Hard Yakka: Welts, Bound Buttonholes, and Balancing Flaps

 (Soapstone and metal buttons, more on them later)

I managed to avoid the lurgy plaguing my daughter and husband this week; however I woke up yesterday feeling rather delicate.  I spent most of the day in bed, saving my energy for the 6-hour Sew-a-Thon I hosted at work.  We had a great time!  I stood back a few times and surveyed the room, enjoying the spectacle of 13 women diligently working on their very different projects, chatting and occasionally erupting into laughter.  It’s a sight to gladden the heart.  I’m inspired by your hard work and sense of community, ladies.

Today I wanted to sit in one place and not move much so I sat in front of my sewing machine, determined to bang out the 4 pocket flaps, 2 welt pockets, and 5 bound buttonholes required for my WW2 jacket.  It’s hard yakka. 

Someone asked me about ribbon interfaced welts.  It’s straight out of Kenneth King’s Cool Couture.  I’m a teacher, and I believe a good teacher deserves to be paid for their instruction so I’m not posting his instructions.  I did take pictures while I made my welts today, and feel karmatically safe posting them.  If you would like me to take them down, please e-mail me.

That’s a 7/8″ grosgrain ribbon.  I use my quilting seam foot.  I ripped off the little black guide and it is useful for a variety of fiddly machine work.  Basically, you cover the ribbon in your welt fabric.  The ribbon helps the welt maintain its integrity forever.  I’ve used this in the past and have no problems with durability, even with machine washing.  Additionally, the way K.King instructs you to sew, you don’t have to mark much to balance the welt lips, which has been a problem for me in the past.

I double checked before sewing the welt to be sure the flap would fit inside.  I needed to add a little to one end of the welt to make sure it matched.

I sewed the welt 1mm outside my foot’s edge, using a 1.2 stitch length.  Look at that texture.  I’m warning you now that wide-wale cord is my fabric of the season, you’ll see it constantly over the next few months.  I’m utterly besotted.

The back of the first welt.  I didn’t use any additional fusible to stabilize the welt since I already interfaced the entire front (and the shoulder seam and the roll line).

I sliced the welt open on the front.

I always have problems slicing the back of a welt, especially at the corners.  This time I sliced through only the middle, using a pair of tiny-bladed scissors.

I inserted the blade of my seam ripper right next to the stitching to slice my corner triangles.  If you have good motor control, I suggest trying this.  A seam ripper is a blade, after all, and rather well suited to this purpose.

I switched to my sharper seam ripper, and cut from each corner to make a nice little triangle.

Then I sliced from my first slice in the middle to the apex of my triangles.  One of my problems with welts/bound buttonholes in the past is my triangles come out all kinds of warped.  My seam ripper gave me clean results every time.

When first I tried welts, I was really upset by the initial result.  Now I know that it will ALWAYS look horrible when you first turn it.  I always need to finesse the welt a little bit and press it to achieve a good result.

I pressed and stitched the ends of the welt, then slipped in the flap.  I’m not making the pleated pocket in the pattern.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted to use buttons on the flaps, but I’m pretty happy with how that looks so I stitched it in without making a buttonhole first.  Note the press marks.  I keep an old toothbrush next to my sewing machine to help me remove chalk.  It also works well for fluffing up the nap when I flatten it with my aggressive pressing.  The final garment will bear no press marks like these.

If you enlarge the photo, you can see that the welt on the right in the photo stretches the fabric near the armscythe.  I don’t like this, so I used a fusible interfacing to additionally stabilize the welt on the left.  You can see the difference.  Note to self.

I also made 5 bound buttonholes, and faced the two for the bottom bellows pocket flap.  The bellows pocket is the size of a small handbag.

I threw together the back.  A few weeks ago, I saw the “Of Love and War” exhibit at the State Library.  My friend and I carefully examined everything in the entire exhibit.  Among other memorabilia, I carefully analyzed some honest-to-goodness WW2 military officer’s uniforms.  They had ridiculously huge bellows pockets (big enough for a handgun and some MREs says my husband) and the double back pleats in the heavy wool fabric allowed for movement.  Two of my period costume source books show gratuitous use of the double back pleat in men’s wear around the era and describe it in heavy fabric.  I felt confident trying it in my bulky cord.  I cut the yoke with horizontal wales.  I knew it would cause a slight color variation but why worry?  I want the cut to stand out, and figured I could make the fabric work to show off the cut.

The past hundred times I ventured into Lincraft downtown, I noticed this fabric and had passing fantasies of what it could be, but left it because 1) I’d rather contribute to paying the rent and 2) I am NOT buying fabric without a plan.  While deep in Jacket making country, I saw it again this week, on the clearance table.  It’s 100% cotton and it matches my suit.  I know, I know.  First it was the jacket, then I had to go draft a skirt so it’s a suit, now I have a corresponding blouse.  It’s so perfect I felt I should bow to serendipity and take it home.  Why argue with the universe?

I know I don’t need to justify fabric purchases to the blogosphere, but I need to justify them to myself.  I have held hard and fast to the spirit of my reductionist Resolutions.  The fact is, I only have a few pieces of fabric left in my stash (mostly impulse buys from a few years ago), and I do not impulse buy fabric these days.  I look at fabric several times and mull it over before I buy, and that’s the sort of mechanism I wanted to create in my buying habits through my resolution.

I have a “blouse inspiration” post planned, but I want to come closer to finishing this suit and Moderne before I go off on another tangent.  I also have a post in the works which targets my needs for winter, and a plan for what I want to sew next month (finishing the Frock Coat, a flannel 30’s house coatand a gorgeous 1950’s dress).  This week, I plan to finish Moderne.


  1. Hard Yakka – you're more Aussie than you think!Your pockets look great, and I think you've done the right thing with the yoke.I hope that finger injury wasn't from the seam ripper…

  2. Those are lovely welts. I have that book but didn't pay attention to Kenneth's method since I have a reliable procedure of my own. After your post, I must go back and re-read. I'm sure Kenneth wouldn't mind knowing that your post inspired using his book

  3. Wow! Those look amazing! I think I definitely need to follow your example when it comes to buying fabric. I can't wait to see the finished jacket. :]

  4. The pockets look beautiful, and I love the wide-wale cord and the colour, it's looks soo soft.The cotton print is really pretty, I can't wait to see the whole thing put together!

  5. Pingback: It’s Not Me- It’s You: Breaking Up « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  6. Pingback: Meditations In a Secret Pocket « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

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