Nameless tutorial #3

This is -obviously- the third in a series. If you’re just now joining in the fun today, you can find the first and second ones as hyperlinked. Today’s topic is the specifications of the facing, hem, linings and the affected seam allowances of each. Before I forget, I’ve created a new folder in the discussion forum. To discuss this tutorial (or any other), please post questions and comments here.

I’ve decided the best way to illustrate this is by way of a proof. I realize proofs are an alien concept to most sewers but it’s not alien to science and engineering which just goes to show that my protestations of humbug-ery of less than stellar patterns is justified. If something is proven, it’s a cinch to sew. If it can’t be proven, no amount of pinning, basting, praying or “expert” advice will suffice.

To start your proof of this pattern, print out a full-size copy of the shell pattern. Second, cut away all of the seam allowances. Below you’ll see I’ve done just that. A sheet of blue paper is under laid for emphasis.

For the purposes of demonstration, I’ve done the subsequent steps on a sheet of green-back oak-tag pattern paper. Some pattern paper is colored on the opposite side. Some companies like this kind of paper and use it to prevent pattern pieces from being mistakenly laid out on the wrong side because some pieces are one-ways and not 2-pers but that is another story. Below you’ll see I have my pattern laid wrong-side face-up.

Transferring the fold line that simulates the seam of the facing/front (as marked on the pattern) and folding a crease, you’ll see below that the facing has been folded inwards. This means the size of the lower cut-out is exactly twice the width of the facing. The facing I designed was 2 1/2″ resulting in a cut-out of 5″ so you could easily draft your cut-out to match a facing width of whatever depth you wanted. I don’t think you should make a facing that is less than 2″ wide. Most suits have facing widths of 3″ to 4″ although double-breasted styles will necessarily be even wider.

Below you’ll see I’ve folded the hem into place. My hem depth was 1 1/2″ which is a good standard to use. If your project is a longer coat, you could widen the hem to as much as 3″. Generally, hem depth is determined by coat length. The longer the coat, the deeper the hem. This is to ensure garment integrity. Most suits and sport coats have a depth of 1 1/2″ to 2″. In my opinion, anything under an inch would be “cheap”.

I think this proof is shaping up quite nicely. Below you’ll see that I’ve marked the green area as “lining”. If you’ll cut out the supplied lining pattern piece sans seam allowance, you’ll see that it fits just fine right there. Therefore, the pattern works, it is “proven”.

But what of the associated seam allowances? Below you’ll see that I’ve marked the seam allowance notation (marked “S.A”) along each cut edge -except for the cut-out area which we’ll skip for now. You’ll see that each allowance is marked 3/8″. By the way, if you’ve ever noticed, I don’t go to the bother of converting inches into centimeters even tho my non-US readership is substantial. I don’t convert because I know that since these people are smart enough to use metric in the first place, they’re sufficiently intelligent to not need my feeble conversions either.

All of these allowances should be 3/8 which is the conventional allowance for single needle construction. DEs, would you please stop using 1/2″ seam allowance? If your pattern maker is a recent grad or an intern, they may not know and will follow what they were taught in school so have them do it this way. Using non-standard allowances is problematic because sewing contractors are used to using 3/8″ or 1/4″ so it is possible you’ll have continuing problems with sewing in the absence of constant vigilance and reinforcement (in itself annoying).

Now, the only thing that’s left is the cut-out area. Below I’ve unfolded my facing and marked the cut-out area with S.A.? = 1/4″. The reason that the cut-out takes only 1/4″ is because it’s an outside edge. Outside edges like collars, center fronts etc only take 1/4″. The reason is two-fold. The first is that the smaller your seam allowance, the more likely you are to hit the sewing line precisely and outside edges must be precise. If you’d never played darts before and no one were around to watch you, you’d probably get closer to the board in order to hit it. Sewing is no different. In fact, quality suit makers have both their facings and fronts die-cut to ensure the specificity. Second, having a 1/4″ seam allowance means you don’t have to trim anything away which would be required to keep a good hard edge. Maybe you can’t tell the difference but that doesn’t mean that I and people like me, can’t. I can see a 5/8″ seam allowance on a center front from 10 feet away because it doesn’t look crisp; it looks home-made and not hand-made.

Now, in case you were thinking that the 1/4″ seam allowance for the cut-out area didn’t matter, what would you have done if that facing bottom were curved rather than boxy? Below you’ll see that I’ve illustrated the concept. The seam allowance of the cut-out area must be equal to the seam allowance of the center front edge because these seams are sewn at the same time regardless of whether the edge is squared or curved.

Tomorrow I’ll discuss the reasons why this lining/hem/facing solution is so rarely applied in commercial environments -it’s due to a “material handling” problem. Anyway, I’ll describe what the handling problem is and how to work around it to get your goods out the door to your satisfaction. Of course, it certainly wouldn’t hurt if you passed off this tutorial to your contractor either. It’s absolutely amazing how many companies don’t know how to do this…and home sewers think we have all the sewing secrets…obviously, we’re not just keeping secrets from them but from each other as well! Actually, secrets are kept only because there’s no money in it for the person (me) who can correct the flaw. With that note, please consider sending a donation.

Name this tutorial
Nameless tutorial #2
Nameless tutorial #3
Nameless tutorial #4
Nameless #5 (back vent)
Nameless #6 -Troubleshooting
Nameless Tutorial #7
Nameless Tutorial #8
Nameless Tutorial #9

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  1. Nameless tutorial #4

    The biggest problem with applying this in a commercial setting is habit. It is habit that once one starts to sew a seam, one doesn’t stop sewing the given seam until it is completed. There’s not a stitcher on the…

  2. Andrea Baker says:


    I love this’s awesome. It confirms some things I was trying to reason out in theory. As a DE I am way guilty of dictating the 1/2 inch seam allowance!! My pattern drafter never corrected me! 3/8 definitely makes more sense and a sturdier construction.


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