Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

Back to Sq 1: V8890


I have always admired other people who sew for clients – Mrs Mole,  Ann to name only a few; their patience, skill and ability is staggeringly far from my own. During a try on of DH’s jacket this week I now completely understand why I teach for a living and not sew!

Sleeves are too long: is it suppose to wrinkle at the shoulders like that?: can you put three buttons on the front not two?: Can you add another inside pocket? etc etc etc

Look – I’m an amateur – I’m doing my best. You want shorter sleeves – go to Saville Row and stop bothering me.  Actually, he was right. I had found many more issues with the jacket than he did. I had hoped the thing would be nearing completion this weekend and I could get back to sewing for ME, but I looked at the problems and thought ‘good enough is NOT good enough” and deployed the seam ripper with a vengeance. I did however make some progress towards completion.



The collar is attached with NASA developed laser guided accuracy. Men like that.

Real connoisseurs of tailoring look away now – I machined the collar on the wrong side aiming for the perfect join between collar and lapel and the elusive symmetry – I achieved this but I didn’t realise the consequences of this technique on the inside! Damn those NASA engineers….

I had to hand finish the corners to keep the collar from fraying and to help in tidying up the join.

The linings were cut and sewn by hand to the shell jacket and the back facing was then fell stitched to the finished inside edge of the collar. Usually there would be plenty of seam allowances to sew onto but because of my ‘NASA” technique, this had to attached with teeny tiny hand stitches and strong ones too!


The end is almost in sight now and it’s time to move onto the sleeves…..

I cut straight from the pattern and made up the two sleeves: that involved two machined seams and hand inserted canvas along the hem, vents and a bit of catch stitching – total of one hour per sleeve. Radio on, threaded needles at the ready, almost relaxing and meditative, certainly a lot more quiet than my day in class but not as good as an Indian head massage.


Sleeve vents are almost perfect. A good pressing later and four button holes were made (by machine) ready for cutting and sewing on of said buttons.

I decided that I would insert the sleeve before the buttons were sewn as they would only add extra weight and make it a bit more awkward to sew in the sleeves. Just as well I did….

Look at the state of that! Puckers, wrinkles, gathers… shapeless and pathetic.

DSC00429 DSC00431

DH said it was fine!


He complains about a few un-ironed wrinkles in the fabric and thinks sleeve heads like that are OK? (I think was just being a wee bit kind though)

Thing is – I wouldn’t wear a jacket with sleeve like that, so why should someone else?

Before going to sleep each night, I pondered the crapness of these sleeves. I came to a number of conclusions:

1. The shoulder pads I had made were too pliable and soft for a man’s jacket.

2. The sleeve heads weren’t stiff enough

3. The arm scythe insertion was simply atrocious. I did learn however that there is more ease in a man’s sleeve than a woman’s.

4. Fix it!

I ripped the whole thing apart. Sleeves out, shoulders pads and sleeve heads out, lining seams ripped, front canvas attached to shoulder and side seams ripped out. Two new sleeves cut and made all over again – ever heard of a jacket with four sleeves? – Here’s one!

DH kept insisting that he wanted a ‘soft’ shoulder and didn’t like the 1980s American footballer look. This highlights the fine balance between keeping the client happy and knowing what is the right thing to do – the shoulder pads definitely needed more oomph. So they were taken out and remade using canvas and cotton for shaping and not just cotton wadding as previously used. They also received the pad stitching treatment for shaping and structure – equivalent of an Indian head massage for shoulder pads.


So, yes, I’ve undone a lot of the work so far but the new and improved results are, at least,  giving me a restful night’s sleep. Although this sleeve is only basted in – look at the difference!


DSC00434I’m seriously considering hand sewing these wretched sleeves in – any and all advice very gratefully received. Do I sew with a backstitch or a chain? Do  I use just a small running stitch? Should I go ahead and attack with the Janome?

Not quite back to square one, but no where near as far on as I thought I’d be.

Slainte  to those who sew for others.

