Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Tailored Blazer PART 2 - Welt and Flap Pockets + Sleeves with Mitred Vents

Hi sewing friends!

I'm currently working on my hand tailored, double breasted blazer and I'm documenting the work as I go!

If you missed the first two posts you can catch up here:
  1. Tailoring Resources for a hand sewn bespoke blazer - how I learnt what I know so far through books and blogs.
  2. Part 1 - Muslin fit, collar and canvas prep
The Sleeves

This sleeve has mitred corners and functional sleeve vents because if you're going to take the time to sew a tailored garment you may as well level all the way up.

I extended the sleeve vents to 11.5cm from the hem, to allow room for four buttons and buttonholes.

I interfaced the sleeve hem and vents with cotton pocketing fabric. Previously I've used hair canvas, but the softness of the cotton appealed to me for a strong but less rigid finish. I permanently basted the interfacing along the top and bottom edges using silk thread and being careful that the stitches didn't show through to the right side.

Cotton pocketing fabric hand sewn along the sleeve vent and cuff, falling 1cm below the hem fold.
Silk thread is used to permanently, and invisibly attach the interfacing to the sleeve.

Mitred Sleeves BY HAND
I've mitred some corners in my time. That neat cornered finish, is visually pleasing, and also helps to distribute bulk evenly. 
Sewing a mitred corner is not complicated, but demands precision. All of my hems with mitred corners have been done by machine, with a considerable amount of time taken to ensure everything lined up. UNTIL NOW.

For the first time, I tried my hand (ha!) at mitring the corners of the vents by hand and let me tell you, it's a game changer! Instead of spending considerable time calculating the folds, the stitch line and where to cut, you just iron along the sleeve hem and the seam allowance and then fold the corner under. So simple! 

It's an easy slip stitch or ladder stitch in place, and visually you can see that it's exactly in the right place. No sitting in front of the machine, with fingers crossed hoping that you've got it right, folding it out and realising the hem line is now off.

When you sew it by hand, especially in fine fabrics like suiting fabrics, you don't trim the corner. This means you can shorten or lengthen the hem in future if needed, and the additional fabric actually helps reinforce the area. Unless you have really thick fabric like a heavy wool coating, you should not need to cut the excess.
It's also a really short seam, so hand stitching it takes about one minute! Le simple!

Ta-DAH! Mitred corner sewn by hand!
So clean, so precise. 
The vent in it's closed position.

Lining the Sleeves
There are a lot of firsts for sleeves in this jacket and this time I lined the sleeves BEFORE attaching them to the jacket, another game changer.

When you add lining by hand, the order that you attach your garment pieces together has many more options.

I sewed the vertical seams of the sleeve lining together first, and then attached them to the garment at the sleeve hem. It's so much easier working on the hem of sleeves when they are not already attached to the jacket body!

I then hand basted the lining to the sleeves about 3/4 up from the hem, in preparation for attaching to the garment.

Hand mitred hem, with silk lining hand sewn to the sleeve hem.
Is there anything prettier. I ask you.

My jacket consists of three pockets, one single welt breast pocket, and two double welt flap pockets.
All of the pockets are functional, with the welts and flaps individually cut out to pattern match the surrounding fabric.

I drafted the flap pockets AFTER I'd created the welts, to ensure that they fit accurately. They are slightly longer in length for a snug fit, and each flap has been decorated with a pick stitch by hand.

The backs of the pockets were reinforced with cotton fabric, instead of iron on interfacing. This gives strong support, without warping the garment fabric with the adhesive.

Single Welt Chest Pocket
Basted close. Pockets are basted close so that they don't get pulled or distorted while you are constructing the rest of the garment. Everything is held in place exactly where it needs to be.
The back of the lined welt pocket. The sides of the welt are cross stitched to the jacket from the back, so that you can't see any stitches from the front.
Double Welt and Flap Pocket

I decided to make double welt flap pockets for the jacket body and drafted my own flaps.
Even if you are using a sewing pattern that provides a pattern piece for the flap, I find it's much easier to sew the welts on your jacket FIRST, and then remeasure the opening.
Often the size changes a little and we want to make pocket flaps that fit perfectly, rather than forcing a pocket flap in that doesn't match the finished welt pocket.

