TUTORIAL-- Clean-Finished No Bulk Facing (Shown on the Negroni Shirt)

Friday, January 28, 2011
Here's a "Custom Turn" on a technique many of you may already use to finish the outside edge of a facing. In this short tutorial I am demonstrating this method on the front facing of the Negroni Camp Shirt Pattern.

^ STEP 1 ^
The photo above shows the facing pattern cut out as usual on the CF edge (to the right), BUT cut about 1/8" wider on the curved outer edge (the edge my scissors are "pointing" to).

 ^ STEPS 2 & 3 ^
Next cut out your interfacing using THE CUT OUT FABRIC FACING PIECE for the INTERFACING "PATTERN" (I am using one of my custom-milled interfacings, Pro-Sheer Elegance Fusible Interfacing available exclusively at Fashion Sewing Supply). 
Then, place the Interfacing and Fabric Facing piece RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER (the fusible side of the interfacing will be "up"), and stitch them together with an 1/8" seam along the curved edge. If you click the photo above to enlarge it, this stitching is more visible.

^ STEP 4 ^
Now, open up (separate the 2 layers), and move the piece to your pressing surface.

 ^ STEP 5 ^
At your pressing surface, turn the interfacing to the wrong side, WRAPPING the interfacing OVER and AROUND THE NARROW SEAM, enclosing the seam allowances. Now fuse the interfacing according to the instructions.  Please note--The interfacing will not reach the long straight CF edge of the facing..and this is a good thing...no added bulk in that seam when it is later sewn !

The photo above shows the completed "Clean Finish" of this facing.  
Usually when the basic method of this technique is used, the allowances of that little seam are completely turned to the wrong side, then the interfacing is fused to hold them down. However, when the seam-allowances are WRAPPED by the interfacing, they are not only clean finished, but thin and bulk-free. And the added bonus is that when the shirt is completely sewn, it will look like flat piping has been sewn to the facing edge. This is such a nice custom look without the bulk that would transfer to the right side as a wrinkle/ridge every time the shirt is pressed !

TUTORIAL--- Spot-Fusing vs. Block-Fusing Interfacing, a Modern Tailor's Method

Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Block Fusing is a method that many modern tailors and home-sewists use to apply interfacing to fashion fabric yardage before the pattern pieces are cut out. Have you ever struggled keeping the interfacing layer from slipping off-grain as you attempt to fuse it to your fabric yardage?  Next time, try this fast, easy, and accurate method that I learned from a Master Tailor, called "SPOT-FUSING"...And it can be done right on your cutting table!
^ STEP 1 ^
First, we need to prepare the surface of the table. The photo above shows my cutting table covered with 2 layers of HEAVY weight muslin (from Gorgeous Fabrics), and one layer of very thick wool (a heavy wool blanket will work as well..I just happen to have felted wool yardage that I use for this technique).  It is VERY important that these layers be smooth and free of wrinkles, so thoroughly smooth them out before proceeding.

 ^ STEP 2 ^
Next, lay out your fashion fabric on top of your "padded" table, WRONG side UP...making SURE it is smooth. What you see in the photo above is 3 yards of 60" wide silk/wool suiting fabric. The cut edge of the fabric is to the left, with the rest of the yardage hanging off the right side of my table. There is no need for weights to hold the fabric in place...the under-layer of wool holds it nicely.  But if you need to, weights can be placed along the top edge (in the above photo, the (top) cut edge is to the left).

^ STEP 3 ^
Now lay your Interfacing FUSIBLE Side DOWN on the (wrong side) of the fashion fabric, making sure it is smooth and on grain. I am using Charcoal-Black Pro-Weft Supreme Light Interfacing, one of my custom-milled professional grade interfacings available exclusively at Fashion Sewing Supply.

^ STEP 4 ^
This is where the Spot-Fusing happens :)   USING a thin PRESS CLOTH, and your steam iron set to a low-wool setting, start moving your iron over the interfacing with an UP and DOWN motion. DO NOT slide the iron, just move it all over the interfacing, pressing with steam for a few seconds, picking up the iron, moving it over an inch or so, and steam pressing again for a few seconds. I start pressing in the middle along one edge, and spot-press to one side until I reach the edge of the yardage, then begin again in the middle and work towards the other edge. I keep repeating this, working my way down and along the yardage, until all the yardage on my table has had the interfacing "tacked" (SPOT FUSED) down. Then I carefully pull the next section of fabric + unfused interfacing so that it covers the table, making sure that all is smooth and on-grain...then repeat the Spot-Fusing process again until all the fashion fabric yardage has been Spot-Fused.  I can Spot Fuse a few yards of 60" fabric in about 5-10 minutes.
Please note that the object here is to just tack the interfacing to the fabric...NOT to fuse it completely..that comes later.

