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Dec 3, 2011

Am I ready? or Revisiting the Men's Suit Project


Readers, as 2011 draws to a close, I find myself wanting to choose one last big project to finish off the year with a bang.  I have four weeks.

Longtime readers will know that I've tackled suit jackets before.  I made this green/gray thing my first year of sewing.  This polyester blazer wasn't nearly as nice as it looks in this photo and I never wore it out of the house.  I'm pretty sure I've since dumped it.



I also made this eye-catching blazer.  Alas, I never lined it and never wore it out of the house either.  I do wear the matching pants, however.



Last year, I tried my hand at a corduroy jacket.  I went overboard purchasing tailoring books, however, ended up intimidated, and never finished it.  I'm not excited about it anymore.



In all the above cases, I used vintage Seventies jacket and suit patterns.  For some reason, at that time there was an explosion of men's tailored garment patterns, heavens knows why.  I've never seen a suit pattern from, say, the Forties, with the occasional blazer pattern turning up in the late Fifties.  Then all of a sudden, suits and blazers everywhere!  I own many such patterns.







Anyway, I'm considering taking the plunge once again.  This time, however, I'm going to limit myself to just one book, Simplicity's Sewing for Men and Boys.



Is it the definitive tailoring book?  Probably not, but it's straight forward and it's good enough for my current level of sewing.  If I complete the project and I'm ready for something more complex, I can move on to something like this.



I was looking at suiting fabric yesterday, and then I remembered I already have two different blue wool suitings in my stash, one a gift from my friend Melody, who owns Fashionista Fabrics, and another something I found in the trash (!), albeit in a clean plastic storage box full of sewing and knitting supplies.  (This happened before I started blogging.)

The trash suiting is Italian cashmere, and I have more than three yards.  The dog hair was my contribution.



Melody's gift is lighter weight pinstripe, and I have more than four yards.



So the question now is, am I up for this?  The pink blanket topper coat built my confidence somewhat, and I think I'd be more inclined to sew Michael a suit down the line (for which I already have the fabric) if I'd already made one for myself.  Plus, let's face it, knowing it's for me will give me a little more motivation.

So that's the story.  I'd likely start with pants, just to get acquainted with working with the wool.  If those turn out well, I'll be more excited about doing the jacket.

How do you feel about tackling tailoring projects, friends?  Do you generally avoid these kind of things or are you willing to deal with notched collars, pad stitching, and sleeve heads?

Wish me luck -- or talk me out of it!

Have a great day, everybody!

42 comments:

  1. Oh, you're scaring me! My husband REALLY wants me to make him a suit, and I'm scared out of my mind. I made my son a dress shirt with a matching vest, but that's about as far into dress clothing I'm willing to dive into. You though, have the skills to do it! Plus, maybe it will give me some inspiration.

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  2. Being a professional seamstress (self-taught), I have definitely done MUCH tailoring over the years. It's one of the biggest aspects of my current job.

    That being said, I have to admit the my FAVORITE ever piece of clothing I've made over the years is a red 100% wool perfectly tailored "riding" style blazer. I made it about 15 years ago, and is still one of my best loved pieces.

    GO FOR IT! You are more than ready. And you can always email me if you need help. Hahaha!

    Paula
    http://www.learnhowtosewnow.com

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  3. Oh, I so hope you go for it! I've been pulling out my blazer patterns and putting them back all fall. I don't really have the time/brainpower right now for an in-depth project---so the next best thing would be to read about someone else doing it!

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  4. This to me seems the Bid Daddy of them all. It'll be a little while before I work up to a suit. I really like the floral print you never lined. And who knew sewing was as sexy as "Sewing for men and Boys"?

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  5. Why not? Go for it! I think as sewist we always need to push our skill set out of our comfort zone. When I studied tailoring (long before the internet)I only had the instructor and a text book for a guide - now, there are lots of blogs/websites to assist in the 'tailoring journey' so take advantage of the resources out there and sew up a fantastic suit in the process.

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  6. Italian cashmere in the trash???
    I'd say you're definitely up to the challenge after all the techniques you've shown us this year. I, on the other hand, am still afraid of anything that requires more than a single layer of fusible interfacing for shape. One day I'd like to do a jacket or coat, but I think that day is far in the future.

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  7. Go for it...use the pinstripe; i love it.

    I like to sew vintage children's coat/jacket patterns with denim and i use vintage 70s sheeting to line them. I try to incorporate tailoring methods to make the coats look special.

    Before next winter darkens my door i plan to make myself a fancy schmantzy woollen tailored coat. Whether i have the skill level or not is not the point LOL

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  8. Go for it, Peter. You have the right attitude for challenges and usually are fearless. I sure it will be a success.

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  9. I'm sure you know where I stand. Since your fabric was FREE I'd splurge on the Cabrera book. He will walk you through the whole process in little baby steps. His techniques for tricky things like welt pockets and sleeve vents are amazing. Plus he has a way of imbuing the process with a sense of tradition and history that I find enjoyable. Just be prepared to do a lot of hand sewing. You also have the advantage of the garment district, and can easily find all the "guts" that are essential to making a high quality tailored garment. Go, go, go for it!

