Sunday, November 1, 2009

How to sew a fully lined jacket

UPDATE 4/15/2011: I am working on a series of blog entries about how I am sewing a fully lined coat from recycled sweaters.  There, I show a lot more step photos than I do here.  See Part 1 on How to Sew Sweater Coat by clicking the link.

I’m currently taking a class on costume construction at my local community college.  For the upcoming show, the class is helping to prepare the costumes for all of the actors.  The teacher assigned different projects to each student, and because of my background in quilting, she assigned me the complete construction of a fully lined plaid jacket.  Along with a vest and skirt, this jacket will form the third piece of a three piece, adjustable suit for theater.  When she announced that I would be finishing the suit, pangs of anxiety hit me, but I was also thrilled at the prospect of learning how to make such a complex and versatile piece of clothing.  This particular jacket is baby blue plaid, period 1930s, with a contrasting notched collar and lapels in gray.

My teacher picked the pattern and fabric, pinned the pattern pieces to the fabric, and cut the pieces for me.  In doing so, she had to align the plaid just so on the pattern pieces so that the lines match up.  My teacher often overcut the fabric from the pattern to provide extra fabric for custom tailoring for each actor.  In my instructions below, I rarely mention trimming seams because this suit is built to be alterable for future performances.  

Here, I document the steps my teacher gave me to sew the jacket so I won’t forget what I learned.  (When I told her I wanted to blog about this, she happily gave me permission to share, but asked to remain unnamed.)  Before reading on, I suggest you find a sport coat or jacket, preferably lined and with a notched collar, to look at while you read.  While yours probably won’t be exactly the same, it should still help you understand my descriptions.

My teacher handed me a big pile of cut pieces of woven plaid wool fabric, contrasting woven wool fabric for the lapel/collar, taffeta lining, and fusible interfacing.  I describe each piece here:
(1) The bodice and under-lapels are composed of 5 pieces of the plaid fabric: two fronts, two sides, and one back piece.  These were cut to match plaids along the 4 vertical seam lines and one on each shoulder.  (2) Each of these 5 plaid pieces has a corresponding taffeta lining that is slightly smaller, but similar in shape, with the exception of the under-lapels, because the front of the lapels, called “facing” are made from (3) a pair of contrasting gray fabric pieces (left and right), plus a curved piece for the back of the neck.  That’s 3 pieces for the facing. (4) All that’s left in the bodice is the fusible interfacing.  That was 1 piece for each lapel and 1 for the back of the neck. (5) The collar is composed of 3 layers, the top and bottom are both in contrasting gray wool,  with a piece of fusible interfacing in the middle. (6) The sleeves each have a front and a back in each of the plaid fabric and the lining. That’s 8 more pieces in all for the sleeves.  Total number of pieces for the jacket: 5 + 5 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 8 = 27 pieces.  To me, that seems like a lot of pieces for a single piece of clothing, and this jacket doesn’t even have any pockets!  Notice how I put them in groups above, by which pieces get sewn together before being attached to other groups.

To emphasize, for a lapel and collar that contrasts with the rest of the jacket, cut all 3 pieces in (3) and the top and bottom of the collar in (4) out of contrasting fabric.

My first step was ironing the fusible interfacing onto the lapels, back of the neck, and collar.  My teacher generally doesn’t like fusible interfacing, but we were on a strict deadline, so to save time, we fused.  Our interfacing takes a full 15 seconds to fuse to the fabric, but we started with a quicker pass with light pressure and high steam to just get everything in place.  Then, I slow dry pressed the interfacing to the fabric to make it permanent.  The purpose of the interfacing is to stiffen the collar, but you don’t want to fuse it to the outside layer of fabric if possible.  That could result in an unsightly drape of the fabric.  Instead, the teacher requested that I fuse the interfacing onto the inside layer of fabric on the under-lapels and back of the neck.

Mark darts by clipping edge of fabric and sewing waste thread at dart point.  This is apparently how talyors do it: they mark points and lines with contrasting thread.    You can mark any number of layers at once by stitching through all layers and cut the thread 1” to 2” from fabric between each layer.  Now you can see the mark on both sides of the fabric, and you can easily remove the thread marks when you want to.  Sew darts.  In a women’s jacket, these will be around the bust.  Note that in all machine sewing, I backstitch the beginning and end of each seam, about 4 or 5 stitches.  Press darts out (away from the center of the body) or down.  I pinned and sewed the 5 plaid pieces of the bodice together.  In pinning, match plaids, being careful to match at the beginning of each plaid sequence.  By beginning, I mean the side that goes into the machine first.  Press seams open.  Add a row of stitching, just outside the seam line, under each arm.  In other words, sew around the bottom half of each arm hole on the bodice to reinforce it for extra wear and tear on this high stress point of the jacket.

