Thursday, July 24, 2014

Back from a break. Soldier on, Dad.

I took a much needed break from this project. It's easy to forget just how labor intensive a tailored jacket can be. But it's time to get back on the horse, as they say.


When I left off I was completely baffled by the collar construction. I read and reread Cabrera's instruction to the point where I felt comfortable just jumping in with both feet. Why so reticent? He has you discard the pattern piece for the collar. The entire collar is hand stitched using just the undercollar as a reference. "Sewing without a net" I call it. What follows is just a glimps of the process.



I trimmed the seam allowances off the collar pattern to use as my undercollar pattern. I just didn't trust the Vogue undercollar, which seemed too small. I cut the undercollar from felt (B Black and Sons) and interfaced it with a fusible French canvas that I picked up at Steinlauf and Stoller in NYC a couple years ago. This proved to be a huge time saver. Otherwise, I would have been back to padstitching. I'm always a little leery of fusibles, but this stuff worked perfectly. As you can see, the canvas is cut a bit smaller than the felt so that none of it will be visible in the end. Here you see the interfaced felt, cross stitched to the neck opening.



This is where it gets scary. There is NO pattern for the upper collar. The felt is basted onto a rectangle of the fashion fabric, and the entire collar is created "on the fly" around the felt.



Baste here, baste there, trim, fold, slipstitch here, cross stitch there.


Did I mention basting?


Thankfully, it all comes together in the end. Simple or fast, it IS NOT! The result, though, is probably better than what could be achieved by following the pattern instructions. I'm glad to have this step behind me, and relieved that it turned out as nicely as it did. Trust me, there were moments when I really had my doubts. And really, is there anything more strangely constructed than a man's jacket?


The buttonholes are done. I always hold my breath at this point. The last thing I need is for my vintage Singer buttonholer to start acting up. I'm pretty sure we've all had that OH F$&@ moment with buttonholes. I owe the sewing gods for sparing me this time around. I will cut these open later so that they'll be functioning, a "distinctly custom touch" according to Cabrera.



An entire day was spent handsewing the lining. Working with polyester acetate is my idea of hell on earth. Next time I'm picking a jacket pattern with a single vent! Working around two vents was almost enough to break me. Fortunately, I'm pleased with the result, but my enthusiasm for this project is flagging. I really need a break from all the handsewing. Hopefully the pants will be easier. It will seem novel to actually use a sewing machine! Forward March. The end is almost in sight.



Plank # 3 is finally on the boat.





Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tailoring Progress

I'm making steady progress on the wedding suit.

It's been awhile since I've done any tailoring, so the amount of basting and handsewing has been a little overwhelming at times. I'm using the Roberto Cabrera book on tailoring which is usually helpful, but tonight he has me totally baffled about constructing the collar. It's almost more confusing than putting in a zipper fly! So I'm just going to walk away for the night and pick it up in the morning when I'm fresh. I do that a lot, hence I'm one of the slowest sewers out there.

The sleeves are essentially done, they just need buttonholes on the vents. I do like Cabrera's method of making and lining the sleeves. You do have to make a muslin first because the length will be set when all is said and done.



A wide piece of bias muslin is basted into the cuff along the hemline and fold lines of the vent.


The hem is pressed up and attached to the muslin. This way there will be no stitches visible on the outside of the cuff. The sleeve and lining are then sewn up as usual.


Both the sleeve and the lining will be wrong side out. They're stacked up and the corresponding seam allowances are quickly stitched together with a diagonal stitch. Nothing fancy here. Then the fun happens. Reach down through the lining and pull the sleeve up through it. Voila! A perfectly lined sleeve (inside out) ready to have the lining finished at the vent.



Here's the finished vent. You just have to fiddle with it until it works. Once it makes sense and comes together, I press it into position, baste to hold things together and then slipstitch with silk thread.



The sleeves are done for now and set aside.

Next I've worked on the lining and added an inside left chest pocket.


I used some of my left over shirting fabric for the welts. A fanciful touch. This is the same pocket construction as the outside pockets, just a bit smaller. I'm not bothering to make a right inside pocket because I would never use it, not to mention the time required to make it.



It looks like this from the inside.



I've put in the shoulder pads. The front of the pad is padstitched into the canvas. It's kind of a wrestling match, and I'm always glad when this step is over.

