Category Archives: Tailoring

Finishing Details; The French Jacket

Thank you all for the many comments and compliments about this jacket.  The finishing details are what sets French jackets apart and make this jacket unique.  In addition to the custom trim, French jackets feature hand worked buttonholes, sleeves are set by hand, countless tiny stitches secure the lining and a metal chain inside the jacket allow it to drape perfectly when worn.

I think the sleeves are actually easier to set by hand and would be almost impossible to do by machine due to the unique construction methods. Although it would be easier to sew the armseye seam through all layers, I find joining only the outer fabrics together before hand basting the lining in place gives a softer, more fluid feel.

Here’s an inside view of the armseye seam.  Probably one if the messiest times in jacket construction. Yes, I used Pro Sheer Elegance Couture interfacing which was fused the jacket sections. It’s extremely lightweight, flexible and doesn’t change the drape of the tweed.  Linton actually recommends doing this with their more loosely woven fabrics.  I’ve serged the edges of the tweed with a wide stitch but finished the seams of the lining with a narrow two thread stitch using fine thread. I like Gutermann Skala 360-U81, Invisafil by Wonderfil Threads, or 80 weight Maderia or Aurifil cotton.  I use two strands of regular sewing thread, waxed and pressed, to set the sleeve.  I sew the top part from the right side using tiny fell stitches and the underarm portion from the inside with a backstitch.

Setting Sleeve by hand Free seam allowances

Notice at the point where the shoulder seam meets the sleeve seam, the seam allowances haven’t been caught but are allowed to float free.  This allows the seam to press more smoothly and feels less rigid.  I’ve not included the sleeve lining; I feel I get a better result by joining only two layers of fabric at one time.

Sleeve headSleeve head shaped

I create a sleeve head from cotton batting. Cut about 2.5 inches wide and 7 inches long. Fold along a long side about 1.5 inches from the edge, pull along the folded edge while steam pressing to curve.  The folded edge is sewn along the armseye seam at the sleeve cap to provide additional shape and support.

Jacket inside out Sleeve head inserted

Baste the sleeve lining just inside the armseye seam and trim away the excess fabric. I’ve struggled with getting the lining over the sleeve cap evenly if the jacket is lying flat. I’ve found it much easier to turn the jacket inside out and place on my dress form with a sleeve form attached. Now the jacket and sleeve are supported and it’s easier to manipulate the lining into position.

Pin around seam Gathering line Pull up gathers

Pin along the seam and sew a line of tiny running stitches. Pull the gathering thread up to fit and tie a tailors knot at each end. Trim off the excess and the fabric will fold under easily along the gathering line. I set the sleeve cap first, baste, then remove the jacket from the form.  The lining at the underarm is brought up and around the seam allowances.

Seam EasedSleeve underarm

I had originally planned for front buttons, but decided I liked the look of trim without buttons, and considered a front zipper.  Botani Trimming in NYC makes custom zippers and does mail order. You select the zipper tooth size, length, color and pull. The zipper arrives in a few days and they even had chain for the hem.  Finding the right zipper in a local shop would have been impossible.  Just as an interesting side note, Botani sells Lampo zippers. They are made in Italy and the same brand that Chanel uses!

Custom Zip Lining at Zip Zipper Inside

How to deal with the lining? I could have folded it back past the zipper teeth and stitched into place but that left the zipper teeth exposed on the inside of the jacket. In true couture fashion, I wanted to cover up that metal.  Placing a length of ribbon inside the fold beefed up the edge of the silk charmeuse so it would be less likely to catch on the zipper pull.  This was one time when that rigid, slightly raised edge on polyester ribbon was useful.  Now zipper teeth are concealed, both inside and out.

The dreaded buttonholes next.  Machine made buttonholes lack the couture finish this jacket needed.  I’ve experimented with countless ways to improve my hand worked version.  I’ve found that sewing around the buttonhole before cutting, especially in a fabric such as this, helps tremendously to keep the layers together.  Marking and sewing this manually on the machine requires much twisting and turning of the fabric so I searched for an easier way.  My machine sews a square buttonhole using a straight stitch so I tried that, stitching around the buttonhole twice, once at a narrow width and again a little wider.

Machine buttonholes

Looks OK but I didn’t like the thread buildup at the beginning and end (impossible to stop the machine from knotting the threads) plus I really wanted a keyhole buttonhole.

