Monday, October 5, 2015


still drying . . .

No sewing today as I've got a boatload of housework to do :-)  But I wanted to quickly say thanks to all who commented on yesterday's post, specifically my question about whether anyone was finding these posts helpful.  I was unsure whether many people were reading the blazer posts because I didn't get many comments on the first few.  And I didn't want to spend a lot of time writing posts that were essentially for the sake of hearing my own virtual voice.  Believe it or not, I'm a woman of few words ;-)  No really - I only like to say (or write) something when I've got something to say.

So thanks for letting me know that you find these posts helpful.  I was really touched by how many quick replies I got to that question.

So onward and upward!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Making the Under Collar

Sewing, at long last!!  This is a very picture heavy post, so hang with me here.

First, I feel like I need to make a confession.  In this series I'm showing the machine tailoring method, for a couple of reasons:  it's slightly less labor-intensive than hand tailoring (padstitching) and gives a different hand to the completed jacket than fusible interfacing.   I also chose it for its novelty factor - you just don't see a lot of it showing up in blog posts.  But I have to say:  having machine tailored this collar, I don't love it.  I found that I wasn't able to work a curve into the fabric like I can with hand tailoring, so there's going to be a bit of wrinkling on my under collar when it's turned back.  It's never going to show, but I know it's there and it kind of bothers me.  So I'm going to think about maybe reworking this collar with fusible.  My fabric is a densely woven cotton twill, so hand tailoring isn't a good option here.

OK, now that I've got that off my chest, here's what I did this afternoon.  First off is marking the canvas under collar pieces.  You'll need to mark the following lines:

1.  CB seam (dark blue)
2.  Roll line (magenta)
3.  Tailoring lines inside the collar stand (turquoise) - parallel to the roll line, spaced 1/4" apart (optional, as I explain below)
4.  Tailoring lines in the fall of the collar (orange) - think of this as a big M which roughly divides the collar into fourths, starting and ending at the outer collar edge.  My collar piece is about 8" wide, so the points of my M are spaced 2" apart.

Next, overlap the CB seam lines and sew together with a zigzag stitch:

Trim away the excess seam allowance:

You can see I messed up the marking on the left side.  NBD

Now sew the under collar's center back seam of your outer fabric.  Press this open on your tailor board.  We're going to be pressing open every seam from here on out in this way, so pay attention!  (It's not hard.)

Drape the piece on the board so the seam is centered on the wood:

Open the seam allowances with your fingers and press with steam - use a press cloth if you need to for your fabric.

As soon as you remove the iron, press down firmly on the seam with the clapper for 5 seconds or so, to lock in the steam and cool the fabric.  

You will be amazed at how crisp your seam looks.

Arrange your canvas on the under collar piece.  I like to draw in the seam allowances here to help me line things up.  I also use my little measuring gadget to make sure that the outer edge stays at the 5/8" line and the neck edge stays at the 1/2" line.  I even had to trim a bit away - the canvas is shifty and stretched out of shape a bit when I sewed the seam.  Pin everything in place to hold.

Now start sewing the tailoring lines, starting with the roll line.  All of the tailoring lines will be sewn from the center back out to the edge and off the fabric.  Here I've found (both times I've done this) that my lines are more accurate if I use the 1/4" guide on my presser foot rather than the lines I drew, so if I use this method again, I'll save myself some time and not bother drawing all those lines!  You'll be able to see in the following pictures what I'm talking about.

Sew both sides of the roll line, center out, then go back and do the rest of the collar stand on one side, then finish up with the rest of the lines on the other side.

Now remember:  with this method, the stitching lines do show on the outside of the garment (but only when the collar is turned up), so be as exact as you can. That's why I decided to follow my presser foot guide rather than the lines I drew.

Next, go back and stitch that big M, one side at a time, starting from the center back.  Here's what you'll end up with:

Now take this whole piece over to your ironing board and give it a nice press.  I used my press cloth so I wouldn't make my fabric shiny.

Grab your ham and shape the collar around it as if it were a neck.  Pin one side, then fold the fall back from the stand and wrap it all the way around and pin on the other side.

front view

back view

Hover your iron near the collar but not touching it, and shoot some steam at it. Immediately put your iron down and press lightly with your hand - your hand is taking the place of the clapper here.  We just want to work a soft fold into the collar, not make a crease.

Work your way all around the collar a few times like this, then set the whole thing aside to cool and dry.  Leave the collar on the ham until you need to sew it to the jacket.  Or until you need to use the ham, which will come first if you have darts in your jacket like I do.

