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Hey, so i’m totally new to sewing (garments at least), and am working on my first project, the Jakob men’s shirt. I’m having a bit of trouble grasping the sleeve seam concept here. Looking at other men’s shirts that i have lying around, i see that there is only one seam that encloses the sleeve, and it appears to be a flat-felled seam? (i’m using flannel shirts as reference as i’m working with flannel) I’ve seen tutorials on how to sew a flat felled seam, but they all use two separate pieces of fabric, whereas i need to use one, to make an enclosure. How to i sew up the sleeve without sewing one wall of it to the other?


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  • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

    Dec 19, 2010, 11.06 PMby katexxxxxx

    Very carefully! It’s a bit tricky. You might like to use a French seam instead…

    You need to sew the felled seam carefully, making sure that there isn’t an extra layer of fabric caught under the presser foot. It’s a bit like sewing in the bottom of a bucket! It’s rather hard to describe, and I can’t find a picture of the last time I did it…

  • Sewing_machine_large

    Dec 20, 2010, 12.32 PMby bjr99

    The French seam would work . You can then top stitch on the bodice of the garment about 1/4 inch in from the seam . This will give it an nice finish especially if it is flannel.

    When I first started sewing my machine would only go forwards and backwards, no fancy stitches. For years I finished all my seams with a French seam. Good luck.

  • Dscn0826_large

    Jan 10, 2011, 08.32 PMby ruthw

    The easy way to avoid the “bottom of a bucket” problem is to attach the sleeves “in the flat”, that is, sew the shoulder seams, then attach the sleeves, then sew the underarm and side seams in one go from the wrist to the hem of the main body. Flat fell the seams before you sew the underarms and the side seams.

    How do you sew them without sewing one side of the sleeve “tube” to the other? You mean you want to flatfell the underarm sleeve? Sorry, haven’t a clue. Can it be done?

    1 Reply
    • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

      Jan 11, 2011, 08.10 AMby katexxxxxx

      Yes. That’s where the sewing in the bottom of the bucket comes in! :D

  • Monjio-1_large

    Jan 11, 2011, 09.23 AMby Monjio

    Hello, an easy way to finish off sleeve seams is to trim the seam allowance down. Using a bias binding, iron it in half, sandwich the seam allowance in between the bias binding. Then stitch it!

    It gives you a nice clean finish!

  • Dscn0826_large

    Jan 11, 2011, 10.36 PMby ruthw

    So by “sewing in the bottom of a bucket” you mean that oscar just has to scrunch up the whole sleeve as he sews along the underarm seam?

    If that is what you mean, then I suggest ignoring my advice to put the sleeves on "in the flat’. That will only make things harder. But to be honest, I would do “fake flat fell” seams in that situation.

    1 Reply
    • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

      Jan 12, 2011, 07.58 AMby katexxxxxx

      Yup. You put the sleeve in flat like you said, (that’s easy enough to fell as you can get at both sides of the fabric), and then fell the side/under arm seam – very carefully! :D

  • Dscn0826_large

    Jan 11, 2011, 10.38 PMby ruthw

    Oh, but another, and better piece of advice, Oscar, is to buy some Kwik Sew men’s shirt patterns. If you are new to garment sewing they are a good place to start – very clear instructions. Then buy a few books on how to make shirts, etc.

    1 Reply
    • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

      Jan 12, 2011, 08.07 AMby katexxxxxx

      There is only ONE real shirt book: David Page Coffin’s Shirtmaking. ;)

      I find the Kwick Sew men’s shirt patterns are rather short, so check the length on the man before cutting the fabric. I have to lengthen them about 3" for my hubby, who’s about 6’ tall.

  • Dscn0826_large

    Jan 14, 2011, 12.04 AMby ruthw

    Yes, I have heard about David Page Coffin’s book, but never seen it. The reason I recommend Kwik Sew is because Oscar said he is a complete beginner, and their instructions are so clear that they are a good place to start, I think.

    1 Reply
    • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

      Jan 14, 2011, 09.58 AMby katexxxxxx

      When David started his process, he had never cut fabric, never threaded a machine… He re-engineered the whole process. His instructions are clear, precise, well written, and much better than any other book, never mind a pattern! The pattern is a good START, but to make a good shirt, you need to go on from there…

      David discusses the merits of different collar stiffening, and what works best where, the best way to do a good sleeve placket, collar styles, and all sorts, for both men and women.

