Iconic Tweed Jacket Lesson 8 – Sleeves

Sewing the Sleeve Together

The first part of this lesson is quite straight forward as it is a repeat of the same steps we did with the jacket body. We basically start out by sewing the sleeves together and getting them ready to insert into the body of the jacket.

In the last lesson, I mentioned the concept referred to as Turn-of-Cloth. Our instructor also covers this, albeit briefly, when she makes the sleeve into a tube and gets ready to stitch the lining. If you wish to have more information on this concept you can either read my previous blog post or you can find a very detailed explanation in Threads Magazine article entitled “Understand Turn-of-Cloth”by Judy Barlup from Threads #131 pp. 71-76.

Sewing the Sleeve

Catch-Stitching the Sleeve Hem

Once the sleeve tube is stitched closed we need to turn up the hem and stitch it so that it stays in place. Again, the same process as we did with the hem on the jacket.

Sleeve Lining Sewn

ALERT: See photo below. When you stitch your lining seams together, your needle and thread can easily go through to the jacket fabric below. This is not an issue except for the area indicated in the photo below. I slip one of my rulers between the jacket fabric and the lining fabric in this area so that my finished lining seam does not get sewn to the jacket fabric.

This way you can pull the entirety of the lining back and out of the way when you are pining, basting, and sewing in your sleeve.

Slip Stitch vs. Hidden Running Stitch

Ms. Knight, and the rest of the world for that matter, uses a slip stitch to close up her lining seams. When I do a slip stitch, I can’t seem to make my stitches look clean. I feel that actually seeing my stitches is a visual deterrent to the finished garment (even if I use matching thread). Because of this, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve been doing a different type of stitch – that I’m not entirely sure is a legal stitch.

It is what I call a hidden running stitch. In addition to garments, I make quilts. I use my hidden running stitch for finishing my quilting bindings as well as for sewing on applique.

Slip Stitch

If you are interested in a tutorial, here is a nice one by Craftsy called How to Handsew: The slip Stitch.

Hidden Running Stitch

You can see the running stitch is inside the fold so it is completely hidden on the front. When I use the hidden running stitch, it is always in applications where the back of the project is not seen so voila! everything is pretty clean.

If there is any interest in seeing how I do the hidden running stitch, leave me a note in the comments and I’ll try to make a video.

Gathering the Sleeve Cap

Once the hem is in place and the lining has been sewn closed, it is time to prep the sleeve to be inserted into the jacket. The first step is to sew some long gathering stitches into the sleeve caps.

After you gather up those stitches, your next step is to go to the iron and steam/press the gathers. This will shrink up the fibers so that your sleeve won’t have that puffy look at the shoulder.

Pinning the Sleeve

I read somewhere that putting the sleeves into this kind of a jacket takes somewhere in the neighborhood of 17 hours. Before I started putting my sleeves in, I thought it was a typo. Well, now I’m not so sure as the sleeves were the most challenging part of the construction process.

The first part of this process is challenging because there is the fitting in of the sleeve which includes maintaining the matching of your pattern markings and notches, AND matching the pattern in the jacket fabric. Here is where we can see the importance of triple checking your pattern placement on the jacket fabric BEFORE cutting the sleeves out. The more accurate you are in that step, the less stress you’ll have in this step.

The second part of this process is challenging because it involves closing up the lining so that the armhole is as neat and tidy as the rest of the jacket. For me, this process was by far the most frustrating part of the jacket.

More on that little saga, after this. . .

Sewing the Sleeve

Because I’ve done this twice before with less then desirable results, I thought for this jacket I would really research this particular step. You know, do more investigating to insure I don’t make the same mistakes.

In the Little French Jacket Sew Along from A Challenging Sew, the sleeves are sewn in using a fell stitch. What is interesting is that she only sews the top half of the sleeve with this stitch. She sews the underarm portion of the sleeve on the machine.

I liked that idea so decided to try it out.

And I did.

And I didn’t like it so much. I actually felt that the sleeve was heavy enough that having a machine stitch in it rather than a hand stitch just felt more stable. I felt the sleeve sort of drooped a little with only my hand stitching to hold it in place. Her’s looked fabulous though so you should go take a look.

Finishing the Seam/Closing the Lining

And the saga begins.

If I weren’t such a stickler for finishing projects, this is the step that would have made me put the entire jacket in the UFO pile. This part of the project was by far, my least favorite.

Why? Because I have done it incorrectly in my previous two jackets and somehow even managed to do it incorrectly yet again.

I was seriously questioning my sanity sewing abilities at this point.

But, I think I may have finally learned “what-not-to-do”. I’m hoping that someday, one person will read this and say eureka and glory hallelujah, I avoided this woman’s mess.

So here goes. . .

In the class lesson, Ms. Knight first trims down the seam of the armscye to 3/8″. Once that is finished she opens up the jacket so that she is working on the inside of the jacket and inside of the sleeve opening.

What is the most critical part of the process is next. The goal is to pull the lining of the sleeve out through the opening in the jacket. In order to do this properly however, it is necessary to make sure the lining is laying flat against the sleeve so that there is no puckering of the sleeve fabric once the lining around the armscye is sewn shut.

Ms. Knight works her fingers feeling her way through this process so she does indeed cover it. What she does not do is show us any examples of how this can go wrong and what it looks like when it goes wrong.

Since I have a perfect example at hand – I will just do that honor. . .

It was sad because, from the inside, my lining looked beautiful. I hated ripping it all out.

Once I saw the error of my ways, I realized I wasn’t really “feeling” the inside of the jacket, pushing that lining down properly so as to avoid the puckering you can see in the photo.

So to correct this (after I ripped it all out), I actually pushed the lining up against the jacket fabric, held it in place and then pinned it in place in several areas on the outside of the sleeve. I then kept turning the sleeve out to make sure I was not seeing that puckering any longer.

Once I did this, I could work with the lining in the sleeve cap without pulling it out of place – after all, I had all those pins in there holding things down.

Then, to make matters worse, I had cut away bits and pieces of the lining in the top of the sleeve cap so that it turned under nicely. Once I had all my stitches pulled out and I was ready to do it over, I realized very quickly, I no longer had enough lining left in that sleeve cap to make it work as-is.

In order to fix it, I had to sew a piece of lining fabric onto my sleeve cap. I can tell you, you do not want to be doing this as it is not very easy (after the sleeve is sewn into the jacket and you have quilting lines and all – it is very difficult to get everything flat and under the sewing machine foot).

So you can see in the photo above, I have sewn on a large piece of lining fabric to my sleeve lining. I then had to cut away the excess so that I had that same rounded sleeve cap – only this time, with that extended bit of fabric.

In the photo below, you can see the results of adding the additional lining fabric (extension). Not great, not desirable, but also, not visible to the outside world – so, not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things.

Alternative Sleeve Finish

An alternative to closing the lining up would be to sew a strip of bias binding around the armhole. If you are interested, here is a link to a YouTube video made by SewingArtistry called Finishing Sleeve – French Quilted Jacket.

Something Cool

My friend’s sewing room has some amazing windows. Here is a shot of the view we had while working on our jackets last week!

Next up. . .

Lesson 9 – Pockets

Phew! Now that our sleeves are finished I feel it’s on to the fun bits. Until next time,

Thanks for reading, V

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