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Apr 2, 2014

FIT Class #10 -- Breakthrough!

Sometimes you don't get what you want in life -- but sometimes you do!

Yesterday's class was exactly what I was hoping for.  I wore my size Small shirt muslin (the blue cotton-poly shirt I gave to Michael) and Professor B. helped me make alterations to the pattern to improve the fit.  He did this a bit before class and a bit during, during periods when we had all been given a task to do (like attach our yokes to the back of our shirt or attach a sleeve to the body).  It was extremely generous of him to take the time and I thanked him profusely.  I mean, really, it's like getting your own custom pattern!

The changes were straightforward: narrowing and shortening the sleeve, raising the cap a bit, and narrowing the shoulder on the front, the back, and the yoke.  What's great is that I can make the alterations to the shirt pieces I'd already cut for yesterday's class, and create a shirt that fits me well.

But that's not all.  Professor B. had special "enrichment" exercises for the three of us who got an "A" on our dickey.  We were given a speedy introduction to double welts and, while I've made my fair share of these before, I learned some techniques I can use in the future.

Granted, we were making these on cotton shirting, but here are a few things that stood out (and differed from my usual way of making double welts (for pockets), culled from who-knows-how many different sources).

First, Professor B. does NOT trace the welt on the wrong side of the fabric.  All lines are drawn in chalk on the RIGHT side of the fabric.  For our welts, we used two pieces of fabric 2" x 7" (which will produce a 5" long welt, each welt measuring 1/2" wide.  Each welt is interfaced, folded in half (perfectly) and then stitched at 1/2".  We drew a roughly 7" line for the welt (the line we'll cut), and two shorter lines 1/2" from the center line, on either side, where we'll stitch on the welt (stitching atop the same 1/2" stitch line).

We did NOT interface the entire welt area but rather just the corners, to reinforce them.  This eliminates a lot of the bulk I normally get when I make a double-welt pocket.  Once you've sewn one of your two welts on (with the folded edges facing out, of course, as they'll be flipped), you can then mark the horizontal edge with a ruler to guarantee you will start stitching the second welt at exactly the same horizontal.  Once you've stitched on the welts, pick up the welt edges to make sure 1) they're even, and 2) they are secure -- the last stitch at either end must be backstitched so it doesn't come undone.

There's the usual slicing down the center line and clipping into the corners (up to, but not into the reinforced corner stitches).  When you flip the welts to the center and pull the little triangles at either end, you stitch them down, starting NOT on the triangle itself (as I usually do) but at the top of the one welt, down along the triangle, and then down the second welt.

Perhaps you know all this already, but like I said, I've seen so many different methods and half the time when I'm making a welt I'm just winging it from memory.  This method is clear and precise.  Naturally, if you're making a welt pocket out of, say, wool boucle, you may want to baste, or interface the whole area with silk organza, etc.  We didn't cover edgestitching from the front yet; I'm assuming you can/should.

Finally, here's how we learned to attach the shirt sleeve to the torso. Recall that last week we took the sleeve, folded down 1/4" (toward the right side), edgestitched at the fold, and trimmed, leaving a trimmed raw edge.  Last night we learned that to attach the sleeve, you match the raw edge of the body of the shirt to the raw edge of the sleeve, right sides together.  IOW, you're not matching edges, but rather you're matching the raw edge of the body to the raw edge (already folded down) of the sleeve cap.   There should be NO ease in the sleeve -- NONE.  Pinning every 1 1/2", the two matched sides should be perfectly flat.  If there is extra width along the sleeve (as there often is), re-pin to make sure this extra width is evenly divided on each end.  (It will then be trimmed off.)

When you stitch the sleeve, your seam allowance will be the width of the presser foot (approx. 1/4").  You'll press this seam allowance toward the body of the shirt (with the aid of a ham).  Since the sleeve edge is already a little wider, you'll topstitch this down (stitching on the outside, generally) and should have a beautiful, even, felled seam.  The big difference here from my usual method is that all the trimming (and folding) is done before the sleeve is attached.  I haven't tried this myself, btw, so I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

And that's it.  A really good class.  I feel, at last, relaxed.

