It’s Easy, All Right–If You Know How

Readers,

Yesterday I sewed my buttons–the ones I bought recently at Taylors Buttons in London–on my 1941 McCall “mannish jacket,” which I sewed according to Kenneth King’s “old school” method in his Smart Tailoring DVD set.

This still needs a good press. I think I'll ask Kenneth for pointers on how to do the job right.

This still needs a good press. I think I’ll ask Kenneth for pointers on how to do the job right.

They look just right. In coloring, size, and style they fit right in with this tweed.IMG_9091 (327x460)

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The buttons probably date from the 1940s, as does the McCall pattern.

That was very satisfying.

I haven’t decided whether to sew this button on the sleeve vents. Although Maureen at Taylors Buttons told me that Savile Row tailors have used the same size button on men’s jacket fronts and sleeves, I’m wondering whether doing that on my significantly smaller jacket would look odd.

Would one button this size look odd on this sleeve vent?

Would one button this size look out of proportion on a sleeve this size?

I think I’ll wait and ask my classmates when I take Kenneth King’s tailoring class in Cleveland the end of July.  They’ll be happy to weigh in. Then I’ll decide what to do.

In addition to resolving the sleeve button issue I also need to give this jacket a good press or take it to a reputable dry cleaner. But again, I thought it would be great to take advantage of Kenneth’s fund of knowledge. Maybe my jacket can be used as an example for pressing dos and don’ts.

So the tweed jacket is as done as it can be for now. Time to turn to part two of my Smart Tailoring DVD project: making another jacket, this time using Kenneth King’s “new school” methods.

Two years ago I sewed this pattern in linen. For the "new method" project I planned to use this fabric and these vintage buttons.

Two years ago I sewed this pattern in linen. For the “new method” project I planned to use this fabric and these vintage buttons.

Monday I watched the first segment, “Pattern Work.” All of the tasks were straightforward: draft lining, back stay, and body canvas pieces, and adjust for turn of cloth.

All the tasks, that is, except one. That’s where I hit a snag. Rats.

On the DVD Kenneth says,

Here we have the body front. In the “old school” we had a separate collar piece. For the “new school” we draft the collar piece onto the body, as you can see here. You will join it at the gorge line so the entire piece is cut as one with the body. It will eliminate this seam later in the construction–it simplifies it tremendously.

If you’ve never sewn a notched-collar jacket you may not know how terror-inducing that highly visible stitching crossroads can be to get right–twice. The notch can be bulky, lumpy, uneven, and unfixable. With many hours of construction behind you, your only reward may be one ugly, unwearable jacket.

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From Threads magazine, May 2006, Kenneth King’s article on perfecting notched collars.

In the video Kenneth next turned his attention to drafting the front lining and facing and said nothing more about how to join the under collar and front pattern pieces. But surely the Threads magazine article, “A Notch Above,” in the Bonus Material section, would fill the gap.

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It would be so great to unlock the mystery. Once I understand this I may wonder what had been so confusing.

Well, my knowledge gap was apparently too big. As I’ve said before, I don’t easily grasp patternmaking principles. Once again, my low aptitude for structural visualization was getting in my way.

There is one thing I do know about patternmaking, though: you must focus with laser intensity on accuracy. Otherwise, don’t bother.

I pulled the under collar and front pieces from the jacket pattern I was planning to use, and laid them out. Unlike the pattern pieces illustrated in Threads, mine did not look like jigsaw puzzle pieces naturally fitting together. My pieces still had seam allowances on them, which could account for the lack of fit. But even without seam allowances my pieces did not nestle as I had hoped they would.

The curve in the under collar doesn't match the curve of the neckline. Is there a mistake here? My linen jacket turned out fine.

The curve in the under collar doesn’t match the curve of the neckline. Is there a mistake here? My linen jacket turned out fine.

Either there was a principle at work here that I didn’t understand, or an inaccuracy in my pattern pieces, or both. I didn’t know how to define the problem, so I didn’t know what to try to solve it. It was time to consult an expert.

Tuesday I met with my patternmaking teacher, who agreed to see me before her evening class got started. When I explained about combining pattern pieces to eliminate seams, she said this was something she’d done back in her patternmaking days in the fur industry.

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“It’s that easy.” Perhaps a step-by-step, illustrated process would help me understand this. I certainly hope so.

What I thought would take 15 minutes for Nina before class took much longer, because she tried to teach me along the way, and ended up making the design challenge into a demo for her students. When I left the classroom an hour and a half later I had a rough draft of the new pattern piece and a recommendation to make a muslin to test the result. But–not Nina’s fault–I was still confused how to test my pattern to make absolutely sure it was right before I proceeded.

I left with this rough draft of a single pattern piece. Where to go from here, exactly?

I left with this rough draft of a single pattern piece. Where to go from here, exactly?

As I left the classroom I was already thinking it would be best to learn Kenneth King’s method from Kenneth himself next month. I would reluctantly shelve my “new school” jacket project for now and turn my attention to other sewing projects for five weeks.

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The original lapels. (Regretfully, the top bound buttonhole is a little too high.)

But I suspect that this turn of events has a silver lining. Trying on this Butterick jacket today, I was a little dissatisfied with the style. The front buttons up higher than I like. Would it be easy to change the roll line and lengthen the lapel?

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I folded back the lapels and pinned them down. This length is more flattering on me.

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Would it be easy to change the roll line for next time?

And then I keep wanting to pinch out some fullness under the arm. And maybe raise the armhole a little…

Or maybe it’s time to choose a different pattern. When I do make a “new school” jacket it will be a more flattering cut and worth the wait.

Yesterday I began looking at my UFOs and patterns, pondering what projects I wanted to pursue between now and Kenneth’s class in five weeks. I gazed at my fabric stash as if standing before an open refrigerator wondering what I was hungry for.

Working steadily on my “old school” jacket for months I learned to put on the blinders to all those other tempting sewing projects. I may have learned too well though. Now I don’t know what to do next.

Well, just not yet. I am letting myself savor the possibilities.

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