Monday, November 30, 2009

Sources for tailoring instruction, etc.

I've been reading a lot about tailoring so I can do a nice job on the collar and lapels on my coat.  First up, I read through Kenneth King's Tailored Jacket.  Note that this is a CD, not a DVD, so you won't get a moving picture :)   This is a very detailed and well written tutorial of how to make a tailored jacket, complete with resources (including phone numbers and websites), tools, tips on fabrics and more helpful advice.  It's close to 300 pages long - and it is organized into chapters to help you find what you need.

If you have a shawl collar jacket pattern that fits you, and this CD, you can sew a tailored jacket.  He does not address fitting issues in this CD.  The tutorial is extremely clear, and it proceeds in a logical fashion.  If you are not familiar with tailoring techniques, I highly recommend you read through it carefully before starting your project.
But, if you have solid sewing skills and a strong desire for a tailored jacket, I believe this will get you from point A to point B faster than just about any other way.  If your collar is not a shawl collar, he explains that you can re-draft the undercollar to connect to the body of the jacket.  Kenneth has a clever way of adding a seam to the upper collar, which makes it look just like a notched lapel.  It also looks a lot easier than sewing a pattern with a real lapel.  My pattern is not a shawl collar, and we did not re-draft the lower collar to fit onto the body, so that method is out for me.

The reason I read this tutorial so carefully, so soon after purchasing it, is that I need to decide on how I will finish the collar on my coat project.  Also, I had questions from readers about the paper pattern I made under Kenneth's directions.  As you may recall, we did NOT cut the paper pattern on the stitching lines, rather we left a little extra around the edges.

Here is the rationale behind that approach:

If you have a paper pattern with stitching lines on it, you can trace that to the underlining fabric using a double tracing wheel.  Clover makes one:

As you can see, there are 2 wheels.  They are removable - so they can be set up to operate parallel in more than one width.
  • Lay the carbon paper face up on your work table.

  • Lay the interlining fabric on top of the carbon paper. 

  • Lay the pattern on top of the interlining fabric. 

  • Trace.  Follow the stitching line on the paper with one wheel, and, the cutting line will be automatically traced.

  • Once you have all of your lines marked, you will cut the interlining fabric and use that as your pattern when cutting fashion fabric.

Make sense?
Pretty clever.
And the reason we left a little paper along the edge of the stitching line is to give the tracing wheel something to "grab".  It would have been trickier to trace that way using the flimsy paper I like.  In the book, the example jacket is not a plaid, so matching isn't an issue.  I still prefer to use the paper I can see through if I need to match a plaid.

This one also has a lot of useful information, including classic tailoring techniques (meaning hand-work), speedy techniques (meaning fusibles) and hybrid methods (self-explanatory).  I already own this book and it is good, especially for the price.  But the way they sew the collar and the lapels together just don't excite me.  I have sewn blouses together that way, and it worked beautifully, but my coat is a really bulky fabric, and you just know it is going to look like cr*p.

Climbing on up the learning curve, I pulled out my copy of Roberto Cabrera's Classic Tailoring Techniques: A Construction Guide for Menswear.  Hey I just noticed there is a version for womens' wear, too.  Anyhoo, I got this book a looooong time ago when I just felt curious about tailoring and I read the book for fun.  So if there is a category of geek/nerd for seamstresses, I fit in there.

This book is the best I can lay my hands on, for what I am doing.  The drawings are surprisingly simple, but extremely effective in communicating the techniques.  It goes into plenty of detail and breaks it down into manageable chunks.  The only problem is this is probably over my head.  I am, after all, a hobbyist!  I have sewn a few coats and jackets, but never with these hard-core tailoring techniques.

My solution?  (And I do think this is brilliant, sorry for bragging, I am just sayin')
I am going to sew a separate collar that overlaps onto my lapel!  I have seen collars like this in Burda World of Fashion, and I have read the instructions, and it will be easy peasy compared to my other options.
I'm at work, so I better get back to the grindstone, but I will post more pics when I have time.
I can just hear Tim Gunn telling me to make it work, and that's how I'm gonna roll!


  1. I am interested in seeing your process so I hope that you will take pictures along the way. If I understand you correctly, I have made a jacket, BWOF, and my yellow coat had collar done this way. It is an easier way to go.
    How much did KK adjust your coat pattern? The fit is so perfect.

  2. That sounds like a good plan. And I used to cut my patterns at the stitching line, but Kenneth made a good point. So I am reconsidering that, unless I need to thread trace something for some reason. Perhaps the techniques have to suit the project.

  3. ok, I'm interested in seeing how you decide to proceed.
    BTW, don't forget that Paco's tutorial is still up on the Great Coat Sewalong, and it is excellent and easy to follow. And, making the offer, I'm only a phone call away if you're struggling a bit. Happy to see that you're making such great progress.

  4. Marji makes a good point and here is a link to the tutorial that Tany translated from Paco's tutorial (which is also in the Great Coat Sewalong!)

    I confess, I get confused about exactly when the shoulder seam gets sewn. I want to understand completely before I embark.


  5. I am enjoying reading about the process you are going through while working on your coat. I know I learn so much when I have to do research for a sewing project. The overlapping collar idea sounds neat. Looking forward to seeing it and the completed coat!

  6. Robin, I like to see your process. It's going to be a wonderful coat.

    Thanks for the information on the cd on jackets. I'll put it high on my wish list.

  7. Thanks so much for sharing your opinion of several tailoring resources that are currently available. I have 2 great wool fabrics in the lineup for coats. I can't wait to read all about your coat progress.


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