Wow, I can’t believe how long it takes to tailor a custom jacket! When our instructor told us that it takes 30-40 hours to complete, it didn’t really sink in. That number feels pretty real to me now. With all of the test swatches I had to do, plus the learning curve, I’d say I’m up to about 60 hours already. I’ve never sewn anything this complicated, ever. But, it is pretty sweet to learn such a timeless craft and get a little boost in confidence for future projects.
The most interesting part of the process has been tailoring the front of the jacket and notched collar. I had no idea how much reinforcement is jammed in there to get that smooth look. In typical Alison fashion, I bit off a little more than I could chew with the leather under collar. I was going to pad stitch this bad boy by hand. Thank goodness the machine method ended up working out since I was running behind schedule. I had to do some fiddly junk with tissue paper but the result is kinda cool. Continue reading →
That’s right. I’m back in school again, this time studying tailoring at Apparel Arts. I’m contemplating enrolling in their pattern drafting series once I’m done. I would love, love, love to develop my drafting skills so I can design my own patterns. I’ve got tons of ideas…never a shortage of those, always a shortage of time, wah-wah (sad trombone). 😦
For the time being, I’m completely focused on my tailoring class which is no small undertaking. I’m making a tweed blazer based on McCall’s M6172 that Sunni of A Fashionable Stitch used for her plaid blazer. I made a couple of muslins using the smallest size, the final one pictured above. I added an extra button in the front, altered the roll line, changed the pockets, and added vents to the sleeves. My friend Terry McClintock was kind enough to assist me with fitting over at Stone Mountain and Daughter in Berkeley where she is an amazing sewing instructor. I was supposed to have this test garment completed by the first class. Since I enrolled on the morning of the first class, I was already behind!
Instruction started with the basics, assembling our supplies, drafting the support pieces, and cutting our fabric and interlinings. I selected a soft cobalt leather for the under collar to add some pop. The cool color theme also appears in the lining and buttons. I like the way it contrasts with the warmth of the tweed fabric.
In terms of construction, we spent a good deal of time talking about seams and pressing, which involves a whole host of special accouterments. This week, I made my first bound buttonhole and double welted pocket. Thank goodness we worked samples first to avoid destroying our jacket pieces as we try out the techniques.
What’s wrong with this picture? Oops, the grainline is going the wrong way on my pocket flap.
Some folks cannot be bothered with such details, understandably. They are quite fiddly! Personally, I find the work very satisfying. I greatly admire the craft of traditional tailoring, especially the hand work. I thoroughly enjoy manipulating and shaping wool fabric. The construction process feels like a cross between sculpting and origami. I find it refreshing to slow down and take the time to invest in producing a fine garment that will last.
More to come…
A few weeks ago, I enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour of historic Britex Fabrics in downtown San Francisco. It was fabulous and I highly recommend checking it out if you are in town. The densely packed multi-floor store can be a bit overwhelming but having a knowledgeable staff member to guide you through the stacks of fabric really demystifies the shopping experience. As you enter on the fist floor, you are immersed in floor to ceiling high end wools, silks, and laces. Our tour guide did a great job of familiarizing us with these fabrics, educating us about textile production and the challenging business of retail fabric. She also included a bunch of juicy historical tidbits and fun facts about the store which opened in Union Square back in 1952 by Martin and Lucy Spector. Today, their daughter Sharman continues to operate the family business, who also joined us on the tour. Her passion for making high quality fashion and home decor fabric available for her diverse range of customers is truly inspiring!
My favorite part of the tour was the laces portion. I have no experience working with lace, let alone the high quality laces that Britex carries. Wow – they stock such a variety, in both traditional and novelty patterns and in a rainbow of colors. Their selection really opened my eyes to the possibilities for using lace in modern garments. They make available very special Chantilly laces from France that are painstakingly handmade on 5 yard looms. Apparently, due to production costs, they are usually only sold in 5 yard increments in France, which corresponds to the typical yardage required for a gown. But, Britex is willing to cut this lace into smaller pieces for their customers – I guess Americans have different expectations. 🙂