Friday, October 30, 2015

Conclusion (and some outfits)

I realized as I was writing all these posts that I should probably state a few caveats.  I'm not an expert tailor - or even an expert at sewing.  I'm just a lady who really likes to make, and think and read and learn about tailoring.  Over the last year of making blazers I've learned a lot of new techniques and discovered some things that work better for me than the instructions given in my pattern.  I wrote this series to pass on the things I've learned.

So don't take my methods as written in stone.  I feel strongly that in most things, there isn't one right way - there are a variety of ways.  The ways I've presented are the ones that work for me.  Maybe they will work for you too.

That said, I've come to believe that success in tailoring comes down to a few things:
1.  Slow, careful, precise work
2.  A willingness to redo anything that isn't spot on
3.  Pressing
4.  Pressing
5.  Pressing

Get the idea?

I also realized as I was going along that I glossed over some steps.  I wavered in my explanations between putting down every. single. thing. I could think of, and the idea that if you're making a blazer, you already know quite a bit about sewing.  So if I missed anything that you guys think I should have addressed, please let me know.  I've got another blazer planned for next month - hand tailored this time - and I'm planning on photographing the parts that don't overlap with this series. But I can certainly try at that time to add in anything I missed here.

And because posts without pictures are super boring, here are some Polyvore sets I made for my new navy blue blazer - an item I've been wanting in my closet for a long time.  I've already worn it with this outfit and I felt fabulous:

I'm hoping to wear this one soon:

Here's a set I made back in the spring.  That's how long I've been planning this jacket!  I probably won't be able to wear this until next spring now.

And a couple more:

Is anybody else on the Polyvore bandwagon?  It's one of my favorite toys.  I'm not great at making creative sets, but these work for my purposes - they're good reminders of outfits I can make with items in my closet.  I'm one of those people who gets stumped about what to wear when it's time to go out.  I've really loved having a library of outfits to choose from.  It's also fun to look up an item, i.e. "navy blazer," and see how other people would style it.

All right - I think I have finally exhausted myself on the subject of the Navy Blazer!!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Pressing and Finishing

This is it folks - we have reached the end!  These last few steps are not complicated, but they do take a fair bit of time.  Forewarned is forearmed.  Get your podcasts ready before you start.

Begin to prepare the jacket for its final press by pinning all the way around the collar and front edges.  As you pin, work the seam toward the back.  Remember that the back is going to change at the break where the lapel turns.

Now go back and baste the edges into this position with long diagonal stitches.  I am strongly biased toward silk thread here as it will not leave any impression on the fabric when pressed.  Don't use any knots, just take double stitches when you need to end or start a length of thread; you want to keep everything smooth.

Now go to the ironing board and press, press, press those edges.  Work it as much as you need to to get everything looking smooth and consistent, shaping the jacket as you go.  I've been known to spend a good 45 minutes on this step alone :-)  Use plenty of steam if your fabric can take it, a press cloth if it needs it, and instead of using the clapper here to flatten the edges, press with your hands or a pressing mitt.

If the hem wasn't turned up previously, turn it up now and carefully catch stitch it in place with somewhat loose stitches.  You want the hem to be able to move with you as you move when you're wearing the jacket.

Once my hem is stitched down, I go back and use an invisible stitch to secure that bit of Hong Kong facing that is going to peek out below the lining.

Pin the folded-back lining hem edge to just below the catch stitching on the outer hem.  Sew the lining in place with a fell stitch or slip stitch.  This will create a jump hem, and you'll see those last few open inches at either side.  Invisibly stitch these down to the facing.

Push the lining sleeves into the outer sleeves, then turn the entire sleeve inside out and fell stitch the lining hem just below the catch stitched hem you made on the sleeves previously.

Now in order to keep the collar in place, you have to stitch in the ditch again. You'll be stitching from shoulder seam to shoulder seam at the back neck, zigzagging from inside to outside.  I admit this part is really tedious - you have to kind of fish around with your needle for each stitch to make sure you get it right in the seam.  If you don't, the stitches will show.

Down to the wire now:  mark your buttonhole positions and make the buttonholes, then cut them open and sew on your buttons.  If you find that your basting around the edges is in the way when you are making the buttonholes, remove it first.  Otherwise, remove the basting at the very end.  Or not - you have some leeway here.  I usually keep it in until I absolutely have to remove it.

Give the jacket one more light press and steam to work out any wrinkles from handling . . .


Go wear your beautiful new jacket!  Or just sit there and admire it for a while. That's what I do ;-)  I always keep my newest makes hanging from the dresser knobs like that so I can admire them for a while before putting them away in the closet.

Happy Tailoring!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sewing the Lining to the Outer Jacket

Believe it or not, we are almost at the end!  With the steps in this post, the jacket will really start to come together.

