Sunday, February 13, 2005

Step 14. Assembling the Jacket Part V

Note: Usually the collar, lapels, and front opening are completed before the sleeves are inserted. There is less fabric to work around if the sleeves are not attached. If practicable, though, I like to leave that step until last, as a matter of personal preference. I like putting the machine buttonholes in last, and like doing it as part of the finishing of the front opening. The only time I can do this, usually, is with the simple collarless jacket style like the one I have chosen. Therefore, for me, when making a “collared” jacket, Step 15 would be placed before this step.

The Sleeves

Sleeve Cuff Hem and Vent, Buttonholes, and Buttons

In Step 11, (the “prefitting step”) I had basted the sleeves onto the jacket, and checked for fit. At the same time, I had marked the desired sleeve length and depth of the vent. Then I removed the sleeve from the jacket and stitched and pressed the front sleeve seam only so that the sleeve could lie flat as I worked on it.

When I had first envisioned the jacket, I had decided that the sleeve vent was to be very deep, almost to the elbow, as an interesting design element. Accordingly, I had deepened the sleeve vent as described in Step 5 of this weblog.

Mitering the corner where the cuff hem meets the vent:

In this step, I pressed a 2 inch hem into the sleeve, and pressed the fold into the vertical edge of the vent. To make the mitered corner where the hem meets the sleeve vent

  1. I placed the sleeve, wrong side up, on my table, and brought up the corner between the hem and the vent, making a diagonal fold as I lined up the fold marks by:

    1. Aligning the vent fold mark on top of the hem fold mark on one side of the diagonal and the hem fold mark on top of the vent fold mark on the other side of the diagonal fold that forms.

    2. Pressing the diagonal fold so I could use those fold lines as the stitching lines for the miter.

  2. Right sides together, I folded that new diagonal line in half, aligning the edges, and stitched in the fold.

  3. I turned the mitered seam to the inside of the sleeve and checked to see that the miter was exactly where I wanted it to be. I verified that the hem fold and the cuff vent folds were straight with the mitered edge in place.

  4. When I was satisfied, I opened the mitered corner out one more time and trimmed away the excess fabric, and pressed the miter flat.

The cuff buttonholes:

  1. I used Tires 50 weight machine twist silk thread in both the bobbin and the needle, and a Universal 80 needle.

  2. I fused a rectangle of interfacing, cut on the straight of the grain, edges aligned to the vent edges, to the underside of the vent facing.

  3. After making a few samples on scraps of the fused fashion fabric with the same number of thicknesses as the vent, I decided on using gimp cording to fatten up the buttonhole, and to set the machine tension to half a click above the lowest tension setting.

  4. I marked the buttonhole positions using the Simflex gauge ( to space the buttonholes correctly.

  5. I took a deep breath, and then sewed all six buttonholes, and then repeated the process on the second sleeve.

  6. When the buttonholes were finished, I pulled the threads to the wrong side and tied them, two by two, into knots, and then I buried the knots in the fabric, snipping each thread tail after the knots were buried.

  7. Then I applied Fray Block (I don't like Fray Check because it is too stiff), very carefully, using a toothpick, dipped into a little puddle of Fray Block, to the buttonhole opening, first on the front side and then on the wrong side of the buttonhole. I allowed this Fray Block to completely dry before cutting the buttonholes open.

Then, for each sleeve, I sewed the back sleeve seam and pressed it open. Next I sewed the buttons in place and hemmed the sleeves. The sleeves were ready to be set into the armhole.

Inserting the sleeves:

To insert the sleeves, I first stitched a 2 inch wide bias-cut strip of preshrunk wool crepe a onto the upper portion of the sleeve, using a basting stitch and a scant 5/8 inch seam allowance, stretching the strip as the machine basted it into place. This causes the cap of the sleeve to draw up slightly, and enables it to be fit smoothly into the armhole. Some sewists use the interfacing from old ties for this process, and others use a bias cut strip of self fabric. Still others use a wide bias tape sold in tailor supply houses. I prefer buying half yard pieces of both black and ivory wool crepe and preshrinking them thoroughly. Then I cut them into the two inch wide bias-cut strips and roll the strips up and store them with my interfacing supplies. Whenever I make a jacket, I just pull out a couple of those strips and use them in this step.

Once the sleeve is drawn up, I pin it into the armhole opening to make sure that the fit is good. If I need to gather more, I release the basting stitches and tug a little tighter on the strip as it is machine basted into place. If it has drawn up too much, I clip a few stitches to relax it.

Next, I slide the sleeve onto my sleeveboard and let the curved top edge mold around the larger curved end of the sleeveboard. I steam that top edge thoroughly and allow it to dry completely. This sets the memoryof that smooth curve into the fabric. Since my sleeveboard has two of these surfaces both approximately the same size, I do both sleeves at once, smoothing the sleeve head area around the sleeveboard and steaming and allowing them to dry. I let them REALLY dry, leaving them for an hour or more, if I can, because the combination of the gathering, steaming and setting the memory of the shape into the fabric almost always ensures that the set in sleeve will be pretty on the jacket..

Next I machine baste the sleeve into the armhole. I then check to make sure that there are no folds or dimples, and that the sleeve hangs nicely. Then I stitch the sleeve into the armhole, starting the stitching in the area of the back notch, stitching through the underarm area, across the top of the armhole, and around the back, and then on top of the beginning stitching until I come to just below the area of the front notch. This reinforces the underarm area with a double row of stitching. I check to make sure that there are no folds or puckers anywhere, as I gently push all of the seam allowances into the sleeve opening.

Some sewists like to press these seams open so that there is a smoother transition from the shoulder onto the sleeve. I don't like to press the armhole seam at all because I don't want to destroy the memory that I have created in the fabric in the previous step. ( I use steam and finger pressing instead, see last comment below). I don't know that there are any "rules" for this. As for much of sewing, personal preference should probably dictate the final look.

Next I clip any areas of thesleeve and armhole seam allowances which may be preventing the sleeve from lying smoothly, and trim away some of the seam allowances in the underarm area of the sleeve for comfort in wearing. Then I put the jacket onto my dressform. I ensure that all of the armhole seam allowances are directed into the sleeve area, and then I steam the shoulder area lightly, tapping the armhole seam gently with my fingers to ensure that it is smooth and that the seam allowances stay where I want them to.

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