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This article provides sewing instructions to make a tailsuit for dancing. It assumes you have never sewn before but want to try to make a suit yourself anyway. I had never used a sewing machine before I made mine, and this is how I did it after reading a few old, hard to find books. The instructions should be detailed enough so you will not make the mistakes I made learning by trial and error. You too can sew it together in only about 500 easy steps. At least that is about the number of paragraphs of instruction.
The books I read to make my suit were not written for beginners, so I may not have done everything the best way. My writing this for beginners is a little bit of the blind leading the blind. But I think you will be happy with the results.
The old fashioned patterns I use are for natural shoulders that do not require shoulder pads, not the exaggerated shoulders that require shoulder pads. The white vest is made in the traditional manner to only show through the open front of the coat, not below the bottom edge of the coat. Today vests are often seen below the bottom edge of the coat. This just means that the pieces were not made at the same time to fit together. It presents a sloppy appearance.
The suit will be made of cotton and cooler than wool tailsuits of the type normally made for competition dancers. Competition dancers only dance a few minutes at a time. Social dancers may dance for hours at a time, and need a cooler suit.
If you already have a sewing machine with the recommended presser feet you can make this suit at home for about $300. After you get the patterns, fabric and other supplies it will take you about 120 hours of work to make it. Or it could take half that time or twice that time depending on how fast you work.
When tailsuits and tailored clothes were popular most big city tailor shops had a well dressed cutter who worked in an elegant shop and took the order. With his tape measure he took your measurements. After you left he expertly drew on brown wrapping paper and cut out custom patterns to fit only you. This is why he was called the cutter. He had many different kinds of fabric folded in half lengthwise and rolled up. He would then cut folded lengths of the different kinds of fabric needed to make the suit off the different rolls of fabric. He would use chalk to trace the outline of the paper patterns on the top layer of the folded length of fabric. He chalked additional lines to allow for alterations. He would hang the paper patterns in storage and record them in a filing system. He would roll up all the rectangular pieces of folded fabric in to a bundle tied with cloth tape, then send the fabric to a tailor. Some shops had tailors working in the back of the shop, but most shops sent the work to tailors who worked at home. The tailor stitch marked and cut the pieces out, made the suit and sent it back to the cutter for a first fitting. After the first fitting on the customer, the cutter would mark alterations if any were necessary on the suit and on the patterns, and send the suit back to the tailor. One cutter could keep many tailors busy.
But the cat might like to play with the tailor's thread. The tailor might resort to extreme measures to discourage the cat, as illustrated in this old cartoon of a tailor:
This tailor is your role model if you undertake this project.
The tailsuit will fit more snugly under the armpits than a suit you would buy in the store. This is so that raising the arms will not distort the rest of the coat as much. But it will not be as extreme in this regard as most competition tailsuits. But it will have a more contoured, fitted, traditional look than most tailsuits made for dancing. Most tailsuits for dancing fit loose in the back more like a bathrobe without a belt.
This suit should also be suitable for amateur theater productions, and for orchestra conductors.
The kind of dancing intended is the Viennese waltz as danced at formal balls. This is a very athletic dance, so the dancer wants a suit that will be cool to wear, inexpensive, and washable. Accordingly, the suit will be made of black cotton twill instead of the traditional very expensive suit with an outer layer of black worsted wool. Cotton twill is the same material that khaki pants are made of, but in a different color. The lapel facings will be made of black polyester satin, which is washable. The vest will be made of white cotton twill.
Like the very expensive traditional suit this suit will be made from patterns based on measurements of the individual who will wear the suit. The patterns will have been printed out on an oversized printer at your local blueprint or graphics shop from free pdf files obtained from the author of this article. My pattern program is experimental and you use my patterns at your own risk. Or you could draw your own patterns using instructions in the book described later. The shop near me charges about $27.00 to print out a set of patterns, but I live in an inexpensive part of America. The fabric, thread, buttons, zipper, suspenders, tie and shirt will bring the total up to just under $300.00 . The sewing equipment will be a much more significant expense if you do not already have it.
All tailsuits have a lot in common. But there are differences in style. The style that I have tried to achieve is the style worn by the fictional character Colonel Pickering in the 1938 movie "Pygmalion". But I adjusted the top of the lapels slightly lower. The style is more conservative and elegant than flashy and flamboyant.
A $5000.00 Savile row tail suit takes a long time for an expert to make. The suit will be made of wool that costs 4.6 times what cotton twill costs, the lapels of silk satin that costs 5.8 times what polyester satin costs, hair canvas that costs 2.2 times what cotton canvas costs, the pockets of cotton silesia that costs 3.3 times what inexpensive cotton muslin pocketing costs, and the vest of cotton marcella or birdseye pique that costs 4.0 times what cotton twill costs. The suit you will make will have mostly machine stitching of inexpensive materials and can be made by someone who has never sewn before in a reasonable amount of time. The Savile row suit will look better made upon close inspection. But if you make any alterations that are necessary it should look similar from a distance. A low cost tailsuit at your local tuxedo shop will look well made upon close inspection, but will not have the style and fit that this one will, hopefully. The suit you make will probably have some wrinkles that the other suits would not have. If you make so many mistakes that you would not wear it to a ball, at least you will have the best costume at next year's Halloween party.
A Savile row suit will have pockets that the suit you make will not. It will probably have pockets in the tail pleats in the rear, and pockets in the coat body that I did not put in mine. Your suit will have the external welt pocket on the front of the coat, and the four usual pockets in the pants. The Savile row suit will have a nice lining in the body of the coat that the suit you make will not have.
The body of an expensive multi-layer suit has a shape provided by darts in layers of hair canvas. A dart is a V shaped cut in the fabric that is closed by sewing it together so the fabric will no longer lay flat. The good suits cling to the wearer almost as if they were buttoned in the front, even though they are not buttoned.
If our suit is made of only one layer of cotton twill it will show even more wrinkles and be more like a shirt than like a coat. We will add cotton canvas to the coat front pieces to reduce wrinkles and to help the coat cling without buttons.
Polyester satin will be used to face the lapels. Its use in the lapels is purely for appearance. Polyester lining fabric will be used to line the tails. Its use in the tails is mostly functional, not for appearance. The lining of the tails must be slick so the tails will slide and not stick and cling to the pants. Satin is only slick in one direction. Lining is slick in both directions, so we prefer lining.
The patterns have inlays added to permit letting out seams for alterations. They also have other inlays, which the old British tailoring books call turnings, which are required for edges that need to be hemmed. These patterns do not distinguish between the optional inlays for alterations and the required ones for hems, but the text does. The patterns do not show seam allowances. The standard seam allowance in the patterns is 1/4 inch, and is implicit in the solid lines of the pattern, which are 1/4 inch outside the seam line. This is because a standard sewing machine presser foot is 1/2 inch wide, and the edge of the presser foot is 1/4 inch from the seam.
If you wish to undertake this project you might like to get a tailoring book that discusses this type of garment. The book "The Modern Tailor Outfitter and Clothier" by Bridgland is a three volume book. The 1928 edition has been reprinted and is available from internet book sellers. In the beginning of each volume it says "copyright 2013". The only part that is copyright 2013 is the two and a half page article "dressmaking and tailoring" that is inserted at the beginning of each volume. The rest, thankfully, is from 1928 when tailsuits were popular. The paperback edition seems more durable than the hardback. Volume 1 has a chapter on alterations that will be useful if you need to make alterations to get the fit and appearance you want. Volume 2 has a glossary of tailoring terms. Volume 3 has instructions and drawings for making a business suit, much of which is applicable here. Of special interest is the old fashioned kind of pants shown there, which is the kind for which I supply patterns. The patterns I supply are similar but not identical to his tailsuit patterns. I used his book and other books that are out of print.
Bridgland was the editor of the book. Many of the chapters were written by other cutters. Bridgland's chapter that includes a tailcoat is written by Thickett. The tailcoat pattern is on p.62. There appear to be some typographical errors on p.62 of Bridgland's first volume, as can be deduced by comparing with similar patterns on other pages. Thickett must have had terrible handwriting. "15 from 1" should be "15 from 7". "less 0 to 8" should be "less 0 to 6". There is a sentence that is terribly confusing: "Deduct 1/2 inch from the over-shoulder measure...". I think what he means is take the over-shoulder measure, deduct 1/2 inch, then deduct the distance from A to 21, and make the remainder the radius of a first arc centered at 18. The intersection of this arc and a second arc centered at 20 will locate point 22.
It should be noted that Thickett's pattern shows the tail pieces drawn in a shape ready to be sewn on. My patterns show the top of the tail piece extended in a way that will be cut off later before they will be sewn on. After the top is cut down, mine will look more like Thickett's. Bridgland's volume 3 p.117 shows Thornton's pattern for a morning coat. The tailcoat patterns I am currently experimenting with are mainly based on Thornton's morning coat pattern, but adapted to a tailcoat.
Bridgland does not show where inlays are usually added to the patterns. An example of my patterns is included where you can see most of the inlays that tailors traditionally use. I left out a couple of short inlays in the arm hole because they were confusing for a beginner to sew on the sleeves.
You might be tempted to make only the coat and use store bought black pants instead of making the black pants according to the pattern. This will not work. You have to have these pants. The coat has a high waist and requires high waisted pants to match. You could get by with ordinary pants if you used a lower waist when making the measurement, but this would not look right because the suit would no longer have the classic shape and contour. It would have the frumpy look of the tailsuits in your local tuxedo shop.
Most of the units used in this article are inches. One inch is 2.54 centimeters or 25.4 millimeters.
The sewing instructions are for the most part text with no pictures. The picture referred to in the text is the fabric pieces before your eyes as you are working. This will work fine unless I have miss-worded the instructions some place and said something that I did not mean. Nobody is perfect. I did my best.
Most tailcoats made before 1900 were made of different pattern pieces than most tailcoats made after 1920. Pages 122 and 123 of volume 3 of Bridgland's book show a field coatee or hunt swallowtail. It is made of the pattern pieces used for tailcoats before 1900, but the shape of the pieces is different because it is for a different purpose. There was no way to adjust the angle that the tails hung. For this reason tailcoats before 1900 usually had the tails extend the same distance below the waist seam that the waist seam was below the back of the neck. This is shorter than tails on more modern tailcoats. Tailcoats after 1920 had different pattern pieces, like those shown on p.62 of Bridgland's book. His patterns show what the tails would look like after they had been fitted to hang properly. My patterns show the tails with extra material at the top to allow for fitting the tails to hang properly before the extra material is cut off. His volume 1 on p.133 refers to an evening dress tailcoat as simply a "dress coat". He gives a formula for the length of the coat, by which he means from the neck to the bottom of the tails. His formula depends only on the height of the man. But I have seen two other books written in the 1930's that specify the length of the tails with reference to the height of the crease in the back of the bent knee. They specify that the tails should hang two inches below the knee. That is the way my patterns are drawn.
There is a set of measurements that you can make on yourself without assistance. This set of measurements can be used to produce tailsuit patterns using a computer program. You can send me the measurements and I will e-mail you pdf files of the patterns free of charge on an experimental basis, no guarantees.
If you want to use Bridgland's book to draw the patterns, you will need someone else to measure you to get the set of measurements the patterns are based on. I have never made a suit using those measurements. I have altered the procedures to use more convenient measurements.
This section describes the measurements required as input data to the program that produces patterns for a tailsuit. The measurements can all be made by yourself with no assistance.
Certain items are needed to make the measurements: A cloth measuring tape, a retractable metal or plastic measuring tape on an enclosed spool, a roll of medical adhesive tape, a large hand mirror with a handle, a mirror on the wall, and a roll of cotton cord or string. It would be most convenient to have a moveable rectangular mirror larger than a hand mirror, at least 30 inches tall. If this is not available, ingenuity may make the hand mirror suffice.
Some of the measurements locate certain definite points on your body. This does not necessarily mean an edge of the garment will be at that point, rather that the edge will be positioned relative to that point.
The code word for each measurement is followed by a description of the measurement.
The measurements should be made in your underwear and sock feet. A specified amount will be added to some measurements to allow for the fact that the measurements are made over skin, and not over clothes. If someone else is measuring you, they will measure over clothes, and the amount will not have to be added
The first line of the list of measurements should be the name you wish to use to identify the pattern. If you are making suits for different actors in a stage play, this would be each actor's name. If you do not wish to have your name on the file, you could simply put "me". The name must be in double quotes to be properly read by the computer.
chst: Using the cloth measuring tape measure around your chest under your armpits. Make sure the tape is not snug enough to press your flesh. If the measurements are made over skin or a shirt, add 1.5 inches to the measurement. If it is made over a sport coat or suit coat, nothing needs to be added.
wst: Put the moveable mirror in the seat of a chair leaning against the back of the chair so that it is slightly tilted upward. Put a piece of tape on the mirror at about waist high as a marker. If you only have the hand mirror, tape it to the wall at waist height and put something behind the lower edge to tilt it up slightly. Move away from the mirror until the image of your waist is at the height of the marker on the mirror. Turn so that your side is toward the mirror. You now have a view of yourself from waist height. Locate the hollow of your back. The hollow of your silhouette as seen from the side is what is important, even though that may be slightly different from the hollow of your spine. Locating this point is the single most critical thing in measuring yourself. Use the cloth tape to measure your waist at the hollow of your back. Make sure the tape makes a horizontal loop around your waist. After you finish the measurement, tie a cotton cord or string around yourself at the level of the waist hollow. Use the same kind of knot you use to tie your shoes. It does not matter if this cord is snug enough to press the flesh. Tape it in place if you are afraid it will move. You will need this cord for future measurements. It is very important that the cord looks horizontal in the mirror. If this measurement is made over skin or a shirt, add 1.0 inches to the measurement. You will not be able to measure over pants, because you are not likely to own a pair of pants that goes up to your waist.
seat: Measure around your seat about 3 or 4 inches above the crotch, whichever gives the largest measurement. If the measurement is made over skin, add 1.0 inch to the measurement. If it is made over pants, add nothing.
wh: Use the spool tape to measure the height above the floor of the cord around your waist when your are standing on a hard surfaced floor in sock feet.
rise: Sit up straight on a flat hard surface such as the edge of a desk, a table or a kitchen counter. Measure the distance from the surface up to the cord tied around your waist.
nw: Tie a loop of string around your neck. Slide the loop down your neck until a very slight resistance is felt because your neck is starting to widen into your shoulders. Now use the cloth tape and reach around your back. Have the top of the tape at the neck string. Slide your fingers down the tape and pinch it at the point where your waist string is. Bring the tape around front and see where your pinched fingers are holding the tape. The distance down your back from the neck string to the waist string is what we want here.
kh: Your calf muscle is the large muscle on the back side of your lower leg below your knee. Feel the back of your leg to feel where the calf muscle ends and the knee begins in back. When you bend your knee, there will be a crease in the back of your knee at the top of the calf muscle. You want a loop of string tied around your knee at that height. Make sure the loop is horizontal at that level. On the side of your leg use the spool tape to measure the height of the loop above a hard surfaced floor in your sock feet.
sleeve: When you purchase long sleeve shirts, what sleeve length do you specify? That is the number we want here. If you need to measure that number, it is the distance from the center of the back of your neck along the top of your shoulder down your arm hanging down vertically to your wrist.
That is all the measurements needed as input data for the program.
Below is an example of the format of the set of measurements that you would e-mail me, all the measurements being in inches. Decimal fractions must be used. Thus 9 and 5/8 inch would be 9.625. All quantities are required.
"john smith" 36.0 chst 32 wst 38 seat 41 wh 11 rise 16.5 nw 17.9 kh 32 sleeve
It would be best to make the complete set of measurements more than once. You would be amazed at how often ordinary people accidentally get simple measurements wrong. That just means you are human.
Most of your measurements will be very different from the above example. Everyone is different. The suit will not fit correctly if the measurements are not correct. You must carefully preserve a record of the measurements that you email me so you can check it against the pattern files that I send back. The large patterns will have the measurements printed along the bottom of each sheet.
In response to the measurements you email me, I will email you zip files of the pdf files of the patterns. You will use your computer to unzip the zip files. You will then have two sets of pdf files. The large set is full sized patterns named file1.pdf through file6.pdf. The small set is small patterns named small1.pdf through small6.pdf. If you have a printer, you can print the small set on your own printer. The large set will have to be printed on a large printer at a commercial blueprint or reproduction shop, graphics shop, print shop, office supply shop, or copy shop. You will use your computer to copy the large set to a USB stick, then take the stick to the graphics shop to have the files printed full size.
You will need to check to see that the files were correctly printed. Measure the printed border, not the cut edge of the paper. You should use a steel tape, not a cloth tape for this. My steel tape measures file1 accurately as being 57 inches long. My cloth tape inaccurately gives 57.5 inches. The cloth tape is accurate enough for short measurements, but not for long measurements. The paper sheets will have slightly larger dimensions than the printed rectangular borders. File1.pdf should have a printed rectangular border that is 35 inches wide, 57 inches high. Files 2, 3, and 6 should have printed borders 35 by 36 inches. Files 4 and 5 should have printed borders 34 by 59 inches. In each case the right side of the border has tic marks separated by 4 inches less than the length of the border. The bottom border has tic marks separated by 2 inches less than the length of the border. If the borders are not correct, the patterns will not be the right size. If the graphics shop cannot correct the problem, find another shop.
Each large sheet of patterns will have your input data listed at the bottom of the sheet. You must check it against your record of the data that you sent to make sure there has been no mistake.
If you are making more than one suit for different actors in a stage play, you should write each actor's name in the middle of each pattern piece before you cut any of the paper pattern pieces out do there is no chance of mixing up the patterns.
Below are shown small examples of the pattern files I supply. Even if you are going to make your own patterns, you will want to add the inlays shown as dashed lines outside the solid lines of the patterns.
File1. Coat back, side, tail and collar.
File2. Coat front and welt pocket pieces.
File3. Coat sleeve top and sleeve bottom.
File4. Pant top, side pocket and fly.
File5. Pant bottom.
File6. Vest front, lapel and neck piece.
Any time you are not sure how to do something, search the internet for how to do that specific thing. There are sewing articles and videos on the internet showing how to do just about everything.
The edges of cotton clothing will unravel in the wash unless something is done to prevent it. Cotton street clothes have edges that are enclosed or edges that are serged.
A typical man might wear a shirt and pants 16 hours a day for a week before washing them. That is 112 hours before they need to be washed. The clothes will be washed many times before they wear out. But a man who wears a tailsuit to dance at balls will wear it 4 hours at each ball twice a year. It would take 14 years before it had to be washed. It is not worth the trouble to serge or enclose edges of a garment that will only be washed two or three times. A serger machine is expensive and difficult to use. An ordinary sewing machine can zigzag the edges, which is good enough for this purpose. But it would be different if you were going to wear the tailsuit at work every day of the week.
These instructions specify zigzagging the edges to make the suit washable.
Since my own suit has not been worn much yet, I have not yet washed it the first time.
To make the suit a simple home type sewing machine is recommended. Certain features are needed on the sewing machine. It should have a standard presser foot about 0.5 inches wide that can be used for straight seams or zigzag seams. This is because the patterns assume a 0.5 inch foot for straight seams. You should be able to remove the presser foot and insert a different presser foot. The machine should have a bobbin winder. You need to be able to select either a simple straight stitch, zigzag stitch, or a blind stitch. The length of stitch and width of the zigzag should be adjustable. It should be capable of a zigzag at least 4mm wide. You will need to be able to lower the feed dogs to sew without advancing the fabric. The machine should have a hand wheel so you can manually raise and lower the needle. The machine should have a tension adjustment for the upper thread that can be adjusted from normal all the way down to zero.
The machine should have free arm capability so you can slip a coat sleeve or pant leg over the lower arm to hem it. The free arm capability will usually require temporarily removing a piece that is normally attached to the lower arm. Some machines have a free arm small enough for a pant leg, but not small enough for a coat sleeve. If your free arm is not small enough for a coat sleeve, you will have to do some extra hand sewing.
I have seen a machine advertised without extra presser feet that cost only $100 that claimed to have all the features mentioned above, but I have not tried it. I bought an expensive machine, a Bernina 330. This is about the least expensive electronic machine Bernina makes. Their very expensive machines would not be useable because they have presser feet that are too wide for the patterns we use. It is the only machine I have ever used. Comparing machines on the internet, it seems than the most obvious advantage of the Bernina is that it has a better assortment of presser feet to choose from than the less expensive machines. The extra presser feet cost extra. If you to not have all the recommended presser feet, you may have to do more complicated procedures or more hand sewing to achieve the same result. Once I briefly got to use a cheap machine to sew a vertical seam starting at a pant leg and ending on top of the waistband. It sewed properly the whole way, but made loud knocking noises inside the machine as it sewed over the thickness of the waistband. It sounded like something inside the machine was about to break. The expensive machine sewed the thick part quietly with ease.
You can find places on the internet that will sell presser feet that your sewing machine dealer does not have. Make sure you order feet that will fit your kind of machine. You will need the normal standard presser foot that is one half inch wide and has a slot for zigzagging. You will need a tailor tack presser foot for mark stitching. A tailor tack foot is sometimes called by other names, such as marking foot, fringe foot or looping foot. You will need a blind stitch foot for blind stitching the front piece to the canvas and for hemming. You need an edge stitch foot for the lapel seam. You will need a zipper foot for pad stitching the lapel and for the pants fly. You will need an overlock presser foot for zigzagging the edges of thin materials of pocketing. The overlock foot has a slot for zigzagging just like the standard foot, but there is a pin in the right side of the slot. The zigzag used must be just wide enough that the needle goes down on the outside of the pin. The pin prevents the tension in the thread from contracting the zigzag and curling the edge of the thin fabric.
Make sure you know how to clean and lubricate the insides your sewing machine. Lint will collect under the stitch plate. You should frequently lift off the stitch plate and remove the lint under it. Even with this, some lint will from time to time fall lower down where moving parts are. Lint in the moving parts will wipe away the lubrication. Without lubrication the metal parts will wear out quickly. So less frequently you will need to clean and lubricate the moving parts.
If you buy thread in spools with a diameter of 3cm or 1.2 inches, you will need two spools of black thread and two spools of white thread. For special temporary marking get only one of the smallest available spool of some other bright color, such as gold or red.
You need a small table to put the sewing machine on, and a desk or table 60 inches long or longer and 30 inches wide or wider to have enough space for a cutting table. Your dinner table will probably work fine. If you have no cutting table you will have to cut on the floor. It will be convenient to have one or two chairs with no arms to catch fabric that falls off the end of the table, so it does not get dirty in the floor.
You will need a cloth measuring tape with inches on one side and centimeters on the other. A meter stick or a yard stick. A small flat steel ruler about six inches long with inches on one side and centimeters on the other side. White tailors chalk will be used to mark the black twill, satin and lining with, and colored tailors chalk to mark the white twill. A black fine point permanent marker will be used to mark canvas and muslin fabric that will not be visible in the finished garment. Scissors with offset handles, about 10 inches from end of blade to end of handle, for cutting fabric. For the fabric cutting scissors to stay sharp they should never be used to cut paper, use different scissors for paper. Some people like rolling cutters, but I make fewer mistakes with scissors. Spring loaded thread cutters with pointed blades for cutting marking thread between two layers of cloth. Two kinds of tweezers: the kind made like pliers for strong pulling, and the spring loaded kind for fast work. A seam ripper, hand sewing needles, a thimble, a box of straight pins with colored plastic balls on one end and a pincushion. A box of assorted sizes of safety pins. A ball point bodkin for manipulating tight folds of fabric. An electric steam iron and a sleeve board for pressing sleeve seams and other seams open. You will not need a large ironing board. Use only distilled water in the steam iron so the water passages inside will not get clogged with deposits.
Other features are desirable, but not necessary, as listed below:
An elbow lamp at your cutting table and at your sewing machine will be helpful because you are working with black cloth. You need all the light you can get.
A sewing machine with a needle threader is nice too.
At the beginning and end of each seam you will need to sew briefly in the other direction, to keep the seam from unravelling. This can be done by manual control of the sewing machine, but it is more convenient if the machine can be set to do this automatically. This might be called a securing stitch or a backtack. To do it manually you must raise the presser foot slightly so you can move the fabric in the reverse direction about 0.5 inch while sewing.
It is convenient to be able to select whether the needle will remain down or remain up when you stop sewing in the middle of a seam. This is usually called a "needle down" capability. Without it you will have to remember to turn the hand wheel to lower the needle before you raise the presser foot on corners and curved seams.
A button sew-on foot is useful to sew on buttons. A darning foot can also be used for this but the button sew-on foot is preferable. The feed dogs will need to be lowered. Be sure to slowly crank the handwheel to see that the needle goes through BOTH holes, not just one hole, before you sew. Some machines have a special zigzag mode for sewing buttons that does a securing stitch so you do not have to tie the threads after the button is sewn on. For sewing on suspender buttons you may want to put a wooden match stick over the center of the button so the stitches will allow plenty of room for the thickness of the suspender. If your foot has an adjustable height metal pin, put the match stick under the pin or the tension in the stitches will bend the pin down. If the button has 4 holes, sew the pair of holes closest to you first. Then move the garment forward and sew the rear pair of holes. Do not remove the matchstick between pairs of holes, because you can never get it back in after you remove it.
You will need to make buttonholes for the buttons on the front of the vest. A normal foot on a simple machine will work but a buttonhole foot would be easier. This will probably require an electronic sewing machine that has a buttonhole mode to automate the making of buttonholes. Most sewing machines these days are electronic, not purely mechanical. This is different from the button sew-on foot previously mentioned. It is also helpful to get a small chisel with a sharp blade especially designed for cutting buttonholes. These are available at fabric stores and sewing machine stores. If the chisel does not come with a wooden block to cut against you could turn your sleeve board upside down and cut against the wooden base of the sleeve board. You will not need a hammer, the chisel is sharp enough that just pushing with your hand will cut the fabric.
A walking presser foot will obviate the need to hand baste the edge of the canvas to the twill before the edge of the canvas is sewn to the twill. Most presser feet only need to be attached to the machine at one point but the walking foot is different. The two different parts of the walking foot must be attached to two different parts of the machine to work properly. To prevent myself from forgetting this in a rush, I place a card in the box with the walking foot that says: "hook up the walking foot correctly if you use it!!!". It is wider than the desired half inch, but has alignment marks on the front a half inch apart that can be used to sew a quarter inch seam allowance. If you are sewing a quarter inch from the edge of the fabric with the walking foot, sometimes the edge will pucker up ahead of the walking foot and fold when it gets under the walking foot. When you see this about to happen, raise the walking foot with the needle down and the fold will go away.
You will have an overlock presser foot that will be adequate for zigzagging the edges of the polyester lining and the polyester satin. But to make a more wear resistant edge you might prefer a hemming foot. On my machine I have tried two different straight stitch hemming feet. They make what is called a double hem or a rolled hem so that no raw edge is left exposed. One was for 2mm hems, the other for 4mm hems. The material was too thick for the 2mm hem to work. The 4mm hem worked, but takes practice to learn to use. To get started curl the edge of the fabric and feed it into the foot until it is under the needle. Lower the presser foot an begin to sew. The amount of the edge of the fabric that curls into the foot depends primarily on the angle that the fabric is to the sewing direction. If the angle would result in a wider hem, more fabric will curl into the foot. If the angle would result in a narrower hem, less fabric will curl into the foot, regardless of how you hold the edge of the fabric with your hand. With the hemming feet the manufacturer recommends you substitute a straight stitch plate for the standard zigzag stitch plate. The stitch plate is the plate with a hole in it that the machine needle goes down through when you sew. The zigzag stitch plate has a slot for the needle to go through, the straght stitch plate has only a small hole for the needle to go through.
If you make a mistake with the seam ripper and cut the black twill fabric, a darning presser foot will help you to repair the cut neatly enough that you do not have to discard the garment and start all over.
You need a small cardboard box to put all your presser feet in. The kind of box that business cards come in is ideal. The box should also contain a wooden match stick for use with the button sew-on presser foot. It should contain one pin with a plastic ball on one end. This is because the automatic threading function does not always work perfectly. With the pin you can pull a small loop of thread from one side of the machine needle to complete threading the needle.
You need a larger cardboard box to put the rest of your sewing supplies in. Scissors, tweezers, chalk, black marker, spools of thread, etc.
The items listed below that are not available in your local fabric shop can be found on the internet. Good sources in America are hobbylobby.com, wawak.com, amazon.com, jcpenny.com, createforless.com, redrockthreads.com, buttons.com, bblackandsons.com, twilltape.com, and corsetmaking.com.
The coat and pants will be made of black cotton twill. The vest will be made of white cotton drill or white cotton denim. The weave of twill and drill is similar, but drill is thicker and heavier than twill, the same weight as cotton canvas. As near as I can tell drill and denim are the same. I prefer the lighter twill for the black suit fabric but the heavier drill for the white vest fabric. Cotton twill is available from most fabric stores. You might want to get small samples from different sources to decide which you prefer. There are substantial differences when you compare them side by side. The lapel facings will be black polyester satin. Tail linings will be black polyester lining fabric. Unseen inside parts of coat and pants will be cotton canvas. Pockets and other small parts will be cotton muslin. The canvas and muslin will not be seen, so any color will do, but natural cotton color or white would make marking on them easier and permit them to be washed for shrinking with the white twill.
Bridgland's book tells how to make a buttoned fly. Now most people prefer a zippered fly, which is the only kind I have made.
Get a black zipper long enough for the pants fly. You probably will not find the exact length you need. You will get a longer zipper and cut it to length later. When the zipper is zipped up the width across the teeth will be a bit less than a quarter inch. Most pant zippers are 4mm or 5mm wide accross the teeth when zipped up. If they are 5mm wide they would be described as a #5 zipper. Work pants usually have zippers with brass teeth. Dress pants zippers have either metal teeth or plastic coil teeth. Sometimes they have molded plastic teeth. The width of fabric on each side of the zipper teeth will be about a half inch. Look at several of the pants you have to see the type of zipper you need. An airport security guy assured me metal zippers do not activate the metal detectors, but the plastic zippers work fine. It is easier to cut the plastic zippers to length without damaging your scissors. All zippers open at the top when you unzip them. A "closed bottom" zipper does not open at the bottom when you unzip it to the bottom. This kind of zipper may also be called "non-separating". That is what you want for a pants fly. A "separating" zipper does completely unzip at the bottom. That is what would be in a coat. But these pants are unusual. An average size man will need to cut the zipper to about 13 inches long. A tall man will need longer. So you need to look for a zipper 14 inches long or longer.
