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Aug 10, 2010

How to Sew a Men's Suit


Readers, have you ever experienced something akin to an out-of-body experience, where you heard your voice saying something entirely independent of your brain, your heart, and all sense of reason?

I did, yesterday, when I swear I caught myself -- in the same pleasing, resonant voice I recognized immediately as my own -- saying to Michael: "I'll make you a suit."

Folks, I'm 99% sure that was me.  I'm making Michael a suit and I'm starting today.

The backstory:

In mid-September, Michael's mother turns 70, and she has requested that the entire family sit for a formal portrait, a copy of which she will subsequently hang in the living room (hers).  She has made it clear that she wants the men in suits, dress shirts and ties.

Michael decided that he would use the occasion as an excuse to buy himself a new suit.

It won't come as a surprise to any long-time reader of Male Pattern Boldness that I think Michael has bad taste in clothes -- is that wrong to say?  He's a very lovely person and a wonderful cook, but when it comes to dressing himself...what's the word....?  Oh, yeah:  Ugh. 

He's a classical singer/math-science person so it should come as no surprise I suppose.  Hey, no throwing things!  Slowly but surely I have been replacing his wardrobe with my own Shecky Homecky creations.  And readers, can I just say up front that it is a big improvement.  BIG.

Michael actually does own a suit somewhere in the back of his closet -- something so badly fitting, so nauseatingly moss-hued, so Nineties, that I am loathe to remind him of it.

We were discussing this September-photo-session-from-heck when I had the out-of-body experience I alluded to above.  I'm trying to psyche myself up by looking at it as an exercise that will help me make myself a really great suit later on, otherwise I might not be able to find the inspiration. 

Those who knew me pre-MPB on Pattern Review will remember that I actually have sewn a suit before -- that warp-print flowered creation up top.  My dirty little secret, however, is that while the pants continue to serve me well even if they didn't impress the badly nearsighted Isaac Mizrahi last Saturday night, the jacket has never been worn out of the house: it is unlined and I never added buttons to the sleeves.

I also made this jacket only four months into my sewing career.  It took a week and I was really flying blind, but I did end up with a credible garment, albeit one that just hangs you-know-where with the other one.  I had some problems with the lining and the back flap which were never remedied.  It could also use a good pressing.



Now, these many months later, I approach this new suit project with an entirely new arsenal:



I probably have way more information than I need for this.  (I also have Sandra Betzina's Linings A to Z.)  Can you think of anything I'm missing?  Actually, I don't even want to know.

I'm going to use this vintage pattern I picked up on Etsy months ago and haven't used yet:



So this is what's in store for you guys for the indeterminate future, hopefully interspersed with more entertaining fare.

Readers, what do you think?  Should I have simply directed Michael to the nearest Brooks Brothers?   Am I up for this project?  More importantly: are you?

To be honest, I'm kind of excited.  Especially because he's paying for all the materials hence I'll get to use nicer stuff than I'm used to.  Better fabrics are much easier to work with -- or so I've been told.

In conclusion, I ask you:  What's the most challenging thing you've ever sewn?

Have you ever taken on a really big project that turned out even better than you'd hoped?

Do you think it's a bit much to ask an entire family to sit for a portrait and tell them how to dress for it just because you're turning seventy?  (My mother turned eighty and was content with a big salad, a little champagne, and a pair of loud chihuahuas.)

I await your wise counsel.

UPDATE: Check out the suit I made myself in July 2014 here.

60 comments:

  1. Good luck! I'd say - go ahead! You might find some of the information from this blog useful (maybe you knew about it already?):
    http://tuttofattoamano.blogspot.com/2010/06/on-stripes-and-lapels.html

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  2. I actually think the portrait is a lovely idea---my mother-in-law did something similar just before starting chemo a few years back (she's fine now, fortunately).

