What Works, What Doesn’t: Five Versions of the McCall “Mannish Jacket” from 1941

Readers,

Remember this jacket pattern? Of course you do.

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From 1941, McCall pattern 4065, the “Misses’ Mannish Jacket”

In 2015 I used it for a project following Kenneth King’s “Old School” instructions on his Smart Tailoring DVD.

From 2003 to 2015 I made up this jacket five times.

Don’t ask me why, but I always loved the jaunty pattern illustration.

The actual jackets? I didn’t love them, exactly, although I was proud of the quality of work I did on parts of them.  Only recently (like five minutes ago) did I make this crucial distinction.dark_tweed_jacket_1712-247x460

dark_tweed_jacket_1715-219x460

If I had seen well-lighted, full-length photos of this first version of the jacket on me I could have perfected the fit.

I made the dark tweed one first, starting it in a Palmer-Pletsch sewing camp in Portland, Oregon in 2003 and finishing it at home with guidance from my sewing teacher, Edith.dark_tweed_jacket_1721-460x363dark_tweed_jacket_1722-460x403

In 2006, in a stunt of sewing bravado, I sewed burgundy plaid, green heather, and red plaid versions. purple_plaid_jacket_1732-244x460

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The only jacket I’ve ever interfaced with fusible canvas. I know Kenneth King isn’t a fan of fusible canvas, but it turned out to work well in this garment.

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red_plaid_jacket_1792-242x460

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I need a little posture-correcting here!

Defiantly shaking my fist at the sewing gods, and with Edith’s encouragement and coaching, I cut the pieces for all three jackets (two requiring meticulous matching) over that Labor Day weekend.  Relaxing, right?

purple_plaid_jacket_1745-460x319

I have always liked this plaid for its colors and scale.

I just didn’t want to be intimidated by tailoring anymore, so I cut and sewed the three jackets, with different pockets, over the course of several months.

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It’s fun to cut some plaid pieces on the bias. I cut out a hole the shape of the finished flap from stiff paper, and moved the “preview window” around on the yardage. Then I cut the flap pieces.

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It’s nice when you can find the right buttons in the right sizes. These are a souvenir of a visit to Edinburgh.

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Bound buttonholes are not my forte.

 

I had a few tutorials with Edith and also used Jackets for Real People by Patti Palmer and Marta Alto extensively.heather_jacket_1780-460x331

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The bound buttonhole is coming apart. But–I love the subtle coloring of this fabric! I picked it up as a remnant for about $3.00 at the Minnesota Textile Center’s fabulous annual fabric garage sale.

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I’m happy with the shoulders and notched collar job I did. This wool was a breeze to work with.

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Holes in the lining created from carrying tote bags of books to and from the libraries I used to work at. Of all the jackets, I’ve worn this one the most.

I did learn a lot, and achieved a lot, and am still impressed by the ambition of the goal as well as the results.red_plaid_jacket_1808-460x357

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I settled for this style of button but think there are better choices out there. Something subtle and matte.

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Shoulders are okay, but I keep wanting to subtract a little roominess from the upper bodice.

But if the point of sewing clothes is to wear the clothes, then I didn’t succeed as much as I assumed I would.  I didn’t follow through with planning outfits around these jackets, let alone making the jackets the pivotal pieces they deserved to be.

Even though my now four “Misses’ Mannish Jackets” were underemployed in my wardrobe, yet again I turned to this pattern when I wanted to try Kenneth King’s brand new Smart Tailoring DVD last year.blue_tweed_jacket_1818-252x460

I wanted to try all of Kenneth’s techniques–for a notched collar, felt undercollar, mitered sleeves, and a vent–and the Mannish Jacket met all those specs. blue_tweed_jacket_1856-460x384

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This is Kenneth King’s “hidden pocket”: a nice addition to the lining.

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The patch pockets on this 1941 jacket are slightly asymmetrical, which I like.

