Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bourbon and Blazers

As I said earlier in the month, October is all about blazers Chez Agenda.  Alongside my other projects, I've been slowly working on a pattern for a tailored blazer - an item which I'd love to own but which I rarely find to fit well in RTW.  You'll see why later in the post.

My friend Shar and I had been talking about doing a blazer sew-along in the fall, and so "Bourbon and Blazers" was born.  The name came from the title of an email I sent her referencing our plans and thanking her for the recipe for Salty Bourbon Squares she'd sent me.  Since we knew we'd be sharing a lot of our progress on Instagram, we decided to use it as our hashtag.  To our delight, a couple of our sewing friends have decided to join us:  Lisa and Andrea for sure, and maybe even a couple others are thinking about it.  We are all going at our own pace - there are really no rules or structure.  We're just having fun exploring the making of a tailored blazer together.  Please join us if you care to!  #bourbonandblazers

I had several blazer patterns in my stash from which to choose, and in the end I settled on McCall's 6172.  This is a Palmer/Pletsch pattern, which means it has lots of fitting advice, and fitting alteration lines are already included on the pattern.  Since I'm familiar with the Palmer/Pletsch method and fit is one of my biggest concerns in this project, I thought it would be a good place to start.  It turns out that all my sewing buddies have chosen this pattern as well!  I think it's great, because we will be able to compare apples to apples.

I started this project at the very beginning of October and just yesterday was able to trace off my final version of the pattern.  Between tracing, tissue-fitting and re-tracing, I've got about 10 hours into this project already!  I'm hoping all this work will pay off in a big way.

First I started by tracing my four main pieces:  the two fronts and the two backs.  I started with only these four because I wasn't sure if I should use the size 8 or size 10.  A quick tissue-fit of these main pieces verified that the 8 is the right size for me to start from.  It's interesting to me that my Palmer/Pletsch instructor also put me in a size 8, and all the adjustments I needed for this blazer were the ones I needed on the sheath dress we did in our class!

Once I had the correct size, I traced off all the other size 8 pieces, and then got started with my tissue-fitting.  I wish I hadn't done that though - I forgot that the shapes of the linings and facings would change to correspond with the new shapes of the front and back pieces.  So in the end, I ended up re-tracing those as well.

For my tissue-fitting, I was a little over-zealous at first, and had to back some of my adjustments out.  Once everything was done though (over the course of several fittings) I had made TEN adjustments!  No wonder the RTW blazers don't fit me well!  Here's my list as I kept track:

And here's what it says, but in the order of the adjustments:

* broad back adjustment of +1/4"
* shallow upper chest tuck of -1/4" 
* dart remains as it is - I shortened it a bit at first but decided I liked the original better
* forward shoulder adjustment -1/4"
* sway back adjustment -3/4"
* low round back adjustment +1/2"
* increase side seam from waist down +9/16"
* increase back side seam (between center back and side back) from waist down +3/16"
* make tuck corresponding to shallow upper chest tuck (-1/4") the length of the upper sleeve piece parallel to grain line, so that sleeve cap fits into new, smaller armscye
* full upper arm adjustment +1/2"
* shorten sleeve -3/4"

WHEW!  With all that tape, you can see why I wanted to re-trace my pattern pieces.  I have a bad habit of forgetting that I have tape on my pieces and then ironing over it and gunking up my iron!

Here are some pictures of my pieces in progress, in no particular order.

re-traced upper sleeve on left, adjusted sleeve on right

Paper Blazer, front

Paper Blazer, back

shallow upper chest tuck - extends all the way across the lapel; forward shoulder seam line

broad back adjustment and low round back adjustment

sway back adjustment

increased seams at hip area

final fit

I'm very happy with the fit I've achieved.  I only look unhappy in the photo because I've been suffering from sinusitis and a cold for the last several days and I had a massive headache!  Also, a pin was sticking me right in the armpit :-)

At this point, I was ready to re-trace my taped-up pieces and adjust my lining and facing pieces to match - the work of another couple hours.  But VOILA:

My pile of beautiful, fresh pattern pieces is ready to go!  I'm hoping to start on cutting out my fabric today!


  1. Wow, that's some meticulous fitting. I've never been able to fine tune fit from the tissue like that. Probably because I'm not really very good about fitting myself. Can't wait to see your fabric choice.

  2. i'm amazed that you can get that much detail from tissue fitting! i started a muslin and still need to get the sleeves on, but hopefully i can work on it little by little this week. i'm itching to finally make some progress!

