One of the alterations I did last week for the television show Blindspot was lengthening the sleeves on a woman’s suit jacket for one of our actresses – a straight-forward and fairly simple task.
Or so it should be
This time, though, the alteration gods (and the clever designers at Banana Republic) were against me. The suit jacket had cut, functional buttonholes (three of them) on the sleeves. Not that big of a problem. I just needed to lengthen the sleeves 3/4″ and could get away with leaving the buttonholes as they were as the first hole was only an inch and ¼ from the hem.
So, no big deal, I could still re-miter the corner 3/4″ below the original hem and not have to mess with the buttonholes. I might have to cut some of the seam allowance free from the bottom hole but it shouldn’t matter. I would still have enough fabric to do the miter properly.
I pulled both sleeves inside out to find the one with the top stitched opening. Women’s jackets normally just have one sleeve with the lining opening and the entire thing can be pulled through that hole and inside out. This is because, in most cases, the armhole lining isn’t attached all around the seam allowance as it is in men’s suit jackets.
I pulled my two sleeves inside out through the opening and started taking the hem apart. Much to my annoyance, I discovered that the miter corner had been trimmed so it was impossible to redo the miter at a longer length. I also needed to add more seam allowance to be able to lengthen the sleeve the amount I needed.
Take a step back
A simple alteration just got a bit more tedious. First, I dug into my fabric stash to find a wool similar to that of the jacket. In this particular case, the jacket I was working on was a dark brown and black tweed. The jacket was paired with black wool pants so I decided I could get away with using a black wool for my corner and added seam allowance.
I cut two pieces of black wool 2″ wide ( ¾+ ¾+ ¼ for each seam allowance. you need ¾ twice because you need the length for both the lining and the face fabrics) and 10″ long (this length doesn’t matter except it needs to be longer than the sleeve hem) on the bias (or diagonal). I also cut an addition 2″ wide by 6″ long bias piece for the corners.
The next thing to do after opening the entire sleeve hem up (don’t press, you’ll want to see the original seam creases) is to sew the black wool to the miter edge. Follow the stitching line from the original miter and make sure to leave additional fabric on both ends. Then, open the sleeve hem up so you can see the straight angles of the bottom and side edges. Draw straight lines to connect those edges, then trim.
Next, attach the 2″ piece to hem edge and trim any excess off the ends. At this point, I redraw my miter line. Measure down ¾ from the original hemline exactly on the fold line – that’s your cross line for miter. Use your old miter line as a guide for the proper angle. Sew the miter, press, and turn. Don’t cut. I use a wooden tailor point pressing block, a simple point turner, and generous steam.
Wash, rinse, repeat
Mark the ¾ down on the un-mitered corner and any sleeve underarm seams into your fabric extension so that you can match up the lining properly. Then, pin together your hem edges and sides. Sew. Repeat for the other sleeve, turn everything back right side out, and sew the opening closed in the sleeve lining.
Done. I now have a jacket with a cool little detail. Most people probably won’t notice it but if you happen to watch Blindspot and see it, let me know! I like it and my designer and actress like it, if only for the reason that the sleeves are the proper length.