Get black suspenders, also called braces, made to attach to buttons. Inexpensive formal button suspenders are available from amazon.com. They also sell white bow ties, you will need one of these. While any white bow tie will be satisfactory, it will look better the more closely it matches the material of the vest. So a cotton tie will be preferable to the more common polyester satin ties. Get 15 shiny flat black buttons 0.75 inch in diameter that will be used both to attach the suspenders to the pants and for decoration on the coat. Buttons with a slight ridge around the edge are the most traditional. Three 0.5 inch white buttons will be needed for the vest. The vest will need about four feet of 1 inch wide cotton belting for the straps in the back, preferably natural cotton color or white.
twilltape.com sells rolls of cotton twill tape. Fortunately the rolls are not expensive, because you need only small amounts of half inch wide thick tape if you decide to make a trouser tab for the shirt.
You need black polyester satin. But some "black" polyester satin is "enhanced" with blue sprinkles, gold stars and pink cupids. That is not what you want. You want plain black, smooth and shiny.
Get a standard simple long sleeved white dress shirt with buttons that are either an artificial mother of pearl look, white, or clear. It should have plain cuffs, not fancy folded back french cuffs on the sleeves. Folded back cuffs tend to catch on the coat sleeves when you raise your arms into dance position. The shirt will be modified so that it will not be suitable to wear with anything but the tailsuit. A button down collar is preferable to a plain collar, because the plain collar has a plastic stiffener at the point of the collar that would have to be removed.
In my local fabric stores some cotton twill is 58 inches wide, some 60 inches wide, and some is 44 inches wide. 60 or 58 is what you want, 44 is too narrow. You will need to estimate how much fabric to buy. After you buy the fabric, you will have to cut it into lengths preferably not much longer than the length of the table or desk where you will cut the pieces out. Each length of fabric will need to be about 3 inches longer at each end than the extent of the pieces. The total length would be 6 inches longer than the pattern. This is because the length of fabric will need to be run through the washer and dryer to shrink it before any pieces are cut from it, and you want a comfortable margin at each end when you pin the patterns to the fabric. You need two mirror image versions of each piece. If the fabric is wide enough it is folded lengthwise. Cutting through two layers of fabric will cut the two mirror image versions of each piece at the same time. The two layers of cloth will be arranged so that the good sides, the sides showing the twill pattern, will be facing each other while the cutting is taking place.
You should have a set of small patterns in addition to the full sized set of patterns. You should print out the set of small patterns on your home computer. The rectangular border that has back, side, tail and collar pieces represents 35 inches by 57 inches. The other rectangular borders are different sizes but all are to the same scale. On a blank sheet of paper draw your cloth to the same scale. Cut out the small size patterns, and arrange the pieces on your drawing of the cloth that is folded in half. That way you will determine how to arrange the full size patterns, how long each length of cloth needs to be cut, and much cloth you need to purchase. Each length of cloth needs to be six inches longer than the patterns that will be cut from it, three inches extra at each end. With a pencil trace the outline of each piece so you will have a drawing of the layout to use later.
It may be confusing to have rectangular lengths of black twill of different lengths, which is required to use the absolute minimum of fabric. There is a risk that you will forget which rectangle is which. You can simplify matters by making each rectangular piece of black twill the same length, and try to get as many patterns as possible on each rectangle.
The small patterns are 0.1547 times the size of the large patterns. You will need black cotton twill, black polyester satin, black polyester lining, white cotton twill, cotton canvas, preferably natural cotton color, but any color will do, and cotton muslin for pocketing. Each different kind of fabric may come in different widths. To cut each kind of fabric, it will be folded double so the two selvedge edges are together. The selvedge is the manufactured edge of the fabric. So you will want to draw parallel lines on paper that are half the width of the fabric, since it is folded. Suppose one of your fabrics is 58 inches wide. Half 58 is 29 inches. 29 times our scale factor of 0.1547 is 4.48 inches, which is the separation between your parallel lines to represent the fabric. Then you would put each small paper pattern cutout between the parallel lines and trace it on the paper. You should draw parallel lines representing the black twill fabric on at least four sheets of paper. See what arrangement of pattern pieces works best on the four sheets before you start tracing the pattern pieces. You will need an extra yard of each of black twill, canvas and muslin because small extra pieces will be needed that you do not have patterns for. They are mostly simple rectangles.
How long a piece of each kind of fabric you will need will depend on how wide the fabric is and how large you are. If following fabrics were 58 or 60 inches wide, an average sized man would need approximately 7 yards of black twill, 2 yards of canvas, 1 yard of black polyester satin, 1 yard of black polyester lining fabric, and 1 yard of white cotton twill. If the cotton muslin were 45 inches wide, 2 yards would be needed. More yardage is specified here than would be required by the patterns, because extra simple pieces not included in the patterns will be called for in the instructions. One yard is 0.9144 meters.
The preceding paragraph estimates fabric needs assuming you make no mistakes. If you are a beginner and want to allow for mistakes, get extra fabric.
Some fabric shops permit customers to change their minds and return pieces of fabric. A roll of fabric in the shop may not be one continuous length, but several short lengths. If the fabric store is part of a chain of stores, the easiest way to get large lengths of fabric is to order it from the website of the chain of stores and have it delivered to your house. But even if you order it, it may come in two lengths, not the one length you expected. If you order 10 yards of black twill, they may supply the last 7 yards off of one roll and the first 3 yards off of the next roll. But if you plan to cut the fabric into rectangles of equal length, two of the lengths will be very different. So you will need to order more than you expect to need.
A final item that you should get is not for permanent use in the garment, but for temporary use in making the garment. Two large sheets of art paper will be useful. It is thick paper usually called watercolor paper, vellum or bristol board. It should be between 10 and 20 thousandths of an inch thick. Between the thickness of a typical business card and twice that thick. It can be found in hobby supply stores or art supply stores. The sheets need to be large enough to trace the front piece pattern on them. They will be cut into the pattern of the coat front piece canvas, and the darts joined with duct tape. They will then accurately take the shape that the darts impart, and make it easier to lay canvas, twill and satin layers on each other to pin them in place without wrinkles before sewing the layers together. To use the art paper you will also need a roll of duct tape.
The polyester fabric will not shrink. The cotton fabric will shrink.
Before you cut any pattern pieces out of the fabric, the fabric will be cut into lengths, each length being appropriate for multiple pattern pieces. The lengths will be put through the washer and dryer to shrink the fabric before any pattern pieces are cut out. All of the cotton fabric, twill, canvas or muslin must be shrunk. The white twill will get dark if it is shrunk with the black twill. The white twill should be shrunk with the canvas and muslin. All of the cotton fabric you bought should be shrunk, even if some of it seems extra. You want to leave no doubt which part has and has not been shrunk, so shrink it all. In the course of making the suit extra small pieces will have to be cut from time to time, and the fabric they are cut from must have already been shrunk. But the lengths must have their cut ends prepared before the shrinking.
The pant pieces are the longest. The pant bottoms are longer than the pant tops. Unroll the patterns and measure the length from top to bottom. When you cut the fabric into lengths for shrinking, make the lengths six inches longer than the patterns you will cut from the pieces. This will allow for shrinkage and for the folded ends of the rectangles not matching before you cut.
It is most convenient to cut all pieces of black twill into rectangles the length of the longest rectangle of fabric that you need. Then you will not have to worry later which rectangle goes with which patterns. This fabric is cheap, so you do not need to go to extra effort to conserve fabric. It would be different with expensive fabric.
Before you cut the fabric, make sure it has been unfolded enough that you are only cutting two layers. If the fabric is 60 inches wide, it will come folded 30 inches wide in two layers. You may need to place two chairs at the end of the table to hold the long length of fabric, pull up the amount you want to cut onto the table.
When the cotton twill cloth is washed, it will not come unraveled along the manufactured edge of the cloth, called the "selvedge", but it will come unraveled along the cut edge unless something is done to prevent it. Sew a zigzag stitch at the cut edge of each length of cloth before you put the lengths of cloth through the washer and dryer. This will prevent unraveling. Most of the zigzag will be on the cloth, but part will be just outside the edge of the cloth. Set the zigzag width to 5mm and the stitch length to 2mm. Zigzag black cloth with white thread and zigzag white cloth with black thread. That way you will be sure of what has been zigzagged.
After zigzagging several pieces, the stitch plate will need to be raised and the lint under the stitch plate removed.
For shrinking you will need to wash at least two separate loads of fabric because the white and black twill cannot be washed together. Wash and dry with the highest temperature your machines have. You will probably have enough black twill to justify two loads of black twill. If the canvas and muslin are white or natural color they could be washed with the white twill.
The first time you wash and dry new fabric, lots of lint will come off. Be sure to clean the dryer lint filter after every load. Sometimes stores cut lengths of fabric with a wavy cut edge that is not straight. If so, cut the wavy edge off to a straight edge before you zigzag the edge. That way you will not have portions of edge that are not zigzagged, increasing the lint problem.
After washing and drying a load of rectangular pieces get them out of the dryer not too long after the dryer is finished before any wrinkles set in. Canvas is especially bad about wrinkling. If you do not get to the dryer until after the wrinkles have set in, run the dryer again and it may get the wrinkles out.
Before folding each length of fabric, you must find the good side, if any. The pieces that are not twill, such as canvas and muslin, have no good side or wrong side. The twill pieces have a good side, the twill side. If you have difficulty seeing which side has the twill pattern, you can feel it by dragging a fingernail across the fabric at the right angle. The good side with the twill pattern will feel rougher than the wrong side. When the garment is worn, the good side will be outside and the wrong side will be inside. The wrong side of twill is smoother and presumably would be more comfortable against the skin.
The reason it is important to fold the fabric good side to good side is so chalk marks will not be made on the good side. Later the patterns will be laid on the folded fabric. The outline of the patterns will be traced on the folded fabric with chalk. Then the folded fabric will be cut on the chalk lines.
You wish to fold each rectangle good side to good side, with the selvedge edges together. After the first fold, hold the folded rectangle up high hanging straight down. Hold it near cut end and shake it to get the wrinkles out. On one side your finger will be inside the fold and pulling against the folded edge. On the other side hold the two selvedge edges together just below the top corners. Adjust the relative heights of the selvedge edges that you are holding, shaking the fabric each time, to get the selvedge edges to match as well as you can all the way down to the bottom. When you have done this, your zigzagged cut edges may not match, but this does not matter. Mismatch of the cut ends simply means that the fabric was delivered to you with a diagonal stretch in the fabric. You have corrected this by getting the selvedge edges to hang together. After you have achieved the first fold without bad wrinkles, lay the folded piece on the table and continue to fold until you have a convenient sized rectangle for storage.
This is a tutorial on the cutting process. Do not cut anything until you get to the part where you start making the suit.
The "warp" of the fabric is perpendicular to the axis of a roll of fabric. The warp is the long direction of fabric after the roll is unrolled. The vertical orientation of all the patterns should be aligned with the warp of the fabric, except in certain cases where you will be instructed to orient the patterns differently. If the direction of the warp of the fabric is 45 degrees to the vertical direction of a pattern or the length of a strip, the fabric is said to be cut on the bias. Very seldom will you cut on the bias.
You will cut the pattern for each piece along the outer lines on the pattern, whether the outer line is solid or dashed. Where you need to cut small holes in the middle of the pattern, pinch the pattern where you want to cut each hole, and make a V shaped cut in the creased edge with the scissors.
When you cut the pattern out, have only the pattern paper on the table, no fabric. You do not want to cut fabric by accident.
Select the paper patterns that go with one particular length of fabric. If a piece you are not yet ready for is on the same length of fabric with a piece you are ready for, normally you should go ahead and cut them both. But if the piece is complicated and it is not obvious how to interpret the pattern, you may need to read the section that describes that part before cutting that piece, or you will not cut it correctly. The collar, coat front, tail, pant top, pant bottom and vest front are not obvious and you will need to read about them before cutting.
If you have cut a piece that you do not need yet, go ahead and stitch mark it with white thread and lay it aside without separating the two layers until later when you need it.
In the collar pattern the dashed line within the solid lines is a fold line, not a cut line. It should not be ironed into a crease.
On the front piece pattern the dashed line within the solid lines is a fold line, but it will not be ironed with a crease. The pocket outline will be stitch marked on the fabric, but not cut on the fabric. Each dart has a small inner part and a large outer part. The small inner part will be cut on the twill. The large outer part will later be cut on the canvas. The small circles are reference points for the location of buttons that should be marked at the center of the circle. The centers of the two small "x" marks should be marked to align the twill with the canvas.
On the pant top piece, after the two layers are separated one piece will be cut differently from the other piece along the dashed line in the crotch. The other dashed line only indicates the placement of the pocket facing when the pants are sewn together. The smaller pieces can be cut later. Mark the center of the circles that give button locations for suspenders.
On the pant bottom, the line indicating the rear pocket opening will not be cut. The whole line does not need to be marked, only the two points at the ends of the line. Mark the center of the circle that gives the button location.
On the vest front the dashed line inside the solid lines only indicates where the edge of the vest lapel will go.
Spread the appropriate length of fabric on your cutting desk or table folded in half with the selvedge edges together. Make sure the fabric is folded with the wrong side out, the good sides facing each other. You will always cut folded fabric to make two identical pieces unless specifically directed otherwise. Run your hands over the top layer of the folded fabric to smooth wrinkles. To get rid of wrinkles you may have to fold it again as described in the last paragraph on shrinking. If a wrinkle is too stubborn, steam iron it on the sleeve board.
Arrange the appropriate patterns on the fabric the same as you did the small patterns on the drawing of the fabric. Pin each pattern through both layers of fabric in at least two places. On large pieces use more pins. The pins should be inside the solid lines, since the inlays marked by dashed lines outside of the solid lines will later be cut off while the pins are still in place.
When inserting a pin, put the pin down vertically where you want it to go in. Then put your hand under the fabric to lift the fabric around the pin so that the pin penetrates the pattern and both layers of fabric. Then change the angle of the pin so the point is higher than the plastic ball at the other end. Push the pin through both layers of fabric and the pattern. In doing this, the layers will be bulged up and no longer be flat and smooth on the table. Spread everything flat and smooth before you insert the next pin in some other location.
Using the tailors chalk, mark the cloth to copy any reference marks that are on the pattern. The reference marks are typically short lines perpendicular to the edge to mark a particular point on the edge. These marks are necessary to properly align two pieces before they are sewn together. They are very important. They should be marked with a narrow chalk mark. These marks can be marked on the material outside the pattern, then marked inside the pattern line after the pattern is removed. The locations of buttons and the ends of pocket openings are also reference marks. You will need to make holes in the paper pattern to make some marks.
We will trace the pattern with chalk and then cut along the chalk lines, instead of cutting around the paper pattern. This is because the paper pattern would tend to raise up and obscure the view, resulting in a ragged and uneven cut. We want a smooth accurate cut. Be sure to hold the edge of the pattern paper down near the chalk so the chalk will not go under the edge of the paper. It does not matter how wide the chalk line is. But the edge of the line must be at the edge of the paper.
Mark around the outer edge of the pattern onto the cloth. If the pattern has inlays indicated by dashed lines outside the solid lines, do not remove the pins yet. After you have traced the dashed lines, cut off the part of the pattern with the dashed line and trace the solid line edge of the pattern also. Each inlay is either in case a seam needs to be let out for a looser fit later or for a hem at the outer edge of a piece where it does not attach to another piece. There will be some cases where a dashed line is within the solid lines. That is not an inlay, and you will need to read the section concerning that piece to interpret it correctly.
Now that the fabric is chalk marked, double check that you have made every mark. Remove the pins, then remove the paper patterns without disturbing the fabric. Put the pins back in. The pins will have to be in during cutting, and after cutting during stitch marking, to make sure both layers are treated the same.
Do not discard the patterns, put them in a safe place. Some patterns will be used more than once, and a mistake may require a piece to be made again. It will not matter that the inlays are cut off, because they can be estimated adequately if you have to use the pattern again.
Before you cut the fabric, any reference marks that you marked outside the pattern should now be marked inside the boundaries of the piece where the mark originally was on the pattern.
Now use the scissors to carefully cut out each piece along the outer outline of each piece. Leave the fabric on the table while you cut, to not pick the fabric up and hold it to cut it. Where there is both an outer line and an inner line, you will not cut the inner line, you will mark stitch the inner line later with white thread. If you make a mistake and cut along an inner line, you will have to use the pattern again and do it right the next time. Cut along the edge of each chalk line where the edge of the pattern was. Usually that will be the inside edge of the chalk line, but in the case of darts it will be the outside edge. Save the scraps of cloth left after cutting in a bag, box or drawer. You will need the scraps to make miscellaneous small pieces for which there are no patterns.
Do not remove the pins that fasten the two layers yet. Now it is time to stitch mark the inner chalk lines. Marking is done with white thread so the marks are easy to see on black fabric. Unfortunately, you will have to use white thread also on white fabric, because any black stitch marking that is not removed would stain the white fabric in the wash. The marking thread will be removed before the garment is worn. The chalk marks can only be seen on one side of one one layer of the two layers of fabric. Stitch marks can be seen on both sides of both layers of fabric, which is essential. The technique is called stitch marking, tailor tacking or thread marking. It can be done by hand, the old fashioned way, or by machine with a tailor tack presser foot. I prefer to do it by machine. Be sure to mark stitch the reference marks before mark stitching the pattern outline, or you may forget to mark stitch the reference marks.
When stitch marking, remember which side of the chalk line the edge of the paper was when the line was drawn. That is the side of the chalk line where the stitch marks should go. The only exception is reference marks, where the stitch mark will go in the middle of the chalk line.
First, I will describe stitch marking by hand. Thread a hand sewing needle with white thread. About every 1.5 inches make a quarter inch stitch in and out of both layers of cloth. Make the stitches closer together at corners. On one side will be long threads, on the other short threads. Cut the long threads in half. Remove the pins and separate the two pieces of fabric only enough to leave about a third of each long thread on the top side. Cut the threads in half between the layers of cloth, then separate the layers completely.
Another alternative for stitch marking is to use more pins to hold the fabric layers together, and use a tailor tack presser foot on the sewing machine. I have achieved satisfactory results with the thread tension set to normal. With this foot set the machine for a plain simple zigzag stitch just wide enough to work with the foot, maybe 2mm. That is the stitch width, but the stitch length matters too. If you use a short stitch length, 2mm, you can separate the layers of fabric enough to easily cut the threads later. If you use a long stitch length you will not be able to separate the layers of fabric satisfactorily. Sew where you want stitch marks. To remove the fabric after sewing a mark, move the fabric backward to untangle the stitches from the presser foot. To turn a corner, untangle the stitches and start the seam in the new direction. Do not attempt a needle down corner the way you would with a straight stitch and standard presser foot.
If you need to mark a single spot, like the end of a pocket or a button location, lower the feed dog before you sew and the fabric will not move while you are sewing. Remember to raise the feed dog when you are finished.
The 2mm zigzag stitch used with the tailor tack presser foot will result in two rows of stitch marks separated by 2mm. But if the centerline of the foot was at the edge of the chalk line where the edge of the pattern was, then midway between the two rows of stitch marks will be the location that is intended to be marked.
After sewing with the tailor tack presser foot, pull the layers of fabric firmly apart to get the slack out of the stitches, then cut the stitches between the layers using the spring loaded thread cutter. The advantage of this technique over the hand technique is that it makes a more continuous mark.
After the layers are separated, be sure to cut the loose ends of thread at the ends of your tailor tacking. Do this on both sides of the fabric. Otherwise, you might later pull one of these threads and remove some of your stitch marking. This is especially important where you have lowered the feed dogs to sew a point. Pulling loose ends connected to a point stitch mark can easily remove the whole stitch mark. For this reason, after separating the layers, it is best to re-do the point stitch marks on each layer separately. Switch from the tailor tack foot to the normal foot to do this, but using the same zigzag stitch with the feed dogs lowered.
Whether the marking stitches are applied by hand or by machine, there is some chance that some of the stitches will fall out during the extensive handling required to make the garment. It is not a problem if a few stitches fall out of the middle of a long straight or gently curved line. It is a problem if they fall out of a corner or a short reference line. Therefore, after the two layers of cloth are separated, in each piece of cloth separately, it is wise to use a normal presser foot and straight stitch to sew a mark through the corners and short reference marks.
After the pieces of cloth are separated from each other each piece will have to heve a zigzag stitch sewn around the outer edge to prevent unravelling in the wash. You will nearly always use white thread for zigzagging even on black fabric. The advantage of using white thread on black fabric is that you can easily see which edges have been properly preserved with zigzag stitches. The white zigzag will not show when the garment is finished, it will be inside out of sight. The only exceptions to this are the bottom half of the back piece, all of the tail piece and the collar. These should be zigzagged with black thread, because white would show. You should mark the patterns so you do not forget. I usually use a zigzag 5mm wide and a stitch length of 2mm. When you get all the way around and finish, if you wish to be a perfectionist you could tie the loose thread ends together so they will not come loose in the wash, and cut off the excess. Unless you are planning to wash the garment a lot this is probably not necessary.
When zigzagging the white cloth of the vest, use white thread. Black thread would stain the white fabric in the wash.
Some sewing definitions. A stitch is where a needle penetrates fabric and draws thread from one side of the fabric to the other side of the fabric. Usually the stitch penetrates two layers of fabric for the purpose of joining the two layers. A seam is a line of repeated stitches. Seam allowance is the distance between a seam and the edge of the fabric. The seam allowance must not be too small or the seam would easily pull off the edge of the fabric. The standard seam allowance used in these patterns is a quarter inch. If the edge of the fabric is more than the standard seam allowance from the seam, the extra distance is called an inlay. A hem is when the edge of the fabric is folded under and sewn to the under side of the fabric. This is used because a folded edge looks better and wears better than a cut edge. The width of fabric folded up for a hem is sometimes also called an inlay but is more properly called a turning. Other terms will be defined as needed.
We will do most of our sewing with the machine. But first we will describe useful hand sewing techniques. If you have cut the thread with the thread cutter at the end of the machine, the end will be ragged and hard to thread through a needle. If you cut the thread with the spring loaded thread cutter that you hold in your hand, the end will be clean and easy to thread through the needle.
If we knotted one end of the thread to keep it from coming out of the needle we could pull only one thread through the fabric. But we would have to pull the knot through also, which would not work so well. So pull the thread half way through the needle, then the thread will not pull out of the needle when we sew. We will pull two threads through the fabric.
First, basting. A basted seam is made with both pieces of cloth laying flat on the table. The needle will go down through both layers of fabric, 1/4 inch later it will come up through both layers of fabric, 1/4 inch later it will go down through both layers of fabric, and repeat to the end of the seam. The movement of the needle in a basting stitch should be like a porpoise moving in a straight line jumping in and out of the water. Only pull the slack out of the thread on the top side of the fabric. If you do it on both sides you will forget and loop the thread around the outer edge of the fabric, and have to start over. If it is important that the basting be strong and not pull out, repeated stitches will be needed at both end of the seam. The basting stitches will pull out easily unless the first and last stitches are 1/4 inch stitches that are repeated six times in the same place. To remove hand basting cut the repeated stitches at each end of the seam, then pull all the rest of the thread out in one movement.
For permanent stitching the beginning and end of all types of hand stitches should be secured with repeated stitches at both ends of the seam.
Before sewing machines were invented garments were sewn together with a backstitch. To do backstitching, pierce the seam downward, move forward 3mm, pierce the seam upward, move backward 1mm, repeat for the length of the seam. For a stronger backstitch, move forward 2mm, back 1mm. Here we are describing the term backstitch as used in hand sewing; sometimes the term is misused in machine stitching for something entirely different.
Last, overcasting. Overcasting is used to prevent edges from fraying in the wash. Normally we use the machine zigzag stitch for this. But if in a finished garment an inlay is cut off, removing the zigzagged edge, the resultant raw edge would be protected by an overcasting stitch. The overcasting stitch is a spiral of thread down the edge.
Now for machine sewing.
There is an adjustment for the tension of the top thread on your machine. Make sure you know what normal tension is and how to set it. Most seams will be sewn with normal tension, but a few will not. You will have to remember to reset the tension to normal after sewing these seams.
To zigzag the edge of the material with the machine, select a simple plain zigzag mode, not any fancier mode that might be available. On my machine I select zigzag width of 5mm and stitch length of 3mm.
You should take steps to prevent the end of machine stitched seams from unravelling. In the case of an ordinary straight stitch, reverse the direction of stitching about a half inch at both ends of the seam. You may need to raise the presser foot slightly while sewing to do this. Or your machine may have a straight stitch mode that does this for you automatically. In the case of machine sewing, this reversal of direction at the ends of a long seam is called a backtack or a securing stitch, but sometimes it is mistakenly called a backstitch, which is really an hand stitch that is entirely different. In the case of a zigzag stitch, or a straight stitch where you prefer not to reverse stitch the ends of the seam, there is another way. Leave long threads at both ends of the seam. Thread the loose end on the right side of the material through a hand sewing needle. Use the hand sewing needle to pull the thread through to the wrong side of the fabric. Then at the end of the seam tie the two loose ends of thread together and pull the knot tight against the end of the seam. Do this three times and then cut the loose ends off above the knot. Do this at both ends of the seam.
If your machine has a mode to automatically do a securing stitch at the ends of a seam, it may not work properly for the first few stitches at the beginning of a seam if you have used this mode on the previous seam. If so, you may need to switch briefly back to normal mode and then back to securing mode without doing any sewing between seams.
We have already described the hand basting stitch. Basting with the machine means an ordinary straight stitch with the longest stitch length your machine has, usually 5mm. It is easier to handle and manipulate the fabric with hand basting. The sewing is faster with machine basting, but removing the basting is slower with machine basting. To remove machine basting, use the seam ripper to cut every fourth stitch on one side of the seam. Pull out the thread on the other side of the seam. Remove all of the cut pieces on the first side of the seam.
Remember the right side or good side of the fabric has the twill pattern and will feel rough to the fingernail if you scratch it at the proper angle. When sewing two pieces together the two right sides will face each other. The bottom piece will have the right side up, the top piece will have the right side down. When hemming an edge the two wrong sides of the same piece will be together.
If two edges of twill are the same length, usually it will be satisfactory to pin the pieces together with pins every two or three inches before sewing. But sewing machines differ. If the top piece slips over the bottom piece while sewing, you may need to baste the two edges together before you sew them to prevent slippage. This problem is more likely when sewing twill to canvas.
Where there is a cut edge with no nearby stitch marks, the seam will be sewn 0.25 inches from the edge. That is why it is important that the standard presser foot is 0.5 inches wide. While sewing you will make sure that the edge of the fabric runs along the edge of the presser foot. Where there are stitch marks inside the cut edge, the edge of the other piece of fabric will be laid along the line of stitch marks. The piece with the stitch marks will always be on the bottom, so you can see the edge of the other piece and the line of stitch marks as you sew. You may have to adjust the relative positions of the two pieces of fabric as you sew to keep the edge of the top piece along the edge of the presser foot and the row of stitch marks along the edge of the top piece. If there are no stitch marks on either piece, both edges will run along the edge of the presser foot.
If you are a beginner, sew VERY slowly so you can keep the edges and/or stitch marks along the edge of the presser foot.
You will usually want to press seams open after sewing them. The sleeve board is enough of an ironing board for this. For this purpose you will use the iron so briefly that you might not want to wait for the iron to develop steam from the water in the iron. A quicker way is to dip your finger in a bowl of water, then wipe the water on the seam before you press the seam open. A long seam will require you to dip your finger in the bowl a few times to dampen the whole seam before you press it. Do not leave the iron plugged in when you are not pressing seams.
After sewing seams you will have loose ends of thread attached to the ends of the seam. Cut off these loose ends with the thread cutter and put them in the trash.
You will make mistakes and have to rip seams. Most seam rippers have a long blade and a short blade. The short blade has a plastic ball on the end. For ripping the whole seam use the short blade. Ripping whole seams only works on heavy materials. If you try to rip the whole seam on light materials you will cut the cloth. The long blade is useful for getting under individual stitches and cutting them.
If material is too light for seam ripping, or if the piece has too much work in it already to risk seam ripping, there are two other methods you can use.
If you cut stitches at one end of the seam, pull that end of the seam apart. Usually it will open up about four stitches before you have to cut the stitches holding the open end that are stretched between the two layers of fabric. Then you can pull it apart another four stitches. Keep this up until you get to the other end of the seam.
If you cut every fourth stitch, usually you can pull the seam apart. But if the stitch length is shorter than the normal stitch length, it will be difficult to cut every fourth stitch, because it will be difficult to get the point of the seam ripper under a stitch. Be wary of using stitches shorter than the normal stitch length. If you forget and use shorter stitches, you will have to use the point of a straight pin to pull up every other stitch starting at the end of the seam. You will risk pulling up a thread of the fabric, not just the thread of your seam.
You will be expert at taking seams apart before this project is finished.
If you made a mistake on only a small portion of a long seam, you do not need to rip the whole seam, only the bad part. The back tacks in the new short seam will also secure the cut ends of the old seam.
You should sew some seams on scraps of twill to practice the methods of taking seams apart to minimize the chance of damaging your garment later on.
"Ease stitching" is joining a long piece of fabric to a short piece of fabric so that the fabric ends match at both ends of the seam. Coat patterns requre ease stitching where the sleeve is attached to the coat, and usually also along the shoulder seam between the arm and the neck.
For practice, before you do any ease stitching on your garment, you should cut two pieces of black twill, 2 by 13 inches and 2 by 10 inches, and ease stitch them together so the ends match.
Before ease stitching you should make temporary alignment marks on both the long and short pieces of fabric. The marks should be perpendicular to the direction that the seam will be sewn. You can mark evenly with a tape measure and a calculator. A fabric tape measure will typically have inches marked in eighths of an inch on one side, and centimeters marked in tenths of a centimeter on the other side. The decimal marking is more convenient for marking the ease stitching, so you will use the centimeter scale. Measure the total length of each piece of fabric and divide by eight. Then use the calculator to see where to mark and divide each length of fabric into eight equal increments. Marking with white thread is more precise and easier to remove than chalk marking.