  3. That is some dedicated fitting work! I can't wait to see the pay off!

  4. I started sewing up my first blazer muslin yesterday! I'm using one of the Perfect Fit patterns, and I'm hoping this muslin will be wearable. The real problem area for me is above the bust, where the sleeve attaches to the jacket. I always have wrinkles there, and I'm hoping I can sort those out enough on this muslin for it to be wearable, or at least to teach me what changes I need to make on the blazer I want to make as part of a suit set. My front and back pieces are all sorted, but we'll see what happens when I sew on those sleeves!

    1. Armscyes and sleeves are a bugaboo for me too. For me it's because the position of my right arm on my torso is quite forward from the left. I'm not so dedicated that I'll make a completely asymmetrical pattern! At least not yet. Good luck on yours - looking forward to reading your experience with it!

    2. I haven't yet considered whether any of the problem is caused by forward shoulders, but shoulder position is something I want to understand better. My posture is terrible, so I suspect both my shoulders are rounded forward and would benefit from some adjustments specifically for this issue.

    3. Most likely. I've read that a lot of computer work (which I suspect you do) can lead to forward rounding of the shoulders :-(

  5. I am completely in awe of your fitting process! I have received this pattern recently along with the craftsy jacket course which I am yet to watch. I like the shorter version A for a jacket for evening wear. We're heading into what is shaping up to be a hot summer here down under, so I may not go further than a muslin for the moment, as there are plenty of summer dress patterns calling my name.

  6. Wow, what a detailed list of alterations! I'm impressed you have the patience to do this, I tend to give up if things don't fit after a couple of alterations.

    1. I think if I were going into it "blind," I would have given up too. But since I had this list of alterations I need, I had a good starting point. Still, it was a lot of work!

  7. I too am amazed by the amount of work that has already been going into your blazer! I'm always worried that tissue fitting would not be acurate because you're only trying half of the garment, but so many people use it, I suppose it works :)
    I also have a Butterick blazer pattern planned (the one from the Craftsy class on classic tailoring), but still haven't even started tracing it. i'm looking forward to seeing your final version and the fabric you chose
    (by the way, I know you can't do anything about it, but can I say how painful it is to comment on blogspot? I've re-written this comment three times :) I don't know how such a big company still hasn't solved the issue of commenting on a mobile device!)

    1. Oh gosh! I did not know that about commenting on blogger blogs! I never try commenting on my phone because I hate trying to "type" on it - it's so slow and tedious. I'm so sorry! As you say, nothing I can do about it (I'm way too lazy at this point to switch to a different platform) but I do appreciate your comment and that you went to such lengths to post it!

    2. I agree with you, it's tedious, especially when Blogger eats your comments ;-) That's partly why I haven't been leaving comments that much lately: I usually read blogs either on the tablet or on my phone and it's sooo hard to leave comments that it has to be worth it

  8. This takes some major commitment! 10 hours already and you are just getting started! I have that blazer pattern. I would love to join you and Shar but I am on Weight Watchers (sigh) and would hate to do all that fitting and then 3 months from now have it not fit. Maybe you will have a Bourbons and Blazers II next year! :) I will be following along though. And I will even sip some Bourbon on my next sewing project in support of you! :)

  9. Wow, this is such a thorough fitting job! I'm really excited to see the final blazer! Hope your sinusitis goes away soon... yuck. :(

  10. Love the final fit you achieved (and those Sheep Happens notes are so adorable!), can't wait to see the end result! And Bourbon and Blazers sounds like a great combination! I suddenly want a strong drink and to do some tailoring!

  11. WOW! After all that fitting, you're going to have an amazing blazer! I really should add this project to my list. I have a hard time finding a nice fitting blazer too. It does seem intimidating with all that tailoring and piece work, but I know it would be worth it! I'm excited to watch your blazer progress. It seems like you're moving pretty quickly so far.

  12. So interesting! All your hard work will pay off I am certain. Can't wait to see what your make it from!

  13. Those squares look good. Funny how you're immersed in a blazer sew-a-long. I've had that clothing piece on my mind this fall. I wasn't a simple, casual, black one to wear with graphic tees, boyfriend jeans, and kicks.

  14. Wow! That is a lot of fitting :) I'm sure your finished product will look awesome after all this effort you've put into it though. I know this is an older post, but I hope you are feeling better now!


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