The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

The Tartan Coat

As you all know I love Outlander (the books & the TV series), and get verra many brawly ideas from it.  So here’s the latest inspiration for it.


A couple of years ago I did this in a nice tweed and loved it – still love it. So pilfering around in my stash (for you Outlanders here, every sewists has a stash of fabrics in case the world goes to hell and all fabric stores close!!!), I found my family “hunting” tartan.  For those not familiar with tartan, here’s a nice blog on the variation one family tartan might come in.    And naturally a hunting tartan would be used for hunting (duh!) and therefore come closer to the colors of the environment – woodlands, heather, whatever.

So here’s the short video from Periscope on the jacket.

There are some alterations to this jacket/coat that make it really exceptional.  First you must pick a fabric that is pretty much the same on both sides (which a tartan plaid is), as both sides show.  Then you should do a flat felled seam (you know like the seams in jeans where both inside and outside seam have no showing raw edges).  Like this:

This isn’t that hard, so don’t get all wonky on this.  You’ll love the professional look this seam makes when you’re wearing in 10 years from now!!!




Basically you use this seam on the side seam, and the shoulder seams only.  The lapel seam can be sewn normal only this is the seam that after I’ve sewn it, I will fold this back, press it back and top stitch along the seam.  This helps hold the lapel/neck area in place and just makes the jacket fall better when you’re slipping it on and off.

Here’s a color coded chart to show just how easy this is to put together – the pink lines sew together, the blue lines sew together, then the green lines (after you attach the blue lines) and the orange lines are center back (since the pattern shows cutting this on the fold you will have to add seam allowance to the pattern piece and place the line so it’s on the bias diagonal of the fabric) go together.  The pocket attaches in front in a convenient place for your arm and hands!  That’s another one of the charms of creating your own garment – you can put the pockets exactly where you want them!!


As far as cutting this out, this is a plaid, and you really want it to match. The key places to start are at the side seam – and the lowest part of the side seam is the part that’s going to show the most, so that’s where you want to start.

The next place to think about matching is the shoulder.  Believe it or not this doesn’t show that much, but it’s a nice cocky way to say I know how to sew and you don’t!!!!  However, on my jacket, this fabric is VERY treasured.  A pattern like this – with very few pieces – is not very economical to cut, and creating another whole length (you have to use one length for the front another for the back and a third for the lapel) would have taken gobs of fabric to match the shoulder seam so I didn’t match the shoulder.  Remember the lapel is going to cover the shoulder almost entirely, so this isn’t a key place to match.  I’d rather match center back.

And speaking of center back.   This is another key place that should match – again for that IKHTSAYD look (see above in italics).


This is really an in-your-face couture look….this matches all the way down center back and makes the jacket look awesome.  This also obeys my rule about matching plaids – some places it shows and some it doesn’t so when you have to match, list out your priorities first.  Actually this seam is probably the most important one to match even though it’s in back, and show more the lower side next.  Since you don’t have to worry about how the layout is from one to the other, having both of them equal in importance is just fine.

Now this piece is NOT laid out the way it is in the directions.  In the directions this piece is on the fold like this:

Vogue1145lThe pattern calls for this to be on the foldline.  But I love the way a plaid matches on the bias.  It’s a little harder to sew but this also allows the collar or cape part to drape much prettier.  Things drape prettier on the bias.  This is NOT the traditional nor historically accurate plaid placement.  This IS one of the times I’m breaking the rules, but I know the rule I’m breaking and I know why I’m breaking it.


It is how most highlanders drape their pleids when wearing them so that the are on the bias in back and I simply love the look of the collar on the bias and the jacket on the straight which makes for a nice back interest.

The rest of the jacket is a cinch.  Since there is only one layer of the fabric, the edge needs to be finished so that both sides show no raw edge.  I was lucky enough to find some fabulous grosgrain ribbon in a great color to tone well with the coat.  The big Dragonfly in Amber buttons deserve a bound buttonhole, and I decided to use the ribbon as the inside of the bound buttonhole.  Again, it has to be finished on the wrong/under side so that no raw edges show – using a piece of lining in the buttonhole makes this work great.


