Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Finished Suits I

Taking a break this week from instruction so I can catch up and get pictures of a few detail options like pockets and buttonholes. Instead, I figured I'd show you some of the finished pieces I've been using as examples.

First is a 1940s coat made using Wearing History's Veronica pattern. I chose a Pendleton wool plaid for the outer and a rayon bemberg lining, which I usually get from Britex. It's weird for me, but I didn't make any alterations to the pattern, just used the smaller sleeve top provided as an adjustment. I did end up with a much more complex interfacing than was instructed or needed, however. This was the coat I used for as the main example in Collars & Lapels as well as Tailoring Stitches, so there's plenty in those posts about it's construction!

 This 1950s suit was a much more complex process. I purchased a single sheet French pattern on Etsy and it came with minimal instruction. I had to adjust the size of the pattern down a fair amount after copying it to individual pieces, but it's still a little larger than I would like. I based the interfacing structure on a couple of examples I was able to handle, trying for the New Look stiff hips. I used an olive wool from Burnley & Trowbridge (I stocked up on wools from them recently, so expect quite a few suits!).

Monday, March 7, 2016

Collars & Lapels

This will be a walk-through of a very basic construction for the collar and lapels. There are so many different ways to adjust this, particularly around the shoulder area. As I continue making different styles of suits I'll make more posts of their innards, but this will stand as a good base.

Before we baste the interfacing to the fronts we need to complete any work done to it like darts, splits, or extra layers. The darts are worked by cutting down the center of the dart, overlapping, and cross-stitching both raw edges down. You'll see the same method used below for seaming. If there are multiple layers involved, as above, they'll need to be pad-stitched together and any taping of the edges done. I then pad-stitched a flannel layer over the horsehair section.

The finished interfacing layer is then basted onto the front. Baste along the inside edge as well as up the outside and along the roll line. Don't baste around the collar because the pad-stitching will shift that edge.

Tailors tape is stitched along the roll-line. You can end the tape before the seam allowance on both ends or leave the top long to extend into the collar later. I've used both, but haven't found enough of a difference to have a preference yet.

The collar is then pad-stitched.

Trim back the seam allowance and pin tailors tape around the edges. I prefer to do it inside of the stitching line so the fold isn't as bulky, but you can set it further out so it's stitched through when attaching the facing later.

The tape is stitched down, making sure to press everything well to reduce bulk.

The collar interfacing is cut on the bias, just as the undercover is. The seam is overlapped and cross-stitched. I basted only along the roll line. If I had not kept the front tailors tape long I would have placed some across this line at this point.

After pad-stitching the collar into shape, trim back the seam allowance. The collar can be hand or machine finished. I always hand-stitch the neck seam, but vary on the outer edges. Whatever edges will be handworked should be folded over and cross-stitched down.

When it comes to the body being assembled there are a few options for the interfacings. They can be left a little long and brought out to overlap the open seams and cross-stitched down to them, caught in the seam being stitched, or cut back and the seam allowance stitched down to them. If you aren't using an interfacing that will extend and support the entire shoulder seam you'll need to tape the seam. In some cases the shoulder pad is inserted between the interfacing and exterior (and pad-stitched in); that seam will also be taped.

The collar is overlapped onto the neck and felled down. The seam is then opened and pressed.

The front neck seam allowance is folded down and cross-stitched to the interfacing. It's left loose along the back.

The tailors tape is stitched across if you're using this method. It doesn't need to extend all the way to center back.

After the front facing is attached the seam allowance is folded to the interfacing and cross-stitched down.

Fold the facing back and press. The neck edge is felled and the inside edge cross-stitched.

The upper collar is then attached, the seam allowance stitched down if done by machine before turning. If by hand the edge is felled instead. The neck edge is then clipped at the shoulder seams, the front edge folded back and felled to create a finished seam, the back is left hanging down and will be covered by the lining (if not lining then all is folded and felled).

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


The next step in our tailoring process will be the actual cutting of the fabric. While you may be using a pattern complete with seam allowances, facings, and details, many pre-1950s patterns will be missing these pieces. If you are drafting your own you'll find it necessary to account for all of these in the process as well. In my case I'll often adjust the modern patterns, or at least double check, for many of the details I prefer to have.

