It's about exploring and sharing my creative adventures (mostly sewing these days) ~
~those activities that sometimes obsess, usually inspire, occasionally frustrate
~and always provide a delightful maze to wander through.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Soho Robe

After the long, long search for a nice, thick, juicy cotton terry to replace my old worn out robe....
Yes, I've been wearing it for that many years,
and yes, it's really that worn :(
...I finally gave up & accepted the inevitable:  if I wanted thick & juicy, and a color &/or pattern I liked, it was probably going to need to be a poly fleece.   Fabric Mart, and Marc Jacobs sherpa fleece on (ridiculously cheap) sale, combined with a yummy cotton flannel from my local fave, Stonemountain & Daughter, along with a pattern that is a far distant cousin to your usual boxy robe, and I was, finally, on the road to replacing that beloved but far too funky tattered creature I've been wearing.

Some notes on the Marc Jacobs faux sherpa fleece (since FM had 1000s of yards of the stuff, I know there are are a few of you out there who transported some of it into your stash):

1.  Note that it does have a nap, so bear this in mind when you're laying out your pattern for cutting.
2.  It's thick, but the backing is not a super tight weave, and it may not be as warm as you think it is.   It isn't warm jacket material by itself.
3.  The fleece side is thick enough that it warrants clipping off the fleece from the seam allowances.   Be prepared to sweep and vacuum.   A lot.
Clipped Seams
A little pile of fluff.
That gets everywhere.

4.  The backing collects the fleece bits, and mine was already pilling a bit after being handled, so I would recommend lining whatever you're going to use this for.
5.  All of the above aside, it's really pretty stable and easy to work with.

The Sewing Workshop Soho Coat Pattern.  Love.  LOVE!  It's been in stash for awhile, waiting for just the right time/fabric/inspiration - who woulda thunk that it would come in the guise of a robe?  Actually, I do plan on making a raincoat (and you'll be hearing more about that, soon....I'm already scratching my head in confusion regarding the initial plan....) so this robe was the perfect practice piece.  Especially since the only choices in actual robe patterns are the classic boxy rectangle with a sash, aka, the insta-20-pound weight gain illusion, or the classic poufy sleeved, lacey fronted, shaped vintage look that's a little more suited to swishing around the house with teacup in hand than it is for keeping one's body warm.  Don't get me wrong, I have a pattern for this look, and was this close to using it until I hit on the Soho Solution.

I hit a few potholes along the way (of course).  I bought the end of a bolt of flannel, and thought it would be enough.  It was, but it required cutting two sleeve halves for one of the sleeves.   But no one will know, because I'm not telling, and I know you won't :)

I ignored the side seam pocket instructions in favor of patch pocket, which I sort of randomly cut.   And sewed.  And lined.   And then decided the shape was all wrong so I recut.  And re-sewed.   And re-lined.   And added piping.  Just because, we wouldn't want this to be TOO easy, would we?
First Pockets
And wrong.
Second Pockets.
Cut to echo the lower curve.
Much better.  :)
I have a confession.   In spite of the fact that I'm really good at solving certain kinds of complex puzzles, there's something about multiple layers of flat fabric that need to be sewn and turned
 so that A ends up facing North while B turns a corner and faces Southwest and C brings it all together with a little whipstitch and a turn of the wrist that creates 3D magic that totally and utterly escapes me.  This is why I will never be a flat pattern maker.  I have lengthy head-scratching moments with what is probably the simplest little task for so many of you.   Things like how to place the piping in a lined pocket.   How hard can this be???  I actually managed to sew it up wrong before I figured it out.  Am I the only one who has to jump through this many hoops to figure something new out?

Correct placement of the piping

Sewing the 3 layers together (lining, piping, fleece) using a zipper foot

I took this picture to remind me to mention 3 things.
One is how pleased I am with my new ham stand!  
My Reliable V100 prefers to do its pressing on a flat surface,
and resting the nose of the ham on the stand gave me a nice flat place to press open a seam.   :)
Danged if I can remember the other 2 ???
Give me some time.....
I also made a belt, but it completely destroyed the lovely Soho lines, so, in spite of how much I like the ease of just tossing on the robe on a chilly morning & taking a quick wrap of the belt, I thought maybe...just maybe...I could handle the horrendous hassle of actually buttoning a button in the morning.   I mean, it's all about style, right?

