Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Lazy Man's Lining

With the sleeves set it's time to turn my attention to the lining. This is where I start to part ways with the Cabrera book. I think we should all feel free to pick and choose the techniques that work for us and meet our needs. Personally, I find linings difficult. Mostly because the (insert expletive here) polyester acetate is slipping all over the place. It drives me nuts. Couture be damned, I sew as much of it as possible by machine. Sorry, I'm just not into setting the lining by hand.

Basically I use the jacket pattern pieces with a few adjustments here and there.

This is a technique I learned from the Japanese coat book. If you've ever ripped out the armpit of a jacket, this one's for you.

I add some extra fabric at the underarm seam of the sleeves, maybe about 1 1/2". I mark it out with chalk and cut. There's no need to be precise here. The extra fabric all gets eased in when the sleeve is set. This extra fabric provides some wearing ease at the underarm, a point that sees a lot of stress. I didn't do this on my frock coat and ripped out the lining the first time I wore it. Lesson learned -- the hard way!

And here's what it looks like on the undersleeve. The rest of the pattern stays the same. Lop off the extensions for the vents and sew it up.

Wearing ease is also added at the center back seam. Here's the back pattern piece. I've lopped off a portion at the neckline which accounts for the facing. The center back seam is chalk marked out 1". This extra inch continues all the way to the waist, where it tapers back to the original pattern size. Stitch with the usual 5/8" seam allowance. It will become a pleat at the center back. This allows for movement across the back and shoulders, another high stress point.

More ease is added at the lining fronts. The front shoulder seam is extended 1". A half inch pleat is basted across the lining approximately at the midpoint of the arm opening.

It will look like this after the lining is assembled.

I've worked a pocket into the left chest portion of the lining. Theoretically there should be a pocket on the right as well, but I'm right handed and never use the pocket on the right. Call me lazy, but I see no reason to add features that are never going to be used. This will be perfect for my phone. One of the great benefits of making our own clothes is to have the features we want.

This was a last minute addition to the lining. It occurred to me, while busily working along, that there was nothing to help preserve the shape of the upper back and the neckline. This is a piece of pocketing, cut using the back pattern piece, layered over the back lining. It's sewn into the shoulder seams and basted like hell around the neck opening (which has stretched, in spite of staystitching, and has frayed away to almost nothing!)

This is actually a technique from Edna Bishop's book on clothing construction, and oddly never mentioned by Cabrera. I should have anticipated using it, especially since there's no collar on this jacket.

So here's the completed lining. Not much to look at. What a mess!! Thank God none of this will be visible.

It's much prettier on the inside. I'm just glad to have this portion of the project behind me. I'll save attaching the lining to the jacket when I'm fresh.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Welcome back. This post is all about the sleeves. Again, it's not a tutorial, just an overview of the process. For us sewists there's a great deal of satisfaction to be had by a well set sleeve. Am I right? Do you find yourself looking at the sleeves on couture garments on I do. The bar is set high, so let's jump in.

The upper and under sleeves are sewn along the unvented edge and pressed open. Cut a 5" wide strip of bias pocketing and place it behind the sleeve so that it lines up with the tops of the vent extentions. The bias cut allows this strip to be pressed into a curve to better mimic the shape of the cuff.

Working from the front, the strip is basted to the sleeve along the seamlines of the vents and along the fold line of the hem.

The piece is flipped over, and the excess pocketing is trimmed away. I think you can see in this photo that I've also basted across the top edge of the pocketing to hold it in place.

Next using the basting as a guide, the vent extentions are folded in and the sleeve hem is pressed up into position. A mitre is folded at the corner of the upper vent. Cabrera advises against trimming any fabric out of this fold since it makes future alterations of the sleeve impossible. It also gives some weight to the vent. However, I felt that the corner was just too bulky with this fabric, so I broke his rule and clipped a chunk of fabric out. It made a huge improvement. I'm not planning on any sleeve alterations in the future. Plus, I think my arms have stopped growing.

Complete the hem by slipstitching the fabric into the pocketing. It's just so much easier to get all this done with the sleeve flat.

I think this is also a good time to make the buttonholes on the upper vent. I'm not intending these to be functioning buttonholes. Sorry, but it's a couture touch that I just don't need. I mean really, when is the last time that anyone had to unbutton their jacket cuffs? Certainly not me. I'll be just as happy with the buttons sewn onto faux buttonholes. This will also greatly simplify the lining of the sleeves.

The sleeve is then sewn shut. Now it just needs to be set into the jacket.

