Class · Review · Sewing

Tuesdays with Alison: Learning about Tailoring

Sew Well + Craftsy's Essential Guide to Tailoring: Structure & Shape by Alison Smith

If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you might remember my Tuesdays with Claire series. I started it way back in 2012 when I jettisoned Gertie’s no-longer-available Sew Retro: The Starlet Suit Jacket Craftsy course and switched instead to making Vogue V8333. I got as far as fitting my muslin and cutting out my fashion fabric before I lost focus.

I had good intentions to pick up the project again last year. But, this time I got as far as rereading the instructions before I lost focus again. I blame the button holes. I’ve still never tried bound button holes, and while Vogue V8333 suggests handworked buttonholes, for some reason I wanted to at least consider bound buttonholes. You see, I’d consulted my ready-to-wear jackets and found that roughly half have bound buttonholes. I was supposed to do a little practice on scrap fashion fabric, but since that wasn’t as fun as diving right into the jacket, my motivation waned. I also blame the tailoring. There are a lot of interfacings needed in a traditionally tailored jacket that I know very little about!

This past January I pulled the jacket pieces out of their bin and pinned them to my dress form to encourage me to get going on this almost four-year-old project. I’d pretty much decided against bound buttonholes, favoring instead to follow the intentions of the pattern. I thought about proclaiming my aspirations to finally complete the jacket to all of you, another January 2016 resewlution, but I didn’t have the courage… What if I lost focus yet again?! Even if I now knew what I was going to do about the button holes, there was still the question about the tailoring.

However, I’m emboldened to write the post now because I’ve now taken a class on tailoring! Many thanks must go to Alison Smith. And Craftsy. And the Essential Guide to Tailoring: Structure and Shape class.

Sew Well + Craftsy's Essential Guide to Tailoring: Structure & Shape by Alison Smith
Craftsy’s Essential Guide to Tailoring: Structure & Shape by Alison Smith. Image captured from class video.

I watched this class slowly over the course of February, and while I typically blog about Craftsy classes by covering a video a week, this time I’m reviewing the entire class in this one post. I learned from my fitting class reviews (pants here and dresses here) that I don’t have as much fun writing up class lessons each week when I don’t have any obvious progress to show for it (on the other hand, writing up my bombshell dress progress each week was fun!). That does mean this post is rather long, so be forewarned. There’s a 50% off coupon code for the class at the end of this post though, so it’s worth at least skimming to the end if you find yourself interested in learning more about tailoring.

Okay, so let’s begin.  The class has seven lessons. It’s a general class, so it doesn’t come with a specific pattern to make, but it does come with a handout that covers recommended types of interfacings for both traditional tailoring and speed tailoring, as well as written instructions for creating the interfacing pattern pieces used in tailoring.

Sew Well + Craftsy's Essential Guide to Tailoring: Structure & Shape by Alison Smith
A variety of fabrics for tailoring. Image captured from class video.

Lesson one is the introduction to the class. Alison explains that the class will cover traditional and modern tailoring, as well as a hybrid of the two. She also discusses the role of tailoring, as in the types of garments where tailoring is useful, and the varieties of fabrics that one might tailor. Then she reviews the anatomy of a jacket, focusing on the exterior details like the collar, lapel, and sleeves. Finally, she covers the evolution of tailoring. What I found most useful in this last section was her advice to use traditional tailoring for traditional fabrics; modern (aka contemporary or speed) tailoring for modern and loose weave fabrics; and hybrid tailoring for coats and thick, structured fabrics. Also, I was excited to see that one of the tailored jacket examples she has on display is a lilac version of Vogue V8333! She mentions in the comments that she used a Harris tweed for it (I’m guessing it’s made from the fabric she’s holding in her hands in the photo above). Seeing it there made me feel like I definitely chose the right class to take.

Sew Well + Craftsy's Essential Guide to Tailoring: Structure & Shape by Alison Smith
The different interfacing pieces found in a woman’s traditionally tailored jacket. Image captured from class video.

