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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Unlined jacket tutorial

1883_SW_EN_K5_U5.inddAs a complement to the summer dress I just made as part of an ongoing sewing contest, I made this interesting casual jacket.  While I doubt I'll ever make the included dress, I really liked the design of this jacket (trying to see past the model wearing it in my favorite color,  and then I did it in the same thing!) and used this opportunity to try it out.

Again, I thought I would point out some of the techniques I used outside of the typical pattern directions.  Perhaps you may find some of them useful, too.

Unlined Jacket Tute 02
Making lemonade from a lemon

Because I have so much stash from so many years of sewing, I'm trying to do this contest only using fabric I already have at hand.  Because some of it has been around for so long, there are a few casualties here and there.  Unfortunately, this beautiful piece of heavy cotton ended up with a few fade lines scattered all over. 

Rather than consider it ruined, I attempted to cut this jacket out of it, trying to avoid the faded areas.  I thought I was rather clever to mark them with masking tape so they would really stand out, as some of them almost didn't show up depending on how the light hit.  As you might imagine, it ended up being a nightmare experience, but persistence paid off!

Unlined Jacket Tute 03
Pattern alteration

A standard alteration I have to make is lengthening the back about an inch.  This pattern didn't have any markings for that.  When I added my own in the typical area, I discovered that it ran right through the middle of the tuck detail, while the closure stayed up too high. 

The only solution I could figure out was to alter it above the tucks and buttons, but that put it into including the collar.  So I had to lengthen them as well.  This is an alteration I've never made before, so I was a bit nervous that it was going to work properly.

As you can see, I also did my newfound trick of pinching the neck to avoid gaping, which had to be done on all pieces touching the neckline.  Sometimes it takes longer to prepare the pattern pieces than to make the actual garment, and sometimes it's a lot harder to figure out what alterations are necessary than the level of difficulty of the actual pattern!

Unlined Jacket Tute 04
Finishing off the dart point
When I first learned to sew, the technique being taught for finishing a dart involved tying the thread tails in a knot, as you never want to backstitch the point of a dart.  What a pain.  However, early on a teacher showed this different trick, which I have now been doing over 40 years.  When you come to the end of the dart, just keep stitching thin air for a little bit, then enchain the next thing to be sewed.  You'd think it would all come apart after being cut, but it's worked for me all my life.  Try it!

Unlined Jacket Tute 05
Before and after loop turn

This particular design involves making a little fabric button loop.  It's the same technique as making spaghetti straps.  Most directions tell you how to turn them with thread and a needle, but it's really worth the investment to get this fabulous little tool, called a loop turner (imagine that).

Typically, a loop is made by sewing down the middle of the fabric cut four times wider than whatever size you want to end up with, on the bias.  Do not trim the seam allowance, as that is what gives structure and support to the loop.  If you have this tool, you just slide it on, then catch the top in the hook, and start feeding the rest of the fabric over it until you have it all turned right side out. 

It can be a bit tricky getting it started, and it can definitely be tricky with thick cotton that doesn't like to slide on itself (thus the frayed edges when I finally succeeded).  It works beautifully on slinky thin fabric, though.  And now I have a nice fabric loop for my decorative button closure.

In my early years, I hated doing facings.  Interfacing wasn't iron-on yet, so you had to baste the two together, then try to turn under the edge of the two 1/4" and stitch it to finish off the raw edge.  It was never nice and smooth and pretty, trying to get all that turned under so little on curves.  Somewhere along the line I was taught a different way, and I've never looked back. 

Unlined Jacket Tute 06
Edgestiching facing interfacing

Wherever you will have an interfaced raw edge to be turned under, don't iron on the interfacing.  If it involves a neckline, sew together the shoulder seams of both the fabric and the interfacing (to themselves).  Trim the seam allowance of the interfacing.  Place the raw edges right sides together (like two pieces of fabric) and stitch the 1/4".  Then open up the seam as much as possible and edgestitch onto the interfacing side.  That will help turn the edge nicely, although I usually don't bother edgestitching with a simple facing. 

Unlined Jacket Tute 07
Interfaced side of facing

Then you can carefully press the edge flat and continue ironing on the rest of the interfacing as usual. 

I find that this creates a really nice and smooth finish, especially nice on an unlined jacket where the edge might be seen.  But it's just easier to do in general anyway.

Unlined Jacket Tute 08
Hong Kong finish

There are several different ways to finish off the seams of an unlined jacket so that it has a refined look when not being worn.  A technique that's been around a long time but one I only learned fairly recently is called a Hong Kong finish.  I'm assuming that came from the world-renowned tailoring done there in the past (or maybe still).  That involves covering the raw edges of the seam allowances with bias tape. 

