Setting the Roll Line: Old School, Part 2

Readers,

I had a little more to do to finish Kenneth King’s segment, “Set the Roll Line,” in Smart Tailoring, and I did that today.

Here is one of the jacket fronts now.IMG_7257 (299x460)

Three-eighths inch-wide double-fold bias tape, with one fold pressed open, is basted to the edge of the canvas from the bottom to about an inch past the notch of the lapel.IMG_7259 (345x460)

IMG_7254 (460x295)

I used red thread, as Kenneth does in his demo, because it shows up better in photos, but normally you would use matching thread. The black thread is basting.

Since the canvas was trimmed out of the seam allowance, it will not be caught in the stitching of the facing. Instead, you hand stitch the bias tape to the canvas, and then anchor the canvas in the seam allowance with hand stitches.

IMG_7238 (460x288)

One fold is pressed open.

IMG_7240 (460x282)

Pressing a curve into the bias tape.

IMG_7263 (460x333)

I like any excuse to pull out my bias tape maker. Making bias tape is oddly satisfying.

IMG_7253 (460x345)

An acceptable amount of rippling around this curve, to my mind.

I didn’t have any packaged bias tape in my stash, so I made some using a nifty bias tape maker and some inch-wide bias-cut muslin.Why bias tape and not stay tape? The bias-cut tape conforms to curves better.

Kenneth shows you how to stretch and press a curve into the bias tape so it’s already kind of trained to go around the jacket curve better. Mine still rippled a little, but in a pass-fail situation it would pass, don’t you think?

IMG_7260 (460x345)

What to do with this end of the bias tape? Kenneth anchors his to a side seam allowance. My jacket doesn’t have a side panel.

As for the tail of the bias tape at the hem, Kenneth anchored his to the seam allowance of the side panel. My jacket has no side panel. I will probably end up trimming the bias tape and tacking down the loose end with a few invisible stitches so it doesn’t fold up on itself when I’m not looking.

I really enjoyed the Set the Roll Line segment, which had lots of handwork. I was reminded how much I enjoyed the embroidery kits I would get for birthday and Christmas presents as a child.

Still awaiting framing: a Better Homes and Gardens kit from about 1965.

Still awaiting framing: a kit mail-ordered from Better Homes and Gardens magazine about 1965 that I stitched. I remember wondering what “never lack” meant.

I haven’t looked at the next segment of Smart Tailoring since I first watched it in January, so I’m not sure what to expect next. What more could I possibly do with these fronts?

They're ready, and I'm ready.

I’m ready. Are they?

Surely it’s time to move on to another part. I know I’m ready.

Field Trip: The Alley Vintage and Costume, Columbus, Ohio

Readers,

What do you get when a master costumer in the International Costumers’ Guild and her professional makeup artist husband open a store following 30 years in the theater costume business?335The Alley (460x334)

Why, you get The Alley Vintage and Costume, where the motto is “You Are Never Too Old To Play Dress Up.”

With a knowledge of fashion and costume history both broad and deep, Kit and Joseph can guide customers to create outfits fantastical or historically correct (or both).

With a knowledge of fashion and costume history both broad and deep, Kit and Josef can guide customers to create outfits fantastical or historically correct (or both).

I spent a recent morning getting a grand tour of the store from owners Kit and Josef Matulich. They encouraged me to stow my coat and bag and make myself at home.

One moment, it's part of a display...

One moment, this swim cap is part of a display…

I started out with pencil and clipboard determined to capture facts,  but I confess I quickly jettisoned both reportorial gear and demeanor and dove headlong into trying things on.

...and the next moment this swim cap is on my head. Everybody into the pool!

…and the next moment it’s on my head. Everybody into the pool!

How could I not?

The impulse was too strong to resist, especially with Kit egging me on, even drafting store assistant Abbey, of the sewing blog Life in a”Mads” House, to play model for a unique, on the spot trunk show.

Abbey, having a Dorothy Lamour moment.

Abbey, having a Dorothy Lamour moment.

At The Alley, Kit and Josef can never predict what clothing or accessories will come in the door next, which is much of the fun.

Looking for the ultimate alligator purse? Meet Percival.

Looking for the ultimate alligator purse? Meet Percival.

They also can’t predict what customer dreams and expectations will come in the door, which is much of the challenge.

Looking for something green for St. Patrick's Day?

Looking for something to complete that St. Patrick’s Day outfit?

Do you love dressing up for Halloween? The Renaissance Festival? Historical reenactments? There are hundreds of costumes to choose from.

Do you love dressing up for Halloween? The Renaissance Festival? Historical reenactments? There are hundreds of costumes to choose from.

How do they help customers realize those dreams with an ever-changing inventory?

Go ahead--try it on!

Go ahead–try it on!

I like it, and so does Jack. The collar is mouton.

I like it, and so does Jack. The collar is mouton.

A lifetime’s experience in costume design and construction, a grounding in history, and a flair for improvising all come in handy, as does an irrepressible sense of fun.

“I do this out of a sense of history and to make people happy,” Kit says, recounting the story of a teenage customer gleefully twirling in the full-skirted 1950s dress she chose using a gift certificate from her grandmother.

An outfit Kit would like to make--and she's got the skills to do it! My sewing ambitions suddenly seem awfully modest!

An outfit Kit would like to make–and she’s got the skills to do it! My sewing ambitions suddenly seem awfully modest!

This exquisite waistcoat was made for a wedding,

This exquisite waistcoat was made for a wedding…

...in Paris, about 1826.

…in Paris, about 1826.

History can take the shape of the stylish suits of an executive secretary in Buffalo, New York in the 1950s.

These suits were all worn by the same smartly dressed secretary in Buffalo, New York.

These suits were all worn by the same smartly dressed secretary in Buffalo, New York.

This suit dates from a time when the department store or dress shop was local, not a branch of a national chain.

This suit dates from a time when the department store or dress shop was local, not a branch of a national chain.

I would love to design my own label, so I'm always on the lookout for inspiring examples.

I would love to design my own label, so I’m always on the lookout for inspiring examples.

Some suits interest me for a particular detail. I wonder how I might use a pocket design like this.

Some suits interest me for a particular detail. I wonder how I might use a pocket design like this.

Or it can unfold in the heavily beaded visitée jacket made in the atelier of the legendar Charles Frederick Worth.

A heavily beaded jacket: the front...

A heavily beaded jacket: the front…

The back (the mottled appearance of the velvet was produced by the way it lay on the beads)

the back (the mottled appearance of the velvet was produced, alas, by  improper storage of a previous owner),

...and the discreet label, WORTH.

…and the discreet label, “WORTH PARIS.”

Everywhere there’s a story begging to be told–even in the Easter chick-yellow negligee knitted and sewn by the mother of the groom for her new daughter-in-law’s wedding night.

Abbey and Kit can hardly contain themselves as I try on this trousseau item.

Abbey and Kit can hardly contain themselves as I try on this trousseau item.

I feel very...fluffy.

I feel very…fluffy.

"Now I think I know what it's like to be a kitten," I told them.

“Now I think I know what it’s like to be a kitten,” I told them.

Or in a Navy sweetheart hankie and pin.179The Alley (460x351)

And history also takes the form of family pictures on the back wall, with a stylish Aunt Edna from the 1930s gazing down upon us.