Before I get started on this, please don't get discouraged. What looks like a lot of work actually goes along very quickly. It's just basting, and it doesn't have to look pretty. It will all get pulled out in the end anyway. I've found that the benefits far outweigh the time spent on these steps.

So, a crossgrain strip of pocketing (mine is 7/8" wide by 20" long) is basted around the edge of the armhole. Peel back the canvas and diagonally baste only to the fabric. The strip starts at the front notch, goes up over the shoulder and down the back to the underarm. Only about 2 or 3 inches of the armhole will be unreinforced.

You will want to go around twice. First baste close to the armhole edge. Next try to baste close to the other edge of the strip. Some of your stitches may miss the mark. It's no big deal. Just work along and you'll be surprised at how quickly this goes. Trust me, in the end this will all be worthwhile.

Cabrera sets the sleeve, creating the ease over the sleeve cap entirely by hand. I've tried and find it impossible to do. I machine baste the seamline of the sleeve cap and pull up a thread to create the ease. I adjust the ease as I pin it into the opening.

Ok, with the sleeve pinned into place, baste it close to the seamline with 1/4" stitches. Once you have gone around, go around again, this time placing the stitches in the spaces between the first round of basting. Why? Because now you can take out all the damn pins and there is practically no chance that you're going to get a little "catch" as you sew the sleeve in.

Trust me, this actually goes much faster than you might think. And.....

The results speak for themselves.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sit by a window, listen to some music....stitch

The next step in the process is to tape the edges of the jacket and reinforce the vents. It's all about handsewing, which I happen to enjoy, probably more than I'm supposed to. I find it very enjoyable. Not only is it satisfying, I also love the fact that I'm participating in an activity, a tradition, with a long history. While I stitch away I fantasize about working in a great atelier, perhaps making a coat for royalty! Fantasy aside, I like to sit by a window, watch the snow fall and listen to some music. My current soundtrack is The Weepies. Love them!

The canvas is oversized so any excess canvas is trimmed away after the fronts have been basted. The seam allowance is then marked on the canvas and very carefully trimmed away. This step always makes me nervous because one risks inadvertantly clipping the jacket fabric. As Cabrera says frequently in his book, "give this step your full attention". The alternative is complete ruin.

The twill tape should be soaked in cool water, dried and pressed before using. Starting at the neck, the tape is basted along the seamline through all layers.

At the break, the tape is cut almost to the edge and a small wedge is clipped out. This insures that the tape will lay flat when the "corner" is turned. The tape runs down the jacket front and then along the hemline.

Now that it's all basted into position, the edges of the tape are slipstitched to the canvas on one side, and into the fashion fabric on the other. None of these stitches should be visible from the right side of the jacket. Put on some music that you love and enjoy the process!

So here is the tape all sewn into position.

Lastly, a crossgrain strip of pocketing is slipstitched at the edge of the vent. Again, these stitches should not be visible from the right side of the jacket. This completes the work on the jacket fronts, and they are ready for the front facing.

At this point the body of the jacket can be assembled, and there's a sudden feeling of huge amounts of progress being made.

Go to your stash (I know you have one!) and cut a strip of "semi-bias" lining. This strip is basted to the front shoulder as a reinforcement. Note how the canvas has been peeled back.

The back shoulder seam is wider and will need to be eased. In this picture you can see how it ripples.

Steam press the wrinkles out, extending the tip of the iron only an inch beyond the seam line. Now stitch the shoulder seams. Pressing out the wrinkles makes this seam so much easier to sew.

Press the shoulder seam over a tailor's ham which will help preserve the shape. Now simply attach the back to the fronts. I like to stitch down to the waistline, remove the piece, and then stitch up from the hem to meet my stitching at the waistline. Thank you Edna Bishop for this tip, which helps prevent distortion of the garment.

So here's where I am so far. The jacket body from the front.

Jacket from the back.

Now it's on to the sleeves and even more tailoring geekery! As always, I hope you are finding this informative.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Working on the jacket fronts

Today I finally had time to tackle the jacket fronts. I'm making this jacket out of a raw silk patchwork fabric. As much as I like the look of it, it's proving to be a challenge to work with. It's very loosely woven with flaws and slubs everywhere. Not to mention that it frays and falls apart almost by looking at it. To say the least, I'm treating it with kid gloves.

