Sew-It

with Di Kendall

Working together with Janome - Red Block

Blog

Blog Archive

By Di, Sep 13 2017 04:00AM

I was really pleased to see there was a category for men's sewing in this years Simplicity Sewing Challenge. There are so many talented male garment makers and I'm always ready to champion their cause, equally I have two adult males that I love to make clothes for.


This is where I start to get controversial! I'd love to know the criteria for judging competitions, Is it the ability to find an appealing fabric for a pattern or is it genuine ability at all stages of the sewing process? I think the choice of this pattern is an insult to talented garment makers, especially men! It's essentially a blouse that I was taught to make when I was 12! If a competition is a true reflection of talent, why does the shirt not have a yoke, collar band and a proper sleeve placket (rather than a continuous strip opening)?


Rant over!


My husband and son only ever wear shirts with a collar band, my husband prefers grandad collars for casual shirts. I also have some great quality 100% cotton shirting samples aquired from a well know designer so If I was going to use them I needed to make a shirt that would get worn.


I also believe that a garment making pattern is only a starting point for the maker to create something truly original. I had three fabrics that I knew would work together, so I had to find a way to adapt the pattern to use them effectively and showcase what I could achieve.


I started by drafting a collar band for the pattern, followed by a new collar. Not only was this more appealing it would give me chance to use one of my contrasting fabrics. I also wanted a proper sleeve placket, can't say I've ever bought a man's shirt with a women's blouse opening.......! I gave some thought to fabric placement, I had 2 different width striped fabrics to compliment the plain one. I knew I wanted to use them inside the collar band, cuffs, placket, front band and the pocket.


This pattern has front facings rather than a button band, so i decided to make a new piece from the narrow striped cloth that the buttons would be stitched on to. It was so important to stitch straight lines as any divergence would be obvious.


Next was the pocket. I thought about adding a contrast band to the top of the patch pocket. However; decided to create a welt pocket using the narrow striped cloth, with a rouleau loop fastening made from the wider stripe.

I was really pleased with the result, you can't beat matching stripes, even on the bais!


I love the technical challenge of shirt making and I've tried many different ways of making collars. I only ever use woven interfacings, cut them to the finished size as well as trimming off the corners. This makes really sharp edges and collar points. I also use a technique never found in commercial patterns. I attach both collar bands to the neck edge first and stitch the front curves before attaching the collar.

I've realised that high quality shirts use a very short stitch length, so I replicate that throughout..Topstitching the band after the completed collar has been attached.

Both the collar and collar band are backed with the wide striped cloth.


All the seams are machine felled, creating a flat, strong seam.


As I already mentioned, I wanted a traditional placket and took the opportunity to use the striped fabric for the narrow welt.

My cuff making technique is similar to making the collar band. It can be quite tricky to get a neat, flat join at the end of the placket, loats of trimming being required. However if you try mu way it is so much easier and neater.

Interface one piece with the interfacing cut to the finished size. Also trim off the corners. This reduces the bulk when turning the corners.

Sandwich the sleeve between both layers of the cuff. Machine 15mm from the edge and trim the seam allowances.

Roll the sleeve out of the way so you can stitch the short edge of the cuff and part of the other seam. Do this at both ends of the cuff.

Trim the seams and cut diagonally across the corners. Turn the cuff out to the right side. Press.

Turn in one edge of the cuff and press. Do the same with the other edge so that the outer cuff is very slightly wider than the inside.. Edge stitch. I like to do two rows at the edge nearest the sleeve.

Next came the hem. I really don't like rolled hem feet and they're not great on curved hems. So I set about making a narrow hem by hand rolling as I machined.

This picture reminds me that when I made the facing I used a lightweight woven interfacing, neatening the outer edge by puttng it right sides together against the facing, I stitched a 5mm seam along the outer edge, turned the interfacing over then fusing to the wrong side of the facing.


When spacing and making buttonholes I aleays use my SIMplex Buttonhole Guage and cut with my Buttonhole chisel.


I just have to convince my husband that red buttons look fine!


