About 7 days ago I decided to start a tailoring project.
Years ago I received McCall 8420, a 1935 pattern with a skirt and kinda-half-Norfolk jacket. The pattern was my grandmama’s, who resembled one of the illustrated women, and the size was a junior 11.
24 inch waist, are you kidding me!? There was no way it would fit me, so this turned into a grading project.
…which I stagnated on (of course), until I bought Simplicity 3688, containing a retro 1940s blazer pattern, to use as a cross-reference on the 1935 jacket.
|Using the jacket pattern to cross-reference|
It worked! I traced out the vintage pattern and new pattern pieces on my brown wool and adjusted accordingly.
So with 10 days until leaving for the holidays, I sliced into the wool, muslin underlining, hair canvas, and satin lining, tailor-tacking and pad stitching like a boss.
|The hair canvas on one of the front pieces|
|The front piece with the hair canvas attached, trimmed, darts done up, and the lapel pad stitched and taped, steaming for shape over a rolled towel.|
I was thrilled with how easily things went together. I had the complicated back assembled by the end of the night, along with the front pieces darted and steamed to shape.
|The jacket back, made up of 5 different pattern pieces. I made several mistakes here and even had to recut the skirt. All noted for next time, though…|
Day two had me pad stitching the lapels and taping the edges. Day three I was working on the collar, crashing through the tailoring sections of Vogue Sewing Book, Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing, and Couture Sewing Techniques to understand this delicate and complex part of the project.
|At this point it looks a bit like a rumpled mess, but you can see the lapels rolling nicely, and the under collar has been pad stitched and steamed to shape. It looks too long right now, but ended up being a little short when all put together and attached.|
Facings went on and collars were attached, but at this point my little mistakes made at the beginning started to become bigger problems. The biggest one was that the belt in the back wasn’t straight. I know now why it happened, but it was stupid of me not to see the flaw when everything was flat and fixable. Another issue arose in my choice of materials for taping the edges – I used cotton twill tape when I should have used super-thin seam binding. My patch pockets weren’t applied all that well, and my collar knotches are funky.
Last night I set in the sleeves, easing and shrinking an extra inch and a half into the armscyes and achieving a smooth sleeve cap (this is sorcery, I swear), and you know what? Even with my mistakes and fumblings, now that it’s starting to look like a proper jacket, I’m proud of it!
|Facings are on, sleeves are set, and now it’s looking pretty good. Time for lining and closures|
You see, tailoring is a dark art. I don’t mean just the taking in or letting out of clothes to fit you; I mean the manipulation of cloth, by means of hidden structural and shaping techniques, to hang and act as intended on a specific body. The amount of engineering that goes into a Saville Row bespoke dinner jacket is staggering, but even cheap suit jackets have these interfacings and stabilizing layers.
There’s tailoring. And then there’s tailoring.
It’s at once forgiving and punishing, but somehow always rewarding. Even just a *little* tailoring goes a long way, and the difference between a tailored and un-tailored garment is huge. Once you go down that pad-stitched rabbit hole, you can never…ever…go back. So perhaps spending my 10 days pad stitching, steaming, and easing pieces together appears to be a waste of time, but the result is well worth it, and in the words of Guy Martin, “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”
|As 007 says…|
So today I will be assembling and attaching the lining, and working the buttonholes, and then I’ll be proud to say that I finally made Grandmama’s 1935 half-Norfolk jacket…
…and it’s tailored.