Get the pieces ready to sew with the marks on each piece together with the marks on the other piece. Pin the marks together with a pin perpendicular to the edge of the fabric at each mark.
Use white thread to hand baste the two pieces together 1/8 inch below the edge of the fabric. Both ends of the basting requre the end stitch to be repeated a few times to prevent the basting from coming loose at the end as you sew. Because one piece of fabric is longer than the other, there will be ripples or wrinkles in the longer fabric between each two pins. Three small ripples evenly distributed between the pins are better than one big wrinkle. So distribute the fabric to achieve this result as you baste. Make a second basting seam 3/8 inch from the edge of the fabric. Now you can remove the pins.
Put the two pieces of fabric on the sewing machine. Use black thread on black cloth. Sew the seam with the usual 1/4 inch seam allowance which will put it midway between the other two seams. Use a securing stitch at both ends of the seam. Check to see that both ends of the two pieces of fabric match after the seam is sewn. After the seam is sewn, remove the white basting seams.
Measuring is relatively easy when the fabric edge is short and straight, like the shoulder seam. Since the fabric is stretchy you will not get exactly the same answer each time even with straight edges. But with the curved edges of the arm hole you will get a very different answer each time you measure. Suppose you measure, then calculate the size of equal increments, then mark off increments starting from one end going all the way to the other end. The last increment will be as much as half the size or twice the size of the other increments. This is not a satisfactory way to achieve equal increments.
The most reliable way to mark the edges of the arm hole is to mark the half way point first. Then measure the half on each side and mark the half way point on each side. Now you will have four approximately equal segments. Mark the half way point of each of these segments and you will have eight approximately equal segments. The last group of marks can be located by folding the fabric with the two marks on either side brought together. Then the crease in the fold is where the middle mark should be. The segments will not be exactly equal but they will be equal enough. The important point is that each mark is measured from the nearest mark that already exists, not from a point two or more marks away.
Blind stitching will be used for hems and for joining twill to canvas. A blind seam is used to avoid a visible seam on the outside of the garment. If the garment were any color other than black, any seam on the outside of the garment would be very visible. But our garment is black, so outside seams are almost invisible. Therefore, if blind seams are especially difficult for you, just use a regular straight seam on the outside of the garment.
When sewing blind seams it may be helpful to use the ball tip of the bodkin inside the fold to push the fold in line with the presser foot.
For test purposes put white thread in the machine. Put the blind stitch foot on the machine, and set the machine to a blind stitch pattern. Lay a piece of canvas down. Put a piece of black twill on top. Fold the twill back to the left. If the fold in the twill is against the left side of the blade in the blind stitch presser foot, you are ready to sew a blind stitch. The fold in the twill should just barely touch the blade of the presser foot, it should not be pushed up against the blade. The width of the stitch may be adjustable. The position of the blade should be adjustable. Sew and adjust until the amount of blind stitch that comes through is no more than 1mm. If the stitch goes too deep into the fold, a permanent crease will result, which you do not want. I get best results on my machine with the blade in the middle of its adjustment range, and the stitch width at the default width. Do plenty of experimentation to find the most reliable way of getting a satisfactory stitch.
If you are going to use several blind seams to join two pieces of fabric across a broad area, you could start on the left side and make a series of seams, each seam to the right of the last seam. Or you could start in the center, and rotate the fabric 180 degrees each time you do a new seam, working your way from the center to the outside.
Sometimes you will not want a straight seam. You might want two straight seams that join in an angle, like a bent knee or a bent elbow. Suppose a person is standing facing to your right. If he bends his knee, the point of the bend will be pointing to the right. If he bends his elbow, the point of the bend will be pointing to the left. It is easy to make a bent blind seam with the bend pointing to the right, almost impossible if the bend points to the left.
The collar plays a major part in determining whether the bottom of the lapel fold is to high, too low, or just right. But the collar does not have enough control to ensure that the two lapels fold to exactly the same height. So pad stitching the fold of the lapel is used to ensure that both lapels fold to the same height.
Pad stitching is joining the canvas and twill in such a way that the outer layer is longer, the inner layer is shorter, to force the two layers to fold where you want them to.
Pad stitching by hand is done by folding the two layers over a finger, and sewing them together with parallel seams along the fold. Experts can barely catch the twill so the pad stitching cannot be seen from the outside of the coat if the lapel is unfolded. Very expensive pad stitching machines used in clothing factories can also do this. We cannot do this with an ordinary sewing machine. So we will pad stitch in a way that does not make the seams invisible. But it does not really matter since you will not be able to see the pad stitching as long as the lapel is folded.
You will need to practice pad stitching on rectangular scraps of twill and canvas before attempting it on the lapel of your coat. Cut several 6 inch by 2 inch rectangles of canvas and twill to practice on. We will make 2 inch seams across the narrow dimension to sew a fold into the two layers. The seams will be near the middle of the length of the fabric.
We will use the zipper presser foot. The zipper presser foot can sew a seam very close to the left edge of the foot. On my machine the needle has to be moved all the way to the left of center to use the zipper foot. Your machine may be different. Have the canvas on bottom, the twill on top. Sew a first seam across. The first seam will be sewn in the ordinary manner, but the subsequent seams will not be. Then shift the fabric so the second seam will be about 1/8 inch or less to the right of the first seam. Pull the two layers up almost vertically along the left side of the foot. The fabric to the left of the presser foot will be almost vertical and the fabric to the right of the presser foot will be horizontal, flat on the machine. On the right side of the presser foot, pull only the top layer, the twill, firmly to the right as you sew the seam. Repeat this until you have 4 parallel seams with about 1/8 inch between each new seam and the one before it. It seems to me that the closer the seams are to each other, the more curvature you get.
After you remove the fabric from the machine, you will see that the fabric has a distinct curvature accross the parallel seams.
It is easiest to guide the seam if you can see it from above. If your machine has a bright light that shows down on the presser foot you will probably be able to see the seam from above, even though it is black thread on black cloth. But suppose your light is not bright enough. If you move your head to the left and down, you can see the previous seam in the canvas. But it is more difficult to guide the new seam so that the previous seam stays the same height above the stitch plate. A third alternative, if your light is not bright enough, would be to use white thread because the folded lapel will always keep it hidden.
From now on we present the steps of sewing a tail suit. It would be best to print this document, and mark where you left off each day so you do not skip any steps.
A suit made of expensive materials is cut out and basted together. Then it is tried on to see what alterations are necessary. Only then are seams sewn. We are using cheap materials. If you are brave, reckless and in a hurry, you can sew it together and then rip any seams that need to be altered. I sewed it together and did not need to rip any seams. But then I do not mind a few wrinkles in cloth so black they are hard to see.
Some of the inlays that a professional tailor would have left in the arm hole area have been left out here to make it easier for a beginner to sew. Since the coat from the waist up is the most complicated and difficult part of the whole suit, you might want to use the same kinds of material in any color to make just that part of the coat for practice before you make your final coat using the black materials you have bought.
The above figure shows the approximate relation of the different twill pieces of the coat without the sleeves. No inlays are shown. The parts of each piece that will disappear as seam allowances when the pieces are sewn together are shown. For this reason the relative positions of the pieces are only suggestive and not exact. When you get to the instructions for sewing each seam you be instructed on exactly how each piece relates to the next piece.
The person wearing the suit shown above would be facing to the right. We will describe locations as "front side" or "toward the front" meaning towards the right side of the above figure, or of each piece in the figure. "back side" or "toward the rear" will mean towards the left side of each piece of the figure.
What follows is a simplified way of making an inexpensive washable coat with cotton twill and cotton canvas, instead of an expensive non-washable coat of worsted wool and hair canvas. At certain points procedures that are not recommended here will be described in passing for the sake of completeness simply because they are usually recommended in tailoring books for making traditional coats. These extra procedures are not used here because we prefer crude machine sewing to time consuming hand sewing, because we are using different materials, or because we do not wish to do difficult complex procedures for a minor improvement in appearance.
We start by sewing the sleeves together before we need them just to get some sewing practice on the easiest part. The shoulder end of the sleeve is the large end. The cuff end of the sleeve is the small end. You probably can trust the sleeve length and go ahead and hem the sleeves before finishing the coat.
Cut the sleeve pieces out, stitch mark with white thread, change the presser foot and zigzag the edges with white thread, which will not be seen when the garment is assembled.
If you are not careful you will make two left sleeves instead of a left sleeve and a right sleeve. The sleeves will be sewn together wrong side out. After sewing the seams will be pressed open then they will be turned right side out.
The sleeve bottom piece has a long stitch marked inlay down the rear edge, and the shoulder end has a concave dip shape. The sleeve top piece has no long stitch marked inlay, and the shoulder end has a convex bulge shape. Both pieces have a short inlay at the cuff end. Lay the sleeve bottom on the table good side up. Lay the sleeve top good side down on top of the sleeve bottom.
Start pinning with the edge of the bottom piece that has no inlay. That is the front edge. Start pinning at the shoulder end. Put each pin in parallel to the edge and an inch from the edge to allow room for the presser foot. The front corner of the shoulder of the top piece will match the short angled part of the shoulder of the bottom piece. Pin so that the edges match all the way from the shoulder to the bottom of the cuff inlay, well past the cuff stitch marks.
The rear edge is more confusing. The rear corner of the shoulder of the top piece must match the short angled part of the stitch marks, not the edge of the fabric, at the shoulder end of the bottom piece. The top piece will wrinkle quit a bit as you move it into place for pinning. Again you will start pinning at the shoulder end. The rear edge of the top piece must match the stitch marks down the length of the sleeve. Pin past the cuff stitch marks, because the seam must continue all the way to the end of the fabric. The top piece should be smooth along the edges, but it will be wrinkled in the middle, because the width of the top piece does not exactly match the bottom piece. It will not matter if the cuff edges do not exactly match.
Switch to black thread to sew the sleeves together. When sewing the pieces together, the edge of the half inch wide presser foot should be at the edge of the top piece, so the seam is a quarter inch inside the edge of the top piece. You will only sew two long curved seams. The seams will not turn a sharp corner. The most important part of the sleeve is the part near the shoulder, so start each seam at that end. To make sure the seam includes the edge of the fabric, start the seam slightly before the fabric starts. When you are finished sewing the sleeve, remove the pins. While the sleeve is still wrong side out, press the seams open on the sleeve board.
Do not worry if the cuff stitch marks on the two pieces do not exactly match. It is more important that the two pieces match at the shoulder end.
The sleeve is still wrong side out. Fold the sleeve cuff back on the outside until the stitch marks are on the fold line. If the stitch marks on the two halves do not match, have one line of stitch marks on the fold and the other line of stitch marks folded beyond the fold. Be sure the seams remain pressed open as you fold it back. Stretch the opening to get wrinkles out. Pin it in place using at least four safety pins, not straight pins, about one quarter inch back from the folded edge. Now you have a folded end with a line of white stitch marks on it. If you do not mind having a visible seam, you could now sew the folded raw edge of the sleeve to the sleeve. If you would prefer a blind seam, proceed as follows.
Fold this line of stitch marks inside the sleeve so that only a half inch of the raw edge of the cuff is out. If the two sides do not match, the minimum amount of raw edge poking out should be a half inch, the other side will be more. Work this with your fingers until it is folded neat and even all the way around. Now you have a folded end with no stitch marks and a raw edge poking out from under the folded end.
Now it is vital that you slip the end of the sleeve over the lower arm of the machine. Otherwise you would sew the open end of the sleeve closed and you could not use the sleeve. You may have to remove a part of your sewing machine so you can slip the sleeve over the lower arm of the machine. If you can slip the sleeve over the lower arm of your machine, you can blind stitch the hem using the blind stitch presser foot and the blind stitch sewing pattern. Remember, the fold in the fabric should just barely touch the blade in the presser foot, it should not be pushed up against it.
If the lower arm of your machine is too large to slip the sleeve over, you will have to blind stitch it by hand. While theoretically you could have blind hemmed each piece before sewing them together, that would not be a good idea. The two sides would not have matched perfectly at the hem. Also, it would have been harder the alter the sleeve length if that were desired.
Now you are ready to unfold the sleeve cuff, remove the safety pins and turn the sleeves right side out. Put the sleeves in a safe place. You will not need them again for quite some time.
Now use the whole back pattern to cut the back pieces of cotton twill. The back piece is complicated. The back piece pattern shows a rear corner at waist level similar to the front corner. The rear corner is a solid line that joins to an inlay shown by a vertical dashed line. Cut the corner horizontally in along the horizontal line past the vertical dashed line. Extend the cut 0.25 inch beyond the vertical solid line border of the inlay. The front corner also has a cut 0.25 inch beyond the front solid line. The reason for the cuts is that the back piece edge above the cuts will fold over when we press the seams open, but the edge below the cuts will not fold over because the seams will not extend below the cuts. These cuts will weaken the back piece, but will be reinforced later.
Remember the back piece has a reference mark that must be carefully chalk marked and stitch marked. Stitch mark the whole back piece with white thread. Separate the two layers, but do not zigzag yet.
The reference mark should be sewn after the pieces are separated to make sure it does not fall out. It should be sewn with brightly colored thread such as red or gold. Sew it by machine with a normal straight stitch, or by hand with a back stitch. It is necessary to sew the reference marks at the arm hole with some color other than white so as not to be confused with many white stitch marks that will be added later in preparation for sewing on the sleeves. After you have sewn colored thread between the white machine stitch marks at the reference mark, remove the white machine stitch marks only at the reference marks, not the other white stitch marks. Do not zigzag yet.
On many of the pieces that you will cut, you can zigzag the edges with white thread because the edges will not be seen when the garment is finished. But this is not the case with the back piece. Above the waist you can zigzag the back pieces with white thread, but below the waist the back pieces will have to be zigzagged with black thread because white thread would show. Finish zigzagging both back pieces white above the waist and black below the waist before you go on to the next step.
If you forgot and zigzagged the back piece below the waist with white thread, use the seam ripper to remove the white zigzagging below the waist and zigzag it with black thread below the waist. The white stitchmarking below the waist is not a problem, it will be removed later.
Above the waist the rear edge of the back piece is straight and the front edge is curved. But we will be working below the waist. We need to hem the rear vertical edge of the back piece below the waist level corner. We will not hem the bottom horizontal hem of the back piece until very much later. The hem on the rear vertical edge below the waist will be a half inch fold. Fold the rear vertical edge over so the stitch marks are on the edge, wrong side to wrong side. You will not need to pin it in place, because the hem will be the approximately the width of your presser foot. Just fold as you sew to keep the hem the width of the presser foot, and the seam in the center of the hem. Seam all of the way from the waist corner to the bottom edge of the back piece twill fabric even though the stitch marks do not go all the way to the bottom.
Now make the side pieces. You can zigzag the edges with white thread.
We will start the coat body by cutting and sewing the back pieces to the side pieces. But sewing the two back pieces together down the middle of the back will be much later.
Select the matching back and side pieces. If matching pieces are on the table good side up, the side piece nestles neatly into the arc of the back piece. But to sew them together, the side piece will have to be turned over and laid on top of the back piece, good side to good side. In this configuration the curves do not match at all, but this is the way they will have to be sewn. You will sew with black thread.
You will sew the seam starting at the top and sew all the way down to just before you get to the waist. The seam must stop before it gets to the waist corner of the back piece. Better to stop a quarter inch too soon than to sew past the waist corner where the back piece has small cuts. Lay the back piece down good side up. Lay the matching side piece on top good side down. Because the two edges curve in opposite directions, you will only be able to match the edges for a distance of about a half inch. The top end of the side piece is pointed. Lay the fabric so that point extends slightly beyond the arm hole edge of the back piece. This is because you will be sewing with a quarter inch seam allowance. You want the arm hole edge of the side piece to match the arm hole edge of the back piece where the seam will start, a quarter inch away from the curved edges of both pieces. The curved edges should match reasonably well for the first half inch. Beyond that they will diverge in different directions. You will not use pins to fasten the two pieces because the angles of the pieces will be constantly changing. Carefully adjust the pieces as you sew. The curve must be sewn very slowly and carefully. Sew only 0.5 inch at a time, then lower the needle into the fabric using the hand wheel at the right end of the sewing machine, raise the presser foot, and rearrange both pieces to keep both pieces aligned with the edge of the presser foot. Rearrange the whole pieces of fabric, not just the fabric near the presser foot. You will be forcing the fabric in ways it does not want to go. You will have to pull and wrinkle the fabric to get the edges of the fabric matched under the presser foot. But do the pulling well away from the presser foot. No matter how much the fabric is wrinkled elsewhere, it should be relaxed and flat under the pressure foot. Do all the pulling and arranging before you lower the pressure foot. If your machine has a "needle down" capability, set that and you will not have to use the hand wheel.
If you now lay what you have sewn on the table, it will not lay flat without wrinkles. The purpose of what you have sewn is to give this portion of the garment a shape that is not a flat shape, so it will not lay flat. You will be sewing non-flat shapes in the work ahead also.
Use the steam iron to press the seam open against the rounded edge of the end of the sleeve board. But only let the iron press against the rounded end of the sleeve board. The iron must only touch small parts of the seam at any one time. If the iron touches a large area on both sides of the seam at once it would tend to flatten out the shape that you have created by sewing the seam.
Now you can put the pieces you have just sewn in storage for use later on.
Next we will do the front piece of the coat body. The front of a traditional suit has at least three layers: the outer fabric, a middle layer called the interfacing, the interlining or the canvas, and an inner layer called the lining. We want our coat to be as cool as possible, so we will omit the lining. There will be a facing along the front edge only.
The front piece pattern and the welt pocket patterns are on the same sheet of paper. Right now we will only be working with the front piece pattern. We will use the front piece pattern repeatedly, for twill, canvas and art paper forms, so do not discard it the first time you finish with it.
The front piece is the most complicated piece. Cut the pattern along the outer dashed line. The dart is marked by a smaller inner V and a larger outer V. The inner V will be used first for the cotton twill, the outer V will be used later for the cotton canvas. Use a straight edge to draw the inner V out to the outer dashed line. Cut the pattern along the inner V shaped dart in straight lines all the way to the outer dashed line. Cut the pattern out along the outline of the breast pocket welt, a parallelogram. Cut holes about a quarter inch across in the pattern at the center of each of the three circles that represent buttons. Pinch the pattern where you want to cut each hole, and make a V shaped cut in the creased edge with the scissors.
Pin the pattern to the two layers of twill fabric in at least six places. Mark around the outer edge of the pattern. Mark along the inner dart and the pocket welt parallelogram. Do not remove the pins.
Cut the pattern inlays off outside of the solid line. Mark along the solid line. Do not remove the pins.
Make a mark in the armhole that lines up with the reference mark at the front of the arm hole. The armhole is also called the "scye". Reference marks show the ends of the lapel fold line. Make marks in the inlay that line up with the fold line. Mark the centers of the three circles. Do not remove the pins.
Double check that everything is marked. There are so many things to mark that it is almost impossible not to miss something. Then remove the pins.
Remove the pattern and re-pin the fabric.
Continue the end marks of the lapel fold line to where they were on the pattern. The armhole reference mark is now marked in the armhole. Continue the mark to where it was on the pattern.
Cut the fabric along the outer line. Do NOT cut the fabric along the pocket welt parallelogram outline. Do NOT cut along the lapel fold line. Cut the darts. Leave the pins in.
Switch the machine to white thread and the tailor tack presser foot. Lower the feed dogs so the fabric will not move as you sew. There are three points marked on the fabric. Stitch mark those three points.
Raise the feed dogs so the fabric will move when you sew. Now you are ready stitch mark the lines.
Stitch mark the reference line at the arm hole, the pocket parallelogram, and the ends of the lapel fold line.
Stitch mark the inlay around the edge.
After you have cut the stitch marks and separated the two front pieces, put the normal presser foot on the machine.
The front piece will get handled quite a lot before it is finished. This might result in some of the stitch marks falling out. So for safety, we will sew some important marks.
Lower the feed dogs and zigzag the point marks, then raise the feed dogs again.
There are some important corners in the stitch marking that should be sewn with the machine using white thread. You should not need a securing stitch, just a plain straight stitch with normal length stitches. Do not use shorter stitches than the normal default stitch length of your machine, because they would be very difficult to remove later. Start at least a half inch before each corner. Sew to the corner, turn the corner with the needle down, and sew for at least another half inch beyond the corner. Do this for the bottom front corner, bottom rear corner, lapel peak, lapel notch, corner where the neck and shoulder lines meet, and the double corner at the rear of the arm hole. Also do this for the ends of the lapel fold line. You do not need to do this for the corners of the welt, because there will not be much handling of the front piece before you are finished with the welt.
Either by machine or by hand use colored thread to sew a straight seam with normal length stitches at the armhole reference mark, After that, remove the white stitch marks on either side of the colored stitch mark.
Now with white thread zigzag the edges of each front piece, including the edges of the dart.
Do not sew the dart in the twill front pieces until you have made the welt pocket. The dart would make the welt pocket even more difficult. The dart will be sewn after the welt pocket. The canvas will have the dart sewn by a different method than the dart in the twill fabric. The canvas will be attached to the front piece after the welt pocket is made because if were attached before the welt pocket was made the canvas would be weakened by cutting the welt pocket. The canvas will be attached to the front piece before the lapel satin because the satin must cover the canvas when the satin is turned in. The inside patch pocket must be made after the satin is turned in because the satin must not cover the patch pocket when the satin is turned in or you could not get your hand in the pocket.
Have you zigzagged the edges of both front pieces with white thread, including the darts? If not, do it.
Tailsuits traditionally have a welt pocket only on the left front piece. The pocket will be on the left side of the person wearing the suit. The welt stitch marks on the right side will be useful later.
Welt pockets are sometimes described as single welt or double welt. A double welted pocket is more properly called a jetted pocket. Tailsuit outside breast pockets traditionally use single welt. Single welts are either inside welts or outside welts. An inside welt is a jetting. Inside welts can only rise up to the upper edge of the pocket opening, they cannot rise above the upper edge of the pocket opening, which outside welts can. An outside welt is a true welt, not just a jetting. Tailsuits traditionally use outside welts. There are different methods of making an outside welt. I believe the method presented here is the easiest to describe and understand.
The basic idea of the welt and facing is illustrated with the following figure. The welt and facing are shown separately to avoid confusion. Both are shown on the left as they would be sewn on, and on the right when the muslin pocketing is pulled through the slit. The purpose of the facing is so you will not see the muslin when you look down at the empty pocket.
On the pattern sheet that has the coat front piece, the pocket welt and facing are to the left of the front piece. The welt facing is not to be confused with the lapel facing, which will be described later. The welt is the complicated middle pattern, the facing is the simple upper pattern. Both will be used to cut a single layer of black twill. The lower pattern will be used to cut two layers of muslin. Since the welt is so small it must be made more precisely than the rest of the garment or it will look sloppy when finished.
The bottom edge of the welt and the top edge of the facing have a quarter inch seam allowance that will be sewn to the coat front piece. The upper edge of the welt and the bottom edge of the facing will each be sewn to the upper edge of a different one of the two pieces of muslin.
While it is OK to read all of these instructions before you start, do not count on remembering them all. Read each paragraph before you do what it says and move on to the next paragraph, or you will forget one of the steps.
If the welt pocket were made on both sides of the coat, the pattern would have to be laid on two layers of fabric. Because the welt pocket will only be made on the left side of the coat, pin the welt and facing patterns on the wrong side of a single layer of black twill fabric. Make sure you are on the wrong side. Make sure the short vertical dashed lines at the ends of the welt align with the warp of the fabric. On the facing the long solid lines at either end should align with the warp.
The welt pattern should be fastened with two pins that lie completely within the dashed line parallelogram. These are such small pieces that it would be best to cut the fabric along the edge of the paper patterns.
Cut out the welt piece along the outer edge of the pattern. Leave the pins in place. Then pick up the welt with the pattern pinned to it. Fold the fabric away from the paper pattern. Without cutting the fabric, cut the paper pattern along the dashed parallelogram, leaving only a parallelogram shaped piece of paper on the fabric.
Chalk around the cut edge of the paper welt pattern. At the machine use white thread with a straight stitch with the normal stitch length to make a stitch mark along the edge of the chalk line. You do not need to stitch the side of the parallelogram where the quarter inch seam allowance is, only the other three sides. This stitch marking is absolutely required for very precise folding of the welt later on.
Cut the facing out. It will be helpful to make a small white stitch where the dashed line is on the pattern, because after zigzagging it may not be so obvious which side had the dashed line. The facing is a large parallelogram and a small parallelogram. The large parallelogram is the facing, and the small parallelogram is a seam allowance for sewing the facing on. The seam will run along where the dashed line is on the pattern, where the two parallelograms join.
Using black thread zigzag the edges of the welt and facing.
The pattern for the muslin pocketing is rectangular except for a slanted top. With black marker mark around the pattern on two layers of cotton muslin. Cut the pieces out. Switch to the overlock presser foot to zigzag the edges of each piece of muslin because the muslin is so thin. Use black thread.
Get the left coat front piece. There is a parallelogram of stitch marks where the welt pocket will go. On the left coat front piece use white thread to sew a stitch mark in a straight line parallel with the lower edge of the parallelogram, 0.25 inches above the lower edge and inside the parallelogram. The seam need not get closer than a quarter inch to the ends of the parallelogram. Later we will cut the twill along this white thread.
It will be too late to zigzag the cut that we will make later along the white thread after we make the cut. So we must zigzag before we make the cut. Using black thread and the normal presser foot make a zigzag stitch midway between the stitch marking on the lower edge of the parallelogram and the white thread mark you have just made that does not touch either. You do not have much room, so make the zigzag width small enough to fit comfortably. The zigzag must not reach the white thread where the cut will be. This will prevent fraying after we cut the slit along the white thread later on. Make a similar zigzag the same distance above the white thread. Now there is zigzagging both above and below the white thread before we make the cut. We will make the cut later, not now.
The welt and facing will be sewn separately on separate pieces of muslin. Read these directions carefully, it is easy to miss an important detail. Lay the welt and facing good side down on top of two separate pieces of muslin so that each lies completely on its piece of muslin. Make sure the good sides are down. Both the welt and facing have a 0.25 seam allowance on one side. That is NOT the side that we will seam here. The edge on the opposite side from the 0.25 inch seam allowance should lay along the slant edge of the muslin. The vertical ends of the welt and facing at the point where they are sewn to the slant edge of the muslin should NOT be parallel with the vertical sides of the muslin. If they are, turn the muslin over so they will not be. It should be emphasized that in the case of the welt, the vertical lines we are talking about here are not the same ones we referred to when describing the orientation of the pattern relative to the warp of the fabric. The edge of the twill pieces should be centered on the slanted edge of each piece of muslin. Pin them in place in such a way as to allow a seam a quarter inch from the slanted top edge of the muslin.
The reason that the ends of the welt and facing are not parallel to the sides of the muslin is because they lay on the muslin. After we sew them to the muslin, when you pull the welt and facing above the top of the muslin, they will no longer lay on the muslin and the ends of the welt and facing will then be parallel to the sides of the muslin. Make sure the good sides of both welt and facing are down against the muslin. Sew a seam along the edge of each piece of twill where it matches the edge of the muslin with the usual 0.25 inch seam allowance.
Place the left coat front good side up on the table. Be sure it is spread out flat so part of it is not folded under. We will work first with the welt, not the welt facing. Spread the welt and the muslin that is already sewn to the welt apart so they do not lay on top of each other, but they are sewn together at the edge. The welt should be toward the top of the front piece, the muslin toward the bottom of the front piece. The welt has a quarter inch seam allowance on the side away from the muslin. Place the welt good side down on the coat front so that the raw edge of the seam allowance part of the welt is even with the white marking thread line between the zigzag stitches, 0.25 inches above the bottom of the parallelogram of stitch marks on the front piece. The ends of the quarter inch welt seam allowance should exactly match the ends of the parallelogram. The muslin should be pulled down out of the way. Pin the welt in place on the front piece. The edge of the presser foot will be at the top edge of the welt piece at the white thread between the zigzag seams. Put it on the machine and make sure none of the front piece has folded under where you will sew. Sew the seam with black thread, with a quarter inch seam allowance from the edge of the welt. The seam should not be quite as long as the length of the fabric edge. It should not get closer than 1/8 inch to the ends of the fabric.
Spread the facing away from the muslin it is sewn to. Spread the front piece on the table good side up. Place the facing good side down above the white stitched marking between the two zigzagged seams on the front piece so the edge of the facing is at the white line. The facing muslin should be up toward the top of the front piece. You will notice that the facing is slightly shorter than the welt, so center it. You will barely see the white line between the edge of the welt and the edge of the facing. Pin the facing in place. Pull the white thread out of the facing, because it is exactly where the seam will go on the facing. Put it on the machine and make sure none of the front piece has folded under where you will sew. Sew a seam with a quarter inch seam allowance from the edge of the facing that is between the two zigzags.
Press the two seams open so you can see the region between the two seams and so you will not cut the seam allowances on the welt and facing. Make a cut in the front piece along the hand stitched white thread like the figure below with the forked ends no more than 1/4 inch from the ends of the parallelogram and at least 1/8 inch. The figure is not drawn to scale. It is OK if the forks cut the zigzag. Make sure the forks to not reach the seam line for the welt or the facing.
Grasp the muslin attached to the facing, NOT the muslin attached to the welt. Pull the facing muslin and the facing through the slit firmly all the way. The facing will tend to bulge at the seam. To make it lay flat, press the facing seam from the good side of the coat.
Lay the front piece flat on the table good side up with the top end nearest you. Fold the ends of the welt in exactly along the white stitch marks on the welt. Make sure the quarter inch seam allowance on the welt is enclosed in the folded ends. Hand sew the folded ends in place with a couple of short temporary white basting stitches. The basting stitches must penetrate the main part of the welt, but they cannot penetrate the coat front piece, because the welt must fold up when the muslin is pulled through the slit.