I did consider many other patterns I’d been dying to try for years–but the prospect of going through the whole muslin, fitting, and pattern-altering rigamarole before getting to the tailoring was just too much. I wanted to finish my jacket before attending Kenneth’s weekend workshop in Cleveland a few months later. (And I did.)

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This fabric, which I bought at a Textile Center of Minnesota sale, may well date to the 1950s. It likely came from somebody’s stash. The button dates to the 1940s, according to the owner of Taylors Buttons in London.

So that’s how Mannish Jacket 5 came to be: I sewed it as a learning exercise. And the fabric?  I chose that only because I was willing to sacrifice it, if the jacket was a dud. So, looking back, I see just how much learning technique took precedence over making myself something I wanted to wear.

In fact, just now I’m realizing that each of these Mannish Jackets may have been taken on a little too self-consciously as An Exercise in Sewing Self-Improvement.

I suspect this because, when I see these jackets hanging in my closet I hear myself saying:

  • “I put a lot of work into that.”
  • “I did a good job [matching the plaid/sewing the pockets/choosing the buttons].”
  • “I learned a lot.”
  • “I wish I hadn’t padded the shoulders so much.”
  • “Are they too long for me?”
  • “My bound buttonholes are too flimsy!”
  • “I do love the fabric.”
  • “If I just sew the right coordinates, I’ll wear them.”

In other words, I still see them as projects more than as garments.

I don’t notice myself saying:

  • “I love these jackets!”
  • “When can I wear them again?”
  • “What can I sew now to make new outfits?”

Don’t get me wrong: the Mannish Jacket series wasn’t a waste of time. I did learn a lot–and not just how to sew a notched collar without flinching.  But there will be no Mannish Jacket number 6.

What I had only vaguely felt–a sense that, however hard I had worked on these garments, they still fell short, without my knowing precisely why–became clear to me when I saw the stark reality in properly lighted photos.

These jackets were wearing me more than I was wearing them.  The shoulders? Wider than I’d realized before, and not in a flattering way.

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I am very dissatisfied with the prominent sleeve caps; they interrupt a clean, straight shoulder line. It doesn’t help that the shoulders are too extended for me. This is the same pattern I used for the preceding four jackets, yet this one turned out so different.

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This is too big! So exasperating. Also, I wonder whether I made the best interfacing choices. They are so hard to get right.

The length?  Disproportionate on me. The back? Too roomy.  This is the 1941 version of–yes, a boyfriend jacket! Of course!

I could alter the pattern pieces for future jackets, narrowing the back and shoulder and taking three or four inches from the 26 1/2″ finished length.  I could make a better-fitting Mannish Jacket. However, I think I’d be removing much of what makes the 1941 design distinctive. I also think my appetite for this style has been satisfied.

Instead, I’ll reassign Jacket 5 from bench-sitting as a garment to active duty as a tailoring resource.  And jackets 1 through 4 can serve occasionally as light coats flung over sweaters or flannel shirts and jeans to wear on crisp, dry, fall days.

There are critical points on the way to getting things sewn, where, if I do make the extra effort to identify the lessons, I can reap the full benefit.

As I look back at what my Mannish Jackets could teach me, some lessons are:

  • Photos of myself in muslins and garments give me much better data to work with than squinting in a mirror or getting feedback from well-intentioned helpers.
  • If the point of sewing most garments is to wear them in outfits, I should pay a lot more attention to the outfit level of planning.
  • Planning outfits is a skill in itself. If I plan outfits before I sew the garments, I’m more likely to enjoy really successful outcomes.  If I sew the garment and then only hope I can incorporate it into an outfit, then I’m more likely to be disappointed.
  • It’s okay to sew something as a rehearsal for the next iteration–as long as I’m aware that what I’m producing is just a practice piece. If it does become part of my wardrobe, that’s a bonus.

Lessons learned.  Now to incorporate them into new practices and put myself on an even more rewarding path.

(Thanks to Cynthia DeGrand for all photos.)

