DIY: Sewing An Awesome Fucking Blazer

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

Thank you for that experience.

At the bus stop:

TWEEKERS
SUCK
then, clearly added later,
YOUR
[BITCH]
TITS

It’s cold as hell and the bus “shelter” provides no respite. I tap on my phone and look online expecting to see the bus here any second; instead I find we will have to wait fifty more minutes and I’m like, stunned with despair.

I want to cry. My serenity vanishes and I am completely pissed. I will spare you the details; it’s ugly and trifling, but yeah I’m angry and I’ve already figured out how everyone is to blame. And with every ounce of self-restraint I do not say or do anything shitty out of this mental place and instead I zip my coat and I walk alongside my husband and I tell him, “I’m very cold.” He’s a cheerful bastard and has his metabolism so in a single-layer cotton hoodie he’s fine. He and my kids, I’m telling you. Their bodies ramp up and they are like hot little bread loaves in the bed at night, ask me how I know this. But I’m cold, cold, always cold.

A man gets on the bus and then another, and I recognize them from Treatment. They perhaps don’t know me or are too busy. One looks good though like he might not be drinking. Last time I saw him he was all yellowed up even in his eyes.

One thing about being wet and cold and out in the elements, we’re finally home over an hour later, and I am so pleased to be back inside. My daughter brings me a blanket and a pillow and asks if she can remove my shoes, and I’m so grateful and she blushes, pleased with herself she could make me so happy.

My daughter. This morning, first thing she said to me, she pulled me in close while she was still in bed and whispered her good dream she had. It was the most stunningly beautiful handful of words I’ve heard in a while. And I knew it was a secret only for me the moment she told me. It brought tears to my eyes; the dream and its sweetness, and amazing thing that she shared with me because she trusts me.

Things were different for me when I was her age. It’s hard to believe in something better, even when it’s right before my eyes.

I wrap up in blankets and I rest. A friend picks me up and takes me home, later. Simple things, those little things that help me. I am very grateful for these.

***

I haven’t been posting too many links lately, but I wandered across this today and I got some good laughs, mostly from the rebuttals. Like “Dave”, and SOYFUCKER omgggggg lolz

***

Ralph’s project this evening:

publishing. 2 things:

Nels

1.

I wrote a piece at Underbellie: “what you could stand to know about addiction”. My brother sent me an email response that read, in part: “Holy F that is well written. Can you please get that published somewhere?  I barely relate to the subject and was still nearly moved to tears.”

Welp. Of course I am published. On my site. I think he meant publish in a way where I get paid? (or maybe read by more than twelve people?) #LOLsob because I think it is my destiny to be a largely-unpaid writer. I’ve been doing this since I could write, so there’s that.

2.

Speaking of my writing, for pay or otherwise, I have had only six customers purchase the new Tumblehome. That’s like, SIX. This kind of response is obviously not adequate for me to continue the work needed to curate, write, design, edit, print, assemble, and publish. However, I know I could make a little more effort in trying to distribute and get word out, and I am willing to do so.

In the meantime, after two printing mishaps (and therfore a late send-out), here is an alluring picture of the hand-assembled option. The zine is available in paper, or for a $2 download.

The New Tumblehome!

Our next issue comes out in April.

Family life: the other day Nels found the first crocus bloom in our neighborhood. He made me come take a photo, and he has been watching it every morning.

Yes. Spring is really going to happen.

1st Crocus Of 2013

the air that I breathe & to love you

Caught In The Act

Caught In The Act

Caught In The Act

The sun is out and there’s something about the air; it’s still got a bit of chill especially as the evening falls but I find I’m feeling restless for the summer. We’re down to one car and we’d better fix a few things on that or we’ll be down to zero (sorry to talk about the cars again; it’s just where we live, family-of-four life without a car is no joke). I turn the engine over and the Mercedes belches out grey smoke and coughs for a while while it warms up. This car. The missing muffler and the screaming belt. I am serious. It’s funny. Sorry neighbors. I still love it, though.

It’s the sunshine and the car trouble so I say something out loud before I’ve thought it through, I don’t know if we’ll get a vacation this year, and I’m okay with it, just thinking of hot sand and doing nowt and just picturing the little pots of money moving them back and forth, more than enough to feed us and shelter us so no worries. But:

“It will be worth it,” my daughter says. “We’ll have sent a family to the unschooling conference.” That’s cool. It’s like as a parent you make these decisions as best you can, and you bet we made this decision as a family, informed consent, but it’s cool the kids aren’t backing down even while I’m teetering on feeling like an ass.

