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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Open the cut and top stitch a piece of bias cut canvas under it, keeping slit open by 1/2 inch (along shoulder seam).
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.
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.
Close the dart by butting the raw edges together and zigzag stitch over (don’t worry about a covering fabric).
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.
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.
Trim the armhole shape back (using the canvas as a guide).
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.
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.
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.
This is the ‘real’ canvas (I remembered 1 photo at least!)
Flip everything back over, slipstitch the flannel to the canvas (ignore shoulder and arm seam) and remove the basting.
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