By Di, Jul 28 2017 03:58PM

A new dressmaking magazine hit the shelves recently and has been quite difficult to track down. After quite a few trips I eventually found a copy in my local Sainsbury's, however they'd sold out by my next visit! This is an established publication from Belgium that has also been available in the US and Australia, so English versions aren't new.

My first impressions were positive, it has a fresh feel and most importantly isn't in a plastic cover so its easy to see the contents. Unlike British magazines this isn't what I call a cup of tea magazine with loads of articles of varying lengths that you pick up and put down depending on how much time you have to read. It's actually a pattern magazine with a few non dressmaking pages, the cover calls them "3xDIY with flowers & wood" and a knitted jumper pattern that definitely has its own distinctive style.

The back of the magazine has clear line drawings of the 9 garments included inside. It's great to see that there were patterns for men, children and babies as well as women.

Once inside the pages are well designed and not overcrowded, printed on almost matt paper, reducing glare, an easy to read sans-serif font and almost no background colour behind the text. All things that make it accessible to most people. The thing that really stands out is the lack of adverts. I know we often complain about adverts in UK mags, but as a regular visitor to France I have often wondered how Europeans find their resources and how businesses market themselves. I don’t have the language skills to search online as there are hardly any adverts in the magazines.

The index page has clear pictures of each pattern, indicating the page to find the instructions, which sheets the pattern pieces are on, the size range and degree of difficulty.

There's a page with metric to imperial conversion for fabric buying. This is where I find a problem that reoccurs throughout the magazine. The imperial measurements are given in decimal places which seems really strange, especially as dressmakers we work in 1/8th inches, 1/4, 1/2 & 3/4 yards. So 41.3 inches & 1.31 yards is a bit mind blowing!


My advice is use the metric measurements and use your trusty tape measure to do the conversions.


I'm not going to review each garment as each issue will be different, but the size range does vary. Each garment is clearly photographed and followed by detailed instructions with clear diagrams, although they can be a bit small for the more difficult techniques.


About 2/3 into the magazine is the pattern section. The pattern sheets are stapled into their own card cover, which in turn is held within the magazine spine. I'll come back to this section later as I tested one of the designs.


Towards the back there is a Made By You section. The images are from previous issues that haven't been available in the UK. It does give an idea about the style of designs the magazine produces. I have loads of patterns and I can see things I'd be interested in, I find European styling different to what's available from the major brands and many indie companies.

There are 4 pages called Good to Know. I'm guessing these will be repeated in each issue as it tells you about using the patterns, buying fabric, marking etc.


About The Patterns

I decided to make the Malia top, a basic T-shirt made from woven fabric. It has bust darts with gathers along the lower part of the dart. It's in sizes 4-30 with the largest size being 53:45:55

The pattern section has metric and Imperial size charts. Uk sizes are included in the metric section, whereas the imperial measurements are US dress sizes. I'd stick to the metric and use your tape measure to help go from inches to cm if necessary.

Something to be aware of:

It's presumed that the larger your measurements the taller you are. The imperial chart has the most bizarre height measurements I've ever come across …. 5'58" …… which is 170cm which is approx 5'7"!

I found the sheets I needed for the top. There are clear diagrams that show which colour print you're looking for and the shape and position of the pattern pieces. There seems to be 2 or 3 designs per sheet and a garment's pieces will be on at least 2 sheets. One side of the sheet is line drawings in two colours, the other side has one of the designs with the whole shape printed in colour.



Choosing a size

I couldn't find any finished sizes, so I decided to do some measuring of the pattern.


Perhaps at this point its important to know that no seam allowances are included.


My bust is just over 40"(100cm) and high bust is 38 1/2" so I rarely do a FBA(even though I wear a D cup bra, due to my under bust only measuring 34"). According to the size chart my measurements fit a size 18. The pattern measured 43" which is probably ok, but experience tells me I prefer a closer fit over the bust so I cut size 16 and it fitted perfectly in the bust, armhole and neck area.


