Monday, February 22

Two current tricky sewing jobs! Part 1

When I am working on something that I think I might include in the next blog post, I usually wait until it's all done and dusted and I'm happy with the result! But this time I thought I would do a post mid-way through the tasks and let you in on the difficulties I am having, which I can in all honesty also call challenges, as it's through these sorts of difficulties that I have learnt a lot over the past three years or so.

I am currently shortening the sleeves on my son-in-law's suit jacket, and at the same time am making a baby's coat from two felted jumpers, using an old shirt for lining. Let's talk about the jacket sleeves first....

When I first started doing paid sewing jobs, one of my first was to take out the trousers of a morning suit. They had a fish tail back - I had never heard of this and only found out that that was what it was called when I did some googling to find out how to do the job! I nearly turned the job down initially as my first thoughts were "Oh gosh can I do this? What if I wreck the trousers?" The gentleman in question was local and wanted them for a wedding abroad the next week, so, as they say, no pressure then...... But I knew that if I didn't accept the challenge then I'd never know if I could have done it or not. So I did, and I did! I learn a lot from it, and from subsequent alterations to other garments. It is usually a case of seeing how the garment is constructed, then unpicking and re-constructing. That is slight oversimplification...... but I would say to anyone who is fairly competent in dressmaking that if I can do it then so can you. Although I would also say that alterations are more difficult than making an original garment.

The jacket

The sleeves have four buttons with non-working buttonholes, and a vent, and some top stitching. Son-in-law wanted them shortened by 3 cm, and as this would have meant the bottom button was far too near the bottom of the sleeve, he asked if it would be possible to remove the bottom buttonhole and make a new one at the top. I couldn't see why not, so this is what I set out to do (no googling at this stage!) although actually I decided it would be necessary to remove the bottom TWO buttonholes and make two new ones at the top, in order for the sleeve to look right.

[Note: I am having trouble getting the photos to insert in the right place. I don't know whether it's me or Blogger. It has happened with this post and the last one. So they aren't necessarily in the best order! If anyone else is having this trouble please let me know!]

Sleeve as it was originally

When I am doing something like this I take pictures all the way through (although I have not included them all here) so that I have a record of how the garment was constructed to allow me to reconstruct it correctly.

Inside of sleeve showing mitred corner

Sleeve unpicked. Tacking shows where new hem needs to be. Only one buttonhole removed at this stage.

I very carefully measured and marked (to the millimetre) where the two new buttonholes should be, marking them with tacking thread, but as you can see in the picture below I still did not get them exactly the same length. I can only excuse that by saying that when I'm working with black fabric I find it really difficult to see what I'm doing, so starting and stopping exactly where I should have was difficult to say the least. However the incorrect length won't matter too much once the buttons are back on. (It doesn't help that the light on my machine is not working so I am having to try and point a table lamp in the right direction.)

Getting the buttonhole stitching to match was tricky too - again I haven't succeeded one hundred percent, but I'm fairly happy with them. Hopefully people won't be bending down and closely inspecting my son-in-law's sleeves, just glancing at them from a distance.....

Two new buttonholes made at the top, and some of new top stitching done

The next pic shows the corner re-mitred and the sleeve lining sewn back in. However, I have done the latter incorrectly - I shall re-do it and show how it should be done later on. The balloon fabric is 1980s Habitat and is my home made ironing board cover!

[Having awful trouble with doing this post! Just tried to put a caption to the above pic and the pic jumped above the previous one! Aaarrrrgggghhhh!]

I finished the two sleeves and hung the jacket up - see above pic -  to see how they looked. I wasn't very pleased - I'm not happy with the way the flap-over bit of the sleeve i.e. the bit with the buttons on -  seems to be pulling on the other bit. Being a bit of a perfectionist I thought I'd try and see if I could eliminate that pulling.

This has meant doing the following (again!)

  Removing the buttons 
  Unpicking the sleeve lining

And also doing this:

  Trimming off about 3/8" of the hem, and trimming away some of the interfacing, to make the fabric   give a bit more.
  Cutting notches into the hem

Turning up the sleeve is similar to when you turn up a trouser hem that is narrower at the bottom       than the point above to which you are sewing it. Somehow you have to ease it to fit. The trimming   and the cutting of the notches were both intended to provide this ease.

And then redoing everything!

I am now at the point of re-attaching the lining of the second sleeve. I shall return when it's all done and show pics!

Lizzie (will I be in son-in-law's good books at the end of all this??!!)


  1. well done Lizzie- you SIL should be very chuffed that you have the skill to do this so well.

    1. I've now done it better! SIL should be pleased. He will be if he wants me to babysit..... Part 2 coming soon.

  2. Tailoring - which is what you are doing is incredibly skilled work - I'd have given up before you began! Well done you! Mitred corners indeed!! Looking forward to seeing the baby coat. X

  3. Thank you. To be honest if someone had said that to me about tailoring alterations at the beginning of my sewing career (ha ha!) I would probably never have attempted them. Sometimes it's best just not to know about how difficult some things are meant to be!


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