From underneath the front piece put the ball end of the bodkin through the slit you have cut. Put the ball end of the bodkin against the middle of the white stitchmark on the welt that is the top edge of the parallelogram. Then pull most of the the welt muslin through the slit. The ball end of the bodkin will keep the white line on the welt where it was. The white stitch line on the welt should still be visible from the good side of the front piece, evenly all along the white line.
Turn the front piece around so the bottom is near you, good side up. The welt should be folded down along the white stitch line. Press the white line down against the front piece with your fingers while you pull down on the muslin. Make sure both pieces of muslin are pulled down. The visible part of the welt must be the same width all along. Press the seam at the bottom of the welt so it is flat. Pin the top edge of the folded welt with two pins through both layers of the welt and the coat front piece. Make sure neither pin is closer than one inch from either end of the welt, to allow room for the presser foot to make vertical seams.
When the two pieces of muslin are pulled down they should be almost parallel. One may be a half inch to the left or right of the other, that does not matter. But if they are two inches apart at the bottom, you have done something wrong. You should carefully remove all the stitches and start over with sewing the pieces of the welt pocket together.
On the wrong side of the front piece cut off all of the loose ends of black thread around the welt pocket so you will know which thread is which after you sew the ends of the welt. Pin the bottom of both layers of muslin to the front piece so the muslin will stay out of the way.
Now is the time to plan how we will sew the ends of the welt. Before you put the fabric on the sewing machine pull out at least 7 inches of both the needle thread and the bobbin thread. After you cut each seam have the seam at least 7 inches away from the thread cutter before you cut the thread to have 7 inches of loose thread after the end of the seam. This is so that you can thread the loose ends through a hand sewing needle and pull the thread through to the inside of the garment. On the inside the two loose threads will be tied and cut. Do not use the mode of the sewing machine that reverses to secure the ends of a seam because the seam would not be neat enough, and you would not have precise control over where it ends.
Put the front piece on the machine. Make sure no part of the front piece is folded under. Make sure the folds at the ends of the welt are vertical along the white hand stitched marking thread. Use a plain straight stitch with black thread. Be sure to make the seam exactly parallel with the ends of the parallelogram. Each seam should start and stop 1/16 inch from the top and bottom of the welt. The first seams will be vertical seams 1/16 inch from the ends of the folded welt, with the welt folded ends along the edge of the edge stitch foot. If you do not have an edge stitch foot, do the best you can with a normal presser foot.
On the good side of the front piece find the loose black thread ends from the welt end seams you have just sewn. Thread each loose end through a hand needle and use the needle to draw each loose end through the fabric to the wrong side of the front piece. The needle should penetrate the fabric at the point where the loose end leaves the end of the seam. On the wrong side of the front piece tie each loose end to the corresponding loose end for the same seam on the wrong side of the front piece. Tie three knots tight down against the fabric, then cut off the loose ends just above the knot.
Next, with the normal presser foot sew vertical seams a quarter inch from each end of the welt, close to and parallel to the seams you just finished. Tie off the loose ends in the same way.
After these seams, the pins, white mark stitches and basting stitches around the welt pocket are no longer needed, remove them with from both the good side of the front piece and the wrong side of the front piece with tweezers.
The welt is finished. Now for the pocket. The two pieces of muslin may not line up exactly, but they are wider than necessary, so it will not matter. From the front side put a pin through one of the inner seams on the welt so you can see from the wrong side where the inner seam is. Use a straight edge and a black marker to mark vertical lines on the muslin below the inner vertical seams in the ends of the welt. This is where the front and back seams of the pocket will be sewn. Do not be tempted to spread the lines farther apart than this. Later when the coat front piece is joined to the canvas, additional seams will be sewn just beyond the pocket seams. Draw a horizontal line near the bottom of the muslin between the two vertical lines about a quarter inch above which ever bottom edge of muslin is higher.
With the coat on the table wrong side up and the muslin pulled down from the welt, put a pin through the bottom of the two pieces of muslin midway between the two vertical lines you have drawn. The pin will not go through the front piece. This will fix the relative vertical relation of the two pieces of muslin the way the pocket will be hanging down when the coat is worn.
Grasp the bottom edges of the muslin. Using the bottom edge of the muslin pick up the coat front off the table. The coat front will hang down, the muslin will be held up. Sew the two vertical lines you have marked in the muslin starting at the bottom end where the two pieces are pinned together. The seams should start a little below the horizontal line you have drawn so the horizontal and vertical seams can go past each other, thus avoiding holes in the corner of the pocket. Then remove the pin an sew along the horizontal line near the bottom of the muslin.
Press the welt flat. Now you are finished with the welt pocket.
You will not make a welt pocket on the right front piece. Leave the welt stitch marks in the right front piece. In the absence of a welt pocket, they will help you locate the seams you will sew when joining the canvas. Sew the darts on the right front piece also.
Now, have you zigzagged the edges of the front piece with white thread, including the edges of the darts? If not, do it.
You are ready to sew the dart with black thread.
Adjust the fabric far from the dart so the two edges of the dart match perfectly. It will not matter if one edge is longer than the other, but the edges must be together. The edges must be good side to good side. Pin the fabric far from the dart before you pin it close to the dart. Then pin close to the dart. The seam will have a standard quarter inch seam allowance from the edge of the dart. The seam will go all the way to the edge of the fabric in the inlay. The seam will go at least as far as the vertex of the dart, and some prefer it to go further, but there is no edge to guide the seam further than the vertex. Keep the seam absolutely straight if you continue the seam past the vertex of the dart to the folded edge of the fabric. Press the dart seams open after sewing them.
We will now use the front piece pattern again. Cut the pattern for the front piece along the outer V of the darts, which is where the darts in the canvas will be cut. The dart cuts will be larger in the canvas than they were in the twill. This is because a different method will be used to close the dart in the canvas.
The canvas has no good side or wrong side, so it does not matter how it is folded. The canvas will not be seen in the finished garment, so the top layer of canvas does not need to be marked temporarily with chalk, it can be marked permanently with a black marker.
Lay the pattern at a 45 degree angle to the warp of the fabric on cotton canvas folded into two layers. We want the canvas fabric at a 45 degree angle to the twill fabric. Both the canvas and the twill stretch most easily on the diagonal. After the two are sewn together, this tendency will be reduced if the diagonal of each is in the direction of the warp of the other.
We will not trace the edge around most of the pattern. Even though we have already cut the inlays off the outer edge of the pattern, mark the canvas to show inlays all around of approximately 1.5 inches, slightly more than the original inlays, it is not important to be exact. Add an inlay that is approximately one inch all the way around the inside of the arm hole even though the pattern never had one. The first cutting of the canvas will only be preliminary. After the canvas is joined to the twill the inlays on the canvas will be cut off precisely using stitch marks on the twill as a pattern.
Here is where we exactly trace small parts of the pattern. Place a straight edge on the pattern with its edge along an edge of the dart. Mark the canvas along the edge of the dart in the pattern, where the dart will be cut. Continue the dart in straight lines out to the edge of the one inch inlay. Mark the top and bottom rear corners of the pattern. These will be useful in aligning the twill to the canvas when the twill is laid on top of the canvas.
We will later need the lapel fold line marked on the canvas, but we will not do that now. It will be more accurate to do it after the twill is joined to the canvas, by poking pins through from the marks on the twill to locate the ends of the line.
Remove the pattern and re-pin. Cut the two layers of canvas around the outer lines you have drawn. Cut the darts.
Use black thread to stitch mark the marks at the top and bottom rear corners.
Separate the layers. Zigzag the darts with black thread. Do not zigzag the outer edges as this will be taken care of later after the outer edges are cut a bit more.
Lay both canvases on the table with the top edge of each canvas toward you. Have the front edge of one canvas facing to the right and the front edge of the other canvas facing toward the left. This is to ensure that you make a right canvas and a left canvas, and not two left canvases.
The following steps will involve sewing muslin strips to the surface of the canvas to close the darts. The muslin might wrinkle. So we want the muslin to be on the side of the canvas that will be against the twill. The other side of the canvas will be against the satin at the lapels. The satin would show the wrinkles much more easily than the twill. Furthermore, if the muslin is on the outside of the lapel fold, it will stiffen the fold too much, and it will not want to fold.
The darts in the canvas are ready to be sewn. They will be sewn in a very different manner than the darts in the twill. Cut rectangular strips of muslin about two inches wide and the length of each dart. The strips should NOT be cut on the bias, the warp should be aligned with either the length or the width of the strip. Do not zigzag them, they will be zigzagged later.
The next paragraph will tell in detail how to pin the strip of muslin to the dart. Pin the short strip of muslin to the darts on both canvases.
Pin the edge of each strip on one side of a dart with the edge of the dart in the middle of the strip. Pin it at two inch intervals to make sure the strip is straight and parallel to the dart edge on the side of the dart where the strip is pinned. The pins should be parallel to the edge of the strip and along the edge of the muslin strip. The strip will only be parallel with one edge of the dart, the edge near where it is pinned.
Turn the canvas over so the canvas is on top and the muslin strip on bottom. Put the canvas on the machine and sew a seam with the edge of the presser foot at the edge of the dart, and sew the canvas to the strip of muslin with a quarter inch seam allowance. Remove the pins.
Now we wish to bring the two sides of the canvas dart touching together with no overlap and sew a quarter inch seam allowance on the other side of the dart, starting at the vertex of the dart. We will not use pins, the fabric will be adjusted by hand. It will be difficult to bring the two edges of the canvas together unless you hold the canvas up off the sewing machine beyond the dart vertex, where there is no dart. I have had success starting each seam at the dart vertex rather than the edge of the canvas. Also, if you sew from the vertex to the outer edge, the loose thread ends that need to be cut off at the end of the seam will be shorter. Before you lower the presser foot adjust the canvas so both sides of the dart near the vertex touch with no overlap. The strip of muslin will be on bottom, but be sure it is flat. With a finger press the canvas down against the muslin to hold it together, then lower the presser foot. Go slow so you can adjust the fabric as you go. Now the dart is sewn closed. We are not finished with the dart.
Have canvas on top, muslin on bottom. Using the widest zigzag your machine can do, zigzag down the middle of each dart with the edges of the dart in the middle of the zigzag. Be slow and careful that the joined edges of the canvas are exactly in the middle of the zigzag. Even if you did the previous step with no overlap of the canvas edges, overlap can occur in this step if you do not pay attention to the adjustment of the canvas edges.
Now turn the canvas over so the muslin strips that cover each dart are on top. Zigzag both edges of each muslin strip to the canvas to keep the edges down and keep them from fraying. Hold the muslin down with your fingers as you sew so it will not wrinkle. Now you are finished with the dart.
This paragraph will describe a step that is often used in suits that have stretchy canvas, but is not needed here because we use stiff cotton canvas. I do not recommend doing this step, but include it for completeness. The step is to install a strip called a "bridle". Its purpose is to prevent the canvas from stretching along the fold line. When the canvas stretches along the fold line, the fold line tends to bulge away from the chest of the man wearing the coat. Cut a strip of muslin about an inch wide and the length of the lapel fold line on the canvas. Cut it straight, not on the bias. Sew this strip on the lapel fold line. Use one straight seam down the middle of the strip, and zigzag each edge.
The darts in the twill front piece are already sewn up. We must attach the front piece to the canvas. Remember that the inlays in the armhole of the canvas will not match the armhole of the twill. When you lay the twill on the canvas, the edges will be close everywhere except in the armholes, where there will be extra material in the canvas. After the twill is attached to the canvas, the edges of the canvas will be trimmed back considerably. The attachment of the front piece to the canvas will be done in stages. The canvas will be attached to the lapel, neck and arm hole later on. The canvas will be attached to the bottom edge of the front piece later when the bottom edge is hemmed. The blind stitching of the rest of the front to the canvas must take place before any of these later stages because it could not be done after.
Now for the general plan of blind stitching the twill to the canvas. Two blind seams will be used. The location of the seams will be described first for the left front piece that has the welt pocket. Do not do anything until you have read the next five paragraphs.
The first seam will be a bent seam in two straight line segments, with a knee bend in the middle. One end will be two inches below the shoulder line of stitch marks on the twill and half way between the arm hole on the twill and the neck stitch marks on the twill. From that end the blind seam will go in a straight line to a point about a half inch in front of the pocket welt. At that point the seam will bend. It will continue in a line straight down in front of the welt pocket to an inch above the bottom stitch marks on the front piece. The seam may run over the muslin of the welt pocket, but only outside of the seam in the muslin that defines the inside of the pocket. Seams that will be added later on will make the part of this seam above the welt pocket seem unnecessary. But the darts make the twill and canvas concave, and this seam is the best chance to properly fit the twill and canvas together so that wrinkles will not occur when later seams are sewn.
The second blind seam will run along a line from a half inch behind the rear of the welt of the welt pocket straight down parallel to the rear vertical seam in the muslin of the pocket to a point one inch above the horizontal line of stitch marks at the bottom of the twill.
The blind seams for the right front piece will be exactly the same as those for the left front piece, but the welt pocket does not exist on the right front piece. You will have to measure the locations of the seams on the left front to locate the seams on the right front piece.
It is best to join the twill and canvas on the left front piece first, then do the same for the right front piece.
The canvas and twill both have darts now. The darts give them a dome shape. They will not lay flat on the table. They will have wrinkles in the middle. It will be possible to lay the twill on the canvas with most of the edges matching, but there will be no guarantee that corresponding parts of the middle match. To solve this problem will will make two art paper domes to lay the canvas and twill on.
Mark and cut two sheets of flexible art paper exactly the way you did the canvas, adding inlays and accurately drawing the darts. Since you cannot pin the two sheets together, you will do each sheet separately. It would be best to use light weight adhesive tape to keep the pattern in place in two places while you trace the darts. The darts are the only part that need to be drawn accurately. Use a straight edge to trace the darts all the way out to the edge of the inlays.
Remove the pattern, cut the art paper, and close the darts in the art paper with duct tape. One sheet will have the darts closed so that it bulges the way the right front side of the coat will, the other will have the darts closed so that it bulges the way the left front side of the coat will. The tape will go on the side of the paper that is to bulge out. Stick half the width of duct tape on only one side of the dart that you are trying to tape. Then turn the paper over with the taped part of the dart flat on the table and close the other side of the dart to the side already taped. Press both sides of the dart against the table. Closing the darts will very accurately give the desired shape. The art paper forms will be used repeatedly, so do not discard them the first time you finish with them.
Now for the detailed execution of the plan. Select the correct piece of art paper. The art paper should be laid on the table with the center bulging up above the table and the edges resting on the table. Put the left canvas on the table on top of the art paper with the muslin strips on the top side. Make sure the darts in the canvas are over the darts in the art paper.
Put the left twill piece, with the welt pocket, on top of the canvas, wrong side down good side up. Make sure the dart in the twill is over the dart in the canvas. Make sure the welt muslin pocketing material underneath the twill is pulled down flat. The rear corner marks on the twill should be over the marks on the canvas, or very close. Remember the corner marks on the twill are at the stitch marks, not the edge of the fabric. Smooth the twill over the canvas as much as possible. Pulling opposite edges of the twill is useful for smoothing. Temporarily pin the twill to the canvas at the upper and lower rear corners so it will not shift during the next pinning operation. The pins will not go through the art paper. The fabric will shift over the art paper during the pinning operation, so try to keep the fabric properly positioned on the art paper.
The first blind seam will be the front seam with the knee bend in it. Pin the twill to the canvas with a line of pins one inch to the rear of where the first blind seam will go. You will need something flexible to go over the bulge so stretch a tape measure over the twill where the seam will go so you can use it as a guide. The pins should be parallel to the seam and about two inches apart.
Refer back to the plan of blind seams for the beginning and end of each seam. Your first blind seam will be a knee bend seam made of two straight line seams. Fold the twill back over the canvas so the folded edge of the twill can be used as a straight edge to draw a straight line on the canvas where the lower part of the knee bend seam will be. Then unfold the twill, smooth it. Then fold the twill where the upper part of the blind seam will be, and draw it on the canvas. When you fold the lower part of the blind seam, make sure the folded edge is about a half inch in front of the vertical seam in the muslin that closes the front of the pocket. You will use a separate straight fold for each line. That way you will not have to try to make a knee bend fold, which would not work well. Clearly mark the beginning, bend, and ending points of each seam so you do not sew past them. You will use a similar procedure for the blind seams you will sew later.
Leave the twill and canvas pinned together but remove them from the art paper. Put the blind stitch foot on the machine, and select the blind stitch pattern. Review the blind stitching section of this document. When sewing the left front piece, the bent front seam will have to be sewn from bottom to top. When sewing the right front piece, the bent front seam will have to be sewn from top to bottom. When sewing, it is more important to avoid wrinkles than to exactly follow the line you have drawn. Use black thread. Fold the twill back to the line you have drawn on the canvas. Hold the twill flat on the canvas as you sew. Remember that the fold in the twill should just barely touch the blade in the presser foot, it should not be pushed up against it. After you have sewn the first half of the knee bend, unfold that part and make a new fold for the second part. After you have sewn the front seam you can remove all of the pins, because the seam will keep the twill anchored to the canvas.
Now you can sew the seam at the rear of the canvas. You should put the front piece on the art paper to fold the twill back and draw the seam line on the canvas. You will not need to pin before sewing. Be slow and careful as you sew. Examine each seam when you finish it. If you made a mistake, rip out the seam and do it again before doing the next seam.
If you have finished with the left front, now go back and do the right front. Remember to start by pinning the rear corners.
Put the art paper forms with the used patterns. Do not destroy them. We will use them again later.
The ends of the lapel fold line are marked on the twill. Now we want to mark the complete fold line on the side of the canvas away from the twill. Put pins through twill and canvas at the ends of the lapel fold line so you can see where these points are on the canvas. Lay the front piece on the table with the canvas side up. Use black a marker and a yard stick or meter stick to draw a straight line on the canvas between the pins. Now you can see the lapel fold line on the canvas.
Four inches up from the bottom of the lapel fold line, cross the lapel fold line with a bold mark on the canvas. Next, put a pin through twill and canvas to mark the lapel notch in the stitch marks on the twill. Align one edge of a right angle with the fold line on the canvas so that the other edge of the right angle is at the notch pin. Make a tiny mark on the fold line at the vertex of the right angle. One inch down the fold line from this tiny mark cross the fold line with a bold mark. Now that the canvas has been marked, remove the pins.
Put the front piece on the machine with the canvas side up. The next seam would normally be sewn with black thread. However, if your lighting is so poor that you need white thread for pad stitching, sew it with white thread instead of black. With black thread and the standard presser foot. Have the edge of the presser foot against the fold line marked on the canvas. Sew a seam parallel with the fold line, behind the fold line, between the two bold marks. The seam must be in behind, not in front of the fold line. The seam is not a blind seam, but it does not matter, it will be hidden by the folded lapel.
Hand sew white stitch marking at the bold marks so they can be seen from the twill side.
The next paragraph directs you to pad stitch the fold line between the bold marks. You MUST practice several times on scrap pieces as directed in the section on pad stitching before you do this. Otherwise your second lapel will be so much better than the first that you will have to unstitch the first and do it over.
Switch to the zipper foot. You will have to move the machine needle position to the left to use the zipper foot. Put the front piece on the machine with the twill side up. You will be sewing seams parallel to the seam you have just sewn. Each seam will be in front of the seam before. Each seam should be no more than 1/8 inch from the preceeding seam. The lapel should be to the right of the presser foot. The rest of the front piece will be to the left of the presser foot. You will have to firmly pull up the the part of the front piece just to the left of the presser foot vertically and guide the next seam to be parallel to and very close to the last seam. To the right of the presser foot, grasp only the top layer, the twill, and firmly pull only the top layer, the twill, to the right as you sew. Repeatedly stop and shift where you are pulling so the tension in the fabric is always at the presser foot. Be sure not to extend the seams beyond the white stitch marks on the twill that show the location of the bold marks on the canvas. Three seams with the zipper foot in addition to the first seam that was sewn with the normal foot will bring the total to four seams, which should be sufficient to make the lapel prefer to fold where it should. The width accross all four seams should be no more than 1/2 inch. When finished with the zipper foot remember to center the machine needle.
Now that the canvas is anchored to the front piece, we need to trim the edge of the canvas. The trimming of the edge has been delayed until now because it depends critically on the relative positions of the canvas and the twill front piece. The pattern has been drawn for the canvas to be trimmed even with the stitch marks on the twill. The zigzagging on the twill is white thread and the stitch marks marking the inlay are white thread. We will trim the canvas to the stitch marks, well past the zigzag.
You do not need to mark the armhole or the vertical rear edge below the armhole with the following tedious procedure, they will be handled differently.
Place the front piece on the table twill on top, canvas on bottom. We will now mark the canvas where we need to cut it back to the mark stitches on the twill. Place a flat centimeter ruler perpendicular to the line of stitch marks with the end of the ruler at the line of stitch marks. Make a mental note of the reading on the ruler at the edge of the twill. Put a fingernail on the twill against the edge of the ruler but not on top of the ruler. Keep the fingernail pressed down to guide you when you replace the ruler. Remove the ruler from the twill. Put the ruler under the twill between the twill and the canvas so the reading on the ruler is at the edge of the twill. Make sure to not disturb the ruler so it does not move from its present position. Lift up the edge of the twill so you can see the end of the ruler on the canvas. With your black marker pen mark a short line on the canvas at the end of the ruler. Do this around the edge of the canvas, bottom, front and top. Make marks about every two inches on the canvas. Make more marks than you need, so that if there is a mistake in one mark, it will be obvious because it will be out of line with the other marks. Use a straight edge to draw lines on the canvas connecting each of the marks.
At the shoulder between the armhole and the neck, draw on the canvas a new line a half inch lower, further inside the front piece, parallel to the shoulder line you have already drawn. You will later cut the canvas on this shifted line. Similarly, at the rear edge of the front piece below the armhole, lift the rear edge and draw a straight line parallel to the line of blind stitching but an inch behind the blind stitching. The line should go from the armhole in the canvas all the way to the bottom of the canvas. You will later cut the canvas on this line.
Cut the canvas on the cut lines that you have drawn on the canvas, but do not cut the twill. Before you cut the canvas along the inlay stitch marks, the inlay stitchmarks defined the inlay. But where the canvas runs along the inlay, now the edge of the canvas defines the edge of the inlay.
Trim the canvas almost but not quite even with the twill edge of the armhole, but do not cut the twill. The canvas should extend about 1/8 inch beyond the twill.
Put the twill on top, canvas on bottom. Now peel back the edge of the twill so you can finally at long last zigzag the edge of the canvas all the way around. Use black thread since the canvas is light colored.
The canvas, twill and facing must be sewn together at or near the edge of the canvas. They could all be sewn with a single seam at the edge of the canvas, but the integrity of the seam would be in question because of very small seam allowance in the canvas. The way this problem is traditionally solved is to sew cotton twill tape to the canvas along the edge. Cotton twill tape can have a strong seam with very small seam allowance because of the way it is woven. The front of the tape is even with or slightly beyond the front edge of the canvas. The rear of the tape is hand stitched to the canvas so the stitching will only go into the canvas, and not show on the outside of the twill. Then a machine stitch through front edge of tape, front edge of canvas, the twill and the satin facing will be secure. But we will use a simpler, easier way. Before adding the facing we will machine stitch canvas to twill a quarter inch behind the edge of the canvas, giving adequate seam allowance for the canvas. Then after adding the facing, we will machine stitch twill to facing just beyond the edge of the canvas. This will achieve the same result at the cost of a visible seam on the twill. It will be many paragraphs before we complete the process described in this paragraph.
By cutting the canvas below the shoulder stitch marks we have simplified the procedure traditionally used. We have done this simplification because we have cut the shoulders so shoulder pads are not needed. Traditionally the canvas would extend an inch or more beyond the shoulder stitch marks. The edges would be joined starting two inches below the shoulder stitch marks so the canvas could be folded back later on to press open the shoulder seam. Unfortunately, this would make hemming the neck much more difficult and confusing, and make anchoring the top of the satin facing more difficult. So we have cut the canvas below the shoulder stitch marks for a simpler procedure.
In the next step we will fasten the front edge of the canvas to the twill starting at the top of the neck curve where it meets the shoulder edge of the canvas.
Now with the canvas on top we will prepare to sew the front edge of the canvas to the twill along the neck curve, around the peak and down to the bottom of the front edge of the canvas. This is a long seam on the edge of the canvas over twill and the canvas will have a tendency to shift over the twill. Sewing twill edge to twill does not present much risk of fabric shifting while you sew. But sewing canvas edge to twill presents a certainty of fabric shifting unless precautions are taken. If the fabric shifts significantly while you sew permanent wrinkles near the front edge will result. Pinning is not adequate to prevent shifting unless you have a walking presser foot. If you do not have a walking presser foot the fabric is almost certain to shift unless you hand baste the edge with white cotton thread penetrating both layers of fabric every quarter inch before machine sewing. The seam you sew with the machine will be a quarter inch from the edge of the canvas. Make the basting stitches an eighth of an inch from the edge of the canvas. Do not sew until you read the next paragraph.
On one front piece it will be most convenient to start at the top and sew to the bottom. On the other piece it will be most convenient to start at the bottom and sew to the top. Using a plain straight seam, sew the front edge of the canvas to the twill with a seam a quarter inch inside the edge of the canvas. Keep the needle down when you raise the presser foot to turn the sharp corners at the lapel notch and the lapel peak. Do NOT sew a horizontal seam along the bottom edge of the canvas or along the shoulder edge.
Sew the edge of the canvas to the twill where the edge of the canvas is at the edge of the arm hole. The seam will stop at the point where the edge of the canvas leaves the edge of the arm hole. This seam is only needed temporarily to fix the canvas relative to the twill while the sleeve is being inserted. Even though the seam is only needed temporarily, there will be no need to remove the seam later. The seam will be a quarter inch from the edge of the canvas, but since the canvas extends slightly beyond the twill, the seam will be less than a quarter inch from the edge of the twill. Later when the sleeve is inserted a seam will be sewn with a quarter inch seam allowance from the edge of the twill. Again, hand basting is in order unless you have a walking foot. Even with a walking foot, you should spread the front piece on the table and pin it before sewing.
There are places where the edge of the canvas does not match the stitchmarks that define the inlays. These places are the shoulder, and the rear of the front piece. In these places the stitch marks are still essential to define the inlay. In other places where the edge of the canvas matches the inlay stitch marks, the stitch marks no longer serve a purpose and can be removed. They would be harder to remove later on. But be sure to leave the stitch marks in the twill that mark the ends of the lapel fold line.
Do not get rid of the art paper forms yet. We will use them again in the next step.
The satin facing will now be installed. Some may worry that the twill and canvas have a lapel dart, but the satin facing covers this dart with no dart in the satin. If the satin extended far beyond the vertex of the dart in all directions the way the canvas and twill do, it would require a dart. But it will extend at most only a short distance behind the vertex, and can get by without a dart. If there is a wrinkle, we could force the wrinkle to be behind the dart vertex where it will not be seen and can be folded and sewn flat. In practice this problem will not arise and we will not have to worry about it.
The facing material and the lining material look so similar they might get confused. The lining will look the same on both sides. The facing will be shiny on one side and dull on the other side.
The shape of the front piece will matter in how the facing is attached, so the art paper forms will be used.
This step is vital to the appearance of the suit. It requires practice and skill to accomplish. So read the whole procedure, then using small rectangular pieces of twill, canvas and satin, cut and sew only the region including the lapel peak and notch, and two or three inches beyond each. You will not use the art paper for this small practice piece. The twill and satin will include the inlays, the canvas will not. You may need to practice this a few times to get confident enough to apply satin to the front pieces that you have already invested a lot of work in.
The edge of the canvas has been sewn to the twill with a seam a quarter inch from the edge of the canvas. If this seam has not been sewn, you have not finished the section where the twill was attached to the canvas. The twill inlay has not yet been folded over the edge of the canvas.
Place a folded piece of polyester satin on the table. Make sure the wrong side of the satin is on the outside. Your original paper pattern has an open dart. We need a closed dart, so we will use a front piece that we have been working on for a pattern. Place a front piece on the satin, canvas side up. The lapel fold line should be parallel with the warp of the satin.
Chalk mark the satin around the twill along the front edge. Press the satin against the table near the chalk to make sure it does not slip. The chalk mark will include the inlay and be well beyond the edge of the canvas. Continue the mark along the top and bottom edges only as far back as the first, bent, blind seam. Then lift up enough of the front piece so you can make a chalk mark on the satin that is right under the bend in the blind seam. Remove the front piece leaving the satin on the table. With a yard stick draw a chalk line on the satin from the rear end of the top chalk mark to the bend mark, then from the bend mark to the rear end of the bottom mark.
Pin the two layers of satin together. Cut out the two layers of satin along the chalk mark. Do not remove the pins yet.
Use the overlock presser foot to zigzag the edge of each piece of satin with black thread. Have the shiny side up when you do this. The dull side will grip the feed dogs better, and the shiny side will slide more easily under the presser foot.
There are two ways to attach the satin to the front piece. The easy way is to sew the good side of the twill inlay just beyond the edge of the canvas to the good side of the satin, then turn both satin and twill over the edge of the canvas. This will result in rounded or even slightly puffy edges. The hard way is to fold the twill over the canvas, sew it in place with another seam a quarter inch from the edge, then lay the wrong side of the satin on the canvas side of the front piece, fold the edge of the satin under with the fingers as you sew the edge of the satin to the edge of the canvas. The seam will be right at the edge with almost no seam allowance. This a walking foot of the edge stitch type. And lots of practice to get the necessary skill. The hard way results in crisp edges, but it is hard to avoid a curled lapel peak. A curled lapel peak ruins the look of the lapel.
This article is about using machine sewing to make a suit. So I show how to do both the easy way and the hard way by machine. But it is so hard to get satisfactory results by machine on the hard way that I doubt anyone does it that way. I think the hard way is only used by tailors willing to sew on the facing entirely by hand.
You might want to try both ways on small test pieces before deciding which way you want to use. After you finish either the easy or the hard way you will still need to anchor the rear edge as described later. The easy way will now be described in detail.
