Monday, February 22, 2016

Tailoring Stitches

The next step in our series is to understand some of the stitches regularly used in tailoring that you may not know from regular sewing work.

Thread Marking
This is done before the pattern is removed from the cut fabric to note placement of things like buttonholes, pockets, darts, or even seam allowances and corners. It's a slightly more accurate and long-lasting way to mark fabric instead of chalk. I admit I am far more prone to using chalk, but it's a habit I really need to break.
You can simply mark a spot by taking a single stitch in a contrasting thread and leaving the ends long enough, as you can see on the buttonholes in this picture. This also works for longer sections such as the CF line where you'll do a long running stitch and cut the top stitches before pulling the pattern away.

Here you see the result. I tend to use basting thread since it's a little thicker and stands out from most fabrics.

Tailors Basting
I specify that this is not your regular basting stitch, which is more of a very long running stitch. This is used EVERYWHERE. Pin basting is a good start, but it really just doesn't cut it when you're shaping multiple layers and the distortion can cause issue. So, everything gets basted and then sewn. It's a great habit to get into even outside of tailoring.
You'll want to be able to remove this thread easily later and you might not be able to get inside to the start of the stitching. Therefore I don't use knots, but just take one small stitch and leave a tail to start.

The stitches can be fairly long and it really depends on your needle. I don't bother switching over to a basting needle (though I should), so I can't go over 1" long, but longer than that seems unneccesary.

This is technically the same basic stitch, just on a much smaller scale. It's used to stitch down the tailors tape around the edges or along roll lines. I just used two rows here, but three or four is common as well. You can see how they slant different ways- you go up one side and down the other rather than moving the garment around.

This is also the same movement as the basting, it's just the proportions that mean you take a small bite and a longer run. Some people prefer to take the bite horizontally, but I tend to be at a slight angle.
The key here is to roll the pieces as you work to get the finished shape. If you have problems keeping the rows somewhat straight and even you can run chalk lines as references. Remember to not go outside of the seam line!

The final result naturally curves. I often do smaller stitches near the lapel point to make sure it doesn't flip back out. You can also see how offset the interfacing now is from the fabric in order to get that curve.

The underside of your pad stitching will have very tiny pips, but won't be visible under the collars fold back. The stitching only extends as far as the roll line (where the basting is in this image).

We'll do the same thing to the collar, the regular basting line showing us where the roll will be. This curve allows us to sit the collar around the neck.

Here you can see that section laying flat. The wool now ripples along the edge.

But, lay it over a curved surface and it's nice and smooth!

The top part of the collar is a more complex curve. Fold along the roll line first and work from center out to both sides.

This is why you want to make sure you don't go past the seam line- it will all be trimmed away. I sometimes will chalk that line in on the interfacing, but because it moves as we pad-stitch it's not completely accurate (but it's a good reminder).

Yes, this is a stitch you might already know, but it's not the most common in modern sewing. It's used in situations like attaching the undercollar or a patch pocket.
The bite is taken at an angle, but the stitch visible on the outside should be straight up and down. In most fabrics this stitch will disappear easily. This is the undercollar seam, which will be opened up and the stitches invisible at the end.

Other stitches like the back stitch, cross stitch, slip stitch, and running stitch are also used throughout the garments. I won't cover these particularly, because they're quite common, but you'll see a lot of them in the coming weeks! Buttonhole styles and their stitch will be a post of it's own.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Tailoring Interfacings

Interfacings are an essential part of any type of tailoring. Before I begin with a series of instructional posts, we need to understand what these different types are. I hope this will help you with purchasing the right structure for your garments!

This is recommended for lightweight women's suit jackets in the 1930s and 1940s. Often these instructions call for wigan or muslin, but most muslins available today are much lighter weight and not nearly as stiff as they once were. Today wigan is sold for interfacing the sleeve hem.
It has a decent amount of spring for being very lightweight, coming in around 1/2".

