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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)