Start with your outer jacket right side up:

Then place the lining/facing unit on it, right sides together:

The upper collar should be a tiny bit bigger than the under collar so that the seam will roll to the underside for pressing.  To take this up while sewing, make a tailor's blister at each corner of the upper collar by taking up a scant 1/8" like this:

You can also mark the pivot points on the collar and lapels if you like - I generally do.  Pin your entire upper collar to the under collar, stretching the under collar to fit.  Then check to make sure that the place where the collar and lapel meet matches up:

We're only going to sew the collar right now, but I always pin the entire front edge so that the facing isn't flapping around while I'm sewing.  Then once everything is pinned, I fold the lapel back so it's not in the way while I sew the collar:

Now for some precision sewing:  make sure to keep all the seam allowances at the neck out of the way, and sew from the large dot at the left side of the collar all the way around to the large dot on the right.  Start exactly on the dot so that this seam meets the neck seam, and don't back stitch.  Instead, leave long tails that will get tied together later.  Some instructions say to start in the center and work to each end, but I find that going from one side to the other with the upper collar facing up enables me to be more precise.

Unpin the folded-back lapel and make tailor's blisters at the points on the facing like you did for the upper collar.  Starting exactly from the large dot again, and keeping the neck and collar seam allowances well out of the way,  sew across the top of the lapel, turn, then all the way down the front and around the bottom curve.  Here too, don't backstitch at the beginning, but leave long tails.  Stop just before the Hong Kong binding at the bottom of the facing (or 5/8" away from the edge if you didn't do the binding) and backstitch here.

Carefully turn the work where the collar meets the lapel to make sure that the seams meet up:

If everything looks good, continue on.  If not, go back and fix anything that's off kilter.

Bring those tails you left (there should be two on each side) together at the intersection and tie in a double knot.  You'll need to clip into the neck seam allowance to the dot to do this.  You will be able to see where to tie them - it's the place that will have a little hole if you don't tie them together!  Once the knot is secure you can clip the tails, but leave an inch or so.

Remember that when grading seams, the longest seam allowance will be the one to the outside of the garment.  Because the facing will flip back at the lapel, the "outside" changes along the front opening.  Start the grading by clipping into the seam allowance about half way just where the lapel will start to turn, at the bottom of the roll line:

From this point down, trim the jacket longer than the facing.  From this point up, trim the jacket shorter than the facing.  I still like to use pinking shears at the bottom curve, but generally have to make a few more notches to keep the curve from getting lumpy.

Trim the lapel and collar points away as you would normally do.

Once all the grading is done, take the whole thing to the tailor's board.  Press and clap all these seam allowances open before turning out the jacket.  Take advantage of the various curves and points to get a really nice open seam.  Take especial care with the collar and lapel points, pressing them open all the way to the point by inserting the pointed end of the board into them firmly before pressing.

Finally, turn the jacket out carefully, working the curves smooth and gently poking out the points with a point turner.

At this point we need to do some heavy-duty pressing, so I'll leave that for the next post.  But hey - it's almost a finished jacket!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Constructing the Lining/Facing Unit

There's no need to go into great depth on this step.  Much of the construction is done just like the outer jacket.  However, there are a couple things I do differently from the pattern instructions, so I took some pictures to show.

Depending on your fabric and the finished feel you're going for, you may want to interface the front facing and upper collar.  I'd originally intended to leave mine without interfacing, but decided that the lapel could do with a bit more body, so I ironed on some very lightweight fusible (ProSheer Elegance Light).

Once that's done, stay stitch the entire inside edge of the facing.  Here's where my construction differs:  I always cut some bias strips from my lining and use them to make a Hong Kong finish at the last 6" of that inner bottom edge.

Start by sewing the ease pleat on the back piece according to the markings on your pattern.  Sew the vertical dart and trim it, then sew all the vertical seams of the lining like you did on the outer and press those and the dart open. No need to use the tailor's board and clapper here :-)

Finally, sew the front lining edge to the facing, leaving the last 6" of that seam open.  Press the lining away from the facing instead of pressing that seam open.  I generally sew ALL the vertical seams/darts/pleat and then take the whole thing to the ironing board.

Sew the shoulder seams and press them open, then stay stitch all around the neck line between the circles.

Sew the upper sleeve seam and press it open.  Then turn back the hem allowance and press it.

Make your gathering stitches on the sleeve cap, then sew and press open the remaining sleeve seam.

Pin the sleeve to the lining/facing unit right sides together, matching notches and dots and pulling up the gathering stitches to fit the cap into the armscye.  Sew this seam the way you did on the outer, with one exception:  at the underarm, taper the seam allowance between the notches so that there is only a 3/8" allowance at the bottom.  You can see in the photo below that I forgot to do this the first time and had to pick out my first seam and redo it!

Bringing up the seam gives the lining a little extra room at the underarm to go up and over the underarm seam allowance on the outer of the jacket.

Stitch a second line between the notches like you did on the outer, 1/8" from the first, and trim as before.

Here's my dirty little secret:  when I insert the lining sleeves, I don't worry at all about gathers and puckers.  No one is ever going to see them, so why fret about it?

Here's what we've got so far:

As you can see, at this point I also press up the hem allowance at the bottom.

Next we attach the top collar.  This is done in exactly the same way as we attached the under collar to the outer jacket, so I won't go over it all again.