A love of clothing and costume has come down the generations in Kit's and Joseph's families.

A love of clothing and costume has come down the generations in Kit’s and Josef’s families.

This riding jacket is incredibly small, even by my standards.

This riding jacket is incredibly small, even by my standards.

The back is every bit as beautiful as the front.

The back is every bit as beautiful as the front.

But everywhere at The Alley there are also new stories waiting to be told, in new combinations of clothes and accessories, worn for new occasions undreamt of in the minds of their designers and former owners.

Were these made to be worn underneath--or on top?

Were these made to be worn underneath–or on top?

The clothes of yesteryear had to have the proper undergarments, like this

The clothes of yesteryear had to have the proper undergarments, like these

...and this,

…and these

and this bullet bra. Don't ask.

and this bullet bra. Don’t ask.

The women who strode triumphantly out of department stores gloating over their new purchases might be amazed at the second lives their hats, dresses, jewelry, and even underpinnings are enjoying.

Resort wear!

Resort wear!

Earrings!

Earrings!

More earrings!

More earrings!

Lovely little evening bags!

Lovely little evening bags!

Gloves galore!

Gloves galore!

Platform shoes from the '40s!

Platform shoes from the ’40s!

How about walking a mile in any of these?

How about walking a mile in any of these?

And likewise, the men who proudly donned their Oddfellows garb, or bowlers, or polyester suits–what might they think about the reincarnation of these items?

Look like no one else on Prom Night.

Look like no one else on Prom Night.

Bowties!

Bow ties!

Bicentennial lining from 1976!

Bicentennial lining from 1976!

Me: "How do you define 'lounge lizard'?" Joseph: "Something '60s, maybe '50s. Something between cool and cheesy."

Me: “How do you define ‘lounge lizard’?”
Josef: “Something ’60s, maybe ’50s. Something between cool and cheesy.”

Hats! (And an astronaut suit!)

Hats! (And an astronaut suit!)

My favorite section of any vintage store is always the hats. And The Alley had lots.

Dozens and dozens of hats.

Dozens and dozens of hats.

I kept Cynthia busy snapping pictures.

1964? '65?

1964? ’65?

A little number to wear to lunch after attending the flower show.

A little something to wear to lunch after attending the flower show.

I'll wear this Mr. John number when I'm in that bandana-Mongol hat mood.

I’ll wear this Mr. John number when I’m in that bandana-Mongol hat mood.

Buy a bunch of violets, Miss?

Buy a bunch of violets, Miss?

A, those were the days, cherie!

Ah, those were the days, cherie!

Whatever role I'm auditioning for, I don't think I want the part after all.

Whatever role I’m auditioning for, I don’t think I want the part after all.

Am I wearing this backwards?

Am I wearing this backwards?

Groovy!

Groovy!

Did the Christian Dior hat designer have  morel mushrooms for lunch?

Did the Christian Dior hat designer have morel mushrooms for lunch? And who is that looking over my shoulder?

The brain coral exhibit at the aquarium was fabulous!

The brain coral exhibit at the aquarium was fabulous!

After two and a half hours at the Alley I had barely scratched the surface of what this store offered. I wanted to look at earrings, study more dressmaker and tailor details in jackets, examine 1970s plaid skirts to harvest for yardage…

And try on more hats!

A return visit is definitely in order.

As I left the shop I bade goodbye to Percival, “See you later, alligator.”

And you know something? I could swear I saw him wink.

Percival says, "See you soon!"

Percival says, “See you soon!”

(Thanks to Cynthia DeGrand for photos!)

 

 

Setting the Roll Line: Old School, Part 1

Readers,

Having basted the body canvases to the fronts of my McCall “mannish jacket” pattern from 1941, I followed Kenneth King’s directions in Smart Tailoring for setting the roll line.

The story so far.

The story so far.

This segment on the DVD was longer than the previous one. I’ll cover the first half of the segment in this post.

Showing one jacket front, Kenneth tells us what we’ll be doing next:

We did all of our basting before. We’re going to trim out the seam allowance all along the lapel edge and the front, because if you have a seam allowance there, you catch the canvas in the seam and it’s going to make it impossible to press flat.

Once we trim the seam allowance, I’m going to set the roll, do the pad stitching, and add in the tape. Finally, I’m going to be taping this edge here with hand stitching. So that’s where we’re going in this particular section.

We’re going to take it a step at a time.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into Kenneth’s words and tone of voice, but to me he sounds like a pilot reassuring passengers that everything will be fine. And it will!

First, I’ll flip this over, and as you can see, I’ve actually drawn the stitching line all along the outline of the entire canvas.

The first step is to trim this out. Okay. That’s done.

Here’s where I goofed. I’d watched the demo a couple of days earlier and thought, “I remember what he does–he trims the canvas out of all of the seam allowances.” So I skipped reviewing the demo.

Wrong!

Kenneth leaves the canvas in the shoulder and armhole seam allowances–at least for the moment.

The red line is the new line for trimming the canvas out of the 1/2 inch seam allowance. The red line at the shoulder turned out to be a mistake. Kenneth doesn't show the canvas being trimmed from the shoulder.

The red line is the new line for trimming the canvas out of the 1/2 inch seam allowance. The red line at the shoulder turned out to be a mistake. Kenneth doesn’t show the canvas being trimmed from the shoulder.

Meanwhile, I diligently measured and trimmed. My canvases and fronts didn’t match edges at all points, so I trimmed more or less canvas as needed to keep it from being caught in the seam.

I doubt my jacket will suffer greatly from my zealous overtrimming, but it might lack reinforcement in the shoulder and armhole. We’ll see.

Next, we’re going to shape the two layers over steam. I’m going to lay the pad parallel to the roll line. There’s our roll line. There we go. Allow those to cool.

The canvas is trimmed out of the seam allowance. The dotted red line is my mistaken roll line. The correct roll line is the pencil line.

The canvas is trimmed out of the seam allowance. The dotted red line is my mistaken roll line. The correct roll line is the pencil line.

The roll line is barely discernible traced in orange thread.

The roll line is barely discernible traced in orange thread.

The lapel is turned back on the roll line over a pad (a scrap of upholstery fabric) to be steamed well and pressed judiciously.

The lapel is turned back on the roll line over a pad (a scrap of upholstery fabric) to be steamed well and pressed judiciously.

The canvas is folded back along the penciled roll line, steamed, and pressed (but not crushed).

The canvas is folded back along the penciled roll line, steamed, and pressed (but not crushed).

And I’m going to tailor baste the canvas together with the wool. Okay.

The canvas is basted to the lapel.

The canvas is basted to the lapel.

Next, I’ll be adding the stay tape. I’ve allowed the fabric to cool and dry. Now I will open this up. You can see that a little bit of a roll is already starting to occur. So here is the roll line.

The roll line is started to be defined.

The roll line is starting to be defined.

So I’m going to pin this [stay tape] in right here at one end of the roll line and smooth it up to the neck.

I had some 3/8 inch stay tape in my stash. (Kenneth doesn't mention preshrinking it--the stay tape, I mean, not my stash.)

I had some 3/8 inch stay tape in my stash. (Kenneth doesn’t mention preshrinking it–the stay tape, I mean, not my stash.)