^ STEP 5 ^
After removing the Muslin+Wool "padding" from your cutting surface, carefully lay your Spot-Fused fabric yardage right side up, lay out your pattern pieces and cut them out.

  ^ STEP 6 ^
 NOW is the time when we take our garment pieces to our "official" pressing surface (your Ironing Board or ClamShell Press), and "finish the fuse"...following the complete fusing instructions that come with your interfacing.

And this is why I Spot-Fuse before I Block-Fuse: Why bother spending time and effort completely fusing ALL the yardage, including the scraps that will be thrown in the trash after the pattern pieces are cut ?  By Spot-Fusing, I can ASSURE a perfect fuse and save time by fully pressing/fusing just the actual garment pieces...AFTER the interfacing has first been "tacked down" by the Spot-Fusing :)

An Old ClamShell Press Finds a Home...

Sunday, January 23, 2011
How cool is this?  Look what Roger found in his friend's attic, free for the taking....
An Elna Press, at least 10 years old and only used about ten times !  And not just any press, but one with a Sleeve Board ! Oh happy day !  I missed my commercial steam press so much when it died last year.
But this one will be a dandy stand-in until I can acquire another commercial press.
As you may have deduced by now, my life is not particularly exciting since I am blogging about a Press...But oh how I enjoy sewing "stuff", especially when it's free...and has cool features :)
The wide pressing "bed" slides back to reveal the sleeve board, then the the sleeve board slides up and back so that it can come into contact with the heated part of the press--
Now that is just too cool...no pun intended :)  And will save me so much time when pressing shirts, especially the final press before one of my custom shirts gets shipped to a client !

And speaking of shirts...as I promised in a post way back on December 13,  I will finally be starting to sew my version of the Collette Patterns Negroni Shirt later this week. Though the pattern comes with an excellent set of instructions, I will be refining some of the steps along the way for a more professional finish.  I'll snap some pics along the way, so you can see what I am dong a bit differently, and why...so stay tuned.

Vintage Pattern Enabler Alert !

Monday, January 17, 2011
I have kept quiet about this new Etsy Vintage Pattern store long enough to scope out several pattern that I wanted for myself...so now I'll share ;)   CoudreMode Vintage Patterns!

Phyllis, the shop owner, is a third generation sewist, (and one of the original Sewing Divas)  now selling many of the patterns from her own personal collection and those of her mother and Grandmother. There are patterns in her shop dating from the 30's to the 80's....really lovely styles!
(NAYY...though I do "know" Phyllis as a 'sewing friend'..and am a big fan of her sewing and fashion blog, CoudreMODE ).

Reader question: Odd Waistcoats

Saturday, January 15, 2011
A reader asks:
Speaking both as a keen reader of your blog and as a student on a somewhat limited budget, I'd be interested to know what liberties might be taken with the colour/fabric of a waistcoat worn with a lounge suit.

The suit I have in mind is black (I have a grey one too but I doubt I'd be able to find a waistcoat in the same shade). Unfortunately I can't seem to find many waistcoats on my budget that are simply black without pin stripes or other patterns. Must waistcoats always match the rest of the suit in formal settings (either in colour or in fabric)? Would a navy blue waistcoat work?

I'd be very grateful for advice on this - perhaps next time I'll just have to make sure I buy a three-piece suit in the first place!

Great question. I suspect that a lot of people with a limited amount of money to spend on suits find themselves attracted to the idea of a three-piece suit, but without the budget to buy a whole new suit.

First of all, I would give up on the idea of finding a perfect match for the fabric. Unless you are spectacularly lucky, it's simply not going to be possible and, even in black, a slight difference in the cloth will probably be noticeable. Don't worry, though, your waistcoat doesn't have to match your suit, so long as you are careful. It's an unusual look, but if you pull it off it can look very smart. A good example, I think, is Duck Phillips of Mad Men.

Ignoring the fact that he has done up the bottom button on his waistcoat, this is a really nice look. The smart, classic pinstripe suit paired with a waistcoat in a clearly non-matching colour is a nice twist, and a particular quirk of Duck's that sets him apart from a lot of the other men on the show.

I think there are a few things here that are going to be important to getting this right. Firstly, the waistcoat must clearly not match. A waistcoat in a very similar colour will look very wrong. So, for your black suit I would try (as you suggest) dark blue or dark grey but, in both cases, not so dark that they look black. For the grey suit, a significantly darker or lighter shade of grey could work nicely.