It is, however, easily finger pressed into a crease along both the warp and weft.

It is fairly loose in it's weave, but is well-sized. It would prevent shifting of the fabric and keep it from stretching too much along the bias.

Collar Interfacing
The listing for this fabric also termed it "buckram", though we'll discuss the proper definition for that term below. This is a very lightweight non-fusible interfacing meant not for coat collars, but for shirt collars and cuffs.
It has about 3/8" spring, but honestly has little fight in it.

Creasing is incredibly easy, which is good if you want to stitch it into the seam allowances of collars and the like.

Very sheer and light, the weave is moderately open.

Heavy Weight Hymo
This does very well for the body interfacing of heavy weight textiles. It's a viscose and polyester blend. It also comes in natural color, which you'll see an example of in the medium weight below.
This has about 3/4" spring and will fight back. In fact, it has so much spring that I cannot finger press it at all on either grain.

The weave is fairly tight, the threads themselves are thick.

Medium Weight Hymo
This is appropriate for body interfacing of most weights of fabrics. It's something I use fairly universally for bodies and collars. It's very good for anything involving pad stitching, though it's propensity to fraying means I wouldn't use it for a backing on pocket openings. A combination of cotton, rayon, hair, and polyester.
It has a good 5/8" spring. It won't crease with the weft folded over, though the warp threads are lighter weight and can be folded easily.

It's woven tightly with the weft threads being dominantly heavy.

Beetled Linen
Often referred to as Holland linen today, this is a very light-weight linen that has been pounded flat in a complex process that gives it a permanent glazed look. This was sometimes used in men's 18th century garments, but I keep it around for lining women's shoes and use the scraps to back buttonholes and pocket slits.
The spring is only around 3/8". It doesn't fight back much and can crease.

The weave is tight and the fabric is very heavily structured, but light. This means it has almost no give, but won't be bulky.

This is a tightly woven linen that I stiffened using gum tragacanth. Some historic sutlers carry this from time to time ready made, but it's very easy to make yourself (and therefore cheaper). You can put on more coats of the gum to get the stiffness you want. I love using this for pocket slit backing.
This has about 1/2" spring.

It is possible to crease this fabric, but it's easy to smooth out the fold as well.

The weave of this will depend on the linen chosen. I tend to look for a good, tight weave over a heavy weight.

French Collar Canvas
While meant today for pad-stitching into stiffer coat collars, it is surprisingly similar to historic buckram, both made from linen.. Though, it is very expensive, so it's not as well suited to do large fronts out of.
This has almost 3/4" spring.

It does crease, but again straightens out well.

Still lightweight, but you can see how even the threads are. It doesn't allow for any movement along the bias or stretch.

 Horsehair Canvas
This textile is used in layering for the body interfacings or anywhere that a great deal of spring is needed. The stiff hairs mean that the edges must be dealt with and it's best sandwiched between layers so nothing works through to the outside later.
This has about 5/8" spring, but the fight is enormous. It was hard to get it to bend this much to be pinned.

The hairs only run along the weft, so the warp is much softer and this can be folded that direction.

Tailor's Tape
This is a straight tape (bias is available) that is used along the edges of interfacings and the crease of the collar to prevent any stretch. It's much lighter weight than twill tape and won't add bulk. It's edges are "raw", but it's not prone to fraying without effort.

You'll notice I didn't include any of the iron-on style of interfacings. I really strongly believe in the quality of hand-sewing and the manipulation of the fabric that can be done in that process. Machine work is not as easy to maneuver, but still above iron-on. Those types of interfacings are used in most modern mass-produced suits, but with equipment that works the garment into a pre-set curve and shape while setting. I don't like that result much, but it's very difficult to even get that achieved without the equipment. That being said, I do have some of the cheap iron-on interfacing you can get at local fabric stores around. I use it for backing small areas of fabrics that are very prone to fraying around problem areas like buttonholes, pocket openings, or other notches and slits.