I had this rather beat up old button that came off a vintage swing coat - missing bits, lucite (?) kind of scratched, but I hung on to it anyway, and decided this was the place to dress it up & use it.
Note:  The glue pictured turned out to have lost its virility.  
After a couple of failed attempts, the nasty, toxic E6000 did the trick.
 Sometimes you just have to bend the (ecological) rules a bit *sigh*
I had some seed beads (from my beading days) in the perfect color, and a couple of pinkish buttons from stash -  the magna-tac glue ate the color off the first one.
Stringing the seed beads onto thread
This is the nice thing about having had multiple artsy-craftsy forays in life,
you end up with all sorts of tools & goodies that surface to serve later on :).
The finished button

After discarding a number of buttonhole thoughts, I decided to use my new favorite method - the one I've dubbed The Koos Buttonhole, as used on The PeonyVest.  It's sort of like the Spanish Snap buttonhole, but not quite.   I decided to do a simple round shape - here's a picture-heavy tutorial:
Two Circles.   
Stitched around edge, RS together, leaving an opening to turn.
Turned, with opening slip-stitched closed. 
Buttonhole area marked with basting stitches

Right Side of Buttonhole fabric pinned to Inside of Robe
Buttonhole area stitched onto robe, following basting stitches
Deep breath taken, and Slash Surgery performed.
Slice down the center, then make a V-shaped cut at each end of the slash, 

clipping exactly to the corners of the stitching, 
as in cutting a welt opening.
Pull the buttonhole fabric through the slash, to the RS of the robe.
Topstitch around the buttonhole slash, and around the edges of the circle
stitching through all layers.
Button in place
The beauty of this method is that you can create any shape you want - sky's the limit!   Unlike a bound buttonhole, you end up with a bit of a gap in the slashed area, but in a case like this, it isn't even noticed because of the thick fleece.

Back to the robe.

Because of the lining, I basically sewed up two whole coats.  I cut the lining just to the edge of the folded sections along the front opening and the hem, serged the lining edges, and then sewed it in place with topstitching.   I also tacked the lining to the outer robe in several key spots, like crossing seams at the neckline, armscye, etc.

Pattern & Construction Notes:

  • A nice note about the pattern instructions is that you are given a 3/4" SA for all of the flat-felled seams, so you don't need to remember to add extra while cutting.   I REALLY appreciate touches like that!
  • The pattern runs large (par for the course for Sewing Workshop patterns, in my experience).  My measurements put me on the larger side of Medium, but I cut a Small.   I'm still debating whether or not to cute an XS for my raincoat, because the Small is plenty roomy.
  • The hood & fronts are one piece (two, actually - one for each side), and the shoulders are actually formed by a V shape that is slashed into the pattern.   Doing something like a narrow shoulder, or forward shoulder adjustment (usual for me) on this pattern is beyond the functioning ability of my brain.  (see notes above about head-scratching on flat patterns)
  • I shortened both the coat length and the arm length by about 1".   At 5'3", this length is fine for a long robe, but I'll need to do more for an out-and-about coat.
  • The lines on this coat are, imho, to die for!  I think it would be flattering on a lot of figure types - you really don't need to be long & lean like the pattern illustration for these lines to work!

The finished piece:

The belted option - I haven't decided whether to add belt loops & use this option...
What do you think?
Gratuitous cute kitty pic
Next up:  The Soho RainCoat.   I think.  The pleated fabric is already making me chew my nails, and I haven't even cut it or sewn a test swatch yet.   My next post will more than like have nothing but questions!


  1. What a fabulous dressing gown. How clever to use a hooded coat pattern.
    I love your new button, and the flannel bound buttonhole technique is excellent, thanks for the detailed photos. I must remember this.
    It does look more svelte without the belt, but warm snuggly dressing gowns are allowed to be a bit, well, practical in appearance IMO. Could you add inconspicuous thread loops for when you would rather use the belt than look glamorous? Then you would have the best of both options.

    1. kbenco thread loops might be a good option, thanks! I could tack on the fabric loops & see how conspicuous they are....truth is, I think I'll just leave the belt off for awhile, but if I find that I miss it & want it on, it will live on the robe pretty permanently, & delicate thread loops ain't gonna do much to tone it down lol, :D

  2. Your robe is so comfy and great looking. I have a Soho robe also! I made it intending it to be a coat but somehow it seemed to be more like a robe once I finished it so that it has become. I love it as a robe. Mine is a double sided fleece. I used plastic gismos for closure as per the pattern and that works fine. I didn't think a robe with a hood was normal but I have actually put the hood up a few times when extra cozy-ness was needed. I have also made the Soho as an unlined felted wool coat and as a raincoat with a lining. It is definitely a great pattern.