    I imagine one of these days I'll attempt to make my husband a suit---after I've figured out a bit more about fitting in general and made myself a few blazers, I think, since he's rather oddly-shaped. (He looked into getting a suit tailored once years ago and the tailor told him it couldn't be done. He's not quite as ridiculously V-shaped as he was back then, but he's still hard to fit). Tailoring is something I can spend a lot of time reading about---but am still thoroughly intimidated by.

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  3. Yes, make the suit! You'll probably learn a lot while doing it and you can keep all of us informed. You can even refer to yourself as a tailor when you're done. I've never made a suit and would like to know more about it. If it's a disaster then go to Brooks and buy a suit (or the Salvation Army).

    Most challenging thing I've ever sewn? Hmmm, I guess that would be the first time I used knit fabric. I considered it a challenge at the time.

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  4. Most difficult? Probably the dress I made for my mom, which had 147 pintucks. Each of which I had to measure carefully to ensure they were straight and parallel to each other. Lots of fun back then, but I shudder to think of doing it again!

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  5. Do the portrait! My father dressed up and posed for one in the 1930's (he was born in '14) and i love looking at it.I don't have kids so it'll go to an estate sale-but for now i like it.

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  6. I have no wisdom to offer, but wish you all the luck in the world!

    Before I became a lapsed knitter, my dad was putting in constant requests that I KNIT him a suit. Needless to say, that never happened.

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  7. On the family portrait request... my MIL asked the same of us a couple of years ago. It's apparently quite common to submit your offspring to these kinds of things. I'm sure I'll do the same to my kids.

    Yes, make the suit! I've never done any tailoring, so your progress will be quite interesting!

    Hardest thing I HAVE made: probably a French machine sewn heirloom christening gown for my niece. It turned out beautifully! I'll have to see if I can dig up a photo somewhere. Usually for me the big projects go quite well. It's the small, oh this is so easy, projects that go horribly wrong.

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  8. I think you have all the skills and talent necessary to make a spectacular suit. Good wool is fabulous to sew. I'd avoid gabardine--it's a little fussy. Also, you might want to check out the Awkward Family Photos blog--great ways NOT to pose for a group portrait.

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  9. Peter you can do it! I am in the middle of my first truly tailored jacket - Vogue 8621. I'm in a class so get a lot of direction/correction. So far there have been miles of catchstitiching for the interfacing, balanced darts and more catchstitching, bound buttonholes and bridling. I began sewing again right about the time you started MPB and you have been one of my inspirations.

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  10. I have a lot of confidence in your skills. You seem project oriented, and I think you probably can do this. I would allow more time than you think you need though.

    On the portraits, this sort of thing goes on all time. But usually, in my experience, it consists of the demand to wear all denim shirts or something like. Since the mom is older, she wants all the males to look respectable, and for her suits say respectability. What are the females directed to wear?

    Honestly, I have never tended to sew anything too hard for my skills. That's what is great about you, Michael. You are always going for it!

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  11. I'm excited for you! Somehow you manage to make bargain basement fabric look fabulous so I can't wait to see what you do with some really nice wool.

    Try not to be too har on MIL, remember how much she loved the fleece jacket you made her? Anyone who loves what you make that much can't be that bad. Look at it this way, she is the one giving you the opportunity to sew with beautiful fabric!

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  12. You've got a great arsenal to work with, and I KNOW it's going to be fantastic. You did the right/nice thing to offer to make the suit and he's going to look fantastic in it! Can't wait to watch it all come together!

    You can dooooo eeeet! (and fabulously!)

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  13. You can totally do it!! I can't wait to see the results and, of course, progress posts. And I think if you're a 70 year old matriarch of the family, you're entitled to ask for whatever you want for your birthday. :)

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  14. I always get the weirdest words as verification. This time it was "fartant"

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  15. Have you checked the Salvation Army? From several of your other blog posts, you've managed to score big time there!

    Good luck my friend, I'll be following along, cheering you on. I'm afraid I don't have any words of wisdom, your sewing skills are far beyond mine!