I use newsprint for tracing patterns (which is something I don't do if I can help it) so I used a Sharpie to go over the lines I needed to trace. I'd advise doing something to highlight the lines as there are so many of them. The paper is a good thickness and the sharpie didn't soak through to the other side, important as you don't want to ruin the pieces on the other side. I added my seam allowances to the patterns as I think it’s safer! The instructions tell you to add different width seam allowances to different areas. These are in imperial measurements, but to decimal places eg 0.2" I decided to stick to my standard 15mm or 5/8th" as I know I'll remember when I get to stitching! If you're a lover of French seams you'll certainly need to add more than the pattern suggests.

The magazine tells you the fabric they've used, but doesn't make any other suggestions. This maybe because the website sells the exact fabric, but at 46Euro I'll be giving it a miss! I used what was left from a piece of viscose I bought from a French market stall for 3Euro a metre! The amount of fabric is given in inches so most of us will be checking our tape measures again!


I rarely follow pattern instructions, but I tried really hard to work through the ones in the pattern. There are just an odd unusual word, but on the whole they were fine and certainly got the job done.

My overall opinion is a positive one, but some of the measurements might be off-putting for some people. It's a magazine to compete with the Burda ones, but at £5.99 for 8 dressmaking patterns it's good value even if you only make one of them.


I shall certainly be looking out for the next issue due out in October!

By Di, Jul 12 2017 02:25PM

McCalls 7408 is the free pattern with the issue 42 of Love Sewing magazine.

On a lovely June day I set off through the Peak District to meet some of the team from Love Sewing. I've done many things, but never a photo shoot! It was a case of hair, make up, camera, action!

I'd been asked to review McCall's 7408 for a future issue of the magazine. The design had a sixties kaftan feel, with or without sleeves, the possibility of a contrast border and 3 lengths. Always up for a challenge, I said yes and Editor Amy offered me two coordinating fabrics from the Gutermann 'ring a roses' Marrakech range. I washed the fabric and it shrank about 4% along the length.


I don't usually work with plain weave cotton, perhaps because at school it was considered a beginners fabric and each garment we made tackled a more challenging cloth! I also like fabric with a bit more give, making clothes comfortable to wear. It turned out to be a delight to work with, although perhaps a little bit thick for the sleeveless design. It's what I would call a soft crafting/homeware fabric. An even weave made from thread that hasn't been mercerised to make it smooth.


Having used a lot of McCall's group patterns and I fairly confident about what size to make. At 5'2" and measurements of 40:32:42 I match exactly with a size 18. Yet I always make a size 14! This pattern is described as semi-fitted and McCall's group patterns have a specific range of ease added depending on the fit category, for a semi-fitted top/dress it's 10-12cm of additional design ease on top of wearing ease. Click here to see their chart for the full range of descriptions and garment types.


I like to get the bust and shoulder area to fit well as they act as a scaffold for most garments, so I made a mock up, just to be sure. With the armholes unfinished I could see my bra, and the front faced opening revealed more than I was comfortable with! I then tried it with sleeves. The sleeves in the pattern are bell shaped and I was concerned about all that width across my hip area, especially in a firm fabric. I straightened the sleeve, but the underarm seam is finished first for the contrast band to be added, then the seam down the centre of the sleeve is stitched followed by the vent facing. Because you're working within the narrow sleeve it made topstitching the vent really difficult. But it does give a pleasant fit to the 3/4 sleeve with the vent opening to the elbow.

I also tried one full width sleeve..................

Initially I cut out the knee length version and there was masses of fabric, especially in the back. This might be ok in a fine fabric that drapes, but the cotton I was going to use, although soft needed a more structured finish. I recut the length and made the top, the bust point was accurate, the width was perfect, but it was just a bit short as it finished across my hips, my widest point, especially as the horizontal contrast band would emphasise this, it's not too obvious in a plain cloth.

I knew I was working with contrasting fabrics and I wanted to get a balance between the them, so I used View A adding length to the body pieces without adding width.

There are a lot of design options with this pattern and you don't have to add the contrast bands to View A, just add the extra length to the front and back. This will appear to add length, giving a longer, narrower impression.


