Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Anatomy of a Tailored Jacket

I've used this tech drawing of Burdastyle 119 from January 2010 issue, a classic tailored jacket with menswear styling that is now available here, to illustrate a few key terms I'll be using in the upcoming RTW Tailoring Sewalong. And this is just the outside...

In between going crazy writing, and rewriting, posts for the sewalong, I found a little time to whizz up a toile of my own coat:

I'm pretty happy with the overall fit - just a couple of minor changes to make.  I took the opportunity to use up some truly ghastly 100% polyester flourescent white bridal satin that I had stashed away.  I am amazed I managed to get the sleeve inserted without puckers, because this stuff is so close to plastic it isn't funny!

Look how it frays!

Things I'll change:
  • Lower bust darts about 1cm - they're a little bit er, youthful!
  • Take in back slightly at waist as pinned, maybe
  • Change the hang of the 'skirt', currently it is veering forwards at the hem, not quite sure why yet - any suggestions?  Maybe it stretched when I was sitting down in it...
I love the length, and the sleeve is nice for a one-piece - I think it's a really great pattern overall.  If you see it, snap it up!

I will be using some slate cavalry twill that I have had for years - it is actually offcuts in four pieces, one of them with a flaw running right across the piece, and I can just squeeze everything in - including the skirt!  I do have to insert a horizontal seam at the CB waist to make it all fit, but as I am making the version with epaulettes, I thought I would place a half-belt there to cover it, so only you and I will know ;)

It's RTW Tailoring Sewalong Eve!

Are you ready?  Do you have your muslin all fitted?!  First up we are doing some pattern adjustments so you'll need lots of paper and pens and scissors and stuff:

And we have homework!  Here is some optional prerequisite reading ;)
If that doesn't put you off - nothing will!  

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    RTW Tailoring Sewalong Flickr Group - sorted!

    Participants - we now have a Flickr group!  Join up now and you can share photos of what you are planning to make - it will be fun to see everyone's pattern and fabric so we can ooh and aah!  And you can post photos now of your toile/muslin as you fit it, and ask questions, or give advice to others.

    To post in our Flickr group, you will need to start a Flickr account (it's free) if you haven't already.  Then go to our group (above link), click on "join this group", and you will then need to request an invite.  If you have signed up for the sewalong you will certainly be invited to join - just make sure I know who you are if your Flickr screen name is different to your blogging one!  The invite process is merely to limit unrelated posting in our group.  Everything is still public, so anyone can view photos, comment on photos and read the discussion.

    So get started - there's only one photo so far and it's from me!!

    Sunday, March 20, 2011

    The Totally Unnecessary Cocktail Dress - Finished!

    What started as a cute-dress-to-whip-up-quickly-on-a-whim-out-of-stash, turned into a time-consuming-extravaganza-of-couture-construction!  But it's worth it don't you think, just to have this in your wardrobe?

    Even if you have absolutely no proper occasion to wear it - lol!

    I'm really pleased with the outcome - no toile, a complex fitted bodice - and it fits perfectly!  (As opposed to three toiles, a simple loose fitting shift - and blah.)  I was worried about the length and the fact it shows my knees, but the full skirt is sufficiently doll-like to draw attention away from all that - I hope!

    For sewing fanatics I have more construction details, following on from these earlier posts about this dress:

    A handy cutting tip

    When I laid up the fabric, the selvedge was tight and prevented the fabric from laying perfectly flat - see the wrinkles along the selvedge:

    This can cause inaccuracy in marking and cutting, so if you clip the selvedge at intervals along the piece it releases the tension, and voila - flat fabric:

    You only need to cut the selvedge, not into your useable width.  This fabric was quite distorted, so my clips are quite close together, usually you can space them further apart.

    The hem

    First I prickstitched the satin and organza together about 1cm below the hem fold.  Then I bound the raw edges of the hem with lining (normally I would cut these on the bias, but there were only scraps so I cut them straight).  I machined the lining to the right side, then folded it to the wrong side and prickstitched it in place by  hand:

    Then I handsewed the hem to the organza using a catchstitch:

    This is one of those hems that you never press, as they look best puffy and rounded!

    Making the lining

    There was no lining pattern with this dress but you can make it easily - here's how:

    Mark the edge of the neckline facings on the bodice patterns.  As this line is the cut line of the facing, we need to add two seam allowances to it to arrive at the cut line for the lining:

    You'll need to do the same for the sleeve hem and gusset panel too.  Then cut the excess away along the lining cut lines and you will end up with your lining pattern.