28 thoughts on “Back to Sq 1: V8890

  1. Attack or attach with the Janome…use a longer stitch than normal and let the feeddogs do their job of gathering the sleeve head a little as you go. Try doing the sleeve in 2 passes, not all in one circle and have the boy try it on. I would sneak in tiny sleeve heads to hold the top of the sleeve out in a nice shape…ignore your husband’s request, you know what will look best. Your made-over shoulder pads look way better, almost Kenneth King style and I would never cut the sleeve buttonholes, just sew the buttons on top like the big dogs do. Thanks for the mention…those NASA guys are not all they are cracked up to be!

  2. Wow, looks amazing! It must have hurt to do so much unpicking. Cheers to you!

  3. You have the finishing post in sight Ruth and your dedication will reap its rewards. You have done a terrific job with the shoulder pads.

    In terms of shoulder pads, sleeve heads etc………….have you looked at Kenton Trimmings who supply to tailors. I have found the lady there so very helpful when I have emailed asking for guidance on what to buy. They have a range of pads for both ladies and gentleman and it may be handy to know for future projects. Just a thought.

    I have still to do a tailored jacket; its on my list and I am slowly getting supplies together. I therefore am finding this post very interesting.

    I have the Thomas Von Nordheim book, as well as Claire Shaeffers and Kenneth D King. Would love to hear your views on what you have found helpful for this project.

    Will you make the shirt as well Ruth? David Coffins book is great. Have to admit I had to think a lot (LOL) when working the “real” sleeve plackets when I did one some time back. Acorn do lovely shirt fabrics and supply the shirt trade…….another really helpful company to look at.

    Sounds like DH is impressed and you have a client on your hands> Suit for Christmas maybe??

    • Thanks Marysia. As this jacket was supposed to be a test garment for the fit and design, I didn’t really want to spend too much on the ‘extras’ but thanks so much for the link because I will need them later. I’ve also been using Claire Schaeffer’s Couture Techniques . There is something incredibly satisfying making a tailored jacket though so you should definitely have a go.

  4. I would never have the patience to sew a man’s jacket (or a woman’s for that matter). Not my idea of a good time. You are so diligent, and it is definitely paying off. Way to go!

  5. Wowsers. Kudos to you for all this work! It will pay off and DH will be so pleased with it!

  6. Looking pretty good actually! And remember that poly is half the problem. If you had used expensive wool, it would have been more forgiving.

  7. You’ll forget about the unpicking once this jacket is finished and DH then says this is his favourite jacket.

  8. I am very impressed with all the work you are putting into this jacket. You must have the patience of a saint to unpick and redo all that work. I can see that it will all be well worth it in the end. The jacket is looking fabulous so far.

  9. That is why I sew for ladies and not for The Management!
    I would agree with Mrs Mole and sneak in some wadding sleeve heading in to ‘bounce’ the fullness into the top of that sleeve (he will never know).
    I hope he will take you somewhere nice as a reward for all this work – if not give him a bill!

  10. Tailoring in any form is something I swore I would never ever do. After reading this post, I am even more determined not to ever do tailoring. Just reading this makes my head hurt. You are a far better woman than I.

  11. I do like it when your husband weaves himself into your sewing adventures with opinions and advice! And call me a sadist, but I pick up more from posts in which things go wrong. All will be well in the end, I’m sure, and Ireally appreciate this honest post and your commenters’ suggestions. Have a lovely, relaxed weekend!

  12. What beautiful work! Collar and lapel beautiful. So sorry you had to unpick the sleeve and redo the shoulder pad , but your second time round looks perfect to me. Your experience now will make it go faster if you decide to make another one — after a nice break sewing a few things for yourself 😉

  13. Wow, great work. Can’t wait to see it on your husband.

  14. I’m so glad that *you* are the one who took on this project, so that I could just suffer along with you vicariously. I was about to say I’d totally given up on sewing for others, but then I remembered that I’ve started to work on creating a black linen dress for my 23 year old daughter, She is extremely suspicious of the idea that the person who once made her little ruffled frocks could possibly create anything as clever as she finds on the budget racks for $15.00 (would that be about 8 pounds? and why doesn’t my American keyboard have the pounds symbol)

  15. Heck I think it is fantastic for a first try at some serious male tailoring! Brava from the gallery!

    We are always our own worst critics.

  16. Pingback: Done – V8890 | corecouture

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