I decided to make a sleeveless version, mainly because of the fabric choice. Sleeves where going to be too wide and too busy. I raised the underarm, reshaping the armhole facings to match(they are an exact copy of the armhole shape) and made an insert to go behind the front opening. This was sewn in as I topstitched the front facing. Although you can't see it, the fabric design of the insert matches the area it is set into!

The two geometric prints gave an additional challenge as I love to get fabric designs to match! I decided which was the dominant part of the body fabric and worked out how I wanted it placed, especially at the bottom of the faced opening, where I wanted the facing to mirror the diamond design and I wanted it to join to the border without cutting through an important shape! Call me fussy! The front and back body pieces are the same size, so matching the side seams was relatively easy. The contrast fabric is a much smaller repeat and I wanted the side vent facings to match the lower band and make a perfect match in the seam at the top of the vent, now I know that if you lifted the ribbon trim the design matches perfectly.....fussy.....! The curved neck band would be on the bias where it meets the front facing, but I still wanted it to look as if the lines matched!

I chose a line in the design that would be vertical so that it appears to match the vertical lines of the front facing ............now you're thinking OCD! Believe me I'm not, I'm one of the most laid back people I know ...... but not when it comes to pattern matching!!!!


I avoided all the slip stitching by attaching the contrast pieces so they turned out to the right side, trimming the outer seam allowances and covering the edges with the ribbon trim. I used a soft gros grain ribbon with a stripe as I felt the other colours lifted the design, whilst the stripe maintained the geometry. The pattern says to use ribbon, but it's really hard to get it to lie flat round the curved pieces.

I tried a gathering stitch along one edge, but it really distorted the stripe so I had to steam it into shape. Steam and an iron are an amazing tool, especially working with natural fabrics like wool and to a lesser degree cotton. I sprayed the tape then added heat and pressure, pulling the tape towards me gradually stretching one edge and easing in the other!

Bias binding would have been easier, but harder to keep the edges parallel on the straight pieces, the tension needed to keep it straight would cause it to narrow!!!


Just to go back a stage. The vents in the side seam and sleeve are faced and show on the outside. They're an important part of the design as they add stability. You could turn them to the inside instead, neaten the outer edges and top stitch. The pattern instructions for the vent are accurate, but the diagrams are tiny, especially for the sleeve instructions, I'd use stages 42-47 as they're identical and just a tad bigger! I've done a photo tutorial to help you, just follow this link.

It wasn't until I'd finished that I realised that none of the pattern views had the armhole facing on the outside! Definitely something to think about because you need to press in the curved edges to top stitch or get your ribbon round some more curves....I hand stitched the ribbon, but that's mainly because the topstitching kept going over the stripes................!

This is a really versatile pattern. I kept mine quite narrow and omitted the sleeves as they're very wide, but the fullness and the sleeves would be lovely in a soft voile or crepe de chine. The lower edge for each view is almost straight and a border print would look amazing, you wouldn't need to add the lower bands, perhaps turning the side facings to the inside, giving strength and stability without breaking up the border design. It's suitable for a wide range of fabrics that would create clothes for all sorts of occasions, brocade for stunning evening wear, linen and knits for casual wear, voiles and crepes for beachwear.


I'm already using it to create a tunic from a vintage silk sari.

I have to thank Amy, Editor of Love Sewing, along with the other members of her team for such an amazing experience.

I've never really liked having my photo taken, but I have spent my working life showing myself up in front of teenagers, trying to enthuse them about Textiles! In retirement I'm passionate about inspiring others by being an aspirational advocate promoting garment making!







By Di, Jul 10 2017 04:48PM

I shall be writing about reviewing McCalls 7408 for Love Sewing magazine in my next post. The pattern has vents at the side seams and on the sleeve. The diagrams in the pattern are really small so I decided to write a tutorial.


This is similar to a faced opening, but set into a seam, needing some accurate stitching.


You'll find the full tutorial here.

