A few blocks from where we live in the city, there was, for many years, a tailor shop. Focused exclusively on menswear, they always displayed a garment-in-progress in the window. Often when we walked by, I marvelled at the “stuff” that seemed to be underneath the lapel (or revere as it is called in the UK) to help it keep its shape. I occasionally wondered what was under the rest of the body lining. Well, now I know!
The last time we talked, I was prepping and cutting fabric and interfacing. Now the rubber meets the road: time to put that interfacing in the places it needs to be using the methods I need to learn.
Let me talk for a moment about “tailoring.” The inside-out jackets I saw in the window of that store were demonstrating their “tailored” interiors. What, then, is the difference between the regular sewing that I’ve been doing for so many years, and this new tailoring experience?
Everyone in the business seems to know what it is, but there is no one, overall, well-established definition. All definitions, however, refer to precise fitting, indeed, “custom fitting” and from what I’ve learned already, although fitting a blouse is also a “thing,” it isn’t done by a complex array of interfacings and interior design as it were.
One definition of tailoring that I think we can work with is as follows: “Tailoring is the art of designing, fitting, fabricating, and finishing garments.” But there’s an argument to be made that dressmaking involves the same thing. Why, then, do couture ateliers have a dressmaking workshop and a tailoring workshop – two separate entities? For a writer like me, I look for those words that differentiate between two different entities. However, I think that the experience of “tailoring” a garment is really what defines it for me. This week I got a real dose of it. I began the process of inserting the interfacings that will shape and ultimately custom-fit the jacket for me.
The process here begins with adding some shape to the shoulder by cutting a slit as marked in the front body interfacing, spreading it apart at the shoulder and adding a bias-cut strip of canvas and stitching close to the edges then trimming.
When I first looked at this on the pattern instructions, I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. So, I just did as I was told, followed the instructions and now I get it. After I pressed it into shape, I have a canvas that will allow the shoulder joint to move. Seems like a good idea to me!
Now for the shoulder plate. I have to begin by telling you that with the research that I did, there seems to be a difference of opinion about what type of interfacing this ought to be. However, this pattern calls for hair canvas, so that’s what I am using. The detailed pattern instructions provided by Claire Schaeffer, provide some guidance for how to “hand pad-stitch” the shoulder canvas to the front body canvas. This shoulder plate will stabilize the shoulder and prevent it from falling inward especially in a woman’s jacket – like mine. (I’ll get back to the pad-stitching thing in a minute.) She also suggests (horror of horrors!) that a couture jacket might also use machine pad-stitching. Well, that just seemed like such a good way to start. So, I used my new favourite sewing gadget, my vanishing marking pen, and marked the lines for the pad-stitching as recommended in the pattern. I marked the rows one inch apart and got going.
I learned that the important bits of this technique are (1) to keep the canvas pieces flat as you sew and (2) to begin at the centre, moving outward in either direction interchangeably. This gives me the best chance of keeping the canvases flat. It works out pretty well and when I iron it, voila! The marking disappears (not that this is really an issue since this will be well hidden under the lining in due course!). I don’t have a photo of this since the stitching disappeared into the canvas. I think that’s what’s supposed to happen!
The next (and in my nerd-like way I find the most exciting part yet) is to get that canvas onto the jacket fabric so that it can begin to shape it and give it the structure a tailored blazer needs. I was so excited to get started, I almost forgot to sew the darts in the jacket front before I started. The canvas needs to have the darts cut out. Just imagine what it would be like if you put darts in the canvas! Not a pretty picture.
The first thing I like to do when two pieces of fabric (or in this case, fabric and interfacing) need to be laid flat against one another is to baste. So, using my favourite Japanese cotton basting thread and very large, diagonal stitches, I baste the canvas onto the fabric.
Then, what’s the story on those seam allowances? What’s interesting about the interfacing pieces in this pattern is that most are cut from pattern pieces specially made for interfacing (rather than ones I had to create from the main body piece myself). However, the front panel interfacing is cut from the same piece as the fashion fabric. This means that it has all the seam allowances intact.