Whew!  I think I can safely say that my resolution of shorter posts is out the window!  Is this helpful to anyone?  It takes a LOT of time to sew, photograph, edit, write and re-edit; if no one is benefiting from it, I'll save myself the trouble!

Adding the Stays

Quick work today!  The stays for the back, side back and side front need to be basted onto the outer fabric.  I always do this by hand, because it's quicker for me. Basting all the pieces below took me maybe 20 minutes.

For basting, I always use silk thread.  Aside from making me feel fancy, I find it makes the whole task of basting and the subsequent removal of basting stitches much easier.  The silk thread doesn't tangle up like polyester thread, making the hand stitching nice and easy.  And it's very easy to pull out later, even if you've sewn over it. I keep lots of colors on hand so I always have a contrasting color. Seriously, go get yourself a spool or ten.

When basting, make sure to keep the work flat.  That is - work on a flat surface; don't pick up the fabric and do the basting in the air or in your lap.  Keep the stitches on the loose side so that nothing is pulling.  If you turn your piece over, and you wouldn't know there was a piece of muslin basted onto the back if you couldn't see the stitches, then you've done well.

Also, get into the habit of not tying knots in your basting thread.  This reduces bulk in the seam allowance.  There's a lot going on in a blazer:  many seams and many layers of fabric.  You'll want to reduce bulk in whatever way you can!  So just take a back stitch at the beginning and end of your basting.

After the muslin stay is basted to the fabric, you'll need to make a few of the markings again on the muslin.  Place the pattern piece back on top of your fabric and redo the necessary marks.

There you have it - one more task done.  It probably took longer to read this blog post than it will to baste these stays on!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Cutting Out and Marking

This step is pretty self-explanatory, but I went ahead anyway and took a bunch of pictures while I was cutting out.  I have a couple quirks and tricks that might be different for you guys - the secret to my success, such as it is.

I always cut out using a rotary cutter.  I find I can be more exact than I can with scissors, since the fabric always remains flat.  Once I've cut around my pieces, I peel away the remaining fabric, leaving the pieces I've cut in position.  Then I immediately notch and mark them.  I like to do this right away because some fabrics are shifty and it's a lot harder to be exact with the markings after the fabric has been moved around a bit.

Because this pattern is a TNT for me, I transferred it to Swedish Tracing Paper so it would be nice and sturdy.  The last time I made this blazer, I got the bright idea to cut out all the circles, triangles, squares and a dotted line for the roll line - in effect making my pattern pieces into stencils for marking!  This has made marking much quicker and easier.

Here's the front piece with the dotted line for the roll line, and all the dots for the front dart and welt pocket before I connected them.

On M6172, the dart has straight legs but a curve at the top.  To transfer this curve accurately, I use my hip curve ruler.  I first place it along the pattern piece to find the matching curve:

Then use that same curve to mark my fabric:

Now, you may be thinking, "Aren't a lot of those markings going to get covered up by the hair canvas and muslin stays?"  Yes, they are.  But I always put them anyway right from the get-go, because for me it's easier to just go ahead and make all the markings than to think through which markings I need to make now and which can wait til later.  If you don't want to duplicate your markings, feel free to ignore this quirk.

After all my fashion fabric is cut, I move on to the muslin.  You can see here I didn't iron the folds out of my muslin before cutting.  But I did smooth it out under the pattern so the pieces are accurate.  And of course the muslin was previously washed, dried and ironed.

Finally, I get out my hair canvas and cut those pieces.  I always cut the hair canvas pieces single layer.  This stuff is shifty!  And you want to make sure these pieces are perfectly on grain.  The canvas I bought has red stripes every inch or so, making it easy to keep the pattern on grain.  But it's so coarse that even if you don't get striped canvas, you will easily be able to discern the grain.

Something is missing . . .  the lining!  I mentioned before that I don't cut out the lining until I absolutely need it.  Lining fabrics always seem to be shifty and prone to fraying, and I like to avoid those hassles as long as I can.  Which won't be very long on this jacket, as I'm going to be making the welt pockets with outer flaps.

Has anyone else started working on their blazer yet?  Making pattern pieces? Fitting?  Anything?

Friday, October 2, 2015

Inner Structure - Muslin Pieces

Here are the last of the inner structure pattern pieces you'll need to create. Again, these aren't super difficult, but I took a lot of photos for you guys - I'm a very visual learner and figured maybe some of you are too.  So while this post will look long, most of it is pictures.

The pieces we'll be cutting from muslin are:
     1.  Back stay
     2.  Side back stay for princess-seamed styles
     3.  Side front stay for princess-seamed styles
     4.  Carrier strips for machine tailoring

Back Stay and Side Back Stay

The back stay helps keep the back from stretching with wear, and keeps the fall of the fabric from the shoulders nice and smooth.