    For the skirt lining, use the same pattern as the shell, but shorten it the hem width, ie 5cm.  And then you'll need to shorten it a further inch.  Why?  Because I found out through personal experience, that's why!  The skirt stands away from the body so much that the lining naturally hangs a bit lower.

    In this picture you can see how much the underskirt fills out the upper layer, and consequently the lining looks too short.  But turned right side out with the netting over top, it is the correct length.  I didn't quite have enough lining, so I added a border of lace to the lining hem.

    Make up the lining the same way as the dress - yes, that means sewing all those gussets again!  The seam allowances of the gussets were edgestitched down this time:

    Don't look too close - I sewed them at night under poor lighting so they aren't very neat!

    Previously I had understitched the neck facings by machine, but then decided I needed to tape the neckline, so I unpicked the understitching, inserted tape to the pattern measurement, and redid the understitching by hand - using a pickstitch:

    I had to handsew the lining in because the facings had all been catchstitched to the organza underlining.  I pressed under the sleeve and neck edges on the lining and fell stitched them to the facings.

    I did all this handstitching out in the back garden one idyllic sunny afternoon, laying a picnic blanket out on the lawn, and the dress out on the blanket, and I sat there handsewing like a happy tailoress - it was fun!  The cat lay next to me for a while until she decided the net underskirt was just too tempting, and with one eye on me and one eye on the net she sneaked onto it and curled up into a happy purring ball.  When I tried to move her she growled, and let me tell you past history has proven it was best to leave her be.  A shake of her food-bowl a little later did the trick!

    (Shall I tell you about the time I left a bolt of veil net partially unwound on the floor after a fitting, and went to make a coffee before tidying up?  I returned to find a guilty looking cat face peeking out from underneath the shredded net - in ten minutes she had successfully wrecked ten metres!)

    The underskirt

    I followed the Burda instructions - cut a rectangular yoke in lining and attached net to the bottom.  The net is considerably shorter than the skirt, giving the skirt it's bell silhouette:

    Two rows of gathering thread were used to gather up the tulle.  I quarter it, which makes it easier as you have thread ends marking your CF/CB/SS, and with the shorter threads you are less likely to have them snap on you!  Backstitch at the start of each quarter, and leave tails at the finish - so when you draw up the tails the backstitch holds one end fixed and you don't pull a thread right through!

    The underskirt yoke was then catchstitched to the waistline seam, placing the tucks at the same position as the skirt tucks.  Perhaps I should call this the Dress of Many Colours - I was a bit lazy about changing thread colour throughout this dress, and the white organza just adds to the rainbow effect don't you think?!

    The zip

    I hand-picked the zip in this dress, partially because I happened to have a 60cm dress zip in my box from decades ago that was close in colour, but also because I thought this dress was crying out for such a vintage detail.  I was a bit concerned about the stitches being really obvious in the satin, but they sunk into the cloth quite well, although it was difficult to get them looking regular:

    I wasn't happy with gaping at the top and the waist seam, so I removed it and resewed leaving room for a hook and eye, and more overlap at the waist.  My verdict on the zip - it makes the dress look homemade, I should have used an invisible zip.

    My verdict on the dress - I love it, and it was such fun to make!

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    The RTW Tailoring Sewalong - Those Invisible Essentials

    There are a few invisible-but-essential materials that you'll need if you are going to sewalong with me in April.  Here are some notes on what you'll need in advance, so you have plenty of time to source the right stuff.

    Fusible Interfacing

    Choosing the correct fusible interfacing is critical to the success of a tailored jacket.  The correct type will add body and stabilise your fabric while retaining it's inherent characteristics, the wrong type will convert your fabric into an unnaturally rigid version of it's former self!

    There are several different types of fusible available, and I can't emphasize enough how important it is to test, test, test!  However so you don't use up all your precious tailoring fabric on testing, I'll show you what I regularly use in my jackets to get you started.

    This one is a medium weight interfacing, and it is very soft and supple.  It gives your cloth additional body but retains it's soft handle.  The non-fusible side is slightly fluffy which helps to reduce pressing impressions.  I use this one on most of my jackets and coats.

    I use this lightweight knit fusing on lighter weight jackets such as silk, and also on wool/elastane where I want to retain a degree of stretch.  It bonds really easily using a domestic iron too, whereas the weft fusing requires a bit more attention.  You can use both types in the one garment if you wish, as well as double fuse some areas for additional body.

