Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tailoring Sale Alert!

Hey guys - I'm planning to start the construction posts for the blazer sew-along tomorrow, but I was updating some of the links in the Tailoring Stuffs post and discovered that the Dritz Tailor's Board with Clapper is on sale right now at Wawak for only $23.91!  It's unclear how long this sale is running - it may be for today only, so I wanted to let you all know ASAP.  However, even the regular price at Wawak is pretty good at $29.89.  I truly believe that this is an essential tailoring tool, so if you've been looking for one at a reasonable price, this might be helpful.

And while we're at it - I did update some links on the previous post, but to make things a little easier if you're going to order from Wawak, here are direct links to those products.

Ham - also on sale today at $6.50
Seam Roll
Sleeve Heads
Twill Tape - 36 yards x 1/4"
3" Wigan - 100 yard roll  (not 1,000 yards as the page states)

Wawak also has a lot of different types and thicknesses of shoulder pads.  I'm not going to recommend any particular one because I haven't found a favorite yet, and everyone probably needs a different pad depending on their shoulders.  Search "ladies shoulder pads" for a huge list to scroll through :-)

Edited to add:  I am not affiliated with or sponsored by Wawak - it just happens to be where I got a lot of my stuff :-)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Tailoring Stuffs

In addition to the obvious things you'll need to make a blazer - pattern, fabric, thread, needles, etc. - there are some specialty items you may want to acquire before getting started.  A few of these are necessary, others are just nice to have. Here are the tools and materials I use most when making a blazer.

The #1 most important tool in tailoring is a tailor board with clapper.  Sadly, it's kind of expensive.  But the results it produces are worth the price, and you can usually find these at JoAnn's and use your coupon to take the sting out.  Using this for pressing will help you get those nice sharp edges that take the project from home-made to professional-looking.  See that pointed end at the right?  Press your lapel points on that baby and you will be astounded at how good they look.  The one I've been using is Dritz brand with a clapper attached.

Next up is a tailor's ham.  I've got two - the one on top is one I made years ago. It's larger, flatter and less curvy.  You've probably already got one, but if you don't it's easy enough to make.  And you can stuff it with scraps, like I did!  The ham is essential for pressing curved areas, like the bust.

Then we've got a sleeve board and/or seam roll.  I use my sleeve board constantly; it was a gift from a friend many years ago, so I don't know the brand or where she got it.  There are a range of prices on these and you can find them at Amazon, Wawak and the like.  A seam roll is a pretty good substitute.  I just got mine a few weeks ago, so I haven't used it much.

And a press cloth is necessary, especially if you're using wool.  Pressing on the right side through a press cloth will keep you from getting a shine on the fabric. Mine is silk organza.  My local fabric shop sells it for $10 a yard; I bought a half yard, cut it in two, and serged around the edges.  I've been using this one for about 4 years!

Now on to some materials.  You will need shoulder pads and sleeve heads.  The ones below were purchased from Wawak.  I don't always use these; these shoulder pads are 1/4" foam and they're a little stiff.  But they're inexpensive, so a while ago I bought several pairs to have on hand.  The sleeve heads are fleece with soft muslin on the outside.  I bought a few of these too, but don't always use them.  It's easy enough to make sleeve heads out of leftover cotton batting or even fleece, or lambswool if you can find it.

You definitely need some twill tape.  I like to use 1/4" width, but 3/8" is OK too. Make sure it is cotton - you'll need to stretch it and the polyester ones aren't as stretchy.  You should be able to find this easily at any fabric store.  Depending on the method of tailoring you use, your pattern and your size, you'll need anywhere from about 2 to 5 yards to be on the safe side.  I went ahead and bought a 36-yard roll so I wouldn't have to get some each time.

I also got a 100-yard roll of 3" wigan.  (Website says 1,000 yards but it's really 100 yards.)  Wigan is a bias sew-in interfacing.  It's nice and crisp and lovely to work with.  It's used at hems to give them some extra body. It's not completely necessary, and sew-in interfacing cut on the bias is a good substitute if you want to use it at the hems.  But if you choose to use wigan, you'd need 2 - 3 yards.