My pattern has a center back seam, so for my back stay I keep the center back seam allowance.  If your back is cut on the fold, you will do this the same way, but from the fold line.

My pattern also has back princess seams, so I needed to make these two pieces together to blend the curve.  If your back is one piece, you only have to make one back stay piece.  Here is what the two pieces of my back look like together:

Starting from the back piece, mark a point 8 - 10" down from the neck, whatever you think will be comfortable for you.  I'm short and I also have prominent shoulder blades and a low round back, so I marked my pattern 8" down.

Now move over to your side back piece, if you have one.  Mark a point 3" down from the armhole on the side seam.

Place the two pieces together, overlapping at the seam line as in the first photo. Then draw a gentle S-curve to connect those points.  At the center back, make sure that the first inch or so is perpendicular to the center back, i.e. don't start curving right away.  Here is how these two pieces will look:

Mark them both with the same grain line as the pattern pieces.

Side Front Stay

Now, my tailoring book says to make this piece out of hair canvas, but I felt like I didn't want to have stiff canvas at the side of my bust and under my arm, and I didn't have to because my front is princess-seamed.  I chose to make this piece out of muslin for a little more softness.

The theory for this piece is the same as for the two pieces above:  the end point is that 3" mark below the armhole at the side seam, and the curve blends over to the canvas piece cut from the front.  If your front piece doesn't have princess seams, you will have already done this and won't need to make this piece.

Here's how mine looks - note that my pieces do not form an uninterrupted curve like the ones on my back pieces.  I haven't found it to be a problem.  I made these pieces so long ago, I'm not really sure what I was thinking at the time!  I was following a book, a pattern and a Craftsy class when I made these pieces so I had a mash-up of instructions.

I mentioned in the last post that the edge of my hair canvas piece should be narrower at that princess seam side.  You can see in the photo above that in order to draw a curve from the apex over to the side seam 3" mark, I would have to cut out a fairly good-sized wedge.  I may do that in the future, but this has worked fine for me so far.  Take home message:  don't get too hung up about these pieces being "perfect."  None of them will ever show, and they are just intended to give the jacket a bit more structure and stability in high-wear areas.

Mark grain lines on this piece to match the side front piece.

Carrier Strips

The last piece you'll be cutting from muslin is a strip that goes all around the front edge, neck edge, shoulder and side.  The canvas will be attached to this carrier strip and then trimmed away outside of the seam line, so that only the muslin is caught in the seam, reducing bulk.

To make this piece, start from the pattern piece you made for the front interfacing.  Draw another line 1.5" from the edges mentioned above.  Here's how this piece will look, shown on top of the front interfacing piece:

Note that my piece is based on a princess-seamed style.  I included the armhole in my carrier strip piece so that I wouldn't have a tiny patter piece for that bit at the princess seam.  When I assembled my jacket, I cut away the excess later - I found it much easier to do this way.  If you're using a pattern that does not have princess seams, you don't have to trace the armhole - just make another carrier strip piece for the underarm section of your hair canvas.

Make sure to mark the grain line of this piece to match the grain line of the canvas and front piece.

Finally, here's a photo of the inside of the last jacket I made (machine tailored) where you can see a lot of these pieces:  the back stays, canvas interfacing and carrier strips.  This should give you an idea of how it's all going to go together.

Sleeve Heads - optional

Those are all the pieces we'll need from muslin.  There's one extra pattern piece you may want to make at this point:  you can make your own sleeve heads to match your sleeve piece.  If you want to do this, simply trace a 2" wide strip to match the cap of your sleeve.  Extend your piece a couple of inches beyond the dots.  I've cut mine back after using it a few times because a couple of inches was too long for me, but you should start with longer piece until you know what works for you.

Make sure you mark which is front and which is back on this piece!  It's easy to get it reversed!  If you're going to use a sleeve head like this instead of the purchased rectangular ones (or even a home-made rectangular one) you'll be cutting this piece out of a thinner piece of microfleece or cotton quilt batting.  I've used these a few times and honestly don't find there to be much of a difference between this shape and the rectangular one.

Those are all the extra pattern pieces you'll need to make - IF your pattern includes separate pieces for the lining.  If it doesn't, let me know and I can show you guys how to make those if you like.  If so, I won't be doing that until later - I never cut my lining until I get to the point where I need it because I don't like having all those shifty pieces laying around.

