Friday, 31 August 2012

Check my OCding

l Check Those Collars and Lapels 
Vivienne Westwood
The really irksome thing about checks is that they have a tendency to highlight wiggly seams, badly pressed edges and poor cutting out. One of the principle areas of irksomeness is around the neck - the lapels and collar; the other major location is the sleeves.

Of course the check/plaid can be used for effect too but the tailoring perfectionist aims for perfect matching - what else?

Let me try to explain about lapels first....

A perfectly turned back lapel made in check(plaid) has the vertical lines running parallel to the edge of the lapel. However, the facing, which IS the visible lapel is usually cut with the straight of grain but the lapel is cut an an angle (for the shape). Not making sense? No, I'm not explaining it very well.

I'm moving into the world of men's tailoring because this is where the art of matching in jackets originated. Some of the images have stripes which are easier to see what I mean but the same principal applies to checks,plaids and tartans. Our main concern here is with vertical lines; on the sleeves we concentrate on horizontals - but that's for another day. Now, look closely at the following photos.....

This is NOT good - compare the right and left lapels. The left is perfect but the right is skewed - do not spend your money on this kind of workmanship, or let your man spend his money on this.

This one IS good - see how the pin stripes are identical on both sides.

This one is YSL ladies jacket  - perfect parallel checks, but what else would you expect for £800.

 This one is Ralph Lauren from DH's wardrobe and once again the vertical stripes run parallel to the edge of the lapel. He chose to not disclose the cost of this jacket to me! Here's me making my own and he goes off and buys Purple Label! Justice - what justice?

Here's a Viyella wool jacket for this season. £250! and lines that aren't straight. 
Hopefully by now you can see what has to be achieved on the lapels. Good grief! that's only the lapels I hear you cry!!!!

In my search for material for this post I came across the most amazing blogs - one of them is askandyaboutclothes (link below). I thought females were obsessive about clothes and stuff but read this forum! If any of you has dared read American Psycho - Patrick Bateman has nothing on these guys! This is where perfection of matching becomes obsessive.

 Can you spot what's wrong with this matching?

Now, here's my effort....
This is the lapel cut on the straight of grain - see how the orange stripe is two lines away from the edge at the top and tapers out towards the break point? This should be avoided (see above). It means making a new facing pattern so that the edge of the lapel is on the straight of grain and therefore following the vertical lines of the fabric.  Because the lapel is at an angle to the front of the jacket it is usually cut on a slight bias so we have to tilt the pattern piece slightly.
Here is the original pattern piece and the new facing. I used a book - Classic Tailoring Techniques - to help me and some advice from Claire Schaeffer in a Threads issue July 2009 No 143 to re-draft the facing. I'm almost sure both of these sources are copyrighted but you can maybe locate them. 
I love this quote from the book: " This is essential for a controlled, graceful lay of the fabric."

There's actually not too much out there on the interweb for redrafting of jacket front facings for use with check/plaid fabrics. So here goes.

Firstly, you need to redraw the front facing with a new grainline that runs parallel to the edge of the lapel.

Copy the original pattern piece but shift it so that it actually changes shape a little. The new piece is narrower on the inside edge but straight on the outside edge.

Now you have to shrink the excess fabric out with a steam iron to re-shape the facing - bit of guess work involved here I reckon, or black magic.

The two pieces, old on top and new underneath. You can see the angle of the outside edge has altered but it means that my lapels will have that sought after straight line.

So, here's the real thing just positioned not sewn in place yet, but you can see the orange stripe remains two lines away from the edge the whole way down - ie parallel to the edge of the lapel.

Now, if I can figure it out and do it, wouldn't you think that the RTW market could do the same?

If you are in the market for a RTW checked/plaid or striped jacket please make sure the checks/lines etc on the lapel follow the edges. It means someone has done just that little bit extra to produce a jacket that is worth paying money for.

Collar Matching

The other major location of problems is the back of the collar, once turned back into place the checks (or lines) on the collar should match the checks (or lines) on the back.

Perfection, even if the stripes are a little bold!

DH's  R Lauren again - perfection!

This is my effort - what I can't figure out is this...

With a centre back seam how do you match the verticals exactly as in the R Lauren? On my jacket I've lost the vertical orange stripe completely because of the seam, but on the collar it's there.