She continues: “They’ll have a wonderful time.”

I say, “We had sixteen families apply for our scholarship. They are all great applicants. Would you like daddy and I to make the final decision, or would you like to help?”

“Oh, I’d love to help!” Her response is immediate. We talk about it a bit. We share ideas about criteria for selection. I put the car in gear and we head out to take her to swim team. My son puts his hand on my arm and tells me he loves me.

***

Later, Ralph’s out of town, I walk in the falling shroud of darkness, wet and cold, I’m with the dog, off a little over a mile to pick up my daughter. In the backpack I’ve a couple rolls for her to eat, a big woolen hat and a coat. Hutch trots at my side, HAPPIER THAN ANYTHING EVER just to be along with me. Even after his massive weight loss he is still a big dog, and despite his obviously friendly, mild body language, sometimes people cross the street when they see him. In fact, walking at night alone as a lady, I don’t mind having a huge dog alongside. He is the gentlest creature ever though and I have no idea how much he’d protect me if I were accosted, that is unless my assailant was a giant hot dog.

Over the bridge and across the deep, dark river, which fills me with terror. I love the evenings, people hurrying home or perhaps off to parties or out of town. I’m alone but others are awake. I’m wrapped in a big scarf and my plastic jacket. My body feels good and my mind does as well. Every day as my last drink recedes from me, further away, I am profoundly aware of my gift of sobriety. I hate to talk about that so much too but, it’s on my mind and in my heart, often and daily. Every day I work with people and I see how many don’t keep a continuous sobriety, and heck those are the ones even trying to get help, “tip of the iceberg” doesn’t cut it. Every day I know less and less about Why for all of it. There’s nothing that sets me apart as being so fortunate but I am and so I don’t piss it away by being ungrateful or unconscious.

“If you don’t drink today, you’ll never drink again.” I heard this today. I tell my husband. He doesn’t quite understand. I explain it a little but it’s okay if people don’t understand. I understand.

My daughter is pleased to see us. She is out of the locker room at one minute past seven; she is on time. We both thank one another for being punctual. She bites the first roll and then tears off a chunk for the dog; he CLOPS it up and then CLOPS, CLOPS in gratitude or beseechment or both. We travel to the store by foot and buy two bananas to fulfill requirements for a loaf of banana bread; we have two quarters and the sum total is 49 cents and I’m pleased. Later Nels will eat the bananas without asking about them first, then he apologizes. For all his devilry he takes it very seriously when he makes a mistake or inconveniences others, probably too seriously. And so I’ll send Ralph to the store to get some more bananas tomorrow, so he can bake a quickbread for our daughter before she gets up.

viajar en autobús

Wet Kidlets, Playing

My friend on the bus with her newborn son, she tells me she just ran into the father of the child and they sat only inches from one another without acknowledgment. She tells me this was awkward, but I can tell it was upsetting and as tough as she is, she’s a bit rattled. A few minutes later and we tell her goodbye and I sit and look straight ahead out the steamy bus windows as much as I can. The diesel smell makes me ill. People smile at us a lot, perhaps because my children are cheerful and beautiful, perhaps because it is unusual to see a mother and school-age kids riding at this hour, perhaps it is simply because many people are having a Good Day today.

The bus fills up gradually and it lumbers through the wet grey streets it seems I’ve never not known, and after what seems like a long, long time, but a peaceful enough ride, we arrive at the grocery store. I pick up: red leaf lettuce, cucumber, mint, carrots, beef, rice noodles. Nels gets a complimentary cookie for himself, his sister, from the bakery. The children are hungry but we’ll have to wait until home to eat. We pack our groceries in my backpack and I carefully allocate things so the lettuce won’t get bruised, then heft the bag onto my shoulders and step out into the cold.

We walk several blocks along highway traffic and the rain has set in in earnest. Into the health food store and pick up the teas Ralph likes, along with fresh yeast, ten times cheaper here than anywhere else. Packed away and back outside and now the rain is horizontal into our eyes and the children suffer as we walk about a half mile, a little less, to the bus station. Phee puts up her collar but Nels falls behind and cries out. We pass the dancing Payday Loan employee, dressed as a Statue of Liberty a young man wearing a dazzling smile, even in this weather, but I am cold cold cold.