Because there are seams about every 3 inches, I spent the better part of a day just cutting out the various parts, one piece at a time. I tried my best to match in places, but the primitive quality of the material made it difficult. I also tried to avoid having seams of the fabric fall on the seams of the jacket, or along hemlines. There are definitely some potential "bulk" issues when working with this type of fabric. I as cut each piece I immediately took it to the sewing machine to staystitch any curves as well as the front opening.

My inspiration jacket has patch pockets, but where I'm already working with a patchwork fabric, I felt that it might be too "hobo halloween costume". I've decided to use what Roberto Cabrera calls double piping pockets. I think it will be a cleaner look.

I always like to make a practice pocket before I launch into the real thing, so here goes.

I stabilized the reverse area of the pocket with a scrap of fusible interfacing. This is Pro Woven Light Crisp from As someone who's avoided fusibles like the plague, I can't suggest their products highly enough. Do yourself a favor and skip the stuff at JoAnn's.

I follow the directions from Roberto Cabrera's book on menswear tailoring, and here's the result. Not completely horrible, but when the lower welt was pulled through and pressed into position it revealed a flaw in the fabric.

Ooops! A broken thread in a highly visible area. This is why I like to make a trial pocket. It really helps expose the potential pitfalls. When working on the actual jacket fronts I'll fold the welting strips at the 1/2" mark just to make sure there are no flaws. This photo also shows just how loosely woven this fabric is. I'm determined, however, to make it work, so it's on to the real thing.

I'm not intending this to be a pocket tutorial, just an overview of the process for those of you interested in tailoring.

Here's the pocket after the welt sections have been stitched into place (they're on the front side) and the dreaded slash has been made. I hope you can see that the placement line is actually slightly curved which, according to Cabrera, will help keep the pocket from falling open.

The pocket from the right side after the welt strips have been pulled through and pressed into place.

Pocket on the reverse with the pocket bag attached.

This is all much easier to do than one might expect. The Cabrera book presents each step with an illustration, so it's simply a process of just following along.

The finished pocket. Yay! It works! This completes what will probably be the most difficult part of this project. It's on to the canvas.

I'm using the pre-made heavy weight canvas jacket front from B. Black and Sons. The pattern is placed over the canvas and the dart is transferred. The top and bottom of the dart is extended 1", and then the dart is cut out.

The dart opening is then closed by butting the edges together and zigzagging a bias strip of pocketing over the seam to hold everything together.

With the darts aligned, the jacket front is sytematically smoothed and basted to the canvas. The Cabrera book walks one through step by step. The result is that the two layers become one. Here the top seam allowance of the pocket is cross stitched to the canvas. One side of the pocket bag is also stitched to the canvas, but I forgot to take a picture of it!

The inside view of the basted front.

The outside view. The next step will be to trim the canvas and apply twill tape to the edges. I hope this has been informative for my readers interested in tailoring. Cheeers, and happy sewing.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Revised Muslin (the male bust adjustment?)

Readers, I've completed the adjustments to my muslin. It's not pretty, but at least I have the satisfaction of knowing that what I thought would work ... will!

So here's muslin #2

I added an additional 1/2" to each side of the neck opening as planned. Gone is the gap between the edge of my shirt collar and the neckline of the jacket. Hooray! I also raised the back neckline 1/2" as well.

Thanks to Mrs. C for suggesting that I "dart out" the gap that made the jacket pull away from my chest. This looks so much better. A side benefit to making this adjustment is that now the jacket wants to hang closed. In this picture I don't have the jacket pinned closed. Before, the bottom of the jacket wanted to swing out when not buttoned.

Side view of the male bust adjustment! If you gals can have FBA's and SBA's I guess we guys can have the MBA!

I figured the dart to be about 3/8". After establishing its position in relationship to the other front dart, I marked it on my Swedish tracing paper and folded the dart out. Easy.

Here you also see where I've added 1/2" to the neckline. I simply tape on a scrap of paper and redraw the line. The Swedish tracing paper makes this a snap. Love the stuff!

To make the pattern lay flat I had to extend the dart quite far across the front. Hopefuly, this will keep the effect I'm after. New territory here.

This picture also shows the new neckline, which is now ever so slightly curved rather than straight.

Lastly, I trimmed 3/8" from the front / side seam, tapering up to the waistline. This has helped reduce the fullness at the hem without causing the back vents to pull open. I could have perhaps taken out more, but I've learned that most times a little adjustment is better than a huge one.

Ripping apart muslins and fudging them back together is hardly my favorite thing to do. I'll be very glad to put this step behind me. My fabric is prewashed, so it's time to cut this jacket out.