The only thing I could come up with was to shrink the collar edge a bit to help make it fit the pattern on the back.

I hope you also noticed the sleeve matching with the horizontal stripes in all the examples - that's for another day. This is where I'm at at the moment - not so nice.

If you managed to read all the way to the end of this - very well done! If you're still interested in Matching-OCD check out the Sartorialist tailoring blog. Even if you're not, it's still a fascinating read.
And when it all becomes too much - sod the matching and go for contrast!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Check This 1

Matching checks/plaids/tartans

I've started the autumn collection. Like many of you, for the past few weeks living in the northern hemisphere I've been looking forward to handling something other than cotton or linen but a bit beefier and substantial - like wool. This check was ordered and delivered way before the summer from Fabric Mart with the sole intention of becoming a hacking jacket. I'm glad to be working on it now.

I don't have a plan or grand scheme for autumn - I really admire those who have a SWAP - problem is I change my mind so often that any plan I start with never gets completed so now I don't spend my time making one in the first place.

The fabric is olive green and taupe, irregular check (plaid) with a vertical muted orange stripe and a horizontal muted fushia. The challenge is to get the orange and the fushia stripes to join up at the seams, collar, sleeves and lapels. The only way I've discovered to do this right is to do it slowly slowly slowly. And I use DH's checked jackets as my reference for how it's supposed to look.

The pattern had already been chosen - it's Jean Hardy Hunt coat. It has 8 panels - this is NOT a good pattern to be using for checks. However, I've made this before in a plain brown and like the style. I didn't make a muslin because of this, but did tack all the pieces together, once cut, just to check the fit. I can always make minor adjustments later.

To match the checks - each pattern piece was cut individually.

This is one half of the back. I laid the 'cut' piece (flipped over) onto a single layer of fabric positioning it so the checks and lines matched up exactly; then chalked around it - creating the other half of the back.
What you see here is actually one cut piece lying on top of the fabric and the chalk lines for cutting out the next.

This took a long time to cut out as you can imagine - one piece at a time and each piece matched with the previous. But it's worth it and I'm in no hurry. On the right - the side front seam and below the centre back already sewn with the (almost) perfect matching of the horizontal stripes.

The jacket has princess seams - not good with a check, I'll show you later what I mean, but you can see what happens to the vertical lines on the back - the princess seams at the front are will be like this only more so. It also has bound pockets with flaps, two side back vents and of course will be fully lined and tailored. 

I underlined the whole jacket with a stable cotton with slight stretch that came 'free' in a Fabric Mart bundle and never found a use for until now. I'm at the endless pad stitching part - lapels, breast shield and shoulders - so I won't bore you of pictures of pad-stitching.

Oh OK, since you insist, just one.
I love pad stitching (weirdo), it's like magic how these little stitches shape fabric seemingly all on their own. Hand sewing is a nice way to slow down and take your time.

I can't help thinking that cotton = quick, wool = slow.

 I haven't cut out the sleeves or collar yet - I have to have the jacket constructed so that I can match the checks for these pieces.

This is what I'll look like when it's finished.

Classy, huh?
 Next time-..... getting the checks to run parallel to the edge of the lapel. Bet you can't wait for that!

Saturday, 25 August 2012


Years and years ago when I was rich and didn't have a mortgage or dependants I spent my money on nice things.
 One of the nice things that has survived the years is this Liberty scarf. I say scarf but really it's big enough for a shawl, made of the finest pure wool and with a traditional and classic Liberty print. This scarf must be at least 30 years old. The pattern is 'Hera', the now iconic peacock feather pattern, designed in 1887 by Arthur Silver.  100% Varuna Wool, fringed all around the edge and measures a whopping  52"/132cms square.

While I have always loved it, wearing shawls is not really practical when you're making dinner or ironing - the dangly bits always get in the way - so it has languished at the back of a special drawer I have for just such items - loved but not used. I've often brought it out, looked at it and thought I could make something to wear  - I mean there's over a metre  - but could never bring myself to cut into it.

Once again, my gratitude goes out to Rhonda. Her endless ideas have inspired me many times and thanks to her, this beautiful scarf has a new found freedom - my Liberty has been liberated!

Rhonda showcased a design of hers on Fabulous Free Pattern Friday (on a Tuesday!) for a little jacket/cover-up made from a lovely embroidered tablecloth. (Link above). Quite simply - fold in two, cut an opening in the centre front, bind the edges and sew a row of stitches on either side. Wear. Genius.

