Sewing the collar, lapels and front edge really starts to bring our garment together. There are only eight sewing steps to complete this stage – and one of them was completed in RTW Tailoring Sewalong #10!
Full marks to the first person who notices my mistake in that last post:
I am really not surprised – I find it hard enough telling my left from right, let alone top collars and under collars! Here is what you should do:
- Sew the Top Collar to the Front Facing/Back Neck Facing unit
- Sew the Under Collar to the Outer Shell
Sewing the under collar to the outer shell is done in exactly the same way as sewing the top collar to the facing unit – by matching notches and ensuring those endpoints are exact. That process is fully outlined in the previous post here.
Press the seams open, without pressing past the collar notch on the lapel. I like to drape the garment around the end of the ironing board for this, like the photo below. You can see I need to clip to release some tension in the seam allowance around the gorge line and back neck:
Clip only where necessary. I clipped 5 times around this fairly tight curve, slight curves and loosely woven fabrics may not need much clipping at all:
By now you should have an outer shell with under collar attached:
And a facing unit with top collar attached:
Let’s join them together!
I start with the collar – place the top and under collars face to face with the top collar below – this way the feed dogs will help to ease in the excess we added for turn of cloth allowance, way back in RTW Tailoring Sewalong #2:
Make sure the endpoints, where the stitching ends at the collar notch, are directly on top of each other:
Start stitching 1mm away from the endpoint, catching the collar seam allowances. The lapel seam allowances must be kept clear. See the 4mm turn of cloth allowance that was added to the top collar peeking out the end? We need to ease that in as we sew:
That doesn’t mean stretching the under collar to fit! To ease the top collar which lies underneath, I match the corners and hold them down together with my right fingertip, then slip my left hand between the layers and distribute the ease evenly with my fingers, then I hold it down firmly with all my fingers as I sew – you can see the wavy easing underneath:
When you get to the corner, turn with the needle down:
Continue sewing the outer edge of the collar, matching all notches, and easing where necessary:
There will be some easing either side of the corner:
When you turn the opposite corner, align the endpoints of stitching (near my index finger) exactly:
And remember to catch the collar seam allowances, but not the lapel seam allowances:
The front edges and lapels:
Before turning the collar through, sew the front edges and lapels. Sew with the front facing underneath, and begin at the hem:
Sew up to the break point notch. Around the notch sew for about 1.5cm with the upper layer held taut – this creates some ease at the break point to encourage the lapel to roll:
Sew the lapel edges and pivot at the corner, ready to sew the top edge. Make sure the endpoints at the collar notches lie exactly on top of each other, place your left fingers between the layers to distribute the ease evenly. Fold both lapel seam allowances up out of the way. Stitch to within 1mm of the end of the previous stitching, without catching any seam allowances:
Check the reverse – the stitching should end at the same place:
Repeat for the other side, this time starting at the collar end:
Easing at the breakpoint, and finishing at the hem:
If your front edge has a curved hem, continue sewing around the curve, to about 3cm from the end of the facing.
Check and make any fixes now!
- Stitching is straight, and corners look symmetrical
- Stitching starts and ends 1-2mm from collar/lapel junction
- Lapel top edges are the same length, and slightly convex, rather than concave
I know you are dying to turn the collar and lapel corners, but first we need to understitch!
Understitch the front edge seam allowances to the front facing, from the hem edge to 1cm before the breakpoint, then backtack:
Start sewing again 1cm above the breakpoint, understitching the lapel seam allowances to the front, as far as you can comfortably sew up the lapel:
You’ll need to clip the seam allowance at the break point to do this:
Understitch the seam allowances to the under collar around the long outer edge. Then understitch the opposite side lapel, followed by the front edge down to the hem.
Turn the Corners:
I’ll show you how I turn corners – it seems to get me the best results without any special equipment.
Clip across the corner about 2mm from the point – you need to clip close enough so you don’t get a bump, but not too close or it will fray.
Clip a bit more from the seam allowance of the underneath piece like so:
Stick thumb into top piece, and fold one seam allowance around to underneath piece, pinching it with your finger – I’m using my left hand here, because the right one’s holding the camera:
Then fold the other seam allowance around:
Then the middle pointy bit:
This is where it helps if you have long fingernails! Pinching it all together, turn it through:
Roll the seam line either side of the point until the seams inside feel flat:
This method works most of the time for me. Sometimes you don’t need to trim the corner, just fold the seam allowances over each other neatly. It all depends on the angle and the fabric.
Don’t worry about a little gap in the junction at the notch – it gives you a bit of flexibility in this region. You don’t want it too big though – no more than 3mm:
Now that you have understitched, the collar and lapel will practically turn into position itself due to the cloth allowance you added earlier – you just need to fine tune it and press! Press the front edges from the facing side, and the lapels and collar from the underside.
Take particular care that you don’t end up with the dreaded “scoopy lapel”:
Remember adding that slight convex curve to our pattern? That should give you a nicer shape like this:
Here’s what mine looks like after underpressing – the collar and lapel are rolling smoothly with no breaks, and the breakpoint is folding by itself. The outer edges of the collar and lapel should be smooth, symmetrical and with no visible stitching lines:
Locate your sleeves – because they’re going in tomorrow!
This post was originally published as #11 of the Ready-to-Wear Tailoring Sewalong.
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