It's not pretty, but it works.

And here's where I leave off. Is there enough basting???? :)




Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Completing the Jacket Fronts...Tailoring nerds rejoice!

I know that many of you enjoy seeing the tailoring process, so this post's for you! For some, this may look like torture, but I actually enjoy all this hand work. Maybe you do too. It may look complicated, but in reality it's pretty basic stuff. There's a real sense of constructing something as I work through these steps. Tailoring a jacket or building a boat, it's all the same in a way. One little step at a time.



With the canvas basted to the jacket fronts, I move on to pad stitching the lapels. Working parallel to the roll line, small diagonal stitches are worked up and down along the lapel. This job is made infinitely easier with silk thread, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Why? Because it's virtually tangle free in addition to being incredibly strong. I run the thread once through beeswax and stitch away. This is a labor intensive step, so if something as simple as silk thread can make it go easier and faster, I'm all for it.

The stitch should be very small, just catching the fashion fabric under the canvas. Roberto Cabrera says it should just be a "pinprick". That would take more skill than I have. My stitches are clearly larger than that. The underside of the lapel will be peppered with tiny stitches, none of which will be visible in the finished jacket, so I'm not going to agonize over the size of my stitches.


The next step is kind of hard to describe and harder to photograph. After pad stitching about 1 1/2" from the roll line, the work is turned around and the lapel is folded back into the position that it will ultimately take on the finished jacket. Holding the lapel back, the pad stitching continues in rows until the whole lapel is covered. This step puts a permanent curve on the lapel and will make it want to hug the chest when the jacket's worn.



Here you can see all the little stitches on what will be the backside of the lapel. (Bigger than pinpricks I'm afraid!) The shadow hopefully shows how the pad stitching has built a curve into the lapel.

Here the lapel is lifting up off my glass top work table. This always amazes me! The next step is taping the edges of the jacket and the roll line.


The seam allowance of the canvas is very carefully trimmed off prior to taping. The tape is a 3/8" cotton twill tape that has been soaked in cold water to preshrink it. Starting at the neckline the tape is basted along the lapel edges, down the jacket front and across the hem. Tape is also basted over the top 2/3rd's of the roll line.


The tape over the roll line is cross stitched into place. The stitches should be at the outer edges of the tape. Again, silk thread will make this much easier.



The rest of the tape is slip stitched to the canvas on one side, and to the fashion fabric on the other.


This completes the jacket fronts. Next I'll tackle the sleeves.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Oh, Yeah... I'm supposed to be making a suit.

Wow, it's been ages since I've posted anything. Spring sort of happened, (although most people in the Northeast are still in doubt), and life got a little hectic. Still, I've managed to make some progress on my Martha's Vineyard wedding outfit. I guess one could say I've been productive but silent. Still, I have a ton of work to do if I ever want to be ready by Labor Day weekend.

After finishing my Jeds, I moved immediately to the "wedding shirt" because I knew I could bang it out using my TNT shirt pattern. So here it is.


Squeee. Another floral shirt! This cotton fabric from Elliott Berman was a dream to work with. A point collar with collar stays may have been more appropriate for a somewhat formal occasion, but I opted for a buttondown because I want to wear this shirt A LOT after the wedding. I can get much more use out of a buttondown, and it would be a shame to have a shirt this gorgeous just hanging in the closet. I wish you could feel this fabric. Heavenly.



I'm wearing it with a vintage raw silk Rooster tie that I've owned for ages. I'm scouring Etsy and EBay for other alternatives. I'm really liking the skinny look.



I wasted a huge amount of time trying to match this fabric, AND did a poor job of it! The front placket matched perfectly at the neck, but gradually ran off course down the front of the shirt. I'm sure you see it in this photo where my tie is askew. It makes me feel like I need to make an appointment with the ophthalmologist. Almost painful! Live and learn. I would never bother to match a busy fabric like this again. My daughter from CA assures me that no one will ever notice. On a brighter note, I did a great job matching the left front chest pocket. Trust me, there's a pocket there.



I experimented with several different thread colors for the topstitching and buttonholes, and settled on a muted gold color. It almost disappears, as do the buttons, which are the color Latte from Fashion Sewing Supply. I strongly suggest that anyone interested in making shirts pick up the entire range of shirt buttons that Pam offers. They're a great value, and you'll always have just the right button.