Next Steps

We're getting close to touching fabric!!  Of course the next thing you need to do once you've made these pieces is to prep your fabric in whatever way is suitable. I'm using a cotton twill for my jacket, so I've washed and dried it.  I'm hoping to start cutting out my pieces tomorrow.  Exciting!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Get ready to trace! (subtitle: Making Inner Structure Pattern Pieces)

Hey, hey, hey!  It's October, and that means blazer-wearing season is upon us!  At least here in Chicago.  But let's be real - for me, blazer-wearing season is all year long :-)

We're going to ease into our blazer-making adventure with some tracing.  We need to make some extra pattern pieces for the inner structure which will be cut from hair canvas and muslin.  I took a ton of pictures to show you these pieces, so I'm going to break it down into the canvas pieces today and the muslin pieces tomorrow, to avoid a mega-post.

Once you've chosen your pattern, of course the first thing you will probably need to do is to either make a fitting muslin or do a tissue-fitting.  This sew-along is going to focus on construction only - it's beyond my skill right now to do a series on fitting.  One of the reasons I recommend the McCall's 6172 pattern so often is that it's from the Palmer/Pletsch series, so the first couple pages are all about getting a good fit.  It's the pattern I'll be using here.  I've made it 4 times already because for me, there are usually a lot of fitting adjustments to make - on this blazer I had to make 10.  So having a TNT just makes sense.

I'm a big fan of tracing patterns, for the very reason that I tend to do tissue fittings these days, and all those adjustments make for a lot of wear and tear on the tissue.  Once I've got a pattern fitted the way I like, I transfer my final copy (if I think I'll be making more than 2 of that pattern) to Swedish Tracing Paper.  I've also seen people fuse a lightweight fusible interfacing to their tissue patterns to strengthen them.  Do whatever works for you.

Ok, let's get down to business.  You'll need to make the following pieces to be cut from hair canvas:
     1.  Front
     2.  Front shoulder reinforcement
     3.  Under collar

That's it!  I've taken photos of these using my traced M6172 pattern.  This blazer has princess seams front and back, so there is a front, side front, back and side back.  If your fronts and backs don't have princess seams, I'll mention as I go how to approach that.


Here's how my front interfacing piece looks, on top of the front piece:

My pattern has a front dart, so the vertical edge of the interfacing follows along the edge of the dart, up to above about an inch above the top of the dart, then over to the side front seam.  Here's a closer look - you can see the red curved line I drew on my original front pattern.  Curve it over until it ends at 3" below the armhole seam.  Now, mine is not an armhole seam but a side front seam, so my curve is quite curvy.  But I kept it at 3" anyway because anything less seamed too flimsy to me - the canvas has a tendency to fray.  You can use your judgment.

If your front piece doesn't have any darts, lay your facing piece on top of your front piece.  Draw a vertical line on your front piece 1" wider than the facing extending up to 1" above the bust apex*, and then curving over to the side seam to 3" below the armhole seam line as above.

*My tailoring book says above the apex for larger busts, and 1" below the apex for smaller busts.  Honestly, I haven't done a non-darted blazer before, but I will say that the canvas is very flexible so I wouldn't worry about it too much.  You'll find this seat-of-the-pants approach throughout the sew-along :-)

Finally, mark the grain line on your interfacing piece to match the grain line of the front.

Shoulder Reinforcement

Take your front piece again, and if you don't have the seam lines marked on it, do that at the shoulder, neck and armhole edges.  Also make sure the roll line is marked.

Now make a piece that looks like this:

The top (shoulder) and sides (armhole and neck) will be 1/8" inside the seam lines. The bottom edge will be about 2/3 of the way down the armhole, extending out parallel to the armhole.  That curved edge needs to be about 1/2" away from the roll line.  With this piece, I don't think it's super important to be exact.  You just need a little extra support at the front shoulder to keep the blazer from collapsing into that hollow below your collar bone.  But it is important that this piece not get into the seams or interfere with the roll of the lapel.

Mark a bias grain line on this piece.

Under Collar

Take your under collar piece and trace it again.  Then cut away the full seam allowance from the outside edges and cut away 1/2" from the neck edge.  Keep the center back seam allowance.  Here's what it looks like:

I'm hoping you can see that only that neck edge (the one next to the collar stand marking) has a 1/8" seam allowance, and the center back seam allowance is intact.  The remaining seam allowances have been trimmed.  Please note that this pattern piece is exclusively for the machine tailoring method - the other methods use different seam allowances.

Mark the same bias grain line on this as the under collar piece.

That's it for today.  Seems I couldn't avoid a mega-post after all :-)  None of this is very difficult, but I wanted you to have plenty of pictures.  I'll be back tomorrow to show you the pieces you'll need to cut from muslin.