McCall 4065, “Misses’ Mannish Jacket,” 1941

Readers,

A few days ago I had the jacket I’ve been making using Kenneth King’s Smart Tailoring DVDs properly lighted and photographed in my sister’s studio.IMG_6680 (460x386)

As you can see, I haven’t sewn the buttonholes or attached buttons yet.

What's left to do? Buttonholes, buttons, and a final press.

What’s left to do? Buttonholes, buttons, and a final press.

I’m pretty sure this fabric is old–possibly from the 1950s–judging from the shades of blues and greens that strike me as different from today’s.

What's going on here? The back vent is not hanging straight. Could pressing remedy this?

What’s going on here? The back vent is not hanging straight. Could pressing remedy this?

New buttons might look fine with this jacket, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to find vintage buttons with subtle shades that complement the coloring of this tweed and the style of this 1941 pattern?

A side view shows the upper and one of the lower patch pockets.

A side view shows the upper and one of the lower patch pockets.

And where better to conduct my search than London, home of mannish jackets and every sort of mannish jacket supplies? So when Jack and I get to London May 31, my quest will be uppermost in my mind.

The felt undercollar, fell stitched to the jacket body, looks nice.

The felt undercollar, fell stitched to the jacket body, looks nice.

The last time I was in London, for the Savile Row tailoring course at the Fashion and Textile Museum, I caught a cold and spent two days lying prostrate instead of dashing around checking out some new sewing and fashion sources, which was frustrating.

I like the way the upper collar wraps to the undercollar. I am wondering whether my sleeve cap is a little too filled out. I will ask Kenneth King when I take his class in July.

I like the way the upper collar wraps to the undercollar. I am wondering whether my sleeve cap is a little too filled out. I will ask Kenneth King when I take his class in July.

Fell stitching, close up. Here again I wonder whether I have put too much padding into the shoulder or sleeve cap.

Rookie fell stitching, close up. Here again I wonder whether I have put too much padding into the shoulder or sleeve cap.

I hope to visit those places this time, but as my sewing teacher Edith says, “You never know.” I may miss places I’d hoped to go to, yet discover other delightful places by sheer chance.

Here's the hidden pocket I learned to make. I think I'll put a hidden pocket into every lined jacket I make from now on.

Here’s the hidden pocket I learned to make. I think I’ll put a hidden pocket into every lined jacket I make from now on.

In a couple of hours Jack and I will leave for the airport. Our three-week trip will take us to a little town in Bavaria, Berlin (my first visit), Cambridge, and London.

The vent is...passable.

The vent is…passable. I was surprised to see how I made the underlap a little too long. I thought I had nailed this.

But the sleeve vent is not my finest work. I'll ask Kenneth how I can improve.

But the sleeve vent is not my finest work. I’ll ask Kenneth how I can improve.

We’re bringing the laptop, and barring technical difficulties, I plan to post during our travels.

Ready for takeoff!

Ready for takeoff!

Installing the Jacket Sleeves and Finishing the Lining–Old School

Readers,

Guess what? I finished my 1941 McCall “Misses’ Mannish Jacket,” except for buttonholes, yesterday!  I’ve handed my creation over to my capable photographer, Cynthia DeGrand, to shoot it in her studio this afternoon.

The linings have been basted to the sleeves to avoid getting twisted later. The tops of the linings remain loose.

The linings have been basted to the sleeves to avoid getting twisted later. The tops of the linings remain loose.

This past week found me following Kenneth King’s demos on his DVD set Smart Tailoring to set in the sleeves by hand and machine and complete sewing in the lining by hand according to “old school” methods.

Kenneth likes to distribute the ease over a long distance--the points I've marked with pins, where the sleeve flattens on itself.

Kenneth likes to distribute the ease over a long distance–the points I’ve marked with pins, where the sleeve flattens on itself.

Make two staggered rows of running stitches by hand inside the seam allowance by about 1/8 inch to ease the seam cap.

Make two staggered rows of running stitches by hand inside the seam allowance by about 1/8 inch to ease the seam cap.

The rows of hand stitching are staggered to gather the cap better.

The rows of hand stitching are staggered to gather the cap better.

As throughout this “old school” process, I was surprised how much I liked doing the handwork. Hand-basting the sleeve into the armhole gave me more control over distributing the ease, and I had no pins in my path when I machine-sewed the sleeve in place.