Before making the welts, I reinforced the back of it with light cotton fabric, which I basted into place.
When tailoring a garment, I avoid glue on interfacing as much as possible, which can warp the fabric over time.

cotton pocketing basted to the back of wrong side of the garment where we will make the welts.
From the right side. You can see some rough chalk guide lines and the basting stitches that hold the cotton and garment together.
I then cut two pieces of fabric for the welts, which i took the time to match to the plaid. My pieces were 20 x 5cm. I then hand basted them right side of welt to right side of garment, making sure to baste close to placement line, with the raw edges butting together.

Once I was satisfied with their position, I machine stitched each piece down 6mm from the raw edge/placement line.
When machine stitching turn your speed right down and reduce the length of your stitches. You want to make each line exactly the same length so there is no puckering at the corners of your welt pocket.

From the wrong side, slash along the placement line (the centre between the two stitching lines) to about 1cm before each end of the stitching lines and snip right up to the end of your stitching line to make a 'Y' shape.

hand basted into position, close to the placement line with raw edges touching.
From the back of the garment! Take it slow and make sure each row is exactly the same length. Go back and add a few extra stitches if you need to!
The flaps are then pushed through to the wrong side, wrapping around the seam allowance. The seam allowance stays inside the welt as extra reinforcement, and dictates the shape of the welt.

The seam allowance becomes both the guide for your welts, and a nice stable filler, which is why the welt pieces DON'T need to be reinforced with glue on interfacing.
Both welts pushed through to wrong side, wrapping around welt seam allowance.
Once welts have been turned to the inside, we stitch them into place by hand using silk thread.
From the right side, stitch along the seam line with small back stitches, going all the way through to catch the back of the welt to the garment.

Sewing the welt in place by hand is quick (it's just a little seam!) and allows you to be exact and precise. I find it much easier to do this by hand as there is so much more control, and it's so much less visible than 'stitching in the ditch' on a machine.

Both welts hand stitched in place along the length of the seam, not yet ironed.
Drafting the Flap

Once the welts are in place, it's time to measure the opening and draft a flap!

These are super easy. If you can draw a rectangle and own a ruler, you can draft a pocket flap.
As with everything in fashion, lengths of pocket flaps vary depending on style and personal preference, but I made my pocket flaps 5cm long.
  1. Measure the opening of your welt and then add 3mm to that measurement. You want the flap just slightly longer than the opening, so that there are no gaps and it curves nicely around the body.
  2. Draw a rectangle with your measurements (including the extra 3mm), mine was 14.5 x 5cm.
  3. In the bottom right corner of the flap, extend the horizontal line out by 6mm. 
  4. Join the top right corner to this new point.  This will be the back corner of your flap.
  5. Add a 6mm seam allowance at the bottom and sides of flap, and a larger seam allowance at the top.
Drafted pocket flap that fits your welt perfectly!
Sewing the flaps
You now have a pocket flap perfectly made for your garment! Cut two mirrored pieces in your garment fabric, and two mirrored lining pieces.

For the lining I cut the pieces about 3mm shorter along the bottom and sides, so that when they were sewn to the garment pieces, the outer fabric rolls in slightly to the under side, hiding the seam line.

Our pattern piece has sharp corners at the bottom of the pocket, so make sure you curve those corners when sewing them at your machine. If you prefer, you can curve the pattern piece before cutting them out.

Once you have attached your flap fabric and lining together, machine stitch or baste along the upper stitching line to hold them together and to act as a placement line. I then hand pick stitched along the edge of the flap which is both decorative and helps keep the edges crisp.

Watch my mini tutorial below (includes right handed and left handed views) to see how to make a pick stitch.

One completed welt, with a hand pick stitch along edge.
The flap is then positioned in the welt opening and basted to the top welt to hold into place. The welt pocket is then lined with pocketing fabric and basted shut until the whole jacket is completed.

I love a pretty pocket fabric. I attach a 5cm long strip of garment fabric to the piece of pocketing that is visible when you lift up the flap, that way the contrasting fabric doesn't peak out and is only visible when you look inside the pocket.

And that's it for today!

Next up: Part 3 - Attaching the Canvas + Padstitching the Lapels

All the posts in this tailoring series:
  1. Tailoring Resources for a hand sewn bespoke blazer - how I learnt what I know so far through books and blogs
  2. Part 1 - Muslin fit, collar and canvas prep
  3. Part 2 - Welt and Flap Pockets + Sleeves with mitred corners

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Tailored Double Breasted Blazer PART 1 - Muslin and Canvas Prep

I've been working on another hand sewn tailored blazer and this time I'm making my first double breasted blazer!