THE EASY WAY. Darts can be used to make a surface bulge either way. We will now temporarily be bulging the front piece the opposite way from the way it would be when you wear it. Select the one of the two art paper forms so you could lay the front piece on it canvas side up, bulging up in the middle, with the dart in the front piece matching the dart in the art paper.
Put the cut satin piece down on the art paper form first, wrong side against the art paper, good slick shiny side up, with the front edge of the satin along the front edge of the art paper. Be sure that the wrong side of the satin is touching the art paper, not the good side. Do not worry if the curve of the front edge of the satin does not exactly match the curve of the front edge of the art paper.
Then put the front piece over the satin and the art paper with the twill against the satin, the canvas side up. The good side of the twill will be laying on the good side of the satin. You will notice that the curve of the front edge of the twill does not exactly match the curve of the front edge of the satin. It is not important that the edges match exactly. It is important that the satin and front piece lay smoothly in a relaxed natural way on the art paper form. Make sure that at least a tiny bit of satin pokes out under the edge of the twill everywhere. You may have to do repeated shifting to get it right.
Pin front piece to satin about an inch behind the front edge of the canvas. Pin the two ends first, then the middle, then in between to make sure things do not shift while you are pinning.
We could rely on the pins to hold the three layers together while sewing, but instead we will hand baste with white cotton thread. If we kept the pins in while sewing, the mild ripples formed by the pins would be sewn permanently into the satin. Satin makes the slightest ripple painfully obvious. If we baste the three layers together, we can get them laying fairly flat without ripples before we sew. After you pull the thread through on each basting stitch you can press the fabric flat so it will not have a ripple the way a pin would make. We want the three layers on the art paper form when be baste them together so the satin will conform to the contour of the rest. Baste about a quarter inch behind the front edge of the canvas but this time the basting will include three layers. We will not be sewing a seam on top of the basting is so that is not a problem. When basting the needle will penetrate the fabric either going up or going down every 1/4 inch. Baste from the a half inch above the top end of the lapel fold line, around the peak, down the front to the bottom front corner. It does not matter which end you start basting first. Remove each pin well before the basting reaches it, or the basting might include the wrinkle caused by the pin.
Now you are ready to plan how to sew the front edge with black thread with the canvas on top, satin on bottom. When the seam is sewn, it will be spaced out from the edge of the canvas. The seam will only sew the twill to the satin. You will use the edge stitch presser foot for this. Use the edge of the canvas as a guide for the presser foot as you sew. The blade on the presser foot should not press hard against the canvas since it would shift the position of the canvas. Adjust the foot and/or the machine so the seam will be about 1/16 inch out from the edge of the canvas, so the twill, not the satin, will contact the rough edge of the canvas when the satin is turned over, further minimizing wrinkles. When sewing one front piece it will be most convenient to start at the top and sew to the bottom. When sewing the other front piece it will be most convenient to start at the bottom and sew to the top. Read the next paragraph before sewing.
The seam should run from a half inch above the top of the lapel fold line to the bottom of the front edge of the front piece. Be very slow and careful at the lapel notch and the lapel peak. Use the needle down and presser foot up to turn the corners at the notch and peak of the lapel. The seam should run vertically to the bottom of the front edge of the inlay at the bottom of the front piece. The seam will NOT run horizontally along the bottom edge of the front piece or along the shoulder edge of the front piece at the top. Now you are ready to sew.
After sewing the seam, remove the basting.
When we turn the satin to the other side, the twill inlay will fold over also. But it would be difficult for the inlay to fold over at the curve at the top of the neck. You should trim the inlay down to a half inch or less so you can hem the curve at the top of the neck after you fold over the satin. Zigzag the cut edge.
Before we can turn the front and facing right side out, we must make some cuts. The cuts will go through both satin and twill. The figure below shows the lapel seam line as a dark solid line. The outer fine line is the outer edge of the front piece inlay and the satin facing right after the seam was sewn. The dashed lines must be cut, but not yet.
You must have the satin, not the canvas, on top when you make the cuts so you can see the seam in the satin. The cut at the peak should not get closer than a 3/8 inch to the peak. The cut at the notch should not go closer than 1/8 inch to the seam. If the cut is too close to the seam, a hole will develop later in the satin and the twill will show a fuzzy plume through the hole in the satin. Since the satin and twill were cut together, they can be zigzagged together with black thread with the standard presser foot.
After the dashed lines are cut, the facing is turned to the other side of the coat front. The twill inlay and facing are turned inside of the seam line as shown by the inner fine lines in the figure.
To get the peak turned out, on one side pull the twill out. This will pull out the peak. Do this before you try to push the peak out from the other side. When the peak is nearly all the way pulled out, you can finish the job by pushing the peak with the ball tipped bodkin from the other side. If you try to push it out before it is pulled out as far as you can, you will be pushing in the wrong place but think you are pushing in the right place.
You will not get a very sharp peak. It will not be possible to prevent a small wrinkle at the notch.
Press the seam at the edge of the twill. The twill side must be on top so the iron does not touch the satin. Make sure the edge of the twill is flat. Press the fabric down on the sleeve board and push the fabric toward the seam to make sure the satin is pulled back underneath the twill so that the satin does not bulge out from the edge when you press it.
When attaching the satin the easy way it will be difficult to attach the collar later unless we make another seam at the top of the neckline. Find the top of the lapel fold line at the neck curve. Make a white thread mark on the twill a half inch higher along the neck curve. Make a mark on the twill where the shoulder edge of the canvas meets the neck curve.
Above the top of the seam where you sewed the satin to the twill, fold the twill over the canvas. Above the canvas, fold the twill at the stitch marks. Make sure the corner where the neck stitch marks meet the shoulder stitch marks is at the edge of the fold. Do not fold the shoulder stitch marks. Sew the folded neck edge with a quarter inch seam. Do not include the satin.
Do not get rid of the art paper forms, we will use them when we anchor the rear edge of the satin.
HARD WAY. With the easy way the satin was sewn with a seam very near hand basting. This prevented the satin from slipping while the seam was sewn. In the hard way, the seam will be sewn far from the basting, so slipping of the satin may cause bad effects such as the peak curling outward in an unsightly fashion. So you may not want to use the hard way unless you have a walking foot with an edge stitch attachment. This should help prevent slippage of the satin. Also, when folding the satin with the fingers ahead of the presser foot, it is difficult to avoid pulling the satin ahead of the presser foot. This has a tendency to make the satin shift relative to the twill underneath.
Now we need to make preparations to fold the twill over the edge of the canvas along the front, peak, notch and neck but no further. Before folding the twill you might prefer to cut it along the front, peak, notch and neck so the edge of the twill extends 5/8 inch beyond the edge of the canvas. That way the folded over part will be no wider than it needs to be. But do not reduce the width of the twill inlay anywhere else. Zigzag the cut edge.
Start the folding at the lapel peak. Put your fingernail down on the point of the canvas lapel peak. Fold the peak of the twill over the peak of the canvas so that the fold line is perpendicular to the centerline of the canvas peak. Then fold the twill over the sides of the canvas peak. This will result in multiple folded layers. Theoretically if the canvas peak is less pointed than 60 degrees, the raw end of the first fold will not protrude over the edge of the peak after all the folding is finished. The patterns supplied have the peak less pointed than 60 degrees, which is to say that the angle is greater than 60 degrees. The folded twill will later be covered by the satin. After the peak is folded, you might want to sew the tip of the peak by hand to keep it folded while you prepare to finish folding and sewing the whole edge by machine. Fold and sew the twill over the edge of the canvas at neck, notch peak and front down to the corner, but no where else.
Lay the front piece over the art paper form canvas side up. Lay the satin facing over the front piece good shiny side up. The wrong side of the satin should be touching the canvas. Remember that the inlay on the satin is still about one inch out from the canvas. It is important that the satin lays in a relaxed natural way with no wrinkles. Pin the entire length of the rear edge of the satin in several places to the front piece so the satin will not shift while you baste it.
It is important that there are no pins near the front edge when it is sewn, or wrinkles made by the pins will be permanently sewn into the shiny satin. So we must baste before we sew. Baste the satin over the canvas side of the front piece using white cotton thread. The basting should be an inch or a little more from the edge of the canvas because the satin will have to be lifted to fold the edge of the satin under.
After basting the satin you might want to trim the edge of the satin if the inlay in the satin is larger than you want to fold under. If so, zigzag with the overlock presser foot.
Remove the pins before you start sewing. You will not fold the edge of the satin under until you start sewing. The folded edge of the satin will be even with the folded edge of the twill under it. It will be hardest to fold and sew the satin at the peak of the lapel. You will probably have to fold and sew the tip of the peak by hand with black cotton thread. Then you can finish the rest by machine. When sewing the peak, make sure there is no tension in the satin. If there were, the lapel peak would tend to curl up which you do not want. It would be better if there were a slight excess of satin at the peak.
The remainder of the seam from peak to notch can be sewn by machine. The seam on the other side of the notch should start at the notch. That way, if there is a tendency of the satin to slip a wrinkle at the notch will be avoided.
Use the edge stitch presser foot. Let the blade of the presser foot press gently against the hemmed edge of the front piece as you sew. Have the needle adjusted so that it sews slightly over the folded edge of the satin. The seam should catch the folded edge of the satin and the folded edge of the twill and possibly even the canvas inside the twill. Sew only about a half inch at a time to allow plenty of opportunity to adjust and fold the edge of the satin before sewing it.
You are finished with the seam. Remove the white basting thread.
The seam will be visible with black cotton thread but not unsightly if it is very close to the edge. If you want the seam to be almost invisible, use clear fine monofilament polyester thread. It is so fine that you will not need to wind much on the bobbin. It is difficult to wind the bobbin and thread the machine with it, but easy to sew with once you get it on the machine.
ANCHOR REAR EDGE. Now we need to anchor the rear of the satin. Put the front piece twill side up on the matching art paper form. Fold the lapel exactly on the fold line so the satin is on the outside of the fold. Pin the lapel in its correctly folded position. One pin near the peak of the lapel should be enough to keep the lapel folded properly.
Take the front piece off the art paper form and put it on the other art paper from canvas side up. This is confusing because the lapel is now folded. The lapel region will not match the art paper. The bottom and rear will match the art paper.
Gently pull the rear of the satin toward the rear to get any unseen wrinkles out of the front part of the satin. Pin the rear of the satin just behind the fold to the canvas in several places along the length of the satin. Where the lapel is folded under the canvas, be careful that the pin does not go deep enough to catch the folded lapel, because you need to be able to unfold the lapel with the pins still in the satin. This will be tricky and may take several attempts.
You need to estimate where you can sew the rear edge of the satin to the twill where the seam will be covered on the twill side by the folded lapel. With the front piece on the table canvas side up, you can press down and feel the folded edge of the lapel. Where the folded edge of the lapel is to the rear of the rear edge of the satin, it is safe to sew. Mark on the canvas the upper and lower limits of where you want to sew the rear edge of the satin to the front piece later on after you unfold the lapel.
There will be no serious wrinkles in the satin at this point. But when we remove the front piece from the art paper and unfold the lapel, there may be serious wrinkles in the satin forward of the fold line. Remove only the pin at the lapel peak to unfold the lapel. Leave the pins along the fold line in.
Lay the front piece flat on the table with the canvas side up and with the lapel unfolded. REMEMBER TO UNFOLD THE LAPEL!!
Sew a short seam along the rear edge of the satin to anchor the middle part of the rear edge between the limits you marked on the canvas. The top and bottom parts of the rear edge of the satin will be anchored later. Do not remove the pins along the fold line yet.
The top and bottom edges of the satin will probably not be exactly at the top and bottom edges of the twill, this does not matter. Fold the front edge of the top of the satin back to get it away from the hemmed twill edge at the top of the neck. Sew horizontal seams in the twill inlays beyond the stitch marks at the top and bottom so that the satin will be attached to the twill in these inlays. These seams need be only one inch long at the rear edge of the satin. They are only needed temporarily since later seams will more firmly anchor the satin in these regions.
This will not completely anchor the satin, but it will be enough. To go further without the seam showing would require hand sewing to the canvas.
Remove the pins.
Now when the lapel is folded the rear of the satin will be adequately fastened down and the satin will not have any serious wrinkles.
We will put back pockets and side pockets in the pants, so the suit will not be short on pockets.
Traditional tail coats have a pocket on the inside of the right front piece. We do not have a lining inside the coat, so instead of a traditional pocket in the lining we could make a simple patch pocket inside the coat. This is not the customary location. But if you insist on having a patch pocket we will describe it. I did not put a patch pocket in my coat.
We will describe sewing the patch pocket inside the right front piece. This is optional. It is easy to make the patch pocket so the seam shows, hard to do it where the seam does not show. Another way to have an inside pocket on the right side is to make a pocket on the right side of the shirt, not in the coat. But we will now describe the pocket in the coat.
Cut a piece of muslin according to the pattern of the welt pocket. Zigzag the edges. The top of the patch pocket will have the same slant as the welt stitch marks on the right front piece. Fold the slant top of the muslin over a half inch in a way that the fold will be outside the pocket. Sew this slant fold to hem the top of the muslin. Lay the right front piece flat on the table, wrong side up. The canvas will be on top. Part of the canvas will be covered by the facing. Sew the pocket around the two sides and the bottom, but not the top. If you machine stitch it, the seam will show on the outside, but not much since it is black on black. If you do not want the seam to show you will have to hand sew it to cotton canvas, which is difficult unless you insert the needle perpendicular to the surface of the canvas, in which case the stitch will also go to the outside of the twill.
If you want a hole in the lapel to insert the stem of an artificial white flower, now is the easiest time to make the hole.
Some men like to wear a small white flower on the left lapel. If so, they make provision for this by having a horizontal buttonhole sewn on the face of the lapel about 1.5 inches below the notch. By horizontal we mean perpendicular to the lapel fold line. The end of the buttonhole closest to the edge of the lapel will be 0.5 inches or slightly more from the edge of the lapel. The buttonhole will be 0.5 inches long or a little longer on the inside, longer on the outside. There is never a hole in the right lapel. Remember, the left front piece is the one with the welt pocket.
Some sewing machines are capable of making a circular hole. This might seem appropriate since the flower stem is circular. But when the flower is not worn, a gaping open hole would be unsightly. An ordinary button hole is closed, not open, when nothing is in it. A button hole is neater and more appropriate.
This is your first buttonhole in this project. Practice several times on scrap cloth before attempting it on your lapel. You cannot afford to make a mistake on something that already has this much work in it.
You will probably use a block of wood and a chisel 0.5 inches wide that is sold for opening buttonholes afer they are sewn. You will want the hole to be a tiny bit longer than 0.5 inches so the chisel does not cut the threads at the end of the hole.
The first practice buttonhole may be perfect. But perhaps you are just lucky. Make at least four perfect buttonholes before you are ready to work on your lapel. Check to see that your bobbin has enough thread to finish the buttonhole before you start the buttonhole. Now you are ready to make a buttonhole in your lapel.
Have the satin on top, twill on bottom. Make sure the hole will be perpendicular to the lapel fold line. Leave the satin where it wants to be before you start sewing. If you pull or tug it before you sew, you are likely to have a permanent wrinkle in the satin after you sew.
A long time ago we joined the back piece to the side piece. Now join each front piece to its corresponding side piece. Since the front piece has the vertical inlay with the rear line of stitch marks, lay the side piece and back piece over the front piece, good side to good side. The fabric edge of the side piece should be at the vertical line of stitch marks on the front piece. Referring back to the picture of the coat pieces above, notice that at the back of the arm hole there is a small corner in the front of the side piece that matches a small corner at the back of the front piece. This small corner at the back of the arm hole in the front piece is in the stitch marks on the front piece, not on the edge of the fabric of the front piece. These two small corners should match as well as possible. The waist line stitch marks on the two pieces should nearly match at the point where the corner of the stitch marks is on the front piece. The seam should run from the small corners to the bottom edge of the twill below the waist line of stitch marks. It does not matter if the bottom edge of the fabric on the two pieces does not exactly match. Pin the pieces together.
Now that you are sewing the coat together, the fabric will be heavy and tend to drag and pull as you sew, especially if pins catch on something. So lift the coat up to guide the seam without any dragging and pulling. Sew the seam. Remove the pins. Press the seam open.
Now we are ready to fold up the bottom edge of the coat. Lay the coat on the table wrong side up. Fold the twill around the edge of the canvas, do not fold the edge of the canvas. Pin the top edge of the inlay to hold the fold in place. When the seam is sewn the edge of the presser foot will be at the bottom edge of the fold. At the vertical seam where the back piece joins the front piece, the seam has been pressed open. Fold up the bottom in such a way that the vertical seam stays open.
On the side piece there is no canvas. Where the side piece joins the front piece the bottom edge should be folded up so the stitch marks are on the edge of the fold. But at the rear of the side piece you may have to adjust the fold above or below the row of stitch marks. This is because it should be at the level of the 0.25 inch cut in the back piece which is at the corner in the back piece just below where the back-side seam ended.
The back piece is at the rear of the side piece. The front corner of the back piece just below the waist line will not be sewn to the coat. It will be left loose and unattached for now. If it were sewn to the coat it would be much harder to sew it to the tail piece later on.
The first thing to sew is the lower front corner, before you sew the rest of the seam. Fold the horizontal bottom inlay on the front piece up over the edge of the canvas without folding the canvas. Now you can see the folded edge of the inlay at the front edge of the front piece. This looks bad. Now take the corner of the inlay that is already folded up. Fold the corner diagonally down and to the rear, but not at an angle that the raw edge is below the folded edge at the bottom. Now the folded up edge of the inlay is no longer at the front corner of the coat. Sew it folded down with a very short securing seam before you sew the rest of the folded edge.
For one half of the coat it will be easiest to sew from front to rear, for the other half from rear to front. The front end of the folded edge is at the lower front corner of the front piece.
Sew a seam a quarter inch above the bottom edge of the coat the whole length from the front bottom corner of the front piece to the rear bottom corner of the side piece where it joins to the back piece. Do not include the back piece in the seam. Now the bottom of the coat is hemmed.
Remove stitch marks on the two seams you have just sewn, the vertical seam between front and side, and the hemmed bottom edge of the coat.
The patterns are cut so that a good looking shoulder is achieved without shoulder pads. This is the way tailsuits were made a long time ago before shoulder pads became popular. This way was chosen not just for historical accuracy but also because it is simpler and easier to make.
Another difference between this pattern and more modern patterns is that the shoulder on the back piece is the same length as the shoulder on the front piece. More modern patterns have the shoulder on the back piece longer than the shoulder on the front piece. This requires laborious ease stitching to match the lengths. It produces a rounded shoulder with the seam on top of the shoulder. This pattern produces a rounded shoulder by having the shoulder rounded on the front piece while it is straight on the back piece. But the shoulder seam goes to the back of the shoulder at the outer end, not the top of the shoulder.
The next thing to do is to sew the shoulder seam where the back piece joins the front piece from the neck to the arm hole. Lay the half coat on the table good side up with the top of the coat nearest you. Fold the back over the front so that the back shoulder lays over the front shoulder. Now the shoulders are laying good side to good side.
The edge of the fabric of the back shoulder should be at the line of stitch marks on the front shoulder. Use plenty of pins because the stitch marks are a curved line but the edge of the back piece is a straight line.
To sew the seam the back piece will be on top of the front piece. The edge of the presser foot will run along the edge of the back piece. Secure both ends of the seam. To make sure the seam includes each end, start the seam slightly before the start and end the seam slightly after the end.
Remove the stitch marks at the shoulder seam.
Since this is a curved seam, press the seam open a little bit at a time off the rounded end of the sleeve board.
Now we are ready to join the two back pieces with a vertical seam in the center of the back of the coat. This is an unusual seam where we will be joining two edges with stitch marks, instead of two cut edges or a cut edge and an edge with stitch marks. This is difficult because so much of the coat is together and will have to be moved around during the seam. Lay the pieces good side to good side.
Match the edges of the two back pieces, good side to good side. When the seam is sewn the pins will be in the inlay, but the presser foot will not be in the inlay. Put pins in the inlay a quarter inch behind the stitch marks every two inches along the inlay. When you sew the seam with black thread the edge of the presser foot will be against the line of stitch marks and the seam will be a quarter inch in front of the line of stitch marks. The seam will run from the top edge of the back pieces at the top of the neck inlay down to the corners at the waist level. Sew the seam.
Remove the pins, remove the stitch marks and press the seam open.
Lay the coat wrong side up on the table. Prepare to hem the inlay at the back neck. Fold it down so the stitch marks are visible on the edge. Spread the shoulder seams apart so the center of the back will lay flat before you pin the folded inlay to the back. Sew a seam a quarter inch under the stitch marks. Do not continue the seam closer than a half inch to where the back piece joins the front piece. Where the back and front meet at the neck will look a little messy now, but it will be fixed when we attach the collar. Remove the stitch marks.
Lay the coat good side up on the table. Adjust the fabric so that below the waist the tail part of the right back piece underlays the tail part of the left back piece and the left back piece overlays the right back piece. Make the amount of offset between the left and right pieces the same all the way down and pin it in place.
We will now secure the rear waist corners of the back pieces. We will not deal with the front waist corners until very much later.
Starting at the neck roll up the coat a way. Stop rolling about three inches above the waist. This will allow the rolled up portion to fit under the upper arm of the sewing machine. Put the coat on the machine with the back pieces below the waist straight off the end of the machine. A quarter inch below the waist edges of the back pieces make a horizontal seam through all layers. The purpose of the seam is to join the overlapping pieces where they overlap. You can see the edge of the top piece but will sew slightly beyond your estimate of the bottom edge that you cannot see just to make sure that you include the hidden edge.
Just above the horizontal seam we have just sewn the top edge of the left back piece is still a little bit loose so we should fasten it down. We will use a zigzag stitch. With the coat good side up, the right corner of the left back piece should have its horizontal edge zigzagged to the right back piece that is under it. The zigzag should be 4 or 5mm wide and the stitch length 1mm. The center of the zigzag will be at the horizontal edge of the left back piece. The seam will go from the center seam of the back pieces to the edge of the left back piece where it lays over the right back piece. You cannot estimate the location of the hidden piece exactly enough to do both in one seam. Turn the coat over so the wrong side is up. Sew a similar seam over the right back piece. The top edge of the left corner of the right back piece should be zigzagged to the left back piece that lies under it.
At this point it is a good idea permanently mark the complete set of measurements that produced the patterns for this garment. Use a black permanent fine tipped marker pen to write the measurements on a visible part of the canvas inside one of the front pieces. If you later decide to get new patterns it is essential that you remember the measurements for the old garment. Since you may keep this garment for years, it would be best to record the year and month too. It might occur to you to record the data on a cloth patch in the center back of the coat, but this would be a bad idea, because the back must be as cool as possible because that is where you sweat the most when dancing.
Do not remove the mark stitches that mark the ends of the lapel fold line. Do not remove the reference mark positions on either side of the arm hole. Do not remove the mark stitches that locate the three button positions. Remove the white mark stitches that mark a welt pocket on the right front piece where you did not make a welt pocket. Remove the mark stitches on the back piece neck hem. Cut loose black thread ends everywhere.
The shape of the collar pattern has a strong influence on where the bottom end of the fold line of the lapel falls. The collar is a critical part of a coat that does not button in the front.
The part of the collar that rises up from the coat is called the stand of the collar, and the part that bends down on the outside is called the fall of the collar. The stand rises about 1 inch above the top of the coat, the fall is about 1.625 inches below the top of the collar in the back of the neck. The collar pattern is for half of the collar. Two halves will be cut then sewn together to make the whole collar. This is so each half will have the same orientation relative to the fabric and therefore stretch and fold in the same way so the collar will not be lopsided.
Before you start cutting, examine the collar pattern. The top of the collar is a long curve. The bottom of the collar is long and more curved. The front of the collar is a short straight line. The rear of the collar is a line that is not straight but made of 4 straight lines joined at angles. The bottom inlay is 0.75 inches, the top inlay is 1 inch. The collar is slightly longer than it needs to be. This is because the exact length needed to reach the peak of the lapel will not be known until you sew the collar on. The length needed depends on exactly how you sewed the back seam and the shoulder seam.
The pattern will be used on folded fabric to cut two identical pieces each time the pattern is used. Place the pattern on the fabric so the stand edge or bottom edge of the pattern near the end where the two halves will be joined is somewhat diagonal on the fabric, and the front straight part of the bottom edge of the pattern is in line with the fabric. The bottom edge is the edge that is more curved.
The pattern shows solid lines and dashed lines. The first time the pattern is used, it will be used on folded black twill fabric. Chalk the outer dashed lines. While the pattern is still pinned, the outer dashed portion of the pattern will be cut off, so the edge of the solid portion can be used to mark where the stitch marks will go. Do not cut the pattern on the fold line, which is the dashed line through the center of the collar. Mark only the ends of the fold line. After the pattern is removed, replace the pins and use a straight edge to mark the fold line. The fold line is straight because the lapels are long. If the lapels were short the fold line would be curved.
Cut out the twill collar pieces. With white thread stitch mark the twill pieces. Be sure to stitch mark the top line, the middle fold line, and the bottom line.
Switch to the standard presser foot and black thread. Separate the layers and zigzag all of the outer edges of these large collar pieces with black thread.
Now the pattern has been trimmed to the solid line. Use the pattern with the same orientation to the warp of the fabric to cut a smaller pair of twill pieces and a pair of canvas pieces. Mark the rear end of the fold line on the fabric in each case. That will help you to accurately cut the shallow "V" shape at the rear end. It will not be necessary to mark the front of the fold line, because no stitch marking will be done on these pieces. Only the short rear edges of these pieces need to be zigzagged, because the long top and bottom edges and front edges will be enclosed.
Now that the zigzagging is complete, pin each pair of pieces back together the same way they were when you cut them out, good side to good side.
Assembling the collar is a complicated process. First join the rear edge of each layer with a quarter inch seam allowance and press the seam open for that layer before we join the layers. In each case the seam joining the rear edge should accurately follow the shape of the rear edge. The seam will be a quarter inch from the rear edge. When sewing the edge of the big pieces that have the stitch marking, make sure you sew good side to good side. On the big pieces the shape of the rear edge is more complicated than a shallow V, but the entire rear edge should be joined.
Press the seams open that you have sewn at the rear edges of the pieces. Each straight line segment of the rear seam will have to be pressed separately. On the smaller pieces, this will mean only the segment you are pressing will be on the sleeve board, the other segment will be off the sleeve board. The big piece is not this simple. Make use of the fact that the front of the iron is pointed. Only put enough of the point of the iron on the seam to cover the segment you are pressing.
Now the rear edges of each of the three pairs of pieces are joined. Next join the canvas with the twill piece that is the same size as the canvas. The open seams of canvas and twill should face each other. Pin the twill and canvas together. Because you are sewing canvas to twill, basting or a walking foot might be required to prevent any wrinkle. But a wrinkle probably will not matter because this part will be hidden. Your machine might balk at sewing from the thin part to the thick part where the seams are. A way around this is to lower the presser foot on the thick part, do a short securing stitch. This will make the thick part as thin as possible. Then do the thin parts as separate seams. Only sew the bottom edge with a quarter inch seam allowance. Do not sew any of the other edges yet.
Put the large twill collar piece on the table wrong side up. Put the two pieces that have already been sewn together canvas side down on the large piece. The canvas will have twill on both sides. The open seam of the larger twill piece should face the canvas. The stitch marks on the larger piece should match the edges of the other pieces. The lower, more curved side of the other pieces should just barely cover over the bottom line of stitch marks. Pin the top edge of the smaller pieces to the large piece. Fold the lower edge of the larger piece over the bottom edge only of the smaller pieces. The fold will wrinkle badly because the edge is curved. Fortunately, the wrinkles will not be seen because they will be under the folded collar. The side with the wrinkles will be the wrong side of the collar. Pin the folded edge in place with pins parallel to the edge of the twill. The pins should barely catch the edge of the twill so there will be enough room for the presser foot to run along the bottom edge of the collar. Do not sew yet.
Remove the lower line of stitch marks now, as they might get caught in the seam and be harder to remove after you sew the seam. Do not sew yet.
The wrong side of the collar is the side where you have just inserted pins. Make chalk marks or white stitch marks on the wrong side of the collar, the side where the pins are. The marks should be two inches from each end of the collar. You do not want to sew the next two seams closer to the ends of the collar than these marks. The center part is so thick that you will probably have to lower the feed dogs temporarily to squeeze it under the presser foot. But raise the feed dogs before you start sewing. If you get it under, only sew a short sequring stitch to make it thinner. If you cannot get it under the presser foot, forget it. Sew a seam along the bottom edge of the collar with a standard quarter inch seam allowance. Only sew the bottom edge, no other edge.
Remove ALL of the pins in both rows of pins.
The bottom edge of the collar is now sewn together. The collar fold line is the middle line of stitch marks that runs only about half the length of the collar. Fold the bottom of the collar up wrong side to wrong side so the line of stitch marks that marks the fold line is on the outside edge of the fold. This fold will cause the layers to shift over each other which is what we want. That is why we needed to remove all the pins in the last step. Pin the fold into place.
Fold the top edge of the larger piece over the top edge of the other pieces. Make sure you do not fold the top edge of the other pieces. Pin the folded edge. Make marks two inches from each end of the collar. You will not sew closer to the ends than these marks. Remove the top line of stitch marks before you sew. Start at each mark and sew toward the middle. Sew the top edge with a quarter inch seam. When you have finished both sides, do the center of the top the way you did the center of the bottom, if possible. We still have not sewn the large twill piece to the ends of the collar, which will come much later after we determine the exact length of the collar.
Remove the pins. Now the collar has a permanent fold along the fold line. At the ends of seams are loose thread ends. Cut these off.
Now you are ready to sew the collar to the edge of the coat. The instructions for sewing the collar continue for several paragraphs. Read them all before you start sewing.
More than half of the length of the collar will be sewn on quickly by machine. The rest will have to be sewn on slowly by hand, because the machine would make ugly creased stitch marks in the smooth shiny satin of the lapel, and because the end of the collar will have to be finished after most of the collar is sewn to the coat.