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  16. Peter - you can SOOOO totally do this! Frankly, I'm excited for you. :) After all of the great stuff you've been able to whip up this year, I think you'll be surprised at your results for this project.

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  17. OOOH, I can't wait to see how you tackle this project!!

    I tend to think that commanding the family to look respectable for a family portrait is one of the perks of living so long. And if it brings her joy, well, why not?

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  18. You are VERY ambitious.

    The Tailoring Book and the Perfect Fit Book are excellent. I have one of the "Real People" books, but the fitting is oriented to women.

    I would get the Cabrera book. Maybe you can get a used version or borrow it from a library:

    http://www.amazon.com/Classic-Tailoring-Techniques-Construction-Collection/dp/0870054317

    Make a muslin. Baste everything even if you don't normally baste.

    Consider getting some help, at least for fitting the muslin, people spend years learning how to fit.

    Buy good fabric and silesia (pocketing material), from a place like Beckenstein, the Men's Fabric Czar. If you're going to put in that kind of time, you might as well buy decent fabric. The most expensive menswear fabric can cost as much $200 a yard; you can, however, get very nice fabric for $25 a yard at Beckenstein.

    http://newyork.citysearch.com/profile/7085136/new_york_ny/beckenstein_s_men_s_fabric_czar.html

    Get a solid color in a worsted. Do not use gabardine, which is very unforgiving.

    Use good lining material (it's easier to work with) and quality interfacing (from Steinlauf and Stoller or Greenberg and Hammer). As it's a men's suit (I've only made a woman's jacket so far), you'll probably need structuring material like hymo. The men's tailoring books will tell you what you need. Steinlauf and other places have the special waistband interfacing you'll need in various sizes.

    Buy more than you need of everything so you'll be able to do samples and recover if you make mistakes.

    If the suit has besom pockets or jetting on the front, you'll have to practice that first. If you screw up the besoms, you screw up the pants or the jacket. And many people find trouser flies challenging. Buy some extra zippers and do a sample.

    Get a loop turner for the belt carriers, if you don't have one already.

    If you're doing the fastening with hardware (not the hook and eye), you'll need a pair of pliers, which, you probably have.

    Purchase a bamboo point turner for the collars if you don't have one.

    Have the buttonholes done at Jonathan Embroidery.

    http://maps.google.com/maps/place?oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&q=jonathan+embroidery&fb=1&gl=us&hq=jonathan+embroidery&hnear=New+York,+NY&cid=16475262330908128240

    Good Luck. Hope this helps. I'm not trying to intimidate you; I really respect the craft and the more you put into it the better the results you tend to get.

    Plus, your boyfriend has to wear this suit.

    I look forward to seeing it!

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  19. Go Pet-er, go Pet-er, go Pet-er! I can hardly wait to see your suit. You are an inspiration.

    I think Michael's mother's request is perfectly reasonable. She did bring your sweetheart into the world, after all.

    I'm currently finishing the most difficult garment I've ever made. Not sewn, but knitted. The fabric is beautiful, the pieces all fit together, the trim...ugh, not so much. Live and learn!

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  20. I'm excited for you. I think sometimes we just know when we are ready to progress to the next challenge. I acquired some gorgeous designer boucles in Baltimore a few weeks ago and I am working up to the challenge of making a fitted suit. I'll be following your progress with great interest.

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  21. BTW, although I've only made a lightly tailored women's jacket, in a class I have made a pair of high-end men's pants in which everything except for the seams was done by hand. So I have some idea of what's involved in making a man's suit.

    We spend 15 weeks just on the trousers.

    In the next class we will spend 15 weeks on the jacket and vest. We still start with the vest because the jacket is so much work.

    So although in terms of craft and climbing the learning curve it's better to do the pants and then the jacket, if time grows short, you might decide to do just a nice jacket instead of a full suit.