And then I’m going to pull it a quarter of an inch. What you want to do here is, you want a little bit of ripple–as you can see, there’s a little bit of a gap right there.

The stay tape is pinned at the break line,then laid along the roll line and pulled slightly, then anchored with another pin.

The stay tape is pinned at the break line,then laid along the roll line and pulled slightly, then anchored with another pin.

Because we want to shrink this down. It’s a little bit on the bias–you want that to shrink down so it will actually sit smoothly against the chest.

And by pinning and just flattening everything out, it will automatically ease the body onto the stay tape.

The stay tape is pinned in the center, and then all along the roll line, distributing the ease.

The stay tape is pinned in the center, and then all along the roll line, distributing the ease.

Now, I like to do a thread baste to hold all of this together until the pad stitching occurs.

The dreaded pad stitching!

Now, this is where we do the pad stitching. This is the part most people have fits about and complain about, but what I have found is if you have some good rhythmic music on, and you just do it very calmly–it won’t be terrible.

I liked that chin-up but realistic tone: “It won’t be terrible.”

I imagined Kenneth dealing with the unpleasantness of students having fits and complaining about hand stitching, and resolved to make a good faith effort.

First, you anchor the stay tape with three rows of pad stitching, starting down the center and then a row on either side. Then you just keep going, pad stitching onto the lapel.

The pad stitching continues from the stay tape to cover the lapel.

The pad stitching continues from the stay tape to cover the lapel.

Far from terrible, I found pad stitching quite absorbing, to tell the truth.

I dimly recall laboriously pad stitching an under collar in a coat-making class about 25 years ago, not clearly understanding the point of it.

I didn’t take a stab at pad stitching again till last year when I was taking the Savile Row bespoke class in London. There I had a devil of a time, trying to make tiny, even stitches with a tiny needle and wearing a tailor’s thimble that was too big for me. Talk about aggravating.

But knowing that Kenneth King wasn’t born with a silver thimble on his finger was heartening.

I noticed that his needle was lots bigger than what they had us use in London. A bigger needle would be easier for me.

I also noticed that he didn’t use a thimble.  For tailors stitching all day, every day, a thimble is essential. In the London class after only an hour I nearly punctured my right middle finger trying to push that tiny tailor’s needle repeatedly through the fabric.

Now, when you’re pad stitching, you just want to barely pick the back of the fabric, and I actually use my middle finger as my guide. I know exactly how much the needle should scrape the bit of my middle finger to get the proper stitch. My friends always know when I’ve been pad stitching because this finger is always chewed up.

I found this observation oddly cheering, though I can’t explain why.

It’s something you do by touch. You’re going to be making tiny, tiny little stitches. And ideally they should not show from the front of the fabric. Or if they show it will be just a tiny bit of dimples.

The pad stitching creates dimples on the underside. Is this amount of dimpling acceptable?

The pad stitching creates dimples on the underside. Is this amount of dimpling acceptable?

I cut my thread the length of my hand to my elbow, as recommended, wrapped a Band-Aid around my right middle finger, and set to my task.

You now want to turn and just keep pad stitching back and forth. When you’re pad stitching you want to hold the lapel into a roll so that when you stitch the two layers together it locks in the turn of cloth.

Holding the lapel in a curved position, I made each pad stitch with just a little tug. And with each tug each stitch did its small part to put a curl into the lapel. When I was done, the lapel “wanted” to curve. I found this very satisfying.

The pad stitched lapel curls by itself. The other does not.

The pad stitched lapel curls by itself. The other does not.

Now that all of our pad stitching is done, before I go to the next step, I need to trim down this seam allowance. As you can see, it’s a little bit too wide.

Yes–and I noticed that on my lapels the canvas had receded like a riverbank with the seam allowance a widening river.

So I’m going to get my ruler and rotary cutter and trim this all back to its original 5/8 inch.

What? Just like that? You trim the seam allowance before you stitch the seam? This gave me pause. Once I cut, there is no uncutting.

One of my sewing teacher’s sayings is “Don’t take an irreversible step until you have to.” And, I would add, until I understand why.

I looked at Kenneth’s demo and looked at my jacket fronts, back and forth, wondering what to do.

I asked myself whether the lapels could have been stretched and distorted. I pinned the fronts together. If distorted, they were distorted just the same.

I pinned the fronts together onto a cork board.

I pinned the fronts together onto a cork board.

I couldn’t imagine the seam allowances being stretched out when I was pad stitching the canvas. I could imagine the canvas being pulled in a little from the edge. Would that justify trimming the seam allowance?

Comparing the pad stitched lapels. The canvas shrank from the vertical lapel edges about 1/8 inch. The big difference is at the top of the lapels. Don't know why.

Comparing the pad stitched lapels. The canvas shrank from the vertical lapel edges about 1/8 inch. The big difference is at the top of the lapels. Don’t know why.

Well, the logic of trimming was lost on me. So for the first time in this project I chose not to follow instructions. I’m sitting tight for now.

Maybe I’ll understand in a future segment. If not, I will save up this question for Kenneth’s workshop I’m attending in Cleveland in July and will report back.

Constructing the Body Front: Old School

Readers,

The next step in constructing my 1941 “Misses’ Mannish Jacket” following the “old school” method in Kenneth King’s Smart Tailoring was basting the body canvases to the jacket fronts.

The body canvases have been basted to the fronts. Unfortunately, the white thread is hard to see on this tweed.

The body canvases have been basted to the fronts. Unfortunately, the white thread is hard to see on this tweed.

I’m a little confused by the title of this segment on the DVD, “Construct the Body Front,” but I’ll go with Kenneth’s terminology.

Kenneth tells us

The canvas, in my mind, is what really separates what’s called a tailored jacket from what’s called a dressmaker jacket. With a dressmaker jacket you may have a little interfacing in the body, you may have a little interfacing in the facings, but it doesn’t have the same structure, and in my mind, it doesn’t have the same weight.

The way he says “weight” makes me think of weighty words like “gravitas.”

The canvases and fronts are now joined, with varying degrees of accuracy.

The canvases and fronts are now joined, with varying degrees of accuracy.

This was a short segment (hooray) showing something seemingly simple. A basting stitch is as basic as a stitch can get. The one thing I really had to pay close attention to was keeping the front smoothed out over the canvas and to match the raw edges the best I could.

Kenneth showed how to baste a long line from hem to shoulder point to anchor the canvas vertically. Then he flipped back the front enough to catchstitch the bags of his welt pockets to the canvas. Then he basted horizontally at the waistline. He followed with vertical lines of basting starting at the waist down to the hem and up to the shoulder point. He finished with lines of basting to hold the canvas at the armhole and along the pinked edge. This probably took more time to explain than to do.

I peeled back the front to see where the pinked edge of the canvas was. Then I carefully smoothed the front back in place. With a little pressure I could feel the subtle dropoff of the pinked edge under the wool, and basted close to the edge, catching the canvas.

I peeled back the front to see where the pinked edge of the canvas was. Then I carefully smoothed the front back in place. With a little pressure I could feel the subtle dropoff of the pinked edge under the wool, and basted close to the edge, catching the canvas.

However simple basting appeared to be, it was not as easy as I had thought, and I wasn’t entirely successful, as you can see. A little canvas is peeking out beyond the armholes. Is that going to be a problem later on, or not?