Lesson two focuses on traditional tailoring. In this lesson Alison goes over canvased construction, specifically how to create the canvas and interfacing pattern pieces and how to attach them to the front of the jacket. The lesson begins with an overview of different types of canvases and interfacing materials. From there she uses her unlined traditional tailoring jacket example to cover the interfacing pieces needed when tailoring a woman’s jacket – including the canvas front T region, complete with dart above the bust; the bias canvas shoulder; the fleecy shoulder plate; the canvas back across the shoulder; and the canvas under collar. Then she uses her tissue pattern pieces to explain how you draft each of these interfacing pieces. Finally, she demonstrates how to pad stitch the front interfacing pieces together and then stitch them to the body of the jacket. Two extra tidbits I took away from this lesson are that interlining helps keep the canvas from showing through light wool fabrics – she used a voile in her example – and that the roll line typically goes from the collar notch to the center of the top buttonhole. When I got to the end of this lesson, a lot of the fear that I’d had for traditional tailoring pad stitching was gone. The instructions that come with Vogue 8333 are fairly thorough, but this lesson went into a lot more detail about the basics of tailoring, and it included a lot more interfacing pieces than I remember being in the pattern. For example, I can’t seem to find mention of anything but a shoulder pad as adding extra structure to the shoulder area in the Vogue V8333 insertctions, but maybe a shoulder pad adds all of the structure traditional tailoring builds in?! Regardless, after watching this lesson, the purpose and the process of traditional tailoring were finally becoming clear. I was getting excited!

Sew Well + Craftsy's Essential Guide to Tailoring: Structure & Shape by Alison Smith
The lapel ready for pad stitching. Image captured from class video.

In lesson three Alison finishes up the rest of the traditional tailoring hand stitching on the major interfacing pieces. She shows how to use the herringbone stitch to attach the loose edge of the interfacing pieces to the underlining. I noted here that she didn’t use knots at either the beginning or end of her stitching. Instead she secured her thread with a double stitch. I remember a “couture tip” from the Vogue V8333 instructions that said some tailors use knots, some don’t. I guess Alison is one who doesn’t! She then uses a contrasting color thread to hand baste just inside the stitching line. Next, she demonstrates the rolled pad stitching necessary to tailor the lapel and the under collar. I was surprised to learn that the fashion fabric should look dimpled on the right side after you’re finished! Finally, she steams both the lapel and the under collar into shape. At the end of this lesson I was feeling even more confident about starting my first tailoring project. But, first I needed to watch a few more lessons!

Sew Well + Craftsy's Essential Guide to Tailoring: Structure & Shape by Alison Smith
The final tape being pinned in place. Image captured from class video.

Lesson four focuses on adding woven tape to give the jacket its final shaping. The first tape Alison uses runs the length of the roll line. She purposefully cuts it 5/8″ short and then uses the steam iron to shrink the canvas to fit the tape. Once everything fits nicely together, the tape is pad stitched into place. The instructions for Vogue V8333 suggest the same as far as trimming the tape length, but I found watching how Alison steamed the canvas to fit the tape very helpful. Before applying the next tape, which will go around the outer edge of the interfacings, Alison trims away the outer edge of the interfacing canvas to just inside the edge of the seam allowance, taking into account the turn of cloth for the fashion fabric. She then adds tape around the edges of the interfacing pieces, shaping it first with the steam iron, so that the tape just covers the edge of the canvas interfacing. She demonstrates how to miter the edges of the tape around corners to minimize bulk. Finally, she secures the tape with pad stitches and notes that these steps should be repeated with the back armhole and the back neck. And, with that we were done with the traditional tailoring lessons. Instead of just jumping into my jacket though, I wanted to first watch the rest of the lessons so that I had a broader understanding of tailoring before launching into my first tailoring project.

Sew Well + Craftsy's Essential Guide to Tailoring: Structure & Shape by Alison Smith
The floating shoulder. Image captured from class video.

