The Modern Vintage Jacket, Part 2: Cutting, Marking, Seams

Work on the jacket continues.

Pattern Adjustments

When tailoring from a commercial pattern, there’s some additional pattern work that goes on before fabric cutting. We draft new pieces for linings and usually pieces for facings and interfacings as a consequence of fitting the main garment.

One issue I encountered with the original pattern has to do with the amount of ease in the upper area of the sleeve cap. A tailored jacket always has some amount of ease, anywhere from 1 1/2″ to (I have heard) in some cases 3″. The ease is essential in order for the cap to stand up from the shoulder, and also to accommodate the internal padding that is included in the shoulder area.

Worksheet from my notebook, comparing ease on sleeve cap to armscye

The pattern as drafted by Vogue had only 7/8″ ease in the sleeve cap. Additionally, the sleeve actually had 3/16″ negative ease in the underarm area at front, which normally should be drafted one-to-one. I don’t know if that was intentional on the part of the pattern drafters. On the Facebook group “Sew Manly”, a self-described tailor had this to say:

“Don’t assume the negative ease is an error. It may be there to create a subtle curve and help the sleeve sit into the armscye.”

Whether that’s true or not, most patterns have no ease at all in this area and eliminating that negative ease will make construction a lot simpler to deal with. As part of the garment fitting process, I eliminated all ease in the underarm area, and added ease at the top of the sleeve cap for a total of 1 1/2 inches in that area.

Adding ease to the sleevecap. I distributed the extra ease at two points front and back, and also added ease at the seam between the top sleeve and undersleeve.

Another pattern challenge has to do with the back vent. Normally the inside-facing flap of the vent is lined, but in this jacket there is no lining, so the vents must be finished another way. I discovered the clue for what to do by inspecting online photos of other unlined garments with a vent; they solve the issue by covering the flap with a facing made from the lining fabric (as in this photo from the above website).

I drafted my own facing piece for the inside vents, to be cut from lining fabric. The vent flap (in white) will be turned to the other side of the seam, where it will be covered by the facing (in yellow).


I knew that I was potentially short on the linen fabric for my project, so I wanted to lay everything out in one go so I could tweak the placement of the pattern pieces for the best usage of fabric. I have a folding pattern table that is 72 inches long fully extended, which was still not long enough to accomodate the entire cut of fabric.

I jury-rigged a solution to extend the cutting surface just a bit further using an ironing board and a cutting mat. I couldn’t cut in that area, but I could use it for layout. Which was a good thing, because I used all the fabric. I had to arrange some pattern pieces with seam allowances in the selvage to get everything to fit.

There is literally nothing left for re-cutting any piece, probably not even a pocket flap. I have enough spare to use for welts, and that’s it. I’m committed now.


I’m not a fan of chalk marking for a long project like this one; the chalk marks fade relatively quickly and leave you guessing. Previous experience has taught me that accurate markings of pattern notches are really crucial for tasks such as setting the sleeves and collar. Even though you may not place them exactly as the markings indicate, it’s essential to have them as reference points as you tweak the pieces to make them hang properly.

I thread-traced the notches, fold lines for hems and roll line, darts, grain line, and seam lines. The seam lines in particular are thread-traced 1/8 into the seam allowance; for instance, where there is a 5/8″ seam allowance, I traced the threads at 1/2″. This is good enough to allow for accurate stitching but avoids having the thread marks caught up in the stitch, where they can be unpleasant to remove.

Finishing the Seam Allowances

Becuase the jacket is unlined, the internal seams (back, side, facings) must all be finished. The most attractive way to do this is with the Hong Kong finish. It wraps the edges of the seam allowances in fabric, creating a beautiful border effect. The binding fabric is cut on the bias, to navigate curves.

The binding fabric is a very flowy silk, that works well for the binding because it is thin and adds little bulk to the finished seam. But it is shifty, stretchy and hard to handle especially on the bias. I hand-basted the bindings before stitching them to stabilize the layers, but I think a walking foot would have also helped.