At the neckline, the canvas and fabric match. At the shoulder, the canvas falls short. Does this matter or not?

At the neckline, the canvas and fabric match. At the shoulder, the canvas falls short. Does this matter or not?

I cut the fronts and the canvas pieces, and sewed the darts in all of them, as accurately as possible–which is pretty darned accurate. However, even very slight inaccuracies can add up to be significant enough later so that the finished garment is not very nice-looking. One notched collar may look perfect and the other a little off, which is kind of annoying.

My sewing teacher Edith’s saying “Avoid compounding errors” is never far from my thoughts when I do any kind of sewing but especially when I’m tailoring.

(I just realized that Edith doesn’t say “Avoid making errors.” Errors are going to happen–but they don’t have to affect the result if I learn what’s important to pay attention to and how to correct course.)

Here the canvas almost matches the shoulder, but falls short on the neckline. Is this an error that could compound--or not a big deal?

Here the canvas almost matches the shoulder, but falls short on the neckline. Is this an error that could compound–or not a big deal?

I think that when Kenneth King emphasizes

Now, basting the canvas to the body front is a little bit labor-intensive but well worth the effort. A lot of people, the big mistake they make in tailoring is Not. Basting. Enough. Pressing, marking, basting–if I were to say three things, those are really, really important things not to stint on.

he’s saying These are ways to avoid compounding errors.

Pressing accurately, marking accurately, basting accurately–all of these actions minimize or eliminate error along the way to realizing the beautiful, useful, long-lasting jackets and coats I dream about.

Are tailored jackets worth the care and work? What do you suppose tailor Maurice Chevalier’s customer in Love Me Tonight would say? Absolument!

Preparing the Body Canvas: Old School

Readers,

I’ve finished the next segment of Smart Tailoring with Kenneth King: preparing the body canvases to support the jacket fronts.

Body canvas: the side that will face the lining.

This side of the body canvas will face the lining. The seam allowances along the neckline, shoulder, armhole, and front edges are penciled in.

They turned out well.

The side that will face the jacket fabric.

The side that will face the jacket fabric. The edges starting below the armhole down to the hem have been pinked. They will not be caught in a seam.

As with the previous segments, Kenneth has a knack for making an arcane process comprehensible and easy to follow.

The object of this segment is to shape and buttress the body canvases so they can support the jacket fronts that will be riding on top.

The shaping is done with darts.  Just as the jacket is shaped with darts, so is the body canvas. The difference is that in the canvas the return of the dart is dispatched with a rotary cutter.

The dart is cut out of the canvas with a rotary cutter.

The dart is cut out of the canvas with a rotary cutter.

A muslin strip will be stitched under the dart.

A muslin strip will be stitched under the dart.

The cut edges are butted together. The muslin strip is pinned underneath.

The cut edges are butted together. The muslin strip is pinned underneath.

You machine-stitch the dart closed with three rows of serpentine stitches.

You machine-stitch the dart closed with three rows of serpentine stitches.

Trim the excess muslin.

Trim the excess muslin.

Then Kenneth discusses an extra pattern piece called the shield, cut from tailor’s canvas, that covers the front shoulder.

I pinned out the preliminary shape of the shield on a jacket I made from the pattern I'm using in this project.

I pinned out the preliminary shape of the shield on a jacket I made from the pattern I’m using in this project.

Depending on the fabric, the garment, and the wearer, you can cut additional layers of canvas in graduated sizes and alternating grainlines for further reinforcement and definition of the shoulder.

The pink outline is the rough sketch. The black line was version 2.

The pink outline is the rough sketch. The black line was version 2.

He shows you how to draft these pieces–it’s easy–but in my case I think the base shield is enough for my jacket and fabric.

The shield is cut on the bias from the same canvas I'm using for the front.

The shield is cut on the bias from the same canvas I’m using for the front.

If I were making a military greatcoat from a heavy wool and wanted the garment to have a lot of shoulder definition I might very well use all the supporting cast of canvas shield pieces.

I began padstitching the shield to the body canvas and then noticed my oversight.

I began padstitching the shield to the body canvas and then noticed my oversight.

By the way, I checked the definition of “greatcoat” and came upon this discussion of overcoats, topcoats and greatcoats on Gentleman’s Gazette. I suddenly have a craving to tailor a substantial coat for Jack, or scale down a man’s sensible, durable coat style for myself.

The shield should not have seam allowances. If Kenneth mentioned this, I missed it. But in the video the shield fits right inside the seam allowances, which makes sense--keep bulk to a minimum while providing support.

The shield should not have seam allowances. If Kenneth mentioned this, I missed it. But in the video the shield fits right inside the seam allowances, which makes sense–keep bulk to a minimum while providing support.

Following this Smart Tailoring process is not only putting these ideas in my head, but getting me to think through what it would take to execute the ideas–and not being unnerved.

More and more, I’m reasoning out what support and shaping a garment would need “downstairs” using canvases, stays, and shoulder pads to create the best effect “upstairs” for the fabric and wearer. (Does it come as a surprise that I watch Downton Abbey?)

The shield is trimmed of its seam allowances. Now I can pad stitch it to the front.

The shield is trimmed of its seam allowances. Now I can pad stitch it to the front.

The shield is attached to the body canvas with pad stitching done on a flat surface. I’ve pad stitched before and have memories of tried patience and punctured fingertips, but this was a breeze, and thankfully thimble-free. (In the Savile Row tailoring class I took last year I never did find a thimble that fit.)

A theme I’m noticing in Smart Tailoring–and in Kenneth King’s work in general–is that when he recommends hand work, it’s because that method achieves an effect better than a machine can. “I like sewing by hand because I feel I have a lot more control,” he says.

Oops--don't pad stitch the bottom of the canvas in by mistake.

Oops–don’t pad stitch the bottom of the canvas in by mistake.

But Kenneth King is no hand-stitching snob. A prefabricated product might work very well for a particular garment–and deadline.

“Now this is just something a lot of people don’t know,” he says. “If you really don’t want to go through all of this trouble to generate all of these pattern pieces, you can purchase fronts [for men’s jackets]. These are canvas fronts, pre-purchased… [A]s you can see down here in the bottom, they’re sized by jacket size. If you’re in a hurry, and you need to get tailoring done, it’s entirely legitimate.”

“You have the different options,” Kenneth says, referring to kinds and amounts of hand stitching and canvas reinforcements. But what I’m hearing is that all these foundational skills he’s teaching are making my options greater than ever. And that’s pretty exciting.

Next time, I’ll be basting the body canvases to their respective jacket fronts.IMG_6795 (460x319)

Preparing the Jacket Front: Old School

Readers,

Having gotten the back of my jacket done following the “old school” method Kenneth King demonstrates in Smart Tailoring, I worked on the fronts.

The darts and pockets are done.

The darts and pockets are done.

In this segment Kenneth shows the fronts with side panels attached, darts and welt pockets already done, and the notch and break line marked.

The armholes are stayed to prevent stretching. What are those white outlines? That's my experiment.

The armholes are stayed to prevent stretching. What are those white outlines? That’s my experiment.

Then he demonstrates staying the armhole with 3/4 inch-wide muslin strips cut on the crosswise grain.