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  10. It's a big project you're taking on if you decide to start. I don't know where, but I learned that if you put so much time in it you have to be 100% confident of three things: the fabric (will you like wearing it), your skills (seem ok I guess ;) ) and most important: will you wear it if it's finished.

    The first two are more than covered I guess. The cashmere looks great for a suit. Your skills - hack you made a coat, no problem. But somehow I have problems picturing you in a suit. I mean, it will look great, but somehow it doesn't seem your style.

    OTOH, if it's just about the challenge and you couldn't give a toss what happens when it's finished....

    Plus, it's just my idea of 'your style'. Don't want to be (too) presumptuous.

    PS: Do you have the book from David Coffin on trousers? For suit pants and other more formal trousers, it's a great source!

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  11. Go for it! It's only fabric and time, right? And it's not like you're afraid to abandon projects if they go awry. Er … did I type that out loud? ;-)

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  12. If you're finding cashmere in the trash, I *so* want to go dumpster diving with you!

    I say, "Go for it! Rock that free cashmere!"

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  13. You are definitely ready. You need several failed projects under your belt before you can hope to produce a tailored garment that is even marginally wearable, and you have that. There are loads of skills that go into a tailored garment, and every time you attempt one, you will master more of them.

    I love a nice, meaty tailoring project to sink my needle into!

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  14. Go for it. I decided when I first started sewing to never be scared of anything because it is only fabric and time.

    Julie

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  15. I have to admit, tailoring scares me. It's why I'm still working on Bit and Boo's tailored winter coats!

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  16. You really should try. - my overriding memory from when I mad some lounge coats is getting the lapels sorted and then realising I still had to put the sleeves in. But at the end (even with the first-which was terrible) it was always really satisfying. And as you know practice makes perfect

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  17. Go for it!!!! You've got the perfect fabric for it (can I just say that I can't believe you found Italian cashmere in the trash!!!!)

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  18. I love tailoring projects! Pad stitching by hand, make my own shoulder pads, the whole shebang.

    I haven't made a man's jacket, though I keep threatening to make one for DH. And I've never made men's trousers. I don't have the requisite notions on hand for that.

    You should do it, Peter. Take your time and enjoy!

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  19. That cashmere is crying--no doubt in italiano--to be made into something. Put one foot in front of the other, and go for it!

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  20. Do yourself a favor with that cashmere - have it cleaned before you commit to sewing with it. If there is unseen moth damage, dry-cleaning will show it up. Cheap insurance - you don't want to put all this effort into something and then get it back with holes the first cleaning.

    Unseen moth damage is why clothes that look okay going into the cleaners sometimes look pretty holey coming out.

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  21. I looove the floral jacket! You really should finish it & wear it out of the house (with plain pants/shirt).

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  22. Oh, do it! I love the floral jacket, by the way.

    I'm just getting up the nerve to attempt a man-tailored suit for myself. I can't find what I want in any store (assuming it would even fit), and paying someone else to do a top-notch job of it just isn't going to happen.

    I'm very good at following directions, I can be extraordinarily diligent and patient when it behooves me to be so, I have excellent hand-sewing skills, and I've got tons of wool yardage picked up at Goodwill over the past few years--but actually attempting a real, tailored suit jacket still scares the bejeezus out of me.

    And that is why you should do it first. Pretty please? #puppydogeyes

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  23. I approached my first tailoring project with great caution, did it in 30 minute bursts over a few weeks and used iron on patches for stiffening instead of several kinds of interfacing. It came out well and I wore it to threads, but I was young and innocent at the time.

    Now I approach tailoring projects with fear and loathing. I fiddle with the paper pattern, taking so much time I'm sick of the project before I begin. I get it cut out and then lovingly put it into a box, to be dealt with later. When later comes, I loathe the fabric or the pattern or a niece needs it more than I do. Tailoring, bah! Talk to me about creative mending.

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  24. No excuses Peter! What are you waiting for? There are no engraved invites to being brave!

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  25. Of wool and cashmere...

    ...make some magic!

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  26. Why not finish the corduroy jacket to build up your confidence then make up the cashmere? Make something you know you will wear. I find tailoring quite meditative. When it works you have a garment you will love for years.

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  27. I made a tailored suit for my husband some years ago and it came out great. I timed my work for the first time, and discovered it took me 40 hours of cutting and sewing time, and I used a McCall's pattern that called for a moderate amount of hand sewing. Just be careful to do each step as well as you can, and you can count on wool to forgive tiny errors. Where did intimidation ever get you? And what else would you do with such beautiful suiting wools????? Jump in there, and think about the suaveness of the suit that will take you to new places...

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  28. Handsome man in a handsome suit. What could be hotter!

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  29. I want to know what trash pile that cashmere came from so I can start looking in like piles!
    Definitely do try tailoring - I had my first attempt 6 months ago and am HOOKED (line and sinker).
    A friend game me a RTW suit jacket the other day as he was about to toss it (well - worn, holes and the like), I'm planning to take it apart to see whats inside. Might be worthwhile seeing if you can get something similar at an opp shop and use that as a working example?