 

Class: Tailoring Details with Kenneth D. King

Readers,

That humming sound you hear is coming from my head, which is still spinning from spending last weekend at Janie’s Sewing Corner in Cleveland, Ohio.

Students gather around Kenneth for a closer look.

Students gather around Kenneth for a closer look.

That’s where I joined 31 fellow sewers to see Threads magazine contributing editor, adjunct professor at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, and self-described “couturier to the stars” Kenneth D. King demonstrate tailoring and couture techniques for about 11 packed hours spread over two days.

The class description on Janie’s website read, “Kenneth will teach a workshop on tailoring details, focusing on old-school techniques the first day and more modern techniques the second day.”

Actually, Kenneth led off on Day 1 with his “new school” tailoring innovations–not that it mattered, since nearly all of us had signed up for both days.

I had e-mailed Kenneth earlier in the week:

Hello Kenneth,
I thought I would drop you a line to say how much I look forward to meeting you Saturday and Sunday at Janie’s Sewing Corner.

I also wanted to tell you that I bought Smart Tailoring the day it was announced on the Taunton website, and made a jacket following your “old school” methods. I was going to follow up with a “new school” jacket, but remained confused about the collar-lapel pattern adaptation, so I will learn from you this weekend and then produce a “new school” jacket—the first of many, I think.

I documented the process of making my jacket using Smart Tailoring on my blog, Getting Things Sewn. In this post, http://gettingthingssewn.com/tailoring-with-kenneth-king/ I explain why I took on this project.

Sewing is not easy for me, but I’m capable of good work, especially with expert help. I look forward to getting my questions answered this weekend!

Thank you, Kenneth,
Paula DeGrand

Minutes later Kenneth replied:

Hello, Paula,

Be sure to bring your pattern, and I’ll show how to adapt the under collar to the body for everyone else to learn….
See you this weekend!
Kenneth

Yippee!

So in class I was prepared when Kenneth asked me to retrieve the pattern pieces for the under collar and front of the pattern I was trying to adapt for a “new school” jacket. He pinned the front to his flip chart, and then pinned on the under collar at the notch on the neckline. He pinned the collar to the chart at a second point, showing a gap between the two pattern pieces.

I was watching intently and scribbling notes at the same time and didn’t even think to take a picture. Here are my notes, in their entirety:IMG_9636 (460x192)Okay: “gap…curve…take out there…add back here…make a muslin…my jacket does have a peaked lapel…this adaptation does work for peaked lapels…” I have fragments here, but not a clear picture.

I don’t write fast enough, and I barely grasp patternmaking principles, which are both big impediments in a fast-paced sewing class.

In short,  it is still a mystery to me how to combine the under collar and the front into a single pattern piece to simplify making a notched collar. How to “finesse some of that gap” remains beyond my grasp. I doubt a photo of the flip chart would have provided the solution to my puzzlement. I needed one-on-one instruction, and that wasn’t going to happen with 31 classmates that day.

The undercollar and front are a single piece, removing a seam and therefore bulk. Notice--no seamline between undercollar and front. The line of stitching is holding the stay tape along the roll line.

See this? No seamline between the undercollar and the front, which means one fewer pesky, bulky seam to deal with. This is the result I want to achieve with my own jacket pattern pieces.

When I do adapt my pattern at last, I’ll post a step-by-step process. Promise!

(See my previous three posts to read about attempting to adapt my pattern.)

On both days Kenneth taught at a steady, swift pace, frequently checking our faces for comprehension. One time I must have been staring back blankly, because he asked again if I was following him, and I said “I’ll have to practice to lock in the knowledge.” It was an honest answer, and it seemed to satisfy him.

When I looked at my notes I was astonished at all the ground Kenneth covered. For example:

  • How to make a muslin framework to suspend canvas inside a jacket front, providing support but avoiding bulky seams
  • How to tape a roll line and machine-stitch it in place through the canvas and fashion fabric

    The stay tape is stitched in place through the canvas and fashion fabric along the roll line.

