stuff and things

28 March 2013

Tailored Jacket: To Be or Not to Be?

Well, that was some scarf, eh? Sorry for being so lax about posting, but a class project has me worrying when I turn to do anything else. Perhaps you know the feeling. As for me, everything's crying out for my time: spring gardening, hosting family and friends, an endless series of birthdays, even cooking. Still, when I do make time for Life, I feel like I should be catching up on this Ever Looming Project, instead.
The culprit:
My Continuing Ed sewing class project: The Tailored Jacket
After teaching a "Tailored Pants" class last Fall where almost nobody finished their pants, our instructor wanted to avoid the hassle of having to fit each student's unique pattern. This time around, she chose to have us all make the same jacket. So she drafted one, above, and provided us with tag-board pieces to trace off in Small, Med. and Large, below.
After trying on a prototype, we traced off our best size, and drew in details like darts and seam joins.
Our instructor had drafted separate pattern pieces for the lining, the "self" fabric (our wool), and the hair-canvas that gives a tailored jacket that special body and smooth look.

Right off the bat, I stumbled. I was missing some of the pieces, because the gals tracing off Medium forgot to distribute some. Or maybe it was my fault, not expecting there to be a lining upper sleeve, say, and a different sleeve piece for our wool fabric. Other pattern pieces came with scanty markings such as notches and small holes. Having no previous experience in sewing jackets or pattern making, little dots and notches on the pattern meant nothing to me.

Several students clamored for a visual key to our pattern, so our instructor drew one up.
Up to HERE with frustration, I asked the instructor for a list of pattern pieces, which she sketched out and emailed to the class. In the next class, she reviewed each pattern piece, calling out the notches and other critical marks, and making sure we each had a complete pattern. One look around the room said that I was not the only student who appreciated this session.
Resources include instructor handouts, books from my library, and our textbook, upper left.
After tracing off our patterns, we were told to make a fitting muslin. Major hurdle number two: I had no idea of how to sew the muslin. I desperately consulted class materials, our textbook, and my own sizable sewing library. Then I turned to the Internet--including my memberships to Threads magazine's Insider content and PatternReview.com. But I could find nothing that gave simple instructions for a jacket muslin. Frustration mounted.
My muslin Fail: I mistakenly sewed the top collar to the under collar before sewing the latter to the front lapels, or revers.
So ... I guess I was afraid to ask for a muslin tutorial from our teacher. Naturally I did it wrong: messing up the collar. Digging myself in deeper, I did practice hand-basting the collar's "roll" -- you know, for the time if and when I ever do nail a jacket.
Using hand stitches to give the collar, no matter how Wrong, nice shaping.
Once I tried on the sorry excuse for a muslin, I was alarmed: the side seams were not at my sides but way near the back. I realized that, apart from trying it on quickly en mass the first night of class, I had no idea of how the jacket was supposed to look. Panic set in once again, and I emailed the teacher, who drew the line drawing below and emailed it to all the students. Do you think she is happy about having a former technical writer in class?
Desperate for some sort of visual, I asked for, and received, this line drawing.
I guess I'm a glutton for punishment, for I haven't dropped out of the class yet. While the others are happily pad-stitching their lapels, on their real jackets, I'm still making samples of a double-welt pocket, fretting about slashing into the jacket's actual front.
My second welt pocket sample, in my beautiful and inexpensive dark navy wool, looks nice. But it's a Fail, too, as it seems that I slashed too far into the ends, leaving but a tiny area for sewing down the short ends (see pin, above). Sigh.

To get the welts to open up nicely, I used a tool from quilting, where perhaps I should stay? It's a tiny pointy iron that's great for pressing bindings, animal costumes, and other fiddly things. In one of the books that mentions nothing about the sewing order for a jacket muslin, I learned to take a little bundle of wool, tie it, and use it to daub your fabric with water when pressing in a tight space.

Before I tackle the third sample tonight, I will hand-sew little loops called "tailor's tacks" to mark everything onto the jacket fronts: all seam lines, pocket placements, dart lines, hemlines, and anything else that seems important. Then, if this third sample goes well, I'll be ready to SLASH into my jacket.

Although our class textbook is excellent (apart from telling you to "Make the muslin"), I splurged and bought a newer book, Vintage Couture Tailoring. After looking it over, our instructor, who has a real reverence for all things Tailoring, pronounced it very good -- although she pointed out where the author's tailor tacks go a little overboard.
Tailor's tacks are time-consuming, but show essential marks on both sides of your fabric.
I, too, like the book. My only problem is that it was typeset in light gray type, in a miniscule typeface reserved for rental car agreements. I guess that between reading this book, sewing tailor's tacks, and ripping dark navy stitches out of dark navy fabric at night, my eyesight is bound to get worse. But at least I'll be warm in my Tailored Jacket.

Addendum: I must add that my teacher is excellent! In fact, a costumer for two top theaters (The Old Globe and the La Jolla Playhouse) plus the opera, is in our class, just to study with our instructor. She's accustomed to more experienced students, no doubt. As you can see, in garment sewing, give me maps and charts! Be well, and happy sewing.