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Replacing the Lining in Your Coat – Step 1

coat lining 1One of the things that I really hate in terms of manufactured clothing, esp the stuff that you absolutely have to buy and that usually costs the earth, relatively speaking, is that the inputs are usually so cheap. I don’t necessarily mean “cheap” as in “doesn’t cost very much,” though that is usually the case. I mean “cheap” as in “poorly made and won’t last a very long time.”

My biggest bugaboo on this is: the linings in coats. I hate the quality of these, which ranges from “poor” (and are usually made out of polyester satin) to “falls apart when you get it out of the store” (which is usually made of this sleazy acetate and might be satin faced…or not).

Now, Aunt Toby is going to be blunt here. In any item of clothing that goes through the hands of a “sewing machine operator” (and that is what people who sit at sewing machines, no matter what their age, gender, or race are, or where in the world they are located, or what they are or are not paid), the labor is the largest cost. Period. End of story. Even when you break down the entire creation of the garment from the “having the cut up pieces and given them out to the operators in terms of what part of the garment they sew” to the final pressing of the garment into eensy weensy parts so that each operation under someone’s hands takes all of 30 seconds or less, every time it passes through someone’s hands, it adds to the cost of the garment. But you do need people to create these things; they don’t create themselves. So, manufacturers try to make the entire operation as inexpensive as they can (and thus they maximize the profit in each garment made). There are all sorts of ways that can be done, but in many cases, one way they can maximize the profit, frankly, is to cheapen the goods in the garment to an amazing degree. And one of the places that they do this (because it is the hidden part) is the lining, because who the hell except for Aunt Toby goes and looks at coat linings? Do you?

So, there you are; you have paid a lot of money for what you think is a good dress coat and you’ve worn it one winter and dayam…the lining is starting to split in the back…or the seams in the underarms (called the armscye, if you really want to know) have started to come apart, or because of what you carry in your back pocket, you have a big worn spot on the right bottom of the jacket and it’s worn through; you can see the interfacing. Or maybe the whole thing is not that it’s worn that much, it’s just that the coat, which seemed so nice and should have been warm enough…isn’t. The wind just seems to go through the thing.

What you need, Bucko, is NOT a new coat. As long as the outside of the coat (what we will call the shell) is tightly woven fabric, no worn spots or holes, no tears, etc., then you have something you can build on. Yes, I know you are saying, “Oh, sure, Aunt Toby – you’d say that – you know how to sew; I don’t know how to sew and don’t have a sewing machine.”

“Hah!” says Aunt Toby – and again I say, “Hah!!” I once had to reline a peacoat for Daughter-the-Younger in a motel room over a Thanksgiving holiday weekend in Cincinnati with no more equipment than scissors, a couple of straight pins and needle and thread. So, no excuses, Bucko. If I could do it under what I would consider emergency and battlefield conditions (terrible light, working with black lining in a dark navy blue coat, on the damn floor), then this is something you can do. As you see above, I am doing this diary as several posts over several days because we need that much space and time to do it.

First, I’m going to give you some basic figures – you can also find these by looking at a pattern that is close at a local sewing store, which is a place you will end up in anyway. For a jacket – like a women’s large peacoat or a man’s suit coat or jacket, you will need 3 yards of 45” wide fabric; 4 yds for a women’s large coat. If the fabric is 60” wide, you will need about a yard less.

So, go to a fabric store – if you are in a large city, look for a store that handles men’s suiting and coating fabrics; if you are, like Aunt Toby, stuck in the boonies, you can either order over the internet or go to whatever you’ve got. What you ask for is “coat lining” – in a proper store, they will know what you are looking for: heavy fabric which is satinized on one side and has a nap on the other. When you lift a fold of this off the bolt, you will understand the difference between what you are going to put in your jacket or coat and what is there now. This is the real stuff. Unless your coat or jacket is a light color, pick a dark color; they tend to wear better. I have a shopping list for you – this is based on the “I’ve got nuthin’” standard; obviously YMMV if you have some of these tools already. If you don’t, you should; consider these investments.

Here is your shopping list:
3-4 yards of coat lining
Thread to match the lining – ask for hand-sewing thread. One reel of thread should do the job.
Hand sewing needles – get a small package of what are called ‘sharps’ – they will have smallish eyes in them
Small package of straight pins
Sewing Shears – with a blade that is at least 6” long but not longer

Now, sewers out there are going to take offense at my technique here. They are going to say, “Aunt Toby, you should take out the lining and use that as a pattern and then cut out the fabric and put it back and ….” Yes, under other circumstances perhaps I would do that. But we have folks here who need a new lining and they need it NOW. And if someone needs a new lining, and the old one is just a little worn in places or needs some repairs, then what they really need is MORE lining, not less, so we are going to put a new layer of lining ON TOP of the old stuff. Think of this as doing a Bandag™ on your coat.

So, your assignment for this part of the job is to gather your materials and tools. Evaluate the coat (see photo above). One of those pencils is pointing to what is probably the most common repair anyone will need to do on a coat lining: the seam in the lining in the armscye. The other pencil is pointing at the center back, where the lining is attached, in this case, to the back neck facing (in some coats, it will just be attached to the collar). Get familiar with this place – for our procedure, this is “Home Base.”

See you next time.

This post is also cross posted at

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  1. Valley Girl says:

    Toby, I absolutely love your posts, both here and at FDL.

    The “lining thing” really got me. I was in CT for holidays, and husband of CT friend loves Harris tweed jackets. I have given him and the household several, most of which I bought in an Ithaca thrift store. They have been handed out to various recipients over the past few years. Unfortunately, jackets didn’t fit husband of CT friend. But he loves Harris Tweed sport coats so much that he bought one on Ebay.

    Over holidays, we had a huge discussion as to the ins and outs of Harris tweed jackets, and he brought out the Ebay purchase to model, and for me to inspect. He thought that the problem with the Ebay purchase was that it was the wrong size. He said, it just feels weird, like there’s a huge bunch of stuff around the arms. I looked carefully at the jacket, and it turned out that the problem was that the lining for the sleeves had been replaced, and very badly. Like, really badly, so that there was a huge bulky seam all around the armpit. (Sorry, without pics, it would be hard to describe)

    I got protests at first when I started to rip out armpit lining, but then… I did that, and then, ummmm…. jacket was okay. Minor job to resew the lining by hand.

    Yeh, the details of this might not make much sense w/o details.

    But, saving good things, I like.

  2. htwollin says:

    Oh dear. Yes, the armpit seam repair can really harm the fit. Usually, the seam just needs to be carefully put together again; if you have to replace the sleeve linings, that can get really iffy.

  3. Valley Girl says:

    oops- I meant I ripped out the bad seam, not the entire sleeve lining! I should have taken pictures *g*

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