And finally - hair canvas and muslin.  Plain muslin you can get anywhere - you'll want a yard or two.  You may have to order hair canvas though.  I got mine at Vogue Fabrics here in Chicago.  I checked their website but the one I bought isn't listed there.  However, Fashion Sewing Supply carries it, and theirs looks to be good quality.  It's expensive, but you should only need a yard - you'll be using it on the fronts, the shoulder and the under collar.  No matter where you buy yours though, make sure it's the kind with wool and goat hair, not polyester.  You'll be putting it under a lot of steam for shaping.

That wraps up the preparation posts.  If you're sewing along, take the next few weeks to choose your pattern and fabrics and assemble your materials and tools. I'll be back at the beginning of October ready to get started!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Blazer Sew-Along: Resources

I've amassed quite a collection of tailoring books and classes over the last several months.  Today I'm going to mostly show you the ones I've actually used so far. These books and classes and my own explorations are how I've learned everything I know so far about tailoring.

Tailoring:  The Classic Guide to Sewing the Perfect Jacket  If you can only buy one tailoring book, make it this one.  I refer to this book constantly.  It is clear and well-organized.  Can't say enough great things about this book - this and the one below are two of my 3 desert island books.

Easy Guide to Sewing Linings  Not specifically about tailoring, but does include linings for jackets.  It has great illustrations and shows how to create lining pieces from pattern pieces - great because not all jacket patterns come with separate pieces for the lining.

McCall's 6172 - Yes, a pattern!  This Palmer/Pletsch pattern has lots of great information on fitting the blazer pattern to you.  I'm not going to cover fitting in this sew-along - that's a whole sew-along by itself!  But I think if you're going to put the work into tailoring a blazer, you'll want it to have a great fit.  Honestly, fit is the biggest reason why I started sewing blazers - nothing off the rack fits me well enough to invest the money.  That I discovered a love for tailoring is a happy coincidence.  The sewing instructions in this pattern are very good as well.

Craftsy Classes

Classic Tailoring - The Blazer.  This is the first Craftsy class on tailoring I watched, and it is a great one.  I learned so much by watching this class.  All the essentials are there, with extras like drafting vents for the sleeves.

Essential Guide to Tailoring:  Structure and Shape.  This and the class below are new purchases for me.  I've watched this one all the way through, and it is stellar. This is probably my favorite Craftsy class so far.  It shows all three methods of tailoring and goes beyond the basics with lots of neat tips and tricks.  I'm really looking forward to trying some of them on future jackets.

Essential Guide to Tailoring:  Construction.  I'm about half way through this class, and I like it as much as the one above.  Lots of new-to-me ways of doing things I can't wait to try out.

Jacket Fitting Techniques.  I haven't actually watched this one yet, but I plan to in the near future.  I have been able to do a pretty good job with fitting myself, but need help in fitting the jacket pattern I'm working up for my husband.  I'm hoping this class will help me out!  This might be a good resource for those who need some help with fitting a pattern.  If any of you have watched this class already, I'd be interested to know what you thought of it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Three Types of Tailoring

Over the last 10 months, I've made 6 notch-collared blazers!  Like I said, I'm a lady who loves a blazer!  But in addition to loving the garment, I've also been having a great time exploring all different kinds of tailoring techniques.  I find it endlessly fascinating.  For me, the inner structure of a jacket is the stuff of daydreams . . .

In the course of my explorations, I've tried out all three types of tailoring - fusible (sometimes called speed tailoring), machine and hand (also called traditional).  I tried them all because I was interested to learn how each one worked.  But as I gained experience, I started to think that the different types can be useful in different ways.  With any of these techniques you can get a beautifully tailored jacket.  You can explore each method in turn, as I did, or combine them in one garment.  Sometimes though, it takes some thought to decide which of the methods will be best for a particular project.  So I've chosen 4 of my blazers to illustrate possible applications of each.