      The book includes patterns for different collars, cuffs, and sleeve plackets.

      It’s also a very good read. :) I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to ab absolute beginner, used along side that Kwick Sew pattern. Use the patterns for the basics, and David’s book for anything beyond the cutting diagrams.

  • Dscn0826_large

    Jan 14, 2011, 11.10 AMby ruthw

    I am sure it is a good book, as you say. But it is common for people on sites like this to assume that everybody lives in the US, everybody knows the trade names of the products they recommend (Fraycheck, this interfacing, that interfacing etc), everybody can buy the books available in the US, and that the knowledge in them is transferable across the globe.

    As you may have seen, I do not live in the States and even when I lived in the UK, what was available there was different or went under different names or generic names. For example, like a lot of people outside the US I don’t use Vogue patterns much anymore, though they used to be my favourite, because postage is between 16 and 30 plus dollars to here. The postage for a book is prohibitive. So I use local resources. Since one of Turkey’s main industries is textiles, and there are tailors all over the place (women are also called tailors here, not only men), I am not short of a knowledge base, thankfully, but the language gap sometimes interferes.

    So, (with all that in mind!) the reason I mention Kwik Sew patterns for a beginner is that you can buy most of them for download on the internet (as well as the instructions being very clear). Although these days I use almost exclusively Burda Style magazine, it is often difficult even for intermediates, let alone beginners because of the extreme brevity of the instructions in it.

    Long explanation of background reasoning, sorry!

    Oscar, did you read any of the feedback on your question?

    1 Reply
    • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

      Jan 14, 2011, 11.57 AMby katexxxxxx

      I live in the UK, and everything mentioned in the book is easily found here. If (like Pellon/Vilene) I cannot find something under the exact name here that it goes under elsewhere, I ask in places like this that have a membership that runs from the very skilled and professional, using mostly professional and trade products to the new sewists still finding out what the basics are,and who are based all over the world.

      I love to tap into that knowledge.

      Living somewhere like Turkey, you should be able to find out what the local names for things like hair canvas, collar cloths and other things are, and find resources. The language barrier may be an impediment, but it shouldn’t be insurmountable.

      Books can be more difficult, I grant you, but worth saving for the gold, like David’s lovely book. I’ve bought books, patterns, fabrics, all sorts from all over the world when nothing locally will do. I might suck my teeth over the postage and live on beans for a month to afford it, but there are ways and means… And we cannot restrict recommendations that others might find useful just because they are not readily available in every country. if you know that X is the best, you can often get a sample to trot round the local suppliers and find a less costly local equivalent. If you dismiss X out of hand because you don’t recognize the name, you cannot learn about it or the equivalents…

      I’m not dismissing the Kwick Sew patterns: they are well drafted and the instructions are the clearest of many. It’s just that there ARE better alternatives, there are things you need to take into account with the patterns (like their being rather short), and there are better descriptions and names for collar stiffening than generic ‘interfacing’. Being aware of this will help folk to expand their knowledge base, enhance their skills level, and make the better stuff more readily available where they are by repeatedly asking for it.

  • Dscn0826_large

    Jan 14, 2011, 01.59 PMby ruthw

    Did anybody suggest restricting information? Did anybody “dismiss anything out of hand”? I just suggested a simple starting point for the questioner, who said “I am totally new to sewing (garments at least)”. Also, I feel that many people don’t want to make fairly major investments in books, equipment etc before they have decided if they are going to enjoy a new activity and continue with it.

    But saying about my situation that " if you know that X is the best, you can often get a sample to trot round the local suppliers and find a less costly local equivalent" is wishful thinking, I’m afraid. Oh, if only! I have actually directly contacted several suppliers (and even authors of published materials ) and they refuse to ship to Turkey (Etsy, for example). So I often cannot get samples. If something is shipped to Turkey, it may be stopped at customs and then I have to spend a day travelling across Istanbul and back to answer the custom’s officer’s questions or pay tax on it. (I had this experience recently, ended up in tears in the customs officer’s office – whereupon all the couriers hanging around banded together to fill in forms for me, deal with the official, and make sure I got what I needed. But it was not a pleasant experience overall.)