So much work goes into the making of these tailored blazers, and with most of my projects you only ever see the finished product!  As stunning as a hand tailored blazer is, what I find the most beautiful is all the engineering and creating of the jacket itself. It's the process that makes the finished product so successful. This time I thought I would share the details on my blog as I walk through this big project.

All the posts so far in this tailoring series:
  1. Tailoring Resources for a hand sewn bespoke blazer - how I learnt what I know so far through books and blogs.
  2. Part 1 - Muslin fit, collar and canvas prep
  3. Part 2 - Welt and Flap Pockets + Sleeves with Mitred Vents


I'm using McCall's Patterns #2341 Version C with the double welted flap pockets in a size 12, and with quite a few changes.

Here's me in one of my first calico toiles in all its glory:
It doesn't get any sexier than this ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
You'll see in the above pic that the arm on the right has been altered, with the seam lines on the outside. This jacket was made in the 90's for big feature shoulders with stacked shoulder pads. I decided to calm it down a little. I also made the following fit changes:

  • Removed 2cm width out of the centre of the sleeve, starting from the centre of the shoulder cap all the way down to the hem.
  • Extended the sleeve vent to 11.5cm from the hem
  • Raised the height of the armscye by 2.5cm. Having an arsmcye that is too big or low, actually restricts your movement. Most patterns are drafted with large armscyes as a 'one size fits all' measure, and it means when you raise your arms, your whole jacket rises with it. The closer the armscye to your underarm, the more comfortable. When you think about it, it makes sense. Look at athletes, who need a full range of movement. Their clothing is fitted to their bodies, not hanging. You do however want to make sure that the armscye doesn't get closer than 2.5cm to the centre of the armpit.
I added a strip of fabric to the muslin at the armscye, rather than recutting a new toile.
When raising the armscye, you also need to raise the height of the sleeve pattern too. You can see the adjusments here in blue that grade out to nothing at the notches.
My altered sleeve patterns, which I redrew on brown paper.
Collar and Lapels:

I didn't like how there was a gap between the peak lapels and the collar (see original toile photo), so I redrafted the top of the peaked lapel, to line up with the collar, which you can see in the picture below.
Much better! The lapel and collar now butt up against each other
Changes to Bodice:

In addition to the sleeve alterations, I also:
  • Narrowed the shoulder by 2.5cm grading down to the armscye notch on both the front and back pieces.
  • I narrowed the waist by 1cm on the front, back and side seams, taking the waist in by a total of 8cm. I wanted a more shaped fit, rather than the boxier style that the pattern was drafted for.
  • I graded out to a size 14 on the hips
  • Did a sway back adjustment of 2cm, positioned 1cm below my waistline.
Tip: When making multiple changes, I like to redraw the pattern onto card or brown paper so it's easier to work with. I also write the changes I've made on each pattern piece, which makes it much easier for future me to immediately understand the alterations!

Preparing the Under Collar

I cut the under collar in a wool felt, and used french collar canvas for interfacing. Both pieces were cut on the bias.
French collar canvas is a little stiffer than regular body canvas and is often made out of a treated heavy weight linen.

I then stitched along the roll line, and using the roll line shape as a guide, I started pad stitching over the whole under collar.

Note: Traditionally tailors use melton wool for the under collar, but I enjoy wool felt for it's thickness and shape, which I feel makes a crisp and upright collar. Just make sure it's 100% wool!

roll line basted with silk thread, and then pad stitched.
Ta-Da! Smaller pad-stitches were made at the corners to encourage the collar to roll slightly towards the body.
I then folded the collar along the roll line, pinned it to a pressing ham, steamed it and let it dry over night. The photo above shows what it looks like once it has been set and dried.

The seam allowance of the under collar has been removed, as is typical with a bespoke jacket where the collar is attached to the neckline seam allowance by hand.

This is the underside of the under collar. Can you see any of the pad-sttiches? When you pad stitch correctly, you are just picking up a tiny 'bite' of the fabric from the right side. In a thick wool felt it is not even detectable.
Preparing the Canvas Interfacing

For my double breasted blazer, I am using the full front canvas interfacing for the first time. I used canvas I already had in my stash that I purchased from Spotlight a while ago.

With my previous two tailored blazers, (here! and here!) they were partially interfaced to start under the arm, travel above the bust, and down through the centre front length of the jacket (check out my previous post here to see a comparison picture of a full canvas and partial canvas front).  I wanted the jacket front to have uniform draping, and so with the book 'Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear' as a guide, I drafted a canvas front.
I cut out the darts, and closed them with pocketing fabric and a zig zag stitch.