Fusible Tailoring

Pink Wool Blazer

The pink wool blazer marked my first foray into tailoring.  I wanted to start with the fusible method because I wasn't sure if I would like tailoring, and it seemed the quickest and easiest method.  And I can tell you - although it seems like you are spending an eternity ironing fusible interfacing and fusible canvas onto your pieces, this method is indeed quicker than the other two.

Once I had a little more experience with the other methods, I realized that the fusible method was actually a good choice for this jacket.  The wool fabric I used was on the thin side and somewhat loosely woven, so the fusible kept everything together and kept the fabric from distorting.

The fusible method is also a great way to add body to a fabric with more drape than you want for a classic blazer.

Black Cotton Twill Blazer

This spring I decided I needed a black blazer.  I had some black cotton twill in my stash, but it was cotton/lycra.  It had quite a bit of stretch.  My pattern is not designed for stretch fabrics, and I didn't want to go through another fitting process to work up a stretch blazer pattern.  So I took the stretch away, via fusible interfacing!

So to my mind, although you can use the fusible method for any project, I think it's an especially good choice for fabrics that are thin, loosely woven or unstable, or to change the character of your fabric, as in removing stretch or adding body.

Hand Tailoring

Brown Wool Herringbone Blazer

Once I'd completed my pink wool blazer, I was eager to try out hand tailoring.  The wool I used on this blazer was a medium weight.  I added cotton velveteen for the upper collar, bound buttonholes and pocket flaps for some contrast.  Of all the blazers I've made, this one involved the most work; it's also my favorite.

I think wool - just about any type - is a great choice for working hand tailoring.  All the pad stitching that shapes the collar and lapels picks up just a tiny thread of the wrong side of the outer fabric.  Because most wool fabrics have a bit more loft than, say, cotton twill, it's much easier to work the pad stitches without having any of them show through to the right side.  Hand tailoring is labor intensive as it is - you don't want to make yourself crazy by using a fabric you'll have to fight the whole way!

Wool is also very forgiving and can be shaped and manipulated with steam.

Machine Tailoring

Cotton Madras Patchwork Blazer

The resources I've been using (which I'll write about in a future post) have touted machine tailoring as a faster alternative to hand tailoring, but I have to admit I didn't find it to be so.  That could be because I'm very comfortable with hand stitching, and therefore relatively quick at it.  But there are also extra steps needed to create pattern pieces and carrier strips for the canvas.

But for this jacket it was the perfect choice.  This blazer had been on my list to make for quite a while, but I was stumped at first as to how to work the tailoring.  Fusible wouldn't work well, because the fabric is made of 3" squares of madras all sewn together, so the back is quite lumpy.  Hand tailoring didn't seem like a great choice either because the cotton fabric is thin - trying to work pad stitching on it would have been a nightmare.

It took flipping through my tailoring book again to realize that the machine method was the perfect solution - and bonus:  it was the one method I hadn't tried yet!

Machine tailoring was a great way to get around this difficult fabric.  But it was also a good choice for this jacket because the machine method adds some stitching lines which are visible from the outside.  I think of them as style lines, and to me they look very modern and a little bit casual - just like this jacket!  I also knew that if those stitching lines were unsightly, no one but me would see them anyway because there's so much going on with this fabric.  But I really liked the result.

I'm planning a navy cotton twill jacket this fall (the one I'll be constructing for the sew-along) and I've decided to use the machine method because I want it to look more modern.  I could even see using a contrasting thread which would show as style lines from the outside!  Mind you, those lines only show when the jacket lapel and collar are flipped up, Miami Vice style.  I'll likely stick with navy thread for this jacket because I want it to go with everything, but I'm putting a pin in that idea for future.

In conclusion:

I hope these examples are helpful to you all in choosing your fabric and the method of tailoring you want to use.  And if anyone has any further insights on this topic, please let us know in the comments!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Blazer Sew-Along: What To Expect

Hi Folks!

