Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Au Bonheur des Petites Mains - Raincoat (VL000001)

Note: This is a long post. If you want to jump to the photos of the finished coat, here you go.

This pattern comes in two sets of sizes – 36-44 and 46-52 (note that the links take you to different pages). I purchased the larger size and made the size 52, except for the shoulder width, which I decreased by 2". This pattern's difficulty rating is 2 (out of 4). I disagree with this rating. The skirt with twisted drape was also rated 2 out of 4 and that skirt was very easy and quick. I would rate that skirt a 1 and this coat a 3.

As with other Au Bonheur patterns, this one has no seam allowances included, it is in French only, and the instructions are minimal, with no illustrations. For example, this raincoat is supposed to be lined. The instructions say, "Make the lining." That is all it tells you and it gives you no special lining pieces. :) It's not difficult to make lining pieces, but be aware that this pattern is not going to hold your hand.

Before I made my muslin (which I strongly recommend), I translated the instructions, first using online translators, and a Big 4 pattern, and then I met with a French friend to figure out the last few details. I have been creating/maintaining a French sewing glossary as I use these patterns. When I made my actual garment, I did not even refer to the instructions since I had worked out most of the details in the muslin. (Though I had not bothered with the zippers, snaps, elastic, facings, or other finishing details on the muslin, so I still had details to figure out.)


For the fabric, I had two possibilities in my stash. Both are double sided, both are textured, and both are water resistant. At first I was leaning towards the other fabric, which is pleated, but when I decided to join the 2010 Swap on Stitcher's Guild and chose a color scheme of black/grey/crimson, I decided to use the crinkled fabric which is black on one side and reverses to crimson. This fabric is completely synthetic and strongly resists pinning – many pins died in the creation of this coat. The pattern calls for 3.5 yards of 55"/56" fabric for all sizes. It calls for the same amount of lining fabric, which I omitted.

Aside from the fabric, you need the following:

  • 5 snaps, size 24. I used snaps from snapsource.com.
  • Elastic. The pattern calls for 1" wide elastic (1 yard) for the waist and 1/4" or 3/8" (2 yards) wide elastic for the pockets and hem. I used round elastic cord for everything.
  • Toggles or cord stoppers. 6 total, if you are using the cord elastic. Two for the pockets, two for the hem, and two for the waist elastic.
  • 6 Grommets or metal eyelets. I used the 5/32" Dritz grommets in black, from Joann's, and I installed them with my new Prym Vario eyelet setter. This kit was almost twice as much at Britex, so I mail ordered it. Again, if you are using regular elastic, and no toggles, you do not need these. Instead of grommets, you could make buttonholes, but I love the grommets. :)
  • A standard 22" closed-bottom zipper for the back gusset. The pattern calls for a 55cm zipper, which translates to 21.7".
  • A separating 26" zipper for the coat front. The pattern calls for a 65cm zipper, which translates to 25.6". You can actually use a longer zipper, but if you do use a longer zipper, check it against the front tab, which is cut to exactly cover the zipper. Even with a 26" zipper, I had to lengthen the front tab about an inch.

    I love this YKK separating zipper with metal teeth and a substantial, decorative metal pull.

    The front tab was lengthened a bit to accommodate the zipper.

Alterations and Other Considerations

  • I lengthened the front tab slightly to ensure it covered the zipper. Prior to cutting the front tab, lay the zipper you choose along the tab pattern piece to make sure it is sufficiently long.
  • Note the front hem of the jacket in the garment photo and in the line drawing. See how the hem is shorter in front in the line drawing, but it does not appear to be shorter in the garment photo? The photo is accurate and the line drawing is wrong. The hem is shorter at the sides, longer in the back, and also longer in the front (but not as long as the back). It looks strange in person - a bit dumpy. So I shortened the hem at CF to look more like the line drawing. I caught this discrepancy when I made the muslin.
  • Make a muslin!!! I discovered that the shoulder seam was far too wide. After mulling it over for quite awhile and studying various techniques for narrowing the shoulder, I finally just lopped it off by about 2". I also removed an inch from the side seam at the armhole, tapering to nothing at the waist, to accommodate this alteration.
  • The casing for the waist elastic is formed by stitching a channel in the coat through the outside fabric and the lining. Since I wasn't using a lining, I cut a bias piece and attached it to form the casing. I placed grommets just on the front, near the side seams, and cut the elastic 39" long, sticking a loop of elastic out of each grommet.