    Whichever fusing you choose to use, you need to fuse test your fabric.  If you are trying it for the first time, I think you need to fuse a 30cm square to get a good appreciation of the finished handle - drape it against your body as if you were wearing it and assess its performance.

    You should receive fusing instructions with your product when you purchase it, so follow those.  It is imperative to get a good bond between the fusing and your fabric otherwise it will delaminate at a later date and your jacket will be a waste of time.  If you are not getting a good bond experiment with the time, temperature, steam and pressure - these are the parameters that count.

    In evaluating your fusing, check the following:

    • The finished handle and weight is to your preference
    • Fusing is securely bonded, and cannot be peeled off
    • Fabric folds are smooth and rounded, not sharp and angular
    • Fabric and fusing are smooth, with no puckers or bubbles
    • There are no ridges at the edge of the fusing, if so try pinking the edges or using a lighter weight
    • There is no strike-through, ie resin shows through to right side of fabric, if so try a lower heat or a fusing with less resin.  This is really only likely in very lightweight fabrics rather than tailoring fabrics, but I thought I'd mention it anyway!
    • There is no colour difference between fused/unfused areas, which may occur on sheer/loosely woven fabrics.  Heat may cause a temporary colour change too.
    • There is no texture difference between fused/unfused areas, which may occur on textured or pile fabrics.  If so the unfused pieces may need to be pressed in the same manner for continuity.

    We will also use fusetape in the sewalong, but you don't need to rush out and buy any special products - I cut my own strips from lightweight knit fusing (it's a good way to use up those pesky scraps!).  Cut them along the lengthwise grain 1cm wide and as long as you require, as you'll want to avoid overlapping joins where possible.


    I like to use Bemberg 100% viscose lining in my jackets.  It is slippery so your jacket slides on and off easily, and it feels nice next to the skin.  It breathes better than other manmade fibres, and lasts a lot longer than acetate linings - which degrade too quickly to be suitable for a jacket in my opinion.

    Shoulder Pads

    Whether in fashion or not, some shoulder structure is necessary in a tailored jacket.  Choose a slim pad designed for tailoring - these are usually multilayered, have a front and back, and extend almost the length of the shoulder to the neck edge.  This is what I will use:

    It is composed of three layers - an inner wedge of cottony wadding which is needlepunched to the inner wadding, and then basted to the outer layer.  I have square shoulders so I need to keep my pads slim, this one is 7mm at its maximum thickness.

    Sleeve Head Wadding

    This pads out the sleeve head around the shoulder pad so it is smooth and rounded.  I use a 3mm thick wadding with a foam core, which is lightweight, soft, and flexible.  It is available precut in boomerangs but it is better to cut it to a custom shape.

    6mm Cotton Tape

    Actually I think most tape is poly/cotton these days, but still preshrink it under as much steam as your iron will output.

    That's it - if you start gathering supplies now you should be all sorted for our start date on 1 April!

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    The Ready-To-Wear Tailoring Sewalong

    Wow!  I was blown away by the response to a proposed ready-to-wear tailoring sewalong - at almost 50 confirmed participants and lots of "maybe's", I think we have enough of us to make it official!

    Every sewalong needs a badge, right?  So here's a pretty picture to copy and paste into your blog sidebar, and if you're clever you can link it directly to the new RTW Tailoring Sewalong page above, which will eventually have links to all the sewalong posts in one convenient place.  You'll notice I've made a list of all participants in the sidebar too - please let me know if I have made any mistakes here, it is highly likely as I had several interruptions while doing this!

    And it's not too late to join up - just confirm you will sewalong by commenting on this post.  We start on 1 April, and I expect the sewalong to take about a month.  And don't worry if you're not quite ready by our start date - the posts will stay where they are, so you can check back at any stage.

    Just a quick reminder that we will be following fusible tailoring techniques, just like the construction methods used in women's ready-to-wear jackets today.  I won't be covering hand-tailoring techniques in this sewalong, however you are free to follow along and adopt any techniques you choose.  Fusible and hand tailored methods often overlap - designers will adopt a mixture of either technique as they see appropriate.   But unless you have a few jackets under your belt I would encourage you to follow the method in the sewalong, as we are going to do some pattern amendments before we cut our cloth and I don't want to be the cause of any expensive mistakes!

