Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Tailored Suit: Post Facing-Insertion Challenges

Peeps, I've got some potential problems. I'm not going to sugar coat it. And, before I move into the text-dense part of this post wherein I explain my issues and ask for your feedback, I want to say that I am strangely unaffected. I am not upset, particularly, which is weird given I've spent more than 100 hours on this thing and there's still a whack left to go. I might be over-reacting, even as I under-react, because y'all may be able to give me wonderful advice that facilitates the correction of my current issues.

Also, no pics to show. I don't have it in me to take and edit photos after hours of sewing, so I'll try to explain as best I can. Keep in mind that that the jacket looks largely the same as this one:

As you know, I've left out the pockets, changed the lapel-angle and widened the button spacing.

I should also mention that there are some things here that may not be fixable because I am not ripping this back to the studs. Many seam allowances have been irrevocably graded. Pick stitching and under stitching have been done. Even if I had the will to rip it back, I've molded the fabric extensively. I don't think it would do well, despite its resilience, with a wholesale reno.

OK, onward...

The problem started when I attached the collar, following the industrial method Gertie instructs: sew undercollar to jacket back, then sew upper collar to back facing unit, sew front facing, sew the mini-spaces between the lapel and the collar, then sew the unstitched collar fronts and back to each other.

I did this without much issue - although one side of the tip of one lapel (can't remember now if it was the facing or the front) was quite a bit larger than the other piece (maybe 3/4 inch at the very tip). I quadruple checked that all of the other points were aligned. I couldn't quite figure out what was going on but, on numerous reconsideration of all other details, I opted to trim the lapel so that both pieces were more or less the same size.

I did understitch the collar for the appropriate turn of cloth (which was evident before I inserted it).

However, after insertion I noticed 3 unappealing things:
  • The turn of cloth is lost and you can see the seam that attaches upper to undercollar - esp. at the front.
  • The back facing pops WAY up - even though I have understitched the facing well to the seam allowances.
  • I suspect I don't like the collar as it's designed. It's weird - the stand is weird, the peter-pan-iness is weird, the size is weird. I've got an awesome lapel (well, more on that in a minute) and the collar just seems unintegrated with the rest of the jacket.
Note: I realize that, if I can resolve the first two issues, the third issue may resolve itself. Or, even if I continue to dislike it, I might be able to get it to a state that I can get with.

Next up, let's talk about the front facing / jacket unit. After assembling, grading and pressing at length, I did pick stitch the fabric to the seam allowances to facilitate the turn of clot on this rather thick fabric. It seemed to work at first, though later on - when I tried everything on - the turn of cloth was lost.

What I did was pick stitch the undersides to the seam allowance. That is to say, below the lapel, I pick stitched the facing to the seam allowances. Above (where the facing and front unit invert), I pick stitched the front to the seam allowances. Did I do this incorrectly? Was I actually supposed to pick stitch the "front" side to the seam allowances?

That aside, the drape on the side without buttons looks terrific (something tells me that's the side that did not have the lapel problem mentioned above). The fall of the lapel over the roll line is a thing of beauty.

The side with the buttons lost its shape and the under side of the lapel (i.e. the jacket front above the roll line) got kind of wavy.

Finally - and this is a pain in the ass! - my back stay started to rip (very slightly) up the centre when I put on the jacket rather aggressively. It didn't rip far and I think I understand the problem: Before cutting the fabric, I actually cut an inch off the bottom of the pattern piece because I had already shortened all of the pieces above the waist (this accommodated that adjustment). In fact, I cut the stay at the point of greatest pressure. If it were an inch longer, there would be ease below the stress point. Live and learn. What I did to fix it was a) do a bit of mending and b) put some weft interfacing over the lower 1 inch of the back stay to reinforce it. But I can feel that spot and it irritates me. It's most definitely exacerbated by the collar whacking all out of shape and the back facing popping up. I think if I can fix the back facing/collar issue and once I insert the lining, this problem may be resolved.