Secondly, it must not look as if you are wearing an outfit cobbled together from other suits. Getting this right may be down partly to trial and error, but I would suggest that you avoid waistcoats in fabrics or patterns that are typical of lounge suits. For example, a blue pinstripe in lightweight worsted wool may look as if it has been stolen from another suit, and the effect will be jarring. On the other hand, a plain blue waistcoat in soft fabric such as flannel should blend nicely into whatever else you're wearing, and will look like a deliberate choice - just as if you were wearing a v-neck jumper under your suit.

I hope this all helps. Do let me know how you get on.

Answering the questions I never got asked

Sunday, January 9, 2011
Like many bloggers, I expect, I tend to keep half an eye on my visitor statistics. These are provided in fascinating detail by Google Analytics, and tell me all kinds of things about where in the world my visitors come from, which posts are popular, and which sites send me a lot of traffic (thanks The Natural Aristocrat!). One of the most interesting bits of information is what Google searches brought people to me. It can be very cheering to see that someone searched for a topic on which I have written, and apparently enjoyed what they found on the blog enough that they spent twenty or thirty minutes looking through other posts. The best example of this lately was someone who searched for "upstairs downstairs clip on bowtie" and ended up on my blog. I don't know who you are, but it makes me very happy to imagine that at least one person was as incensed at this as I was and, perhaps, found reading my post cathartic.

Anyway, in amongst the Google results, I occasionally come accross things people have searched for that I haven't ever covered. Most of these people promptly leave and never come back so, although it may be too late for them, I thought I might take the opportunity now to answer some of these, the questions I have never actually been asked.

Are flannel suits in style?
I don't know about 'in style' but they are wonderful in the right situation. Not necessarily the best bet for everyday wear, especially in a heated office or a warm country, but as a winter suit for occasional wear they are a smart and classic look that is hard to beat.

Best way to drink gin
In a Martini. Dry, very cold, with at least one olive. Alternatively, if practically neat spirits aren't your thing, a gin and tonic is a perfect drink for all occasions.

Blue suit for dinner dance?
Yes. Assuming the dress-code is not black or white tie, then a dark blue suit will be just the thing.

Cad and the Dandy is the hand stitching worth it?
That's actually quite a tricky question. For the hand-stitching itself, most people will not notice the difference, and there is actually a certain amount of debate as to whether it makes any difference at all. Some people argue that hand-stitching allows for a bit more stretch in the seams which will extend the life of your suit. Hand stitching can be made particularly obvious around the lapel, an effect that some people like, but is now commonly replicated by machine on much cheaper suits. However, the fact that the hand-stitched suits are also half or fully-canvassed and come with a basted fitting is definitely worth the money, and will make a very noticable difference.
Image taken from ASuitThatFits.com

Can't find a white marcella exact size bowtie
Ede and Ravenscroft do them. An exact size white tie is a good idea, as it will be worn with an upright collar, meaning that the adjuster would be visible at the back on an adjustable tie.

Chemistry behind adding an olive to gin?
It's delicious. What more do you need to know?

Do you starch a marcella tie?
No. If you starched it to the same extent as your collar, it would be impossible to tie! In any case, you don't want it to look completely rigid.

Is a mens tweed jacket okay to wear in the spring?
Yes, especially in the country, at the weekend, or if it's very cold. Later in spring, however, you may want to switch to cotton jackets and blazers.

Mens shirt step up from Lewins?
Ede and Ravenscroft and New and Lingwood are a good step up in both quality and price, with shirts from around £80, although both have sales on currently. Both also offer a made-to-measure service for whenever you feel ready to upgrade to that.

More to come, I expect. And may I remind readers that if you do visit this blog and find your question unanswered, I welcome emails and will happily answer you privately, or by posting on the blog, or both.

TUTORIAL- Design and Sew a Shirt with Bias Pleats !

Saturday, January 8, 2011
This Distressed denim shirt features deep bias pleats 
on the sleeves and pocket. Variations of this design have become favorites of many of my clients over the past year.  The original blog post about this design detail was among my most popular. So with a few shirt-sew-along's going on at other blogs these days...I thought it was a good time 
to offer it again, with a few revisions.
SEWING NOTES: This shirt is interfaced with PRO-WEFT Fusible,
a professional quality interfacing found exclusively at
~Fashion Sewing Supply~

Adding a pleat to any pattern piece is very easy 
when you use this method:

1.  Using a large piece of any pattern paper you like, make an even fold across it's width (this will be the upper side of the pleat).  Then move the entire folded edge an even distance away from the first, and fold again (this will be the under-side of the pleat). I moved the first fold over by 1.25", to form a 1.25" pleat in the paper. Play with a small  piece of scrap paper, if my written explanation is less than clear ;)  It's easy, all we are doing is folding a pleat in a piece of pattern paper.

