Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Step 10. Assembling the Jacket, Part I.


True Confessions Time

The first “No-No” that I do at this stage is to serge-finish all of the raw edges of each pattern piece.  Many sewing experts recommend against this practice because it obscures the raw outside edge of the pattern pieces, making the measured seam allowance imprecise as it is stitched. 


Personally, I hate handling pattern pieces with ravelly edges.  Even if the piece has been fused with an underlining fabric, the fused underlining seldom extends clear to the garment edges.  (Usually, I trim it away within about 1/8 inch of the fashion fabric’s edge before fusing.)  On garments without fusible underlining, the “raveling situation” can be worse, especially with more loosely woven fabrics.  When I try to be “good” and not serge finish the pattern piece’s edges at this point, I am almost always unhappy with my decision.  To my eye, a raveled edge is as imprecise as a serged edge. 


Finally, on occasion (as in,  in a rush or late at night), when I have tried to serge finish a seam allowance on a completed seam, the garment has somehow twisted under and I have nicked the fashion fabric in the body of the jacket.  Not a very habit-forming experience, that one.


For these reasons I very carefully serge the seam allowance edges before the garment is assembled, taking care to only trim the frays that stick out and not cut into the edge of the seam allowance at all.  To do this,I reduce the speed indicator on my serger to well below the "rabbit" (no kidding, there is a little rabbit profile just above the top speed setting on my serger. It's so cute.).  I serge very slowly and without distraction so that my seam allowances remain as precise as possible.


So that?s my confession. J


Note: A good friend of mine suggested that I buy the MaxiLock serger thread at Hancock Fabrics for a good all-purpose serger thread, in the color Graphite.  She said it blends with so many fabrics, and is great in a pinch, when the right color is not available.  I love using that Graphite color.  She was right?it does blend with many of the colors fabrics I serge.  Of course I don?t HAVE to have a great color match, since the jacket will be lined, but I?m happy, just knowing the match is there, under the lining.



Reference Books:


Often I find that the pattern instructions given for many garments are not clear or that the illustrations are poor.  For that reason, I often augment the pattern insert?s instructions with guidelines found in sewing reference books.


The Singer Reference Library's book on Tailoring is one of the best in my collection, because the information is clearly presented and the accompanying pictures are not only visually beautiful, they show the process in great detail.  In fact, in my opinion, it is one of the best books on jacket and coat making available, because it endeavors to teach all three methods, the conventional tailoring, machine methods, and fusible methods.   It is a comprehensive presentation of jacket and coat making from selecting the materials through to the finished product. It was published back in 1988, and is 127 pages long and is a hardback.  Its ISBN No. is 0-86573-242-6.  Lots of libraries have it in their collections. I googled it and found it on Ebay here:




and here:




and from a used bookseller here:






There are many, many other fine publications.  Each sewist probably has a ?No. 1 Preference? based on her or his own needs and expectations.  This one is mine for basic (as in non-couture level) jacket and coat making.


Jacket Seam Pressing


Before I start sewing on the jacket, I set up my ironing station.  I usually spend as much time pressing the jacket as I do actually sewing on it, so I like to have everything ready:

  • Silk organza presscloth
  • Dauber or camel hair paintbrush with a small cup of water for applying moisture exactly where I want it
  • Presser?s Ham
  • Seam roll
  • Seam stick
  • Point Presser
  • Clapper
  • Sleeve board
  • Large chocolate candy bar (optional), placed away from heat and good fabric, but within easy reach in case of emergency. J


Some of the basics of pressing are

  1. I always use a press and lift motion with the iron, as opposed to the ?sliding back and forth?motion used when ironing garments.  ?Ironing? is different from ?pressing?.
  2. For plain straight seams, I first press the seam flat, on the wrong side, seam allowances together.  This is to meld the stitches together.
  3. Next, I place the seam over a seam roll or the seam stick, depending on how hard I want the seam crease to be.  The roll seems to give a softer edge at the seam than the seam stick does, usually.
  4. I finger press the seam open with the index finger of my left hand as I follow behind that  finger with the point of the steam iron in my right hand.  I steam, then press the point into the crease gently, as I follow my finger (at a ?discreet distance?, so my finger isn?t scorched J )
    1. Note: I often use a pressing cloth for this step as well, if the fabric appears particularly sensitive to the heat of the iron.  I test a scrap first, and if I don?t HAVE to use the pressing cloth, I won?t, so I can see what I?m doing a bit better.
    2. With a curved seam, the seam allowances may need to be clipped in order for the seam to lie flat over the curved surface of a ham for this pressing step.
  5. While the seam is still warm with the penetrated steam, I press it with the clapper, taking care not to imprint the edges of the seam allowance onto the fashion fabric.  Since the seam is over a seam roll or seam stick, the edges of the seam allowances should not come into contact with the fabric as the clapper is pressed into place.  The purpose of the clapper is to force the steam into the fabric to help set the crease as the fabric cools.
  6. Finally, I press on the right side of the garment, using the silk organza presscloth to protect the fashion fabric.  I press the entire seam in the up-and-down (not sliding) motion.
  7. A well-pressed seam lies flat and appears smooth on the right side, without the indentations of the seam allowances showing through.
    1. Sometimes the seam allowance edges want to show through no matter what I do, so I slip 1 inch wide strips of plain brown paper between the seam allowances and the wrong side of the fashion fabric.  That usually prevents the seam allowance impressions from coming through to the right side of the fabric.
  8. Occasionally, I have to either go back and press a part of the seam that didn?t press down the way I liked, or to press out a crease that may have inadvertently formed.  When this happens, I use the dauber, which is a small roll of soft wool held together with a rubber band, about the diameter of a cigar.  The end of the dauber can be dipped in water and used to softly ?sponge? the moisture exactly where I wantit.  Most of the time, I prefer to use a soft, pointed, medium-sized artist?s paint brush, dipped into water.  Then I just ?paint? the water where I want it.
  9. I use a point presser for pressing into corners of seams that intersect.
  10. Mary Roehr, whom I referred to in an earlier step (web site is www.maryroehr.com), apprenticed as a tailor at Saville Row in London.  Her instructions on pressing are wonderful.  One thing I remember her saying is that wool and other naturalfiber fabrics are like our own hair, and that the press will not lie as we want it to unless we let the piece cool completely before removing it from the tailor's ham, sleeve roll, point turner, sleeve board, ironing board, etc.
  11. One basic rule of pressing is never to sew over an unpressed seam.  Pressing seams as they are sewn is a good habit to follow.
  12. Another basic rule is to always point the iron in the direction of the grain, wherever possible (curved seams are of course an obvious exception).

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