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By Di, Feb 27 2018 05:20PM

Zips are such an important way of fastening our clothes, however they are often feared by the home garment maker and frequently the thing that lets them down, making the garment look 'home made' rather than 'handmade'.

I have a few tips to help you towards a well sewn zip.

I already have a tutorial for invisible zips on the Minerva Crafts website.

I really don't like the clip on foot that comes as standard with most sewing machines.It's too wide at the back and means you can't stitch past the zip pull.

For standard zips I always use an adjustable, narrow toed foot, available for most machines. It's also great for all widths of piping.

A few places sell an adjustable foot that also doubles up as an invisible zipper foot.

There are many ways to stitch a zip, I'm going to concenrate on ones for clothes rather than exposed zips.

The Semi Concealed or Centred Zip

Traditionally this is the zip to use at the centre back of a dress or top when you don't want to use an invisible zip.

I prefer to use the narrow toed foot, but I'm going to show you a way to use the foot that comes with your machine. However the zip needs to be longer than the opening.

Stitch the seam below the zip. Then machine tack the opening 15mm from the edge using the longest stitch on your machine. Press the seam open.

There are different ways to prepare the zip for sewing. You can pin, tack or use sticky tape. I've decided to us Wonder Tape. It's a double sided tape that washes away. Put a strip on both seam allowances about 5mm from the stitching or onto the right side of the zip tape. Remove the backing paper from the tape. Put the right side of the zip onto the wrong side of the seam with the teeth on the stitching line. The zip pull needs to be just above the edge of the fabric.

The top stitching needs to be about 7mm either side of the seam. You can mark this in different ways:

> If you tack, machine just to the side of the tacking so that it's easy to remove.

> You can draw a line to follow, but it must be easy to remove from the fabric, always test before drawing on the right side of your fabric.

> In this example I've used low tack Washi tape, sewing next to it. Any low tack tape will work, but never leave on your fabric as it might leave a sticky residue.

Stitch down one side of the zip, at the bottom, leave the needle in the fabric, turn the fabric and stitch straight across. Leave the needle down and turn the fabric again, ready to stitch up the other side.

When both sides are stitched, remove the basting stitch from the opening. You might just be able to pull on one thread.

Remember to open the zip before adding a waistband or facing.

It's a good idea to open the zip, then stitch across the top on both sides, so when you cut across the top the slider won't come off if you close the zip!

This method can be a bit bulky if you're adding a facing because you have to fold the zip teeth.

Concealed or Lapped Zip

The lapped zip is perfect for skirts and trousers. When finished only one line of stitching can be seen on the right side.

I'm going to use the narrow toed foot for this example, however if you don't have one, buy a longer zip and have the zip pull above the cut edge of the fabric as in the Centred Zip.

Stitch the seam below the zip opening.

Press the seam open below the opening.

Press the 15mm seam allowance to the wrong side on the front garment piece(or the left back for a centre back zip).

Press 12mm to the wrong side on the other seam allowance. This means the two pieces overlap.

If you want you can use Wonder Tape to temporarily stick the zip to the fabric.

Place the zip under the back so the fold is very close to the zip teeth. The top of the zip pull needs to be 3mm below the horizontal stitching line.

Using the narrow toed foot, stitch very close to the folded edge.

The stitching should be close to the zip tape, further in than the garment seam. Secure the stitching at the bottom.

Pin the other side of the zip opening so that it just covers the stitching.

Machine 1cm from the folded edge. You can use low tack tape as a guide or a line of tacking stitches. It's important that the stitching goes through the zip tape, top fabric and the seam allowance.

Take out the top pin to the right of the zip pull before you machine, but leave the others in place.

At the bottom of the zip, leave the needle in the fabric, turn and stitch towards the seam, either horizontally or on an angle. Make sure you are below the level of the stopper on the zip!

The waistband should finish level with the overlapped side of the zip. The other end of the waistband should be 2.5cm longer on the underneath.

By Di, Feb 14 2018 04:13PM

I decided to adapt McCall's 7512 so it fastens with a chunky industrial zip! Hence adding metal zips to the in-seam pockets seemed the right thing to do.

It's really easy alteration.

Use your preferred method to mark the position of the pocket. Do the same to the pocket bags.Place the right side of the pocket bag to the right side of the garmant, careully matching the pocket opening.