The right sleeve cap has been gathered and steam-pressed and -shrunk to shape.

The right sleeve cap has been gathered and steam-pressed and -shrunk to shape.

Oh--I forgot to spritz the left sleeve before I tried steaming and pressing the cap. Do not skip the water-spritzing step!

Oh–I forgot to spritz the left sleeve before I tried steaming and pressing the cap. Do not skip the water-spritzing step!

Similarly, I enjoyed more control stitching the lining in place by hand than by machine.

I have sewn this jacket pattern four times before and drafted a shoulder pad to fit, but Kenneth shows how to trim a commercial shoulder pad to fit.

I have sewn this jacket pattern four times before and drafted a shoulder pad for it, but Kenneth shows how to trim a commercial shoulder pad to fit.

With fleece from my stash and the shoulder pad pattern I made previously I made shoulder pads in a jiffy.

With fleece from my stash and the shoulder pad pattern I made previously I made shoulder pads in a jiffy.

When I try Kenneth’s “new school” methods from Smart Tailoring for a second jacket project I’m sure there will be more machine work, and I may be equally satisfied with the result. The big change may be that I will no longer see handwork as fussy or laborious. It certainly doesn’t have to be.

A sleeve head fills out the sleeve cap; Kenneth recommends using a a bias-cut wool flannel.

A sleeve head fills out the sleeve cap; Kenneth recommends using a a bias-cut wool flannel.

The 3" x 10" wool strip is folded and pressed, then zizzag-stitched, folded and pressed again to create tiers.

The 3″ x 10″ wool strip is folded and pressed, then zizzag-stitched, folded and pressed again to create tiers.

Press and steam-shrink the sleeve head to help mold it into its final shape.

Press and steam-shrink the sleeve head to help mold it into its final shape.

The shoulder pad aligns with the sleeve seam allowance.

The shoulder pad aligns with the sleeve seam allowance.

The fold of the sleeve head is placed about an eighth of an inch inside the seam allowance and then is opened up.

The fold of the sleeve head is placed about an eighth of an inch inside the seam allowance and then is opened up.

The sleeve head is unfolded and attached to the sleeve cap with a running stitch.

The sleeve head is unfolded and attached to the sleeve cap with a running stitch.

Although I finished the jacket as much as I could, I don’t have buttons for it yet so I can’t make the buttonholes. And without buttons and buttonholes it isn’t done and is still a project, not a garment.

Once stitched in place, the sleeve head will fold back on itself.

Once stitched in place, the sleeve head will fold back on itself.

The shoulder pads are in both sides, but the sleeve head is only on the right. The other sleeve cap looks a little collapsed.

The shoulder pads are in both sides, but the sleeve head is only on the right. The other sleeve cap looks a little collapsed.

I realized a few weeks ago that I might find wonderful vintage or vintage-looking buttons to go with this vintage pattern and fabric. So I’m waiting till I’m in London a few weeks from now to look in earnest.

In a little while I will join Cynthia and my jacket in the photo studio. See you back here in a couple of days, I hope!IMG_6681 (345x460)

Installing the Sleeve Lining–Old School

Readers,

The word “vent” is followed by “spleen” or “frustration” with some frequency, and I know why.

I spent yesterday afternoon trying to line my sleeve vents neatly the “old school” way following Kenneth King’s instruction in his Smart Tailoring DVD set. And while my first attempt was successful–after a fashion–it wasn’t pretty.

My first lined sleeve vent. Well, it can only get better, right?

My first lined sleeve vent. Well, it can only get better, right?

Apparently there is widespread aversion to lining sleeve vents among even professional sewers.

The sleeves started out innocently enough. Who could know what evil lurked within?

The sleeves started out innocently enough. Who could know what evil lurked within?

Checking some of my home sewing library sources I found only one–Vintage Couture Tailoring, by Thomas von Nordheim— that gave any instruction for lining sleeve vents specifically, as opposed to jacket and skirt vents.

Align the opened seams of the lining with the sleeve.

Align the opened seams of the lining with the sleeve.

Von Nordheim writes,

If you have a working vent construction, as in this jacket [used as the demonstration project in this book], the finishing at the hem is not quite as straightforward. Some Givenchy couture jackets in the author’s collection have fake vents, meaning the vent and blind buttonholes are only done in the shell fabric, but the lining is finished in a straight line around the hem as described. This could be considered a shortcut and not really acceptable in fine bespoke tailoring. Although rarely used, a vent and buttonholes on a sleeve should be made to work.

