Making my own Chore jacket – part 1

Even with the very best of intentions, this project has been a slow starter. It’s been sitting on a shelf in the hallowed room of sewing for around a year now. I did post about it half a year back, when I thought I had worked up the gumption to give it a go (read here), so let’s let that one serve as the main intro to the project. In summary, Merchant & Mills have made a pattern they call “The Foreman“, a fairly typical workwear style chore coat. You can pretty much make it in any fabric you want, though something a little rugged would be most appropriate. I’m making mine in a heavyweight olive cotton twill. It would be more typical in blue, but how many blue jackets can a man justify?

So, what do you get for your 13 pounds when you buy a pattern? Just that, a pattern, and the instructions required to make a jacket. You need to provide the actual fabric, interfacing, buttons, sewing thread and the use of a sewing machine. As far as skill level, I don’t think this looks like a super difficult garment to assemble, as there is a limited number of pieces and literally no frills. There is one big decision to make though, and you have to make it right at the start: What size do you want to make your jacket? There are some measurements given, though given it’s a workwear jacket it’s not meant to be very fitted. The thing is though, once you’ve decided on the size, you cut the paper pattern and that’s what it will make. You can certainly use it several times, but the size will be set.

So, carefully cut out the pattern, following the lines for the given size. This is really a moment to appreciate the task of the person that has graded the pattern originally. Grading, as in making more sizes out of the original size pattern created. Every little pieces is sized differently. A steady hand and a good eye though and the pattern will be ready to transfer to the fabric. A tip here: Iron the fabric before you start transferring the pattern. Depending on the width of the fabric there are also different ways to lay out the various bits and the instruction shows you suitable layouts for minimal wastage. My fabric was 150 wide and needed to be folded lengthwise according to the instructions. I made sure I ironed the crease as well, for ultimate accuracy.

Transferring the pattern to fabric means you need to draw around the pattern. I use a piece of tailors chalk and hold the pattern in place using heavy books. You could also pin it in place, but that’s more work and we like to keep it simple. I always try to be as accurate as I can at this point, although it is tricky to make truly beautiful lines. I try to make up for it when cutting afterwards. It’s worth noting here that the seam allowance is 1.5cm, which means that your actual seam will be 1.5cm from the edge of the fabric, so it’s no crisis is your cut isn’t 100% laser-beautiful.

Once you’ve finished cutting all the pieces, you’ll have a pile of the 16 pieces that will become the jacket, and a pile of offcuts that are likely of little use for anything. I needed exactly 4 metres of fabric to make this jacket.

This brings us neatly to the first real step of the 17 steps in the instructions: Applying interfacing. What this really means is ironing on an extra piece on the backside of the fabric to give it a little extra structure. Not all pieces, mind you, just the pieces where it will look good if the fabric is a little stiffer. In this case that means the collar pieces and the inside of the front where the buttons and button holes go. It’s not hard to see how this makes sense.

It helps if the fabric pieces have been ironed first, so you’re not warping them when applying the interfacing. The way I do it from here is to apply some head to the fabric when it is lying on top of the interfacing on the table, just so it gets a little stuck in place, then carefully cut the interfacing oversize, flip it over and iron it properly in place. Once that is done it can be cut around the edges and prettied up.

So, that was step one, just another 16 to go. Pockets are step two. Are you with me so far?

The other parts:

The pattern I’m using is available from Merchant & Mills


  • Ed 07/06/2017 at 22:12

    I want to see this through! Totally with you!

    • nick 08/06/2017 at 07:39

      Thanks for the support! I’m forging ahead!

  • Anita E Anderson 08/06/2017 at 14:09

    I find that anyone who makes their own clothes very brave. We have 2 major companies that make great outdoor wear, Carhart and Berne. Carhart is more expensive. I like the underdog. Berne makes great products for women.

    The Chore coat or Berne used to call the barn coat. They discontinued it. It was great. Came in every color. I have that traditional blue that has now faded in areas of wear. I had to find another like as a car coat. I did, used, for $20 USD on ebay in tan.

  • Darryl 11/06/2017 at 11:59

    Would love to have a go at this, but I have enough trouble trying to thread cotton through the head of a needle!
    Very interested to see how it all works out.

  • Making my own Chore jacket part 2 – Well Dressed Dad 14/06/2017 at 10:04

    […] left you at the end of part one (find it here) having cut out all the pieces required to make the jacket, and applied interfacing to the bits […]

  • Making my own chore jacket – part 3 – Well Dressed Dad 19/06/2017 at 15:22

    […] style coat, using the “Foreman” pattern by Merchant & Mills. Part 1 can be found here and part two is […]

  • Mark Larner 28/01/2020 at 12:32

    Hey Nick, as luck would have it this is my next project – was googling it for advice and found this! Very useful, thank-you!
    I’ve opted for a nice canvas from M&M for it.
    Depending on how it goes I might even attempt to line it, we’ll see!

    • nick 28/01/2020 at 13:23

      I actually made a second one in vintage army tent! I’ve not lined them, though it shouldn’t be too tricky.

  • JS 22/04/2022 at 18:07

    It’s a good idea to trace patterns, leaving the original intact. The original can be referred to, different sizes can be used, and different sizes can be blended. It’s an equally good idea to make a practice garment to see how a pattern will fit.

  • Richard Harries 14/06/2023 at 14:47

    Very happy to see this, as it’s my next project. One hint, though. You don’t need to cut the original pattern. I buy blank pattern paper, and trace the required size onto it, then fold the purchased pattern and put it away. This way, I have all of the origional sizes to make. It’s easy, not nearly as hard as you might think. Burda sells pattern paper.
    Your instructions are really thorough. Thanks again, this makes it much less daunting.

    • Richard Harries 14/06/2023 at 14:58

      Also, I just saw that someone else already said this! Sorry!


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