Thanks so much to all of you who chimed in with opinions on what you'd like to see in a sew along.  While I haven't completely made up my mind yet, I'm leaning toward making two blazers:  one where I'll show the machine tailoring, and another where I'll show the hand tailoring.  These are two blazers that are on my fall to-sew list, so I figured I may as well document both of them.  I'll likely start with the machine-tailored blazer, as the majority of respondents were interested in seeing that.  Lisa G. made the pertinent point that there haven't been a lot of blog posts featuring machine tailoring, so it would fill a gap as well.

Over the last week, I became aware in my blog reading that there are going to be two other, somewhat similar sew-alongs going on in October.  Rachel is hosting a sew-along for the new Vogue 1467 Anne Klein pea coat pattern.  Erica B. is hosting a coat sew-along, not pattern specific and geared toward more experienced sewers.  When I realized this, I considered postponing this sew-along; it seemed like a lot going on all at once!  But after some thought I decided to just go ahead with it.  I have a much more limited readership than either of these lovely ladies, so I don't think I'll be interfering with their projects.  And while there is bound to be some crossover, this sew-along is going to be specific to tailoring a notched collar blazer, although the techniques are transferable to other styles.

This sew-along is going to be different in a few other ways too.  I'm not affliated with any businesses, and I'm not a professional or expert.  I'm just a lady who really loves tailoring and making this style of blazer, and who has learned a few things about it in the last year.  So this sew-along is really going to be comprised of me documenting the process of making a blazer (or two).  I'm not going to have any schedule to follow and I'm going to try to break down the steps in more frequent, shorter posts rather than mega-posts.  That will be more manageable for me and for those following along.

So, a very informal sew-along.  I consider it more like a study group really.  I'll be happy to answer what questions I can as we go along, but be aware that I may not always have the answers.  Of course, I'm of the mind that there usually isn't one right answer - that there are a lot of ways to do things.  I'll be showing you what works for me, and things I've experimented with.  For me, tailoring is as much about the process as it is the final product, so I tend to take my time.  I'm not going to be rushing through to get a finished blazer in a short amount of time.

Over the next few days, I'm planning on writing up some posts to get you started on assembling your materials.  I've also planned a post on the differences between the types of tailoring, and when you might use which.  Once those posts are up, I'll be taking a break until the beginning of October when we get started on the actual work.

Because the sew-along is going to be informal and open-ended, I'm not planning a wrap-up where everyone showcases their work.  However, if anyone is interested in that, we'll see what we can do.  And if anyone has any other ideas, please let me know!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Blazer Bits and Bobs

Yesterday I completed the August installment of Blazer-a-Month.  Just in time! 

This is a blazer that ought to have been made earlier in the summer, but I was busy with house guests  from the beginning of July til mid-August, and didn't have time to sew.  I'm really happy it's done now - this project fulfills a long-held desire for a patchwork madras blazer.  Years ago, J.Crew had them, and I wanted one so badly but the fit was terrible on me.  I love it that I can now make whatever I want, and make it to fit me!

This jacket is McCall's 6172 again - what can I say?  It's my favorite!  And since the fitting is already done, part of the work is eliminated.  I've been working my way through the techniques in Tailoring:  The Classic Guide to Sewing the Perfect Jacket.  This project was the perfect opportunity to try out the machine tailoring method.  I posted a fair number of in-progess shots on Instagram, but a lot of the details were hard to see there, so I've taken lots more pictures to share here.

I mistakenly thought that the machine tailoring method would be quicker than hand tailoring, but it really wasn't.  It still takes a lot of time to cut all the pieces, cut the interfacing, mark everything, and then do the stitching.  And although the hair canvas is attached by machine, there is still a fair bit of hand stitching to be done.  I do a lot of hand-basting when I sew, and all the hems are hand stitched.  So all told, this jacket still took a total of about 22 hours.