It does seem odd to bother making a vented sleeve and then use a cylindrical lining that almost entirely covers that lovely mitered overlap.

A running stitch secures the lining to the sleeve, so there's no problem with twisting.

A running stitch secures the lining to the sleeve, so there’s no problem with twisting.

We no longer live in the time when surgeons had vented sleeves so they could unbutton and roll them up in an instant to keep working while continuing to be properly attired.  (Where did I ever hear this explanation of vented sleeves, and is it even true?)

The running stitch starts about 6 inches down from the top of the seam and ends about 4 inches from the bottom.

The running stitch starts about 6 inches down from the top of the seam and ends about 4 inches from the bottom.

Who knows–maybe someday I will have a sink full of dirty dishes to wash when I’m wearing this “McCall Mannish Jacket,” and a bespoke tailor will be passing through the kitchen just as I unbutton and fold back my sleeves and plunge my bared forearms into the suds. The bespoke tailor will notice my beautifully lined vents and say, “Nice work–Gieves and Hawkes?”

Then I’ll wake up.

The underlap lining is stitched in before the overlap lining.

The underlap lining is stitched in before the overlap lining.

Well, if ever I should be in such a situation, I’d like to be prepared. So I gave Kenneth’s instructions a try.

The really tricky part–the only tricky part for me–was judging exactly where to cut into the lining. If you have sewn a vent you know what I mean, and if you haven’t and never will, you probably don’t care to read a boring description by an inept amateur, so I’ll save us both time.

The lining for the overlap is fell stitched along the hem and pick stitched along the vent. I need more practice to make my stitches smaller and more regular.

The lining for the underlap is fell stitched along the hem and pick stitched along the vent. I need more practice to make my stitches smaller and more regular.

The important thing to know about sewing a vented sleeve is there’s this slash you make in the lining so it will turn back just so, and the lining lies neatly and beautifully flat in just the right place with no fiddling.

Kenneth’s lining didn’t just lie beautifully–it reclined languorously, like an odalisque.

Before slashing the lining, I pinned it in place on the overlap.

Before slashing the lining, I pinned it in place on the overlap.

He made it look easy. The camera came in for a super closeup. Kenneth found the place to cut to, marked it with a pin, positioned his tailors’ scissors, and made one decisive clip.

I watched this seconds-long section repeatedly, trying to divine how he knew where to cut into this lining. Once you cut, there is no uncutting, so I wanted a formula to follow.

You see, in the aptitude battery I took a few years back I scored low in the paper-fold test, which measures how well you can imagine and recollect…uh…marks on paper that are hidden by folds.

Now, you might not think imagining and recollecting marks on paper hidden by folds is an aptitude until you’re up against lining a sleeve vent. Then you will have wished you scored higher. Because you have to be able to grasp how the lining lies now and what will happen if you cut into the lining at this angle or that angle and which is the best angle.

I tried to simulate the situation with a piece of folded paper, which at least helped me avert a full-out blunder.

Using a paper mockup I tried to imagine where to slash and fold back the lining. This little exercise helped some.

Using a paper mockup I tried to imagine where to slash and fold back the lining. This little exercise helped some.

After staring at my sleeve lining for so long you would have thought I was trying a new meditation exercise, I made a tentative cut, an irrevocable decision.

I finally took the plunge, slashed the lining, and turned it under to cover the overlap--with so-so results.

I finally took the plunge, slashed the lining, and turned it under to cover the overlap–with so-so results.

It was not too bad.

Not too good, either.

The resulting lined vented sleeve lacks finesse, but I can only go up from there, right?

I had another sleeve to go, another chance at achieving excellence in vent-lining, but the spirit was not willing. I opted to slipstitch the lining in place temporarily.

Left: the vent is lined. Right: I slipstitched the lining temporarily. I will finish the vent properly under Kenneth's tutelage in July.

Left: the vent is lined. Right: I slipstitched the lining temporarily. I will finish the vent properly under Kenneth’s tutelage in July.

I’ll bring the sleeve, which should be attached to the jacket shortly, to Kenneth’s tailoring details class in Cleveland in July to get advice from the maestro himself.

Together we can roll up our sleeves and plunge into the task of lining to impress even the most meticulous bespoke tailor–or surgeon.