As I researched body shaping with interfacing, I discovered that most experts think that seams benefit from not having the interfacing sewn in along the seam lines, and this makes sense to me. How can you get a smooth, sharp seam if there is hair canvas in the stitching? This means that if I follow C.S.’s instructions, I’ll have both fabric and seam allowance in the shoulder seams and the side seams. Although it seems to me that it is a good idea (as per Alison Smith’s tailoring course on Craftsy among others) to have this extra support in the neckline and the armscye, it seems like a very bad idea to have it in other places. So, I’ll take Alison’s advice and trim the seam allowance from the side seam (really the seam that connects to the side panels), along the front up to and including the lapel to the notch and the shoulder seams.
This means that I need to baste inside the body along those lines so that I can trim just inside the seam line and then catch-stitch it to the body. Since I plan to leave the interfacing at the neckline and armhole, I will not need to put stay-tape in those places. Stay with me here: we’re not done yet!
Now it is time to pad-stitch. What in the world is this pad-stitching for? According to Wikipedia, the great expert in all that is,
Pad stitches are a type of running stitch made by placing small stitches perpendicular to the line of stitching. Pad stitches secure two or more layers of fabric together and give the layers more firmness; smaller and denser stitches create more firmness. They may also be used to enforce an overall curvature of the layers.
So, it means that pad-stitches are used to hold two layers of fabric together and contribute to the ability of the tailor to shape the garment. And they are dead simple to do. (FYI the University of Kentucky has posted a really great pdf with explanations of how to do all the hand-stitches you will ever need at https://grayson.ca.uky.edu/files/hand_stitches.pdf .)
Following the roll line, I mark the stitching lines with my lovely vanishing pen marker to keep my lines straight and to indicate where they need to be closer together.
Then I get at it. It doesn’t take nearly as much time as you might think, and it’s very relaxing. I would, however, recommend a high counter where you can have the fabric at elbow level and you don’t ‘have to bend over so much. Don’t’ try to do this sitting at your sewing machine table. It’s too low unless yours is on a counter with a stool!).
Scott Perkins of the blog Garb for Guys offers the following diagram of pad-stitching:
It’s now time to baste the canvas to the side panels with large basting stitches. I will also have to baste inside the seam lines and catch-stitch them to the fabric since those pesky seam allowances are on the interfacing pattern pieces. I also have to make sure I can see the markings for the welt-pocket openings on both the front panels and the side panels since the welts travel across the seam line.
Then I have to tape the roll line. But before I do that, I have to shrink the twill tape. I’ve actually never bothered to do this before when I used it with my Little French Jacket projects, but I’m trying to be a good student here, so I immerse it in hot water and hang it to dry. Then I have to iron it.
Finally, I’m ready to lay it on the body side of the roll line and pin it in place. The pattern instructions differentiate between the concept of the tape being “held short” versus “laying flat.” This means that the tape is not simply flatly laid on the line; rather it is cut slightly shorter than the length needed to lay flat and the fabric is eased in. It helps the lapel to kind of curve into the body. This is easier than it sounds. I just pin it in place, baste it (did I mention that basting is my best friend?).
The pattern instructions direct you to secure it in place with a row of fell stitches on each side. Stephanie Lincecum (another Craftsy instruction who teacher tailoring) says to use a modified catch-stitch in which you move from left to right (or the reverse if you’re left-handed) and catch a bit of tape and interfacing with each stitch. I like this approach better. I think it’s easier and looks better! And really, doesn’t it need to look nice under all that lining? No one else will know, but you will!
Of course, I need to put the interfacing on the upper back and the back hemlines, but that’s for putting the body together. And what about that silk organza interfacing? I’ll get to that! Another day, another stitching line! Talk soon.
 The history of tailoring, https://journal.alabamachanin.com/2016/05/the-history-of-tailoring/#:~:text=The%20art%20of%20tailoring%20dates,chafing%20associated%20with%20heavy%20armor.
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