On the bus and even with the stench of fuel I am feeling relieved. I am cold, my body so cold it is tired simply from being cold. The kids are cheerful and have kept up their wrestling and singing and most of the time on the bus or on foot Nels has been holding my hand.

I get home and put my hands in hot dishwater and I’m a special kind of exhausted. I make a pot of hot tea for my husband and put it in the oven, after preheating then switching the oven back off. The cut of beef is cheaper than past cuts but Ralph transforms the rest of the ingredients into a delicious meal and we fold clothes and draw the curtains and a friend stops over to visit,

and Phee & I will finish watching the documentary on American whaling tonight,

fin

Wet Kidlets, Playing

No, seriously.

2012 02 Tumblehome

OK, the new issue of Tumbleho.me rocks. Specifically: Ralph’s piece on children and gaming (which ended up longer than he intended and is the better for it!), my how-to on sewing a swimsuit, the graphic artwork, some great local writing from poet and bibliophile Dwight Johnson, and three delicious recipes. There’s more stuff of course, these are just kind of the crown jewels of the business.

The zine will be available gratis in April, when the next issue publishes. I adore, adore! receiving writings, poetry, artwork, media reviews, and photography from committed and talented individuals. Please consider contributing!

splish splash

Swimming, today. Below: Nels is a “shark”, scooting along his bum with a (hand-) fin out the water, to get me. I waited until he got close enough I could kiss him.

Nels, "Shark"

A new suit. I started it yesterday and finished it up this morning; I am featuring a few tips on sewing swimsuits in my next zine (February 2013). So I won’t chat much about methodology here.

Racerback Suit In Blue Leopard & Stripe

I am pretty pleased with how this garment turned out. I got to make length alterations for my daughter’s very tall, weasel-belly body. As you can see here, making length alterations is not super-straightforward with all those curves in there.

But far better than my relative success at a challenging project – my daughter loved the suit and praised it vociferously. She put it on immediately and I grabbed a photo. She wore it around the house all morning.

Phee, Catbird Seat

When we went swimming she showed it to the lifeguard, telling the woman her mother made it.

Racerback Suit In Blue Leopard & Stripe

EAGLE-EYED VIEWERS WILL NOTE I lined those stripes up LIKE A SIR

Racerback Suit In Blue Leopard & Stripe

The suit is fully-lined. I sewed via a narrow zig-zag and finished on my serger:

Racerback Suit In Blue Leopard & Stripe

After this garment with its fussy little pieces, typical – and simpler – suit designs will be easy! I’m offering custom builds of the suit on Etsy, tailored especially for those who need a performance suit and don’t want off-the-rack sameness. At any rate I’ll offer them there until my mind feels bored at the thought of sewing another one. However at this point? I’m wanting to make another one right away!

Racerback Suit In Blue Leopard & Stripe

This was the second project I finished on my Pfaff. I found this machine in a new sewing shop in Mason County this summer. I purchased it via layaway for about half the going price and it feels like forever I’ve waited to bring it home! There were a few hiccups in the aquisition of the machine, once because I couldn’t make a payment, around Christmastime, and then due to tech problems in the shop – the shopkeep is new to selling older equipment. However, I am grateful to be able to use a layaway program as, let’s face it, otherwise I wouldn’t be bringing home anything at all. And so far, I am very pleased with the machine’s performance and all its cool bells and whistles!

A bit about my equipment while I am on the subject. This Pfaff is the first sewing machine I’ve purchased that wasn’t under $20 from a thrift store (I have had my go-arounds with thrift store machines and, now, I am quite wary). It is an early-80s machine. My other two working machines were gifted to me; one, the Singer 15-91, was built in 1950 and originally belonged to my grandmother. The second, a Juki, came to me as a birthday present from my mother five years ago. So if you’ve lost count, I can tell you I am doing my work on three sewing machines and one serger (a White 534 superlock I purchased on eBay for $100); I also have two machines I don’t work with, both 1950s Singers, one a treadle. They each need a tune-up so they’re waiting until I can afford one. I am actually willing to give up the treadle, but haven’t put any time and effort into finding it a good home.

My long-winded point is: if you’re a new crafter or want to learn to sew, you do not need a $2K (or more!) machine nor a bunch of fancy shit to sew amazing stuff. But the truth is, time and experience provide the right equipment; so does community and family support. Many years’ at this craft has yielded friends and family who provide encouragement, equipment, and materials –

And for those parties, I am so grateful.

Phee