    The stay tape is stitched in place through the canvas and fashion fabric along the roll line.

  • How to steam, press, and baste in the turn of cloth in a lapel
  • How to stitch a notched collar with a minimum of bulk, avoiding the usual “train wreck” of seams meeting in one place

    A notched collar "new school" style.

    A notched collar “new school” style.

  • How to make mitered cuffs
  • How to make a “hidden pocket” in a jacket front lining
  • How to remove bulk from a pocket flap pattern piece by cleverly relocating the seams
    The "origami" pocket flap means no bulk at the edges because the seam allowances have been shifted out of sight. This is the back.

    The “origami” pocket flap means no bulk at the edges because the seam allowances have been shifted out of sight. This is the back.

    This is the front of the flap. The edges are free of bulk.

    This is the front of the flap. The edges are free of bulk.

  • How to make a bulk-free seams and welt pockets in nonravelly materials like felt or leather
    Sketching a pocket for nonravelly materials like felt and leather.

    Sketching a pocket for nonravelly materials like felt and leather.

    The pocket in felt. Nice.

    The pocket in felt. Nice.

    The pocket bag of the felt pocket.

    The pocket bag of the felt pocket.

  • When a three-piece sleeve is better than a two-piece
  • How to draft a notched lapel from a shawl lapel
  • How to reason out the proportions of a garment in a fashion illustration or photograph from knowing the average neck-to-shoulder seam measurement and knowing that the elbow bends at the natural waist.
  • How to make a surgeon’s style jacket cuff with working buttonholes
    Surgeon's cuff, with working buttonholes.

    Surgeon’s cuff, with working buttonholes.

    The surgeon's cuff, neatly finished inside.

    The surgeon’s cuff, neatly finished inside.

  • How to make bound buttonholes and welt pockets of consistent dimensions and quality

    Kenneth  demonstrated bound buttonholes and neatly finishing the facing. That's silk organza.

    Kenneth demonstrated bound buttonholes and neatly finishing the facing. That’s silk organza.

  • How to smoothly install an invisible zipper
  • How to make fell stitches, tailor bastes, and pad stitches
  • How to stay curves even before cutting out the pattern piece
  • Why cut some seam allowances 1 inch wide and how to press out the ripples along the edges
  • How to make a Hong Kong finish the couture way

Both days Kenneth produced samples from scratch or finished ones he’d started and then passed them around for us to scrutinize and photograph.

Kenneth King demonstrated sewing a notched collar, "new school" style.

Kenneth King demonstrated sewing a notched collar, “new school” style.

What a nice looking felt collar.

What a nice looking felt collar.

He brought several jackets, familiar to users of his DVDs, books, and Threads articles, that we could look at inside and out.

The "new school" jacket that appears in the Smart Tailoring DVD.

The “new school” jacket that appears in the Smart Tailoring DVD.

His tool bag lay open on the table. It was fun to see the tools he had amassed or created over the years and how he used them.

Kenneth King's tool bag.

Kenneth King’s tool bag.

I’d never heard of a Florian pinker. “Pinking shears tend to chew some fabrics,” Kenneth said, as many of us nodded in agreement. When I saw how neatly this gadget trimmed edges, I wanted one for myself.

The Florian pinker

The Florian pinker

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“I’m all about having the right tool for the job,” Kenneth told us, and sometimes that means adapting a tool to improve it. He did not hesitate or apologize when removing a spring mechanism from a zipper foot, pronouncing it useless, and dropping it with a “plunk!” into the wastebasket.

We got more advice on equipment, tools, and supplies:

  • Don’t use a Teflon ironing board cover, which repels moisture rather than allowing steam to move through a garment
  • Collect and use good pieces of pressing equipment–tailors’ hams, a point presser, a clapper, sleeve rolls, a sleeve board
  • Get a really good iron. (Kenneth has a Reliable i600, which has amazing steam–and runs up an equally amazing electric bill.)
  • Have at least one pair of Gingher tailors’ scissors, and ship them back to Gingher to be sharpened.
  • A vacuum table? “Not really. Good for a dry cleaner. Too much for me.”
  • Use a trimmed shaving brush to remove chalk markings.
  • Iron thread for hand sewing, and it won’t twist
  • “Don’t cheap out on needles.”