I then created a PLASTRON using canvas and french collar canvas, and then covered with wool fabric. I then loosely pad-stitched the plastron's to the canvas interfacing.
This part will be covered by both the fabric and lining, so the pad stitching can be visible on both sides.

The plastron's purpose is to keep the form of the jacket across the chest, where it may naturally cave in. The wool fabric covering is the side that is closest to the body, and covers the additional canvas so that it is not uncomfortable to the wearer.

You can see below the 'right' side of the canvas, with the pad stitching showing on top and the plastrons underneath.
The jacket front interfacing with darts zig zagged closed, and the plastron pad stitched to the underside.

Finished under collar and readied canvas interfacing pinned to the dress form.

And that's it for now folks! Thanks for reading :)

Next up: Part 2 - Sewing the Welt and Flap Pockets + Sleeves (with mitred corners!) 

All the posts in this tailoring series:
  1. Tailoring Resources for a hand sewn bespoke blazer - how I learnt what I know so far through books and blogs.
  2. Part 1 - Muslin fit, collar and canvas prep
  3. Part 2 - Welt and Flap Pockets + Sleeves with Mitred Vents

Tuesday, 5 May 2020


My First Double Breasted Blazer in Progress
The Beginnings of an obsession
Any one who is a regular reader of my blog, will have witnessed by dalliance into the fine art of tailoring has quickly turned into an obsession. Hand sewn blazers are becoming a regular feature in my me made wardrobe and to be honest, I think it has changed the way that I sew.

The more I learn about tailoring (and boy do I have a lot to learn) the more I appreciate how it combines both art and engineering so perfectly. Everything is precise and measured and on purpose, and it celebrates the age old tradition of hand sewing which still is the application of choice by professional tailors despite the progression in technology today.

I'm a pretty passionate person, and when i get into something, I absorb myself in it. I have spent  countless hours reading, researching and watching anything tailoring related that I could get my hands on.
Knowing how much I love tailoring and how overwhelming it can seem at the start,  I thought I would share the resources that I found for those who want to take their sewing up a notch and try tailoring for themselves.
Even if you don't go full bespoke, there are many techniques that can be adapted from tailoring that will instantly improve the quality and longevity of your hand made creations.

It should be noted that I have not received any training or attended any courses in tailoring and everything I have learned has been through reading and researching.
I have however had ten years experience in sewing and that has definitely helped me to able to absorb the learnings and adapt them to how I feel works best for me. In any case, if you are a home sewist, you should take comfort in knowing that tailoring, like maths is not a guessing game, but an achievable task that once you break it down into steps is actually straightforward. And tailoring also, like art, allows you to be creative and explore with endless possibilities.

There are two books that I own for tailoring that I have read cover to cover, over and over.
The first book I have used for every bespoke blazer I have made so far, and my newest book (the second one) I have been using for my current double breasted blazer that I am working on.

Both of these books offer tailored, hand sewn methods and share a lot of commonalities, but also there are a lot of big differences too.

Tailoring: The Classic Guide to Sewing The Perfect Jacket

This book also comes with a different picture on the front for some countries, so don't be alarmed if it's not the same cover picture.

If you are wanted to get into tailoring, this is an excellent place to start. 

  • This book is picture heavy and well explained and is dedicated to sewing jackets for women.
  • Gives good instructions on how to pad-stitch
  • Shows pad-stitching techniques for both under collar and lapels
  • Explains how to draft a backstay, sew-in canvas interfacing, and a shoulder reinforcement using your sewing pattern.
  • Colour photos with great instructions on sewing double welt, single welt and flap pockets
  • Gives two sets of instructions through out the book on how to sew the jacket a) with sew-in canvas interfacing or b) with iron on interfacing
  • Gives great detail on how to pre-treat your fabrics, and how to iron correctly.
  • Only shows how to attache the under-collar, lapel and upper collar by machine and not by hand. Sewing these sections by hand is the traditional tailored way of sewing a jacket and is how I put together my tailored blazers. I really feel this makes a massive difference in the quality of the finished project.
  • The photos are a little dated, but still very informative.
  • Doesn't give details on how to draft an under collar with a roll line and an upper collar. A lot of patterns these days don't include a roll line on the collar and it can be hard for a beginner to work out where it should go.
Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear

This is the second edition of this book, and from reviews it appears to be much of an upgrade on the original, with more up to date photos.