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  30. I highly recommend the Cabrera book, too. It has guided me through some very tough projects. Go ahead and bite off maybe a little more than you're ready to chew. But looking at the jackets you've already done, I think you can make a lovely suit, especially since you have good fabric. Wool fabric that will mold under the steam is a dream to work on when tailoring. Just take it step by step and please, please, please use the Classic Tailoring book! Can't wait to follow the process. I don't do much tailoring anymore. Too much hand sewing.

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  31. For some reason I seem to like tailoring projects. I don't know why, but for me there is something really amazing about making something so substantial as a coat. Of course, for several days after the cutting of the fabric my body curses me for being several kinds of a fool, but once I get past that bit the rest is ok. I will admit I have only pad-stitched one of my coat projects, as real hair canvas is hard to come by, and I save it for only my most important projects, though totally worth it for your cashmere! You should totally go for it - you definitely have the skills and some excellent fabric choices.

    Also, I must say I am a bit partial to that McCall's 7637 - top center picture. Don't know why, but to me that looks really sharp and could be a good match with either of your fabrics.

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  32. I come from the 'if you can read, you can do anything' school of thought. Just because a shelf full of books has been written in the past dozen years detailing the complexities of making a tailored jacket or coat, does not mean that you should be scared off or that it's an impossible task to accomplish by someone who is willing to break the task down into steps, and take their time. You did this with the man's shirt. Go for it - with glee!
    Heather

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  33. P.S. It's only my ever changing shape that has been putting me off making tailored clothes. That phase is over and I'm about to launch into a whole new set of me-shaped patterns so I can finally have some decent (read, tailored) clothes again. Once you've made one jacket, you're set.
    Heather

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  34. According to Els that it is indeed the definitive sewing book - and she would know!

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  35. I'll just add that if you want to use fusibles instead of sew-in interfacings Pam has everything anyone could need in that department. She even has fusible hair canvas now.

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  36. Just to be clear, I do own the Cabrera book, and -- I couldn't resist -- I've looked it over more carefully. It's definitely the bible!

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  37. I'm finally ready for my next sewing project since the jeans sew-a-long. It is summer here in Australia, so I'm going to make a white linen suit. I have a vouge suit pattern from last year (though I'd love a vintage 70's pattern). We'll be suit sewing together. I'm quite excited/intimidated.

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  38. I do avoid doing tailoring like the plague. But here's the deal, after I do work through all my demons (and they are just demons) to get a tailored jacket done, I wear the pants off of it!!! (no pun meant - really I promise!) As a matter of fact, I'm in the middle of two jackets right now....not anything as glam as your beautiful wool, (just corduroy) but they are staples in my closet and I miss having cord jackets with pants to match. So I encourage you to do this...throw in a couple of easy-to-whip-up blouses and skirts inbetween the hard stuff and it will keep you from getting burned out. That tailored stuff can burn you out - good luck!

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  39. I'm never intimidated by sewing tailored garments for women (although, like many other commenters, I haven't done the whole hand-sewing thing on all those I made) but menswear... I've made a coat and a casual jacket for my boyfriend but I'm secretly happy he isn't interested in suits.

    When designing, drafting and sewing for a woman, just about anything goes. Especially if you can make the shape a flattering one for the intended wearer. For men, there are many more unwritten rules. Especially for a formal and traditional clothing like suits.

    By the way, I think that may be why you have found so many 70's suit patterns but hardly any older ones. Just look at any 19th century sewing magazine to see how men's and women's sewing existed in different spheres. With the only cross-over being 'tailor-made' suits women might wear for riding. Women at home might sew for themselves and their children and maybe make nightwear or undershirts for their husbands. All men's outerwear was made by (usually male) tailors. Industrialization changed this for most of the population, as a lot of anyone's clothes started to be mass-produced in factories (usually by female workers) although the formal suit should always be made-to-measure and could therefore not be produced in such a way.
    The old difference between clothes for men of those for women as well as a (perhaps healthy) respect for the craftsmanship needed to make the perfect made-to-measure suit was probably enough to keep pattern companies from producing men's suit patterns until the 1970's. By which time all of such old rules had gone out of the window anyway...

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  40. The very informative site www.cutterandtailor.com, as well as every tailoring class with with which I'm familiar prescribes a specific sequence before moving up to sewing a tailored jacket and c & t recommends setting aside several months if one is sewing a jacket for oneself. They also tell you not to be overly optimistic.

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  41. Sherry at the blog, Pattern Scissors Cloth had a tailoring sew-along for jackets. She still has it posted under her Sew Along with me post on her blog. I have made two jackets and love what she has taught me.
    Getting help with getting your muslin right is my tip. I made close to 7 tries before I finally got mine right. It was frustrating, but I didn't want to put all of the trouble into tailoring something that didn't fit me properly.

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  42. Did you ever cut into the cashmere? What a beautiful find from the trash! I try to uniquely source fabric (I have a lot of upholstery scrap pencil skirts that I love), but cashmere from the trash is the mother lode of dumpster diving!

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