Now in some tailoring resources they have you do this particular operation later in the game. I like to do it now because I feel that you can really, really manipulate and handle the body pieces if you stay the armhole early. If you wait till later, you have to ease the armhole back down–it’s sort of like getting toothpaste back in the tube.

Muslin strips: one is straight (not stretched or pressed); the other is slightly curved after stretching and pressing (feeble first attempt).

Muslin strips: one is straight (not stretched or pressed); the other is slightly curved after stretching and pressing (feeble first attempt).

He stretches and presses the strips into a curve that approximates the armhole curve.

Much better! The slight ripple is okay.

Much better! The slight ripple is okay.

Then he lays a strip flat on the armhole–no stretching–matching raw edges, and pins. He stitches the strip 1/8 inch inside the seam allowance.

The muslin stay is stitched inside the seam allowance. Kenneth's lies flatter than mine. I laid the front on the pattern piece to check for distortion. The armhole conforms, which is good.

The muslin stay is stitched inside the seam allowance. Kenneth’s stay lies flatter than mine. I laid the front on the pattern piece to check for distortion. The armhole conforms, which is good.

If you want to make welt pockets Kenneth King’s way, you can find the directions in the bonus material on Disc 3.

I decided to stick with the patch pockets that came with my 1941 McCall “Misses’ Mannish Jacket.” I just like them.

Plus, I wrote explicit directions to myself back in 2006 for making them. I think I was in training to be a sewing blogger for years without knowing it.

Dated Sept. 24, 2006.

Dated Sept. 24, 2006.

Before making the pockets I had to decide whether they needed any interfacing. The tweed is somewhat loosely woven and floppy. Since I was following the “old method” tailoring in this project, a fusible was out of the question. It might change the nature of the fabric noticeably, or come loose someday. That would not be smart tailoring.

Laid out on my lightbox: Left, a pocket piece by itself. Right, a pocket piece with batiste under it.

Laid out on my lightbox: Left, a pocket piece by itself. Right, a pocket piece with batiste under it.

I wondered whether I needed an interfacing at all. I’ve been known to overdo interfacing, the result being a heavy, stiff garment. Most sewers have made at least one garment that is so over-interfaced it can stand up on its own.

Interfacing is really a judgment call. I looked through my interfacing stash and chose a cotton batiste that was almost weightless but would give a little body to the pockets. That seemed right.

The pocket is underlined with cotton batiste to add a little stability.

The pocket is underlined with cotton batiste to add a little stability.

Then I followed the directions I so thoughtfully wrote for the future me.

The lining is cut a little smaller so that the fashion fabric will automatically curl toward the back. The lining is stitched to the top, leaving a space to turn the pocket right side out.

The lining is cut a little smaller so that the fashion fabric will automatically curl toward the back. The lining is stitched to the top, leaving a space to turn the pocket right side out.

The the rest of the lining is pinned in place, matching raw edges.

The the rest of the lining is pinned in place, matching raw edges.

Bulk is trimmed from the corners, and the curves are notched.

Bulk is trimmed from the corners, and the curves are notched.

The pocket is turned right side out through the escape hatch. Then the opening is slipstitched closed.

The pocket is turned right side out through the escape hatch. Then the opening is slipstitched closed.

Behold: finished pockets. The curves are faithful renditions of the 1941 pattern. Why they are not symmetrical I do not know. I just know that I like them that way.

Behold: finished pockets. The curves are faithful renditions of the 1941 pattern. Why they are not symmetrical I do not know. I just know that I like them that way.

Having finished my pockets, I now faced my next decision: should the fronts be interfaced where the pockets were to be topstitched?

Again, my tweed is on the floppy, loosely woven side. Would the pockets look like they were dragging down the fronts if they were stitched just to the fabric alone?

With my past jackets made from this pattern I used fusible interfacings that served as a good support for all of the pocket styles I used. This time I would be installing tailor’s canvas in a later step. I wondered whether it would be a good or bad idea to anchor the pockets in the canvas.

Ready to be topstitched onto the front.

Ready to be topstitched onto the front.

I guessed it could be a bad idea. The canvas might need to hang free and not have anything interfering with its movement.

Searching my sewing library, I found advice in Claire Shaeffer’s book Sew Any Patch Pocket, pages 106-107, “Reinforcing the Garments Under the Pocket.” She recommended a preshrunk muslin or canvas piece. I cut more batiste.

Backstage: batiste to add body only where it's needed.

Backstage: batiste to add body only where it’s needed.

I topstitched the two large pockets with batiste behind them. That seemed right: additional stability without weight.

Trimming the excess batiste from the outer edges, I wondered, What’s the point of having any batiste that’s not doing the job of stabilizing? No point that I could see. I trimmed the batiste inside the beltway, too.

After the excess was trimmed away (with dull pinking shears).

After the excess was trimmed away (with dull pinking shears).

I doubt that I’m the first to think of this, but I had never seen it done. And if it’s not done, there may be a good reason why not.

But this is my garment, and a test garment at that. I took a calculated risk.

Holding up the front with the two pockets, I like how it hangs. Maybe the batiste backing helped. At least it didn’t hurt.

Now I’m ready to dig into what will make this a tailored jacket: the canvas.

IMG_6988 (460x289)

Warning: asymmetrical pockets ahead!

Preparing the Jacket Back: Old School

Readers,

I’ve done my pattern work, following Kenneth King’s “old school” methods in Smart Tailoring. I finally cut into my fashion fabric the other day.

My jacket back is done now. It was easy.

Jacket back, right side, with catch-stitched vent

Right side: chain-stitched gathering in armhole, catch-stitched vent

Wrong side: shoulder stays and back stay, reinforced vent

Wrong side: shoulder stays and back stay, reinforced vent

I made a couple of little beginner’s mistakes, easily recognized and remedied.

Here’s what I did, pretty much in the order on the video:

  • Tailor-tacked the hem and vent.
    The beginning of a tailor tack, shown on a plain scrap.

    The beginning of a tailor tack, shown on a plain scrap.

    Kenneth demos this with a double strand of basting thread.

    Creating the first loop.

    Creating the first loop.

    I’ve done tailor tacks before, but Kenneth shows a version using a loop, which was new to me. It’s pretty clever.

    One tailor tack done and the next one starting.

    One tailor tack done and the next one starting.

    The loop shows only on one side of the pattern piece and helps to distinguish the wrong side from the right side.

    A pleasing line of tailors' tacks.

    A pleasing line of tailors’ tacks.

    That’s helpful when your fabric looks virtually the same on both sides, like a wool flannel.

    Pulling the pieces apart slightly to cut the tacks.

    Pulling the pieces apart slightly to cut the tacks.

    Kenneth demonstrated tailors’ tacks facing the camera. Had the camera been placed so the viewer would be looking over his shoulder, I would have learned this hand stitch even faster.

  • Sewed the back seam down to the vent. Pressed the seam as sewn and then pressed the seam open over the seam roll. Kenneth showed using steam and then dry heat to set the press.
  • Drew in the armholes very slightly with a chain stitch.
    Chain stitch. My first attempt, I did flat on a table. That didn't create the ripple needed for shaping.

    Chain stitch. My first attempt, I did flat on a table. That didn’t create the ripple needed for shaping.

