Saturday, January 26, 2013

Introducing...Simplicity 3343

Here's a blog post that's long overdue. Since last fall, I have been working on a tailored jacket (my first!) using vintage pattern Simplicity 3343.

Very chic, no? I embarked on this project after a chance meeting with a professional seamstress/sewing teacher while standing in line at the cutting table at Joann's. She gave me her card, and I decided to take my first formal sewing lessons. A sewing friend agreed to join me (to bring the cost of private lessons down a little), and we decided that our classes would be focused on creating a tailored jacket.

The lessons have been fantastic for making me slow down and do things properly. For one, it's the first time I've been this fastidious about transferring my fitting adjustments to the pattern. Secondly, my teacher insists we actually make the fitting changes to our muslins so we can try them on again and make sure everything is perfect. Sadly, I kinda got stuck at the muslin phase.

The photo up there is my muslin. I originally hoped it could turn into a wearable  muslin because it's nice wool that I scored off eBay last year for only $4/yard. Sadly, fitting issues with the armholes meant I would have had to recut a lot of pieces, and I just didn't have enough fabric left. SIGH. The culprit was a low armscythe...

my face and the quality of this photo both reflect the crappy-ness of this fitting issue
When I lifted my arms above about 45 degrees, the whole jacket got yanked up too. I do not like this issue at all, as I have discovered through previous forays with vintage patterns. But how to fix it? My sewing teacher put some pins in like this...

...which might have brought the sleeve in closer to the armhole and maybe fixed the angle a little. But I wore it like that for a while and it just didn't seem right. I needed MORE freedom of movement.

Too much freedom? Ripping out all those stitches sure made it feel better. It also provided maximum armpit ventilation. Plus, look how the bottom of the sleeve pulls a good three or four inches away from my body, once freed from the smothering grasp of the low armscythe.

While wearing it this way would be very comfortable, it would not be very warm or stylish. So I examined the hole I had created...

saw that it was pretty much just an oval, and decided I would make a gusset to fill the gap.

gusset pattern
I think that if I knew more about gusset drafting, this might have worked. I actually did cut this gusset in the wool fabric and inserted it, and it did greatly improve my mobility. Unfortunately, it brought the armpit of the jacket so up close and personal to my actual armpit that it was quite uncomfortable and tight. (Sadly, I have no photos of this stage) I am pretty sure that with some tweaking of the gusset shape, this could be avoided. But I searched for resources on how to do this and didn't find any readily available. In the meantime, I had wasted several private sewing class fees trying to fix this issue, while my compatriot classmate made steady progress without me. So I decided to try a different solution and just raise the armhole opening. I guess I probably should have tried that from the start, but I was enamored by the idea of vintagey gussets in a vintagey jacket.

I read that the armhole on a jacket only needs to be about 1" or maybe 1 1/2" below your armpit. I was dealing with at least 3" of space down there, so I decided to bring the armscythe up a solid 2". But I didn't want to tear apart my muslin, recut all my jacket pieces, and sew it back together. So I followed my teacher's advice and just drafted a couple pieces to fill in the gap and bring the armhole up...

You can see the drafted pattern pieces in the photo above, and how they filled in the low armhole on my muslin. Once this was accomplished, I had to redraft the sleeve so that it would fit a smaller armhole. I wasn't sure how big it would have to be so I measured the seam allowance on the original sleeve cap and the seam allowance on the original armhole. The armhole was about 90% of the size of the sleeve cap, which is eased in. In other words...

old sleeve hole seam length / old sleeve cap seam length = 0.90


new sleeve hole seam length / new sleeve cap seam length = 0.90

I already had my new sleeve hole seam length, so I calculated my new sleeve cap seam length from that. Then I futzed around with my pattern and a pencil until I came up with a new line that equaled the desired length while maintaining the same basic shape as the original (just smaller).

trying out my new, smaller armhole... in an awkward bathroom photo shoot (it's the only place with good lighting!)
Then I cut out a new sleeve (in clashing plaid) and inserted it - and it worked! The fit is much more comfortable. I have a better range of motion, and I don't feel like the armscythe is trying to cut me a new armpit.

So now I'm finally, FINALLY, going to go cut out my fashion fabric and get started. Hopefully I will have some neato tailoring photos to share soon. Later!


  1. Phew! That's a lot of work but it is also a problem I frequently have, hence my making mostly sleeveless garments! I'm excited to see the progress of the final jacket.

  2. It was a lot of work... but next time it will hopefully take me just a fraction of the time. Or, I can use this modified jacket pattern as a guide for adjusting other patterns in the future. It's just getting past that first one that is a headache!

  3. Good job! And I like the plaid! It works surprisingly well with the pattern. Makes me want to make a plaid jacket of my own.