Earlier in the year, before I had started at Newham, I went to a lecture at the British Library titled Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age where the brilliant fashion historians Amber Jane Butchart and Christopher Laverty were guest speakers. Christopher focused most of his attention on the tv series Boardwalk Empire, touting it as one of the best representations of fashion from the Prohibition Era that he had ever come across.
One of the things he got particularly excited about whilst discussing the incredible tailoring on display throughout the series was the immaculate lining up of checks and stripes. An aligned print at a seam creates the illusion of a continuous flow of fabric, cleverly hiding the joins. A suit with such detail looks like one piece of cloth, cleverly moulded to fit a body.
To create such an item is not only damnably difficult, but it also wastes a whole lot of cloth. It is impossibly beautiful but hopelessly inefficient. And that’s why it’s a feature that you’ll only find on the most expensive suits, made by the most skilled tailors. In the case of Boardwalk Empire, that means that such suits were only worn by the wealthiest characters, such as Nucky.
Christopher’s observations were fascinating and brilliantly delivered and have stuck around in my head ever since. It has not been until this week, however, that I have been able to truly appreciate his crazed excitement for the perfectly aligned print…
You see, plain fabric hides a multitude of sins. You don’t have to think about lining anything up at all and, Hell, even if (heavenforbid), I cut a little off the grain-line, the good old plain fabric will mask my error beautifully. Up until now, I’ve been merrily working with a good, solid plain navy wool for all my samples. Together, this wool and I have seen a whole lot of button holes, more pad stitching than I thought possible, prick stitch, side stitch and, most recently, pockets. And it’s been a dream. It honestly has. In my previous post you can see how triumphantly happy I was to be making pockets – and My! They look terrific, even if I do say so myself!
But now, there are two new boys on the block: The Striped Fabric and The Checked Fabric. The challenge? A flap pocket in each. Perfectly aligned. Cue excitement, anticipation and just a mild smattering of fear.
Alignment attempt 1: The Stripes
Once again, I buckled the lining with a too hot iron in the final press but aside from that school-boy error, I’m really surprisingly happy with my first attempt! A tiny bit off, on the top jet, yes, but the bottom jet is pretty much bang-on and looks totally Nucky-worthy! (although I’m sure he wouldn’t have gone for the narrow pinstripe…)
Alignment attempt 2: The Checks
Ohhhhhh! Not so good! Not so good at all!
This pocket was a true nightmare to make! Its one redeeming feature is the bottom jet (second pic). Once again, it is almost perfectly aligned – just my luck that this is the jet that will always be hidden from view by the flap! The top jet is woefully off. And I’m furious with myself – for I was sure it was perfect before stitching! Alignment aside, the jet also tapers on the LH side. The flap looks pretty dreadful, too, sloping upwards to the left. I addition to this, I crumpled the lining AGAIN with my poor pressing. What a sorry looking thing! I actually think that it’s better to have a pocket completely UN-aligned rather than a not-quite-there alignment. I always knew I was an all or nothing kind of girl.
One thing I *think* might be the cause of my wonky jets is the direction in which I sew them. Basically, I sew one left to right and the other right to left. I’m no whizz on the old sewing machine. Yet. And there is just a chance that I don’t ensure both pieces of fabric pass under the foot at exactly the same time. Even basted fabric has a little room to shift a fraction of a mm (or more as the case may be for me) … . And when dealing with stripes and checks, that fraction of a mm can make all the difference. The shifted fabric will result in a sewn jet that is not lined up even if it was just before it went through the sewing machine.
If this is the case, I clearly have more of a dragging issue with my top jet (which I would have sewn right to left) than my bottom jet, which hardly shifts at all. This thought boggles my mind a little and I imagine looks like gobbledegobble de gobbledegibgabgobble to anyone outside of my mind so I will think on it and report back in a clear, coherent manner when I have experimented further.
But rest assured, I will not let this go. Boardwalk Empire, I will not be beaten!!!