The collar will be sewn to the coat with a black thread zigzag stitch between the center of the back of the coat and to within a half inch of the lapel fold line stitch marks. There should still be white stitch marks on the twill that show the top ends of the lapel fold line on both sides of the coat. If some of the stitch marks have fallen out, use a straight edge to estimate the exact point where the fold line will reach the edge of the neck of the front piece. A half inch further up the neck edge toward the rear, with your hand sewing needle and white thread, penetrate the front piece. Loop around the edge three times to make sure it does not fall out. Now you have a stitch mark to show where your zigzag seam should stop.
Make sure you sew the bottom edge, not the top edge, of the collar to the coat. The bottom edge is the edge close to the fold line on the collar, and is the edge that is most curved.
You will be making four short zigzag seams, not one long continuous seam. The seam will have gaps at each of the shoulder seams and in the center of the back .
When sewing a straight seam, you could temporarily reverse the direction of sewing to secure the ends of a seam so the seam would not unravel in the wash. When zigzagging, lower the feed dogs at each end of the seam and sew a few stitches in one place to secure the ends of the seam. Or you could use a hand needle to get both thread ends on the inside, and tie the ends.
Except for one pin at the start, you will not be able to pin the collar in place to sew it on. The collar will seem to be backward when it is sewn on. If the good side of the coat is facing up, the good side of the collar will be facing down. The bottom of the collar, the more curved side, is what you will sew to the coat.
You will start the seam near the center of the back. The body of the coat will be to your left, the collar to your right. When sewing in one direction from the center, the coat will be wrong side up. When sewing the other direction from the center, the coat will be good side up. In both cases, the collar will be the other way. Thus, if the coat is good side up, the collar will be wrong side up.
The collar is so thick at the center that it is best not to start the seam exactly at the center. With the large difference in thickness of the two pieces, only the collar will be advanced by the machine by each stitch. So the center seam of the collar will not remain in line with the center seam of the coat during the first few stitches. Therefore, line up the center seams, but start the zigzag seam at a point where the collar edge is thin. You will not be able to see the center seams well enough to keep them lined up before you start sewing. Therefore, put one pin through both center seams before you start to keep them lined up when you start. After the pieces are sewn together it will be safe, but not necessary, to sew across the center seam where the thicknesses are so different.
You will not want to include the front piece shoulder inlay in the seam. This is at the shoulder seam. Fold the inlay away from where the presser foot is. Perhaps pin it in place. When the presser foot gets to the inlay, where the back piece joins the front piece, raise the presser foot, move past where the back piece joins the front piece, fold the inlay back the other way from the presser foot, and continue sewing. When the coat is good side up you will not be able to see the inlay while you are sewing, so you will have to remain conscious of its existence.
When the zigzag seam gets to the mark stitch you made on the coat a half inch before the lapel fold line, stop. You will not zigzag beyond this point. This is VERY important.
Select a zigzag 4 or 5mm wide. Stitch length 1 or 2 mm. Do not zigzag beyond the point when you are a half inch from the fold line. Normally a quarter inch seam allowance is needed for strong seams to raw edges. That is not the case here because the seams will attach to hemmed edges, not raw edges.
When doing the zigzag stitch be very slow and careful sewing. Use your fingers to keep edges of coat and collar flat on the machine so the edge of the collar is pressed against the edge of the coat with no gap between collar and coat. Make sure the two edges join exactly at the center of the presser foot. There should be no overlap of the two edges.
Finish the zigzag on both sides of the coat before going to the next step.
Now you are ready for the hand sewing. Use black thread. Put the coat on the table twill side up. Hand sew the edge of the collar to the twill edge of the coat. When sewing by hand you can avoid the stitches penetrating the satin. This would not be possible by machine. If the stitches penetrate the satin it will ruin the smooth shiny appearance of the satin. Start hand sewing where the machine sewing left off, and sew to the white mark on the collar, not the neck edge, where the machine sewing on the collar, not the neck edge, stopped. The collar remains to be finished beyond that point. It may help to pinch the seam between the fingers to raise the seam slightly off the table.
Finish both sides of the collar up to this point before going on to the next step.
Now that you have sewed to the mark, you have sewed as far as the outer twill layer of the collar is sewn to the two inner layers of the collar. Pull the loose end of the outer layer of twill away from the inner layers. You can see that the canvas is longer than necessary. With the coat on the table twill side up, adjust the coat so that the canvas end of the collar is aganst the coat all the way to the notch of the lapel. Cut the end of the canvas and the twill layer behind it off parallel to the lapel peak leaving a quarter inch gap between the cut end and the lapel peak. Do not cut the outer layer of twill that you have pulled back out of the way.
We want the end of the collar close enough to the lapel peak to look neat, but not so close that there is any danger that the end of the collar will push against the lapel peak. If it pushes the lapel peak it will change the shape of the peak and ruin its neat appearance.
You can only work on one end of the collar at a time with the following procedure. Take the outer layer of twill. Pull it past the cut end of the collar canvas and fold back over the wrong side of the collar.
Put the coat on and look in a mirror on the wall. Fold the collar down so the collar fold line stitch marks appear. Pull the lapels together in the front as far as they should go. Make sure the lapels are folded properly. Fold the twill at the end of the collar back under the collar. Adjust the fold so that the folded edge is parallel to the edge of the lapel between the notch and the peak. There should be about an eighth inch gap between the end of the collar and the edge of the lapel peak. This gap should be the same all along the short straight line that is the front end of the collar. Pinch the fold with your fingers and keep it pinched. Carefully take the coat off keeping the fold pinched. This is awkward but possible.
Take the coat to the machine with the fold still pinched. Sew a simple seam, no securing stitches, a quarter inch back from the fold. Look at it again in the mirror. If it is not right, unstitch and try again. When you get it right, there is likely to be part of the folded edge poking out from under the outer edge of the collar. You do not want this. Unstitch only the outer part of the seam, not the whole seam, so you can fold that part back under the collar. Then sew that fold on the machine.
When this is done, finish hand sewing the bottom edge of the collar to the lapel. Then check again in the mirror.
When the fold is the way you want it, you will want securing stitches to make the seam permanent. Sew over the seam with securing stitches.
The only justification for attaching the end of the collar with the lapel peak is if the lapel peak will not lay down properly against the coat. Normally the collar is more reliable in laying down against the coat than the lapel peak. If the peak needs pulled down, you could hand sew with black thread a few zigzag stitches between the twill on the back of the lapel peak and the underside of the collar. The gap is small and everything is black so the stitches will probably not be noticeable.
Now you have finished the collar. At this point you could put on the coat to try it out. But in my case, I saw folds and wrinkles behind the shoulder seam. Fortunately I did not attempt alterations to correct the problem at this stage, because when I put the sleeves in the problem went away. The separation between the bottoms of the two lapel fold lines may be less after the sleeves are put on.
Remove the white stitch marks from the collar fold line.
We have already made the sleeves, now we need to insert them into the coat. Inserting the sleeves is a very slow and tedious procedure. It is necessary to use a time consuming, reliable process or you will have a seam that looks so bad that you will not wear the coat.
Be sure to use the correct sleeve for the side of the coat where you are working. The sleeves are slightly bent. The wrist end of the sleeve should be forward of the elbow of the sleeve when the sleeve is attached to the shoulder of the coat.
While the sleeve is being sewn to the coat the coat will be wrong side out, the sleeve good side out. The front seam of the sleeve will match the front pitch mark on the arm hole of the coat front piece. The sleeve rear seam will match the rear pitch mark on the back piece of the coat. The edge of the canvas goes up to the edge of the armhole, so the canvas will be included in the seam.
On the coat where the side piece joins the front piece, the seam has been pressed open so that the inlay on the front is folded over. The folded part of the inlay hides the stitch marks for the one inch width of the inlay. It is easy to see the outline of the arm hole in this region from the outside of the coat, but impossible from the inside of the coat. You should hand stitch through both layers with white thread so the line of stitch marks can be seen when the coat is turned wrong side out.
The sleeve is larger than the arm hole in the coat where it will be attached. Prepare to ease stitch the sleeve into the coat. Review the section on ease stitching. It must be done thoroughly with no steps omitted.
Remember that on the sleeves, the distance between seams will be subdivided. On the coat, the distance between reference marks, NOT the distance between seams, will be subdivided. The two reference marks on the coat arm hole are called the sleeve pitch marks. The pitch marks should already be marked with colored thread on the coat arm hole so you cannot confuse them with alignment marks that will be marked with white thread.
It is absolutely essential that you subdivide the distances on both the armhole and the sleeve using the method of successive halves described in the ease stitching section. Use the cloth tape measure and a calculator for the long distances. When the distances get short switch to the short flat steel ruler, estimate by eye, or fold the cloth so the two nearest marks match to see the middle of the fold.
Inserting the sleeve involves so much handling and manipulation that chalk marks would get badly smudged. It is better to make marks with white thread than with chalk. Make the stitch marks in a way that they will not fall out with extensive handling.
Pinch the tape and fabric together about every 4cm to measure. Where there are stitch marks along the edge of the coat or the edge of the sleeve, follow the stitch marks. Elsewhere follow the edge of the fabric.
The colored stitch marks on the coat arm hole must be seen when the coat is turned wrong side out. In one place the canvas covers up the colored stitch marks. So make new colored stitch marks through the old colored stitch marks that penetrate the canvas so they can be seen when the coat is wrong side out.
It is vital to select the correct sleeve for the side of the coat where you insert the first sleeve. The sleeve top piece will be on the outside when you wear the coat. The sleeve bottom piece will be on the inside next to your body when you wear the coat. The sleeve bottom piece has an inlay at the top. The sleeve top piece has no inlay. The elbow of the sleeve is slightly bent to bring the hand forward.
Look for the sleeve pitch marks on the armhole of the coat. The pitch marks should be marked with colored thread. The sleeve seams will be at the pitch marks. Once you have determined which seam goes to which pitch mark, turn the coat wrong side out and have the sleeve good side out.
Insert the sleeve into the coat. Remember, the sleeve seam matches the coat pitch mark, NOT the coat seam. Insert pins with the pin head outside the hole to join the sleeve seams to the two pitch marks, good side to good side.
In some places you will match the edge of the sleeve to the edge of the coat. Make sure you match the edge of the twill to the edge of the twill. Do not match the edge of the twill to the edge of the canvas, which may be slightly different than the edge of the twill. In some places you will match the edge of the sleeve to stitch marks in the coat. In other places you will match the edge of the coat to stitchmarks in the sleeve.
Start pinning at the colored thread pitch marks on the coat, this is where the sleeve seams should be. Insert the pins at each alignment mark so the head of the pin is out of the hole and the pin is perpendicular to the seam line that will be sewn later with the sewing machine. The pin should go into and then back out of both layers of fabric. Later the seam will be sewn with quarter inch seam allowance. So it is very important that the edge of one piece of black twill fabric match exactly to the edge of the other piece, or to the line of stitch marks on the other piece. Adjust very carefully and precisely before you insert each pin. The edge of the canvas may not always match the twill, that will not matter. Make sure the edges of the twill on either side of the pin match before you insert the pin, or they will not match after the pin is inserted. After you insert the first few pins check to see if the edges match at the pins you have already inserted. If they do not, your technique needs improvement.
You may need to pull the fabric of the coat or the sleeve before you insert a pin to make sure the two layers of fabric lay flat against each other, and you are not pinning a wrinkle in place. Pay careful attention to where the seam line transitions from a raw edge to a stitch marked edge.
When you get all the pins in, gently pull each two adjacent pins apart so the coat fabric has no gathers between pins. The sleeve fabric will have small gathers between pins. If there is a very large wrinkle between two pins, you have made a mistake.
The next few paragraphs describe basting, after which the pins will be removed.
Hand baste each half of the sleeve separately with white thread. When basting be very careful to make the edge of the sleeve line up with the other edges or stitch marks. The seam will be sewn with a quarter inch seam allowance, so no mismatch is permissible. The basting will fix the relative positions of the fabrics that will be sewn later. You will make two parallel basting seams in each section of the sleeve. The first basting seam should be the one closest to the edge. Align the edges and pinch the fabric in place before inserting the needle. In some places there will be three twill edges because of an inlay. Ignore the edge of the inlay. The basting will go through the inlay, but the inlay will not be considered for aligning edges.
You may have to use a thimble to force the needle through the canvas. Insert the needle perpendicular to the surface of the canvas or it will be very difficult to do by hand. Pull each stitch flat against the fabric. In each half of the sleeve, hand baste seams with a quarter inch between each penetration of the fabric, one seam through each of the offset seams. Make sure both ends of each basting seam are secure by repeating the first and last stitches six times.
Before your basting reaches the next pin, it may be necessary to remove the pin to perfectly match the edges. That is OK, whatever it takes to match edges and alignment marks.
If you get confused in your basting and loop a stitch around the edge of the fabric, you must undo the last stitch. Pull the thread to pull the needle back through the fabric.
The front piece has an inlay at the shoulder seam that has already been pressed open. When the basting reaches this inlay it should be basted in the open position.
When you are through basting remove all the pins. Put the coat on to see how the sleeve looks. There may be many tiny wrinkles around the seam. But if there is an unacceptably large fold or wrinkle, you need to see what the problem is. Remove the basting and baste it again. If there is no problem, keep the basting in and go to the next step.
Switch the sewing machine to black thread. Turn the coat wrong side out, but not the sleeve. There are two ways you could sew the sleeve on. You could have the arm hole above the free arm of the machine, which is easy. Or you could slip the arm hole over the free arm of the machine, which is hard because the thickness of the wrinkled coat would have to go under the free arm of the machine. It is better to keep the harm hole above the free arm of the machine.
Even though the basting was done separately on each half of the sleeve, this seam can be continuous around the whole sleeve. The sleeve will be on top as you sew. You can see the edge of the sleeve and the stitch marks to guide the edge of the presser foot. You will have to sew very slow, adjust the coat as you sew, and pay attention to what is at the edge of the presser foot.
When you finish the permanent seam, examine it carefully all of the way around. You may see that most of it is good, but in one or two places you have sewn a big ugly fold into the fabric. This is because no matter which part is on the bottom when you are sewing, you cannot see that part and it may be folded. You do not have to rip everything out and start all over. Just remove the seam where the fold is. On that small part only, pin, baste and sew.
After the sleeve is sewn all of the way around the arm hole, remove the white basting threads and the white threads where the pins were. Be careful and do not damage the twill or the permanent seam of black thread.
All of the permanent sewing on the tails will be with black thread, because white thread would show.
The length of the tails is fixed by the length of the rear edge of the tails. The length of the front edge of the tails will have to be adjusted to make the rear edges of the two tails hang parallel. For this reason the patterns show the front edge of the tails longer than needed, to allow room for adjustment.
To simplify terminology, when we say front edge of the tail, we include where the front edge curves around to a horizontal bottom edge.
The procedure for making, fitting and attaching the tails is complicated, involving many steps.
The pattern for the tail piece has a dashed line on the front edge which is an inlay for a hem. It also has a dashed line at the rear which is the fold line for a pleat.
We will hem the hem line, but not the fold line. A polyester lining is required in the tail so it will not cling to the pants.
We will use the pattern twice, first for the lining and then for the twill. We will NOT cut off the inlays when the pattern is on the lining.
Read this whole paragraph before you start. Pin the pattern to lining folded in two layers. The orientation of the pattern relative to the warp of the fabric is not important. Do not cut the inlays off the pattern. No cuts in the pattern will be used with the lining. Chalk only the rear edge. Unpin the pattern, shift the pattern forward two inches, re-pin the pattern. Now chalk around the top and the long front curve around to the bottom. Connect the rear chalk line to the rest with two straight lines two inches long. Do not trace the rear edge again, do not cut off the inlays. Now you have a chalk line the same as the outer lines of the pattern except that it is extended two inches to the rear. Remove the pattern, pin the layers, cut the lining out.
Separate the lining pieces. With black thread use the overlock foot to zigzag the rear edge of the lining pieces, and the horizontal lines connected to the rear edge. If you have a hemming foot, you could use it instead of the overlock foot. The rest will be zigzagged later. Remember, use only black thread for all permanent seams on the tails.
Pin the pattern to two layers of twill. Chalk around the outer border. Cut the pattern along the solid lines. Chalk around the pattern again. Remove the pins, the pattern, replace the pins, cut the twill. Put white thread in the machine. Stitch mark the twill where the chalk marks are.
Separate the twill pieces. With black thread zigzag only the rear edge of the twill, not the top or front.
Lay both pieces of twill wrong side up side by side on the table. Lay a piece of lining on top of each twill piece. The lining has no wrong side so it does not matter which piece of lining you use on which tail piece .Only the top and front of the lining will match the twill. The rear of the lining will extend two inches beyond the rear of the twill. Do this for both tail pieces before you pin either. Make sure that the front edge of both tails face in opposite directions. You want to make a right tail and a left tail, not two left tails.
Pin the lining on top of the wrong side of each tail. The front edges of the two layers of fabric should match as best you can. It does not matter if the lining wrinkles when fitted to the twill. But the twill should not wrinkle when fitted to the lining. Pin the bottom end of the curved front edge first. Then pin the top end of the curved front edge. It is important that the front edges match. It is not important if the top edges do not match. Then pin half way between those points. Keep pinning half way until you have a pin at least every three inches, and more in the tight curve. Pin the top edge, but matching the edges carefully is not important at the top.
Now we will sew the lining to the twill around the edges. We will only sew the top and the front, not the rear. Repeat: do not sew the rear. The twill should be on bottom while we sew. Whichever piece is on top is more likely to wrinkle while we sew. It does not matter if the lining wrinkles. Sew a seam a quarter inch inside the edge of the lining all of the way around. If the lining rises up in a bulge ahead of the presser foot, the edge of the lining may recede from the edge of the twill. So force the bulge under the presser foot even if it makes a crease. When finished, remove the pins.
Using black thread zigzag the edge of both twill and lining where they are sewn together along the front. Even though we have sewn the top edge, we will not zigzag the top edge yet. If the edges do not match perfectly, the twill edge is the more important to be zigzagged.
The front edge of the tail is the edge that is more curved. Fold the front edge over so the stitch marks on the twill are along the edge and pin it in place. The lining will be included in the fold. Do NOT do this same procedure for the rear edge of the tail. The rear edge is very different. Pin the fold in place along the zigzagged edge. As you pin it you will not be able to avoid wrinkles along the curved edge. This will not matter as the wrinkles will be on the inside, not the outside. Pin about every inch in the tight curve, about every two or three inches elsewhere. Sew a quarter inch seam allowance along the front edge all of the way to the rear edge of the tail at the bottom. The seam will be a quarter inch from the stitch marks. The seam will run past the stitch marks to the rear bottom corner of the twill.
Lay the tail on the table good side up. The rear of the tail, both lining and twill, must be folded forward along the pleat line of stitch marks. Put the end of the small steel ruler against the stitch marks, then fold the rear edge of lining and twill over the ruler. Be very careful that the stitch marks are at the crease of the fold. The stitch marks will be hidden from view in the fold. Remember that the lining and twill are not sewn together near the pleat line. So be careful to pull the lining over the twill as you fold so the lining and twill will fold at the same place. Pin the fold in place. The good side of the twill will be touching the good side of the twill. The pins should include the hidden rear edge of the twill. Do this for both tails, as they will both be used in the next step.
Now we must prepare the tails to be fitted to the coat. This paragraph explains the plan for the next few paragraphs. The coat will be put on a hangar, preferably a plastic or wooden hangar that has shaped shoulders. The hangar will be hung from a rack sold for the purpose that is fitted over the top of a door. The top end of the pleat line at the rear of the tails will be pinned to the coat a half inch above the bottom hemmed edge of the side piece at the seam where the side piece and back piece join. The front edge of the tail will be adjusted up and down until the pleat lines of the two tails hang parallel. When the front edge is adjusted properly, it will be pinned in place. The tail will be stitch marked by hand where the bottom edge of the coat runs along the tail. Then the tail will be zigzagged and cut off a half inch above this line of stitch marking. A small dart will be cut and sewn in the middle of the top edge of the tail. Then the tail will finally be ready to sew onto the coat.
Put the coat on a hangar, good side out. Pin the end of each sleeve up to the shoulder to get them out of the way. The tail should be brought up to the coat, good side out. The top of the pleat fold in the tail should be a half inch above the bottom end of the seam where the side piece and back piece join. Make sure it is no more than a half inch, less is better than more. The pin should be as near as possible to the top of the fold. The pin should go through the tail and the coat. This will be a pivot about which the tail will rotate, so the pin should come out as near as possible to where it went in. Do this for both tails. Grasp the coat and tail near where you have pinned them together. With the other hand pull the front of the tail and the bottom edge of the coat forward so they are stretched flat together. Make a guess about where to pin the front of each tail to the coat so the tails will hang straight. Pin near the bottom edge of the coat. The top front corner of the tail will be well above the bottom edge of the coat. Each time you pin, measure to make sure both tails have the top front corner the same distance above the bottom of the coat.
The pleat line of the tails is curved near the top. Therefore the rear folded edge of the tails will be curved slightly at the top. But the bottom half of the rear edge will be straight. You want the straight bottom half of the two rear edges to be parallel, the same distance apart for the whole bottom half of the tails. Take your time and get it right. When you think you have it right check again that the bottom edge of the coat is against the tail when stretched.
Add more pins. Start two inches forward of the pin at the pleat line, and pin every two inches until you get to the pin already at the front of the tail. The pins should be just a little above the bottom edge of the coat. Make sure both the coat and tail stretch flat against each other before you insert each pin.
Now you need to mark the tail to show where the bottom edge of the coat is. Do this for both tails before going on to the next step. You could do it by basting with white thread while the coat is still on the hangar. Or you could take the coat to the table and chalk mark the lining along the bottom edge of the coat. If you use chalk, put a business card between the chalk and the bottom edge of the coat, or wrap the chalk in tape. You do not want to get chalk on the bottom edge of the coat.
Unpin the tails from the coat. Put the coat aside, we will not need it for a while. Unpin the folded rear edges of the tails.
Sew a straight seam a quarter inch above the line on the tail showing where the bottom edge of the coat was. The edge of the presser foot will run along the line. The seam will stop when it gets to the pleat line of stitch marks. Cut the tail a quarter inch above the seam you have just sewn. Do not zigzag yet.
Now we need a small dart in the top edge of the tail. Without this dart the top of the tail would cling in an absurdly tight manner when the coat was worn. It might seem that the dart would ruin our careful adjustment of the hang of the tails, but it will not. We will describe the dart for an average sized man. For a giant or a child it would be larger or smaller. Measure to find the center of the top edge of the tail, half way between the pleat line and the front corner. Make a chalk mark an inch long on the twill perpendicular to the top edge of the tail. Then cut from a quarter inch each side of the top of the mark to the bottom of the mark. This will result in a V shaped cut a half inch wide at the top and one inch deep.
With black thread zigzag the top edge of the tail. The zigzag should go down into the dart. The zigzag should not go past the rear edge of the twill.
Fold the tail along the dart so the twill is good side to good side. Make sure the edges of the dart match. Make sure the edge of the presser foot is exactly at the edge of the dart, and sew the dart through both twill and lining with one short straight seam a quarter inch from the cut edge of the dart. Do not sew the dart with any longer seam than necessary. The length of the seam should be the same as the length of the cut edge of the dart. This is so the dart will not bulge out any more than necessary. Press the dart seam open.
Now we are ready to sew the tails to the coat. First we will sew the top edge of the tail to the bottom edge of the coat. Then we will make short horizontal cuts at the top and bottom of the rear of the lining part of the tail so we can fold the rear of the lining forward out of the way. Next we will sew the rear edge of twill part of the tail to the front edge of the back piece. Then we will sew the rear edge of the lining part of the tail to the back piece. Finally we will hem the bottom end of the back piece to match the bottom of the tail.
Put the coat on the table twill side up. Do this for one tail at a time. Spread out the bottom edges of the coat. Flip the sleeves up out of the way. Put the tail piece over the coat, lining side up. The top edge of the tail should be at the bottom edge of the coat. The bottom edge of the tail will be up above the top of the coat. Position the tail so the pleat stitch marks are at the seam between the back piece and the side piece. Hand sew a loop of white thread around the edge of the tail and the edge of the coat at the pleat stitch marks. Make several loops to make it secure.
Now we will sew the top edge of the tail to the bottom edge of the coat. The seam will start at the pleat line and go out to the front edge. It will be easiest of tail and coat are hanging off the end of the machine, and only the edges to be sewn are at the presser foot. For this reason, for one tail the tail will be on top, but for the other tail the coat will be on top. Carefully align everything at the pleat line. The edge of the coat and the edge of the tail will be together. The edge of the presser foot will be at the edges. Start with a securing stitch. Adjust the two edges as you sew to keep the edges aligned as you sew from the pleat line out to the front edge of the tail. Do this for one tail, then for the other tail.
Prepare to sew the rear edge of the twill part of the tail piece to the front of the back piece. Spread the coat on the table with the lining side of the tails up. Make sure the sleeves pulled up to the top of the coat. Flip the bottom of the back pieces up to the top of the coat. In the next step make sure you cut only the lining of the tails, not the twill underneath. Make sure the bottom blade of the scissors is between the lining and the twill before you start to cut. Make a horizontal cut in the tail piece lining from the rear edge of the lining to a point about an inch forward of the pleat line of stitch marks. The cut should be about a quarter inch below the seam at the top of the tail piece. Make a similar cut at the bottom of the tail just above the edge of the twill hem. At the bottom of the tail this cut will leave a one inch wide strip of lining out from the hem at the bottom of the tail, cut this strip of lining off and discard it. You will not be able to zigzag these cut edges on the machine, so you will need to hand sew a spiral seam along each cut edge. The spiral seams will not look neat, but that will not matter. They can be sewn by hand very quickly. Now fold the rear edge of the lining forward and pin it to keep it out of the way when you sew the rear edge of the twill. Do this for both tails before you go on to the next step.
Lay the coat on the table wrong side up. Make sure the sleeves are pulled up out of the way. With one hand pull the center of the collar, with the other pull the bottom front edge of one of the tails and the corresponding back piece. Now they are straight and parallel. It does not matter if the top edge of the back piece does not exactly match the top edge of the tail piece. Get the other back piece out of the way. Pull the two side seams apart to flatten the center of the waist of the coat to the table. Just below the waist, lift the rear edge of the tail and the front edge of the corresponding back piece. The seam where the back and side pieces join at the waist should be flat on the table. The pleat line of stitch marks in the rear of the tail should be on the table. The part of the tail rear of the pleat line will be held vertical off the table, the part of the tail forward of the pleat line will be flat on the table. Similarly, the part of the back piece below the waist that is forward of the back/side seam will be held vertical off the table against the tail, and the part of the back piece to the rear of that will be flat on the table. Note that the edge of the tail piece extends further up off the table than the edge of the rear piece. Measure the distance from the edge of the back piece to where the pin in in the back piece. Further down the back piece put a pin in the back piece the same distance from the edge of the back piece. Then put the pin through the pleat line in the tail piece, then back through the pleat line and out through the back piece. Continue pinning this way all the way to the end of the tail.
Now we are ready to prepare to sew a seam between the back piece and the tail for almost the length of the tail. The edge of the back piece will be on top, the edge of the tail piece will be on bottom. The edge of the tail piece will extend beyond the edge of the back piece. The edge of the presser foot will run along the edge of the back piece so the seam will be a quarter inch in front of the edge of the back piece. Only the edges will be under the presser foot. The rest of the width of the back piece and the width of the tail will be to the left of the presser foot. When sewing one tail you will have most of the coat in your lap and sew from bottom to top. When sewing the other tail you will sew from top to bottom and most of the coat will be on the far side of the machine. In that case you will have to reach over the machine and hold the coat, otherwize the weight of the coat would pull too much. The seam need not go over the hem at the bottom of the tail. We will NOT press this seam open because it is a pleat seam.
Where the edge of the tail and back piece are joined needs to be folded forward over the tail flat just below the waist and sewn with a very short securing seam to keep it flat. But before this is done try to get the pleat line of stitch marks at the edge of the fold. Do the same at the bottom of the tail. These two points are the only places where the sewn edges will be forced forward.
We have attached the twill of the tail to the back piece to form the pleat. Now we must attach the lining of the tail to the back piece. Lay the coat on the table with the lining side of the tail up. Un-pin the folded lining of the tail. The lining extends far enough to the rear that you can put the rear edge of the lining over the back piece. Fold the rear edge of the lining under so that the fold is a quarter inch from the vertical hem of the back piece. Do not stretch the lining tight. It is better for the lining to be a bit loose so it does not pull on the tail or the back piece. Pin it in place. Sew a seam along the folded edge of the lining as close to the fold as convenient, to keep the folded edge down against the back piece.
When you have attached twill and lining of both tail pieces to the back pieces it is time to hem the bottom of the back piece. Lay the coat on the table wrong side up. Pull the bottom end of the back and tail pieces straight. The tail pieces are already hemmed. We must hem the back pieces to match. There may be a loose strip of lining attached to the hem of the tail where you previously cut the lining. If so, cut the loose strip of lining off, but do not cut the twill. Fold each back piece up at the bottom so that the front is even with the tail hem, and the rear is even with the other back hem. Pin them in place this way. Sew them in place with a horizontal seam near the top of the folded up part. The seam should not get as far as the folded edge of the tail.
Shiny black plastic buttons 0.75 inches in diameter need to be added. There are no corresponding button holes for the three front buttons, because the buttons are purely for decoration.
Three buttons go on the front pieces on each side. In case there are extra white stitch marks on the front of the coat, make sure you know which are for the three buttons. You can put the buttons on by machine.
If you wish to remove the white stitch marks before sewing on the buttons, mark the point with chalk before removing the white stitch marks. The chalk will remain unseen behind the button.
If sewing by machine, review the instructions for use of the buttonhole foot in the supplies section. Pull the fabric so the layers of fabric are flat and not wrinkled where you will be sewing the button. The thread can go down tight against the button, since nothing will ever go under the button.
Two buttons in the back, each centered on the seam joining the tail to the side piece. There are extra folds of material in this area, so the buttons should be strongly attached. These can be put on by machine if you have a button sew on foot. You might want to put a wooden match stick on top of the button for the thread to loop over. This is because you may want to make matching buttonholes in the bottom of the tails hidden in the pleats. That way you could raise the tails up if you wanted to because of a short overcoat.