2. Next, just place your pattern piece on top of the pleated paper, with the pleat where you want it to be on your garment. In this case, I chose the sleeve piece pattern and placed it so that the pleat (the pre-folded paper) would be on the bias, then I  cut out my "new" sleeve pattern.
3. This is what my sleeve looked like cut from the fabric. I took the photo after the upper pleat fold was pressed, so you could more easily see how the pleat is formed
4. This photo (#4) shows the completed pleat, with the folds edge-stitched. In this photo, as viewed from the right side, only the upper fold's edge-stitching is visible. The under-fold (back side) of the pleat is also edge-stitched.  I like to edge-stitch pleats on shirts that I design not only because it is a nice decorative detail, but also because it makes pressing the shirt much easier after it has been laundered.
How to Control a Pleat...Invisibly !

When there is a bias or horizontal pleat on a garment, the weight of the fabric below the pleat will tend to pull it down, and the pleat will sag and gape open. When the pleats are small and/or the fabric is lightweight, this is often not a problem. However, with pleat depths of one inch or more on medium or heavy fabric, this sagging can be quite an ugly problem. But as you can see in the photo of the finished shirt (above), the pleat is not gaping or sagging. That is because the pleats have been "controlled", by span-stitching done on the under-fold  (back side), as shown in this next photo--
To control this bias pleat, I made a series of  3 wide "V" shaped stitch spans on the under-pleat fold (that I highlighted in blue pencil so that you can more easily see them).  Each extend from the edge of the under-pleat fold to within 1/4" of the upper pleat fold. While it may be a little distracting to understand from the photo alone, if you make up a quick sample of any pleat from scrap fabric, and do this "V" shaped Span Stitching  as shown, it will become clear how it works to control the pleat.
Please note that these pleats are NOT functional pleats..they are decorative only. So restricting how much they are allowed to open will make no functional difference at all. As you can see from the photo of the completed shirt, the pleats still appear to be quite deep. They are just "not allowed" to gape open because of this inner, invisible/hidden stitching.

So the next time you make a shirt, why not try something a little different by adding some of your own interesting design details...like pleats in unexpected places !     

And...if you like these little tutorials of mine, please vote for me by clicking the black/red "Seamingly" Vote box to the left on the side-bar...thanks :)

Guest post: why fit beats brand every time

Thursday, January 6, 2011
As you may have noticed, my posts have become more infrequent of late. This is a combination of the pressures of a lack of time, and a lack of recent purchases about which to write. Fortunately, a couple of people have offered to step into the breach with guest posts. The first is by a long-time reader and a man whose fashion sense I admire greatly. Until recently, he worked for a major high-end fashion label and has a unique insight into the amount of money that can be wasted by men who think that buying big names is all that is needed to look good. So, over to my guest blogger:

A suit tailored specifically for your own body shape, be it from Savile Row or a cheaper alternative, is the ideal, and one that I am sure all the readers of this blog aspire to. However, off-the-peg suiting remains the choice of the majority despite the relatively recent explosion in companies offering everything from made to measure to a few steps below full bespoke, at a price point well below that of the traditional Savile Row tailor.

C&TD, A Suit That Fits and others like them have been well covered in these pages, but as well as these start ups competing for those unable or unwilling to spend three thousand pounds or more on Savile Row, other more established companies such as Austin Reed also offer made to measure suits at very reasonable prices.

With so many options available to a male population perhaps more fashion conscious than ever, it is hard to understand why off-the-peg suits still dominate the market so strongly. Certainly, if you find a brand whose suit pattern coincidentally fits you perfectly, then you are a lucky man. Stock up. If all it needs is the waist taking in or the sleeves shortened a touch, then buy away. You will, however, be in the minority, and far too many men appear to believe that a well know brand or a high price are guarantees of a good suit. Though this might make life easier, it is sadly untrue. The fit of a suit is far and away the most important aspect of a suit, and one that will make the greatest impression on those you wish to impress. So, while the Ermenegildo Zegna suit might be constructed of the most beautiful cashmere and wool blend and have the smoothest silk lining, if it doesn’t fit you properly then, for you, it is a bad suit.

For the highest priced designer off-the-peg suits, the comparison becomes more and more absurd. A Dolce and Gabbana dinner suit will set you back just over nine hundred pounds. Tom Ford’s website has such an overpowering ‘if you have to ask, you cannot afford’ vibe that I dread to think how much even a blazer costs. On another scale altogether, Georgio Armani’s made to measure suits cost anywhere between five thousand, and seventy five thousand pounds. Will it fit you far worse than a Savile Row suit would for half the price? Yes. Will the construction, cloth or aftercare be half as good? No. But it will have Georgio Armani’s name inside it.

Men, on whatever type of budget, need to realise that not only is their choice not limited just to Boss or Armani, Paul Smith or Ted Baker, but also that the designer route is far too often far from the best one.