Last time I showed the pattern selection for the suit alongside the toile making process. I also filled you in on where I bought my fabrics and which fabrics I used. In this blog I aim to detail some of the construction and some of the parts I found particularly tricky.
I had bought one large length of the fabric (it’s available in 10cm increments) so cut out the jacket and trousers in one fell swoop. This was a test of mental toughness as there were around 50 pieces between them, plenty of tea was drunk during the cutting process.
The Jacket – Vogue 8890
The construction starts with a bit of a baptism of fire, after constructing the dart and joining the front and the side panels, it’s onto welt pockets 1&2. The fabric choice made this complicated, the loose weave nature of the fabric meant that the triangles, which make or break a welt were very tricky to secure.
Following that, it was time to start some of the plethora of hand stitching involved in the construction. Step 1 was to attach the chest canvas to the standard canvas, this is done using fell stitches round the outside and pad stitches to hold shape. Fortunately, compared to the stitching on my wedding dress, where I had to hide in my sewing room I could do this stitching in the living room. I then attached this structure to the front and side of the jacket, this included a fell stitch to secure it around the edges. One of the key parts of construction for the shaping of the blazer is to attach some twill stay tape to the ‘roll line’ of the jacket, then padstitching is again used to help the jacket lapels sit properly.
Following the tailoring book, I also included a back stay to help with the hang and shaping of the jacket. You can see the tacking around the outside of it attaching to the collar and armholes in the photos below. In these photos you can also see the shape of the jacket is clearly starting to gain its shape. I still had a fair way to go as the sleeveless vest wasn’t the desired look.
Then it was on to the sleeve construction and insertion. The sleeves came in two parts, these had also been altered when the armhole was raised in the initial toile. The bottom of the sleeves were mitred corners and I really enjoyed making these, the construction details were really satisfying. Once the sleeves were comfortably set in (without too much trauma) It was time to add the sleeveheads and the shoulder pads. I found this great fun, having not got the opportunity to wear them in the 80s (I was only 8 months by the end of them). I think the fit was looking pretty splendid with them in.
Then it was time to start the lining. Welt Pockets 4&5 (the third different construction method) went in with a bit of a fight. Basting thread and taking my time was definitely my friend here! I attached the lining to the facing. I really wish I’d used grey topstitching here instead of black. I’m not quite sure why I went for visible topstitching, but it is there!
When joining the lining to the suit I added some twill tape around the outside to ensure a better structure to the jacket. This was another deviation from the instructions and following the book. I hand stitched the lining of the arms to the cuffs and the back lining was also hand-stitched. I messed this up quite a few times and it took a bit of head scratching. I’m thrilled with the final result. It was then on to the trousers.
The Trousers – Vogue 8988
Where the toile had gone really unbelievable smoothly, the first attempt at the trousers did not. My two welt pockets were wonky and extremely hard to ‘poke the triangle through’ and the waistband was a nightmare. I didn’t realise HOW wrong I’d done it until I’d trimmed the seam allowance, I then tried to fix it, only for it to go even more wrong. I also struggled with the lining, it’s beautiful quality but I found it too tricky to cut on the bias. My lengths went totally awry, they stretched and distorted and it was another contributing factor to the terrible waistband. I abandoned this attempt when Matt tried the trousers on and the front pockets just wouldn’t stay flat.
So, for attempt 2, I bought some more fabric. Sometimes you just have to accept the fail. I also switched up to another fabric for the facings, this was a little more stable and in my comfort zone.
This went much more smoothly and, having gained the experience in the first pair I took extra time with the welt pockets, so they were neater. I also stay-stitched the diagonals of the front pockets to prevent bagging as much as possible. I also like the instructions for putting the fly in on the pattern, it’s done in a really calm and methodical way. Once it was in I also kept the basting stitches in to help with waistband attachment.
This time I had a cuppa prior to waistband attachment and read the instruction 3 times until I felt confident. I took it extra-slow and even talked Matt through it to check I was doing it right. The waistband was in! I the had the nerve-wracking challenge of adding the buttonholes. My Janome has 1-step buttonholes which has made my life much happier than my angry Toyota 4-step (this isn’t a cool dancemove). However, The welt pockets at the back ALSO have buttonholes and buttons to keep them shut. I did not want to mess these up. Fortunately, they went in without too much swearing. I got Matt to try on the trousers, with his shoes, before hemming them to make sure the length was correct. I hand hemmed them, because by this point, if I wasn’t doing some hand stitching was I even sewing. The waistband was also finished by hand.
Due to Matt knowing his own mind, the buttons were always going to be circular and rimmed with 4 holes. He didn’t want labels, but I added them anyway (seamstress’ prerogative). I asked my Mother-in-law to be for the labels she used to sew into his PE kit, so he has one each in the jacket and the trousers. I also added a ‘made to last’ label in each, they spoke to me about my hopes and feelings for our marriage.
I really enjoyed making this suit (despite my #sewingfail), I learnt so many new techniques and pushed my skills. Matt is one of the more exacting recipients of my ‘selfless sews’. He had a definite vision and knew what he wanted. This helped me to push myself to make it the best that I could. We took it to the local dry cleaners for a decent press prior to the wedding too. We also had to starch the lapels to get them to sit right. This was a great lockdown couples activity one evening!
I’m happy to field any questions on the construction even though I am by no means an expert. If you would like to see some finished pictures I have included a few from our ceremony and reception in DIY Wedding Dress – The Big Reveal.