Since the instructions are so minimal, I will include some of my construction details here. Note that I used round elastic with toggles (cord stoppers) at the hem, the top of the pockets, and the waist. The instructions specify regular elastic, but the garment in the photo clearly uses the round elastic with toggles. I liked that effect, so that is what I wanted to replicate.


Like the rest of the raincoat, the hood was intended to be lined. Since I did not line it, I used different finishing techniques.
  • Flat fell the seam at CB.
  • Turn under the raw edge around the hood and top-stitch. There is a slight angle I had to maneuver around and, if I had been thinking ahead, I would have smoothed the angle into a curve when cutting out the hood, but I was able to make it work without too much difficulty.


The 3D patch pocket is unlined and the flat edge is caught into the side seam. The rounded edge and bottom are attached to a bias-cut rectangular gusset. The top of the pocket is finished by turning the facing to the inside and top-stitching in place. Here are the steps I used:
  • Fold the self facing to the inside on the fold line and locate the center point. Insert a grommet at that point, on the outside of the pocket, 1/2" from the top.
  • Fold a piece of elastic cord, cut to 13", in half and insert through the grommet, from the back to the front.
  • Lay the rest of the elastic along the casing, with one end of the elastic sticking out of each side of the pocket.

  • Fold under the raw edge of the facing, pin it, and top-stitch in place.
  • Stitch along both raw edges of the casing, catching the elastic in place.
  • Place the folded piece of the elastic, which is sticking out of the grommet, into a toggle.
  • Pin the gusset to the pocket, starting at the bottom (near the flat edge), going around the curve, and up the side. (I used the red side of the fabric for the gusset.) The gusset will extend beyond the top of the pocket by approx 2". Fold that excess twice, essentially making a hem, so that the top of the gusset exactly matches up with the top of the pocket. Top-stitched the top of the gusset in place and then finish pinning the gusset to the pocket.
  • Sew the gusset to the pocket. Finish the seam, by zigzagging, serging, or with Fray Check.
  • Edge stitch along the gusset seam on the right side.
  • Fold under 5/8" of the remaining long edge of the gusset (assuming that's the seam allowance you used) and pin. This will be pinned to the front of the raincoat where indicated on the pattern.


The sleeves are separated into an upper and lower half. A fish-eye-shaped gusset is sewn between these two halves. At two points, the top and bottom half of the sleeves are pulled together and secured. This is one place where the original instructions are very unclear. They tell you to use a snap to hold these layers together, but it did not make sense, either to me or my French friend. First of all, a snap would be difficult to insert through all those layers of fabric, especially because there is a tiny amount of room to maneuver at those points (it's near the end of the gusset, and you can barely stick a finger in there). Even if you could insert a snap, a tug on the sleeve could cause the snap to open, and I did not want that. The following construction tips showed how I handled this. I used the red side of the fabric for the gusset.
  • Stitch the fish-eye gusset to the top of the sleeve, matching notches. Start and end the stitching at the end of the fish-eye – don't extend the stitching beyond into the side seam of the sleeve.
  • Stitch the fish-eye gusset to the bottom of the sleeve. Again, don't extend the stitching beyond the end points.
  • Edge stitch along both edges – both the top and the bottom seams.
  • I had a black tube of fabric left over from when I made the ties for the pocket of the Au Bonheurs skirt. I pinned one end to one side of the gusset seam, laying the raw edge underneath, and top stitching in place and sewing in the same stitches where I had edge stitched. I cut the tie off to about 1" long and pinned to the other side of the sleeve so that the edges of the top and bottom halves are snugged right up against each other. There was not enough room to place this under the presser foot, so I stitched this in place by hand.

    The sleeves, showing the area where the top and bottom of the sleeve have been abutted and held in place with a small tube of fabric stitched underneath. The sleeves have been hemmed and are folded up at the hem.