The fabric I used for this blazer is Robert Kaufman Nantucket Patchwork, which I purchased from   I realized that I'd need to match the squares as if matching plaids.  For my size (10), view B takes 2 5/8 yards of 45" fabric.  I ordered 3 yards, thinking that would be enough extra.  When my fabric came, I got a 3.5 yard piece because it was the end of the bolt.  Thank goodness - I used almost all of it!!  Starting at the center back, I matched pieces left and right, working to the sides, and then did the same for the fronts, as much as possible keeping the horizontal squares in line.  I think I did a pretty good job :-)

The fabric is actually much nicer quality than I was expecting.  All the seam allowances on the back are serged together, and the squares are all edgestitched down from the front.  Needless to say though, that makes quite a lumpy fabric!  So I underlined all the pieces with a very thin cotton voile to give myself a smoother surface to work on.  I like to hand baste my underlinings on, to keep everything as flat as possible.

With the machine tailoring method, hair canvas is still used for the under collar and fronts, and the roll line is taped.  But these are all stitched to the outer by machine, so the stitches do show through on the outside, unlike with hand tailoring.  However, all the stitching is on the underside so it doesn't show when the garment is worn.  Here's how the roll line looks from the outside:

And here's the under collar.  On the second picture, I've drawn over the stitching lines to make it more clear.  Between the busy fabric and the white thread, none of this stitching is very easy to see!

As I was working on this jacket, I updated my pattern by cutting out all the markings (easy to do because my pattern is on Swedish Tracing Paper), so that the pieces work like stencils for marking.  So glad I did this, as there is a lot of marking to be done!

The hair canvas for the under collar is pretty well stitched down to the fabric, but the piece on the front is hanging free between the layers of fabric.  I really loved the method for attaching it:  you cut "carrier strips" of muslin, which are 1.5" strips the same shape as the jacket front.  The hair canvas is cut all the way to the front and neck edges, then stitched with a zigzag to the carrier strips at a 3/4" seam allowance.  Then the canvas is trimmed close to the zigzag on the back, and the muslin is trimmed close to the zigzag on the front.  Thus, the hair canvas is attached to the outer via the muslin and remains 1/8" inside the seam allowance.  Genius!

The roll line is taped in the normal way, but sewn down with two parallel lines of stitching, stopping 2" before the break.  That last bit is sewn down by hand only through the canvas, so it won't show from the outside. ( I just realized that this picture is the side I sewed wrong!  The tape should be sewn to the jacket side of the roll line, not the lapel side.  I realized it in time and unpicked, then fixed it.)

I used muslin for the back stay, like usual, and wigan for the hems.  Here is the jacket completely assembled up to the point of adding the facing/lining unit.  I just love looking at the inner structure of jackets!

This time, I decided to do topstitching around the outside edge.  On my previous jackets, I didn't do topstitching because I felt it didn't suit the style.  To me, the topstitching gives the jacket a sportier look.  I really had fun doing it this time.  I made things easy on myself by lining up the edge of my fabric with the edge of the presser foot, and then moving my needle all the way to the right for stitching - it was easy to maintain an even distance from the edge that way.

The lining is rayon bemberg in a lovely shade of teal that I think looks quite nice with the outer fabric.

Making the buttonholes was a bit problematic because of the bulk of the quilted seams.  My first one didn't work and I had to unpick it.  I used some buttons I had on hand; I like them, but I'm not sure they're the right choice for this jacket.  They're awfully shiny since they're glass.  I may change them out in the future.

And there you have it!  One last pic of the completed jacket:

I really, really like it :-)

And now, a question:  I've been getting a lot of requests on Instagram to do a sew-along for blazers, and I've pretty much decided to do one in October.  If you are one of the people who is interested in this, what are the kinds of things you're interested in seeing? I haven't decided what type of tailoring to show - fusible, hand, or machine.  It's not realistic to show all three in one sew-along, because I'd have to be making 3 jackets at the same time!  And I do have a life outside of tailoring :-)  So I'm hoping to be able to tailor the sew-along to what people are most interested to see.  (See what I did there?)