Lesson five covers modern tailoring. Alison begins by reminding us that this method is good for loose weave fabrics and pale fabrics. She demonstrates the different interfacing pieces found in modern tailoring using her unlined modern tailoring jacket example. Essentially all of the jacket is interfaced with some kind of interfacing, and some areas are interfaced with multiple interfacings! A good example of the latter is the shoulder area, which consists of several pieces of interfacing that make what is called a “floating shoulder”. She then goes over different types of heavy and light interfacings and discusses which are used where. Next, she demonstrates how to make pattern pieces for a typical jacket and notes which should be cut from heavy interfacing and which from light. Finally, she shows the class how to properly fuse the interfacing to the fashion fabric. At the end of this lesson I was really wondering whether the ivory Italian linen-and-wool blend I got from FineFabrics.com for my Vogue V8333 jacket might be pale enough to justify using this method over traditional tailoring. I could see why it’s called speed tailoring!

Sew Well + Craftsy's Essential Guide to Tailoring: Structure & Shape by Alison Smith
The different interfacing pieces found in a women’s hybrid tailored jacket. Image captured from class video.

Lesson six focuses on hybrid tailoring. It involves a mixture of both fusible interfacings and canvas, and it takes advantage the sewing machine for its pad stitching. It sounds like a very fast method of tailoring, which is intriguing and might make you wonder about using it in your next jacket project, but Alison reminds us it’s not the right method unless you’re using a thicker coating fabric. However, she also mentions that some men’s wear tailoring uses this method on occasion. Alison first goes over the basic construction of hybrid tailoring. The hybrid is so named because modern interfacings are used on the front, armhole, and under collar pieces, and traditional interfacings are used on the shoulder. When she turned the coat around to show us the back, I was surprised to see how little of the coat is actually interfaced. I guess because the fabric has enough structure of its own? Next, Alison goes over making the pattern pieces and applying them to the coat, most of which pull from techniques already covered in previous classes. The machine pad stitching is new, but it’s really fast and easy to pick up, especially when compared to all of the hand pad stitching done in the traditional tailoring method. I would love to try out this method since it seemed so straight forward, but I would want to be absolutely sure I was starting with the right fashion fabric. I definitely don’t think it’s right for my current jacket project.

Sew Well + Craftsy's Essential Guide to Tailoring: Structure & Shape by Alison Smith
A tailored pencil skirt kick pleat. Image captured from class video.

Lesson seven is the last lesson in the series, and it covers tailoring a shawl collar jacket, a collarless jacket, a pencil skirt, and a pair of slim trousers. For the shawl collar jacket, Alison shows examples of both traditional and modern tailoring and notes the similarities and differences between the earlier class examples with a standard jacket lapel and the examples with the shawl collar. For the collarless jacket, she only shows an example of modern tailoring, but if you were going for a Peter Pan-style collar out of a traditional fabric, which she says would fall in this collarless category even though it does technically have a collar, I could imagine how you could translate from the modern example that she shows to what you would need to do using traditional tailoring. Finally, she finishes with some non-jacket examples, which rounded out the class nicely. I made sure to note here that interfacings can help stabilize pocket openings when they’re cut on the slight bias and places where you want nice, crisp lines, like the kick pleat of a skirt. And, that’s it. The end of the class. Only seven lessons, but a crazy amount of material.

Okay, so now to turn my focus back to Vogue V8333. I’m not yet ready to start tailoring since I’m currently still in the process of prepping my pattern pieces for tailoring. Steps 1-3 of Vogue V8333 are all about cutting and marking, and while I’ve made good progress here, I’m not yet finished with all of the recommended marking. However, after watching these classes, I’m now considering taking a step backwards and interlining in voile, as Alison did in her traditional tailoring example, since she said hair canvas can show through light colored fabrics. With four years of dormancy already in the books, I figure I can take the extra time to make sure I get these first steps right. Then, it’ll be on to the actual tailoring! My desire to practice what I’ve just learned should ensure that I don’t lose motivation yet again.