If you are a beginner sewer with minimal hand sewing or tailoring experience, you may want to start with the other book as there is a fair bit of assumed knowledge here, but for those learning about tailoring this book is an absolute wealth of information.

  • Lots of pictures
  • Gives great instruction on how to fit and make fit adjustments to an established pattern
  • Gives instruction on ironworking your pieces, which is important in tailoring (where to shrink and where to stretch)
  • Gives instructions on how to draft an inside breast pocket in the lining
  • Includes instructions on pad stitching
  • Shows how to cut fabric for plaid and striped pieces
  • Traditional tailoring techniques
  • Gives details on how to attach the facings, under collar and collar by hand
  • An excellent section on how to draft an under collar and upper collar and the positioning of the roll line
  • Also gives instruction on constructing a waistcoat and pants.
  • Much more hand sewing focused.
  • The pictures are in black and white and can sometimes be tricky to decipher
  • The book is expensive, and geared towards more the intermediate to experienced sewist
  • Is specifically written for mens tailoring. However I find the differences between men and womens tailoring to be very minimal. Once you have the fit right, the rules really are the same.
The canvas differences in the books:

While both of these books show how to draft the canvas interfacing to go with your pattern, it's worth noting that the first book only uses a half canvas interfacing (it starts from the side seam at the underarm, scoops above the bust point, and then goes down to them just 1 inch wider than the jacket front facing.

partial canvas, above and to the right of the red line markings
full front canvas
The second book gives instructions for a full front canvas, meaning it covers the whole jacket front  pattern piece.  The first is a softer, look and the second a more traditional structured look. Both have their pros and cons and I've made three blazers using the partial canvas front, and I'm currently making my first double breasted blazer using the full canvas (which so far I am absolutely loving).

Double wool crepe - Click on the photo to see the blog post
Silk wool - click on the photo to see the blog post
Online Resources

For my first two blazers, I only had the first book 'Tailoring: The Classic Guide to Sewing The Perfect Jacket' and while I used a lot of techniques from the book, I also did a lot of things differently, such as attaching the under collar and upper collar to the jacket by hand.

I referenced the following blog Male Devon Sewing who has a wonderful series on constructing a Tailored Suit. This was really helpful in working out how to attach the collars by hand.

Tailoring Tools

I cannot live without the following things:
Tailoring Supplies

Kenton Trimmings in the UK is an absolute dream for tailoring supplies and is where I've gotten most of my tools. Their website is a bit clunky, but they are really well priced and have an absolute dreamy amount of canvas, trims and tools to choose from. 
In fact you can order a swatch book of their canvas' for £10, and they then give you a £10 gift voucher to use on your next purchase which is just fantastic.

They have absolutely everything, including melton wool for under collars and pocketing fabric, and their customer service is superb. I once ordered a whole bunch of stuff which they accidentally sent through the slow mail, so they resent the whole thing again and told me to keep both of the packages!

Suit History

When you're learning about tailoring, I think it's really advantageous to learn about the history of suits, the function, and the difference between a tailored vs store bought suit.
There are heaps of videos on youtube, and I recommend also looking up 'Savile Row' as well and watching some of the tours of the world's most recognised street for tailoring. It's absolutely fascinating stuff and just gets you more inspired and excited to get stuck in to tailoring!

Tailoring Instagram Accounts To Follow

Here are a few instagram accounts that I love for helpful tailoring tips and tricks, or just for inspiration. I will probably add to this list as time goes on.

Jihae An - A english tailor working on Savile Row, she posts progress photos daily of her amazing work
Lee Marsh Bespoke - Another English tailor who posts amazing instructional videos, like how to set in a sleeve.
Ray The Master Tailor - With 40 years of experience, this man knows how to make a suit!
Julio D.F. Mompó - His sartorial work is just incredible
Johnny Nguyen - The man makes the most exquisite womens clothing that looks like architectural art pieces.

I'll be starting a tailoring series soon on my blog for those who are interested! If you have any questions, feel free to comment here, or send me a DM over on instgram.

Happy sewing everyone!

You can see all the posts so far in this series below:
  1. Tailoring Resources for a hand sewn bespoke blazer - how I learnt what I know so far through books and blogs.
  2. Part 1 - Muslin fit, collar and canvas prep
  3. Part 2 - Welt and Flap Pockets + Sleeves with Mitred Vents