There are specific aspects of design that I associate with a tailored blazer. The shape of the body, as well as the collar and lapels, are foremost. But now that I’ve put together those pieces of the puzzle, what’s next? Sleeves, of course.
The sleeves for my tailored blazer have a couple of essential characteristics.
- They are two-piece sleeves. Anyone who sews knows that the more seams there are in any part of the garment, the better fit you can accomplish. That’s as true of sleeves as it is of a bodice with princess seaming. However, there are limits! A sleeve for a dress, for example, is likely to be a one-piece sleeve – one piece of fabric seamed under the arm. Sleeves on any well-made jacket, though, will have at least two pieces (two seams) or even three for the best fit.
- They have sleeve heads. These sleeve heads are essential to ensuring that the top of the sleeve has that nice, ever-so-slightly extended cap with some body. For this project, I bought professional tailoring sleeve heads. In the past, when I’ve added them to a softer jacket, I’ve made them myself from some cotton batting.
- They have vents. This may seem like a no-brainer when it comes to jacket or blazer sleeves, but it isn’t. I even have a Claire Schaeffer Custom Couture Collection Vogue pattern (#9342) that doesn’t have vents. (I think I’ll make that one next! So simple without vents!). Although it does result in extra work, real, working vents are important to learning the tailoring process. And, after all, I’m not on a deadline!
- They have buttons and working buttonholes. Yes, vents need buttons, and a well-tailored jacket has working buttonholes in the sleeve vents. Well, as you’ll soon see, that particular detail may go the way of the dodo in my tailoring journey.
The first consideration in preparing the sleeves for setting in was the hemline and vent interfacing. This was a bit tricky because the interfacing is placed along the seamline on one end and along the fold line on the other one. I did it wrong the first time and had to remove it and reposition. This is important to the under and over parts of the sleeve vent.
That being said, when I did some online research on sleeve vents, it seemed to me that the shape of the vent (and the lining when I get to it) isn’t optimum in this pattern. (I’ll say more about that when I get to the final installment and complete the lining. It was a nightmare.)
When I was completing the vent seam and catch-stitching the sleeve hems, I wondered why in this pattern, which purports to be “couture” techniques, there was no mention of mitering the corner. I decided to do a miter anyway.
Another oddity of the pattern instructions was the admonition to stretch one of the pieces into the other rather than easing it. This approach is supposed to be the couture technique of doing it, but really? I mean, what difference could it possibly make? In the end, I needn’t have worried. The two pieces seemed to have stretched or eased themselves and fit together perfectly!
I set in the sleeves using my regular technique: basting, basting, basting. They came out perfectly.
Then I put in the shoulder pads, by hand, of course. This was the first time I realized that shoulder pads have a front and a back (who knew? I suppose everyone reading this!) and that one of them is for the right shoulder and one for the left. Of course, this was probably the first time I used shoulder pads from an actual tailoring supplier rather than those cheap ones at Fabricville or other major retailers. Then it was time for those sleeve heads.
I cannot tell you how many times I had to put the first one in, pin it, turn the jacket right side out, then look it and say, “That makes no sense!” I had to go back to pictures in my tailoring book several times to ensure I put them on the right way around! I also found a good tip in a Craftsy video by Pam Howard, who suggests that the sleeve head be cut to a length that ensures it doesn’t overlap seams.
She also suggests that you trim the end to make it round to reduce bulk. Smart idea!
Then it was down to the fun part: deciding on the number and placement of the buttons on the vents.
The pattern indicates that I should install four buttons on the vents (along with four buttonholes). I don’t know about you, but I never took a really close look at buttons on sleeve vents before. I thought that four buttons might be too many, and I wondered if the even number might just be wrong. I would have to do a bit of research. So, I took a deep dive into my husband’s closet, the home of several high-end suit jackets and blazers.
Among the examples of sleeves were several Brooks Brothers, an Ermenegildo Zegna, a BOSS, a fabulous one he bought in Paris some years ago, and a new tuxedo. I learned several things.
First, most of them have four buttons (who knew?), and the four buttons looked perfect. Second, the buttons are generally “stacked” together, meaning that they are slightly overlapped. There is no space between them.
And finally, I learned that even high-end men’s tailored jackets mostly don’t have working buttonholes. When I mentioned this to my husband, he scoffed at me for even considering doing buttonholes on sleeve vents. So, my decision was made. There would be no working buttonholes!
I finally have what looks like a blazer. One more update to go: lining and finishing. Stay tuned!