Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bluff-stitching a Patch Pocket.

I was never been a big fan of patch pockets until I learnt this method of sewing them onto a jacket. Not having any topstitching showing on the front of the pocket leaves people wondering how on earth you have achieved it. It’s quite easy, but I must confess that I saw this method years ago while visiting an atelier in Paris and I thought it was a clever adaptation of the way we did it when I trained as a tailor. In a commercial tailoring establishment we applied them by just a chalked pocket outline, half a dozen alignment marks and a very slim foot on the machine that resembled a two pronged fork that you would eat with. No pins or basting and ever so fascinating to watch being done. Mastery of this technique was quite an achievment but it is virtually impossible to do on a domestic machine with the wide feet and lack of industrial foot pressure. I'm sure some will talk me down on this but I've tried on many machines of all different brands and have ended up ripping the pocket off time and time again and being very frustrated. The following method is easy to perfect!

Prepare the front of the jacket to a state of readiness for the pockets to go on. The side body (or side front) of the jacket is attached to the front and an extra piece of interfacing has been put in place where the top-back of the patch pocket will be sewn through. This reinforces this area, giving the pocket some strength and will prevent it from pulling away if it gets caught on something (as patch pockets sometimes do)!
In the photo above we see that there are a couple of “tailors tacks” to show the placement of the top of the pocket (you can chalk an outline of where the pocket is to be place if you like). The entire pocket has been bonded with a lightweight interfacing to give it a little more body and prevent the curved edges from fraying out. By reducing the seam allowance to 1cm (3/8”) from 1.5cm (5/8”) allows easier turning of the curved corners and reduces some of the bulk in the finished pocket edges. Each patch pocket will have a pair pocket-linings cut for it (i.e. the 2 pockets will have 4 linings).

Turn and press the top facing of the pocket and attach one of the pocket linings as shown.

Pin the other (with the seam allowance pressed over at the top) on top of this (right sides together is the lining has a pattern) and stitch ¼” in from the edge around the pocket edges, through all layers.

This will hold everything together so the edges can be turned in and pressed. Clover have a product that is a curved corner turing template which definately helps getting curves perfect.
Observe the gathering thread that has been stitched around both the curved edges of the pocket (through all layers). This thread, once pulled up, will help the corner form during pressing. Have a look for a pocket template on

Place the pressed pocked into position on the right side of the jacket front and pin as shown above. Try no to "over pin" as too many pins make this process more difficult. Pin in the same fashion as shown.

Using an “opened toe” embroidery foot (this foot gives great visibility for all sorts of sewing – it’s also referred to as an “appliqué/craft foot”) stitch the edge of the pocket with a very shallow “zigzag” with the stitch length set at 4 or what would be used for machine basting.

This zigzag stitch is a holding stitch to allow the edges inside the pocket to be firmly in place and will help keep the inside seam firm when opening it up for stitching the patch pocket on the inside.

By using the edge of the foot against the raw edge of the seam inside the pocket will give a 7– 8mm seam width, for this final row of stitching. This gives the pocket a sort of “floating” look then the zigzag stitch is finally removed on the outside. Stitching too close to the pressed fold of the pocket will make the pocket look tight from the right side.

The underside of your work (pictured above) when both the zigzag and the final row of stitching are in place.
Remove the temporary zigzag stitch from the outside of the pocket (be gentle, just in case any of these stitches have been caught in the inside stitching) and lightly press. Stitch down the extra piece of lining that in still floating free in the inside of the pocket.

This will seal in all the raw edges on the seam allowances inside the pocket and make it a joy to put your hand in your pocket. Finish the top of the pocket by topstitching a distance of2.5cm (1”) in total (this stitching is usually about 1cm (3/8”) in the finished edge).

This final stitching is to reinforce the top edges and it also captures the raw seam allowance that has not been covered by the extra piece of pocket lining.

Press the pocket very carefully from the front with a pressing cloth. Bruising a patch pocket is very easy to do. I hope you have a go at this, it seems like a lot of fuss, but the finished result is so professional.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Mastering the the Tailored Fly (Jeans)

It wasn’t until I had been sewing for many years that I discovered how the traditional tailored fly actually worked! I had made many pairs of trousers and the fly seemed to work when finished, but it was purely by mystery rather than mastery. It wasn’t until I had to teach others how do them that I devised a foolproof method that gives the same result every time. Discussion regarding whether a fly opening should be different for men and women has always boggled me, but my opinion is that the men’s opening is the best way for all “right handed” people. Most fashion garments have the male opening by default, so it’s really an individual’s choice!

This photo shows the “grown on” fly extension that most patterns have these days. If your pattern does not have this, just attach the fly facing to the trouser front, laying centre front stitching lines on top of each other and secure with some tape while cutting out. I like to mark a line 2cm (3/4”) out from the centre front fold line to indicate the cutting line for the right front of the trouser. Chalk in the Centre Front lines as well as the zip opening point as a reference during making up.

Although it’s not shown in the photos, the fly extension has been lightly interfaced and this interfacing goes over the fold line and into the topstitching area of the trouser front. Stabilizing the fly area makes topstitching a much easier task. The raw edges have been neatened by a three thread wide stitch on a serger (overlocker) as has the edge of the turned out fly facing.

Stitch from the crotch area up to the zip notch marking. This seam may need a couple of reinforcing rows of stitching or use the “triple stitch” if you machine has one.

With a large machine tacking stitch, sew the fly opening closed by stitching up the centre front lines that you have chalked in. There is no need to back tack at either end of this tacking due to its imminent removal.
Press open this seam to as far below the zip notch as possible. If you are wanting a sporty finish on your fly opening, now is a good time to put in the edge topstitching in on the edge of the opened seam to a few stitches below the zip stop notch. This step is purely optional and is used only when a “jeans” effect/finish is desired.

In this image it shows the zip being applied to the “trimmed” side of the fly opening. This is done with a 1cm (3/8”) seam or the width of the zip tape. Stitch from the top (waist) down to the bottom of the zip notch area.

Lightly press this seam from the right side of the zip and press into position to form the “lap” that is required to keep the zip well hidden when the fly in completed (there is a small pleat formed when you lift the un-stitched side of the zip up). The image below shows the pleat that has been formed under the zip tape that has been lifted for the photo.
Lay the remaining side of the zip against the fly extension and pin into position. Make sure that the small pleat that forms the “lap” is still in place. Stitch into position but be prepared to push the zip runner down when stitching this seam.
Mark line for you topstitching.

It’s not cheating to do this and a “shot glass” makes a great template for the bottom curve of the stitching line. Complete the topstitching through all layers. Beware of a lurking zip stopper waiting to crunch your needle. In this photo you will also see the fake top stitching along the folded edge of the fly, remember this was put in when we did the initial long tacking stitch and pressed the seam open.

Pin the fly facing into position as shown in the photo, then topstitch the fly facing though all layers as if edge stitching (stitch from top to bottom as it is much easier).

The first couple of times doing this technique seems a little odd, especially not attaching the zip facing until the very last, but it does work and does so consistently well. Once mastered, trouser making is a breeze, so…X-Y-Z (examine your zips!)

IMHO: Every machine has a different set up when it comes to using thickier top stitching thread for jeans. Over the past year I have experimented with a lot of different threads and needles. Over all the conclusion is that "Inspira" denim needles give the best results (100/16 or 110/18) and there is less "loopies" when stiching over bulky seams. Some machines just don't like using these heavier threads but I've found that these needles eliminate problems on 90% of fussy machines. If there is a Pfaff/Husqvarna/Singer dealer in your area then you should be able to find these needles.