Welcome to our first official RTW Tailoring Sewalong post! By now hopefully you have your toile/muslin fitted, and any pattern alterations done. If you are having any problems, post some photos in our Flickr pool or in the discussion board, and we’ll all do our best to give you helpful feedback. And if you’re not having problems, post photos anyway because we’d love to see what you’re making!
As promised, we are first going to make some small but important changes to our pattern to allow faster assembly. It will also enable all of us to follow the same construction method – well, the same as can be with lots of different styles!
In this post I’ll cover the amendments I make to the outer shell to get it ‘speed ready’, so today you’ll need the following pieces:
- Side Back
- Side Front or Side Body
- Sleeve or Top Sleeve
- Under Sleeve
We are going to adjust the seam allowances, place markers where needed, and adjust the hem allowance for bagging out. This will only take about 5 minutes for each piece and you might find some of your pattern pieces don’t need changing at all, but it is a good exercise to go over your pattern and ‘get to know it’ – so when you sew a seam and it doesn’t match you know it isn’t your pattern that’s wrong!
A little note on seam allowances:
Most commercial patterns use 1.5cm (5/8″) seam allowances, but if you have already made and fitted a muslin there is no need for such a wide allowance (unless perhaps you are sewing a thick coating fabric, or you are doing wide topstitching). In the industry we use 1cm (3/8″) or 6mm (1/4″) seam allowances, and contrary to popular belief it is not just to save cloth! There are many advantages of using a smaller seam:
- the stitching line is more accurately gauged by eye when the seam allowance is smaller
- sewing around curves such as princess seams is easier with less bulk in the seam allowance
- setting in sleeves is easier with less bulk in the seam allowance
- Clipping is reduced and often unnecessary
- Trimming seams is reduced and often unnecessary
- There is less distortion at cross seams
- All the above lead to smoother and quicker assembly
Also, we will only need to adjust seam allowances on the shell pieces, because I’m going to show you how to make your own facings and lining directly from these pieces in the next post or two – so this is really more of a pattern-along at the moment!
Another little note:
These instructions are designed for a standard tailored style similar to this, if your design varies considerably (gathers, raglan sleeve, fancy bits and pieces, etc) you will need to apply your own judgement accordingly!
OK – let’s get started:
- Trace around the pattern piece on the stitching lines including all markings, then add 1cm seam allowances. Alternatively you could trace the cutting line and take off 5mm.
- Mark your darts as outlined in this post
- I like to add a step to the side back seam at the armhole. We don’t do this at work – the cutters just chop them off! I personally like this trick when sewing as it gives you an accurate point for the end of the seam and helps to stop any mismatching of the easily distorted bias parts. Essentially the seam allowance continues in it’s full width until the end of the stitching line, and the end of the ‘step’ should be 1cm wide like the seam allowance:
- Confirm the length of your garment and mark a 4cm hem allowance. This is the exact amount required for our bagged out hem. If you are making a coat with a loose hem lining, you can use a larger hem, eg 5cm (2″):
- When cutting out your pattern, first fold hem up along hem fold, then cut while folded so the hem allowance mirrors the shell, and place a notch at the fold:
- When cutting out darts, first fold them into their finished position – as they will be pressed – then cut while folded, so when opened out the dart extension is the correct shape:
- Now cut out your new Back, and label it – style, size, name of piece, grainline and cutting instructions:
- Trace around pattern and mark 1cm seam allowances as you did for the Back
- Mark 4cm hem allowance, and notch the hem fold:
- Step the armhole, you need to trim the point square to the stitching line, so it is 1cm wide
- Before you cut the Side Back out, walk the Back pattern along the side back seam stitching line, to check that the seam lengths are the same and that all notches and the armhole step match:
- Cut it out and label – Side Back, cut 1 pair, grainline:
- Do the same as you did for the Side Back – 1cm seam allowances, 4cm hem and notches, armhole step, etc. Don’t forget any pocket markings.
- Before you cut it out, walk the Side Back (or Back) pattern along the side seam to check that the seam lengths are the same and all notches match
- Cut out and label – Side Front/Body, cut 1 pair, grainline, blockfuse:
- Trace around front, including all markings, add 1cm seam allowances
- Mark 4cm hem allowance, hem notch on side front seam only
- Armhole step – as for Back
- Mark the break point with a notch:
- Mark the roll line. This may be marked on your pattern but you should check it against your toile/muslin. Draw the roll line on your muslin, and transfer it accurately to your pattern. Usually the roll line is located 2.5cm from the Neck Point (stitching line)
- Walk pattern side front seam to ensure everything matches
- Walk the shoulder seam, note any ease. My pattern has a back neckline dart instead, which I will probably transfer to the shoulder as ease:
- Cut out and label – Front, cut 1 pair, grainline, blockfuse
- My coat has a one piece sleeve, so I’ll use the sleeve from another jacket as an example. Trace around sleeve, include all markings, add 1cm seam allowances
- Add armhole step on hindseam and foreseam
- Mark 4cm hem allowance, 4cm extension for sleeve vent, and this sleeve has the excess at the mitre trimmed across diagonally:
- This is much easier to get accurate now with pen and paper, than fussing around with fabric at the machine!
- Cut out and label – Top sleeve, cut 1 pair, grainline
The Under Sleeve:
- Same as top sleeve, but before you cut it out walk the top sleeve along the hindseam and foreseam to check seam lengths and notches. You may find that there is some ease on the top sleeve hindseam, which will probably be noted in the sewing instructions.
- Same as top sleeve, but fold one sleeve seam over the other to check the seam and notches line up. Check for any ease – my example has the topsleeve eased at the elbow between the notches:
Let’s check now that the sleeve fits the armhole, and how much ease you are going to have to handle. Overlap each piece at the armhole by 2cm to form the shape of the armscye:
Now you know what to expect when you are inserting your sleeve, and you can gauge whether your fabric choice will ease in well or not.
That’s enough for today, tomorrow we will be doing the collar, facings and fusing patterns. Do ask in the comments if you aren’t sure about anything – remember the only dumb question is the one not asked! If you need to post photos regarding any queries the Flickr group is a great way to do this – plus you can check out all the gorgeous fabrics and designs being made up by fellow sewalongers!