I've seen some fairly wild trim being used today to create a really fun garment.  I stayed a bit more subdued the first time I tried it on this gray jacket. 

Another finish I have used is to overcast the seam allowances and trim off the excess.  (Sergers didn't exist back in the day, but the overcast stitch did.  I think a serger cuts off the excess while my scissors in my little hand cut mine off, but the end result is the same.)  This is not as nice a finish, but it was fine for a boxy casual corduroy jacket.

Unlined Jacket Tute 09
Seam allowance finish
For this jacket, I simply used another technique I've used in the past, which also gives a fairly nice finish.  It's especially useful if you have sleeves you'd like to roll up so that the seam allowance ends up being visible.  After sewing the seam, press it open.  Then press under the raw edges as neatly as you can, then edgestitch them.

As you can see, that gives a nice inconspicuous but sturdy finish to the jacket interior.  I do it to all visible seams except the armscye.  I still overcast that one.  I don't do the shoulder seam, either, as it is often covered anyway by the facing, or most of it is covered and the remaining bit isn't worth it.

Unlined Jacket Tute 10
Facing edge and seam allowance finish
Unlined Jacket Tute 11
Enclosed facing edge

Here are several examples of the finished facing described above and the seam finishing I used for this jacket.

You can also glimpse the tails of the back darts.

Back when I had customers, I ordered a ton of labels to personalize my work.  I see today that they call this style vintage.  Humph.  Now I use them when sewing gifts, or for myself when making something where the interior might be seen, such as a jacket.  It adds a nice personalized touch (and proves to doubters that it really is my own work!).  I think many of today's machines can do some really nice embroidery, and I've seen some really fancy and pretty home designed labels.  As I don't have that option, I'll just continue being original old-fashioned   vintage .  It's still a nice touch.

Unlined Jacket Tute 12
Finished interior of jacket

Here is how the whole jacket looks from the inside.  Doesn't it have a nice clean finished look? 

I don't think any of the techniques involved in creating it are particularly any harder to do than any other type of finish, but I wouldn't be embarrassed for anybody to pick it up and look at it.

I have been using these techniques for years, and I know they hold up quite well with a lot of usage.

Unlined Jacket Tute 13
Front tuck detail and button

Here is how the front pleated detail came out.  It does actually look like the picture, which isn't always the case.  It called for a large button, so I went looking through this collection of somewhat antique buttons I got at a flea market.  I happened to find this bold clear textured button I thought would be just right and didn't need to match anything. 

Unlined Jacket Tute 14

However, I also found a clear blue button that was pretty but fairly beat up, not nice enough to use on anything new.  That seemed just perfect for the inside button that mostly won't really be seen.  Nice when things work out so well.

Unlined Jacket Tute 15
Finished jacket
Unlined Jacket Tute 16
Jacket with matching dress
And now, here's the finished result with the dress it was designed to go with.  I think it creates a fairly nice casual summer outfit with a little warmth protection for chilly evenings. 

You can check out my review of the pattern if you'd like to learn more about it.

I hope you've enjoyed learning about some of the little tricks of the trade I've learned over the years that you may not have come across yourselves.

Stay tuned for more aspects of this wardrobe adventure if it interests you (and if you like the color turquoise).  And if you've just dropped by and possibly picked up any new tips, please feel free to leave me a comment and let me know!

NB: The contest is now over, voting lasts all this week, it will be interesting to see which wardrobe interests the voting public the most.  Please check out my combined entry (blog post/site review) to see how this jacket coordinated with all my other items per contest rules.  Knowing how to make something is only part of the big picture.  Making anything wearable with anything else is another important aspect.  Hopefully others will think I managed to achieve that in a pleasing fashion.


  1. The jacket is gorgeous and looks sensational with the dress. No cat assistance this time?

  2. This is a great jacket. And this is the best tutorial so far.

  3. I'm sorry. I just went back again and looked at the jacket and I really, really do like it.

  4. This is nice! Persistence really did pay off!

  5. Your sister posted the link to your blog on FB. I really like your explanations! Being mature age and refreshing myself on long unused clothing sewing skills thanks for the tips! Sue in Tasmania.


  6. Great tutorial. Nice jacket, I like all the detail on it.

  7. hello from ky .love the jacket as well as the dress,they went together well ,love your sewing tips thanks again

  8. Love your blog. Will be following you.


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