Wool Coat Recycle

I joined a recycle challenge which pushed me to tackle a project I have been putting off for a while. I wanted to remake my 1980s wool winter coat. When it was in fashion, the coat was timely with gigantic shoulder pads, ankle length, and sporting black velvet trim. Now, in 2020, it looks like I’m wearing someone’s castoff. The wool coat recycle was a challenge – and I always enjoy a good challenge!

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Making A Plan

I’m not an illustrator, but if I have a plan it’s much easier to get ideas set in my head. I did a little research on the Fall 2020 fashion shows and saw lots of wrap coats that were just tied up with a belt. Other details that popped out were contrasting facings, intricate details, and leather trim.

I dug through my pattern stash and found Vogue 8841, an older pattern, but a wrap coat. The collar was a little wider than I wanted, an easy fix. Also this pattern would make adding the details I had in mind fairly easy. This pattern seems to be out of print, but Minerva Crafts has several that will work as a substitute.

Wool Coat Recycle - Vogue pattern 8841

I started pulling fabrics from my stash. I knew I was going to use a lightweight stretch pleather for piping and trim but I needed a contrasting fabric. I settled on this leftover piece of woven giraffe upholstery fabric that brought in a bright element and was a good contrast to the brown wool.

Wool Coat recycle plans
Fabric Selection

Next step was to sketch out a design. Again, not a great drawer, but you get where I was going. It’s a good idea to start with a sketch, like a recipe, it can be a road map to keep you on the straight and narrow. But like any good cook, you change it up a little as you go based on what you have available.

Wool Coat Recycle
Original Design Plans


It looks like there is a lot of fabric in this coat, but the cut of the two piece sleeve and the button holes on the left and right side of the front chewed up a good deal of fabric.

wool coat recycle
1980s Wool Coat

I ripped apart each seam instead of cutting them out because I was afraid I wouldn’t have big enough pieces. It was a process for sure, and I had little threads all over me and dog hair all over the coat – because she wanted to help! LOL!

I left the welt pockets intact, because they were looking good and a nice welt pocket is a high end detail.

wool coat recycle
Coat Destruction

Cutting Out

Laying commercial pattern pieces over already cut remnants takes patience and brain power.

The sleeves were cut with a severe angle at the top to accommodate the huge shoulder pads so that became a challenge. My solution was to add more length at the bottom with contrasting fabric so I could avoid the curve of the upper sleeve. I also added a strip of piping down the top of the two-piece sleeve; joining it together so I could overlay the one piece sleeve on the new design.

wool coat recycle
Sleeve Overlay

Another issue in this wool coat recycle was cutting the front pieces. I had several chunks removed where the button holes were; giving me less fabric to work with. I solved that problem with darning the button holes openings and using the pleather, which is very light, to overlay a panel feature on the center front pieces.

wool coat recycle
Button Hole Mending

The real stumper was a corner of the shoulder near the sleeve. I had to overlay the pattern over the pockets so they had the correct placement. That left me with a triangle of fabric on the shoulder that had no fabric coverage. After a fair amount of head scratching, I added a piece of the pleather welting and a triangle scrap. This worked well with the welting going down the sleeve along with the detail welting I planned for the arm scythe.

wool coat recycle
Added Shoulder Piece and Sleeve Cap

Editing Is Key

I didn’t care for the large lapel, so I skinnied that up a bit. I eliminated the lining which made the facing a little more bouncy. I ended up stitching in the ditch along the pleather trim to wrangle the facing into place.

To keep the proportions balanced, I nixed the giraffe around the bottom of the coat. It gave an unflattering horizontal line along the mid thigh – not a good look for me. I opted to turn the giraffe up and use it as a hem facing. That worked well. I also ended up skipping the belt for the same horizontal line distraction.

The Finished Product

Wrap Up

Designing on the fly takes some brain power. You need to think a few steps ahead so you don’t cross yourself up. One of the nice things about working on this project was that it cost me very little. A pattern from my stash, a coat ready for Goodwill, a scrap of fabric from another project, and black pleather that I keep in my stash always; combine to make the price of my new coat $0. I love that. I also love my new wool coat recycle.

Happy Sewing,


47 thoughts on “Wool Coat Recycle

  1. Oh how I envy you. I can’t sew a button on straight! And, I didn’t understand half of the terms that you used in this post! HAHA! When I was in high school and took Home Ec, I made oven mitts. I sewed the thumbs closed. My mom and dad got a good chuckle out of that. Your coat by the way, looks beautfiul!

    1. Melissa, I’ve never heard of a wool hoarder – lol. It’s the best right! This wool is over 30 years old and well worn. It looks like new.

  2. I definitely have a wool coat that I save for trips up north that I would love to revamp. Great tips!

  3. Wow that looks like it took a great deal of time and skill to accomplish! Up-cycling clothes is a really great trend right now and more people should get into this.

  4. You did an amazing job!! My mom was always making something new out of something old. That is a talent. I used to sew but I seemed to use the seem ripper out tool more then actually sewing. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Love the idea of doing something like this – I have a few older coats that are much too large and could easily try and tackle this. Nothing to lose (and a lot of time lately!) Thanks for the idea!

  6. Well done. I used to sew, a lot. But pattern making was never something I enjoyed, and you make it look so easy. I started a beautiful winter coat, that I had to alter the pattern a bit and now 5 years later the lining still hasn’t been made. If you lived closer, I’d hire you to help me 🙂

  7. Wow I love how the repurposed coat turned out! So attractive. And I especially love that you reused it in a fresh way.

  8. I love upcycles! Seeing old turn into new! I love the picture of you smiling in your stylish “new” coat! It looks great!!! A before picture next to the after picture would have been fun to see too. Great job!!!

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