Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Turning the other collar

The last major piece of work on the coat is the lapels and collar.

I was always confused as to how best to set lapels and collars - which do you do first? And in what order to get a nice tight notch? Sew the fronts and back together, then join them up?

For my first two coats I sewed the lapels in first and then set in a pre-assembled collar. This I found quite hard work to do - nothing seem to quite meet up correctly once they were all sewn together. I also found when making the Mk II that the seam running away from the notch did not sit as flat as it should (see right). After a while the points started curling up too. Very frustrating.

For the Mk III I bought an invaluable book, Tailoring: A Step-by-step Guide to Creating Customised Garments, which gave me a definitive set-by-step guide to assembling a decent notched collar. I can heartily recommend this book!

It is full of photo-illustrated descriptions of how to make a range of jacket styles, using either a standard machine stitching method; a corner cutting iron-in interfacing method; or a more intensive hand-sewing technique, all running in parallel.

In there I found the best way to do the collar and lapels is to assemble them in two halves: firstly set the under collar into the body of the garment; then sew the lapels and upper collar together; then finally sew the whole thing together, always sewing away from the notch points.

I set my under collar into the body of the coat (see above) and joined the upper collar to the lapel fronts (see right).

I then pinned the two halves together (see below) and did a very clever little trick to make sure the points sat nicely once sewn.

 As I said, my early coats had suffered from an on-going problem where the points of the lapels and collar curled upwards away from the body of the coat. This was because the under collar, being cut the same size as the upper collar, pushes outwards as it is folded over, causing the curling.

To prevent this, I fold the pinned collar, top side up, in half from the point. I then put in one or two pins along the ridge I have created (see right). This has the effect of shortening the fabric underneath before sewing and pre-stresses the point. When finished it makes the under collar fractional smaller, pulling the upper collar over it, and towards the body of the garment in the process. The points then lay flat against body.

I then sew away from the notch point without backtracking the way you might normally to secure a line of stitch, making sure my needle hits the notch point absolutely spot on (see left). I then do the same for the lapel. You have to be very careful and take it slowly. The points will seem very contorted at this stage, but once it is sewn and un-pinned, it all comes out in the wash!
I then tie all the loose ends of stitching at the notch point together. This makes the notch very accurate.

There is then another little trick to make sure you get real sharp point on your lapels: first cut across the point of the lapel, around 2 to 3mm away from the stitch line, or as close as you dare; then cut away the sides, tapering it towards the point, again go within 2 or 3mm of the stitch line at the point (see right). When you turn it rightside out, you will get a nice flat sharp point, rather than a rounded end stuffed with excess seam allowance.

The lapels and collar then need careful pressing, with the seam line just on the underside of the edge, so it does not show from the front. When I am then pressing the front edge of the coat down to the hem, I need to change the fall of this where the lapel folds the seam.
These little touches make all the difference.

Then there is the problem of the shape of the collar, which is very difficult to get right.

In the photographs above, I am trying to show the correct angle of the collar. Notice how the line of the collar falls down from the notch towards the collar tip, and the angle between the collar and the lapel is very narrow. The angle of the collar point is around 80 degrees. The collar point is also SHORTER than the lapel’s.

These pictures show the Magnoli coat (left) and the Baron’s Boutique version (right). 
The Magnoli coat’s collar descends from the notch, but the angle is wider the collar point is around 60 degrees.
On the Baron’s coat, the collar RISES from the notch, and the angle is very wide indeed. Both coats have collar and lapel of similar depth.

Here are the previous versions of my coat; the Mk II (left) and Mk III (right).
When I made the Mk II, I was struggling with lapel and collar construction, and I took my eye off the ball on the collar shape - it is totally wrong: collar angle and length is out.
I think the Mk III is much better, but the angle between them points is a little wide. I have revised this in my new pattern, though it still needs a little more work. I will show you all when I have tweaked it a bit.

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