Home Tailored Suit Part 2 – Canvas Interfacing

Following on from my last post, we have the suit fronts cut and the pockets assembled so it is time to think about interfacing the jacket. Anyone who sews will come across the term ‘interfacing’ at some point in their sewing adventures. Interfacing is, normally, some form of fabric that is either sewn or fused to the garment fabric. It can add stiffness, shape or structure to a garment but on a tailored jacket it is all done a little differently.

Canvas Interfacing

A good quality tailored jacket generally, has canvas for interfacing to give shape and structure to the front. Many cheaper made jackets will skip the canvas and use a fusible interfacing to add stiffness/shape. Whilst this cheaper (and quicker) method does work, to an extent, it will never drape as well as a canvassed jacket or take the shape of the wearer over time; it will certainly last longer. A garment can be fully canvassed (from shoulder to hem) or half canvassed (shoulder/chest area). Canvas comes in a variety of weights and a can be made of different materials: Traditional wool/hair blends tend to be the norm but have a look at Kenton Trimmings or MacCulloch & Wallis who sell a vast range of suitable tailoring canvas.

So here we have the jacket fronts (with finished pockets) ready for canvassing and you will certainly notice how saggy it all looks!

interfacing 1

I have decided to make a full canvas construction for this jacket as the suiting fabric is fairly lightweight. But is it really worth going to all this effort? Everything you are about to see in this post will be hidden from view when the jacket is finished. Canvassing always seemed to be a dark art of tailoring but is definitely worth the effort and is actually quite straightforward. NOTE! Constructing a canvas requires a considerable amount of hand sewing and time: Be warned!

Cut out the canvas fronts using the front pattern piece but cut out larger by 1/2 inch around all sides except the back. Cut about 4 inches wider down the back edge. There is no right or wrong sides on the canvas but remember you are making a left and right hand piece so mark a wrong side on each canvas accordingly.

Interfacing canvas

The back edge of the canvas is shaped based upon the waistline and dart position on the pattern. Use this diagram as a measurement guide. The sizes given have been taken from various sources but seem to work well. The green line is the front pattern shape, red line the canvas and blue lines show the waistline, roll line and centre of dart positions.

interfacing canvas shape

Now, at this stage in the post I hit a problem! Someone didn’t take enough photos of all the steps involved. Well I recut a canvas but to a smaller scale for demonstrating the steps. So here we go:

After cutting out the canvas, cut open the dart and the waist from dart to back edge. Mark the position of the roll line (where the lapel will roll), this is important for later stages. This image is showing the WRONG side up, (closest to the wearer) so we are working on the RH canvas.

interfacing canvas shape

Shaping the Canvas

Now we move on to shaping the flat canvas to shape the jacket.

Firstly the shoulder area needs a little curve. Divide the shoulder seam into thirds and nearest the neck cut down 3 inches into the canvas.

interfacing canvas shape

Open the cut and top stitch a piece of bias cut canvas under it, keeping slit open by 1/2 inch (along shoulder seam).

interfacing canvas shape

Now we move to the chest and waist darts. Bias cut a piece of pocketing material (plain cotton is fine) big enough to cover the dart. Close the dart by butting the edges together and topstitch the pocketing over the closed dart. Reinforce with a zigzag stitch. The waistline cut will be naturally pulled closed when the dart is closed; again topstitch and zigzag a piece of pocketing over to keep it in place.

interfacing canvas shape

The canvas should now have started to take a defined shape over the chest and shoulder but more work is required. A ‘plastron’ is made to sit over the chest area. Traditionally ‘haircloth’ is used but you can use some leftover canvas. Measure your canvas from the shoulder to 2 inches above the waistline (SDWL) and cut the plastron as shown.

interfacing canvas shape

Close the dart by butting the raw edges together and zigzag stitch over (don’t worry about a covering fabric).

interfacing canvas shape

The plastron is placed along the shoulder seam with the dart towards the front of the jacket 1/2 inch away from the roll line. Cut the top edge parallel to the shoulder seam about 2 inches down. Make 2 cuts down either side of the shoulder dart. 1/2 inch either side and 1 inch long.

interfacing canvas shape

Now add a piece of bias cut collar canvas (linen works just as well) to cover the top edge of the plastron by about 1 inch to canvas a 3 inches over plastron.

interfacing canvas shape

Trim the armhole shape back (using the canvas as a guide).

interfacing canvas shape

Finally cover the whole thing with a piece of flannel (The flannel side will sit closest to the wearer so will keep things soft). Make sure the flannel is 1/4 inch from the roll line and is cut larger all round to completely cover the plastron area.  Baste everything in place.

interfacing canvas shape

Needle and thread time

Now, I did warn you about a lot of hand stitching. Well now it begins!