    The hardest thing I've ever sewn on a real garment (as opposed to a sample) is besom pockets. No matter how well I've cut the little triangles at each end, I always have trouble pulling them to create the edge of each pocket.

    I like to thread trace the pocket opening and to sew a parallel line above and below the opening. I don't like the method in which one sews a box.

    The tailoring blog someone mentioned above is fun to read and informative. I also like English Cut, although that's more about bespoke tailoring in general. It doesn't offer tutorials.

    One more thing: get good buttons. Bone is usually recommended for men's suits.

    Good luck.

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  22. I can't wait to see how this turns out. On my long list of things to make for myself is a suit. I'm just a beginner though, and have to master shirt making first!

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  23. I made my first man's suit probably 35 years ago when it became a fad - a small fad, but a fad - because one of the news man's wife made his suits. She even sold the completed front interfacing in packs. I could not afford them; which was good for me because I learned how to do them on my own. Those skills come in handy!

    Suits are time consuming because of all the hand stitching involved, but they are truly not hard!! First of all, the fitting is so much easier - a man's body does not have the bumps and curves to fit around! I used a book on tailoring a man's suit. Your book on sewing for men should give you the best information. It will be more specific to men and not just tailoring...such as a triangular patch in the crotch area added to just one side that is cut a bit larger than the other side (need I say more?)

    I would suggest that you use fabric that is 100% wool. It is amazing what steam can do on wool to help contour the suit in the sleeve and lapel area. If pressing is your friend in sewing(which it should be), it is your soul mate in tailoring!! If you do not have all the pressing aids - including a dabber, sleeve roll, clapper, etc - you will need to invest in or make those. I always take the finished suit to the dry cleaners for a professional press.

    OH, you will love it and become addicted! (don't tell Cathy!)

    My worst experience was just recently. I made a competition formal for my granddaughter from her design. The design changed dramatically 3 times in midstream, she changed from heels to flats, and everything that could go wrong, went wrong! The dress ended up being beautiful but I was.......

    The best was a winter coat I made as a Christmas present for my son's girlfriend. There could be no fitting so with the help of her mother, I got her coat and measured it. The unique design was one she had yearned over so there was no pattern. It turned out beautiful and it fit her perfectly. See, those tailoring skills came in real handy!!

    Have fun - one step at a time!

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  24. Good luck Peter! You can do it. You might want to keep your eyes open in the thrifts/flea markets for a good man's jacket for cheap so that you can take it apart to see what was done on the inside bits.

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  25. Wow, guys, thanks for all the support! I'm stoked.

    Anonymous, come clean: you're Isaac Mizrahi, right? LOL

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  26. Lot-o-hand-sewing there, Peter -- and lots of interfacing in the upper chest/shoulder area as well to make the jacket hang properly. Hardest thing I ever did was a suit jacket for myself in a sewing class in high school. Lots of steam pressing also. My memory of that was hours and hours of hand tacking shaped pieces of different weights of interfacing into the jacket. Looked great but..as they say, 'your mileage may vary'.

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  27. Now that is a very brave venture. It will be such a good learning experience though. I mean just think, the tailoring, the fitting, the lining, the gorgeous wool I'm sure you'll find. I can't believe you've never worn the flower power jacket out the door. I LOVE it!

    I have full faith in you Peter! YOU CAN DO IT!

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  28. A jacket made by the original tailoring standards aka lots of hand sewing. The book I used is one you have; Tailoring: The Classic Guide to Sewing the Perfect Jacket - Creative Publishing. It gives great shortcuts and advice. Don't cut any corners and trust me when i say the results are worth it

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  29. I will be in utter awe of you, when you pull off this latest caper. Lucky Michael, to have such an adventurous soulmate! I hate tailoring, which explains all the ruffly, frou-frou things I do finish! I made my husband a lovely silk vest to wear with his tux on our wedding day, but that is as far as I am willing to go, tailoring-wise. I am already looking forward to seeing the photoshoot, because I think Michael is definitely lens-worthy! Maybe you should get Cathy all dolled up to pose with him? She has so many fabulous frocks to choose from, it would be a sin not to have her in a few shots. Good luck..but you won't need it. Your sewing skills have evolved in the best way...

