Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


Linton Pink – Complete 1

This is a bittersweet moment. I have really enjoyed the slow sewing and the self-imposed tailoring construction processes of Paco’s Vogue 1527. This coat has given me joy, a little heartache too along the way but I am unashamedly declaring, it is a thing of beauty. I am just a little bit sad that it is finished.

On the other hand, a finished garment is always an achievement. Luckily, I have a tonne more Linton tweeds to sew through and if they all go as well as this one I shall be one very happy sewer. Jinx!

I left you the last time showing the insides and as a work in progress because that’s where the lion’s share of the work is and I also wanted at least someone else to see and acknowledge it. Which you did – thank you!


Since then, the hand made shoulder pads and sleeve heads have been inserted and the remaining lining slip stitched/fell stitched and otherwise hand sewn to complete the body. The sleeve underlining is wrinkling because the coat is inside out and bunching up.

DO NOT follow the pattern instructions at this point: insert the sleeves, THEN insert the shoulder pads (Step 27). DO NOT sew shoulder pads in when your coat is inside out. They will not fit when you turn everything right way round. Just tackle the fabric from the right side and get on with it.

The shoulder pads were made with six layers of thin cotton wadding – the same type as used in quilts. Each layer is gradually smaller than the top-most semi-circle, which is covered with a patch of canvas. The whole lot was then pad stitched to form the curve to fit the shoulder. The sleeve head is the same cotton wadding; rolled and hand sewn to the inside of the sleeve seam allowances.

DO NOT trim the arm hole seam allowances – you need these for shoulder pad and sleeve head positioning. DO NOT press this seam; gently steam from the outside only. Yes, it looks really messy on the inside but only you will ever see this but everyone else will only see the outside – choose your battles.


I do love to see a hand stitched sleeve lining with all its genuine wrinkles and slightly uneven gathers – it definitely demonstrates a passion for honest hand sewing and provides true flexibility in the sleeve/arm-hole that is wholly lacking in RTW.

Buttonholes and vintage buttons have been sewn on the sleeve vents and centre front. And I have yet another gripe about the instructions.


So…… you take the time to cut and construct a sleeve vent – doing your very best to make the two symmetrical, make a buttonhole and sew on a button and then the instructions (Step 42) tell you to sew the sleeve lining over the whole lot so that the vent won’t open. There may be times in the wearing of this coat that I want the button open and to fold back the cuffs – by this stage I just ignored the instructions and went with what felt right and what would work for me.


If you buy an original Paco Peralta pattern, it is always beautifully drafted but it comes without instructions.


They are expensive, I’ll grant you that but they are all hand drawn, not printed, and of course designer. No instructions provides a certain amount of freedom and opportunity for individual ingenuity but may not be suitable for the faint hearted or inexperienced sewer, nor those who like a step by step construction process.

To compensate, there are loads of online tutorials and reviews to support you along the way. Personally, I relish the jigsaw puzzle aspect of sewing a pattern without pre-set instructions and often find a new method of construction during the process.


This coat is part 1 of a set of three;  I find it is remarkable on its own and I just want to wear it with jeans, frocks and even jammies – I love it that much! It is a mighty weight on its own, what with all the underlining and canvas and what have you but the tailoring makes the coat fit like a glove: it literally drops over my shoulders and remains in place, perfectly draping my irregular frame and making me stand taller.


I make no apologies for my personal pleasure in just looking at the set in sleeves. This was a slow sewing process and it certainly paid off – exact tailor tacking, basting, fitting and then, only then, sewing. Added to which there was a considerable amount of pressing. When you press wool to tame it into shape, and I mean press not ironing,  leave it to cool and dry in shape. That means you might have to walk away from the ironing board for a wee while. Get a cup of tea and surf the net for inspiration for your next sewing project…..


I read books to help me along the way……..

And watched Craftsy classes…….


Front and back – can you tell which one is which?

Here’s the coat, admirably modelled by Doris – front, back, left and right. Sometimes I hate that mannequin, my clothes always look better on her than me!

There are faults in my coat which I’ll document at a later date, for now, I just want to smile every time I see it and turn a blind eye to the picky problems.

The skirt is cut and ready for sewing. It’s going to be made with the coordinating herringbone that is on the coat collar. Stay tuned.









Linton Pink – WIP

The first Linton tweed combination has been cut – and hopefully you’ll appreciate that it takes a very deep breath and a lot of courage to do that, let alone the selection of pattern in which to make something fabulous because this signature and limited fabric requires careful consideration. You may not be aware but Linton Tweeds makes couture fabrics to order for all the best couture design houses. Three years after the designer ‘season’, the fabrics are released for public purchase. The fabrics are expensive but that’s what haute couture, exclusive fabrics are supposed to be. They are special.


This is not a very entertaining post but more methodical and about sewing. First of all I chose a pattern, Vogue 1527 a fabulous Paco Peralta design that I have wanted to make for a year or so but never had the right fabric to do it justice nor perhaps the occasion to wear it. My version of this suit makes the coat an outdoor layer.  So I took a very deep breath, pinned on grain and cut!


