The Richmond Sew-Along: Preparing your pattern pieces

Now you've gathered together all your supplies, you're ready to tackle the pattern and cut into your gorgeous fabric. Well, almost.

Checking pattern fit

With any new-to-you pattern, it is advisable to make a muslin or toile to check the fit ahead of cutting your chosen fabric unless the design has a very relaxed fit or you know the sorts of adjustments you usually need to make are best made as you go along. The Richmond Blazer is a relaxed garment; it is not designed to hug the body and has plenty of ease, so for many people there won't be any need to make any significant adjustments. It's drafted for an average height of 5'6 but that doesn't mean if you're taller or shorter you'll necessarily need to adapt; I'm 5'2, significantly asymmetrical and pretty curvy, and wear a straight (un-altered) size 10. You should choose your size based on your bust as the jacket will almost certainly have enough ease around the waist if it fits your bust, and the hip is easiest to adjust. (You can see the finished garment measurements in your pattern instructions.)

Grading between sizes

If the size you've chosen based on your bust doesn't allow enough for your hips, the easiest way to rectify this is to grade between sizes. To grade out for your hips, work down from the level of the pockets (marked by the slit on the Jacket Front). Mark this level across onto your Side Panel and Jacket Back pattern pieces. I've created a simple diagram just to show how to grade between two sizes (12–16) between the waist and the hips – the red line marks the grading. You can see how the line is gentle and blends into the size 16 line a little way above the bottom (you need a straight section at the bottom because this becomes the deep hem).

Lengthening or shortening

The pattern pieces are all marked with lengthen/shorten lines. To lengthen the jacket, cut through these lines and insert a strip of paper, creating a gap that measures the amount of length you'd like to add. Tape your pattern pieces onto the strip of paper and smoothly connect the edges over the gap. To shorten the jacket, cut through the lines and overlap the pattern pieces by the amount of length you'd like to remove. Tape them together, and, if necessary, smooth the edges.

Making a muslin

If you are concerned that any element of the blazer won't fit you properly (or you want to check your grading between sizes), it's a good idea to go ahead and make a toile. Use an inexpensive fabric with a similar weight to your 'real' fabric – i.e. for the Richmond Blazer, calico is a good choice for its weight and structure. It's also easy to mark with a felt tip pen if you want to mark up any areas to adjust. You needn't make the entire jacket; to sew a fit muslin of Richmond follow these rough steps (referencing the pattern instructions – you can skip the entire pocket section):
  1. Cut the Jacket Front, Jacket Side Panels, Jacket Back, Upper Sleeve and Under Sleeve. Mark the dart on the Jacket Front, the dots on the Upper Sleeve, and any notches.
  2. Make the dart on the Jacket Front. You should now be able to match the two raw edges of the slit into the Front; zigzag these together.
  3. Sew the Jacket Fronts to the Side Panels.
  4. Sew the Jacket Backs together down the CB seam.
  5. Sew the Side Panels to the Jacket Back
  6. Sew the Jacket Back to the Jacket Front at the shoulders.
  7. Try on this 'shell' of the jacket body and assess the fit. Does the jacket seem to strain anywhere? Is it long enough, or too long? Make a note of any adjustments.
  8. Stitch the Upper Sleeves to the Under Sleeves. Run two lines of long stitching between the dots on each of the Upper Sleeves. Pull on these stitches to create slight gathers that will ease the sleeves into the armscyes.
  9. Press under 5cm at the sleeve ends, so they will be the finished length.
  10. Insert the sleeves into the armscyes of the jacket body.
  11. Once again try on the jacket and assess the fit with the sleeves in. Can you move your arms forward sufficiently? Are the sleeves the right length? Note any adjustments.
Transfer the noted adjustments to your paper pattern pieces. This isn't a fitting blog post, per se, so I'm not going to go into any alterations beyond those described above here, but if you have any specific issues let me know in the comments!

Cutting your fabric

The instructions come with fabric cutting layouts but they are meant to be helpful, not prescriptive, and you may find your own set-up that suits you better. Just remember if you're using a fabric with a directional print, or a nap (e.g. corduroy or velvet), to cut the pieces all facing the same direction. The nap should usually be running down the body (i.e. you would stroke it down).

Marking your pattern pieces

Use tailor's tacks to transfer the dots from your pattern pieces to your fabric; use a contrast colour thread but ideally not on that will catch your eye if you accidentally leave a little bit caught in a seam. You can just about see in the photo below that I've marked the point of the front dart and the end of the pocket opening with pale pink tailor's tacks; I marked the position of the button with a navy tailor's tack but pulled it out right before sewing the buttonhole so it didn't get stitched in.
You'll see from this photograph how you have to cut the slit into the Jacket Front as far as second leg of the dart, but not as far as the dot.
You can also use chalk to mark on the wrong side of the fabric; the wrong side will never be visible once the jacket is finished.


Once you've made your tailor's tacks and removed your paper pattern pieces, you'll want to apply your interfacing. The last post about gathering supplies discussed whether to fully interface the Jacket Fronts or not; for this jacket I opted not to as the velvet was already quite weighty, but if you were to interface the entire Front you would still include the interfacing pictured above, so you would have a double layer of interfacing in the upper chest area. The only pieces of interfacing you can't apply at this stage are the pocket area interfacings; set these aside carefully for when you come to create the pockets. Well now you've cut and prepared all your pattern pieces, you're ready to start sewing! Use a scrap leftover from your cutting to test your stitches and get ready for the next blog post – where we assemble the body of the jacket!
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