Hoop setup Buttonholes in hoop Embroidery buttonholes

My Bernina does embroidery and I have digitizing software so I created a template for the buttonholes. I hooped a square of heavy muslin, stitched out the placement lines for the sleeve; then cut out a window so the stitching wouldn’t get caught on the muslin. The sleeve was pinned onto the muslin. Working wrong side up worked better. The sleeve was easier to place and keep the fabric clear of the stitching area, plus the embroidery foot wouldn’t get snagged on the loose fibers of the tweed.  The embroidery software will insert buttonholes automatically, but I wasn’t able to adjust the shape and stitch length satisfactorily. I also wasn’t able to do the double rows.  Mirror the image for the other sleeve and remember to cut another window so your muslin doesn’t get stitched to the fabric.

Stranding Buttonholes  Best Buttonhole

There are several YouTube videos showing hand worked buttonholes if you need a review. I worked under a magnifying light and tried to keep the buttonhole stitches just inside the second row of machine stitching. It provided a nice guide for straight, narrow stitches. Buttonholes aren’t easy and most people say they need to work a hundreds before somewhat mastering the art.  I’m always trying to make mine better but these aren’t bad.

I’ve been inspired by the photos of sheath dresses with matching jackets ( Helen Haughey’s class looked wonderful) so that’s next in the sewing lineup. Thanks for reading.





Filed under Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, French jacket trim, French Jackets, Tailoring, Uncategorized

Do You Dread Making Pants?

How many sewers have difficulty with the fit of pants? The sewing is relatively straightforward; only two fronts, two backs and a waistband or facing.  The truth is that pants ARE hard to fit. You’re asking flat fabric to attractively cover a very bumpy section of the body.  Jackets have multiple seams and attached sleeves which allow for many more fitting opportunities. One of my favorite resources is Cutter and which offers truly expert advice.  It is written for professionals and much of the information is geared to the expert sewer but I thought some of the ironwork techniques weren’t that complicated.

I had made a pair of pants using Style Arc’s Claudia pant. The pant is designed for stretch woven fabric but I used a non-stretch wool and added a little extra to the seams to compensate. I eliminated the seam at center front leg. The pants fit OK but I wanted to see if they could be improved.  I had purchased the fabric from B & J’s in NYC and it was not something I was willing to trash.  I tend to use better fabrics and am willing to take apart and redo if necessary.  Quality materials and natural fibers just behave better and I’m happier with the end result.


Some pattern instructions direct you to stretch the back inner leg seam while joining it to the front and also point out the need to stretch the back crotch seam but the degree of iron shaping necessary for better fit isn’t clear.

There is an  extensive article  in Cutter and Tailor about shaping the pant sections with the iron and very detailed, clear photos describing exactly how this should be done. Search for “ironwork.”  If you Google “pressing” you will get directions on how to press ready-made pants. The author points out:

The correct fit of trousers cannot be achieved by cutting alone, for this must be achieved for the most part through ironwork. Many more errors in trousers have their origins in inadequate ironwork than in the cut. The most important factor in trousers is their width. Different widths demand a different method of working up with the iron, although difference in posture and body habitus also influence this. Even the most perfectly calculated cut could never create well fitting trousers without the proper ironwork.

I eliminated most of the lower leg shaping and concentrated on the hip and seat area.  My fabric wasn’t the most pliable but eventually succumbed to stretching, heat and steam. I worked with both back sections placed right sides together at the same time. That way the stretching was equal on both right and left sides.

Pant Shaping

The pants have a half lining of soft cotton/silk voile and hand under-stitching along the waist facing.

Pants Lining Inside Pants

I’m much happier with the fit and will definitely incorporate this technique in future pant construction. My next pair will be from a softer wool which will be easier to shape but even the fit of this tightly woven plaid improved with some extra iron work.

Pants FrontPants side

All my resident photographers were unavailable so I resorted to some cell phone mirror shots. The dark fabric doesn’t show too well but it’s pouring rain so no chance of outdoor shots.

While responding to comments I found this info which may be helpful if you are having trouble with basic fitting. Note how many drafts were needed before the pants were even attempted in fabric! Also see how small some changes were and how other fit issues could result from a change.

Threads Braid



Filed under couture sewing, Tailoring, Uncategorized

Vogue 1440 Finished

I hate having unfinished projects cluttering up the workspace, so before getting to work on the bridal gown, I needed to finish Vogue 1440.  I left off with a fitted shell but no sleeves. I have given up on the sleeve shape of most patterns and find I get much better results with my own draft.

The cap has less ease in the back and more rounded at the front to accommodate the ball of the shoulder. I also raised the underarm and decreased the overall width.
Here is the muslin showing that most of the easing is in the front.
I also shaved an inch and a half off the collar width
The sleeve was stretched and steamed into shape.
before setting the sleeve, snug the back of the armhole which creates a pocket for the shoulder blade.
The collar back was too floppy and benefited from a felt collar stand. This was interfaced with hair canvas, pad stitched and applied to the collar back.
To maintain the soft drape of the front I stay stitched 3/4 inch from the edge and fringed the cut edge.
Most trims are far too stiff and would have destroyed the drape of the front section. Black chenille yarn was soft enough to apply to both front and back sides without altering the drape of the wool boucle. I chose to omit the seam piping. The boucle is underlined with silk organza and lined with silk crepe de chine.