I do not have a finished item to show you (this is a deliberate and slow sewing project)  merely a work in progress which I am hopeful will be completed to a high standard.


You may gain some insight into techniques or tips on how to do traditional tailoring for the very best fitted and finished garment. You do not need to do what I did at every stage but the end result is totally unique. The Vogue pattern does not offer this option and to be honest I found the instructions somewhat confusing and out of order. I will list this later.





I’m using the checked pink for the coat and the herringbone for the skirt. Biggest problem of course is the check/tartan/plaid. Everything MUST line up.







Slightly offset the edges of the fabric so that you can see the bottom layer. Accurately line up the checks (or stripes) and pin together. Try not to shift the fabric around too much while pinning or cutting the pattern pieces. Cut one piece first, then using it as a guide, line up the side seams before placing and cutting the next piece. I have not cut the sleeves out yet as they will have to match the main body of the coat.

DSCN7827Every piece is underlined in cotton lawn. This stabilises the outer wool, gives structure and makes it so much easier to hide hand stitches because you sew to the underlining and not the shell. No dimples in this coat. It involves cutting each pattern piece twice and then tacking the two pieces together, which you now treat as one.

My colours are way off in the following photographs, the true colour is more like the top image above.

The wool frays. My chosen seam finish is a simple one. After completing a seam, press open, stitch down each seam allowance and then trim with pinking shears. Nice, flat not-bulky, non-fraying seams. These were then catch stitched to the underlining.


I used strips of selvage as stabilising tape on neck edge and shoulders.

Centre back seam from the outside


The herringbone was used for the contrast collar and pocket facings.


On the inside, after attaching the lining, I catch stitched the front facing seams to the underlining to make sure the facings wouldn’t flop. Then I ran a running stitch between front side lining and front side seam to keep the lining in place.


There’s a lot of tailor tacks and basting and tacking and stray threads used in this method of sewing. And they all have to be removed when no longer needed. Even this apparently simple job takes time and a pair of tweezers. I’m even making my own shoulder pads. On the left the pieces are cut out and tacked together. On the right the amazing effects of pad stitching are clearly in evidence.

There’s also a lot of pressing involved. I think I’ve gone through a least four litres of water. Wool is so malleable with steam – can be shrunk and can be stretched.

I’ve been watching Alison Smith on Craftsy / Bluprint the whole time –Essential Guide to Tailoring: Structure & Shape and Essential Guide to Tailoring: Construction and I feel that I have an instructor in the sewing room with me. Invaluable.


Instead of interfacing, I used canvas. This produces a much firmer finish although somewhat bulky in places. I wanted someone else to see all this work before it all disappears forever under the lining.

Now to my complaints about the pattern instructions.

Fabric cutting layout: indicates cutting a full front of sew-in interfacing. The front pattern piece indicates interfacing on the facing only.

Move Steps 20 and 21 to before 16. This is sewing the back lining and back neck facing together. The back lining piece is sewn to the back split first. Once this is done you are trying to manipulate the full coat at all times instead of just the lining. Sew the back neck facing on to the lining before attaching to the coat.


The instructions about the lining make it cumbersome. The back lining piece only is attached to the coat. Now you have to sew the sides and fronts to this already attached piece. It is difficult (nay impossible) to turn the whole thing inside out especially once the front facings are sewn to the lining. And you’re lugging the entire coat around between sewing machine and ironing board.


The instructions also tell you sew the shoulder pads in before inserting the sleeves! NO. just NO. You’d never get the sleeves in….

Personally, I like separate lining pattern pieces. I don’t like having to use the same piece and cutting bits off it for the lining.

The problems are not insurmountable but READ the instructions folks before doing anything. Make sure they make sense in your head before sewing, otherwise you may end up ripping stitches out and tearing your hair out in the process. Another reason I’m taking this one slowly.

There are not many finished V1527s out there. I found Tany – always brilliant, and Gorgeous Fabrics – who has made two. Read these accounts before starting.

At long last my lining is mostly in place, shoulder pads are positioned (not sewn) and now I have to manage to cut out matching sleeves and get them in.


Mildly interesting….

…….or nerdy post on tailored jackets!

I love a jacket: warmer than a cardi, dressier than a cardi, can be worn indoors without looking like you haven’t taken your coat off and outside because, well, it’s a jacket: it finishes off an otherwise mundane and ordinary outfit, covers the ass and a multitude of other human flaws. I wear a lot of jackets all year round. One thing I learnt yesterday at our Belfast sewers’ meet-up was that we all only see the mistakes and errors in our makes which are all but invisible to everyone else so this time, we’re focusing on the positive, not the wrinkles!

BTW, thank you all so much for such interesting fitting comments and suggestions on the wrinkles. I certainly learnt a lot and everyone who has read the erudite comments has benefitted too. Thank you too to all of you who dug out your jackets and tried them on – I hope I didn’t raise some other fitting issues for you! Too much inspection and reflection can be a bad thing too.

pat875So today, let’s start with a neutral background – white shirt and jeans, then top it off with Jean Hardy pattern number 875 – three times.