It’s best to do the Hong Kong finish on all the seams that need it immediately after cutting, because it’s much easier to apply before the seams are sewn. I also finished the hems, but I realized that was a mistake and I left the hems in a half-finished state. I will come back and finish the hems once all the seams are sewn, because that will allow me to finish the hems with one continuous strip of binding.

Pictured here are the back pieces and the inside facings. The facings are joined together with the lining, and the inside edge (facing – back lining – facing) is bound in one fell swoop.

Next Time

We’ll talk about pockets.

The Modern Vintage Jacket, Part 1: Preliminaries and Fitting

I have been enjoying the online Tailoring classes offered by Lynda Maynard through her website. Her Tailoring class is a repeat of the class I took in person at City College in the fall of 2017. For me it is a nice opportunity to make a jacket from start to finish as a sewalong, and an opportunity to further my tailoring skills.


For the original class I used an in-print Vogue jacket pattern with good results, but this time I wanted to try something different. I rummaged through my pattern stash and found this vintage pattern, Vogue 9445. I honestly don’t know where this pattern came from. Once you start sewing, things start finding you – fabric, notions, patterns. People clear out their stashes and pass things on. I just know that the pattern was there, waiting for someone to give it new life.

Men’s fashion from 1958.

Some Internet research says this pattern comes from 1958. The style is somewhat long and boxy, with rounded shoulder seams, three buttons with a short lapel, and very rounded/shaped sleeves.

View B also has some rather round, almost kidney bean-shaped patch pockets.

Patch pockets.

I’m tempted to say this is an example of “Ivy League” style of menswear, which was sported by the likes of Paul Newman and President John F. Kennedy. Let’s just say it’s a product of its time and a fun project to recreate as a “modern vintage” project.

The pattern as provided by Vogue is also a half-lined style, meaning it has a partial lining in the back (down to just below the shoulder blades) and no lining anywhere else. I’ve chosen to retain that style rather than fully line the jacket, because I really like this look with the exposed seam allowances, and I’m looking to try out new techniques in this project.


The main fabric is a cut of indigo checked linen I purchased at Britex Fabrics a few years ago, with the intent of making a jacket. It has a really nice sheen, which I preserved by having the fabric steam-pressed at the local dry cleaners, rather than attempting to prewash, which would have totally changed the hand, texture and appearance of the fabric.

I’m using two types of lining for the jacket. The back lining is an iridescent red paisley rayon/acetate I purchased from WAWAK after checking out the offerings locally and from tailoring suppliers online. The WAWAK offering might be a bit pedestrian in a way, but it looks really nice and I think it will work out well.

Menswear jackets traditionally have a striped lining in the sleeves, and for that I managed to find a cut of striped acetate at the Britex Fabrics 30%-off sale, which plays well with the other fabrics.

Fabrics for this project.

The exposed seam allowances are bound with a Hong Kong finish. I am using some red silk chiffon from Fabric Outlet in San Francisco’s Mission district. The color perfectly matches the iridescent red paisley of the back lining and contrasts nicely with the indigo linen.

Tailoring Techniques

I wanted to use the project to try out some new tailoring techniques. One of them I’ve already mentioned – creating a half-lined jacket with bound internal seam allowances. Some of the other things I’m trying out include:

  • Tailoring with linen, and how it differs from wool for tailoring purposes. Wool is moldable with heat and steam, and it retains its shape after it cools. Linen isn’t quite as adaptable, but it is used for tailored garments and I wanted to understand the difference firsthand.
  • Patch Pockets – the first jacket I made had welt pockets. I’m choosing to make patch pockets on the front of this jacket, partly because they are so oddly shaped in this pattern, but also because I wanted to skip all the work involved in making welt pockets. That second idea didn’t last too long, as I decided to make welt pockets in the inside facing.
  • Single welt pocket – on my first jacket I cheated a bit and made a rectangular handkerchief pocket because I didn’t want to try making a single welt pocket on an angle, the way chest pockets are traditionally done on a tailored jacket. This time around I want to work on my single welt pocket skills.