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  30. The most complicated thing I've made to date was a men's vest. Out of brocade and satin. It was slippery as all hell, shifted when I cut it, raveled like mad, and to add insult to injury, I had to hand baste the entire thing in order for it to lie properly before I ironed the damn thing. And when I got it done (it was a Christmas present) my idiot brother informed me that it didn't fit! (Now mind you, as far as I know, he never tried it on) He wanted it, but he refused to have anything like a fitting for the one he knew about that matched his suit. Instead, he spent lots of time belitting my efforts and making me want to kill him. (I know where he sleeps)

    I much prefer sewing for little kids. They don't complain, and I get exclamations of "Piddy! Mine!" and hugs out of the bargain. My most complex project really is one that I'll be making soon--a winter coat for Evie. Not only does it have inverted box pleating (ironed, please) but it's made from wool underlined in lightweight cotton flannel, and then lined in some lightweight satin backed flannel. It's to have a first for me--bound buttonholes, plus it's a vintage pattern old enough to have minimal instructions. I'm also giving it covered buttons!

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  31. Piece of cake! Go for it! When do we get to preview the fabric?

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  32. Definitely better fabric. Mostly natural is preferable and if you are using good stuff, make a muslin of the jacket at least. You've amassed a good selection of books. Do let us know if the mens books is good. I've been saying I'll make my dh a sport coat for years. You may shame me into it. Your sewing progress has been nothing short of amazing since I first met you, was it only last fall? You can do it.

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  33. Hi Peter,

    I've been following your blog for quite some time, and, as a fellow male sewer who's been frustrated with the lack of resources for mens clothes online, I'm really excited to read that your going to work on a suit. Just make sure to document your travails, so I can rip off, er, reference them when I decide to sew my own suits.

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  34. I am sure you can do it, all I'm saying is don't underestimate the time and effort. I'm apparently one of the few people I know who willingly admits that sewing is hard. Or maybe I'm just terrible at it.

    One of the Amazon reviews that made me buy the hideously expensive Cabrera book featured a woman who said she'd had excellent results and her husband liked his suit so much he was willing to do more housework so she'd have time to make him more.

    But she said she spent something like 100 hours on the suit.

    And as for the fitting, there's no shame in getting some professional help on that. It's a subtle and demanding process. I've taken a class with some folks who plan to become tailors or menswear designers and most of them can sew a pretty nice-looking suit by the end of their first year, but they spend almost all their time sewing, fitting, designing, pattern making, sourcing fabric, and studying textiles and menswear history. They also have mannequins, and fitting a size 40 men's dress form is way different from fitting a real person.

    Later this summer I plan to get some help with fitting myself because I'd rather spend the time sewing than correcting all the fitting mistakes (assuming I could figure them out). Even with a "perfect" pattern, there are going to be mistakes.

    Other tips:

    In case you don't know, use millinery needles for basting and size 9 hand sewing needles for the permanent sewing. Most people I know who take sewing seriously use Gutermann thread. The cheap thread knots and breaks more easily.

    I would chalk and then thread trace or tailor tack all darts and pocket openings, in addition to the Center Front and Center Back.

    Always use a press cloth when pressing on the right side of the fabric. You can use a scrap of the fabric, a piece of muslin, some people like silk organza because you can see through it, but I've had equally experienced people tell me not to use it.

    I assume you have a ham and sleeve roll.