    Now, to answer some questions that arose from the the last post:

    Q Is there a tried and true pattern you'd recommend?
    A  Actually I'm totally unfamiliar with the commercial patterns available so can't recommend any particular one!  But any women's jacket with a collar and lapel, jet/welt/flap pockets, and a one or two-piece set in sleeve, will do - see the next question too.

    Q a) Would Burdastyle #109/2/11 work?   b) Is Vogue 8333 a suitable pattern for your sewalong?  c) Would Vogue 1037 be suitable?
    A a) Yes.  b) Yes, perfect!  c) Vogue 1037 has raglan sleeves and a roll collar so will have a different construction method to what we will use in the sewalong.

    Q Will we need an overlocker/serger, or will just a sewing machine do?
    A You'll just need a sewing machine - all seams will be totally enclosed so overlocking won't be necessary.

    Q  Would a spring jacket work? In tweed?
    A  I think so - your fabric choice will depend on your climate.

    Q Do you use fusible Hymo and know any good sources?
    A Is that fusible canvas?  If so, no I don't use that.  I generally use soft flexible fusibles and will cover that in my next post, as I know many of you will need to source some soon!

    Q Have you started the Flickr group yet?
    A Err, no, I still haven't started the Flickr group yet...

    That's it for now - so grab your RTW tailoring sewalong badge, and watch out for an important post on fusing in the next couple of days!

    And by the way, thanks so much to Carolyn for the Awesome Blog award, and also to AnaJan and CreativeMama for the Versatile Blogger award - I really appreciate your wonderful blogs too!

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Who wants to do a Tailoring Sewalong?

    I'm planning to make a jacket or coat shortly, and that's a perfect opportunity to show you some ready-to-wear tailoring!  By "ready-to-wear tailoring", I mean the fusible method that is used in most garment manufacturing today - where everything is completely machine sewn.  The only needle that needs to be threaded is the one on your sewing machine!

    This is a great method for those of us that don't have the time, patience or expertise to do traditional hand-tailoring.  Speedy machinists can sew a jacket in a couple of hours, but I'm not that quick - it used to take me about 4 hours to assemble a jacket using this method.  But quick construction does not mean inferior results - we'll be using the same high-end ready-to-wear techniques used in that $800 jacket you were admiring while you were out shopping the other day!

    So are you keen?  Do you want to sewalong with me and learn how to assemble a tailored jacket efficiently and with professional results?  Let's do it!

    To give everyone time to select patterns and fabrics, I thought a start date of 1 April would be ideal - that gives you about three weeks to decide on a style.  I suggest a fairly standard tailored jacket or coat design - either single or double breasted with a collar and lapel and two-piece sleeves, as this is the type of design and construction I will demonstrate the method for.

    I'm thinking of making this vintage pattern for the sewalong, but I might change my mind still!  Something I do want to demonstrate is how to adapt a commercial pattern to suit this method of construction, as home sewing and industrial methods are quite different.  A bit of pattern adaptation at the start really minimises the sewing time.  So you'll need some paper, pen and a ruler too!  And paper scissors, because you weren't thinking of using your fabric scissors for cutting paper were you.....

    I'd like to start the sewalong at the stage where you have your toiles/muslins fitted and any pattern alterations done.  I did consider of covering fitting but that could take a month in itself to do properly!  So it might be best to discuss any personal fitting issues you are having within the Flickr group as you post your photos, and then everyone can offer their advice there.  Do you think that sounds ok?
    (Note to self - start Flickr group!)

    For fabrics, I suggest good quality, medium weight fabrics in natural fibres as they are easy to tailor - and sewing should be fun, right?  Good quality might cost a little extra, but consider how minimal that extra is for just 2m of cloth - $10?  $20?  In my opinion that is a small price to pay to avoid sewing with fabrics that blatently misbehave and make you cross, and the end result will be a better quality jacket too.

    100% wool is a classic choice - it presses into shape beautifully and you can't go far wrong.  You could also choose silk or linen if you are heading into spring.  Firmly woven fabrics like wool gabardine and many manmade fabrics are more difficult to tailor so you might want to avoid them unless you are experienced.    You will need a few other materials too - fusing, lining, shoulder pads, sleeve head wadding, etc - and I'll cover those requirements in more detail in another post soon.