Have a great day, everybody!

I may combine my floral collar/cuffs/sleeves with this purple gingham from my stash. 


  1. I found out when I was fitting my coat that I had to make the cap higher to match my narrow shoulders so it makes sense to me that you also did both for the shirt.
    Nice that you got some advanced work to do!

  2. I think that welt technique is what Kathleen F. shows on her blog. At least it looks like it :-)

  3. So interesting about the sleeve insertion. I'm really curious to see how it works for you.

  4. That sleeve insertion method is interesting. And a little hard to imagine, just from explanation. I'll be looking forward to reading about your experience with it.

    The method for the double welt you just learned is pretty close to what I normally do. Although I don't stitch around it on the inside. I stitch the pocket bags to the bottom and top welt and the stitch the triangles and the pocket sides in one go. (that is my one issue with a lot of bound pocket tutorials, by the way: they'll discuss the welts, not the pocket that goes inside them. I've figured this out by now, but I found it confusing when I made these for the first time).

    Oh, and one more thing: You were assuming you "can/should" edgestitch... Of course, you could. And on a shirt which has a lot of topstitching already, it would make sense. But you really don't have to edge stitch welt pockets. If you've done your fusing and sewing and finishing carefully, they are strong enough. I've made plenty of welt pockets without topstitching and even those which are back pockets on trousers are still fine after lots of wearing and laundry.
    (My apologies for the lecture, I just feel the sewing world is a bit heavy on topstitching)

  5. As a tutor in higher education I can say that I will always go the extra mile for any of my student who are really keen and show promise and most importantly enthusiasm. I'm sure your Professor B feels exactly the same. We teach because we want to pass on our knowledge and expertise and you would be amazed at how many students are not actually all that keen to learn every thing they possibly can!

  6. Peter,

    Will you do a YouTube tutorial showing all these sewing gymnastics? Seeing how you did the partial welt interfacing, and sleeve attachment would be beneficial for the visual learners who look to you for guidance.

  7. Piling on to ask for more details (pics? videos? drawings?) on this sleeve insertion method. I'm very curious to hear how yours comes out when you sew it!

  8. This sounds very interesting and like a class worth every penny and minute of your time. Both the welt technique & especially the sleeve insertion sound very intruiging. Unfortunately I find them difficult to visualise. Would be super grateful for a sew along including these techniques. Again as always: thanks for sharing!!!

  9. Very interesting welt pocket technique! I pinned it so I have it on hand for next time :)

  10. the sleeve insertion is very similar to the method in David Coffin's "Shirtmaking" book. i did do it that way once and as i recall it was a very nice method! though for some reason i haven't done it since...

    1. The David Coffin method (which I have used, and also like) has an overlap - the folded sleeve edge is slightly underneath the edge of the shirt body. What Peter is describing sounds more like the raw edges are butted together? 1/4 inch difference or less, but when you're working with 3/8 inch seam allowances, that's a huge difference.

  11. Love it!!! I'm going to give a try to interfacing just the corners when I make my next welt pockets. So glad it's working out well for you!!!

  12. SeamsterEast (at) aol dot comApril 3, 2014 at 6:06 PM

    Okay, questions from the peanut gallery here about the shirt.

    It seemed to my eye the muslin had the shoulders a little too wide and off your shoulders. It looks to my eye Prof B pulled that in a mite. And he raised the sleeve cap to make the sleeve fit without altering the sleeve shape.

    What I don't see, and wonder why I don't see, is why a.) the sleeve was not narrowed through the bicep for a trimmer fit, b.) why the bottom of the arm hole was not moved laterally inward the same amount as the top of the arm hole, and c.) why the arm hole bottom was not moved up.

    I missed something, but don't know what it is.



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