    A student tutor taught me a great trick for making the darts really sink into the wool: Take a piece of muslin, say, 8 by 10 inches, and rinse it in cold water at least three times to remove the chemicals. Then wet it again and wring it until it's still very moist, but not dripping. Lay the muslin on the dart (assuming you've already pressed it on the wrong side) on the right of the material, apply an iron and press down hard with two hands for say, 10 to 12 seconds. You need to do a sample, because if you press for too long, you the wool could get discolored. Remoisten the muslin and proceed.
    It's a more controlled way of introducing moisture into the fabric.

    For wool darts, and you probably know this and it's in the books, you cut the dart down to about 1/2 inch from the dart point. Then you press it open. I was taught to insert a threaded needle into the "tunnel" near the point, eye side in, to apply a lot of steam, and then to pull out the needle. That guarantees a flat dart.

    I also was taught that the best way to create flat darts is to stop before the end of the dart point and to sew the last three stitches on the fold. Leave long threads and hand tack. That may be more of a couture method, but it worked for me.

    The same student tutor, he really was a sweetie, and loved the technique and traditions of garment construction, in addition to being a very gifted designer taught me to shorten the stitch length when sewing corners on collars and waistband extensions.

    He also taught me to start in the middle of the back when attaching the collar and sew out to each end. That way, any easing would be pushed out to the edge. Not everyone does that, but again, it helped me.

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  35. Continued:

    Oh, and since this is a real suit, don't forget to take the lining and fashion fabric to the dry cleaners and get them steam shrunk.
    I know you live in Chelsea. I once asked a tutor where in the vicinity I could get something pressed. He recommended the dry cleaner next to the McDonalds on Eighth Avenue between 27th and 26th Streets. They were very nice, reasonably priced, and fast.

    I would also practice the hand stitching. You're going to need to know how to catch stitch, which is fun, but takes a little getting used to. You might want to buy a yard of 1/4" gingham fabric (in a light color to spare your eyes). You can use the checks for spacing, because in hand sewing, most of the stitches are about 1/4" apart.

    If you're going to do the structural sewing by hand, you'll also need to learn pad stitching.

    You use a single thread for everything except for the buttons and hooks.

    I've gotten contradictory information about using beeswax for permanent stitching; know that if you use it, after running the thread through over the cake you have to place it inside a folded piece of paper and iron in the beeswax.

    Learn to use a thimble. You'll damage your finger tips if you don't. If you decide on the open-ended men's tailor thimble, learn the technique:

    http://www.englishcut.com/2005/11/21/thimble-tip/


    Remember, if this were easy, everyone would be walking around in gorgeous handsewn clothes.

    Again, I look forward to you progress. You're far more courageous than I am.

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  36. Wow, a suit. How brave. Still you have come so far and so fast in your sewing journey that this seems lie a logical next step. I wish that I was as talented to attempt tailoring (or as brave). I am really looking forward to seeing the end results. Your MIL and other half should be very proud. x

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  37. Peter dear a family portrait is the sweetest thing, and yes, a Mother can make fashion rules. It's the law.

    I'm not mentioning any names, but you and Michael are fortunate that the photo call isn't taking place during a tacky cruise to Alaska.

    You and your team can do this! It's a very brave and loving thing to take on, but You. Can. Do. It. And I'm certain that Cathy knows a few tailors who can coach you if needed.

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  38. The last time I was at Beckenstein there were some people sitting at a table, including a tailor who said he was considering offering a class. I keep meaning to call back to get his name and contact information. I believe he was from Spain or South America and his last name may have begun with an "A." He said that Esquire had once mentioned him in a piece on men's tailoring.

    If you ask at Beckenstein, they'll probably know how to reach him, or have other suggestions for tailors who might be able to tutor you. Assuming you can afford it, it will be well worth the money.

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  39. Consider making the vest, even if your boyfriend's not going to wear it. Make it first. The exercise will show you how the wool and lining fabric handle when sewn and pressed.

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  40. Go for it!