    Are you excited?  I am - I love making jackets and coats!  So if you want to sewalong, here's what to do:

    • Sign up for the sewalong in the comments below
    • Choose your jacket pattern
    • Go shopping for fabric
    • Get to work fitting your toile/muslin, so you are ready to start on April 1

    In the meantime I will start a Flickr group, try and design a sewalong badge and a link to all participants in the sidebar, and generally just get organised!  

    Happy pattern hunting and fabric shopping!

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Progress Report: The Totally Unnecessary Cocktail Dress

    Progress continues on my burgundy satin dress - #125 from Burda 11/2006...

    Lost in Translation:

    "Work from the inside to baste support strips to lower edges of sleeves so that the edge lies even with the hem allowances.  Overlap ends of support strips.  Neaten hem allowances, catching outer edge of support strips.  Sew inside edges of support strips on at the seams.  Lay hem allowances to inside, but do not press the edges.  Sew hem allowances in place by hand."

    Maybe I'm thick, but it took several reads, many huh?'s, wtf's, umms and errs, biting of nails and even reading slowly aloud to self, to finally click that Burda's sewing instructions are basically saying "insert sleeve hem stiffening"!  It all makes sense once you know, but isn't it amazing how the gist of things can get lost in translation?  I have read quite a few comments in blogland about Burda's confusing instructions, and I think I now know what you all mean!

    So here's my interpretation of what to do, in case you are like me and suffered mental paralysis when you read that paragraph.  I cut my sleeve support strips in some fairly stiff nylon petticoat net:

    Baste them to the sleeve hem, overlapping the ends:

    Neaten the hem edges if you are not lining the dress.  I will line my dress, so I'm leaving the hem edges as is.

    Attach the other edge of the net strip to the dress at the three seams, or in my case I am catchstitching the whole thing to the organza.  This is the beauty of underlining - you can attach everything seamlessly inside!

    Now turn up the 3cm sleeve hem, folding it around the net, and sew your hem.

    The idea is to have a smooth folded edge for the hem, so don't press it flat!

    Attaching the facing:

    I blockfused my facings using a lightweight knit fusing.  Because my main fabric is quite stretchy, I applied the fusing in the opposite direction to normal to minimise stretch, ie crossgrain of fusing to lengthwise grain of fabric.

    When I sewed the shoulder seams of the bodice and the facing, I stopped stitching at the neckline seam, and left the last 1.5cm of seam allowance unstitched:

    On necklines that have a sharp angle, this allows for a nicer turn at the neck edge without extra clipping.  When you sew the facing to the bodice stitch exactly to this point and backtack.  Continue stitching round the neckline stopping and starting again at the opposite shoulder seam.

    With this dress things get a bit chunky around the neck edge at this point, so to minimise bulk I trimmed the inner fold of the shoulder tuck so it didn't extend into the neckline seam.

    I understitched around the facing by machine - I actually wanted to do it by hand for this dress but I machined it out of habit!   I suppose I could unpick it and redo it when I install the zip, which I also want to do by hand.....

    Yay, it fits!

    At this stage I hadn't even tried the dress on, and needed to check the fit properly before I attached the skirt.  I sewed in a temporary invisible zip and it fitted really well - sorry no pics!  Usually I have to shorten the bodice because I am short-waisted but it looks like it is sitting correctly at the waist - so if you are normal-waisted you might have a length alteration to do!

    The skirt underlining:

    I underlined the skirt with silk organza too, but used a slightly different method to the bodice.  I first sewed the skirt panels together, then the organza panels together.  Then placing them wrong sides facing together I stitched the pleats in place through both layers - don't they look luscious?!

    The end of the zip:

    At the CB seam, I did a trick that I often do when I use double layers - I sewed the main fabric from the hem up to the zip notch, then clipped to the seamline 1" below the zip notch:

    but sewed the organza to only 1" below the zip notch:

    Clip the organza seam at this point and press the lower part open so it faces the main fabric, but press the upper 1" to the inside.  Now bring the pieces wrong sides together, and sew the last 1" altogether:

    You need to be accurate when you do this so you don't get a bump in the seam, but making the clip away from the stress point makes the end of the zip stronger..  Here's what you end up with on the wrong side:

    and the right side:

    all ready to insert a zip - which is what I am going to do tomorrow!

    After attaching the skirt, I spent a while this afternoon catch-stitching everything together, and I also taped the waistline to the pattern measurement.  Here's some pics of the inside pre-lining:

    Just the lining, zip and hem to go now - hopefully we'll have some pics of the outside soon!