    1. Ann I saw your wonderful versions! I think your robe must have settled in the back of my mind, because when I saw this pattern as a robe, I went back & re-read all of the reviews. I didn't remember seeing your robe before, but I must have, because I did remember the other versions. You are one of my sewing/design heroes anyway, so your robe must have been filed in there somewhere ;D

  3. Ah Jillybe....I started reading this post thinking..what is she up to now...sherpa and flannel and beaded buttons, a koos buttonhole and a hood...oh my!

    This looks like the most cozy robe ever! I want a hook on my next robe and I love it. Once again you amaze and inspire.

  4. You look so warm and happy. Well, the happy is normal for you, but the warm part makes me want to go crawl into my warm robe. Nothing better than a nice warm robe :)

    1. Heh. I look happy in my pics here because a smile is my only good look on film ;-D

  5. What an awesome robe! I absolutely love it. The fabrics complement each other so well, and it looks good on you. Can't wait to see your coat version.

    1. Thank you Andrea :) Here's hoping I can work out the kinks in the coat!

  6. Oh wow! I am taking a break from a British detective series...and only have a minute to say...I love it. I am coming back tomorrow morning to read every detail.

  7. Another winner. The robe looks so warm and comfy and I like the way you did the buttonholes.

    1. Thanks Gloria :) This buttonhole technique is a winner!

  8. Love the robe. I think it is such a brilliant idea to use a coat pattern for a robe, a perfect wearable muslin! The button hole and button are amazing. Beautiful work. Did I mention I love the robe?

  9. Okay, I am back and have read the post with a discerning mind. It looks so warm, cozy and stylish. Thanks so much for the pictorial tutorial on fleece/sherpa/heavy fabric buttonholes. I love the technique and pinned it. I like the hood and think the robe looks best without the belt...but who cares about that when you first get up? Fun project and a great robe. Are you going to use this pattern for a raincoat?

    1. A raincoat is next up in The Plan .... the pre-pleated fabric is providing lots of necessity for pre-practice! Fingers crossed.......

  10. Jolly. What a mess.. When I read Marc Jacobs I was almost taking my credit card out but

  11. What a terrific robe! So toasty warm on a cold night or morning. Pile fabrics do scatter their fuzzies all over the place. I am still finding strands of fur that I cut 5 years ago!

  12. Love your robe, JillyBe! It looks so warm and snuggly!

  13. Nice robe! I prefer the look with the self-fabric belt. You didn't show a photo of the belted back, but the unbelted back look kind of sack-like. I think the belt gives nice waist definition.

    1. Hmmmm good points - thanks for that perspective! I'm finding that using the button is every bit as easy as tying a belt, but the cozy factor of the belt is still missing.

      I'll have to take a pic of the belted back & go from there; thanks!

  14. Hi Jilly - from your blog I see why you follow Don - I am a crap crap crap sewer, no good at details and I hate being told what to do. I never read the manual on anything.

    Thankyou for following me, I hope to keep you entertained!



  15. wrap me up in it right now, looks too comfy for words...

  16. Completely fabulous! Looks so warm and cosy, and that hood is something special. I love it! And that button; it is totally creative and amazing!!

  17. Beautiful robe!!! Thank you for posting the button hole much fun...I thought they would be difficult!!!

  18. I just love this! I know I already commented on PR, but I just had to say, you have a way of taking fabrics and colors that I just wouldn't expect to like and turning them into the most gorgeous creations. That bathrobe is so feminine, not boxy like you said, and looks super comfy, too.

  19. Great minds think alike! I just made myself a replacement for my old robe too - but I used the same old pattern from 1988, like a floor-length turtleneck sweatshirt. Yours is so cute and practical at the same time! Adorable.

  20. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your "journey" creating this lovely robe! It looks so nice, comfy, warm, inviting. Hope you enjoy it for years to come - just like the last one.

  21. Jillian,

    You have been awarded The Versatile Blog Award! Display the badge on your blog by using the HTML code below. I have removed the first left vee < and you will need to add it back in when you use the code. Go to for the simple rules. Congratulations, Mary

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