One more note about the buttonholes.  The buttonholes in my tweed jacket are more horizontal and parallel to the ground when I’m wearing the jacket, however, making the buttonhole on an angle in a plaid, just wouldn’t look right.  That means that there’s a slight tilt to the buttonhole, but no matter, cause it looks better straight on the plaid.


There are constant detail trade-offs you make when you are creating your own garment and this is one of the very biggest things I like about creating my own clothes.  I can decide how to place the buttonhole (which is a little higher than what the pattern dictates); I can decide what angle to make the buttonhole (again, at the angle that pleases me most); and I can decide how I want the collar/cape to hang (on the bias for more interest or on the straight like the pattern recommends).

The last touch on this jacket is that it must have sleeve linings.  Let’s face it.  When you’re wearing this jacket, you’re going to have on another jacket, sweater or something and that means that it is mostly likely going to be scratchy and hang on this wool fabric.  A lining makes life sooooooo much easier. All you have to do is match the shoulder seam on the sleeve and starting at the under arm, draw up to the shoulder and back to the underarm.  Measure along the side of the underarm to make sure it’s the same, and as long as the shoulder is a little higher, this line doesn’t have to be perfect.


Mark where the shoulder seam is, and then put a notch (anywhere) on the front, so you know which is front and which is back.  Sew up the underarm seam and tack this in by hand.  One of the complaints you will see about this pattern is that the sleeves are too short, and it’s because they hang when they are put on (usually another brushed, non-smooth fabric under the jacket) and this means that once they are at a high place (from reaching or just putting jacket on), the sleeves hang or stay there…..with a lining, they slide smooth as glass!


You’ll thank me later for this wonderful insertion into this jacket.  The first time you put it on, you’ll see how important this lining in the sleeve is!

I love the whole look of this – it looks very pleid-y and verra braw!!!






  1. Wow! I love this! Inspirational. Maybe it’s time to make that kilt that I’ve always wanted.

    • OMG – kilts are a cinch!. First you pleat the back (should be even pleats), then you wrap the front (flat). Put it on a waistband, and ta-da – a kilt.

      View from Back


      There are soooooo many variations depending upon how much swing you want in the garment. The lap in front should be substantial cause you want to wear it authentically…you know what’s “under” a kilt…and all that! View from Front

      This shows the overlap, almost doubled in front.

      For the holidays with family I wear a basic straight skirt pattern with almost a double overlay wrap in front and to the floor. I wear it with my family badge kilt pin, but I do tack it down from mid thigh to knee just so it’s comfy to wear. You can do that (tack it down) on the men’s kilt too, although the historically accurate way to wear the kilt was to pleat it in back on the floor, slide a belt under it, and roll into it with the belt holding it in place.

  2. This looks great. Love the idea. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Claire, I LOVE that coat!! Thanks for helping me see the nuances involved in making one. I remember having a long cape coat that I loved, but, being a cape, my arms were always cold. This coat has the best of many options!! So SLICK!!

    • Yea Joanne – it is the best of all worlds – a coat and cape at the same time. And I have the same problem with a cape – it looks smashing, but either your arms are useless (inside) or they are out in the cold. This does have sleeves which makes it that much more useful, and I didn’t really show this well, but an upper button, when buttoned can make the cape/collar part act as a hood. Its just got great lines.

  4. Liked the coat! Would like to get some websites to hunting-apparel for Scottish archery tartans if you have some.

    • No unfortunately don’t have any, however, you might try The Green Pepper and some companies that sell outdoor fabric have some patterns like Shelby Outdoor Materials and Gear, Seattle Fabrics, Quest Outfitters, then do some searching inside some of the major patterns companies like Burda, McCalls, Butterick, and Simplicity to see what they have there.  This gear is fairly basic unless you want to get something more vintage or historical and Butterick and McCalls have a lot of that – it’s a little cosplay but it could serve well if you’re looking for something more historical.

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