Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


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.


Not mine: V8890

If you read regularly then’ll you’ll be fully aware of my joy and deep satisfaction with Vogue patterns – cut a 14, minor tweaks as I sew and I have a garment that fits. You might also know that I love to do a bit of tailoring – all that hand sewing and pad stitching, steaming and shrinking and stretching fabric, taping the edges and inserting canvas interfacing – it gives me great happiness to see a flat piece of fabric be moulded and shaped and quite literally transformed into something.

Now, combine all the above with my new found altruism in sewing for others and we arrive at the man’s jacket! DH has a bit of an obsession with jackets – he has many and has been asking me to make him one for ages now. I think he likes the idea that it is a bespoke item – not exactly Saville Row but then I’m cheaper.

Vogue 8890 : Men’s semi-fitted jacket with two piece sleeves, double back vent, pockets and collar.



I dutifully took DH’s measurements and made a proper muslin and couldn’t believe my luck when the cotton mock-up fitted! No alterations needed. Wait, am I Vogue’s perfect 14 and DH Vogue’s perfect 46? This can’t be true……and no he looks nothing like the model!

Spurred on by the notion of a cut, sew and wear project, I soon got down to business. We had bought a cheap suiting fabric while in England in the summer – I mean mega cheap – £4 p/m, a grand total of £16 was spent and after cutting out the jacket there’s enough left over for me to get a matching skirt! Yes, it’s only poly but a fairly good test fabric for the first jacket. Did I say first? Like there’ll be a second. DH has had his eye on some Ralph Lauren cashmere suiting at £60 p/m and even YSL £180 p/m – he’s paying!

So, for the last few weeks I’ve been doing the tailoring thing, which is universally slow and uneventful for a blog post.


Back: canvas interfacing along the hem. The slanted corners will be folded up to make mitred corners at the back vents


Front: canvas interfacing with an added breast shield pad stitched to the canvas and taped and the pad stitched and taped lapel

51L6N7yrI3L._SX385_I haven’t really followed the pattern’s instructions but have used a combination of my own previous experience and knowledge and a wonderful tailoring book sent to me by Lucia – Vintage Couture Tailoring. It has been invaluable on this and many other projects, so many, many thanks Lucia. The book details the making of a lady’s jacket but techniques are the same. It’s not so much that the sewing is complicated or difficult but the order of construction is crucial. DH wanted patch pockets for a more casual look – so he got them. The front is sewn to the side and then the pocket is sewn by hand across the seam. The pockets are lined and a strip of interfacing inserted along the foldline for a bit of durability and hopefully to minimise sagging.


Patch pocket fell stitched in place.


Pad stitched lapel or rever from the right side; pressed and tacked to hold its shape during the rest of the jacket’s construction


Inside left front: front facing with lining and double welt inside breast pocket. I deliberately sewed wonky top stitching to give the jacket the ‘hand-made’ look – LOL


Breast patch pocket and completed lapels

Doris is playing her role as a holding station for the jacket and I’ll have to be vigilant that DH’s jacket doesn’t end up with  a 36″ C- cup bust!


This is as far as I’ve thus come: completed fronts. Next I’ll attach the back to the sides, making those vents as I go. Then the dreaded collar – more pad stitching, shaping and tackling my weakest point head on – symmetry! Then sleeves and shoulder pads. Followed by lining, button holes and buttons and then searching for, locating and removing every last one of those tailor tacks and basting threads!

I’m sort of dreading the first try on – what if he doesn’t like it, what if the muslin was a fluke and the real thing doesn’t fit, what if.. what if…?

Tune in next time for more staggeringly exciting photos.


Check The Sleeves


Finally, onto the sleeves and just a quick word about matching the horizontal stripes of the check/plaid or tartan across sleeves and jacket body.

This diagram explains it all – lapels, pocket flaps, centre closure and sleeves.

You gotta check out the comments on the cutterandtailor link – keep scrolling past the pictures – you thought I was being fussy! 

There are two main accepted methods of ensuring a match of the horizontal lines on the sleeves and I think it’s down to personal preference rather than a right or wrong. There is only a match at the front as the back sleeve is streamed stretched at the elbow for a better fit and the sleeve insertion at the armhole pulls the sleeve forward.

sewing scholar

Method 1  – Perfect cutting out. Lay out all pattern pieces so that the notches and marks are positioned at the same check point on the fabric. This should ensure that all the top seams finish at the same point.

Most advice I read recommends not cutting the sleeves out at all until the jacket body is complete. There is undoubtedly a bit of shifting in the fabric as you sew and make adjustments for fit as you go along so that the checks shift accordingly.

I’ve used this method for other patterns but I was a big scardy chicken in this instance. Fabric was limited, no more in stock, I couldn’t afford to take a chance, nor did I want a sleeveless hacking jacket – it just doesn’t look right.

Method 2 – Mock sleeve
Make a muslin sleeve and insert it perfectly, as if it was the real thing. Check the fit. Turn the jacket right way out and with your colouring-in pens draw some horizontal lines across the mock sleeve that match the jacket front. I used the horizontal pink ones and took great joy in using a pink pen too.

I had to put a little ‘R’ on mine  – that’s R for right hand side!

I think my brain is giving up :/

Rip out the mock sleeve, press and use this as your pattern piece on the checked fabric. Positioning the coloured lines on the horizontal lines of the fabric.

As with the whole jacket, I cut one at a time. Cut one, flipped it, positioned it exactly on the checks, chalked around it and cut.

And at last…..

I am getting a little fed up with checks and stripes and plaids. I’ve become too caught up in the matching game that big things like fit have taken a back seat. So much so that the back seam had to be ripped out and re-sewn for a better fit across my shoulders.

I’m quite happy with the match-matchy thing and have followed (tried to) all the rules those men’s tailors insist upon.

Don’t tell those boys over at cutterandtailor – they’ll be bound to find a fault somewhere

Onward to a nice, simple, plain lining.