Seam Allowances
In professional tailoring seam allowances are not put on to the pattern. This is standard practice for all time periods and something I swear by. A great deal of tailoring is done by hand, but even in the case of machining the seams it helps to have the actual stitching line drawn or basted out. This practice is done with corsetry as well- if every seam is cut just a little wide and adds 1/16" it can be disastrous overall. There is no standard size of allowance either. It varies widely depending on the area of the pattern, the fabric, and personal preference. I consider 1/2" to be my "standard", though I'll cut anywhere from 1/4" to 1 1/2" on the same piece.

I generally add extra to the center back just in case the shoulders end up too narrow. The side of the front piece to adjust for overall size, but also a flare to the fronts armscye in case it needs to be taken in. The shoulder excess is due to my large shoulders being a common problem, but it's useful if doing an older pattern where our modern shape and posture might be an issue. The neckline I sometimes add to, but mostly when working on a body that has a tendency towards bad posture. If the head is kept further forward the collar will gap in the back.

For the sleeves I only add extra to the curve of the upper in case of fitting issues. If your pattern is for something tight in the sleeve then adding more to the allowances of the top piece would be a good choice. The extra at the bottom of the seam is if you are dealing with a vent. This can definitely be stitched on in different ways, but if you can remember to do it this can be easier.

Most of the extra goes into the back of a pair of trousers, not just in the out and in seams, but flaring out the center back seam. You'll find this done even in modern men's suit trousers because it allows for you to adjust the waist measurement later (unlike the extras in the jacket, trousers keep their larger seam allowances). The weird shapes on the side seam are for a pocket on the seam. No matter how large I make the hips in my trousers I can never get it enough that that style of pocket doesn't gap. So, rather than have pocketing visible I make sure that the back extends far enough.

Remember to stitch just inside of the chalked stitch lines so not to add the width of the line itself to the pattern. I do the same with the cut line, cutting just inside.

In addition to regular seam allowances you might decide to put in elements like pockets on a seam or buttoned vents on a jacket sleeve. These can have pieces seamed on, but it's much easier to cut them on ahead of time, reducing bulk along the edges. The fly for a pair of trousers can also be included in this.

Facings & Upper Collar
These have similar needs, both expecting to be rolled. If these pattern pieces are not provided for you'll need to adjust the front and under collar slightly. In order to have these roll over the outside and not pull they'll be ever so slightly larger- only about 1/8" larger around the outside edges. The front facings will only cover part of the inside of the front, usually going from mid-shoulder and down to around 4" at the hem. If the shoulder has a dart, which is common in women's jackets, the lining can accommodate this rather than the facing.

Under Collar
This is typically cut on the bias with a seam down the middle. The interfacing for the collar is cut the same way.

1 1/2" or 2" is a comfortable hem size for the bottom of a jacket or sleeves. I sometimes go a little over for pants, but 2" is preferable there as well.

There's not going to be a huge difference between your lining pattern and your regular pattern. It's important to leave at least 1" seam allowance center back so that you can put in a slight pleat from neck to wait. The outer fabric usually has a bit more stretch than the lining so it prevents stress across the shoulders. You'll also account for the front facing and not needing as much hem. I either cut on the fold line for the hem or add 1/2".

This can seem like the most complex part of cutting simply because there are rarely separate pattern pieces or instructions for this section. Keep in mind that you should add on seam allowance for these pieces, even if you are going to trim it down in the end. Pad-stitching and slight cutting differences are much easier to correct for after everything is basted and stitched together. Other small interfacings like those for pocket slits or sleeve hems I cut as I get to them, often utilizing scraps.

This example is from a 1914 women's suit I constructed. The main body is buckram and the chest piece is horsehair. There is piecing that will be cross-stitched on both sides. The roll line and shoulder dart are marked. This style is the full width of the shoulder coming down to a point because of the jacket shape. If the jacket had a straight front it would be roughly 3-4" wide at the hem.

This 1950s coat uses medium weight hymo for the body and no second layer in the chest. The shape not only is the width of the shoulder, but extends to the side seam as well.

A two layer interfacing was put in around the hem after the body was assembled, about 8" wide. This was done to achieve the Dior New Look style iconic of the early 1950s. The first layer was the same hymo, the second of horsehair. This has a back seam and side seams to keep with the curve of the jacket.

Less coverage is also an option. This interfacing of a 1940s overcoat doesn't extend the full width of the shoulder. It's done in a heavy hymo, mostly because I have a lot of that fabric sitting around and the heavier weight of the wool allows for it to be used.