Filed under Tailoring

Vogue V1440: Tweaking the Fit

I came across this Donna Karan Vogue pattern. The jacket looked like a fun, easy to wear, garment. I also loved the interesting style lines and curved seaming.
First a word about size selection. I’ve found that it works much better to select your pattern size by your high bust measurement, NOT the full bust. I measure 32″ high bust and 34″ full bust. That would mean I should cut a size 12. Size 12’s are ridiculously huge on me. The neckline gaps open and the shoulders are HUGE. I go down two sizes and cut a size 8, which is 31.5 bust. That fits me much better in the neck, armholes, and shoulders, areas which are much more difficult to alter than side seams. I’ve found that the high bust is a truer measure of your bone structure and will give a better fit. You may need to alter for a full bust and/or fat tissue, but those changes are easier than the neck/shoulder areas.
Here is my first muslin, cut exactly according to the pattern. It’s shown on my form which is an exact duplicate of my shape.
Here’s the back view.
There is a huge amount of ease at the underarm along the side seam. In order for the side seams to match up the front piece needs to flare out away from the body. Not the look I’m after.

The side seam also flares out at the hem much more than I would like. The pattern line drawing looks to me like a fairly slim fitting jacket. I have a long torso and the waist also needs to be lengthened by 1 and 3/8 inches.
Here’s a view of the original on the left side and the altered version on the right side.

Changes to the pattern. The red lines are the new seam lines. I’ve raised the underarm and reshaped the armseye. I’ve also removed fabric from the collar at both the neck and front edge.
Style tape makes it easier to redraw this seam line. The triangle shaped section has excess pinned out which will be removed in the redraft. I’ve repositioned the bust dart for a smoother fit.
The altered flat pattern.
Most of the alterations are along the side seam and armhole. One major change is to reposition the grain line on the triangular shaped piece. I wanted more waist shaping but didn’t want to add additional seam lines to already busy lines. I placed the bottom and back edges of the triangular piece on an almost true bias and the front edge was slightly off grain. Stretch the bottom and back edges while steam ironing.
How it now conforms to the body curves and shapes the waist better.
The curved edge along the jacket front will also be steam stretched to hug the body.
The collar and front piece is basically a curved ruffle. Take a tip from Roberta Carr  (her book: Couture:The Art of Fine Sewing)  and do not clip this seam until after it’s sewn and then clip at precise intervals to control the ruffles.
If you try this pattern pay attention to the fabric choice. A softly draping tweed or loose weave will work best. Anyone else tried this design?


Filed under Tailoring

Jacket Finished, Plus Two More

The last step in finishing was to add pockets. I played around with different sizes and debated two versus four. A great way to visualize size and placement is to cut pockets from shop towels (they are heavier than paper towels) and play around until you get the right look.

I had four larger buttons and decided to add them at the center front. They are sewn at the right front edge and don’t actually fasten.
I find it easiest to get pockets exactly the same size and shape by pressing the pocket around a cardboard template. I interfaced the pocket with bias cut interfacing which is cut just a tad smaller than the finished pocket. The bias gives the pocket a softer shape. I cut a slightly smaller template for the lining.
Slip stitch the lining to the pocket, attach trim and slip stitch to the jacket. Don’t catch the lining when doing this.

I had a chance to get a closeup look at some geniune Chanel jackets at an upscale resale shop on Madison Ave. and noted some distinctive details. Trims are applied after construction and are made to be removed if necessary for cleaning. More about my findings in the next post.
I was sidetracked by an request from my daughter-in-law. She was invited to join the hunt staff of our local equestrian team. Hunt staff wear red jackets and bespoke versions are a small fortune. Since I had made her wedding gown, she figured a jacket would be an easy task.
Just make a tailored jacket from a commercial pattern, right? Wrong. Riding clothing is another animal. We combined my research and her knowledge and came up with a punch list of what this garment needed.
*Roomy armholes with significant ease in the back to allow the rider forward arm movement
*Sleeves pitched much more forward than conventional clothing as the arm is held almost horizontal
*Abrasion resistant lining in the jacket skirt to resist wear
*Flared skirt with most of the flare at the back to cover the seat while in the saddle
*Warm lining as hunt season runs through the winter
*Slippery sleeve lining to allow the jacket arms to slide freely over shirts/sweaters
Mood Fabrics had a beautiful heavy wool/cashmere/nylon fabric. They also had abrasion resistant lining and wool flannel for the upper jacket lining. I drafted a fitting muslin from cotton canvas which mimicked the weight and drape of the wool better than lightweight muslin. Note the exaggerated curve of the sleeve.
The roomy armhole. I would never have guessed this much ease would be required.
The jacket fabric was thick and required loads of steam and heavy use of a tailors clapper to get things flattened into shape. I found it helpful to flatten the inside of especially bulky seams with a clamp from the hardware store. Get loads of steam into the fabric, clamp it down hard, and leave until it’s cold.
Also, don’t sew across the layers of intersecting seams. You can get a much flatter press by folding the seam allowances to one side and end the stitching at the seamline. Fold the seam allowances the other direction and begin stitching at the seamline. The seam allowances will remain free and press much flatter.
Inside the jacket showing the various linings used.
The color of the upper collar is unique to the particular hunt club; her’s is purple. The fabrics were so heavy and it was applied with traditional tailoring techniques.
Here’s the finished work.
I couldn’t resist using the leftover fabric for a matching jacket for the one year old. Fittings were a bit of a challenge on a squirmy baby but we got it done!
Mommy and daughter out for a ride.


