Friday, 31 August 2012

Check my OCding

l Check Those Collars and Lapels 
Vivienne Westwood
The really irksome thing about checks is that they have a tendency to highlight wiggly seams, badly pressed edges and poor cutting out. One of the principle areas of irksomeness is around the neck - the lapels and collar; the other major location is the sleeves.

Of course the check/plaid can be used for effect too but the tailoring perfectionist aims for perfect matching - what else?

Let me try to explain about lapels first....

A perfectly turned back lapel made in check(plaid) has the vertical lines running parallel to the edge of the lapel. However, the facing, which IS the visible lapel is usually cut with the straight of grain but the lapel is cut an an angle (for the shape). Not making sense? No, I'm not explaining it very well.

I'm moving into the world of men's tailoring because this is where the art of matching in jackets originated. Some of the images have stripes which are easier to see what I mean but the same principal applies to checks,plaids and tartans. Our main concern here is with vertical lines; on the sleeves we concentrate on horizontals - but that's for another day. Now, look closely at the following photos.....

This is NOT good - compare the right and left lapels. The left is perfect but the right is skewed - do not spend your money on this kind of workmanship, or let your man spend his money on this.

This one IS good - see how the pin stripes are identical on both sides.

This one is YSL ladies jacket  - perfect parallel checks, but what else would you expect for £800.

 This one is Ralph Lauren from DH's wardrobe and once again the vertical stripes run parallel to the edge of the lapel. He chose to not disclose the cost of this jacket to me! Here's me making my own and he goes off and buys Purple Label! Justice - what justice?

Here's a Viyella wool jacket for this season. £250! and lines that aren't straight. 
Hopefully by now you can see what has to be achieved on the lapels. Good grief! that's only the lapels I hear you cry!!!!

In my search for material for this post I came across the most amazing blogs - one of them is askandyaboutclothes (link below). I thought females were obsessive about clothes and stuff but read this forum! If any of you has dared read American Psycho - Patrick Bateman has nothing on these guys! This is where perfection of matching becomes obsessive.

 Can you spot what's wrong with this matching?

Now, here's my effort....
This is the lapel cut on the straight of grain - see how the orange stripe is two lines away from the edge at the top and tapers out towards the break point? This should be avoided (see above). It means making a new facing pattern so that the edge of the lapel is on the straight of grain and therefore following the vertical lines of the fabric.  Because the lapel is at an angle to the front of the jacket it is usually cut on a slight bias so we have to tilt the pattern piece slightly.
Here is the original pattern piece and the new facing. I used a book - Classic Tailoring Techniques - to help me and some advice from Claire Schaeffer in a Threads issue July 2009 No 143 to re-draft the facing. I'm almost sure both of these sources are copyrighted but you can maybe locate them. 
I love this quote from the book: " This is essential for a controlled, graceful lay of the fabric."

There's actually not too much out there on the interweb for redrafting of jacket front facings for use with check/plaid fabrics. So here goes.

Firstly, you need to redraw the front facing with a new grainline that runs parallel to the edge of the lapel.

Copy the original pattern piece but shift it so that it actually changes shape a little. The new piece is narrower on the inside edge but straight on the outside edge.

Now you have to shrink the excess fabric out with a steam iron to re-shape the facing - bit of guess work involved here I reckon, or black magic.

The two pieces, old on top and new underneath. You can see the angle of the outside edge has altered but it means that my lapels will have that sought after straight line.

So, here's the real thing just positioned not sewn in place yet, but you can see the orange stripe remains two lines away from the edge the whole way down - ie parallel to the edge of the lapel.

Now, if I can figure it out and do it, wouldn't you think that the RTW market could do the same?

If you are in the market for a RTW checked/plaid or striped jacket please make sure the checks/lines etc on the lapel follow the edges. It means someone has done just that little bit extra to produce a jacket that is worth paying money for.

Collar Matching

The other major location of problems is the back of the collar, once turned back into place the checks (or lines) on the collar should match the checks (or lines) on the back.

Perfection, even if the stripes are a little bold!

DH's  R Lauren again - perfection!

This is my effort - what I can't figure out is this...

With a centre back seam how do you match the verticals exactly as in the R Lauren? On my jacket I've lost the vertical orange stripe completely because of the seam, but on the collar it's there.

The only thing I could come up with was to shrink the collar edge a bit to help make it fit the pattern on the back.

I hope you also noticed the sleeve matching with the horizontal stripes in all the examples - that's for another day. This is where I'm at at the moment - not so nice.

If you managed to read all the way to the end of this - very well done! If you're still interested in Matching-OCD check out the Sartorialist tailoring blog. Even if you're not, it's still a fascinating read.
And when it all becomes too much - sod the matching and go for contrast!


  1. OMG! Your patience level is right up there on this construction. Your eye-to-detail, right down to the exact stripe, is going to give you a brilliant jacket when finished. Always wondered why I liked plain fabrics...

    1. I see checks when I close my eyes

  2. Kudos to you for your patience and perfectionism! I have some beautiful plaids in my stash that I haven't yet used for these precise reasons! I do know Nancy Zieman of Nancy's Notions fame did a video about sewing plaids about a zillion years ago. Don't know if it still is available any where? Unfortunately, I loaned mine to a friend that theoretically was going to learn to sew, and instead she absconded with several sewing videos. :P{{ The only thing I remember is that Nancy Z would use colored pens to draw the plaid onto the actual pattern pieces for exact matching. But I do like your method with placing the piece upside down onto the fabric and chalking around it better I think. I'll be keeping an eye on this because I just MAY decide to use that beautiful chocolate wool plaid I've been holding on to!

    1. I've used the colouring in pattern pieces for stripes - nice to get the crayons out. Shame about your sewing videos but get that plaid out and make something beautiful.

  3. Oh, I love all the tedious perfection we strive for in tailoring! Thoroughly enjoyed this post!

    1. Thanks Tia Dia! We do it even if we are the only ones who know and notice. I think the check matching thing is something that when it works no one notices but when it's off it everyone can see the flaws.

  4. Gosh I am reading this think am I up to making a check/striped jacket and getting the perfect end result?? Thankfully I have a few other projects on the go so it can wait for a while.

    10/10 for perseverance and somehow I think your jacket will turn out great.

    1. Go slow, read tailoring stuff, inspect passers-by jackets, get weird looks from sales assistants as you pull at seams in shops, raid Mike's wardrobe for checked jackets - good examples and bad, even go into friends' wardrobes- you'll be fine!

  5. Wow- I really enjoyed all your examples and that Westwood makes me swoon!

    1. Yes that one has attracted quite a few comments from my flesh and blood friends - even got a commission!