All versions are tailored, ie. pad-stitched lapels and collars; canvas interfacing on the fronts, sleeve hems and back vents and across the back shoulders; taped roll lines and fronts; shoulder pads and hand stitched lining.

The jacket is a three buttoned single breasted hacking jacket – genuine equestrian wear. It has a double back vent (for sitting on saddles while still keeping your rear covered obviously), princess front seams and centre back seam, vent front  pockets with flaps and inside vent pocket, two-piece sleeves, side front and back panels. It sits comfortably at high hip.  The pattern instructions include two versions of tailored collars, pad stitching directions and separate pattern pieces for the lining and interfacings. Although I would recommend you work hand-in-hand with a tailoring book too. I use these.. click image for Amazon


Classic Tailoring Techniques. Roberto Carbrera


Vintage Couture Tailoring. Thomas von Nordheim


Jacket 1

Heavy brushed cotton in brown made exactly from the pattern. Lining is petrol blue and a matching waistcoat was constructed to use up the leftover fabric. I made a muslin for this one in woven cotton which ended up as an interlining to scaffold the shell fabric. Wears well with jeans, straight skirts in brown, moss, green and blue. I have also slung the jacket on over all white underneath – white linen trousers and a white T-shirt on a chilly summer day.

Made in Nov 2011 and still a favourite.



Flash of the lining that matches jeans so well








I can’t help it – sunburst wrinkling at front when top button is done.





























Jacket 2

Checked wool with burgundy lining – no leftover fabric as it was all used up matching the checks and was a Herculean task. This one was sewn a little more fitted than the first, if I remember rightly, just by sewing larger seam allowances. This one is also underlined and fully tailored. Only worn in autumn/winter because of the colour but very versatile in terms of colour co0ordination. Made in Nov 2012


A bit of gaping at the bust that I never noticed before

DSCN4745 DSCN4746


Jacket 3

Wool tweed in small petrol blue check with various coloured shades woven in from Chrysalis and the one with the wrinkles and the rose. I deliberately made this one very fitted tightening up the seam allowances and really can only be worn comfortably with just a shirt underneath. I had enough fabric left over to make a waistcoat and made use of the beautiful selvage edges as trim. Made this year in Oct. This jacket is practically an annual event in my sewing calendar!








Wrinkles along the back waist but I still had the waistcoat on as extra padding (which I don’t need)



Some more little details…


Co-ordinating Fran shirt, waistcoat pocket hankie and piping around jacket lining



Front pocket with flap


Front pocket with flap folded in










But of course….



So, in your opinion which one is best fit? Which is most dashing? Which most wearable? – 1,2 or 3


Tweedy Jacket Wrinkling Issues

Do me a favour? Try on one of your  RTW or hand sewn jackets and look very carefully at the bit between the lapel and the armhole; just above the breast and below the shoulder. Stand naturally in front of a mirror; button the jacket, unbutton the jacket; put your hand the the pockets, sling a shoulder bag on – just do whatever you normally do.

Does it wrinkle? Does it crease?

Mine do – both in RTW and hand made. And for the life of me I cannot think of a reason or a solution! Well, actually, I think I’m a bit round shouldered and this is creating a hollow at the front and hence the wrinkling. But even on Doris the wrinkling still exists, and she’s perfect!

There seems to be too much fabric – I can pinch the excess.


So I set to try and remove the wrinkles. I inserted the sleeves a million times, each time moving the armscye more  and more forward, thereby removing the excess on the fronts until my sleeves practically emerged from the princess seam and making me look more round shouldered that I actually am! I ripped out the entire insides and took in a bigger seam allowance on the princess seam and all this did was pull the armscye forward.

I narrowed the shoulders but then the sleeves didn’t hang properly. BTW, want to see perfectly hung sleeves?



Slightly forward to mirror the natural shape of the arm and according to my tailoring books – this is what a sleeve should look like.

I thought the armhole was possibly too small but I didn’t want to cut into the jacket in case that didn’t fix the problem.

I tried a couture shrinking technique – tacked in some pleats and steam pressed until the fronts almost turned to felt!


All I achieved with this was to overwork the fabric which will now never recover from its trauma.

In the end I re-sewed everything exactly as it was back in place and left well enough alone. I did make some extra padded floating breast shields and sewed these in but I still have wrinkles and they’re doing my head in.

I’ve tried to disguise one side with a rose which I’m hoping will fray into a delicious melange of tweedy bits.


When the jacket is buttoned and I stand with shoulders back and head erect, the wrinkles disappear. But I have to hold my breath and suck my tummy in and gradually turn blue – so it’s not really a practicable way to solve the problem.

Even Cate Blanchett in Armani has wrinkles. I have an Armani Jacket and yes, there are wrinkles there too but not as much as in my own hand made ones. There are loads of images of women’s jackets without wrinkles but I worked in the print industry for years and I know how much retouching is done before a picture is deemed acceptable to be included in an advert. Is it a feminine issue with tailored jackets? Are we presented with a retouched, perfect image that is, in reality, unobtainable?


Any ideas?




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.