Shirt done, pressed and in the closet until August. On to the suit....


In case you forgot, my suit fabric is a olive green cotton / silk blend from Elliott Berman. It had a somewhat stiff "crunchy" hand so I decided to prewashed it in cold water and run it through the dryer. Ooops! I ended up with a wrinkled mess that I just couldn't iron. In a slight panic I dropped all 6 yards off at the dry cleaners and asked them to steam press it. Their result was only slightly better than mine, so I'm going to have to embrace the rumpled nature of this fabric.

So here's where I stand.



The pockets are done and the jacket fronts are basted to the canvas.



I'm using a lightweight premade canvas from B. Black and Sons. It's very inexpensive and saves a great deal of time, which is of the essence right now.




The pockets are made according to the directions in Roberto Cabrera's book on men's tailoring. I'm really pleased with how they came out, especially the flap welt pocket which I've never attempted before. What I love about Carbrera's instructions is that you can toss out all the fussy little pattern pieces. The pockets are composed of simple rectangles that get marked, folded and stitched. "Sewing origami" is my name for it. Somehow, it all comes together, and I love when that happens. I plan to add a pick stitch detail to the pocket flaps and lapels of this jacket.


The next step is to pad stitch the lapels and add the twill taping to the front edges. Lots of handstitching in this man's future!


Oh, and I've finally started planking the boat!


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wearing my Jedediah pants!

I've been waiting for a decent day to model my new Jeds. The threat of a major snowstorm has passed, so finally, here they are. Undoubtably, the best pair of pants I own! Beautiful inside and out. Thank you, Thread Theory, for this great pattern. I can't wait to make more, especially the shorts version for the upcoming summer.


I made my Jeds with a brushed cotton twill from A & K fabrics in NYC. The color is a dark teal. It works perfectly with almost every shirt I've made. Here they are with a patchwork madras shirt. A total knock out! The season for wearing this shirt is very short, basically from now until the hot weather arrives. I plan on wearing this combination a lot.


Here I'm wearing them with one of my controversial ombré dyed shirts. I love this color combination! No one else has this look, so it make me feel like a million bucks.




I added a little whimsical "Levi's" type tag to the back pocket. Just a piece of my bias trim fabric sewn in. I omitted the decorative topstitching on the patch pockets. Just a personal preference.



This was my "Christmas" shirt, which I riffed off a vintage McCall's pattern from 1983. One of the male residents at my mom's nursing home really liked it! I like it too (even if the stripes on the pockets don't line up perfectly).



Love them with last year's spring buttondown! Like they were made for each other.


So when are YOU jumping on the Jeds bandwagon???




Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Making my Jeds

There's a complete sew-a-long for these pants on the Thread Theory website. The instructions are very easy to follow, and things go together flawlessly.

Other than shaving some off the hips and back seam, I only made one significant change to the pattern. I increased the width of the cut-on fly to 2.5 inches, as suggested by David Coffin in his book Making Trousers. This allows the topstitching on the outside of the fly to be wider. I increased it from 1", as called for in the instructions, to 1 3/8". Just a personal preference.

I just tape on a scrap of tracing paper and redraw. Easy.

I experimented with topstitching the patch pockets on some scraps. My fabric is a brushed cotton twill that I picked up on MPB day this past summer. It looks grey in my photos but it's actually a dark teal. Very substantial, and best of all... No stretch!

I prefer the pocket in the foreground that's edgestitched and then stitched again 1/4" away. It creates less shadow and that "stuck on" look.

I'm making my own bias binding with quilting cotton from JoAnn's bargain bin. This gizmo is the best thing since the Play Doh fun factory! I love it.

Inside the patch pockets. No one will ever see it, but I love knowing it's there.

The brushed twill that I'm using is quite heavy. I lined the fly shield with the quilting cotton to reduce the bulk. I skipped the interfacing.

I finished all the seams with my homemade bias binding. It was surprisingly easy to do, and SO worth the little bit of extra time it took. These pants are prettier inside than out! The "luxury" label is a gift from my daughter and it's the icing on the cake.
Tout fini! Time to try them on.