Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Three Types of Tailoring

Over the last 10 months, I've made 6 notch-collared blazers!  Like I said, I'm a lady who loves a blazer!  But in addition to loving the garment, I've also been having a great time exploring all different kinds of tailoring techniques.  I find it endlessly fascinating.  For me, the inner structure of a jacket is the stuff of daydreams . . .

In the course of my explorations, I've tried out all three types of tailoring - fusible (sometimes called speed tailoring), machine and hand (also called traditional).  I tried them all because I was interested to learn how each one worked.  But as I gained experience, I started to think that the different types can be useful in different ways.  With any of these techniques you can get a beautifully tailored jacket.  You can explore each method in turn, as I did, or combine them in one garment.  Sometimes though, it takes some thought to decide which of the methods will be best for a particular project.  So I've chosen 4 of my blazers to illustrate possible applications of each.

Fusible Tailoring

Pink Wool Blazer

The pink wool blazer marked my first foray into tailoring.  I wanted to start with the fusible method because I wasn't sure if I would like tailoring, and it seemed the quickest and easiest method.  And I can tell you - although it seems like you are spending an eternity ironing fusible interfacing and fusible canvas onto your pieces, this method is indeed quicker than the other two.

Once I had a little more experience with the other methods, I realized that the fusible method was actually a good choice for this jacket.  The wool fabric I used was on the thin side and somewhat loosely woven, so the fusible kept everything together and kept the fabric from distorting.

The fusible method is also a great way to add body to a fabric with more drape than you want for a classic blazer.

Black Cotton Twill Blazer

This spring I decided I needed a black blazer.  I had some black cotton twill in my stash, but it was cotton/lycra.  It had quite a bit of stretch.  My pattern is not designed for stretch fabrics, and I didn't want to go through another fitting process to work up a stretch blazer pattern.  So I took the stretch away, via fusible interfacing!

So to my mind, although you can use the fusible method for any project, I think it's an especially good choice for fabrics that are thin, loosely woven or unstable, or to change the character of your fabric, as in removing stretch or adding body.

Hand Tailoring

Brown Wool Herringbone Blazer

Once I'd completed my pink wool blazer, I was eager to try out hand tailoring.  The wool I used on this blazer was a medium weight.  I added cotton velveteen for the upper collar, bound buttonholes and pocket flaps for some contrast.  Of all the blazers I've made, this one involved the most work; it's also my favorite.

I think wool - just about any type - is a great choice for working hand tailoring.  All the pad stitching that shapes the collar and lapels picks up just a tiny thread of the wrong side of the outer fabric.  Because most wool fabrics have a bit more loft than, say, cotton twill, it's much easier to work the pad stitches without having any of them show through to the right side.  Hand tailoring is labor intensive as it is - you don't want to make yourself crazy by using a fabric you'll have to fight the whole way!

Wool is also very forgiving and can be shaped and manipulated with steam.

Machine Tailoring

Cotton Madras Patchwork Blazer

The resources I've been using (which I'll write about in a future post) have touted machine tailoring as a faster alternative to hand tailoring, but I have to admit I didn't find it to be so.  That could be because I'm very comfortable with hand stitching, and therefore relatively quick at it.  But there are also extra steps needed to create pattern pieces and carrier strips for the canvas.

But for this jacket it was the perfect choice.  This blazer had been on my list to make for quite a while, but I was stumped at first as to how to work the tailoring.  Fusible wouldn't work well, because the fabric is made of 3" squares of madras all sewn together, so the back is quite lumpy.  Hand tailoring didn't seem like a great choice either because the cotton fabric is thin - trying to work pad stitching on it would have been a nightmare.

It took flipping through my tailoring book again to realize that the machine method was the perfect solution - and bonus:  it was the one method I hadn't tried yet!

Machine tailoring was a great way to get around this difficult fabric.  But it was also a good choice for this jacket because the machine method adds some stitching lines which are visible from the outside.  I think of them as style lines, and to me they look very modern and a little bit casual - just like this jacket!  I also knew that if those stitching lines were unsightly, no one but me would see them anyway because there's so much going on with this fabric.  But I really liked the result.

I'm planning a navy cotton twill jacket this fall (the one I'll be constructing for the sew-along) and I've decided to use the machine method because I want it to look more modern.  I could even see using a contrasting thread which would show as style lines from the outside!  Mind you, those lines only show when the jacket lapel and collar are flipped up, Miami Vice style.  I'll likely stick with navy thread for this jacket because I want it to go with everything, but I'm putting a pin in that idea for future.

In conclusion:

I hope these examples are helpful to you all in choosing your fabric and the method of tailoring you want to use.  And if anyone has any further insights on this topic, please let us know in the comments!


  1. Which pattern are you using again??

    I like the idea of starting with fusible because I think people who are already experienced with tailoring are more likely to be going for the more advanced hand tailoring.

    I think fusible will get more of us scaredy cats in ;-)

    1. eeek! And my library had the tailoring book. Yay!

    2. These are all McCall's 6172. GREAT pattern! It's got all the instructions for the fusible tailoring in it, so I'm going a little more advanced with this and showing the machine (and probably also hand) tailoring. But everyone should choose the method that works best for their project :-) You're going to love this book!

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  3. Lovely blazers, and I appreciate the review of methods since I plan to make a jacket and cost this fall. Looking forward to your review of resources!

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on which methods work best for certain fabrics! I have such a terrible time working with fusibles but it's interesting to hear that there are certain projects where they shine.

  5. Way beyond anything I will ever be able to do, but it does look neat.

  6. The brown wool blazer is adorable! Like a contemporary version of equestrian gear. It was neat to learn about fusing.

    1. It's my favorite of all the jackets I've made! Such a classic look.

  7. Wow 6 jackets in 10 months. Thanks for sharing your journey, a tailored jacket has been on my to do list for a while, but another quilted, Chanel style is calling me - I have a few more techniques that I want to work on third time round. But as soon as I've done that I'll be back to refer to your blazer sew-along :-)

    1. I know - It's a lot of jackets ;-) Oooh, Chanel style jacket is on my list too - I'm hoping this fall, but it may get pushed back to winter.

  8. Fantastic way to explain the methods. I read a book and found it overwhelming to choose a method. Your description made it seem less intimidating.

    1. Thank you so much for that feedback, Karen!


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