Flip the canvas over and mark a guideline parallel to the roll line, down the centre of the plastron area. Mark around the edge of the plastron as shown.

interfacing canvas shape

Starting at the centre of the plastron area, parallel to the roll line, begin pad stitching. Continue until the whole plastron area is pad stitched in place. Don’t worry about the pad stitches showing on the other side. This pad stitching will shape the chest area naturally and gently as you go. Take your time and try to keep the stitches even and neat.

interfacing canvas shape

This is the ‘real’ canvas (I remembered 1 photo at least!)

interfacing canvas shape

Flip everything back over, slipstitch the flannel to the canvas (ignore shoulder and arm seam) and remove the basting.

interfacing canvas shape

You should have 2 canvas fronts ready for attaching to the jacket. Yes it was a lot of work but the time taken will prove more beneficial than you might think. In the next post we will attach the canvas to the jacket fronts and tackle the lapels (more hand stitching to come!)

Until next time……Happy Sewing


16 thoughts on “Home Tailored Suit Part 2 – Canvas Interfacing”

  1. Thank you for such a wonderful demonstration. This is incredibly helpful. Do you also try to shape the pad stitching over the roll (as you would when you attach the interfacing to the jacket), or do you not need to at this stage?

    Thank you again

    1. The canvas will have a natural curve over the chest (due to the pad stitching). The fronts have been stretched at the same point so the canvas and fronts will go together easily. The roll line shaping is done after attaching canvas and forms part of the lapel pad stitching. Hope that helps?

  2. Thank you. I’m working on my first jacket so it’s all a work in progress and I rely on tutorials like this one. I’ve seen several videos demonstrating how to shape the lapel when pad stitching (rolling it over the fingers, etc.) but nothing about pad stitching/whether to try to shape the plastron area too. I didn’t realize the pad stitching would give they area a natural curve! Thanks again.

  3. Hey Jamie, in this step if you baste the flannel before you hand stitch them together does that mean that the stitches are supposed to show through the flannel. Thanks

    1. Hi Nathan. Yes the padding stitches secure the canvas, chest canvas and flannel together. The padding stitches should just be visible on the flannel.

  4. Hey jamie.
    There are different weights of floating canvas , but how do you choose the suitable one for the fabric you’re using? I live in a mostly hot climate region for most the year, any suggestions to the weights comfortable for this hot climate?

    Which threads are you using for pad stitching, and stitching the canvas to the wool fabric?

    1. Hi, Use a suitable weight based on the weight of the fabric and amount of drape you want. ie. Lightweight canvas for a summer casual blazer or heavyweight for a firm double breasted winter suit. I use Gunsoft 40 thread for pad stitching and basting.

  5. In addition to my question, what kind of canvas is recommended for fabrics like corduroy, velvet, tweeds? Maybe answering this gives me clarified perspective on how to purchase canvas

  6. Hi Jamie, thank’s for this comprehensive blog. I have a question about the plastron.
    You marked it to be 6″ wide on the pattern, but when I do this it ends up about 2″ before it reaches the armhole. Do have have to alter the measurements of the plastron to visually fit your example?

  7. hello! im looking to make a coat out of wool Gabardine Fabric but im not sure what weight canvas to use. its for winter, but im making a historical womens coat and will be worn over several layers including corset, skirt, waistcoat, ect. ive never tailored before (so scared) so im hoping you’ll be able to help!

    1. I will discuss canvas weights in more detail in my online tailoring course. But I would go for canvas of a similar weight to the fabric or very slightly heavier. Hope that helps!

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