    The objective is to add a little shaping at the shoulder blades. Kenneth didn’t say exactly where to place the chainstitching or how long to make it, but it’s obvious from the demo that it’s midway. And I assume the stitching is inside the seam allowance a little bit. I wonder whether my tweed, which is relatively loosely woven, needs this refinement.

    I chain-stitched over my hand, pulling slightly to create tension and shaping. Then I steam pressed on the ham.

    I chain-stitched over my hand, pulling slightly to create tension and shaping. Then I steam pressed on the ham.

    Maybe a tightly woven suiting would benefit from this. I’ll ask Kenneth when I attend his class in July. Kenneth steamed and pressed the stitched area over a ham to build in more shaping.

  • Stayed the shoulder seams with muslin strips cut on the lengthwise grain, stitching 1/8 inch inside the seam allowance. Then I pressed.

    The shoulders are stayed.

    The shoulders are stayed.

Now that I have the shoulders stayed, I’m going to press again. Because, something to remember here: press. If you’re wondering about, Should I press or not? Press. More pressing is better than less.

  • Applied the back stay. I stitched 1/8 inch inside the seam line. That’s at 3/8 inch for my 1941 pattern, which has 1/2 inch seam allowances.
    My first back stay was too big.  (I put pink ribbon on my pinking shears to distinguish them from my other shears.)

    My first back stay was too big. (I put pink ribbon on my pinking shears to distinguish them from my other shears.)

    I noticed that Kenneth didn’t mention directionally stitching the stay. When he showed what to stitch (stitching was off-camera),  he indicated the starting point and pointed all the way to the other end in one continuous motion rather than pointing from each side and ending at the center back.   I’d like to know his opinion about when directional stitching matters.

    I had included a seam allowance in my back stay pattern. Now it's fixed.

    I had included a seam allowance in my back stay pattern. Now it’s fixed.

  • Reinforced the vent with muslin strips. They’re cut to cover from the raw edge to the fold line and from the fold of the hem to the bottom of the center back seam. Kenneth demonstrated a running stitch to attach the muslin, making invisible stitches where they might be seen from the right side.
    The underlap is interfaced with muslin.

    The underlap is interfaced. The pressed-in edge will be catch-stitched to the muslin. The seam allowance is clipped so the seam will lie flat.

    He pressed in about 1/4 inch on the underlap and catchstitched the fold to the muslin. He clipped diagonally into the seam allowance above the vent so the center back seam would lie open and flat.

So my jacket back is complete, and I’m ready for the jacket fronts.

The back is done for now.

The back is done for now.

Pattern Work: Old School

Readers,

I’ve gathered my materials and tools for making my 1941 McCall “Misses’ Mannish Jacket” following the “old school” method in Smart Tailoring with Kenneth King.IMG_6680 (460x386)

The next segment on the DVD covers pattern work, where Kenneth shows you how to generate lining and support pieces and a “hidden pocket” for your jacket.

For the most part I understood Kenneth’s directions and explanations. With some effort  I could see the different colored lines he used to distinguish neighboring or overlapping pieces drafted from the same main piece. He also pointed and explained clearly, so I had three ways to absorb the information.

The newly traced off front. My old front piece was pretty ragged from wear.

The newly traced off front. My old front piece was pretty ragged from wear.

However, the pattern I’m using is just different enough and my knowledge gaps are just wide enough that I didn’t know quite what to do in a few instances.

Part of tailoring is knowing when to follow an instruction exactly and when to make a judgment call depending on the characteristics of your particular pattern or materials. So I made my best guess.

Here are the pattern pieces I made:

From the front piece I made:

  • A front interfacing, or body canvas. Most of this is straightforward tracing–of the shoulder, gorge line, and opening edge. Then from about 3 inches below the armhole you draw in a curve toward the front edge that quickly goes straight down to the fold line of the hem.  This will be cut from tailor’s canvas.
    This piece will be cut from tailoring canvas to support the front. Is this the right width? Should I cut it narrower and skip the dart?

    This piece will be cut from tailoring canvas to support the front. Is this the right width? Should I cut it narrower and skip the dart?

    • Observations:
      • It took me a while to realize why my front pattern piece was larger than Kenneth’s. His jacket pattern has a side panel. Mine doesn’t: the front piece wraps around to the back.
      • I was curious how much interfacing I’d put on the fronts of the four jackets I’ve made from this pattern. For once, a hole in a lining served a purpose: I was able to peep inside and see that my green jacket front was fully interfaced with the fusible canvas–and it has worked just fine for nine years.
        Oops--a hole in my lining!

        Oops–a hole in my lining! No, it’s a piece of luck.

        Let's look inside. How much interfacing did I use? The whole front is fused with canvas.

        Let’s look inside. How much interfacing did I use? The whole front is fused with canvas.

        But on another jacket that much canvas would be too much.

    • Questions:
      • Is there a rule of thumb about how much canvas to use in the front? I wonder about a noticeable difference between the interfaced and uninterfaced areas.
  • A front facing.

    • Observations:
      • Kenneth’s jacket front doesn’t have a shoulder dart, so tracing off a facing piece off a flat front was quick. My jacket front does have a shoulder dart, so I had to fold it out before creating the facing piece. That meant the front wasn’t flat now, and I couldn’t remember how to make a guaranteed perfectly fitting facing off a distorted pattern piece.

        I closed the shoulder dart before drafting the facing.

        I closed the shoulder dart before drafting the facing. Now there is a ripple. How do I make an accurate facing when my pattern piece is distorted? (I know, this is basic patternmaking knowledge.)

      • Kenneth explains what favoring is, also referred to as turn of cloth. He shows where and how to add or subtract from the facing piece to have the lapel and front edge seam positioned correctly.
    • Questions:
      • How do I draft a facing for a pattern piece distorted by a dart, and how do I determine the grainline for the new piece?
      • I have allowed for turn of cloth in a facing before, but never where the facing and lining join opposite the lapel area. I don’t really get that.
  • A front lining piece.
    • Observations: Kenneth shows how the lining and facing are drafted in tandem. The front lining is 3/4′ shorter than the front, and the shoulder has a little extra room for the shoulder pad.

      The lining and facing drafts. No seam allowance where they join has been added yet.

      The lining and facing drafts. No seam allowance where they join has been added yet.

    • Questions: I didn’t see or hear any reminder to include seam allowances where the lining and facing join. Did I miss something? The lining pieces are 3/4″ shorter. Is that assuming a seam allowance of 5/8″? My seam allowance is 1/2″. Should I shorten my lining pattern pieces less than 3/4″?

From the back piece I made:

  • A back lining piece. Like the front lining, it’s 3/4″ shorter and has a little extra room for the shoulder pad.

    Back lining, with allowance for a pleat, and the back stay.

    Back lining, with allowance for a pleat, and the back stay.

  • A back stay. The stay, which will be cut from muslin, will support the upper back.
    This back piece is curved a little, so it can't be cut on the fold. However, I straightened out the curve for the stay. Is that okay?

    This back piece is curved a little, so it can’t be cut on the fold. However, I straightened out the curve for the stay. Is that okay?