The pants have front pieces normally called the pant top, and back pieces normally called the pant bottom. The bottom pieces are the ones with the large inlays. The top edge of the bottom piece comes to a point with a button indicated under the point. This is where the rear suspender will be attached. Pants like this have not been common since about 1940, but they are a logical design where a belt is not an option. These pants look strange in the back, but no one will ever see the back while you are wearing the tailcoat. In addition to the pant top and pant bottom, patterns for some smaller pieces are given. You will need to cut some simple rectangular pieces of muslin, twill and canvas later on for which no patterns are given.
The pattern for the pant top includes the pant top, the side pocket, the side pocket facing and the fly piece. The side pocket facing is shown as a dashed outline on the pant top, so you can see exactly where it will go when it is sewn in place. The pattern for the pocket has the pocket facing on it to show approximately how the pocket and facing will be sewn together. The pocket will be shifted relative to the facing slightly compared to the figure.
We will now explain how to lay out and cut the pant tops. The fabric will be folded wrong side out. The chalk marks will go on the piece that will make the right front. This is significant for this piece in a way that does not apply to any other piece in the suit. First cut the pattern along the outer line. Cut holes in the center of the button circles. Pin the pattern to the fabric. Trace the pattern with chalk, being sure to mark the reference marks outside of the pattern and buttons through the holes in the pattern. While the pattern is still pinned to the fabric, make more cuts in the pattern. Cut the pattern to remove the inlay at the bottom, and cut the pattern along the inner dashed line above and below the crotch until it joins the solid line. Do not cut the pattern along the dashed line that indicates where the pocket facing will go, that is for information only. Chalk the fabric along the portions of the pattern that you just removed. Now remove the pattern and re-pin the fabric. With chalk extend the short reference lines to where they were on the pattern. Cut the fabric along the outer line all the way around. Mark stitch the reference marks and buttons and put in the mark stitching at the bottom inlay. You do not need to mark stitch the inner chalk line at the crotch. Now remove the lower piece and set it aside, it is complete the way it is. Now cut the front of the upper piece only along the inner chalk line near the crotch. The reason the right and left pant tops are not the same in the crotch is that the pants must be pulled up tight on only one side of the crotch by the suspenders so the waist height will be definite and unchanging. This is because the relative heights of the waist of the pants, the waist of the coat, and the waist of the vest are critical to the appearance of the suit.
There is one final piece of stitch marking to do on both the pant tops. It could not be done when the two top pieces were pinned together because the crotches of the pieces are cut differently. Notice that the fly piece in the shape of a "J" has a small reference mark an inch from the lower end. A similar reference mark must be stitch marked perpendicular to the edge on both pant tops at a position exactly two inches up along the curved edge from the point of the crotch. It could be hand stitched or stitched by machine with a plain straight stitch. When the pants are finished all three of these reference marks will be together.
Zigzag both top pieces with white thread.
The two top pieces were slightly different, but the two bottom pieces are the same. The back pocket opening is shown as a line for clarity. You do not need to stitch mark the whole line, just put point marks at each end of the line. To make this easier, draw small circles around the ends of the line, and cut holes in the pattern in the center of the circles. When finished marking, cutting and stitch marking, zigzag the edges with white thread.
Depending on your proportions the bottom piece may have a dart cut out through the pocket. If so, fold each back piece wrong side out along the center of the dart. Sew up the dart with black thread. Then press the seam open.
Next, make the back pockets on the pant bottom pieces.
Draw a 4 inch by 7 inch rectangle on a blank piece of paper. Cut it out and use it for a pattern. Cut four 4 inch by 7 inch rectangular pieces of black cotton twill for pocket facings, and zigzag the edges with white thread.
On each of the facings, along only one of the 7 inch edges, fold the edge over about 0.25 inch wrong side to wrong side and press the creased edge, but do not sew.
Draw a 7 inch by 10 inch rectangle on a piece of paper. Cut it out and use it for a pattern. Fold the muslin 4 layers thick. Pin the pattern on and trace it with a black marker. Remove the pattern and re-pin. Cut the 4 layers at the same time. Muslin is so thin and light that you should use the overlock presser foot to zigzag the edges. Use black thread.
Switch back to the normal presser foot.
Have the pant bottom good side up on the table. Find the two stitch marked points on the bottom pant piece that define the line of the back pocket opening. These were stitched by the sewing machine. How far apart these two points are depends on whether or not you had a dart to sew up between them. We want the pocket opening to be on a line between these two points, but we want the opening to be only five inches long, centered between the two points. We will not cut the opening yet.
We want vertical and horizontal lines extending from the two machine stitch marks so we know where they are after we cover them up.
Place a straight edge on the two back pocket machine stitch marks. Start a hand stitch mark one inch to the right of the right machine stitch mark, and continue the hand stitch mark to the machine stitch mark. Start a hand stitch mark one inch to the left of the left machine stitch mark and continue the hand stitch mark to the machine stitch mark.
Use a drafting triangle or a rectangular piece of paper for the next step. Place the bottom edge along the two machine stitch marks. Have one corner at one of the machine stitch marks. Along the vertical edge you can locate a point two inches above the stitch mark at the corner. This point will be on a line perpendicular to the line connecting the two machine stitch marks. Start a hand stitch mark two inches above the machine stitch mark and continue the hand stitch mark to the machine stitch mark. In a similar way start a hand stitch mark two inches above the other machine stitch mark and continue the hand stitch mark to the machine stitch mark.
The pant piece is good side up. Put one of the 4 by 7 facings on the good side of the pant piece, the facing good side down, centered over the two machine sewn mark stitches. The edge of the facing that we have already creased should be toward the bottom of the pants. The facing should extend equal amounts vertically and equal amounts horizontally beyond the two machine stitch marks. You can no longer see the machine stitch marks because the facing is covering them up, but hand stitch marks lets you know where the machine stitch marks are. Pin the facing in place with pins near the four corners of the facing.
Put a straight edge on the facing lined up with the two horizontal hand sewn stitch marks that should be protruding out under the ends of the facing. Draw a narrow chalk line on the wrong side of the facing along the straight edge.
Turn the pant piece over so that the wrong side is up. Put the rectangular piece of paper that you used as a pattern to cut the muslin so the top narrow edge is against the two stitch marks. The edge should be centered relative to the two stitch marks. You will use this to orient a piece of muslin that you want to attach to the pant piece. This will give the orientation of the muslin, but not the position. Put the muslin over the paper, but slide the muslin up higher than the paper keeping it lined up with the paper. Whichever top corner of the muslin that is closest to the top edge of the pant piece should be 0.5 inches from the top of the pant piece. Remove the paper. The other end of the muslin will be far below the mark stitches. The long dimension of the facing will be horizontal. The long dimension of the muslin will be vertical. Be sure the facing is on the good side of the pant piece, the muslin on the wrong side of the pant piece. Pin the four corners of the muslin to the pant piece. But the pins would be on the bottom when sewing and might hang up on the machine. So turn the pant piece over so the muslin is on bottom and put in pins from the top near the pins that are on the bottom. Remove the pins on the bottom as they are no longer needed.
On the facing, cross the existing horizontal chalk line with two short vertical lines 5 inches apart centered relative to the center of the facing on the chalk line you have already drawn. Measure carefully. These marks will be the end of the pocket opening. With black thread and a straight stitch use the machine to sew a rectangle that will enclose the line where the pocket opening will be. Be sure to start and end this seam in the middle of one of the long horizontal seams. You do not want the securing stitches at the beginning and at the end of the seam near the ends of the rectangle, because the facing might not pull through properly later on. The seam will be a quarter inch above the center of the horizontal chalk line and a quarter inch below the center of the horizontal chalk line. When sewing the long horizontal seams the edge of the presser foot will be at the center of the horizontal chalk line. Keep the needle down and the presser foot up to turn the corner. When the seam gets to the vertical chalk lines, the seam should go through the center of the vertical chalk lines. The presser foot will be centered over the vertical chalk lines. The seam will go through three layers, pocket, pant, and facing.
Make horizontal zigzag seams within the rectangular seam above and below the chalk line just like we did for the welt pocket. The zigzag should not be wide enough to reach the center of the horizontal chalk line or the straight horizontal seams.
Make sure the pant bottom piece is not folded under and in the way before you cut. Cut along the center of the horizontal chalk line through all three layers. Use the same kind of cut used on the welt pocket. The forks at the end of the cut should go near the corners of the rectangular seam. Do not cut the rectangular seam you have just sewn.
Remove the pins holding the facing, but leave the pins holding the muslin. Pull the facing through the slit you have cut so that as much as possible of it is on the wrong side of the pant piece. Have the pant piece on the table with the good side up. Reach your hand under the pant piece to adjust the facing. Ideally you would adjust it so that when viewed from the good side of the pant piece the bent parts of the facing, which are called jettings or pipings, are pushed against each other in a neat and even way. If this is too difficult, do not worry about it. The back pocket will be covered by the coat, and not ordinarily seen. The other facing that will be applied later will make sure that only black will be seen through the opening.
We want to sew a rectangular seam around the jettings similar to the rectangular seam we just sewed. We need to pin the facing in place to do this. The facing is small, but we need the pins to be out of the way of the presser foot. The best way is to pin the four corners of the facing in such a way that the jettings are the way we want them. The easiest way to pin the four corners is from the wrong side of the pant bottom. But we must sew from the good side of the pant bottom to see how to sew the rectangular seam. We must pin from the good side of the pant bottom so the pins do not hang on the machine.
You can press down on the pant piece and feel the edges of the facing under the pant piece. Pin through the pant piece to pin the edges of the facing in place to preserve the neat jettings you have achieved. It will probably work best to pin the four corners of the facing in place with pins diagonal at the corners.
With the pant bottom good side up sew a rectangular seam all the way around on the outside of the jettings. If you use a normal presser foot, sew just barely outside of the jettings. If you wish the seam to be invisible, use an edge stitch foot and sew in the crease beteen the jettings and the pant bottom piece.
Remove the pins holding the facing and the muslin.
Grasp the bottom end of the muslin and pick up everything so the pant bottom is hanging down below. Now the muslin is one way and everything else is the other way. Put it on the machine this way. Sew the folded crease edge of the facing to the muslin with the smallest possible seam allowance. The seam will only go through the facing and muslin, not throught the pant bottom.
Lay the pant piece on the table good side down. Lay the second piece of muslin over the piece that is already sewn on so that the edges match all the way around. Lay a second facing piece on top of it wrong side down so the top edge of the second facing matches the top edge of the first facing. The crease of the facing should be at the bottom. Pin the middle of both ends of the second facing to the second muslin without catching anything else.
Remove the second muslin and facing from the pant piece and sew the bottom creased edge to the muslin with the smallest possible seam allowance. Sew the top un-creased edge of the facing to the muslin with a quarter inch seam allowance. Remove the pins.
Back at the pant piece put the second muslin over the first muslin with the second facing down so it could be seen through the pocket opening. Both facings should be hidden from view, sandwiched between the two layers of muslin. This is critical, get it right.
The edges of the two pieces of muslin should match as exactly as possible. In the next paragraph we are going to sew a quarter inch seam allowance around the edges of the muslin with the pant on top and the muslin on bottom. The pins need to be inserted in the muslin on bottom that is already attached to the pant piece so they will not catch on the machine when everything is turned over. Pin the second muslin to the first muslin without catching the pant piece, leaving enough room for the presser foot.
Have the pocket on the bottom and the pant on top. Pull the pant away from the edge of the pocket. Sew a quarter inch seam allowance joining the two pieces of muslin and facing along the full length of the sides of the pocket and the bottom of the pocket, but not the top of the pocket. This will require carefully managing the pant piece to avoid catching it in the seam. If the muslin edges do not exactly match, keep the seam at least a quarter inch away from the edge of both.
From the good side of the pant piece sew a straight horizontal seam just above the top of the pocket jetting. Make sure the muslin is not folded under. Sew only above the jetting, not the sides or bottom. Sew over the already existing seam. This is to fasten the second facing to the pant piece.
Now you are finished with the back pocket. Put your wallet in the pocket to see that it fits. Finish the back pockets on both pant bottom pieces before going on to the side pockets.
Cut out the pattern for the side pocket. Patterns for the muslin pocketing and the twill facing overlap on the same pattern. The outer edge all the way around is for the muslin pocketing. Cut that out. We will later cut out the part that is for the twill facing.
The two side pockets will be made of 4 pieces of muslin and 4 pieces of twill.
Fold the muslin into 4 layers. Pin the pattern to the 4 layers. Trace the pattern with a black marker. Mark the two reference marks under the pattern on the top layer of muslin. Remove the pattern, re pin the 4 layers. Cut the 4 layers of muslin. Before removing the pins, mark the reference marks on each of the 3 lower layers of muslin.
Zigzag the edge of each piece of muslin with black thread using the overlock presser foot.
The pattern for the pockets has the pattern for the facing on it. The reference marks show the location of the pocket opening where your hand will go in the pocket. The reference marks apply to both the pocket pieces and the facing pieces. Cut the pattern down so only the facing is left. Fold the twill double the usual way. Pin, trace and mark reference marks. Use the pattern twice because 4 pieces are needed. Cut the facing pieces. Stitch mark the reference marks with white thread. Zigzag the edge of each piece of facing with black thread. Yes we said black thread.
Fold the long straight edge of each piece of twill facing over a quarter inch wrong side to wrong side and press it.
The muslin has no good and wrong side, but the facings do. Lay all four pieces of muslin on the table separately. The top end of each piece of muslin has a short straight edge; the bottom is curved. One long side is straight; the other curved. The bottom of each piece should be toward you, the top away from you. Two of the pieces should have the curved side on the left, the other two should have the curved side on the right. Each piece of facing should be placed good side up on a piece of muslin. The reference marks on the facing should align with the reference marks on the muslin. The curved edge of the facing should be shifted 1/2 inch beyond the curved side of the muslin. This is because we do not want the muslin to be included in the side seam so it will not show from the outside. Pin each piece of facing on the muslin with three pins down the middle of the facing.
Turn each piece over so the muslin is on top to make sure the facing protrudes beyond the muslin 1/2 inch for the full length of the facing.
Use black thread. Put the muslin and facing on the machine with the facing on top. Sew the folded straight edge of the facing to the muslin with the smallest possible seam allowance. It will be easiest with the edge stitch foot. Remove the pins.
Use the normal presser foot. Sew the small top and bottom straight edges of the facing to the muslin with a quarter inch seam allowance. Turn the muslin over so the facing is on bottom. Sew the curved edge of the facing to the curved edge of the muslin with a quarter inch seam allowance from the edge of the muslin. The facing will extend beyond the muslin a quarter inch.
Get a corresponding pant top and pant bottom. Lay the top and bottom on the table side by side. The top ends should be at one end of the table, the bottom ends at the other end of the table. Both should be good side up. The side seam edge of the pant top piece should be against the side seam edge of the pant bottom piece. The crotch of each piece should be a long way from the crotch of the other piece. The crotch of each piece has a pointed cusp. If one piece is wrong side up, you have the wrong piece, get the other similar piece.
In the next step we will lay a pocket piece on the pant bottom and a different pocket piece on the pant top. We will have to carefully select which pocket pieces match which pant pieces.
Have the pant pieces good side up. On the pant top the pocket facing will match the edge of the pant top. On the pant bottom the pocket facing will match the line of stitch marks. Lay the pocket piece down on the side seam edge or side seam stitch marks of the pant piece so that the black twill facing is down on the pant top piece. The muslin will be on top, then the facing, then the pant piece underneath. The pocket and facing will be on the pant piece, not off to the side. The reference marks on the muslin and the facing should lay over the reference marks on the pant piece. Between the reference marks the edge of the facing should be at the edge of the top pant piece, but at the line of stitch marks on the bottom pant piece. Put pins through all layers just far enough from the edge to miss the presser foot. Pin about every two inches being very careful to get the edge lined up.
Put each pant piece on the machine with the pocket on top. We will sew the facing to the pant piece. Sew the seam with the edge of the presser foot along the edge of the facing. Remove the pins.
We now prepare to sew the side seam. Lay the pant bottom on the table good side up. Pull the side pocket that you just finished sewing on out to the side so that it no longer lays on the pant bottom. Lay the pant top good side down on top of the pant bottom. Pull both pocket pieces out to the side, so they are no longer between the pant pieces. Do not worry if the pocket pieces do not exactly line up.
The side edge of the pant top should line up with the line of side inlay stitch marks on the pant bottom all the way to the bottom of the pant. The top of the pant bottom and the top of the pant top will only match at one point, the top end of the side edge of the top piece and the top end of the side inlay stitch marks on the pant bottom. We are only going to pin along the side seam, not any other seam. The side seam will be both above and below the pocket reference marks. The side seam will skip the part between the pocket reference marks, or you would not be able to put your hand in the pocket. Do not forget this. The seam will go all the way to the top and bottom edges of the pant pieces.
First pin the top end, hip and knee reference marks, and the bottom cuff hemline marks. Then pin the parts in between. Be exact. The fabric may not naturally line up. You may have to tug the fabric to get it to line up. If the fabric is wrinkled between pins, pull the fabric at the pins to stretch the part flat between the pins then insert the new pin midway between the previous pins. You do not need to pin between the pocket reference marks because the side seam will not be sewn there.
You can see the reference marks on the pant top that mark the opening of the pocket. Since they look just like other reference marks that you will sew past, make large chalk marks so you will not sew past those marks. This is a very long seam. If you press the top layer of fabric down ahead of the presser foot it may eliminate any tendency of the fabric to shift while sewing. You will have to repeatedly move your finger to keep it away from the presser foot.
Put the pant leg on the machine, pant bottom underneath, pant top on top. Make sure the pant bottom side inlay has not folded under the edge of the pant top at any place. Sew a standard quarter inch seam with the edge of the pant top running along the edge of the presser foot. Be sure to skip the pocket opening. Press the side seam open everywhere but at the pocket.
Some people recommend sewing seams parallel to the pocket opening in front of and behind of the pocket. I think this causes more problems than it solves. So I do not recommend it.
Some people suggest cutting the pant bottom inlay at the pocket reference marks so the portion at the opening can fold over the pant top. This is to make the seams lay flatter at the pocket opening. Since this garment may be worn only once a year at a ball, it may last a lifetime. Most people get fatter as they get older. So it is likely that alterations will be needed. Cutting the inlay would preclude alterations. I do not recommend cutting the inlay. The seam is flat enough that it has never been a consideration for me.
Lay the pant leg on the table with the pant bottom piece on top. Pull both pocket pieces one way, the pant the other. Pin the pocket pieces to match up the outside edges as much as possible. Pull the pant bottom inlay back away from the pocket. Seam the two pocket pieces together around the edge. You do not have to sew the top edge of the pocket.
Finish the side seams and side pockets for the other pant leg before going on to the next step.
Now with strong synthetic waistbands it is more common to have suspender buttons inside the pants. But at the time these pants were popular black suspender buttons were outside the pants, and black suspenders were worn. The suspenders will not be seen while the coat is worn. Layers of reinforcement were added to strengthen the button attachments that are not needed with synthetic waistbands. Your local fabric store probably does not sell synthetic waistbands. These instructions do it the old way.
The top and bottom pant pieces are already sewn together at the side seam. Make sure the side seam is pressed open from the top edge down to the pocket opening. Lay the pants on the table wrong side up. The top edge of the top piece is one straight line. The top edge of the bottom piece is two straight lines. Measure the total distance along all of these straight lines together and add six inches for the length to cut your canvas. Cut the cotton canvas along the straight grain of the fabric 2.5 inches wide. It does not matter whether the canvas strip is cut along the warp of the canvas or perpendicular to the warp. If you fold the canvas double you can cut the strips for both legs at once.
Make sure the canvas extends beyond the pants on both sides of the pants at both ends of the canvas and covers the tops of the pockets. Pin the canvas 0.5 inches below the top edge of the pants. When you get to the bend at the side seam the canvas will bulge more on the top side of the canvas. When you get to the bend at the top of the bottom pant piece the canvas will bulge more on the bottom side of the canvas. At each bend even the side with the smallest bulge should be bulged up 0.75 inches so their will be adequate overlap after the bulges are cut. With black marker put the same number on each side of a bulge. Number the bulges 1 and 2. That way you will know which ends match after the bulges are cut.
The cut will be approximately perpendicular to the top edge of the pants. Cut the canvas along the top of these bulges completely through so the canvas can lay flat and overlap where the bulges were, and there are now three pieces of canvas. Where the pieces of canvas overlap at the peak on the pant bottom the corners of the canvas will be closer to the top edge of the pant bottom than 0.5 inches. Cut the corners to keep the distance between the canvas and top edge to 0.5 inches. The canvas will extend past the pant bottom inlay stitch marks where the center seam will go, even with the edge of the pant bottom. The canvas will not extend all the way to the crotch edge of the pant top. It will be trimmed back a half inch before it reaches the edge of the pant top.
Unpin the pieces of canvas, and zigzag them with black thread.
The side pockets could lay on the pant top or on the pant bottom. They should be laying on the pant top. Put the canvas pieces in place back on the pant.
Shift the canvas pieces if necessary so that you can fold the top edge of the pants down 0.5 inch over the canvas and pin it in place. Make sure the tops of the pockets are under the canvas and stretched out flat, and that the pant bottom inlay at the side seam is over the edge of the back pocket. When you get to the sharp bend at the top of the back piece just double over the fold of the twill. At the crotch edge of the top piece the canvas does not reach the edge, but continue to fold the twill down over itself where there is no canvas. Take the pants to the machine and sew a seam a quarter inch down from the top of the pants.
The top of the side pocket should be under the canvas at the top of the pant top piece. Sew a horizontal seam at the bottom of the canvas across the top of the side pocket to hold up the pocket. Sew this seam before the vertical seams described next. The back pocket needs no such seam because both facings are already attached to the twill.
Sew vertical seams through pants and canvas where the canvases overlap and where the canvases end at the edge of the pants. But the seam in the middle is near the pocket opening. Make sure the middle seam does not interfere with the pocket opening.
You need three each one inch by two inch rectangles of black twill. These will reinforce the inside of the pant top where the suspender buttons will go on the outside of the pant top. Fold each in half and while folded, zigzag the edges with black thread.
Lift up the top edge of the pants and find the stitch marks for the suspender buttons. There should be three button locations on each pant leg. Put the folded edge of a reinforcement square just below the top of the pants on the canvas on the opposite side from the button stitch marks. The squares go on the wrong side of the pants, the inside. Hold them in place until you sew the first seam along the edge of the patch, then sew the other three edges. Use needle down at the corners. Sew them through canvas and pants to reinforce the spots where the buttons will be sewn on.
After the reinforcemt squares are sewn on, the white stitch marks are no longer needed to see where the buttons need to be sewn on. Remove the white stitch marks.
Make sure you use black buttons the right size for your suspenders. Probably 3/4 inch. Sew buttons on the good side of the pants, the outside, about 0.5 inch down from the top. Two buttons on the pant top and one on the pant bottom. Whether sewing by hand or by machine put a wooden match stick over the center of the button to make sure there is slack in the stitches to make room for the thickness of the suspender tab. If sewing by machine, use the button sew-on presser foot and lower the feed dogs before you sew. If your machine is computerized, it may have a button sew-on program that you can select. There are 4 holes in the button. When sewing by machine sew the front pair of holes, do not remove the match stick. Pull everything a tiny bit forward to get ready to sew the rear pair of holes. Push the match stick further back so that it is between the rear pair of holes. Sew the rear pair of holes. Then remove the match stick.
Some experts put the zipper in before sewing the inseam, others sew the inseam first. We will sew the inseam first, but start the first part of the zipper installation before we sew the inseam.
Do not worry about some parts near the fly opening being sewn on even with the top edge of the pants. You do not have to worry about things showing, because the front top edge of the pants will be covered by the vest when the pants are worn.
Before you cut out the "J" shaped fly piece pattern, you might want to draw some lines on it first. If you have already cut it out, you can draw the lines on the fabric. You need a rectangle that just barely encloses the J. One long straight edge of the rectangle will coincide with the long straight edge of the J, but the long straight edge of the rectangle will be longer. The bottom of the rectangle will touch the bottom of the J. The top of the rectangle will be at the top of the J. Cut out the paper rectangle with the J in it. Pin the pattern to two layers of black twill. Draw that rectangle on the fabric. Leaving the pattern still pinned, cut out the J and trace the J on the same fabric. Be sure to mark the reference mark at the bottom inside of the J. Remove the pattern, re-pin, cut out the rectangle. Un-pin, separate the two pieces. On the top piece that has the chalk marks, cut out the J. Mark the reference mark by hand with white thread.
Zigzag the edges of the J piece with black thread. Fold the rectangular piece so the long edges match. Sew the long edge together. After sewing, the two edges probably do not exactly match, so trim the edge of the long seam allowance until the edges match exactly. Then zigzag the rectangle with black thread.
At this point we have right and left pant legs with the side seams sewn on both. Get the right pant leg. This means the pant leg that will be on your right side when you are wearing the pants. The piece with the two buttons on top is the pant top which is the front piece. The front piece will be on your right side.
The next few paragraphs are an explanation of what we will do before we actually do it.
We could fold the crotch edge of the pant top under a quarter inch before sewing the folded edge to the zipper. This would allow complete freedom to choose the distance between the folded edge and the zipper teeth. But it would be impossible to make the distance exactly the same for the whole length of the zipper. I prefer to sew the zipper to the pant top before folding the edge of the pant top. If the presser foot is against the zipper teeth while the seam is sewn, the distance between the teeth and the seam will be exactly the same the whole length of the zipper. If the zipper is folded under after the seam is sewn, then the distance between the folded edge and the teeth will be the same the whole length of the zipper.
With my zipper foot against the zipper teeth, the farthest I can adjust the needle from the teeth will result in a seam 1/8 inch from the teeth. After the zipper is folded under the fold will clear the teeth far enough that the zipper slider will not rub against the fold.
When sewing twill to twill, there I have no problem with the layers of cloth slipping. But when sewing twill to the zipper tape, there is a serious problem of the layers slipping while I sew. Therefore the zipper must be basted to the twill before sewing. Since the crotch edge of the top piece is curved, the zipper will have to be curved when it is basted to the edge. It will be easier to curve the zipper if it is unzipped while it is being basted.
After the zipper is basted to the top piece, we will be ready to sew the seam. But since we want the zipper presser foot against the teeth while we sew, we will want the zipper zipped up all the way to the top before we sew. That way the zipper slider will be out of the way of the presser foot. We will later cut the top of the zipper off to the length we need, but this will not be convenient until after we have sewn the seam because of the requirement to get the slider out of the way while the seam is sewn.
The seam will stop 1.5 inches below the top of the pants. This will keep the zipper loose above the seam where we want to cut the top of the zipper. After we have sewn the seam, we will fold the zipper under and sew a seem a short way back from the folded edge to keep the edge folded. This will be easiest with an edge stitch presser foot. This seam will also stop 1.5 inches below the top of the pant.
After the fold seam, we can lower the zipper slider to unzip the zipper to a point far below the top of the seam. Then we can put a small safety pin enclosing the teeth of the zipper at least a half inch below the top of the seam. This is required before we cut both sides of the zipper off 1.25 inches below the top of the pant. If we did not put the safety pin on before we cut the zipper there would be a danger that the zipper slider would go off the top of the zipper, which would be a disaster, because we could not get it back on.
Lay the right pant leg on the table good side up. Notice the stitch mark exactly two inches above the point of the crotch of the pant top. Have the zipper completely unzipped. Put both sides of the zipper entirely on the pant top with the zipper handle down against the good side of the pant top. The wrong side of the zipper will be up.
At the bottom of the zipper just below the bottom teeth on the zipper will be a barrier to prevent the slider from going off the bottom of the zipper.
Put the zipper on the pant top with the the bottom of the barrier at the closed end of the zipper at the stitch mark. Both halves of the zipper are on the pant top. The edge of the zipper closest to the fly edge of the pant top is what will be sewn to the fly edge. The other half of the zipper will be even further from the fly edge.
Do not attempt to pin it in place. This is a difficult seam to sew properly, it must be basted in place before sewing. Before basting, you should determine the proper position of the zipper relative to the fly edge of the pant top.
I can sew a seam 1/8 inch from the zipper teeth. The cloth tapes on either side of the zipper teeth are a half inch wide. Therefore if I baste the zipper so that the edge of the zipper tape extends 1/8 inch beyond the edge of the pant top piece, the seam will be a quarter inch from the edge of the pant top piece. When I later fold the zipper under, a quarter inch of the edge of the pant top piece will be folded under.
It is best to hand baste it with white thread with stitches that penetrate both layers every quarter inch. A single seam of basting should be sufficient. The basting should be located so that it will not be where the seam will be sewn later on. I basted very near the edge of the twill. Put a single pin to fix the position of the fly for the first basting stitch at the bottom of the zipper that will be repeated in place six times. Then remove the pin and continue basting until you have basted to a point 1.5 inches below the pant top. The last basting stitch will be repeated six times.
Put the zipper foot on your machine. Zip the zipper up all the way to the top to get the zipper slider out of the way of the presser foot. The bottom end of the zipper seam should be at the crotch stitch mark. The top end of the zipper seam should be 1.5 inches below the top of the pant. Sew the seam with the zipper foot.
Remove the white basting thread along the zipper. Now that the zipper is already sewn on, turn the zipper over away from the pant top. The zipper should be pulled away from the pant top. The seam allowance you have just sewn should be folded flat against the wrong side of the pant top. On the good side of the pant top sew along the folded edge of the pant top to keep it folded. The seam should be about 2mm behind the fold. This will be easiest with the edge stitch foot. This seam should not go higher than 1.5 inches below the top of the pant.
The right pant top is folded under a quarter inch where you have sewn the zipper. Now fold the rest of the edge above the zipper seam under a quarter inch and sew it.
Unzip the zipper. Put a small safety pin accross the zipper teeth at the seam you have just sewn. The safety pin should be at least a half inch below the top of the zipper seam to keep the slider from going higher than that point. Cut off both sides of the zipper 1.25 inches below the top of the pant. This will be 0.25 inches above the top of the seam. Whatever happens do not remove the safety pin until much later on when a cloth patch is sewn over the top of the zipper later on to prevent the slider from going off the top.
