The Killery Coat – Sleeves!

Fig 1
Fig 2

Finally! Sleeves!

I’ve been really remiss about posting updates to the Killery Coat project, for which I earnestly apologize. There are Reasons, but none of those matter.

Except one: Sleeves are scary.

Sleeves are always scary. Ask anyone who’s tried and failed to set a sleeve! They go in wrong, they look awful, they make you want to heap the whole damn project in a pile — pattern, fabric, needles, and all — douse it on kerosene, and set it on fire.

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But like Kass always says, the only way out is through. You just have to Do. The. Thing.

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So that’s what I did.

Now, to be honest, we’d perfected the technique in muslin. I knew exactly what to do. But that doesn’t stop thoughts of “But but but this is my expensive fabric and OMG I DON’T WANT TO RUIN EVERYTHING.”

That’s why I avoided the whole issue and started with the buttons. The sleeves of the Killery coat close with buttons. That’s not procrastination! That’s a step I needed to complete anyway! Right?


Figure 1 is how the buttons start: With scrap, thread, and a needle. Cloth buttons are really easy to make. You just cut a circle out of some scrap fabric, stuff it with more scrap, and sew it into a little ball. It makes for very efficient use of fabric, which is a major characteristic of Irish clothing from the Early Modern period. Pretty much every little piece can be accounted for.

Figure 2 is mapping the buttons on the scrap. You can see the first one I made on the lower left, next to the needle. That was a ‘proof of concept’ button to remind my fingers how to make cloth buttons, because it’s been more than a few years since I’d done it. I was very proud of it. But once it was done I remembered I hadn’t actually measured anything. I’d just cut out a piece of fabric, stuffed it, and stitched it.

Fig 5

That is not a recipe for making a bunch of uniformly-sized buttons, which the project absolutely requires. Facepalm time.

I poured myself a cup of coffee and pored over repeatable methods of reproducing uniformly-sized circles. The answer was staring me in the face: Use the thread spool! That’s why you see chalk-outline circles on the scrap. I just went round the end of the spool with chalk. Figure 3 is the pile of fabric circles I cut out. I needed a total of 11 buttons. Don’t forget to save the little bits of scrap from cutting the circles to stuff into the circles! Soon I had a little pile of buttons of which I was immensely proud, and dashed to Kass to show off my wonderful buttons.

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Whereupon Kass reminded me I needed to actually install the sleeve so I could put the buttons onto it.

Suitably chastised, I steeled my nerve and got to work.

Figure 4 is the sleeve pinned into place. The Instructions for the Killery pattern (which is RH311, here and below) dictate a non-standard way of setting the sleeve which is quite different than how you normally set a sleeve. I found it considerably easier, once I wrestled it into place.

Figure 5 shows the real Weirdness about the Killer Coat (and many contemporary Irish garments) — how the sleeve attaches to the shoulder. It took some finesse and fiddling to get it into a position where it lay “right,” just like it did in the muslin, but I got there after a couple of attempts. All in all, it took about 20 minutes.

From there it was just a matter of stitching it into place.

Fig 7

Okay, I say it was “just stitching it into place.” In case I haven’t mentioned this before, I’m doing this all by hand. That’s for two reasons: First, machines hate me. I’m no good with them. They snarl, and tangle, and spit sparks. Second, if I’m going to be trying to replicate as closely as possible an Irish bog find, I can’t be Singering the seams. Third, if there’s a way to actually do this step with a machine, I don’t have a clue how. So by hand was my method of choice.

Anyway, strong backstitches secured the sleeve to the armhole. I needed to transition from the armhole to the body back. Figure 6 is the result.

After that, I laid it on my worktable and measured the interval between buttons. I sewed the buttons on, then marked the other side of the closure for buttonholes. Since I’m working in a nice, thick, warm, fulled melton wool, I opted not to bind the edges of the buttonholes, but you may wish to do that on your Killery Coat.

The result is Figure 7.

Now I have to make about 7,325 more buttons to close the thing up and I’m done. That’ll be the next — AND FINAL! — blog post in the Killery series.

In the meantime, you really should give this a try! You can get your copy of the Killery pattern here:


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