    • Question: The jacket Kenneth is using has a straight seam in the upper back, so he can go ahead and draft a back stay that can be cut on the fold. My jacket back piece has a little curvature in the upper back.  To draft my back stay I pretty much split the difference so I could have a back stay piece I could cut on the fold. Is that okay, or is there a better way?

From the upper and under sleeves I made:

  • Upper and under sleeve lining pieces.

    The upper sleeve lining pattern is cut without the little vent thing. Both sleeve linings will be cut shorter than the sleeves.

    The upper sleeve lining pattern is cut without the little vent thing. Both sleeve linings will be cut shorter than the sleeves.

From the front lining piece created earlier I drafted:

  • A hidden pocket piece. The “hidden pocket” is inserted between the facing and front lining. Kenneth shows where to position this pocket and what size to make it. (Big enough for the wearer’s hand, of course.)
    The "hidden pocket" is drafted off the front lining piece.

    The “hidden pocket” is drafted off the front lining piece.

    • Questions: I didn’t hear anything about adding a seam allowance at the opening or around the edge. Did I miss something? Also, the hidden pocket is drafted so that it crosses the seam of the side panel. The pocket can be anchored to that seam allowance so it doesn’t get bunched up inside the jacket. My jacket has no side seam. What can I anchor the pocket to?

What remains to be drafted is the upper collar from the under collar. I’m holding off till I watch more of Smart Tailoring and understand the reasoning.

Kenneth shows the finished dimensions of the under collar.

For the upper collar, since we’re essentially upholstering the upper collar to the under collar, we just want a piece that’s bigger. So as you can see, I’ve added 5/8″ all around these edges and traced this off. So this puts the center back on the fold and the lengthwise grain goes this way.

  • Questions:
    • I already have under and upper collar pieces, so I wonder what’s the reason for doing this. Does it have to do with accuracy and control later on?
    • No mention was made at this point about adding for turn of cloth in the upper collar. Will the upper collar favor the under collar?

Kenneth ends this segment reassuringly:

Now we have all our pattern pieces done. It bears repeating that if you have a well-fitting jacket, you’ve gone through all of the effort to make the muslins to make this jacket beautifully fitting, put your old pattern pieces away. Use the pieces you’ve generated your well-fitting muslin with, and do these steps to that. These will fit any pattern from any company. This is formula. This will ensure that all of the parts and pieces fit together and you don’t have to worry about adjusting any of the other pattern pieces.

This is formula. You don’t have to worry.

When Kenneth said that, my point of view shifted.

I really began to see my jacket and coat patterns as fundamentally alike. What differentiates them are style details much more than construction techniques.

Making all the jackets and coats I want is beginning to sound lots more doable.

Formula. My new favorite word.

I like vintage patterns with stamps or stickers from the store. Stark Dry Goods was in Canton, Ohio.

I like vintage patterns with stamps or stickers from the store where they were bought. Stark Dry Goods was in Canton, Ohio.

Getting Things Sewn Turns 2

Readers,

Yesterday, February 16, meant that another year has gone by and Getting Things Sewn is 2.Two_candles_Happy_bday_0267 (460x386)

In Getting Things Sewn’s second year, the grand total of things I got sewn was…

Zero!

You heard right. Zero.

I did make progress, however.

Let’s take a walk down Sewing Blog Memory Lane and see what has happened since last February 16:

After Jack and I decided to sell our house in Minneapolis, Minnesota and move to Columbus, Ohio I planned my new sewing-space-to-be by zones instead of defaulting to one big storage space.

I got ready for packing and moving by reading a stack of books on decluttering,IMG_5147 (460x345) and learned how to plan my wardrobe reading the newly published Looking Good…Every Day.IMG_5148 (345x460)

I got a good start on a 1959 Vogue jacket, taming ravelly fabric and testing the collar piece

I trimmed closely to the zigzagging without trimming it away.

I trimmed closely to the zigzagging without trimming it away.

and making samples of bound buttonholes

Will it fit comfortably?

Will it fit comfortably?

and the pocket

The pocket is pinned to the front, aligning the stitching box with the one I traced onto the front.

The pocket is pinned to the front, aligning the stitching box with the one I traced onto the front.

before I closed down my basement sewing domain.

I learned about a fabulous trade journal, American Fabrics, that was the highlight of my field trip to the American Craft Council’s library

The hope and optimism of postwar America.

The hope and optimism of postwar America.

(although the corgis did steal my heart).

Penny and Loretta, office dogs and unofficial mascots of the American Craft Council, greeted me.

Penny and Loretta, office dogs and unofficial mascots of the American Craft Council, greeted me.

Our advice columnist, Miss GTS, told a desperate reader how to pack up her UFO to finish later.

Miss GTS says "An UnFinished Object doesn't have to be an UnFun Object!"

Miss GTS says “An UnFinished Object doesn’t have to be an UnFun Object!”

Inventing an intuitive, easy, and painless system, I edited my pattern stash

Duplicates other patterns. ditto, too much design ease, not my style.

Duplicates other patterns. ditto, too much design ease, not my style.

and reported the results.

Weighing in at a slender 5 lbs 4 oz

Weighing in at a slender 5 lbs 4 oz

I went to the Textile Center’s Fabric Garage Sale and bought gorgeous yardage

This was only the beginning.

This was only the beginning.

to pair with my growing collection of vintage buttons.

These translucent buttons seem right for this lighter-weight linen.

These translucent buttons seem right for this lighter-weight linen.

Jack and I bought a house in Columbus

With Kelly, our great real estate agent.

With Kelly, our great real estate agent.

and put our house in Minneapolis on the market.

The cottage is for sale!

The cottage is for sale!

I made a field trip to Lancaster, Ohio to see a show of costumes designed by Edith Head,

A clip from The Big Clock showing Maureen O'Sullivan in her suit with the fetching faux bow.

A clip from The Big Clock showing Maureen O’Sullivan in her suit with the fetching faux bow.

and returned to meet the old girl herself.

Who would have thought?

Who would have thought?

I made a field trip to New York to participate in Peter Lappin’s annual Male Pattern Boldness Day. Peter gets the credit (or blame?) for inspiring me to start my own blog.

I set up my sewing room in our new home, making a floor plan with zones.

Moving paper is easier than moving tables!

Moving paper is easier than moving tables!

With a sewing room, but no sewing community developed yet, I wondered what it would take for me to make progress.

A sewing blogger must wear many hats.

A sewing blogger must wear many hats.

It continued to be clear that I need fitting and pattern-altering help from an expert, and I found one teaching classes at Columbus’s Cultural Arts Center.

Columbus, Ohio's Cultural Arts Center offers classes in painting, metal work, and much more.

Columbus, Ohio’s Cultural Arts Center offers classes in painting, metal work, and much more.

As a bonus, I’ve gotten to meet wonderful classmates who are fast becoming sewing friends.

I continued to want to make beautiful jackets and coats, but more than ever I wanted to make the process enjoyable and not only the result. When I learned about a brand new DVD set about tailoring, I ordered it right away.IMG_6704 (288x460)

Watching Smart Tailoring, I thought it would be both instructive and fun to sew jackets following Kenneth King’s “old school” and “new school methods.” I am gathering my materials

Tailoring canvas and a June Tailor board for jacket-making

Tailoring canvas and a June Tailor board for jacket-making

and tools

 These tailor point scissors are indispensable.

