Thursday 10 February 2011

Ultimate Tennant Suit -
setting sleeves, lapels and collar

The jacket of The Ultimate Tennant Suit is coming together well, and next I need to set the sleeves.

Assembling the sleeve is pretty straight forward - just stitch up the two seams! It’s what you do with it next that makes or breaks how well a sleeve looks on.

Once the sleeve is assembled, I stitch two parallel lines around the sleeve-head. I use a very strong thread, with my machine set to a very slack tension. This allows me to pull the threads through to gather the head of the sleeve and shape it, creating a roll to it. Great care has to be taken to not gather too much and make puckers; or to not do it enough and nothing happen.

Next I fix the gathering and stabilise the sleeve opening by stitching a line of pre-shrunk cotton tape (see above). This sets the gathering so it can’t slip before sewing; and stops the underarm area sagging through repeated wear.

Next I need to turn attention to the lapels and the inside pockets.

I have patterned a special panel for the lapel facing and the lining, which when joined together equal the shape of the fronts (see above).
Into this I set the necessary welted pockets.

I am doing three in total: one narrow one very high up to take a sonic; below this a wider standard pocket; and on the other side ranged in the middle a further wide standard pocket.

I need to set the sonic pocket very high as it needs to be accessed without undoing the top button (see left). A point easily overlooked.

In the meantime I have also assembled the lining for the sleeves; as well as the back, which are also joined to the side panels.

The collar is made from black melton for the lower-collar and the fabric I cut from offcuts from Cutting The Sleeves. These are sewn together along the collar edge (see above, left); and the front edges overlocked to stop them fraying (see above, right). The reason for doing this will become apparent later.

The part-assembled collar is set with the lapels and the lining across the back of the neck is sewn. When I cut the lining for the back I added a good inch to the top of the seam. This becomes a pleat at the nape of the neck, giving a capacity to the lining. Nothing is worse than having a lining in a garment that is tighter than the outside body. It can distort the shape and be uncomfortable to wear.

Other patterns necessitate attaching sections of lining inside and then closing these up to complete the work.

For this jacket I have kept things simple by assembling the entire lining the installing it in one go.

The lining is installed by first sewing the lapel edge from the notch point, around the lapel corner, and down the front of the jacket to about two-thirds the way down. This has to be done very carefully since a pinstripe must run precisely along the visible edge.

I now need to check that I have cut the pattern for the collar correctly and that the work I have done building the under-collar is doing it’s thing.

I do this by pinning the under-collar in place around the neck of the jacket and putting it on my mannequin to see how it sits (see right). Luckily all looks good and very little adjustment is needed. The collar and lapel points look a bit distorted, but this is solely down to the pins that ripple the fabric where they are inserted. Trust me, it’s fine!

The only thing I want to revise a bit is the edge of the collar, which I think is a little long. It just needs 10mm taking off at the collar tips, blended into the back of the neck. Still - better the need to remove a little material rather than be short and have to recut from scratch.
I do not finish the collar at this point as it leaves me an access portal to finish the jacket.

Next the lining is attached to the vent at the bottom of the back.

This is where I have kept things particularly simple, enabling me to install the lining with ease. Suits often have a sideways jump of the seam at the top of a vent to allow for the misalignment it has with the back seam. This can be difficult to accomplish well. I did it in my burgundy test suit, but I felt it over complicated things, so this time I have allowed for a bit of extra lining so the seam can still be misaligned, but without pulling excessively. I can then simply sew the lining from the top of the split to the edges of the vent (see left).

Next is sorting the cuffs. This is very simple on this jacket, as it has no vent.
The sleeve is folded and pressed to length, and the lining cut to match the sleeve, less around an inch.
Pulling the sleeve and lining inside out through the open collar, the cuff is stitched, making sure the corresponding seams are lined up between the two. It is so easy to confuse the two and end up with the lining spiralling inside the sleeve.believe me - I’ve done it before!

Lastly I need to hem the jacket, including the curved front corners.
To start I press the hem to length horizontally around the entire jacket, defining the line.
Because I was so twitchy about cutting the jacket wrong - after all, recutting would encroach into an additional pair of precious GAP trousers - I left shaping the curve of the fronts until the last possible minute. Although I included it in the pattern, cutting the fabric to the 'right shape' straight off would not leave me any useful offside to work with, so I reasoned it may as well be cut square and shaped in-situ in case of errors.

With that in mind I had actually done the same with the calico test. On that occasion I used a side plate as a template to get the curve right (see right). That was successful, so I repeat the same procedure here, chalking a line between the front vertical edge around to the pressed level of the hem, which is around 2 inches short of the seam allowance I have given it.

Again pulling the work up through the open collar-line, I pinned the lining in place to make sure nothing slipped, before stitching from where I left off from sewing the lapels; down around the curved chalk-line I just marked; and then gently changing track to the lower edge of the seam allowance of the hem, creating a capacity and give to the lining inside the jacket; ending back at the hem level to meet the bottom corner of the vent tails at the back. Phew!

Once I have done that on both sides it essentially completes all the machine stitching (bar the buttonholes) on the jacket.

I can now close off the the lining by carefully pinning the under-collar to it’s final position before whip-stitching the edge in place. The front edge of the collar is wrapped under the Melton and sewn in place. I had overlocked the edge to keep things neat (see left).

Finally I sew the buttonholes. The top one is level with the centre of the breast pocket; the bottom one with the top line of the outer pocket flap; the two remaining buttons are equally spaced between in the gap (see right).

Finishing touches are then all that's required - some time consuming hand-stitch work to sharpen the edge of the jacket; to keep the hem from falling; the same with the cuffs; and finally to sew the buttons on.

Check back real soon. Once I’ve done all this you'll see the Ultimate Tennant Suit finally finished!!


  1. I could write a lengthy comment about how happy this makes me feel to read.

    All I want to say however is... It's so... Beautiful...

  2. can you tell my where i could get a pattern for this suit

  3. @anonymous - if you follow my production process you will see this was a pattern I created from scratch, based on the research I did on the suit.

    It was adapted from a lounge jacket block from my 1890s cutters guide.