Monday, February 7, 2005

Step 12. Assembling the Jacket: Part III



Assembling the Jacket, Finally


Needles and Thread


  • I select a thread and needle size compatible with the fabric that I am sewing.  To do this, I make test samples and select the combination of thread, needle, and machine tension that best achieves my goals.


  • Sandra Betzina and Claire Shaeffer have both written wonderful books about choosing the proper needle and thread combination for various types of fabrics, as well as giving information about the fabrics themselves.  Sandra Betzina's book is Fabric Savvy, and her second one is More Fabric Savvy.  Claire Shaeffer's book is Sew Any Fabric, and her older book on the same subject is Fabric Sewing Guide.  Both of the Fabric Savvy books and the Sew Any Fabric are printed in a very user-friendly format, with concise information about many of the newer fabrics as well.


  • Silk thread:  I have a soft spot in my sewing heart for 50 weightmachine-twist silk thread.  I buy it from Things Japanese at  I previously purchased a color card from that vendor, and use it to order the exact thread color required for my project.
    • I don?t use silk threads from other vendors unless I am assured that the thread is filament silk thread, as the TIRES brand is.  Gutermann, for example, has a silk thread composed of lots of short fibers, called ?spun silk thread? and is definitely inferior in performance to TIRES silk thread.  Because it is a little less expensive, I use Gutermann silk thread for basting, but not for assembling my garments.
    • It?s a delicious pleasure to sew with silk thread, both by hand and by machine.  It makes beautiful buttonholes and topstitching. I topstitch with 30 weight thread in the needle and 50 or even 100 weight thread in the bobbin. I use a Metallic or Topstitching needle, because the eyes are larger on these needles, and there is less chance of fraying the thread. The topstitching with this combination is lovely.
    • Silk thread is strong, but I have never had the experience of having the thread tear the fabric when stressed, a comment that I have heard.  It must happen, I?m assuming, but it has never happened to me.  Silk thread breaks, just like any other thread, and in my experience has broken before the fabric has been affected (on the rare occasion in which this has happened.  The most notorious seam for thread breakage is probably the crotch seam in pants.  If the pants are particularly fitted, then I use a polyester thread for this crotch seam instead of silk thread, so that there is a bit more give before all heck breaks loose.
    • I use machine weight (50 weight) silk thread to assemble garments made with wool and silk blends?jackets, sheaths, pants, trousers, tops and vests.  The seams sink down into the fabric and can become almost invisible, because the satiny finish of the silk thread reflects the color of the fabric. 
    • Compared with other threads used in garment construction, silk thread is expensive, at $4.50 per 100 meter spool, and usually adds about $10 to the total cost of the garment.  As I said, it?s a delicious pleasure, not a necessity. 

Step A.  The Jacket Front

Stay stitching

  • I always stay stitch the front neck edge before starting.
  • Next, I stitch the side front to the front piece.
  • Then I reinforce the armscye: the upper half with small bias strips and the lower half with a firmer twill tape. 
    • I force the twill tape into a curved shape with my iron before applying it to the armscye.  To do this, I place the twill tape under the iron with one end peeking out.  I pull that end into a circle as I press hard with my iron.  This causes the twill tape to curve slightly.  It is easier to set into the armscye whenit is ?pre-curved? this way.  Both bias and straight stay tape are available from  .  I trim the stay tapes away from the shoulder seam allowance to minimize bulk, and leave a tail of twill tape at the side seam so it can continue onto the back armhole once the side seam is joined.
    • Of course the stay tape is pre shrunk before using, by dipping it into hot water and rolling it nearly dry in a towel before hanging to dry.
    • On my last few jackets, I have used ?combination tape? which is a thin piece of stay tape stitched to bias stay tape, instead of the bias tape on part of the jacket seam and twill tape on the rest.  I use it everywhere?shoulders, armholes, and back neck seams.  I really like using it, but I haven?t worn the jackets enough to be able to evaluate its performance in the long run.  Early findings are that this tape is great.  I bought it from Mary Ellen Flury before she went out of business.  I would think that other tailor?s supply houses, such as Greenberg and Hammer, ,would have it available as well.
    • If the front shoulder seamline has a good deal of ?give? to it, I reinforce it with a preshrunk strip of very lightweight cotton, cut on the straight of the grain, or the selvage from silk organza.  I  keep this reinforcement out of the overlapping seam allowance areas at the neck and shoulder edge to minimize bulk.  I firmly stretch these reinforcing strips as I press to eliminate any stretch before stitching them to the jacket a scant 5/8 inch into the seam allowance. 

Welt Pockets and Other Pocket Styles


Next, welt pockets, if desired, should be sewed to the jacket fronts.  Great care should be taken in the placement of these pockets, because once they are in, they cannot be changed.  Many sewing experts recommend the use of templates made from tag board or manila folder material to aid in this placement process.  There are many tailoring books which show the stepwise insertion of a welt pocket.  The Singer Sewing Library book mentioned above is a good one, but there are many more.  In general, most reference books will be easier to follow than some of the pattern insert instructions on making the welt pocket, I feel.


Because I like to work with as flat a surface as possible, I don?t stitch in any darts into the front before the pockets are made, unless they intersect with the welt pockets.


Other pockets styles may be stitched at this time as well.  Sometimes I don?t stitch patch pockets on until later, so I can play with them as a design element.  Sometimes, only after the body of the jacket is sewn, can I see how I want the pockets placed, and whether, for example I want them cut on the bias for an interesting effect (fused onto the straight of grain underlining so they don?t stretch out of shape), or placed higher or lower than indicated by the pattern.


Bound Buttonholes


The next step is tosew the bound buttonholes on both the jacket front and the sleeve cuffs, if they are desired.  A bound buttonhole is essentially a teeny welt pocket,without the pocketing. There are many excellent references for sewing bound buttonholes.  Any good sewing reference book on tailoring should contain the stepwise method. 


I particularly like the Bound Buttonhole section in Roberta Carr?s book, Couture, the Fine Art of Sewing for some interesting ideas, but for great, highly detailed pictures and stepwise instructions, the Singer Sewing Library?s book on Tailoring, mentioned previously, is a winner.


The worst thing about putting the bound buttonholes in at this stage (it?s easier to make them on a flat piece, as opposed to wrestling with the entire jacket at the end of the assembly process) is that one has to know exactly where the buttons should be.  As described in Step 3 of this web log, there are some preferable positions for buttonholes and more visually pleasing spacings for them as well, based on the size of the buttons and the length of the jacket opening.  However, it is really nice to be able to decide on the buttonhole spacing after the jacket is completely assembled and can be tried on with the buttons pinned in place to determine the best look.  So, I make sure I REALLY want bound buttonholes in my jacket before I put them in at this point.  There?s no doubt that bound buttonholes are beautiful and give a very classy look to a jacket.  For those reasons, I bite the bullet and put them in before the jacket is assembled, and just trust that I have chosen wisely in my buttonhole positioning.


On my JJJ jacket, I decided to make machine buttonholes and to eliminate the pockets, since the ribbon embellishment covers the areas where pockets would normally be placed.

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