Don't forget to do this!  It's important!

Once that seam is sewn to your satisfaction, clip into the large dot just like you did on the outer:

Then trim the neck seam allowance, remembering to keep the lapel seam allowance intact.  Press it open on the tailor's board.

Here's how your finished lapel area should look:

See how that lapel seam allowance can flip all the way up?  You need to make sure to clip far enough in so that bit can open up as much as possible.  It will make sewing the collar and lapel MUCH easier and help you get a good join at the lapel notch.

The next step is to join this unit to the outer jacket.  We are getting SO close to finishing now!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sleeve Insertion, Sleeve Heads and Shoulder Pads

There's not really a whole lot in the way of explanation and pictures to this post, but don't be fooled - this step is time consuming!  It's a rare occasion when I get a sleeve inserted perfectly the first time.  It's not uncommon for me to have to unpick and re-sew sections of the sleeve insertion seam twice.  But you really don't want this area of the jacket to be sloppy if you can avoid it.  The shoulders and lapel are the focal point of a blazer.  So slow and careful work is the motto of the day.

The pictures I took for this post are from the insertion of the first sleeve on my jacket, and I did indeed have to unpick parts of this one.  On this sleeve I basted the seam after pinning it, and I found that I had much better luck on the second sleeve when I skipped the basting and just sewed the pinned-in sleeve.  So you may want to try both to see what works for you, or stick with what you know if you have a method you like.

When you pin in the sleeve, you will of course match up all the notches and dots and then distribute the ease around the cap as evenly as you can.  I mentioned in the last post that I have more luck with this when I bring that easing down beyond the dots by 1" or 1.5".

When sewing the sleeve in, place the work so that the inside of the sleeve is facing upward and the garment side is down, against the foot plate.  This time I also used a clear foot to help me see any puckers that were forming.  Instead of starting and stopping your seam at the underarm, start and end at the notch to the left of the underarm.  On one sleeve this will be the front notch, and on the other it will be the back notch.  Avoid the temptation to sew the sleeve in on the free arm with the garment side up!  Your finished product will be nicer if you follow the above instructions :-)

Once you've sewn the seam, check it from the outside to make sure you don't have any puckers.  If you do, unpick that section and do it again.

When it looks as nice as you can possibly get it, sew a second line of stitching from notch to notch at the underarm, 1/8" inside the seam.

Trim the seam allowance between the notches next to this second line of stitching, but leave the rest of the seam allowance.  Keeping the seam allowance around the top of the armhole will contribute to a nice structure at the top of the sleeve.  Now take the jacket to the ironing board, and from the inside, press the seam allowance only, extending onto the sleeve itself by no more than 1/8".

Take your sleeve header and fold it in half to find the center.  Pin that center point to the shoulder seam inside the sleeve, lining up the edge of the header with the edge of the fabric.  Then pin the sides around the armhole.  I extend mine down to where the princess seam is in front and a bit lower than the princess seam in the back.  Stitch the header to the seam allowance by machine just inside the sleeve insertion seam.

Then trim away the excess from the ends by cutting away a curve.  Note that with these ready-made sleeve headers, the muslin piece (the longest part) is against the outside of the jacket and the fleece toward the inside.  If you've made yourself a shaped sleeve header as I showed in the pattern pieces post, insert it in the same way - the edge of the header will line up with the edge of the fabric.

Now take your shoulder pad and fold it in half as well to find the center points of both the straight and curved edges.  These points will line up with the shoulder seam. Align the straight edge of the shoulder pad with the edge of the fabric in the armhole, just like you did for the header.  Then stretch and pin the pad around the armhole.  You need to stretch it as you insert it because you'll be inserting it in the opposite curve to how it will be worn on the body.  You can pin it in place and try the jacket on to check the placement if you like.  But I usually don't - the shoulder pad is just getting tacked to the armhole seam allowance with a running stitch, so it's easy enough to undo and fix if it isn't inserted smoothly.  (I've scratched myself with pins too many times while trying on my jacket - I now prefer to just sew the shoulder pad in from the get-go!)  Tack in the pad with a firm yet not tight stitch.

Once your shoulder pad is in a position you like at the armhole edge, pin the marked center on the curved edge to the shoulder seam.  Most instructions I've read say to catch stitch the pad to the shoulder seam allowance but I find this to be very fiddly.  Instead, I like to stitch in the ditch by hand from the outside.  The shoulder seam will be deeper than the other seams because of all the canvas and muslin and the fact that we didn't use the clapper on it, so these stitches won't show at all.  I use what is basically a pick stitch here.

I feel the need to add that although it looks like my sleeve cap is puckered in the picture above, it is not!  It looks like it though because I've pushed the sleeve and pad down in order to be able to stitch in the ditch.  Here's the real deal after it's all put together:

I'm really happy with how these sleeves went in - for my purposes, removing the extra ease was the right decision.

And now the outer is complete!  Next we'll be moving on to constructing the lining, and we're not too far from putting the whole jacket together!