Then there was the quotable Kenneth:

  • “I wasn’t formally trained except for patternmaking.”
  • “Know the rules.”
  • “Know when to break the rules.”
  • “I’m not wild about wearable art.” In couture, the wearer is more important than the garment; with wearable art the garment is more important than the wearer, he said.
  • “I believe in spending the time you need to get a beautiful result.”
  • “I’m lazy–I don’t want to do any more than I have to.”
  • “You need to put your time in where it shows.”
  • I’m very much about repeatable and reliable.”
  • “I’m known for handouts at FIT.” (And at Janie’s, too: We all got to take home a CD of Kenneth’s ten handouts for the classes.)

    Drafting a notched-collar jacket from a shawl collar pattern. Kenneth makes it look easy.

    Drafting a notched-collar jacket from a shawl collar pattern. Kenneth makes it look easy.

  • “When it’s all said and done, if it gives you a good result, it’s correct.”
  • “There’s this whole thing on directional sewing…” Kenneth disagrees: “I have a life…”
  • “A lot of Bemberg lining you can read a newspaper through, and I hate that.”
  • A tedious or time-consuming task is “a nosebleed.”
  • “I tell my students, ‘I started when I was 4; I’m 57–do the math.”
  • Sewing purists who endlessly debate fine points are “clutching their pearls” or “wrapped around the axle.”
  • Quoting Fred Astaire: “If you make the same mistake long enough, they assume it’s your style.”

Miscellaneous facts:

  • Kenneth takes his own photos for his Threads articles.
  • His next DVD in Threads’ “Smart” series will be about sewing fake fur.
  • He loves Fortuny fabric. (Shocking, I know.)
  • He takes a dim view of mimes.

Kenneth’s recommendations:

  • Better Dressmaking by Ruth Wyeth Spears is “one of those good all-around books from the forties.”
  • Check out the great content on Threads Insider, where Kenneth’s beautiful “bark coat” can be seen.
  • Support your local independent fabric store, which can provide supplies and services that the big chains can’t or won’t.
  • If you have a chance to take a class from Lynda Maynard, do it.

It’s been six days now since Tailoring Details with Kenneth King ended, and I’ve been thinking about what I got out of it.

  • I got to meet and listen to a master. I find being around any kind of mastery has a good effect on me.
  • I saw with my own eyes techniques demonstrated with successful results. (I am a little bit skeptical of most sewing directions–and directions in general.) I’m much more likely to try these techniques now.
  • I made, or renewed, the acquaintance of fellow sewers.
  • I bought myself an impressively large sleeve board.IMG_9632 (460x260)

It would be a shame, though, not to invest a little more effort to yield richer, longer-lasting rewards. Like:

  • Researching irons and buying a much better one
  • Making or buying the right ironing board cover
  • Seeing how far I could get following Kenneth’s handouts for his FIT students
  • Trying Kenneth’s bound buttonhole method
  • Trying his “origami” pocket flap, not only to reduce bulk but as a pattern-drafting exercise
  • Using my Threads and Threads Insider subscriptions more, and more strategically

And, most of all,

  • Continuing to amass experience and knowledge making jackets and coats.

Although I brought my “old school” jacket to class to show Kenneth and to ask questions about it, I may have given him a mistaken impression. If I had listed my specific questions in that e-mail earlier in the week, Kenneth probably would have woven those topics into his talk.

My jacket made following Kenneth's "old school" methods still needs a final press.

My jacket made following Kenneth’s “old school” methods still needs a final press.

