Operation shorten winter coat

My year of buying no new clothes is over but I’ve had no urge to rush out and buy new things, in fact I’m still slimming down my wardrobe. It’s made me think really hard about what I have and what I need and it’s been a bit of a revelation. I’ve lost interest in having items that don’t work for me, if they’re uncomfortable they’re out, if they don’t fit or aren’t quite right they’re either out or in the ‘to fix’ pile! The sorting and fixing takes time but I’m claiming the time back by not trying things on then taking them straight back off or trying them with everything else in the wardrobe. I’ve wasted hours doing this! I’m not taking an age to walk to the bus because my shoes are uncomfy, my beautiful but stupidly impractical black patent stilettos have been ebay’ed. I missed them for a nano second but life is much simpler when your shoes don’t fall off 😉

imageMy scariest project to date has been “operation shorten coat”. I had a couple of years’ lapse in my normally frugal ways and ended up with two calf length winter coats. The original one had a very torn lining but was warmer and harder wearing so I had the lining repaired last year and have worn it all winter. The second coat was unloved in the wardrobe so it had to go or have a radical overhaul. It was expensive though so I couldn’t bear to part with it so I opted to chop it instead. Eeeek!

So, how do you shorten a coat?

It was quite tricky! If you are going to do it, look really closely at the original construction first so you know what you’re trying to recreate on the new shortened hem. It might be helpful to take  some pictures first, of course I didn’t think to do that!

The lining of my coat was sewn to the outer layer to create the finish so there was no visible hem, these steps should work for a similar construction.


Use a seam ripper to carefully unpick the join between the lining and outer layer. I wasn’t too careful and nicked the fine wool in a couple of places. Cue lots of swear words (optional!)

Measure how much you want to take off and mark it all the way round on the inside of the wool. Measure from the finished hem to where you want the bottom of the new coat to be, measure upwards from the original hem all the way round as the edge might be curved. Be extra careful with your front pieces where the fabric crosses as it will be very noticeable if the length doesn’t match! If there is a split at the back do the same with that piece so it sits well.

Mark the length with a solid line, joining up all your measured points rather than drawning a striaght line incase there is a curve. You will fold the wool on the line so won’t see the mark once it’s fininshed.

Looking at the original construction measure the depth of the old hem (or the turn up!). Measure this out on the wool working down from your new hem line and again mark with a solid line. You’ll cut along this one.

Make sure you’re happy with the length, make really, really sure. Take a deep breath and cut. Start to breathe again 🙂

Fold the wool along the new hem line mark, pin it then press it firmly to hold it in place. My coat didn’t have an actual hem, the wool wasn’t stitched to itself (hope that makes sense) just the lining so it needed to stay in place while I sorted the lining.

Do the same process with the lining. Take the time to measure as your lining will be slightly longer than the coat as it is turned under so it doesn’t tear when you sit on it. Press the lining at the point it will fold.

photo 1

Attaching the two layers is where it started to get tricky 😦

Catch the two sides together and pin. The raw edge will be inside and not visible so you are pinning from underneath to hold it in place and then stitching. Unless you have unpicked the whole lining in think you need to do this by hand. The split at the back was really fiddly, swearing is optional!

photo 2

The front panels of my coat were put together differently from the back, instead of being joined with the lining the front was a double layer of wool. Pinch the sides together and stitch in tiny stitches along the hem line.

photo 3

Try your coat on and keep everything crossed that it looks ok. Admire and relax!

I really hope someone finds this useful! My newly shorten coat has been worn more in the last two weeks than in the last year so I’m pretty pleased:)

This entry was posted in Buy No New Clothes, Make Do and Mend. Bookmark the permalink.

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