot of bulk. A clapper is definitely a good investment. This is the one I have – it was given to me as a gift by my lovely sister.
I wasn’t sure whether I’d be happy with the internal finish of the coat without a lining but I finished the facing with a linen bias binding and overall I think it looks fine. If I was using a denim or linen I might do some extra finishing with bias binding. I’m also keen to try lining a coat and this may be a good one to start with. At the moment I feel like the whole ‘bagging’ thing might be beyond me.
The coat is supposed to be fastened with five hooks and eyes set into the facing so they just peep out at the edge. I used large, more decorative ones fixed to the outside for three reasons :
- I bought two packets of large brown hooks and eyes before I thought the whole process through
- I then realised they were too big/bulky to sew inside the facing
- I couldn’t actually work out how to attach them even if they had been the right size so that they would then poke through in the correct way. I have limited spacial awareness!
To be honest the last reason was the main deciding factor in going for the external fastenings and I think I prefer them.
All in all I’m really happy with this coat and I’ve worn it nearly every day since I finished it. I was irritated that the front gapes slightly between the top and second fastenings (which you can’t see in these photos) but when I look on Merchant and Mills’ website their version does the same so I don’t feel so bad. There will be more Strands. I have a hankering for a crushed velvet version, maybe in dark green – or red?!