Saturday, January 21, 2012

Structure and Shape

Tailored clothing has been shaped by a variety of techniques involving everything from interfacing to hand sewing. I know as a new sewist, I was very intimidated by these techniques, but there are a lot of resources out there to help you learn them.
Here are some of the books that I used in tailoring my coat. All of these were useful to me in some ways, although if you only have Tailoring:The Classic Guide to Sewing the Perfect Jacket, you'll have what you need. This book takes you step-by-step through the process of making a beautifully tailored jacket using hand, machine and fusible tailoring techniques, which you can mix and match to meet your needs.
Here is the coat sans lining so that you can see the structural components that I included in the body of the coat. I used a combination of fusible interfacing to block fuse the bodice. I machine stitched on my hair canvas chest piece, but hand sewed the taping on the roll line (which in my case was also the neckline seam).
The undercollar (and the lapel facing, although that is not pictured here) were interfaced with hair canvas and padstitched by hand. Although there are machine and fusible methods for shaping the undercollar, I really think that you can't beat the shape you get by hand tailoring here. This was one of the things that really put me off of had tailoring a garment though. I was afraid of the padstitching! Once I saw it done in person, though I realized that it was easier than I was making it out to be. I wish I could come and padstitch with each of you, but since I can't, I made a video so that you could see what it looks like.
Once all the stitching is done, you can see the shape that it gives the undercollar.
See how much structure it has? That curved shape will allow it to lay close to the body and maintain its shape.
After your padstitching is done, you want to steam your undercollar into shape around your tailor's ham. You just pin it on, with the stand folded down along the roll line and blast it with your steam iron until it is damp. You will then want to let it completely dry, so set it aside and work on something else.
Another useful technique that I used on this coat was catchstitching the seam allowances by hand. In this bulky coating, it really helped control the loft of the fabric to give a really precise and flat seam.
Can you see the difference? These are the shoulder seams of the coat. Both seams have been sewn, pressed and steamed, but the seam on the left has also been catchstitched in place. See how much smoother and flatter it lies? It was a bit time consuming, but I think the results were worth the effort.

Obviously, one blog post won't teach you everything you need to know about tailoring, but if you are interested in learning more, I highly recommend the book I referenced above as well as a few blogs that I found useful:

Made By Hand - The Great Sartorial Debate - This is a wonderful blog, written by a professional tailor. He showcases his own amazing work as well as taking apart bespoke garments to examine. Fascinating!
Sherry's RTW Tailoring Sew Along - A collection of tutorials to help achieve a high-end RTW finish to your tailored garments. The focus is on industry secrets, many techniques are by machine rather than hand.
Gertie's Lady Grey Sew Along - Gretchen, of Gertie's New Blog For Better Sewing, takes us along as she hand tailors her Lady Grey coat. She has tons of tips, tricks and great tutorials.

Tomorrow I'll talk about a couple of finishing touches - lining your jacket and making bound buttonholes. Stay tuned!


  1. A lot of great information here. All the care you took really shows in your beautiful coat.

  2. Thank you for the pad stitch tutorial great info. I will be trying my hand a jackets this year for summer this year.P.S. love your blog have been an admirer for a while thanks for all great tips.

  3. Excellent video! I love the instructions for pad stitching. . . This is a fantastic blog post - Congrats!

    Now, I am dying to make a coat!

  4. Thank you for all the great tips! I do not intend to make a lined jacket until late next summer or early fall, but now I'll have some ideas (my library actually has that book!!), and be more prepared! Thanks. :)
    Also, that really is a gorgeous jacket, you obviously put in a lot of work and it shows.

  5. Thanks for sharing this info. When I make my winter jacket later this year, I am going to try hand stitching the seams down as well as pad stitching the collar.

  6. You did a beautiful job on your jacket. Houndstooth is always is style. Good work.

  7. Love your padstitching video! I never quite understood, but I think I get it now. Thank you!