By Di, Jun 8 2017 01:00AM

When you make clothes for yourself or family are you happy with them or do you feel there's something that would make them look less home made and more hand made?


A few months ago I wrote a guest blog for Penguin and Pear about how mastering a few techniquescan improve your handmade clothes giving them a more professional finish. The processes I mention are all things I've noticed when viewing photos on social media.


Uneven, lumpy gathers

Uneven collars

Collar and neck edge seams that roll to the rightside ............................


Here's the link to the original article to read about how I can help you achieve the garment that someone says You Made That!


www.penguinandpear.co.uk/you-made-that/

By Di, Jun 6 2017 04:00AM

The sleeves are the last major part of making a jacket, until I remember all the hand finishing! Unfortunately I don't have any photos of making the sleeves.

Sleeves are relatively straight forward, although there is a lot of hand stitching round the armholes. I've also realised that I haven't mentioned shoulder pads. They help create the frame that the jacket hangs from, so are really important. I'm rather square shouldered so I used quite thin shoulder pads. Its important to slip them in place whenever trying on a jacket as they alter the fit and armhole room. I stitched them in place just before the lining shoulder seam was stitched and before the tacking that is done to hold the shoulders in place ready for the sleeves.


The sleeves on my jacket have fully functioning hand made buttonholes, another feature that sets a well tailored garment apart from mass produced ones. The front arm seam is stitched in both the main fabric. Then the hem and sleeve vents are prepared and stitched, checking that the checks still match at the hem and vent. I reinforce the upper sleeve vent with the same wool Melton that I'd used for the contrast, herringbone stitched along the visible edges. Although this is rarely seen you can sometimes get a glimpse of it when you raise your arm, for me it's important that what is seen has been thought about and created carefully. The hind seam is now finished. The sleeve lining seams are stitched next.


The underarm piece of the sleeve lining is placed against the underarm piece of the wool sleeve, wrong sides together. The seam allowances are match along their length and then basted together, this stitch stays in place and will stop the lining from twisting. Finish the sleeve by stitching the lining to the vent and hem. Baste the vent closed before pressing. The sleeve is ready to set in.


Before presenting the sleeve the armhole edge is stabilised and eased in around the back armscye to give added shape over the shoulder blade.


The sleeve is tacked around the underarm and like most sleeves has to be eased in to fit the upper armhole. With a soft wool that is very malleable I ease as I tack. Using small stitches put the needle into the sleeve, through the armhole fabric(not the canvas or linings at this stage) and back out so the needle is now under the sleeve cloth. Allow the needle to catch the back of the cloth and drag it back slightly before finishing the stitch. Each stitch has more of the sleeve cloth included in it, resulting in the sleeve fitting the smaller armhole.





As the armhole seam takes a lot of strain it is important it's hand stitched securely. It's backstitched through all the layers, including the lining, canvas and shoulder pads. The shoulder pads are too thick so dig in at least half way through. Then with the body lining on top back stitch round again. This time digging as far as possible into the shoulder pad again. After trimming the armhole allowances the sleeve roll is added into the sleeve head creating a soft roll without any gathers.


Throughout tailoring there is a lot of pressing, it's an essential part of the process. Pressing the sleeve head helps the finished effect. The main construction of the jacket is finished when the sleeve lining is slip stitched to the armhole.

The hand finishing is very satisfying, especially as the tacking threads are finally removed. I finish the collar first, using a contrasting silk buttonhole thread to herringbone stitch the Melton and create the front edge of the collar. The inner neck edge of the collar is back stitched to hold it securely to the inner canvases and the collar is invisibly stitched to the front facing out to the lapel notch. Next comes the lining. For some reason the back neck lining is still something I find tricky, but I'm getting better! The front lining is slip stitched to the piping and shaped round the inner pocket.

I wanted a clean finish round the front edges without any pick stitching sinking into the soft contrasting wool. I chose to slip stitch the edges, rolling the top cloth slightly to the underside.

