Linen suit: ready for summer

Finally, it is here: my new linen suit!

I got this Irish linen last year with the idea to make this suit and I finally followed through. After 3 versions of this self drafted jacket, I think I have nailed the general shape. This time I opened the quarters slightly more for increased ventilation and changed the shoulders shape, from my usual natural shoulder to a stronger looking continental/Roman/can’t agree on the name shoulder. I say this because traditionally structured shoulders are the marker of Savile Row tailoring, which is not what I do (nothing wrong with it, I just prefer a softer one).

This jacket has minimal canvassing (I used 182 g/m2 , quite light for a canvas, no chest canvassing – only body canvas for the lapels and the unavoidable French canvas for the collar), no domette, no shoulder pads – ok fine there are pads but just enough to make the silhouette smooth. Bottom line is: I wear a suit year round and as such my suit has to be weather appropriate, which in Japan means scorching heat and humidity at 90% in summer. Bye bye wool canvas. 

Because this is Emilia and I would not be myself without some tutorial, here are some of the steps which go into constructing this suit. Remember there are various styles and schools, and what counts is the result, the mental image you have, and the specific silhouette you want to convey.

By machine, I first assemble the backs, the fronts, the shoulder seams, and close the darts. I then construct the side vents (which honestly takes me forever lmao) by hand, and determine the size and location of pockets. I prefer doing pockets first, attaching them by hand in the case of the lined patch pockets. For the welt pockets, be those breast pockets or front pockets, I first interface the inside, and then use my preferred method.

After that, I baste the canvas to the body. This is done in some specific order, also being careful to smooth out canvas and fabric while preceding, from bottom to top. 

Now come the fun part: padstitching! I padstitch the collar canvas on the bottom collar, which I generally make in a different fabric, and the body canvas from the lapel roll towards the edge. I think I now have the technique down and am quite consistent in the stitching…took some 3 suits to achieve it though! I don’t particularly care about small stitches being visible on the back side of the lapel (I mean…you quite literally never see it and it’s basically bound to be visible anyway) and actually find it quite special to be able to recognize the handwork at a glance. This is not to say I don’t love my fused jacket just as much, please don’t be offended little jacket!

A good practice is also to tape the edges of the canvas and the lapel roll. The latter should be about 6 mm from the lapel roll, towards the inside of the jacket, and also be about a cm shorter, to give the lapel some bounce. I confess I did not tape the edges, having run out of tape. I know, bad excuse. But it worked! I just used ストライトテープ, which you fuse, instead of the usual twill tape.

After all this padstitching, I attach facings and collar. There is no good reason to attach the facings by hand or by machine, but in this case I did it by hand, because I wanted to chill on the sofa (real story). I also attached the collar entirely by hand, this due to the need for precision. I’ve attached many lopsided collars to know I’m personally not able to achieve the same precision by machine, lmao.

The most important aspect of attaching the facings and collar is the turn of cloth: this means that the top piece has to be slightly larger and “fold over” the edge so that the bottom piece is not visible. This is particularly tricky when it comes to the lapels, as what is top and what is bottom changes as soon as the lapel roll begins. I don’t have a good tip for this, but what I do is I work the turn with the iron and then baste the entire thing. Once the suit is finished, I hand pick stitch – which in this case is absolutely invisible, but I know it’s there™. The pick stitching helps secure the correct turn of cloth.

Before attaching the sleeves, I make the sleeves and their linings, which I base on the sleeve pieces. Also at this point I shape by, you guessed, some hand sewing, the shoulder pads, and I insert them between the facings and the outer pieces. The shoulder pads should extend, and be anchored to, the seam allowance.

Once the sleeves are attached to be body, I attach the sleeve caps by hand. I use soft ones made in dinette, however, to achieve a more structured look I think adding a strip of canvas cut on the bias would help. The little roll on the sleeve should now form, especially thanks to the present of the seam allowances, the canvas, and the pad there, pushing the sleeves head up.

Fun fact! in Neapolitan tailoring the sleeve seam allowance is pushed up, giving rise to the traditional “spalla camicia”, with of without the shirring effect called “grinze”.

After that I do all the buttonholes. I recently started doing hand worked ones again and while the first is not perfect, the front ones are very nice. As gimp I use linen ツレデ, which is sold readily in Japan in tailor shops and used to attach buttons. Bonus points: it works as thread for leather working too.

And that’s it! This jacket is accompanied by the Evelyn trousers by Sugardale Patterns, whose Kickstarter I supported, full of hope, several years ago. This is the third time I make this pattern and I really like the very clean front as well as general silhouette. The issue is the exclusionary sizing of this pattern company (up to 123 cm hips), which I had hoped they had addressed during their years-long hiatus. Did they tho?

Hope you enjoyed this post and are ready to try some coat making yourself.

Have a good one,

E

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