It's important that the opening is wide enough for the width of the zip teeth you are using. Mark the fabric where you need to stitch. I'm using a 1cm wide opening. Mark 1cm away from the stitching line, level with the top and bottom of the pocket opening.

Machine from the cut edge, leave the needle in the fabric to turn a right angle. Stitch down the marked line, then turn to stitch back to the edge.

Trim the seam allowance to 5mm.

Snip diagonally into the corner, very close to the machine stitch.

Turn the pocket bag to the inside of the garment. and press. If you're using a fabric that's difficult to press like the one I used in my coat, understitch the opening, stitching through the pocket bag and the seam allowances.

If you want to top stitch the zip, place it behind the fabric, pin carefully and stitch, using a zipper foot, across the top, down the side and across the bottom.

If you don't want the stitching to show.

With the wrong side on top, open the pocket bag. Carefully pin the fabric to the zip tape, just onto the main fabric. Check the zip is nice and straight when you fold the pocket back over the fabric.

Open the pocket pag, use a zipper foot to stitch where you have pinned. Just the length of the pocket opening.

It'll look like this on the inside.

This is the right side.

Place the second pocket bag exactly on top of the first, right sides together. Pin through both pockets, but not the body fabric.

Machine the pocket bags together. This is all you need to do if you're going to line the garment. If the inside will show, use your favoured method to neaten the edges.

It's now time to join the two main body pieces together. On my coat that was the front panel to the side front.

Match the two pieces right sides together. Pin the whole seam. Use a zipper foot to stitch the seam along the length of the pocket, keeping the edge of the fabric against the 15mm line.

Use your preferred machine foot, stitch the seam above and below the pocket, carefully overlapping the machining. Neaten the seam in an appropriate way for your fabric.. However, remember that when finished the seam will press away from the pocket.

By Di, Oct 3 2017 02:09PM

During a recent trip to France I visited a Puce De Coutouries, rather like a craft fair, where the vendors sold fabric and other sewing related items rather than finished products. I bought quite a few pieces of fabric at 3 or 4 Euro a metre, even with the poor exchange rate they were still bargains.

I very nearly bought this miniture sewing machine to add to my collection, but I couldn't find a price! I was also neary tempted at a stall selling antique sewing tools!

The outside stalls included my favourite 'fabric man' who stands on a couple of our local markets. In addition to his stall his van is always packed with fabric which he's happy for me to root through. My sort of fabric shoppping!

I bought the end of a bolt of reversible wool for 12 Euro. I was reassured that this is ex Lacoste. It's two layers of knitted fabric bonded together, with a bit of stretch, but not enough to make comfortable day wear. I initially thought about a completely reversible garment where the seams allowances are hidden by pulling the two layers apart before stitching one layer, pressing and hand stitching the other layer closed. However I couldn't seperate the layers!

I hadn't intended to make a coat for this winter, but couldn't resist pulling out a favourite pattern I've made a few times before.

McCalls 5062 has set in sleeves and quite curved princess seams that I didn't feel would work well with my idea for exposed seams. I searched through my patterns and found Butterick 6030 that had been free with Make it Today Dressmaker magazine. This had a shallower princess seam and raglan sleeves. I knew the McCall's pattern fitted well, so I used that for the basis of the design and altered the upper body and sleeves using the Butterick pattern.

This fabric doesn't fray so pressing the seams open and top stitching them was quite straight forward. The first problem I had to work out was the underarm seam. I'd already stitched the raglan sleeve to the bodice and to expose the sleeve seams I would have needed to stitch inside the tube, but the fabric isn't flexible enough for that. I stitched the seams traditionally, securing the end of the stitching. The bodice side seam was also stitched up to the underarm, exposing the seam allowances. To stengthen the underarm seam I added seam tape, before herringbone stitching the sleeve seam allowances.

I decided the fronts would be finished with raw edges. As the fabric had some stretch it needed two layers for stability. I machining round the edge and trimmed.

The sleeves are finished with mock cuffs.

The pockets are only a single layer with the flap secured by a button. I thought about using bound buttonholes, but felt they would be too bulky, so used corded buttonholes.

I have a feeling this coat is going to get loads of wear this winter and will work well with my self designed jeans.

I'll be posting some pictures on Instagram when I start to wear it!

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 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!

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 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 .

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