Then it was time for buttons and buttonholes. Each time I do them they get better and I get quicker! Here's a link to how I make buttonholes on my tutorials page http://www.sew-it.biz/hand-buttonholes/4593023617 With all the tacking removed and a final press. I was relieved to find I could steam the Melton to lift the marks made by the tacking!

The country look of this jacket means I can wear it with skirts or trousers, both formally and in casual situations and it is truly comfortable .







By Di, Jun 2 2017 02:23PM

I took the opportunity to tack the jacket at this stage as it was the last opportunity to make any adjustments to the fit of the body. With any alterations marked the front were removed so I could work on the front facings, inner pockets and the front lining.


I don't use a separate pattern piece for the lapels and front facing, I use the actual jacket just in case I've reshaped any element of the jacket front. It's important to build ease into the facing to help create room for using the inner pocket. To minimise waste the strip that the inner pocket is made in is added rather than being cut in one piece with the facing. I decided to make one inner pocket just below waist level that would take a mobile phone. Position this too high and it might distort the waist area adding unwanted bulk in an area I would want to minimise.


I made the welts out of the lining fabric, wrapping it round the heavier lapel cloth. The pocket bags are stitched tight at the end of the welts for strength, then the machining widens out to make using the pocket easier.

With the pocket made the facings are added to the jacket fronts. They're placed wrong sides together, basting to build in ease, both along the length in the button area and in the width near the roll line. It's important to create enough room in the lapel cloth for it to turn to the outside with out pulling and not so much that it's loose. Once in place the pockets is herringbone stitched to the body canvas, thus creating support, so that when used the weight is taken by the canvas not the lining.


Preparing the front edges includes loads of tacking. The edge is tacked through all the layers, then the fold line of the facing, which is then trimmed. The facing edge is turned in and tacked, before tacking to the main fabric!


I decided to add a piping between the lining and the facing, I hadn't done this before so made it up as I went along! The piping was made from a bias strip folded edge to edge, pressed and then tacked in place along the line the facing would come to. I then laid the front facings in place, tacking to the body fabric and turning under the front edge, but not cutting in round the inner pocket.

With the two main pieces constructed it was time to sew the shoulders. Because the back shoulder is wider than the front there is no way to match the check all the way across the shoulder seam. When I was marking out before cutting I'd given particular care with how to make this seam look good. It's really important to match stripes near to the armhole as this is the area that people will focus on. The side seams are completed in the main fabric and the linings. With a traditional jacket with vents I'd finish the hems before stitching the jacket together, but I don't have vents so I left the hem until now. Hems are supported by bias strips of lining, that are stitched through as the hem is completed. The lining fabric is cut to the same length as the finished jacket, the edge is lifted and slip stitched in place so that the lining rolls down creating ease at the hem.


A hand stitched collar is one of the few processes of tailoring that can actually be seen and preparing the collar is something I really enjoy, taking straight pieces of cloth, moulding them into the shape we are all familiar with, finally hand stitching the Melton. The initial process is pad stitching the canvas to the Melton. On a formal garment choosing a contrast for the under collar can add a real statement, even if it's only seen when the collar is lifted! Collar canvas is tightly woven and firmer than other canvases, it's cut on the bias and can be bought in pre-cut pieces. I pad stitch along the length of the collar creating the roll by bending the fabric over my hand as I stitch. I notice that different tailors pad stitch collars in different ways, each with their own reason for using their method.


Once stitched the collar is pressed to set the stitches into the cloth. It's now time to shape the collar. As well as the roll that has already been formed by the pad stitching the outer edge has to be stretched to fit around the shoulder area. Water, heat and pressure is used to stretch the fabric. However it's really important not to stretch the centre back of the collar as this needs to sit flat against the back of the jacket. Up until this point the collar has been quite a bit bigger than it will be when finished.

With the neck edge trimmed to size the wrong side of the under collar is placed to the right side of the neckline, extending past the lapels at the front. At this stage I decide exactly what shape the front of the collar will have in proportion to the lapels. The long edge of the upper collar needs to be stretched. Then the upper collar is tacked onto the under collar. The edges are trimmed and tacked in a similar way to the jacket front edges.