These tailor point scissors are indispensable.

and am about to do the pattern work for my first “old school” jacket.

As I look back over Getting Things Sewn’s second year, I see the predictable disruptions of househunting, house-selling, packing, moving, and settling in. But I also see a very promising beginning to my new local sewing community. I am finding people to say “Wow!” to where I live and online. I’ve come to see that’s essential to building and maintaining my momentum.

I am also finding people to say “How?” to–experts who can inform and nudge me to build my fund of knowledge and experience.

Zero things sewn wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for year 2.

But as for year 3 I’m off to a great start. IMG_6373 (460x308) (2)

If you ask me, there’s nowhere to go but up.

In the elevator of Columbus's great LeVeque Tower, built 1927.

In the elevator of Columbus’s great LeVeque Tower, built 1927.

(Thanks to Cynthia DeGrand for candles photo.)

Gathering My Tailoring Tools

Readers,

After covering tailoring materials in disc 1 of Smart Tailoring, Kenneth King moves on to tailoring tools.

“In tailoring, as in all sewing,” he says emphatically, “pressing is the most important thing. You can save bad sewing with good pressing, and you can ruin good sewing with bad pressing. So the most important tool in the whole pressing pantheon, as we say, is the steam iron.”

At this point Kenneth picks up his iron, which gives a satisfying shoosh! as he releases a cloud of steam for the camera.

“This particular iron is called a Reliable; it’s a steam-generator iron; it produces a lot of steam.”

Does it ever. It’s a Reliable i300. Now I want an iron that makes that shoosh! The sound alone would make me a better sewer, wouldn’t it?

“You don’t necessarily have to have this particular iron–it’s the deluxe version. But you want a good iron that gives good, reliable steam, and good pressing tools.

I recall Kenneth in his post “My New Iron!” on the Threads website delightedly reporting being able to shoot steam a distance of four feet with his Reliable i500.

My Rowenta’s steam production is nothing like that. But maybe it’s up to the task of steam-pressing my jacket pieces from a distance of zero feet.

If I clean it more regularly maybe my iron will put out enough steam.

If I clean it more regularly maybe my iron will put out enough steam.

When you’re pressing there are two things that happen: you need steam and heat to make the fibers malleable.

Yes, got it.

Then you need to draw the steam and heat away from the fabric to set the press. It’s kind of like setting your hair.

Setting hair I know nothing about, but drawing steam and heat away from the fabric? Somehow I’ve never paid attention to this vital information. How do I do that?

Kenneth moves on to a couple of wood pressing tools:

  • the point presser (commonly called the June Tailor Board), which is great for pressing open seams along its straight and curved edges, and

    I find my June Tailor Board indispensable for pressing open seams.

    I find my June Tailor Board indispensable for pressing open seams.

  • the clapper, which can press and draw away moisture from a lapel that’s been steamed.

    My combination point presser and clapper, which I bought secondhand.

    My combination point presser and clapper, which I bought secondhand.

Drawing moisture away is very important in your pressing tools. That’s why these tools are made of hardwood. Hardwood is really important. Don’t use softwood.

Your pressing surface, ideally, should be wood. If it’s not wood, it could be like an ironing board. You want a wool or cotton bat over the surface, then you want a canvas or muslin on top of that.

Whatever my ironing board cover's made of, it's definitely not cotton.

Whatever my ironing board cover’s made of, it’s definitely not cotton.

I begin to wonder, What is my ironing board cover made of?

When I removed the cover, I found a layer of foam.

When I removed the cover, I found a layer of foam.

Avoid the Teflon covers, because what happens with a Teflon cover is that instead of pulling this steam and heat away from the fabric it just bounces it right back. You won’t ever get a satisfactory press with a Teflon cover.

Surely I don’t have a Teflon cover! How could I not know?

What's the pad made of? Who knows?

What’s the pad made of? Who knows?

One thing is certain: that cover is not an absorbent natural fiber. Now I wonder how much the cover is to blame for cotton shirts and linen tablecloths never getting as good a press as they should have had. Goodbye, ironing board cover!IMG_6748 (345x460)

Hello Bed, Bath and Beyond. In my debate over whether to make or buy, buy won this time. Scanning the ironing board cover choices I went for the cotton cover with polyester padding that came with an iron rest.

This is not a giant, oddly shaped shower cap.

This is not a giant, oddly shaped shower cap.

My first iron rest.

My first iron rest.

The old cover came off, revealing a foam layer covering a pad of unknown material. Yuck.

Surely the new cover is an improvement over what I had, isn’t it?

The new--temporary--cover is cotton, with a polyester pad.

The new–temporary–cover is cotton, with a polyester pad.

But I just searched “ironing board cover” on the PatternReview.com forums and found all the advice I could ever want about making my own. Make or buy? Make–soon.

But back to tools. On to seam rolls. Mine is standard issue. Kenneth has made several of his own from plowed rail (like the wooden handrail on a staircase) and covered them. They’re flat on the bottom so they don’t roll, and they’re high enough to elevate the seam above the pressing surface and not wrinkle the surrounding fabric.

This seam roll has been flattened from so much pressing over the years.

This seam roll has been flattened from so much pressing over the years.

Next is a thick pad–Kenneth shows a piece of thick tapestry fabric, but a dishtowel or bath towel would do as well–as a pressing surface to elevate a lapel a little so it isn’t flattened too much when pressed.

Then, a silk organza press cloth, which is sheer enough to see what you’re pressing. And if you want extra moisture, he says, “when you  lay it down, you take your spritzer and you can spritz over the organza and press, and that way you get the moisture into the fabric.”

Then Kenneth covers sleeve boards. Mine is smallish, fine for my sleeves but not so much for the shirts I sew for Jack. Kenneth’s is a commercial one.

My sleeve board.

My sleeve board.

On the topic of cutting tools Kenneth says “Cutting tools are very important. They should be sharp, they should be sharp, they should be sharp.”

My Gingher tailor point scissors are wonderful!

My Gingher tailor point scissors are wonderful!

His favorite is a scissor called a tailor point, with a 5 1/2 inch blade. It can cut through many layers of fabric without strain. One scissor blade has a knife edge, which can start the cut to open a welt pocket.

I guess this is the knife edge...

I guess this is the knife edge…

The other blade has a bevel edge which you can use to grade seams.

and this must be the bevel edge.

and this must be the bevel edge.

I never heard or noticed that the blades were different.

“This is like the sports car of scissors. I can’t live without them,” he says.

I agree–they are wonderful. Just be super careful not to cut yourself. (I haven’t, so far.)

Next is a tailor’s brush, made with stiff bristle and very fine brass wire, which can brush out unwanted shine on a fabric that’s been touched by an iron for too long.

Finally, Kenneth shows a shaving brush whose rounded form he trimmed flat. He swears by it for effectively whisking away chalk marks on wools.

I think of the shaving brush I gave Jack 30-some years ago that has long been waiting to see the light of day again. How about repurposing it as a tailoring tool?

Will this shaving brush get a new job assignment?

Will this shaving brush get a new job assignment?

I like the idea. But how best to cut the bristles evenly, I don’t know. I think I’ll bring the brush to Cleveland in July and ask Kenneth King himself.

Next comes pattern work!

Next comes pattern work!