If you’re in the same boat as me and have a tailoring project you’d like to tackle but think that you could use a bit of hand holding through the process, or if you’re curious about the differences between traditional, modern, and hybrid tailoring, I have good news. For the next week you can get 50% off Alison Smith’s Craftsy class Essential Guide to Tailoring: Structure and Shape. The sale ends March 15th at 11:59 pm MT.

If you’ve never taken a Craftsy class before, an upside is that once you sign up for a class, you have access to that class forever, which is nice in case you want to go back and rewatch a lesson or two a few years from now before starting another similar project. Or, in case you set aside a tailoring project for four years (ahem). But, a downside is that you can only watch online – there’s no downloading of classes, at least not to my knowledge. [UPDATE: I’ve just learned that you can download classes and watch them offline on the Craftsy platform!] Also, if you want to see what a Craftsy class is like before committing $20+ to one, there are plenty of free mini classes to try first. One I’d recommend is the Mastering Zipper Techniques class by Sunni Standing of A Fashionable Stitch. If you try it and like the format, then you’ll know the longer paid class will be worth it. But, I will warn you: these classes are addictive. I have way more free and paid classes than I’ve been able to keep up with. Thankfully, I’ve made the time to watch all of the paid classes I’ve signed up for, even if I don’t have finished dresses to show for all of them.  But, many of the free classes that I’ve signed up for I haven’t even started! They cover all manner of topics from cake decorating to sewing to wood working – perfect for those who desire to be a jack of all trades (as I must!).

Okay, well, this post has gotten long enough. It’s time I got off the computer and got back to my sewing. Here’s to conquering tailoring in 2016!

 Craftsy offered me a free class for review in honor of National Craft Month. I chose Alison Smith’s Craftsy class Essential Guide to Tailoring: Structure and Shape because of my desire to learn more about tailoring and finally finish my Vogue V8333 jacket. If you like what you’ve read and buy the class through the affiliate links above, a small percentage of the purchase price may come back to me.  All opinions are my own.

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13 thoughts on “Tuesdays with Alison: Learning about Tailoring

  1. So fun! I picked up this pattern recently from a friend who was clearing out her stash before a move, but I’m pretty intimidated by all the fitting that’s involved! Where to start?! But I’m excited to see your jacket come together.

      1. I’d like to, although, when my winter coat is still in pieces without so much as a stitch sewn, I’m not too optimistic! 🙂 But I’d like to have it ready to go for the fall! How about you?

      2. I’m going to keep at it – baby steps is going to be my motto! But, I imagine it’ll take me awhile as my sewing time has gotten really crunched lately. First step – get some voile and underline!

  2. Your journey will be fun to watch, as I bought Alison’s classes with V8333 in mind as pattern for a summer jacket! Did you also watch part 2 (construction) and 3 (finishing) of the series? Lots of info about buttonholes in the third class! Good luck with your jacket!

    1. No, I’ve just watched this first class. Did you enjoy the other two? I definitely might need more info about button holes when the time comes…

  3. You can download classes for viewing offline on the Craftsy platform. I do this a lot -perfect for travel (or a few days in hospital, as I found out recently).

  4. Oh, know just how you feel! I’ve just finished a jacket following the Stefani Lincecum’s Classic Tailoring class on Craftsy. It does take a lot of focus and commitment to make a jacket with all the classic tailoring features especially when each step requires watching and possibly re-watching the video first. There is one advantage with the pattern used by this class (although I did use a different jacket New Look 6035, but the same applies) as it only has one button-hole to do. Seriously, a practice button-hole and the real one is quite enough when learning this technique, otherwise it takes for ever and I find it a bit nerve-wracking cutting into the fabric! I’m very pleased with the result overall and I’m sure your jacket will be awesome once it’s finished. Thanks for this useful piece of information – “the roll line typically goes from the collar notch to the center of the top buttonhole” – would have been very useful when I was making my jacket, since I was using the video with a different jacket pattern (typically me, I never can do things the easy way!). Good luck with the rest of the jacket!

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