In the final part I'll be making the sleeves and hand finishing the lining, collar and front edges.

By Di, May 3 2017 03:32PM

I like to make the pockets after adding the body canvas to the main fabric. You have to trim away some of the canvas so the pockets are only stitched through the fabric. There are two advantages to doing it this way, both improving the overall look of the garment when things are put in the pockets. One advantage is when finished the pocket bags can be secured to the inside of the canvas giving the pockets more support, stopping them dragging on the fabric. The other reason is the pocket bags are now between the canvas and the lining so when in use the main fabric isn't distorted as it's protected by the canvas.

When making pocket flaps I like to make the under flap slightly smaller so that when finished the seam rolls slightly to the underside.

One of my pockets is a standard double welt, the other was made into the angled seam between the front/lower body and the upper side body. The process for both is similar, but the ends of the welts for the lower pocket where basted and secured into the side seam when the fronts and backs were joined later on.

When making welt pockets, after sewing round the shape, cutting the opening and turning through I like to press the seams open. This uses one layer of fabric to fold the welt around, providing support, but not too much bulk. After machining the pocket bags I layer the fabrics above each pocket to avoid a harsh edge when pressing. Next I herringbone stitch the pocket bags to the body canvas above the opening. This means the weight when using the pocket is actually taken by the canvas, stopping the pockets from sagging.


With the pockets finished I turn to the lapel and roll line. I cut a piece of cotton Silesia to go between the lapel fabric and the layer of canvas. It provides additional support without adding stiffness. Starting at the roll line the lapel is pad stitched, rolling the fabric over the left hand whilst stitching. This action shortens the under layer and the roll is held in place by the stitches. Then the roll line is stabilised by adding a piece of cotton tape that will extend onto the roll line of the collar. The tape is cut slightly too short, laying flat at each end with the centre section of the garment eased to fit over the full breast area. This will help the lapel lie flat and not gape. Sorry I don't have any photos of this!

One of the most time consuming tasks when hand tailoring is preparing the front edges. The fold line needs to be thread traced, just through the main cloth and the canvas trimmed back 5mm short of the fold line. I use bias tape that is place on the fabric edge overlapping the canvas. It's tacked to the main fabric along the fold line, then herringbone stitched to the canvas. The edge is folded in and tacked again, before a second row of herringbone stitch is done. The corner of the lapel was mitred and stitched down.

The back is relatively straightforward. I had to match the seams and try to get a balanced check when making the darts. Taking photos always seems to focus my eye on the bits that aren't quite as I'd like them, two stripes that come together that looks like a broad white stripe, but I don't think it's obvious when I wear it.


The back doesn't have a traditional vent. I designed it so the hem drops slightly all the way from the front opening to the centre back, where I've inserted a contrast element.

The back lining is made up next with ease built into the centre back seam. Its then hand basted to the wrong side of the jacket back.


In part 3 I'll show you how to prepare the front facings, make the inner pockets, add the lining to the front, before joining the front and back.


By Di, Apr 20 2017 04:15PM

There doesn't seem to be much written about tailoring for women, this may be because fitting the curves is an added difficulty. For me It's a challenge to be slightly more creative with the design and shaping a garment that's truly individual.

Just before Christmas 2016 I bought a bundle of fabrics from Fabworks Mill that included a country check and a wool Melton that looked great together. These fabrics inspired me to tailor a traditional jacket for myself.

I set about drafting a basic coat block, before adapting it to the design I wanted. I always seem to make life difficult for myself ...a check cloth throws up all the issues in the cut of a pattern! I made a toile, worked on the fit and then experimented with the position and angles of the pockets as well as the front opening. I then use the toile to cut the cloth.

When tailoring I always cut one layer at a time, especially with a stripe or check. It makes matching the check so much easier. However a check must match vertically as well as horizontally, so it needed lots of thought and observation before the shears met the cloth. Once cut I thread traced all the inlays, hems, vents, neckline and armholes.

