& the wee, tiny lined breast pocket! I AM DYING HERE!!1!
OH SHIT lambswool elbow patches with yellow topstitching LIKE A SIR
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.
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:
It might look a little tricky, but honestly this front piece is the only garment piece that has anything tricky about it.
(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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
I sewed darts in shell, underlining, and lining; then I basted underlining to shell and treated the two pieces as one piece:
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.
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.
Now: stitchinz! I used a goldenrod thread and two rows of stitching, in a narrow zigzag.
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*).
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).
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.
Here you can see the aforementioned staystitching at the back neckline facing, as well as the pressed and finished seams:
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:
I used a sturdy whip stitch to close the pocket:
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!
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!