Filed under French Jackets, Tailoring

Marfy 3182 Finished

front viewIn December I was lucky to have an unexpected trip to Paris and PROMISED my husband if I could have an outing at Janssens & Janssens (probably one of the most spectacular fabric stores in the world) that the my purchases would NOT wind up as collectibles.  Marfy 3182 was an ideal design for this fabric so this post is also a review of the pattern.

Additional views:

side view

Sorry for the blurry photo

Sorry for the blurry photo

Closeup of the fabric

Closeup of the fabric

Cuff detail

Cuff detail

I made a few changes to the pattern, although Marfy styles don’t usually need much tweaking. The jacket IS boxy, as the illustration shows.Pattern View

I chose to raise the front shoulder seam 3/4 inch at the front neck edge, tapering to nothing where it meets the armhole seam. The corresponding amout was removed from the sleeve.

altered front shoulderGreen thread shows the origonal pattern, red is the new line. I also removed an inch from the sleeve width. I underlined the jacket with washed silk organza which also provided a much needed layer to attach all the interfacing needed to support the lapels and collar.front interfacing

Hair canvas was inserted into the front, back, sleeves and underarm. Cut the canvas inside all stitching lines except the underarm seam; it is needed there to support the armhole. Catchstitch all interfacing to the silk organza underling being careful not to catch the face fabric. A back view of where the canvas is needed.

back interfacingI also added a layer of heavy silk organza to the collar to provide support but not add weight. This was loosly pad stitched to the under collar.

collar supportI changed the sleeve banding shape and will detail that in the next post as it is somewhat involved for anyone who wants to try it. The pattern went together easily and all necessary match points were clearly marked. The banding requires precise measuring and stitching but it all fits together if you take your time and align everything first.

lining up bands

More details in the next post.


Filed under Tailoring

Bias Fringe

This is in response to several requests for more detail on bias fringing after viewers saw my jacket in the Reader’s Closet section of Threads Magazine. I don’t have any more of the fabric used in the jacket available but have used a close substitute in these demos.

The pocket fringe is made by cutting 1 inch wide strips of fabric on the true bias. Staystitch 1/2 inch from the edge using a short (about 1 mm) stitch. Stitch again on the same line. You don’t want the fabric threads pulling loose. Use a knitting needle or tapestry needle to gently unravel the fabric along one side.Bias Fringe stripMeasure the outside edge of each pocket flap and make a strip of fringe long enough for each pocket. Sew the fringe around each flap edge rght sides together. Turn, press and fell stitch the lining to the wrong side. Trim the fringe to the finished width you want either with scissors or rotary cutter.


pocket underside

For the front lapel facing, cut a bias strip 6-7 inches wide and about 6 inches longer than the jacket front. You will need this extra length as the lower curved edge is treated like giant piping. Staystitch and unravel as before. At the top where the lapel makes a right angle, cut your bias at a right angle leaving extra to cover the underside of the neck facing.
lapel facing
Shape the bias strip to match the contour of the front lapel using a steam iron.
front jacket lapel
Turn the jacket seam under, slip baste, and sew the shaped lapel to the jacket. You won’t be able to ease all the fabric out at the lower edge where there is a curve. Sew a couple of darts in the facing to curve it around.finished corner
Red threads highlight where two darts are sewn to allow facing to curve.
facing darts
Hope this helps clarify the techniques used. Please leave a comment if you need more info.
I’m working on Marfy 3182 and hope to have that post ready tomorrow. Here are a couple of preview shots.
Marfy 3182
Marfy 3182 Jacket facing


Filed under Tailoring