Instead, my jacket waited in the wings and never got onstage. And when we wrapped up Sunday afternoon and Kenneth had a plane to catch, I thought it would be insensitive as well as untimely to press him for advice about–pressing, among other things.

But you know what? I’ll just look at my jacket again on my own and figure out what to do next.

Thanks, Janie! I'll be back!

Thanks, Janie! I’ll be back!

The Ripple Effect

Readers,

A few days ago I learned:

  • Kenneth King’s pattern adaptation for notched-collar jackets doesn’t work for peaked lapels.IMG_9104 (370x460)
  • I had picked a jacket pattern with a peaked lapel.IMG_9200 (334x460)
  • I was mistaken to think all peaked lapels look the same. They definitely don’t.

I so wanted to stop thinking about fusing jacket front and under collar pattern pieces into one piece.

Is this easy for an intermediate sewer like me?

Is this easy for an intermediate sewer like me?

I wanted to get down to the business of making a “new school” tailored jacket to pair with the “old school” one I’d made using Smart Tailoring.

Here's a jacket made with "old school" tailoring methods. I was planning to sew a "new method" companion to take to Kenneth King's class.

Here’s a jacket made with “old school” tailoring methods. I was planning to sew a “new method” companion to take to Kenneth King’s class.

But making the jacket any other way would not be “new school,” and I wouldn’t learn what I had set out to learn.

If I gave myself one more chance to learn this technique and succeeded, I’d still have four weeks to produce a “new school” jacket to bring to Kenneth’s class in Cleveland.

So I dug out yet another jacket pattern, one that I was pretty sure had a notched–not a peaked–lapel.  It’s McCall 7379. From 1933, the eBay vendor said.IMG_9224 (358x460)

Since only the pieces for View B were left, she listed the pattern for 99 cents. I snapped it up.IMG_9225 (303x460)

Yesterday I laid out the front and under collar pattern pieces.

The original pattern pieces, with the seam allowances.

The original pattern pieces, with the seam allowances.

The photocopied pattern pieces, with seam allowances cut off.

The pattern pieces photocopied onto tracing paper, with seam allowances cut off.

I sewed a muslin of the back, front, and under collar. It went together easily.IMG_9221 (460x345)I trimmed the seam allowances off the photocopied under collar piece and laid it on the muslin.

The under collar piece fits back onto the muslin, which is laid over a tailor's ham.

The under collar piece fits back onto the muslin, which is laid over a tailor’s ham.

As was expected, the under collar fit just fine, as it should.

Then I ripped out the back piece and laid out the front-under collar combo as flat as I could.

That didn’t mean it laid out perfectly flat, though. There was a ripple, which I could transfer from one place to another but couldn’t remove.

The ripple is between the shoulder seam and the dart.

The ripple is between the shoulder seam and the dart.

Now the rippled is between the dart and the lapel.

Now the ripple is between the dart and the lapel.

And this is where, once more, I found myself lost in a dark wood. I could not fathom what the rippled muslin pieces were telling me.

So a single, flat pattern piece, eliminating a bulky seam leading to a superior notched collar, remains beyond my grasp for a few more weeks.

In the meantime, I think I’ll sew up something from a tried and true pattern. I could use a change.

In Action is Better Than Inaction

Readers,

After I wrote my previous post, about how my plan to make a tailored jacket came to a grinding halt, I rallied. I posed my question in the PatternReview.com forum, Pattern Modifications, Design Changes & Pattern Drafting section:

I composed what I hoped would be a catchy title for my thread, “Success Using Kenneth King’s Notched Collar Adaptation?” Translation:

  • “Success.” We all want to know which instructions really, really work.
  • “Kenneth King.” He teaches online classes through Pattern Review and has an enthusiastic following.
  • “Notched Collar.” A thorn in the side of many sewers.
  • “Adaptation.” You mean there could be a better way? Tell me about it!