    The most challenging thing I have sewn also surprised me with how well it turned out. I sew mainly for my kids (which means little tailoring and fewer intricate pieces). But when my sister-in-law got engaged, my father-in-law disapproved and wouldn't pay for anything. She tried to find a cheap dress or a rental. I think every bride deserves to have something special, so I offered through my mother-in-law to sew her a dress. I mad it clear that this was not something I wanted to do, but rather, was willing to do.

    We went to JoAnn's and picked out a pattern (my one rule: no strapless dress... too much pressure on me/too much opportunity for accidental exposure) and fabric. We agreed on a Badgely Mischka Vogue pattern with detachable train. The fabric was cheaper than it should have been, so it could have been a much lovelier dress had the fabric draped better. It turned out beautiful though! I was so pleased! My proudest part of the process was not only that I was brave/dumb enough to sew a wedding dress when I was a advanced beginner, but that I was able to adapt the pattern by turning the slimming darts into pleats. Let's just say that it wasn't a white wedding. I was a nervous wreck not knowing how big she would be by the wedding day, but it fit. It was lovely! and within about 18 months the marriage was all over. But I don't think it was the dress' fault. :) I kept the dress and wore it when I was pregnant for maternity pictures (w/o the train of course).

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  41. The suit will look great!

    If my mom were turning 70, and she asked all of us to please report to the portrait studio in a fuchsia tutu, I'd totally do it.

    I hate fuchsia, but I love Mom. :)

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  42. I promised my boyfriend I would make him a jacket, and he told me he didn't want it unless I made the pattern too.... The project is currently in it's 4th month of 'planning'.....

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  43. You have already made most of the components of a suit in one way or another, so I say take what you know (and what your willing to learn) and go for it.

    You know it will be fantastic. Is that really why you asked us? Because you know that we will tell you that you are definitely ready? Do we need to go back to the fantastic top-stiching on your pockets and your ability to make amazing garments in no time at all ? Really, now Peter...you are SO ready! You can absolutely do this!

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  44. I'm excited for you. You know you can do this. I find when I make something for someone else that I take more care and do things properly, rather than take the shortcuts I do when I sew for myself. I once made a lemon yellow safari suit for my bloke. He loves it and wears it often. Every time he does, I see the all of the faults, but it wouldn't stop me doing it again. Michael will be thrilled to wear it and you will be pleased to see him in it. As for the family pressure thing, don't get me started on that! Good luck. I will watch your progress with extreme interest.

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  45. It will be gorgeous! I have had a similar experience myself recently, where I found myself agreeing to make my best friend's wedding dress - after sewing for precisely 6 months!

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  46. You will do great! I made my first tailored coat when I was 15. I was lucky that I was taking private sewing lessons at the time, but it's really not that difficult. You will love love love working with a nice wool. Remember that your iron is your friend and that it's steam will coax the wool into doing whatever you want.

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  47. I can't tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog, first of all.

    Let's see - the hardest thing I ever made was a sport coat for my hubby back in the 70s. (I'm sure that doesn't date me.)

    You go, guy! I know you can do it - I sewed for YEARS before I attempted anything that challenging...and you made a jacket 4 months in? Wow!

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  48. I'm trying to see a downside here. Only one I can see is loss of money, but then, the money is his, not yours, lol. Go for it. It will probably be great, but worst case scenario, he can buy one.

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  49. Go for it, love! And if all else fails, use BB as the back up plan.

    That Palmer Pletsch book makes it seem so easy so I bet you will succeed.

    Pineapple is the new banana.

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  50. I sewed my husband's 3 piece wedding suit -- 30 years ago -- so yes, it's doable. I used the Simplicity Sewing For Men and Boys book. Hand pad stitching and all! It took me a year of weekends (well, I made my dress, plus the Maid of Honour's dress and the flower girl's dress, too, but the suit took the most time. He only wore it maybe 5 times in all, but I was proud of having done it! I should have pressed it a bit better, though -- that was its weakest point, but I didn't really know what I was doing in that area.