    The inside of the sleeve gusset, where I attached a tube of fabric. I'm sorry that it's a bit hard to really see.

  • Repeat for the other side of the gusset, where indicated on the pattern.
  • Lay the sleeve flat and observe the edges of the gusset. Stay stitch these pieces together in the seam allowance, on each side of the gusset.
  • The pattern instructs inserting the sleeves while flat, but since I was having issues with the fit of the shoulder, I did not want to do this. I sewed up the side seam of the sleeve and finished it by flat felling. (It is also much easier to flat fell at this point.)
  • Hem the bottom of the sleeves.
  • Run an easing line along each sleeve cap from the front notch to the same approximate location on the back of the cap.

Coat Front

  • Stitch the darts.
  • Reinforce the corner near CF with stay stitching. Clip to the corner.
  • Pin each pocket (by the gusset) to the left and right front, respectively, so that the flat edge of the pocket lines up with the side seam. Note that you should check the pocket placement. I found the pockets are placed low, but I decided to leave it there, as the waist elastic will slightly raise the pocket, but check it out.
  • Sew around the gusset.
  • Fold the bottom of the pocket, covering the gusset.
  • Sew the pocket to the side seam. Repeat for other pocket.

Coat Back with Gusset

Probably the most challenging part of this coat was the back gusset with zipper. The French instructions tell you to attach the gusset to the back, and insert the zipper in between. But figuring out how was a bit of a challenge, especially since I am not lining this coat, so I had to keep in mind how to neatly finish all seams. I warn you that my technique is rather convoluted, but it worked pretty well. I suspect there is a far more elegant way to do this, but I could not figure it out. :)
  • Sew the CB seam from the neckline to the "le zip" mark. Actually, when I laid the zipper against the CB, I decided to sew past the mark by 3/4".
  • Snip the seam allowances to the point where the seam ends.
  • Flat fell the CB seam above the snipped seam allowance.
  • Stay stitch the back neck.
  • The remaining steps are used to insert the zipper/gusset: Fold the remaining seam allowances to the inside, pin, and then baste.
  • Open the 22" closed bottom zipper and lay it on the wrong side of the garment, so that the zipper teeth extend into the opening. Pin, and then baste.
  • Hem the bottom of the gusset. Top-stitch to hold the hem in place.
  • Run a line of stitching 1/4" from the raw edge of the hem from CB for 8 inches or so. Do this on both sides of the back. Ease in the fullness of the hem, turn the raw edge under, and pin. You only need to pin the hem for two inches or so. The hemmed gusset is attached to the back with the hem pinned in place.
  • Lay the coat right side down and place the triangular gusset on top of the opening, also right side down. Pin in place, and then baste. There are now three rows of basting around the zipper opening.

  • Place the zipper foot on your machine and stitch the zipper in place.
  • Remove all of the basting.
  • Trim the seam allowance of the CB seam, but do not trim the seam allowance of the gusset.
  • Fold under the gusset seam allowance and pin, creating a flat fell finish.
  • Insert the end of the elastic cording into the hem casing, which has been pinned. The elastic will be caught when the flat fell seam is stitched. Insert the elastic on both sides of the gusset.
  • Sew around the zipper again, securing the folded edge of the gusset, and catching the elastic on both sides.

Coat Front and Back

  • Sew front to back at the shoulder seams.
  • Flat fell the shoulder seams.
  • Attach hood to the neckline, working around the corners.
  • Flat fell the seam. Only the back neck seam needs to be clean finished, as the front of the jacket is covered by the facing, but it just seemed easier to flat fell the entire seam.
  • Sew the side seams and flat fell them.
  • This is about when I started to poop out on taking such detailed notes on the construction. Sorry, but this post is far too long already. :) Let me know if you have any specific questions.
I finished it! I finished it! This raincoat was fairly involved. It took me three full days of almost nonstop sewing and another couple days of several more hours. Lining the coat might have lessened some of the work because I wouldn't have had to flat fell all the seams.

Back gusset partially zipped.

I'm so glad I finished it now, and not a week from now. We have been having a series of big rainstorms and I am attending meetings most every night this week. I will get lots of wear out of it.

Later, when one of my photographers is around, I will post photos of the coat on me. :)