    So, you may see why it is useful for me to know the generic terms for things because at least I have a chance of finding it in a dictionary. But it is only a small chance.

    You offer a lot of “shoulds” about how one can learn/do things in a non-English-speaking country. Let me give an example: I have been sewing clothing since I was a teenager (13 years old to be precise) and I am now almost fifty. I know how to get what I need when speaking English. If I don’t know the name of it, I can describe it. I speak five languages but Turkish is my sixth and I am still only intermediate. There is no Turkish-English textiles dictionary available, and textiles is a very specific field. So I bought a translation of the Singer Sewing Guide, thinking that it would allow me to learn the vocabulary I need. Unfortunately, the photgraphs in it are reproduced so badly that it is really very difficult to work out what you are looking at. For instance, if the picture had a caption “whalebone” or “plastic boning” in English, that would be fine for me. The caption would help me to interpret the picture. However, the picture reproduction is so poor that I am stuck with the words, which doesn’t help much. So once I ended up asking for boning instead of clear elastic to put in the shoulders of a cardigan! If you make enough mystery requests, the salespeople get so confused, they don’t want to deal with you anymore!

    Last week I actually took the (very heavy) sewing guide with me to my local Singer dealer because I wanted to buy some new feet for my sewing machine. I found that the translation was wrong in some places. For example, the pintuck foot was translated into something that means “turning foot” in Turkish (the word for a rolled hem foot) and the photo was not brilliant. This took some time to sort out between me and the shop assistant before I eventually got the right foot. One of the feet I wanted was not available (a quarter inch foot) but it may be available under another name in Turkish, of course, because “inch” is only used in Britain and forner British colonies. It may take me some time to find out…..

    Also, custom and practice is different in different countries. It is very rare here for fabric shops to supply the fibre content of fabric (eg x percent polyester, x percent cotton, and so forth). Fabrics are categorized differently. You ask for them in a different way (I finally found this out by asking a fashion-mad Turkish friend who sews how I would ask about the fibre content and she said, “We just don’t do that”! She actually couldn’t find a way to translate my question into Turkish in a way that salespeople would understand even though her English was good enough to study for a PhD in the UK.)

    So interfacings clearly are not sold in the same way. Saying “there are better descriptions and names for collar stiffening than interfacing” is no doubt true but, for me, not particularly helpful right now.

    Anyway, when all’s said and done, Oscar is silent and he may very well be living slap-bang in the middle of London or New York. He has now received a couple of different suggestions for the future, one cheaper (downloadable Kwik Sew patterns) and one more expensive (the David Page Coffin book). Isn’t that what discussion boards are for?

  • Avawa_large

    Jan 14, 2011, 03.00 PMby analogue

    I’m not entering the country/language problems discussion here (I guess I’m lucky living in the UK), but just wanted to thank kate for bringing up the shirtmaking book. I didn’t know it and just checked it out on Amazon and as it’s under £10 it seems ideal for me :-)

    1 Reply
    • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

      Jan 20, 2011, 08.21 AMby katexxxxxx

      I hope you find it useful. In over 50 years of sewing I have yet to find a clearer explanation of things like sleeve plackets! :D My ‘go to’ text for this and other processes.

  • 970316_10201865009255816_2084508514_n_large

    Jan 19, 2011, 03.05 PMby lclausewitz

    This one is a lot easier to do by hand (with a lot of chalk, pins/basting thread, and patience). Or maybe I’m just such a klutz at manipulating three-dimensional pieces with a sewing machine.

    Anyway, a trick that might work here—whether by hand or by machine—is to sew a conventional seam first along the marked lines, then trim the seam allowances asymmetrically (i.e. trim the allowance on one side to about half the width of that sticking out from the other side). Then wrap the wider seam allowance around the narrow one, pin or baste it down, and fell/topstitch the whole assembly. It might not exactly be the kind of flat-felled seam where both lines of stitching go through all layers of fabric, but functionally speaking it’s not all that different. (And maybe this is the “false flat-felled seam” already discussed above. I really suck at terminology.)

    1 Reply
    • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

      Jan 20, 2011, 08.17 AMby katexxxxxx

      What you are describing is a classic felled seam. I tend to skip the pin or baste bit, sewing, trimming, turning, and pressing, and then just sewing through the lot to the outside. I have found that on curved seams, when felling, a squish of spray starch is worth a thousand pins…

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