Coat Month: Interfacing Basics for Tailored Coats
You've decided to make your first coat, but you're not sure where to start.
Making a coat is more than just following the pattern instructions on how to construct the coat, but also knowing which areas need extra support and shaping. There's nothing sadder looking than a floppy collar or lapel that won't lie flat.
When I made my first coat, my eyes were opened to the world of tailoring. I like to say that tailoring is "secret engineering" - there's all sort of stitches, reinforcement, added elements, and manipulation of the fabric the give the garment (be it a blazer or a coat) its shape and support that's hidden from the outside. It's what gives lapels their soft shape, makes collars crisp, and allows a sleeve to hang smoothly. Tailoring is also the molding of fabric with steam - there's soooo much pressing and steaming in tailoring, and through the course of a tailoring project, you will become best friends with your iron.
There are three different types of tailoring methods:
This is all done by hand - attaching the interfacing, pad stitching to shape the lapels and collar, and hand-stitching the roll line of the lapel (this video talks more about taping a roll line). Custom tailoring is all about building the shape of the fabric in by hand, and there's a lot of control with this method. However, because it's all done by hand, it can be pretty time-consuming.
Pretty straight-forward: the tailoring techniques are done by machine instead of by hand, like applying the interfacing, stitching the twill tape for the roll line, or pad-stitching the lapel with the machine.
This method uses fusible interfacings to create the shape and definition of a tailored garment instead of applying the interfacings by hand or shaping the coat with hand-stitches. This may seem like the most obvious method to choose when tailoring because it's the fastest and easiest, but beware! Depending on what type of material you're working with, using fusible interfacings could be a big mistake because of the material properties. For example, it’s tricky to use fusible with cashmere fabrics, and as a result you may get bubbling in the interfacing.
When you're planning out your coat project, it's entirely possible that you may use more than one type of method to tailor your coat. For my Yona Coat, I used custom tailoring to shape the lapel and collar, but fusible tailoring for the coat and sleeve hems.
Giving your coat all of this shape and structure, however, wouldn't be possible without using interfacing. There are three types of interfacing you'll come across in coat tailoring:
This is a woven interfacing material used with traditional hand-tailoring methods, and comes in many different weights. It's made from a blend of wool, goat hair, and rayon, and the surface feels prickly to the touch, which allows the canvas to "grab" on to the coat material you're working with. This interfacing is perfect for collar and lapel applications, as well as interfacing the front of a coat.
This interfacing also comes in several different weights and can be as simple as muslin or cotton batiste. It's typically used to support areas of the coat, like the upper back (also known as a back stay).
My favorite type of interfacing! This interfacing looks like a knit interfacing, but with threads woven in and out across the fabric. Using this interfacing gives the same benefits and shaping as using hair canvas, but results in a softer look with more drape in the fabric.
With all of these types of interfacings, the weight of your interfacing will be determined by the weight of your coat fabric. It should complement your coat fabric, but not make it so stiff you can't move! Definitely try testing out swatches of interfacing with your coat fabric to see what kind of results you get before committing to one material or method over another.
In coat tailoring, these are the areas to apply interfacing to:
- Fronts, including side fronts if applicable
- Upper back
- Sleeve cap
- Patch and welt pockets
- Coat and sleeve hems
Let me take you through how I thought out the interfacing process for my Yona Coat:
I opted for a partial front interfacing with lightweight hair canvas. The reason for not interfacing the entire coat front is because I was afraid that the hair canvas would make the coat too stiff and bunchy when closed with the belt and ruin the fluid drape of the coat fabric. To attach the interfacing to the coat front, I basted it by machine in the seam allowances and trimmed away the excess, to avoid extra bulk in the seam allowances.
As much as I liked the idea of custom tailoring the front and lapels all by hand, I just couldn’t bring myself to spend that much time hand-sewing all of the hair canvas in place (I don’t enjoy hand-sewing very much, to be honest). Using the machine tailoring method, I applied the twill tape on the roll line by machine, and then marked my pad-stitching lines with pencil and pad-stitched the lapels. I’m glad I didn’t skimp on the hand sewing on this part; the pad-stitching makes such a big difference in the lapels rolling out and staying in perfect place. It was so cool to see this process happen as I stitched!
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