The Liberty shawl was pulled from the special drawer and while I wept, I CUT up the centre to form an opening.

This was bound with a bias strip of sand coloured brushed cotton. Because my shawl was much bigger than Rhonda's tablecloth, I sewed not only along the sides but along the arms too, in a L-shape.

The pattern runs one way, effectively creating a nap, so unfortunately the feathers are pointing downwards on the back. There's a fringed edge to the shawl that I wanted to keep, and this was the only way of keeping the fringe.

My usual photographer (teenage son) was off galavanting somewhere so I took this one myself in his bedroom mirror. Apologies for the poor quality, the dangling wires, Lego, Halo poster and other crap on the walls - and the big blinding flash in the middle.
Hopefully you can get an idea of the end result. Wide sleeves, belted with the half ties and most importantly worn!

Isadora Duncan
This has now revitalised other items in my wardrobe - the colours in the loose jacket go with many things - black, brown, cream and ivory, tan. Lovely with wide legged trousers.

It's quite a 1920s feel - Isadora Duncanesce and ladies who wore trousers and lounged around on chaise longs sipping from a cocktail glass; that sort of image is conjured up for me.

Thanks Rhonda.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Puritan Angles

Some lovely fabric arrived in the post the other day - wool and linen mix - very fine, almost cotton like. It is a pale washed out denim colour with white snubs. Wrinkles with the linen content but is soft with the wool. I'd ordered 3m and was keen to use it all in one go - one way of eliminating scraps! I'd worn Paco's half-circle skirt recently and had forgotten how lovely it is to have fabric swishing around so opted for a full skirted dress for the fabric. Only problem - don't have a pattern for a full skirted dress. OK OK really and truly this is the last dress - no really.
Undaunted, I patched up Paco's half-circle skirt pattern with the top half of McCall's Easy shift dress and cut out on the fold. Sorry Paco, I didn't cut bias.

I then took the front and the back, pinned them on Doris and then pinned in the darts to fit her.

The dress pattern has a centre back zip but I'd forgotten about this when cutting out on the fold - I was going for a side seam zip - so my darts on the back extend all the way to the neck. Note the acute angle of the back darts to fit my sway back.

Once fitted to Doris, I sewed the darts and the side seams and finished these off as the fabric frays like mad. It is also a little fine and see-through, so needed lining. but I didn't want to loose that swishy feeling of linen around my knees and made a shift-like slip that finishes just below the hips and is straight. I attached the lining to the neck facing and then sewed the facing as usual to the dress. I didn't line the sleeves, just stopped at the armhole and caught the lining in the seam.

There's always a problem though, isn't there?


While beautifully fitted and finished this dress had puritan overtones - a little too prim and proper - no wow. A white bonnet on and no make-up and I could be Amish. Not quite what I had in mind.

There was an idea hiding at the back of mind and while wasting time (project avoidance technique) on the internet the other day I had another look at Vogue's new patterns and fell on 1312. Sleeves, fitted bodice, full skirt - remind you of anything?

So I set my mind on how to alter the puritan's hemline.

I made hemline darts.

First, select your position for the darts. I have 8 on mine: two centre, two side and 2 in between. The centre hemline darts are longer than the others. The longer the darts the more exaggerated the effect.

Mark the centre of the dart, measure 4-6" either side of this and 4-6" up.   Fold along the centre line and stitch. Trim off the triangle and finish the raw edge. Press the living daylights out of the dart.

 This is Doris wearing her new Puritan but darted hemline dress with her back to a mirror so you can see the effect. Points and shape to an otherwise plain dress.

 There's a strange thing going on around here - me and Doris are becoming the same shape - she's putting on weight I'm sure of it. I'm off to compare measurements.

On a real person it looks like this...

 And I can do a Vogue position too

It still has a swish factor and is just this side of slightly different as opposed to this, which won't really work too well in the classroom.

I'm now reconsidering the Vogue pattern. We'll see when the next sale is on.

Marianna, over at sew2pro is putting on a Japanese pattern magic book challenge. I'm thinking that these hemline darts are moving in that direction but tame in comparison to some of the ideas contained therein. Great, she's given me something to mull over, dwell on and have an excuse to sit around and stare into space.