I’ve been making more flat fell seams. The shirt I’ll make for Jack calls for them, and so does this anorak. So, having practiced using my flat fell foot following the directions on David Page Coffin’s Shirtmaking Techniques DVD last week, I felt pretty smug testing a flat fell seam using the anorak fabric.
My best guess is this fabric’s a cotton with a some spandex in it. When I burned a little sample a couple of weeks ago it had a burning-paper smell like cotton, and it didn’t have an ash like pure cotton but some solid residue. This fabric has a cross-grain stretch, which suggests spandex.
I say all this because this fabric resists not only wrinkling but also taking a good crease, which I thought might pose a problem feeding the fabric through the flat-fell foot. But no, I just needed to adjust to the characteristics of this blend. The resulting seam looks very good. I’m happy with it.
The armscye seam, where the sleeve attaches to the body of the garment, also is flat felled in the anorak.
David Page Coffin figured out a way to sew that seam neatly and accurately in shirts using the standard presser foot. It involves making the seam allowance of the sleeve cap 7/8 inch and then pressing in a fold of 3/8 inch. The seam allowance of the armscye is 3/8 inch.
You place the armscye on top of the fold of the sleeve cap, offsetting by 1/8 inch. Starting at the top of the sleeve cap, you stitch 3/8 inch in from the armscye, stopping every inch or two to align the two fabrics under the presser foot.
Then you stitch from the top of the sleeve cap to the other end of the armscye. Press this seam over a tailor’s ham. Then stitch the second line of stitching using the seam as your reference point. Done!
I made a good faith effort to cut the 7/8 and 3/8 inch seam allowances , make a template and press in the 3/8 fold, and align the fabrics under the presser foot exactly as directed. My reward was getting a fine result on the first try. Fantastic! What a confidence builder!
I think it also helped that the anorak’s sleeve cap had a gradual, not steep curve–a “bunny hill” of a sleeve cap that was easy to sew smoothly.
I’m not doing justice here to David Page Coffin’s DVD demo or written instructions, so if you’re really interested, do look at both.
Readers, I should have learned this wonderful technique when I was first exposed to it in my shirtmaking classes in 2005 and 2006. But I was convinced that all these different seam allowances and precise pressing and offset stitching was too fussy and I wouldn’t succeed.
So I stuck with the Vogue pattern instructions, which involved a lot of time-consuming trimming, pressing, pinning and unpinning. For all that work, my result from following the commercial pattern was often lumpy and uneven. When I refer to “slow sewing,” this isn’t what I mean.
Now that I’m seeing the great results from putting in just a bit more time up front to try construction techniques, I’m actually looking for tests to run to make actual construction go faster.
This is a big turnaround for me. I used to want to get right into the cutting and sewing, preparing only as much as absolutely necessary. Now I’m finding myself enjoying the preparation, not just enduring it. I’m succeeding more, and more quickly, than I’d expected, which is a great incentive. My investment of effort is building a stronger knowledge portfolio–in my head and my fingers–for all my future sewing endeavors.
Readers, I spent a lot of time in my former line of work learning policies and procedures that eventually were replaced by other policies and procedures. I went to computer training sessions that were superseded by other computer training sessions. I was not building a fund of knowledge that made me more valuable or brought me a greater sense of accomplishment with the years.
But in a few short hours I’ve learned to make flat fell seams that are beautiful, functional, and lasting.
With flat fell seams there’s no built-in obsolescence. And that suits me just fine.