The class is divided into three six-week sessions. The first six-week session was devoted to basics such as tailoring materials and hand-stitches, but it was mostly about fitting. The students all created muslin test garments and we fitted them together with guidance from Lynda Maynard.

I don’t have a detailed recount the fitting process, partly because it is so iterative. I went through three muslin garments before I arrived at something that fit well and was ready to cut from fashion fabric.

My fitting issues are pretty familiar to me by now: I have poor posture because of forward rounded shoulders, a product of a career of decades sitting in front of a computer keyboard and screen. The solution is to add strips of fabric to the back to add more length to the back. The back was tight across the shoulder blades, so I had to add some width to the back.

Finally, I needed to add more circumference to accommodate my extra-round tummy.

Pattern alteration to add circumference in the front, below the chest area.

The most persistent problem was fabric that puddled along the back neckline. This persisted despite several attempts on my part to cure it by adjusting the back neckline.

The puddle of fabric that won’t go away

Eventually I scheduled an in-person fitting session with Lynda where she fixed it by releasing and adjusting the shoulder seam. Here’s the pattern alteration, with the new shoulder seamline shown in blue. The neckline is also lowered in back, and finally there is the equivalent of a dart at the center neckline, to take out some extra fabric there as well. (The front pattern piece is not altered for this adjustment).

Pattern alteration to fix puddling neckline.

With the fitting completed, I felt I had completed a huge project. In fact, I had just gotten started.

Next Time

We’ll do some more pattern work, then get to cutting, marking, and seam finishing.

Boxerbriefs Progress Report

Time for a report on the boxerbriefs project.

Truth be told, this may be a project where I have bitten off more I can chew. I’m making a total of 20 pair assembly-line style, which means a lot of repetitive work, and each step takes a long time. Plus, it’s been several months ssince I began this project, and my enthusiasm has defintely evaporated since the project began. But, I don’t like UFO projects and so finish this I will.

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Make My Boxerbriefs: The Sequel (Part 1)

I decided recently I wanted to make another batch of boxer briefs, as I had done before. Making underwear is a great way to use up the scraps of knit fabric lying around in your fabric stash, and get a result that fits great and is comfortable. In my case, I had also bought yardage specifically for the project, and I got some knit fabric at swap meets that would be perfect for the project.

But, the project has turned out to be a bit of an albatross. It’s become something of a UFO (un-finished project): I started it this past winter, put it aside because other projects and teaching commitments became a priority, and now I’m not feeling the enthusisam to finish. But, finish it I will because I firmly oppose UFOs.

But first, let’s talk about boxerbrief patterns.

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Industrial Feed Dog adjustments, and Face Masks

I had originally intended this article to be about the batch of face masks I stitched up to get acquainted with my new sewing machine. But, I couldn’t resist getting nerdy over the feed dog adjustments on an industrial sewing machine.

Industrial Feed Dogs

An industrial sewing machine is meant to do one specific task, and to do it over and over again. If you are working in a factory and sewing a batch of 5000 dresses, it’s worthwhile to configure the machine to work well for just that job, down the point of swapping out parts as necessary.

As I mentioned in my last article, industrial machines have replaceable feed dogs. There are several varieties, each aimed at a different type of material. Generally, feed dogs intended for light-weight fabrics have many teeth of finer weight; those for heavy fabrics have larger, coarser teeth.

Given the kind of sewing I plan to do most often, I decided to swap in lightweight feed dogs for the ones that came with the machine. At some point when I get into jeans-making, I’ll have to repeat the process to install heavy-weight feed dogs. But it does mean I have to plan out the projects I want to make if I want to avoid continuously futzing with the machine.

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