    No, a 70 year old mother can ask for whatever she wants for her birthday and her children should give it to her as graciously as they can.

    Have fun and good luck!

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  51. Oh and everything I make is the hardest thing I have ever made.

    Stuff I used to do in my sleep (as a 20 something) gives me major stress now (as an almost 50 something).

    Oh B. Black and Sons has awesome tailoring supplies, including good wool from rea$onable to HOLY FREAKING COW I CAN'T AFFORD THAT!

    I have bought some great suiting fabrics from Manhattan Fabrics. Same dealeo as above. Some fabrics are priced for us mere mortals and then there are the Armani types.

    Oh and there is Michael's Fabrics but that is high end Zegna stuff and pretty pricey.

    Oh CraP! Candlelight Valley Fabrics is going out of business and has some screaming deals on woolens right now. As far as I know they have quality fabrics.

    Family portraits? I can not comment. I have no family. They hate me.

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  52. Peter I have no doubt you can do it, but to do it well will take a LOT of time and a lot of work. Tailoring is, however, possibly the most satisfying type of sewing there is. You are on the right rack with questioning what type and weight of interfacing to use and yes the weight matters more than the type. I would go back to Kashi and ask his advice. Don't skimp on the quality. I look forward to seeing your progress. (Insert sympathetic but evil chuckling here...moohooohaha)

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  53. I know you have an unsurmountable attraction for vintage-looking patterns, but you should really ditch the McCall's pattern. No fair calling Michael a math geek if you make him that square, low-slung crotch that the entire world admires so on every passing American tourist.

    What you want is Burda. You will be light-years ahead in style in fit before you even start a muslin. And they even have a special men's section in the latest Fall catalog I noticed a few days ago. Trust me.. You'll read all over patternreview about horrible instructions, but those mostly apply to the magazine, not enveloppe patterns (although the translations can be occasionally hilarious there too). But for a project of this complexity, you'd want to refer to a good book anyway. And since presumably you want a classic suit, all suit instructions apply.

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  54. You definitely should make the suit! My most challenging project was making a floor length dress and matching vest/bow tie for a charity gala my husband and I attended in April. It was really satisfying to finish it. I actually entered the dress (and the Kwik Sew parrot shirt I made for my husband in June) in this year's PR contest. Are you going again this year and if so, have you entered anything?

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  55. Goodness! I'm excited to see this process, I hope you post updates! My hardest pattern was a woman's suit from a vintage 1940's pattern. It was my first time with many, many of the techniques, my first time working with wool, my first time lining anything, my first jacket...you get the picture. By the end, it was together, and looked somewhat decent, but definitely did not meet my exacting fashion standards (lol). It went to the Goodwill, but it was a fantastic learning process and I did have fun doing it.

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  56. I'm the draper for a professional theatre company and I'm in the middle of a huge project right now. I'm patterning a huge production of Amadeus. Over the past three weeks I've patterned 10 18th century coats, 12 18th century vest and breeches, 3 corsets, 6 sets of panniers, and 8 different 18th century gowns...granted, I don't have to sew them all - I have three professional stitchers to help me, but I have to instruct them on how its all put together including the tailoring of all those coats...we have three weeks until the show goes into dress rehearsals and is out of my hair. I'm a little overwhelmed as you can imagine, but there are always more shows pushing right up against it...best of luck on your suit!! I have a few tailoring tips if you're interested...

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  57. Thanks guys. I DO have a contemporary Burda mens jacket pattern as a fall back. (And plenty of pants patterns as well.) We'll see how it goes...

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  58. I'm working up the nerve to make my husband a new suit. I'm terrified! I did manage to make myself a pea coat from a vintage pattern and it turned out alright.
    http://amanda-darlingdesigns.blogspot.com/2012/01/vintage-pattern-love.html

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  59. am in a project to sew a suit jacket can you help me with the info you mentiond

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