DIY: Sewing An Awesome Fucking Blazer

Posted by on Mar 7, 2013 in sewing journal | 9 comments

Phee

As promised: some detailed notes on sewing up a lined, underlined blazer with patch pockets. This garment is one of my favorite things to sew (obviously!). Check out those crisp lapels!

Collar/Lapel

& the wee, tiny lined breast pocket! I AM DYING HERE!!1!

Best Breast Pocket, Ever!

OH SHIT lambswool elbow patches with yellow topstitching LIKE A SIR

Elbow Patches: Upcycled Sweater

My kids wear these blazers until they are far too small and quite shabby from all the extensive use. Last summer when I tried to get rid of a jacket – originally fashioned for my daughter, worn a billion times by both children – my son howled and attempted to climb in the clothing donation bin after it. I had to promise to make him another coat just like it. Which I’ll be doing here pretty soon, for the summer.

At any rate, here are a few notes and pictures about constructing such a garment. I’d love to teach this as a course somewhere but, barring something like being picked up by Craftsy, the clientele is just not where I live so this ain’t gonna happen.

Choosing a pattern design, pattern, fabrics, supplies, & notions

Sometimes the pattern dictates fabric choices; sometimes it’s the other way around. Each choice influences the other, so in that respect we learn best by experience – ours, or that of experienced stitchers.

In this case, I chose my pattern first. I drafted a three-button blazer pattern, sort of a Frankenpattern based on design elements I enjoy. This garment features a two piece sleeve and a center back seam and front waist darts, which gives a slightly more fitted, less boxy shape. It also features three lined patch pockets and a full lining. Here is the front piece of the jacket, which includes markings for facings, buttonholes, darts, and pockets:

Front Piece Markings

It might look a little tricky, but honestly this front piece is the only garment piece that has anything tricky about it.

Fabrics

Fabrics & Supplies

(clockwise from upper left: shell fabric, underlining and lining, oval lambswool elbow patches, three buttons, interfacing, silk organza for bound buttonholes)

Shell: I used a wool blend for the shell. It has a lovely tweedy houndstooth weave, making for a great texture. However, the weave is quite loose and this needs to be considered throughout all steps of construction. To wit: 1. straighten the grain before each cut, 2. twice-finish seams, and 3. handle each garment piece carefully while you sew!

Underlining: I used a firm-weave quilter’s cotton for underlining, and underlined only the front and back pieces (not the sleeves). Underlining is one of the single best things you can do for a garment – especially a jacket. The fabric used needs to be lighter weight than the shell fabric, and with a firm hand and solid grain. If you have any questions about underlining, please put them in the comments!

Lining: children’s garments need linings that are slick (for ease of wear) but also quite sturdy, as my kids will immediately climb eighteen trees in their new coat. I used a polyester fashion fabric from Jo-Anns with a nice floral pattern –  shown here at lower-right.

Fabrics

Interfacing (for collar, front facings, jacket and sleeve hems): Inerfacing can be thought of as a way to add some firmness and structure to parts of the coat. It keeps collars and cuffs looking crisp; I also enjoy using it along the jacket and sleeve hems, on the shell fabric, as shown:

Interfacing At Hem

This adds a wonderful, crisp, rugged nature to the hems.

I use Pam Erny’s interfacings. They are worth the little bit of trouble to order them, and Pam provides excellent support in purchasing and using them. If you don’t prepare interfacings properly, you can ruin a garment. Ask me how I know this!

Extras: wool for elbow patches, silk organza for bound buttonholes. The wool came from a thrifted-and-felted 100% lambswool sweater. These kinds of things make great elbow patches and are worth keeping around.

Needle, thread, other notions
I use a Sharp needle for the shell and the lining, at appropriate needle size (16 and 10 resp., in this case). I use Mettler 100% polyester thread. For working with the knit elbow patches: a stabilizer. I use Sulky’s Fabri Sticky-Solvy which comes in very handy for all sorts of projects involving knits.

Sewing machine
A straight-stitch machine is all that is needed; in addition, a serger or zig-zag machine helps for seam finishes but is not necessary.

Cutting, marking, underlining, & interfacing

I cut and mark as I go piece by piece, using tailors thread tacks, especially if, as in this case, the fabrics are prone to raveling and will not tolerate notch-snipping.

In this case, I underlined the body of the garment, minus the sleeves. I marked the shell, underlining, and lining darts on all pieces (six total) using thread. I marked the RS of the shell for the three patch pockets and buttonhole locations. I interfaced the jacket and sleeve hems and then carefully pressed at the hem (as shown above).

Finally, I interfaced the WS of the shell for pocket positioning on the three patch pocket locations.

Sewing darts, staystitching, bound buttonholes, & elbow patches

I sewed darts in shell, underlining, and lining; then I basted underlining to shell and treated the two pieces as one piece:

Basting Underlining

I staystitched the back neckline facing and back lining neckline, as these are two curves that need to be joined and can be a little tricky (Normally, I would trim & notch this seam after I sewed it, but given the loose-weave of the shell fabric, I decided not to risk this.)

As for bound buttonholes: there are many methods to create these; I won’t detail those here. They are best done early in the process of the jacket, before proceeding with shell construction.

Elbow patches: a pattern that includes this feature will also include where to place these patches. However, my children are almost always getting a major length adjustment in their sleeves, so I find my own placement. This is easiest to do by sewing the uppersleeve and the undersleeve together, then pinning the final sleeve seam and placing it, carefully, on the recipient.