The top of the collar is slightly larger than the bottom to create and under-stitched look without understitching.  Sew top and bottom of collar together.  Resew corner seams.  Clip corners.  The more you clip in, the more pointy you can get the corner when you flip it, but you also make the point more prone to wear and tear.  Because this jacket is intended for use in the theater, I didn’t clip too, too close to the corner seam.  Flip inside out and poke out corners.  Press.  When pressing, roll the edge a bit so that top of collar rolls over the edge. Pin to back piece of bodice and sew to bodice.  To keep the collar lying nicely, do not over-sew the edge of the collar to the bodice.  One too few stitches is better than one extra stitch.

These photos were taken after I sewed the lining (a later step) but it also shows the interlining and the collar, so I include this photo here.  I sewed the two outer-lapel facings to the back of the neckpiece, and pressed seams open.  I then sewed this 3-piece set of facing to the bodice, catching the collar inside the seam. This seam goes up one lapel, around the neck (at the base of the collar), and down the other lapel.  Clip the curved part of the seam, in particular, around the neck every ½” to ¾”.  Grade (trim) the 4+ seam allowance layers so that the widest seam allowance on grading is closest to the outside of the garment. I under-stitched the seam allowance to the side that is inside the garment.  You can just barely make it out on the left photo.  I flipped the lapels inside out, pulling and poking the points into shape.  Do not press lapels.  Instead, use a hand running stitch to baste the edge of the lapels flat.  Make the seam even inside and out.  When the jacket is finished, press this, remove the basting, and possibly add some decorative hand stitching (running stitch) with buttonhole thread.

Sew front and back of one sleeve together, matching plaids. At this point, we only need one sleeve done for the fitting, so you can set the other pieces aside until later.  Sew front and back of the sleeve lining together.  Press all seams open.  Slip sleeve lining in sleeve and pin.  Before we finish the sleeves, we must…

Have the intended recipient of the jacket try it on. Pin the top of the sleeve to the top seam of the jacket. Use safety pins to take in any bunched spots on the bodice and sleeves.  Take off the jacket and make alterations to take in (or let out) the bodice and sleeves.  HANDY TRICK:  If you have trouble marking the fabric inside of where you pinned, use thread tracing to mark sewing lines instead.  To thread trace, use a piece of contrasting thread to sew a quick line of stitching on the sewing line of each piece.  The advantages of thread tracing are that you can accurately mark from the front side (where the fitting pins are) onto the back side (where you need to sew), and no pencil marks are necessary.  You just pull out the thread tracing after you sew the seam, and voila, no marks!

Sew the 5 pieces of bodice lining together and press seams open.  Pin lining to outside layer, matching 2 neck seams as shown here.  In one long seam, sew the lining to the inside of the jacket.  This is a very satisfying step because so many ugly frays are covered.  See below.  Doesn't that lining look nice?

Now we work both sleeves together.  Before attaching the sleeves to to their linings, machine sew a line of basting along the top half edge of each sleeve without lining.

To prevent the sleeve lining from twisting uncomfortably inside the sleeve, sew the sleeve to its sleeve lining as follows:  Assemble one sleeve and lining. Flip sleeve with lining inside out.  Matching seams, pin parallel to seam on seam allowance of back seam, the one that lies on the back of the arm.  Flip lining to wrong side out.  Pin lining seam allowance to sleeve seam allowance on one side.   Sew together on seam allowance starting and stopping about ¾” from each end.  You will need to keep this extra part open to attach the sleeve to the bodice at the top, and to hem the sleeve at the bottom.  Repeat for second sleeve.

Have the intended recipient of the jacket try it on. Pin the top of the sleeve to the top seam of the jacket. Take off the jacket.  Use thread tracing to mark the top seam of the sleeve and sleeve hole.  Also mark on sleeve where it hits the top seam of the jacket.  Unpin sleeve from jacket.  Now for the hardest part, and where a dress form or some kind of stuffing or scaffold is really helpful:  Gather slightly and pin sleeve into sleeve hole, through all (3) layers except sleeve lining.  Be careful to distribute the seams evenly, but don't try to match seams.   Jackets aren't usually cut to match bodice seams to sleeve seams. Hand baste both sleeves in place.  Sew sleeve to hole on machine, through 3 layers, easing fabric as necessary to achieve a smooth seam.  Before pressing, wad up a piece of fabric, preferably wool, and stuff shoulder.  Press seam out into sleeve.  On the inside of the jacket, pin sleeve lining over sleeve seam, then appliqué in place with slip stitch. Again, you will probably have to ease the lining into the arm hole to get the fabric to fit nicely.

Use cross stitch to hem the outside layer of the sleeves and bodice.  If the lining is long enough, use slip stitch to hem the lining, covering the cross stitches.  If the lining is too short, hem lining separately with cross stitch.  Steam the whole jacket on dress form.


  1. do you have a video tutorial of this.that would be really helpful

  2. its really helpful trips for the tailoring.......


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