Then I wrote my question:

I am getting ready to make a jacket following Kenneth King’s “new school” method step by step on his Smart Tailoring DVD set. (I have only buttonholes left to do on a jacket that faithfully followed his “old school” method, which was quite successful. See my blog for the blow-by-blow.)
Here’s where I’m stuck–right at the beginning of my project. In this “new school” method you eliminate a seam and bulk from the notched collar by combining the front jacket pattern piece with the under collar piece. Kenneth illustrates this (briefly) in his April/May 2006 Threads article “A Notch Above,” which is also bonus material on the DVD. He also mentions this method on his Tailoring CD. I am NOT a natural at pattern-drafting, so I just could not fathom what to do and how to check my work.
Has anybody experienced success with Kenneth’s method? Any tricky parts to be aware of?
I will be taking Kenneth’s tailoring class in Cleveland in July so eventually I will get an answer with the amount of detail I need (which is a lot). However, I was hoping to produce another jacket before the class so I could test all the “new school” instructions and be ready with questions. Thanks for any help.

I hit Post Topic and then waited for replies to roll in.

Pretty soon a Pattern Review member answered. She was curious about this pattern-drafting trick, too.

Then another member wrote in. She scoured the Internet to help me, and found this photo, which she posted in the thread:

IMG_9988 (460x307)

Look familiar?

It’s a little strange to have a photo of a project from your own blog cited as the answer to your problem. But the intention was so very nice.

Even though I didn’t get a tidy little answer to my question, the tone of solicitude and interest from fellow sewers made me resolve to give this patternmaking method another try. I owed it to myself, and to my correspondents who were taking pains to ease me back onto the sewing road.

Sunday morning found me rifling through my patterns for another notched-collar jacket. I chose McCall 6425, a bolero jacket from 1946. I’ve been wanting to make this for years.IMG_9200 (334x460)

I traced off the front, back, and under collar and examined how the paper pieces fit together.IMG_9167 (297x460)

Then I made a muslin, and saw how the fabric pieces fit together.IMG_9177 (460x345)

Looking at my muslin through my light box--my homemade x-ray machine.

Looking at my muslin through my light box–my homemade x-ray machine.

I saw where the under collar intersected with the shoulder seam and transferred the marking to the pattern piece.

Matching the circle and the shoulder seam, I noticed that the seamline on the under collar was barely curved, while the front neckline was much more curved. The distance stitched was the same, though.

When I match the undercollar at the  circle and the shoulder seam, the stitching lines don't match.

When I match the undercollar at the circle and the shoulder seam, the stitching lines don’t match.

So, back to what I wanted to accomplish: combining the under collar and front. If the stitching lines don’t match, do I alter the under collar to compensate in some way? Transfer the difference to another edge? Does this make sense?

I was observing; I was reasoning, but I didn’t know the patternmaking principle to apply to this situation, so I was not solving the problem.

But something I had read on Kenneth King’s “Tailored Jacket” CD book came back to me. He describes eliminating the seam by combining the two pattern pieces, and then says,

An aside: This doesn’t work for peaked lapels, as the edges of the collar are too close together.

Then he shows a photo of a peaked lapel and a line drawing of the pattern pieces of a peaked lapel fitted together.

Peaked lapel. I traced this from Kenneth King's "Tailored Jacket" CD book and flipped it over.

Peaked lapel. I traced this from Kenneth King’s “Tailored Jacket” CD book and flipped it over.

I returned to my muslin and compared it with the drawing.

IMG_9165 (460x345)

The peak of chic.

Does my jacket have a peaked lapel? I’m thinking it does. At least, the pattern pieces are behaving like a peaked lapel.

After I’ve given my brain a good rest I may further investigate this matter of notched lapels, excluding those of the peaked kind.

Or I may wait a month. I will probably get all the information I need in a five- or ten-minute explanation and demo from Kenneth.

At least, Pattern Review correspondents, thanks to you, I made a good faith effort.

Take a peek at la belle in the swell peaked lapel.

Sneak a peek at la belle in the swell peaked lapel.

 

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.