Elbow Patch Placement

Elbow Patch Placement

I marked the elbow patch location, unpinned and removed the sleeve then placed it flat on the table. I pinned the patch in four places for stitching. In general, the center midline, lengthwise, of the patch should be parallel to the grainline of the garment.

Elbow Patch Placement

Now: stitchinz! I used a goldenrod thread and two rows of stitching, in a narrow zigzag.

Stabilizer, For Lambswool Elbow Patches

You will note the elbow patches have a wash-away stabilizer attached to them. This is to keep the soft 100% lambswool knit from stretching while I applied the patches to the sleeve. It worked perfectly; it also helps my Pfaff has an IDT system (*yawn, casual brag-stretch*).

Lining & shell construction

I like to make the lining before the shell for a number of reasons. For one thing, linings are oddly tedious to construct, and it gets it out of the way. For another, this is a great way to do a fit check on the client (note: my front facings are overly long; I usually design a little extra there as I finish my jacket hem and lining by hand).

Checking Fit, Using Lining

Checking Fit, Using Lining

The shoulder-width is one of the more important fit considerations on my tall, slim children. Remember, the neckline will be 5/8″ shorter (or whatever the seam allowance is) against the neck.

While seam-finishing isn’t necessary on most linings, I like to do so for extra sturdiness. I used a serger for all seam finishes.

Finishing Seams

Here you can see the aforementioned staystitching at the back neckline facing, as well as the pressed and finished seams:

Seam Finishes: Serged & Pressed

Finishing

I then created the patch pockets and applied them to the shell. I like to make lined pockets, and then attach by a fell stitch. One can always go along and topstitch the pocket, but the fell-stitch allows for perfect placement and will keep the lining from peeping and showing.

I cut my pockets on the bias because I think bias pockets look great. Warning: this can make for pissy pocket construction. If you aren’t pretty familiar with working with bias pieces, first attach a very lightweight interfacing to the WS of the piece you’ll use for bias-cutting, then proceed.

Here are the three pockets, shown at various stages of construction, before being trimmed, turned, and stitched closed:

Lined Pockets

I used a sturdy whip stitch to close the pocket:

Lined Pockets

Finally – topstitching along the garment hems, opening, and sleeve hems adds sturdiness to the garment. I used a triple-stitch to give the right bold topstitch look; you can also use a heavyweight thread if you like. If you don’t use a heavier stitch or thread, the garment fabric may swallow up the effect. Topstitching is an art in and of itself!

Topstitching With Triple-Stitch At Cuff

Collar/Lapel

***

All done! I suspect I will make many more blazers in my time. They are so versatile, can be dressed up or down, and can be made in all types of materials and different weights, depending on the needs of the garment!

And for now, my daughter is all ready to sit in bookstores reading Raymond Chandler graphic novels & looking awesome!

Bookstore Hipster

Tagged with:

9 Comments

  1. this is the most beautiful goddamn article of clothing i have ever seen. ever. i take my hat off to you.

  2. I’m really excited to see this because you are (obviously) so far ahead of me in garment construction. BUT, because I recently made a blazer for my little boy, I sort of understand some of the things you are talking about. (You can see my blazer here: http://www.thevelvetaubergine.com/2013/02/22/wool-blazer/ I am a little bit proud. Figuring it out was so tricky for me!)

    Again, awesome job. I love seeing your kids in the things you make for them. They always look so pleased.

  3. @s*
    That is high praise coming from you – I love your sartorial style! Thank you.

    @Ann
    I am super-impressed. What a wonderful job! You mentioned your iron on your post. I find my irons at the thrift store. For under $5 you can find a great, HOT steam iron. Steam is a must for most projects. & of course be careful, as you can melt fabrics, esp. if there is any synthetic fiber in there.

    Your blazer is great and I know you are getting compliments when out and about!

  4. Beautiful work and an excellent in-depth description of the construction. I never remember to take pictures of my garments during the process – how do you not get caught up in the making and remember to take photos?

  5. I have a pretty good idea about key aspects of the process. I just take a picture at those junctures. My biggest difficulty is light. I do not have photography lights, so I am very limited to natural light, or trying to adjust color after the photos are taken.

    I enjoy creating tutorials almost as much as I enjoy sewing. I’m glad you liked this one.

  6. Your blazers and jackets are just too amazing. I revel in all of the details. The way the shell fabric goes with the lining fabric is just inspired. I’m working on a spring duffle coat for R. in a fabric with a somewhat similar weave to Phoenix’s, but it’s going very slowly (probably b/c I mess up so much). Best wishes!

  7. @Medr1e
    Where is the best place for me to find photos of your sewing? It seems like I used to follow you but I’d love to have those pictures come right to y inbox.

    That loose weave can be a curse, but perhaps you are smarter than I at working with it. On this coat, I just found a spot under the collar where it has raveled loose. Going to take it to the local tailor & hopefully she can fix it. She’s helped me before. I dislike mending and I ain’t all that good at it.

  8. inspiring post with beautifully photographed visual aid! I particularly like the tip of protecting the elbow patch when first attaching. I wonder, with a looser weave such as this, do you use a different stitch length than, say, 2.5? I understand that is a typical length for garment sewing, but for something like voile I know it is recommended to go smaller…and I wondered if it followed to alter the stitch length with a looser weave?

  9. Hi Layla!

    I used a slightly smaller stitching length, but the real problem is the ravel at the cutting line. In fact this led to there being a slight ravel at the undercollar I found only after this photoshoot – the jacket is in to the local tailor who is hand-mending it.

    However, JUST TODAY Kenneth King posted a tip for handling the edges of very loose-weave, large yarn fabrics. I will use it next time when I work with a similar fabric. Here it is: Tips for Working With Raw Silk.