Jacket Weather–Sewing a Tailored Jacket

This is the perfect time of year to sew a tailored blazer or sport coat (I recently learned the difference between the two…a blazer is associated with school jackets having patch pockets and solid color fabric, sport coats evolved from jackets worn for hunting, etc. with many configurations of pockets, flaps and tabs, usually in a tweedy wool fabric), and here in Chicago, the jacket days are dwindling, made more unmistakeable by our recent snowstorm.  Jackets are perfect for days when a sweater isn’t quite warm enough but coats are overkill…sunny days that begin cool and end several degrees warmer. You can layer a T-shirt under a button-down shirt under a sweater under a jacket and remove pieces as the day wears on.

Example of tailored school boy blazer
From Ralph Lauren, king of prep, a classic blazer


Example of a tailored sport coat type jacket
…and typical tweedy sport coat











I decided I need to sew a sport coat type tailored jacket and my fabric stash has plenty of tweedy wools. I was attracted to this jacket by Joie from fall/winter 2017:

Tailored jacket from Joie Fall and Winter line
from Joie 2017 fall/winter

Love the black and white herringbone with those blush pink cords! If I’m going to spend the time to tailor a jacket, no way am I going to make a shawl collar or black elbow patches, or anything that will make it look dated in a couple of years. I want a fully lined, notch-collared, welt pocketed challenge, something that will send me on deep dives into the internet for ideas and tutorials, something that will get every sewing book off my shelf and opened. And it has, it has…

Finding the Right Pattern

The first challenge was to find a pattern. I’m showing my age, but I long for the days when Vogue Patterns offered complicated, tailored, designer patterns…the Oscar de la Rentas, Calvin Kleins, Geoffrey Beenes and yes, Ralph Laurens. Patterns that had details that were worth the time and effort and produced couture quality clothing. Today, it’s hard to find a truly tailored jacket pattern, with design lines that set it apart from dumbed-down jacket patterns, not that I don’t like to sew a simpler jacket sometimes. I looked through my pattern stash…lots of nice tailored jacket patterns… pre-1995…with huge shoulders, I did try to re-cut a pattern with big shoulders once, but it was a nightmare and did not produce good results.

Finding the Right Fit

Then I found Michael Kors Vogue 2986 (discontinued) and, according to my notes on the pattern envelope, I had made it before, how lucky I thought, I can try it on and see how it fits. Wrong. It seems in an effort to keep my life pared-down, I must have donated it. Then I remembered, I blogged about making this jacket way back in 2008, how the years go by.  My post (aka my diary), reminding me that I made lots of changes to this pattern to recreate a Phillip Lim number (tastes change), http://Phillip Lim 3.1 Knock-off Jacket. It helped me undo some pattern changes, easy ones, like adding length back on, but one was hard, I trimmed-down the lapel (hard to change back) and raised the roll line, easy to change but not sure it would look ok with the narrower lapel. A muslin was in order, here’s how it turned out:

my muslin of tailored jacket pattern Vogue 2986
Ill-fitting jacket muslin

Do you see the folds, one in the chest area near the shoulder, the other at the waist? Do you see how the shoulder hangs down my arm? Do you see the befuddled look on my face? This jacket is too big! Even with a long-sleeved T-shirt and sweater underneath. Time to get those fitting books off the shelf…

Project MyWay #16–Phillip Lim 3.1 Knock-off Jacket

This is the first jacket I’ve made in a looooong time–several years…it was a fun project, if a little frustrating. Continue reading “Project MyWay #16–Phillip Lim 3.1 Knock-off Jacket”

Frequently Asked Questions

My tailored jackets look limp. Any suggestions? To duplicate the look of a hand tailored jacket with fusible interfacing, you have to use layers of interfacing. If the fashion fabric isn’t too bulky, each pattern piece should be fully interfaced with a lightweight interfacing like Easy Knit. Subsequent layers of interfacing can then be added without showing through to the right side. Fusible hair canvas, with seam allowances trimmed away, should be added to the under collar from the roll line to the neck edge, on the lapel from the roll line to the outside edge, at the hem of the sleeve, front, back and optionally across the back. The Easy Knit gives the jacket body and the hair canvas causes the lapel and collar to turn gracefully.

How can I find a good fitting pants pattern? Unfortunately, the best fitting patterns seem to be found by chance and many not so good patterns must be suffered through. A few things can increase the odds of achieving a good fit. Compare a pair of pants you love to your pattern. Try to match the width of the leg, length of the crotch and waistband/hip measurement.

Add 1″ to the center back seam, easing into the crotch. Cut the waistband in two pieces, adding 1″ to the center back. This will give you some “wiggle room” for fitting the waist. Apply the waistband and finish it before sewing the center back seam. Try the pants on, check the fit and adjust at the center back seam. (The center back seam makes the pants easy to alter if they need to be tightened or let out at a later date.)

How can I pick the best fabric for a garment? First, look at the suggested fabrics on the back of the pattern envelope. Fabrics are listed in order with the best-suited fabric listed first. If you are considering a fabric not suggested by the pattern envelope, think about the drape the design requires. Heavy, stiff fabrics are best for tailored styles that fit close to the body. Designs with gathering or fullness need fabrics that are lighter and drapey. Bias cut skirts require fabrics with some weight, so they fall gracefully.

When using stretch woven fabrics, should I use a pattern designed for knits or wovens? Patterns made to use with woven fabrics work best with stretch wovens. Patterns designed for knits generally don’t have enough ease. Designs like slim fitting pants and skirts without much fullness are a good choice. Be sure to fit as you go as you may not need as much ease as the pattern gives.

I’m having trouble with skipped stitches on my sewing machine, any suggestions? First, make sure your machine is in good mechanical shape. Clean and oil it regularly at home and have it done professionally once a year or more depending on use. Be sure to remove lint around the bobbin case and under the throat plate. Use the right needle size and type for your fabric. Size 9, 11 and 14 are most commonly used for light (silk) to heavy weight (wool) fabrics. Sharp needles are used on wovens as they pierce the fabric cleanly. Ball point needles are designed to slip through the knitted stitches of stretch fabrics. Make sure your needle is in good shape, I use a new needle every time I start a project and if I nick a needle on a pin, I replace it. This is especially important when sewing delicate fabrics. Check your thread tension – start at a medium setting and adjust up or down until stitches lock in the middle then loosen it a little when topstitching. Try not to fool with the bobbin tension, have a repairman do that if necessary. If it’s possible on your machine, adjust the pressure on the presser foot so the fabric moves through the feed dogs easily. Sometimes there is a finish on the fabric that causes skipped stitches (a good reason to pre-wash).

Pattern sizing is so confusing, how can I find my size? Patterns base their sizes strictly on measurements so they are very consistent. Compare you most relevant measurement to the pattern size; i.e. if you are making pants compare your hip measurement or a jacket your bust measurement. These measurements are the most critical for fitting and so should be as close to the pattern as possible, other measurements can then be altered. As a general rule of thumb, go up 3 sizes from your ready-to-wear size. (Don’t freak-out! It’s only a number.)

What can be done to keep facings from popping-out? I avoid facings when possible by lining the garment or using a bias strip to finish the edge. Facings stay put best when they are understitched and tacked to seam lines by “stitching in the ditch”.

Why do my hand-stitched hems look puckery? Take long, very loose stitches, almost loopy, and only catch a thread on the right side of the fabric.