Now, here's what else I've done so far to fix things:
  • I tried pick stitching the facing on the "right sides" (just in one spot). Didn't seem to make any difference to the turn of cloth - although my having done the pick stitching to the other side may be cancelling it out.
  •  I whip stitched the facing unit down to the back stay, to stabilize it temporarily. I have also considered that I may need to permanently machine stitch all the layers just below the seam that attaches the collar to stabilize the facing in accordance with its needs. It will put an ugly stitch line at the back of the jacket, but that's better than the facing flipping out constantly. If understitching doesn't do the trick, then what's next? I could trim the collar seam allowances to practically nothing (this fabric doesn't fray much) but then I'm screwed if it doesn't work. There will be nothing left to under stitch or stitch to.
  • I carefully manipulated the button side of the jacket to re-establish the roll line. Then I steamed the crap out of it and left it to set over a towel (like I did when first creating the roll line - before the facing was attached). I'm really hoping it drapes as gorgeously as the non-button side tomorrow.
If you're still reading this you're kind of insane, but I am very grateful for that. :-)

Can you advise about what you think of a) the problems and b) my solutions plus c) any other solutions you may be able to suggest.

Thank you everyone. xo


  1. It's hard to figure out what is happening without actually seeing the garment, but, from your description a few ideas came to mind.

    First, the construction method you are describing (what Gertie calls the industrial method) is the one that I've always known as the "men's" method because I've only used it when the undercollar is of melton cloth which requires no seaming along its edge. The seam allowance on the upper collar gets tucked under the melton cloth and hand stitched closed. This method is traditionally used on heavier "men's" fabrics since there will be only two fabric thicknesses plus the flatter melton cloth on the seam edge making it easier to create a nice clean edge for the collar.

    On a woman's tailored jacket, the undercollar is traditionally cut from the same fabric as the jacket and here I've always used the "woman's" method where the collar is completed before attaching it to the jacket. Using the fashion fabric in your undercollar means your collar seam has FOUR layers of fabric so I've found a machine-stitched edge helps keep everything more compressed.

    Your choice of fabric and method makes me wonder if you need to compensate for the fabric bulk to mitigate the collar issues. Maybe redoing the collar seam to increase the size of the upper collar by 1/8 inch all around would give you enough fabric so the seam edges can roll to the back more easily? Also, if the upper collar does not have the required ease to roll nicely, the tension on the fabric could cause the collar to sit up higher which could look a bit weird. Redoing the collar seam to enlarge the upper collar might help with this problem as well.

    Finally, I'm also wondering is some of the pick stitching (or understitching) could be causing tension on the facing. It is possible to over stabilize in one area (trust me, I've been there) thereby causing problems in another, especially if you are working with a heavier fabric. Try taking out some of the stitching to see if the facing lies a bit flatter.

    A couple of other tips: Once I've shaped the collar and lapels along the roll lines, I've always liked to run a line of diagonal basting stitches along the collar roll line to hold the grain of the fabric straight. I don't remove these stitches until the jacket is finished. My second tip is to position the facing fabric 1/8 to 1/4 inch down from the upper label edge to create a bit of fullness where the facing will need to roll to the front at the lapel roll line. I take up the eased fabric in the first 4-6 inches of the lapel line making sure that edges align before I reach the top button mark. This helps create a bit of tension on the underside of the label so the seam won't roll to the front. You can also try this trick around the buttonholes where you might need a bit more fabric in the facing to allow for the buttonholes and buttons. About 1/8 inch usually is all you need here, but it can help make the front line look straighter. Making sure that your facing fabric is taut as you come to the bottom edge of the jacket also can help make sure the edge curves inward towards the body instead of flaring out.

    1. Anon: Just want to say thank you so much for this incredibly thoughtful and practical advice. I have reviewed it, learned a lot and may well apply it. I also intend to review it more carefully (and maybe even post about it) when this headache I've been battling for the past couple of days finally subsides, but I want you to know how grateful I am for the feedback.

    2. What I should mention is that the pattern pieces for facing and upper collar all account for the need for slightly more size than the pieces they abut. Mind you, when I did the insides of the bound buttonholes, on the facing, I found that particularly difficult. Maybe, given the density of this fabric, I needed even more width...

  2. I did read the entire post — with much interest, but, alas, I can offer no help!

  3. I unfortunately don't have much in the way of suggestions. I am about to sew the collar onto my jacket, so I may find the same issues as you. I am adding piping to the edges, so the favoring of the seam is less of an issue. (I want the piping to show.) I'm thinking that the back facing problems may be partly solved when you attach the lining. Won't the lining help to bring down the facing? Maybe you could loosely tack the facing at the center back seam if it is still coming up after you insert the lining. I'm afraid this is a case of the blind leading the partially sighted!

    1. I think the lining will help, definitely, but my fabric is really dense. it's not that it's so thick, but it's very "there" and it has a lot of body. I suspect that any other fabric would manage the collar better than this one. So don't worry - but do read Anon's comment above - it's excellent feedback.