The first construction process with tailoring is preparing and shaping the canvas. I made the horsehair canvas just slightly wider than the front panel, widening out to the front armscye and extending over the shoulder onto the back. This helps prevent a ridge when adding the shoulder pads. On top I added a chest canvas from the roll line of the lapel across to the armscye and from just above the top button to the shoulder. This is topped with a layer of Domette that the pad stitching will sink into. This triple layer provides the foundation that will shape the coat.

Once the pad stitching was complete I needed to cut darts to create the shape for the bust. I avoid making darts in the canvas in the same place as darts, or in this case a seam, on the main fabric. For women's wear I make 3 darts, one vertically from the waist area, one on angle from the underarm and another from the armscye. To keep the canvas smooth the dart is made edge to edge and over stitched, then covered with a strip of lining.

On the Domette I stick a piece of iron on canvas. What I hadn't realised at this point was the contrast between the black domette and the white cotton would show through the lining I had chosen. I had to use pieces of black habutai to camouflage the white strips.

I tacked the body fabrics together for another fitting so I was sure about how the checks were going to match. In tailoring the front and back sections are made up and lined before stitching the shoulders. The front is usually worked first. I had been going to machine the seams, but found it much easier to match the checks when hand stitching. It needed a lot of patience to match the horizontal stripes and to get the vertical ones balanced as the seam created shape.

At this stage the body canvas is tacked to the front fabric, these stitches stay in for most of the construction process and begin to build in ease and help to stop the front edges from rolling out. I knew I wanted welt pockets with contrasting flaps, two on one side and one on the other. I'd already decided on the position of the pockets just below the waistline, angled up towards the centre front to direct the eye inwards at the waist. However I experimented with the shape of the flaps, this made the decision really quite easy. When designing the jacket I'd considered a breast pocket, but felt it wouldn't sit well with the princess seam and add bulk across the bust.

It was time to really begin to build the jacket. In part 2 I'll discuss making the pockets, creating the lapels and collar.

By Di, Mar 13 2017 02:45PM

I've just made this 1986 Claude Montanna Vogue Designer top and decided to use some large buttons I had in my collection. The last time I made this top was in the days before machines had the luxury of sensor buttonholes!


So how do you make a buttonhole when the button doesn't fit in the buttonhole foot?

These instructions work with my Janome machine, that starts with a bar tack, reverses up one side before straight stitching back to the beginning, then stitching the second side, finally bar tacking. Some machines create buttonholes in a slightly different order, but the principle will be the same.


A large buttonhole will need stabilising, especially when using knit fabrics. So prepare your fabric with a suitable interfacing between the layers.


Measure the diameter(the widest part) of your button and add 5mm. This will be the length of the buttonhole.


Mark the exact position and size of the buttonhole on your fabric.


I've used chalk. There are many ways you can do this:

* thread tracing is accurate, but the thread can be difficult to remove

* water or air soluble marker are great, but check they really do disappear from your fabric before drawing on the right side of it

* the same applies to Frixion pens

* tear away stabilisers can be good as you can draw on them, but getting the exact position on the fabric can be tricky.


Use your applique/embroidery foot and select the sensor buttonhole.

Most importantly pull down the buttonhole sensor that is positioned to the left of the presser foot, however its essential not to touch this or allow the fabric to bunch up against it.


Place your fabric under the foot, carefully lower the needle to check it is starting stitching exactly on the horizontal line.


Start machining the first side of the buttonhole and stop when the needle reaches the second horizontal line.

Push the buttonhole sensor lever away from you. Continue stitching. The Janome does a straight stitch back to the starting point. Stop at the first horizontal line.

Pull the buttonhole sensore foot towards you. Stitching again makes the second side of the buttonhole.

Stop level with the end of the first line of zig zag stitching, push the sensor away from you and stitch the final bar tack.

Voila! One supersized buttonhole!

RSS Feed

Web feed

Sewing advice and tips

Simple pattern alteration for a side seam pocket

Use your overlocker to make buttonhole loops

20160811_151311 (2) commended_blogger_feature

The Savile Row Coat