Get the other pant leg, the left pant leg and the J shaped fly piece. Lay it on the table good side up. Place the fly piece good side down against the fly edge of the pant top. Do not get confused and put it against the pant bottom. Make sure the reference mark on the fly piece is on top of the corresponding reference mark on the pant top. The top end of the fly piece will go above the pant top. Cut it off so that it is even with the pant top. Zigzag the end. Put the fly piece good side down with the edge of the fly piece matching the fly edge of the top piece. Sew the fly edge of the fly piece to the pant top good side to good with a quarter inch seam allowance. The seam should go down to the crotch stitch mark.
On the right pant leg with the zipper we sewed the seam allowance against the wrong side of the pant top. But for the left pant leg without the zipper we will pull the fly piece away from the pant and sew the quarter inch seam allowance to the fly piece. Use the edge stitch foot and make the seam 2mm from the existing seam. Sew from the good side and feel the quarter inch seam allowance through the fabric to make shure it is under the fly piece, not under the top piece. This will be tricky in the curve, the fly piece will have to be carefully pulled away from the seam or it will fold under the seam.
Now we sew the inseams of both pant legs. Each pant leg will be wrong side out when we sew the inseam. Lay the pant leg good side up. Fold the pant top over so that it is good side down on the pant bottom. The inseam edge of the pant top from the crotch point down to the bottom of the pant leg should be at the row of stitch marks on the pant bottom inlay. Pin about every 3 inches. Sew the seam between crotch point and bottom edge of the pants. Do this for both pant legs.
With the pant legs wrong side out, press the inseams open.
Turn both pant legs right side out. Grasp each pant leg by the top of the inseam and shake it, so the top of the inseam is above everything else. Bring the tops of the two inseams together, so they are pressed against each other. We want to pin and then sew the crotch of the pants. Make sure you match the two crotches good side to good side. It is possible to make a mistake and match them good side to wrong side.
Pin the tops of the inseams together so the fabric edges match. Be careful that the two pieces of fabric lay flat together before you pin them. Pin the edges of the fabric together two inches to the rear of the inseam. Pin the two edges of fabric together as near to the bottom of the zipper as it is possible to get the two pieces of fabric to lay flat together. Since the zipper is sewn to the right front piece and turned in, the edge of the right front piece will not lay flat all the way to the zipper. Where the edge of the right front piece is folded under, the edge of the left front piece will be at the folded edge of the right front piece. The seam will be a quarter inch from the edge of the left front piece. At the zipper barrier the edge of the right front piece is folded under a quarter of an inch. This will make the seam a quarter inch from the folded edge of the right front piece, but a half inch from the raw edge of the right front piece, which is folded under. This is what you want in this very unusual place. But the seam will stop when you get to the zipper barrier.
You are now ready to sew together about a four inch stretch of the crotch, joining the two pant legs together. One end of the seam will be almost to the crotch stitch marks, and the other end will be two inches the other side of the inseam. Be careful that part of the pants do not hang on the machine, preventing the fabric from feeding while you sew. If you sew separate seams on each side of the inseam, it will be easier to keep the pant bottom inlays folded out of the way of the seam. Do not sew any farther than two inches from the inseam, or you will not be able to get the pants far enough on the machine to sew some seams yet to come. If you find it too difficult to sew the seam on the machine, you can always sew it by hand with back stitching.
We now need to mark the right front top piece behind the zipper to show how much we want the left top piece to overlap the right top piece when the zipper is zipped. We do not want to mark with chalk on the good side of the fabric, so we will use white thread to hand stitch a mark. The mark should be on the top piece behind the folded edge of the right front top piece where the zipper is sewn on. It should be a quarter inch behind the folded edge at the bottom of the zipper, and 3/8 inch beyond higher up.
Now that the right top piece is marked, fold the J shaped fly piece under the left top piece so that the folded edge shows the seam where the fly piece is sewn on. At the edge two folded edges will be sewn together. Then pull the left pant top over the right pant top so that the folded edge of the left pant top is at the stitch marks on the right pant top. Make sure the two sides are the same height at the top of the pants. With white thread in the machine use the edge stitch foot to sew the edge of the left front top piece to the right front top piece. Use the longest stitch length for machine basting. You will remove this stitching later on. You will not need a securing stitch at each end. Start the seam at the top to make sure the top edges of the pants match. Sew very slowly to make sure the edge matches the stitch marks. Make sure the pant bottoms are pulled out of the way so they do not get caught in the seam. Do not sew more than an inch at a time, stop, lower the needle, raise the presser foot, make sure the fly is folded so the seam is at the edge, that the edge is at the stitch marks, that nothing is hanging on the machine.
Move the zipper slider up to the safety pin.
Turn the pant legs wrong side out. Where the zipper is zipped up, it should lay against the fly where it needs to be sewn. But it is not possible to zip the zipper all of the way up because of the safety pin. Put the pants on the machine. With the J shaped fly piece and zipper to one side, and everything else to the other side, use the zipper presser foot to sew the zipper to the fly. Start the seam at the bottom of the zipper teeth where the zipper is zipped up. When you get to where the slider is stop the seam with a securing stitch, you will finish the seam later. Leave the basting in when you are finished with this seam, you are not yet ready to remove it.
Turn the pant legs right side out.
The J shaped fly you have just sewn the zipper to is already sewn to its left pant top piece along one edge of the J. Now it needs to be sewn to its left pant top piece along the other edge of the J.
Put one pant leg under the upper arm of the machine to get started. Arrange the fabric so the fly and pant are smooth where you will start to sew. Do not start the seam any lower down on the fly piece than where you can keep the fabric smooth. Have the edge of the standard presser foot at the edge of the fly piece. Sew the seam from the lower part of the fly piece up to the top.
Remove the machine basting that holds the left top piece to the right top piece. Do this by cutting every fourth stitch with your seam ripper. Now you can unzip the zipper and finish sewing both sides of the zipper to the pant top pieces above where the previous seam stopped.
Move the safety pin from the right side of the zipper to the left side of the zipper. Keep it at least a half inch below the top of the zipper. We are going to work on the right side of the zipper.
We have now sewed both edges of the J shaped fly piece to the left pant top. Now we will sew a folded rectangle to the right pant top to cover the zipper. The purpose of this piece is to protect your body from the zipper. When we made the fly piece we also made a long rectangular piece almost 2.5 inches wide. One long edge is a neat fold, the other is a two layer zigzag. Have the zipper area of the pants wrong side up. Unzip the zipper completely, otherwize the seam you are going to sew might sew the two pant top piece edges together. Lay the long rectangle over the zipper to cover the zipper. The top end of the rectangle should be even with the top of the pants. The zigzag edge of the long rectangle should be even with or covering over the edge of the zipper. We will not use pins, we will control the fabric by hand as we sew. Start the seam at the top. Go slow and keep the edges lined up as you sew. When you get to the bottom it will be impossible to keep the fabric smooth and keep stray folds out of the way. It would be best not to sew by machine all the way to the bottom. We will fasten the loose bottom end of the rectanular piece another way.
The crotch is curved, not flat. So hold the crotch up off the table, wrong side up, and smooth the loose bottom end of the rectangular piece against the inside of the crotch. One corner of the rectangular piece is on the zigzagged side of the rectanular piece, the other corner is on the folded side of the rectangular piece. Pinch the folded corner of the rectangular piece against the crotch. Take it to the machine and sew the corner to the crotch with a short securing stitch. This should fasten the bottom end of the rectangular piece in a satisfactory manner.
Now we are ready to sew a patch over the top end of the zipper so we can remove the safety pin. Unzip the zipper. Move the safety pin to a place at least 4 inches down from the top of the pants. Fold a small piece of black twill. Cut it so the folded edge is 3 inches long and the other dimension is 1.5 inches. Zigzag the edges.
Put the patch you have sewn over the top corner of the left front piece. The folded edge should be at the bottom and will cover the top 0.25 inches of the zipper. The other edges should match the top and front edges of the top piece. Sew a standard quarter inch seam allowance on the three sides that are zigzaged. On the bottom folded edge, sew right close to the folded edge. If the zipper has plastic teeth, it might be permissible to sew accross the zipper. But if the zipper has metal teeth do not sew accross the zipper as this would break the needle. If the zipper has metal teeth use the zipper foot to sew a vertical securing stitch as close as possible on either side of the zipper teeth. Now you can remove the safety pin.
A similar patch should be put on the right front piece. It is not needed to keep the zipper from coming off the top. It could be put on the front, over the zipper, or behind. If put in front it would also serve to keep the zipper on, but would be visible after the pants were zipped up. The vest would hide it. If it were put behind it would still serve the essential function of reinforcing the place where a button will be sewn on. I put it behind.
You will use a black 3/4 inch button to fasten the top of the pants above the zipper. Because the material is very thick, a buttonhole with a 1 inch opening would make it easier to button and unbutton. The buttonhole will be horizontal 5/8 to 3/4 inch below the top edge of the pants on the left front piece. Practice making buttonholes on scrap cloth before you do it on your pants. The part of the buttonhole closest to the fly edge of the left front piece should be no closer to the front edge than 5/8 to 3/4 inch.
After making the buttonhole, zip up the pants, put a needle with white thread through the end of the buttonhole nearest the fly edge, push the needle and white thread through the reinforced part of the rectangular strip sewn to the front of the right front piece. This will mark where the button needs to be sewn on. Sew the button on using the button sew on foot with a wooden match stick over the button to make the thread loose enough that there will be space enough under the button for the thick fabric.
The next step is to finish sewing up the center seam on the back of the pant seat. The canvas waistband probably covers up some stitch marks at the top of the rear inlay. Hand stitch black thread from the white stitch marks on the good side of the twill through the twill and canvas so the stitch marks can be seen on the canvas. The seam will be a quarter inch from this line of stitch marks. The seam will not go up the top edge of the pants toward the buttons. The seam will only be parallel to the line of stitch marks.
Have the pants wrong side out. Make sure to sew the fabric good side to good side. Most of the seam will be along stitch marks. You will have to pin the two pieces of fabric together so the edges match so the hidden stitch marks will match. The pins will go in the inlay since the presser foot will not go in the inlay. On the small part of the seam where there is no inlay, the pins will be far enough from the edge of the fabric to make room for the presser foot to run along the edge. Sew the seam, then press the seam open.
Review the procedure used to hem the sleeves. Use the same procedure to hem the pant legs. You should first use a blind seam for the hem. A blind seam is much easier to remove if you decide to raise or lower the hem after some experience dancing with the pants. You may later wish to use a plain seam for the hem because a plain seam is stronger.
You are finished with the pants. Attach the suspenders. Before you try on the pants, be forewarned that they have a higher waist than you have ever worn before. You must pull them all the way up, snug against the right side of your crotch, or they will not fit.
Remove all the mark stitches. Most of the mark stitches are only accessible when the pants are turned wrong side out.
Since the vest is white and in the front of the suit, imperfections in the vest are more obvious than imperfections in any other part of the suit. Be careful in making the vest.
These instructions do not specify a canvas lining for the front piece of the vest. But the pattern includes a pattern for a small piece of canvas to stiffen the lower front of the vest, if you want to use it.
The vest is also called a waistcoat, the terms are synonymous. The vest is made of white cotton drill, so we will use colored chalk to trace the patterns. We would not be able to see white chalk marks. When marking canvas or muslin we could use a black marker, but we dare not use it here because it would show through the white cloth and it would not wash out the way the colored chalk marks will. The colored chalk will not show through the white drill even if it is not washed out.
Stitch marking would be more visible with black thread, but you might want to consider using white thread. This is because any black stitch marks that become trapped in a hem might stain the fabric later when the vest is washed.
After mark stitching we will use white thread to zigzag the edges. When we zigzagged black cloth we could safely use white thread to zigzag. But we cannot use black thread to zigzag white cloth because the black dye might stain the white cloth when we wash the garment.
The vest will only be seen through the opening in the front of the tailcoat, so the vest will be backless. A backless vest is cooler than a vest complete with a back. My experience is that you do more sweating and cooling from the back than from the front with athletic dancing, so it is especially important to keep your back cool.
Each half of the vest is made of two pieces: vest and lapel. A neck piece is also shown which will join the two halves of the vest. First the pieces will be hemmed according to the stitch marks with exceptions noted in the following paragraph. The lapel pieces will be joined to the vest pieces. The neck piece will be joined to the vest pieces. The edges where the pieces will be joined will not be hemmed. Straps will be attached to the back of the vest.
Most of the mark stitching represents half inch hem lines. The fabric will be turned wrong side to wrong side until the mark stitching is on the edge fold. Since it is time consuming to remove mark stitches later on, you might want to omit mark stitching the half inch hem lines, and only mark stitch the exceptions that are not half inch hem lines. There are exceptions. At the front of the vest is a small region where the hemline is considerably wider than a half inch. That is to provide two layers where buttons and buttonholes will be put. The vest has a dashed line that is not a hemline because it is for information only and shows where the lapel will eventually be. The other exception is the front edge of the lapel. The wide hemline there is not a hemline at all. It is a fold line. That part will be sewn to the wrong side of the front edge of the vest above the buttons and then folded over the front of the vest. But the rear and bottom edges of the lapel piece will be hemmed normally.
Do not attempt to hem all of the main piece at one time. First, fold over the small rectangle at the front along the mark stitches and pin it in place. Then sew a quarter inch seam allowance around the edge of the rectangle. Then fold, pin and sew the half inch hem on the short diagonal straight edge below the rectangle. Then fold, pin and sew each remaining edge of the front piece, one edge at a time. Only the top edge where the neck piece will attach will not be hemmed.
Hem only the rear and bottom edges of the lapel piece.
Next we will do the buttonholes and buttons. The buttonholes go on the left front of the vest, the buttons on the right front. The buttons and buttonholes will be evenly spaced at the short vertical front edges of the vest pieces. We will sew the buttonholes first so we can use them to mark exactly where the buttons will go. But before you sew the buttonholes, cut and sew two layer patches of white drill to practice on. You must experiment to see how long the buttonholes need to be for it to be easy to fasten and unfasten the buttons. If you are using a buttonhole presser foot, the foot is probably marked in centimeters, not in inches.
The stitching for both the buttonholes and the buttons will not get closer than a quarter inch from the front edge of the vest. The black stitch marking to locate the buttonholes and the buttons will have to be on the very front edge of the vest. This is because if the black stitchmarking gets caught in the stitching for the buttonhole or for the button, it will be impossible to get out. To make the black stitchmarking, put the needle through the wrong side of the front edge of the vest, then put the needle through the right side of the front edge of the vest very close to where the thread comes out. Pull the thread to bring the loop of thread on the right side of the vest down against the vest. Cut the loose ends of the black thread on the wrong side of the vest very short so there is no chance they will get caught in the stitching for the buttonhole or for the button.
Mark the height of each buttonhole with a black stitch mark at the front edge of the short straight edge. The buttonholes should be evenly spaced along the short vertical edge of the small rectangle. The end of each buttonhole should be a quarter inch from the edge of the vest. Sew the three buttonholes on the left vest front. Cut each buttonhole by pressing your buttonhole chisel against a wooden block.
Now we must mark the button positions on the right vest front. Lay both vest pieces at the edge of the table so the short vertical edges are exactly perpendicular to the edge of the table. The edges should be against each other. The bottom points of the vest should be exactly at the edge of the table. Make a black stitch mark at the front of the short vertical edge of the right vest front that is at the same height as the corresponding buttonhole on the left vest front. Do this for the three button locations. Sew the three half inch diameter white or mother of pearl buttons at those locations. The center of each button should be a quarter inch back from the edge. When sewing each button use a wooden match stick over the button to give some slack in the thread.
Lay the lapel piece wrong side up on the table. Lay the corresponding vest main piece right side up partly covering the lapel piece. The top edges of both pieces should match where the neck piece will attach. The stitch marks on the front of the lapel piece should be at the front edge of the vest main piece. Pin the front edge of the vest main piece to the lapel piece. Turn everything over so the wrong side of the vest main piece is up, and you can see the rear edge of the lapel piece. The pins are in the right place but they are on the wrong side, they would catch on the sewing machine. Put more pins in from the top side and remove the pins from the bottom side. Make sure the lapel stitch marks still line up with the front edge of the vest main piece.
You might want to cut off the bottom point of the lapel where it covers the small rectangle of the left front piece. The top buttonhole is there and the pointed end of the lapel will make it harder to fasten the button. Zigzag the cut end.
Sew a seam a quarter inch from the rear edge of the lapel. This seam will not show after the lapel piece is turned over. Remove the mark stitches.
Fold each lapel neatly over against the front edge of the vest. Sew a one inch seam along the lower end of the of the outer edge of the lapel to keep it fastened to the vest.
Some people sew the front of the vest together and use a cummerbund buckle on the straps in the rear. I do not think this is wise. A cummerbund buckle is satisfactory on a cummerbund because you can tell immediately if the buckle comes undone while your are dancing. The cummerbund will fall off, and you will notice immediately. But with a vest, you have no way of knowing if the buckle comes undone, only the straps fall down for all to see, and you feel nothing. It is better to have the straps permanently sewn together in the back, and use buttons and buttonholes in the front to put on and take off the vest.
One inch wide cotton belting needs to be sewn to the rear extension of the vest pieces. Cut two pieces of belting each long enough to reach well beyond half way around your back toward the other side of the vest. Zigzag the ends. The belting should overlap the wrong side of the rear of the vest at least an inch. It should be oriented exactly perpendicular to the vertical rear edge of the vest. Sew each piece to the wrong side of the vest.
Put on the pants you have made. Put the vest on, and button the front. Reach around to the back and pinch the two belts together overlapping in the your back so that the vest fits, but is not tight. Keep the belts pinched by one hand and use the other hand to unbutton the buttons on the front. Get out of the vest keeping the belts pinched together. Take the vest to the sewing machine and sew the belts together where they are pinched together. Put the vest back on to check for fit. If it fits, sew the loose end of each belt to the other belt.
Now you have the pants on and pull them up snug against the right side of your crotch. Make sure the suspenders are snug. Then put on the vest, then the coat. Check the height of the lower edge of the vest. The top edge of the pants should be hidden behind the front of the vest where the buttons are. Ideally the top edge of the pants should be at the center button, but this is not necessary. The bottom edge of the vest should not show below the bottom edge of the coat. Ideally this should be true even if you raise your arms into dance position.
If the vest is too high or two low you can rip the seams at the neck piece and either remove material or add small pieces to adjust the height of the vest.
The last thing to do to the vest is to put vertical buttonholes in the vest over the front suspender buttons that are on the pants. You might worry that you might get the buttonholes a quarter inch to the left or to the right of where they should be. Do not worry. If you do not have the buttonholes, the vest will shift two inches to the left or right while you are dancing.
To locate the buttonholes have the pants pulled up securely against the right side of your crotch. Have the suspenders over your shoulders. Have the vest on, buttoned in front. Have the center of the neck piece at the center of the back of your neck. Have the vest pulled down over the pants. Have the vest pulled smooth over the front. Put the coat on and make sure the center of the bottom of the vest is midway between the two sides of the coat.
Feel the front suspender button through the vest. With the black marker make a very small mark on the vest at the center of the button. Do this for both sides.
Take the vest off and put it on the table. With colored chalk make an 0.75 inch line starting at the black mark and going up. The mark should be parallel to the short front edge of the vest where the three white buttons are.
Use white thread and make buttonholes starting at the black mark and going up the colored chalk line. The buttonhole should just barely be long enough for the button to squeeze through the hole. If the button goes through too easily it will come unbuttoned while you are dancing.
Now you are through with the vest. Try it on.
The shirts sold for use with tailsuits in your local tuxedo shop are not the traditional kind of shirts used with tailsuits.
The traditional shirt that will come with an expensive tailor made tailsuit will have the front of the shirt only made of very expensive cotton birdseye pique or marcella. The collar will be a detachable wing collar. The collar will appear to be made of white plastic with fabric in it. The collar will attach with two special fasteners, one for the front and a different one for the back. The shirt will fasten with expensive gold metal studs with white or mother of pearl facings.
The only wing collar shirts you will find in local stores will have pleated fronts appropriate for tuxedos, not for tailsuits. The wing collars will be too short for use with the high collar of the type of tailsuit we have made.
The purpose of this project is to make a good tailsuit at the lowest possible cost. We will modify an ordinary inexpensive white long sleeved shirt so that from a distance it will look like a proper shirt for a tailsuit. The shirt should have plain cuffs, not the French cuffs that fold back. French cuffs catch on the coat sleeves when dancing. The shirt should have buttons that are white or clear.
Shop around until you find a shirt that specifies neck size and sleeve length. Small, medium and large is not specific enough.
We will turn the collar up, fold the top edge to the inside of the shirt so that the collar is two inches high. The two inches is measured from where the collar attaches to the shirt.
Since the front point of the collar is folded inside where it will not show, you may want to modify it. There are two reasons you might want to make a diagonal cut across the front point of the collar. One is to keep it from interfering with the button and the buttonhole, since it will be near them when it is folded over. The other reason is there may be a plastic stiffener strip in the collar point. If you want to remove that strip you may have to cut off the point to make an opening to remove it. You will probably have to use a pair of pliers to pull hard enough to remove it, because it may be glued in place. If you cut the front point of the collar off for either of these reasons, zigzag the cut.
When you are ready, pin the folded collar in place and sew it in place. Now that the collar has been sewn in a fold, the front top corner can be folded in a diagonal fold to give an impression similar to a wing collar. The corner will be folded to the good side, the outside of the collar. Only a small fold is practical here, only about an inch on the horizontal and vertical edges of the resulting triangle. Sew it in place.
The collar will be worn turned up with the white bow tie around it.
Traditional shirts for use with tailsuits have a stiff front to prevent wrinkles in the front of the shirt. We will accomplish this with boning on either side of the front of the shirt. You might worry that the boning will poke you when you bend over to tie your shoes. This will not happen. You will not notice the boning.
Put the shirt on, then the vest. Measure from the front center of the neck at the bottom of the collar where it joins the shirt, down to the point where the two sides of the vest come to together at the bottom of the V shaped opening. We want the bottom of the boning to be this far down on the front of the shirt. In my case this distance was 12 inches.
Subtract one inch from this distance, in my case this was 11 inches. Double this, 22 inches. Cut two strips of white twill 22 inches long and 2 inches wide. Use white thread. Zigzag each of the strips. Fold each strip lengthwise but not evenly, because a half inch of the top of one end should be above the top of the other end. Fold the good side together so that the wrong side is on the outside. This is because the wrong side is smoother and will feel better against the skin. Sew the two long sides together with quarter inch seams. Now one end of the folded strip is open but the other is closed because it is folded at that end. When each strip is finished, you are ready to sew them in the shirt.
The shirt has a two layer strip on each side with buttons in the center of the strip on one side, and buttonholes in the strip on the other side. Put the shirt on the table and pin your strip so that the folded bottom of your strip is at the distance from the collar that you want, in my case 12 inches. The top end of the strip that is a half inch longer should be against the shirt. The bottom edge of your strip should be at the edge of the button strip already on the shirt. Your strip will not overlap the strip already on the shirt. The top end of the strip should be further from the button strip on the shirt, even with the right or left edge of the collar, but below the collar. This is so the plastic stiffener will never poke you in the neck. The stiffeners will be in a slight "V" configuration. Pin the center of your strip at the top, middle and bottom of the strip. Sew it to the inside of the shirt with quarter inch seams on each long side and at the top end that protrudes a half inch beyond the other top end.
I used ordinary tin snips from my toolbox to cut each strip to 10.5 inches length. I used a file used to sharpen a garden hose to smooth the cut end. Cut two strips like this. Put one in each twill casing that you have sewn to the shirt. The boning can be removed when you want to wash the shirt. Now the front of the shirt will not show wrinkles through the vest opening when you wear the suit.
The boning should be enough. But if you experience a problem with the shirt creeping up when you dance you might want to put in a trouser tab. Do not go to the trouble of putting in a trouser tab unless you really need it.
The following paragraphs will explain the procedure. The trouser tab cannot pull the wrinkles out of the shirt unless it is elastic. If it is not elastic, it can only limit how far the shirt creeps up. If it is not elastic and you lean back, yawn and stretch, the tab will rip off unless it is fastened very high.
First use black thread to sew a white button on the inside of the pants on the right side. The button should be 1/2 or 5/8 inches in diameter. It will be sewn on the rectangular folded piece of cloth that protects your body from the zipper. It will be sewn on the side of that piece that is against your body. When the pants are unzipped, it extends beyond the zipper in to the fly opening. Sew the button about two inches above where the zipper slider is when the slider is all the way down. The zipper is on the outside of this rectangular piece of cloth, the button will be sewn on the inside of the piece. The button will be sewn midway between the zipper and the vertical edge of the rectangular piece.
The trouser tab will be made of cloth tape a half inch wide. Cotton twill tape is ideal. When worn it will be vertical connecting the shirt and pants. Start with a piece of tape about ten inches long. It will be cut shorter later. At least a quarter inch up from the lower end of the tape sew a vertical button hole. You will not be able to sew it with a buttonhole presser foot without a special procedure because the tape is too narrow for the machine feed dogs to grab it properly. To solve this problem, first sew the lower end of the tape to a patch of twill an inch wide. Use a seam along each edge of the tape very near the edge. Now you can sew a buttonhole through both the tape and the twill patch. When finished, cut the twill patch even with the edge of the tape.
Now put the shirt on, put the pants on, and button the trouser tab to the button that you have sewn into the pants. Pull the shirt down and the pants up. About three inches up the trouser tab is where you want a horizontal buttonhole in your shirt. Mark the shirt at that point. Take the shirt off and use white thread to make a horizontal buttonhole in the shirt on the same side of the shirt that has vertical buttonholes for the buttons. The new horizontal buttonhole should be in line with the existing vertical buttonholes. It should be wider than the half inch wide cloth tape so that it will be easy to push the end of the tape through the buttonhole.
Put the shirt back on. Pull the shirt down and the pants up. Pull the trouser tab up. Use a black marker to mark the trouser tab where it is at the same height as the horizontal buttonhole. Remove the shirt. Unbutton the trouser tab from the pants. Put the shirt on the table. Button the shirt button that is above the horizontal buttonhole. Use the black marker to mark through the buttonhole to the other side of the shirt where buttons are sewn on. Unbutton the shirt. Put the trouser tab on the side of the shirt where buttons are sewn on. It should be in line with the buttons. The mark on the trouser tab should be over the mark on the shirt. The bottom end of the trouser tab with the buttonhole should be down toward the bottom of the shirt. Sew the trouser tab to the shirt with a horizontal seam where the marks are, and another horizontal seam above that. The seams must have very short stitches, no more than 0.5mm, to be strong enough to hold.
Now put on the shirt. Thread the trouser tab through the horizontal buttonhole. Button the lower end of the trouser tab to the button inside the pants. Now you should not have the problem of the shirt riding up as much and wrinkling as bad in the front.
If the trouser tab is too tight or too loose, it is easier to put the button in a different place than to make the strap longer or shorter.
You do not want to wear an undershirt when dancing, because you must be as cool as possible. An undershirt makes a big difference.
Put on the shirt and tie first. Pull the trouser tab on the shirt through the horizontal buttonhole in the shirt. Put on the pants next. Fasten the trouser tab inside the pants. Then put on the vest. Finally the coat.
Putting on the vest can be a bit tricky. The neck piece should lay flat on your back. It should not be up against the back of your neck like a collar. If it does this, you probably have one side of the vest twisted over completely. This is easy to do. Untwist whichever side you need to to get the neck piece to lay flat before you button the front of the vest.
The pants will automatically be centered when you put them on. But be careful that the shirt and vest are centered or it will look sloppy. Buttonholes in the vest and a trouser tab in the shirt will keep both centered.
The tie strap should be near the bottom of the collar.
For practical reasons I prefer a pocket notebook, a ballpoint pen and some business cards in the welt pocket, which cannot be seen. But some prefer a white cotton handkerchief in the welt pocket, which can be seen. There are different ways of putting a handkerchief in the pocket. The way I prefer is to lay the handkerchief spread out flat on the table. Grasp the center of the handkerchief between thumb and forefinger. Pull the handkerchief through a loop formed by the other hand to gather it into a bundle. Fold the center of the handkerchief up near the gathered end. Put it in the pocket with about one inch of the gathered end showing out the top of the pocket.
In the 1800's when cleaning clothes was more of a problem, dancers wore gloves to avoid getting their partner's clothes dirty. Now gloves are seldom worn. I never wear them at balls. White kid leather gloves are the most expensive and elegant to wear to non-dancing events, but they are not suitable for dancing. Sweat soaks through them and looks very bad. Cotton gloves are preferable if you choose to wear gloves to a ball. Elegant dressy cotton gloves are hard to find these days.
You can fold this suit and fit it into a small carry-on sized suitcase along with a pair of dance shoes and a netbook computer or a digital tablet. To fold the coat lay it wrong side down on a bed or table. Fold the shoulders to the center while putting your hand under the shoulder to keep wrinkles out of the back of the coat. One edge of each sleeve should run down the center of the coat. Fold the already folded edges of the lapels to the center. Fold one side of the coat over the center line over the other side of the coat. Fold the tails up over the body of the coat. Now it should fit into a carry-on.
Since all edges are zigzagged, the suit should be washable. The vest and shirt should be washed separately from the coat and pants so they will stay white.
The pants should be zipped up and buttoned above the zipper before they are put in the washing machine. This will avoid the remote possiblity that the zipper would be damaged in the washing machine.
The coat and pants might survive tumble drying if the temperature is not too high. It would be preferable to dry the coat and pants on a hangar over the bathtub or shower.
The cotton material will dry wrinkle free on a hangar. The coat has darts and curved seams whose purpose is to impart shape to the garment that is not a flat shape. Pressing with the large presses used by dry cleaners would tend to flatten it and reduce some of the shape that was achieved at much labor. If it must be ironed, iron it by hand in such a way as not to flatten the darts.
If the suit has been wrinkled in a suitcase, the best way to get the wrinkles out is not to iron it but to steam it in the bathroom. Put about four inches of hot water in the bottom of the bathtub. Hang the suit on hangars in the bathroom. Close the bathroom door. Four hours later the suit will not have a wrinkle in it.