In Part 1 of these sewing instructions, I show you how to assemble most of your suit coat. If you've completed those steps, your jacket should now look like this (see below). As you can see, it looks like a basic jacket, without any lapel or collar. For Part 2 of these sewing instructions, I'll show you how to attach the lapel and finish the hem!
As a reminder, use the BAB Pee-Wee Herman Costume Sewing Pattern (coming soon to my shop) to make this jacket. Or use these instructions as a guide for following a similar pattern of your choice. (When in doubt, trust any instructions included with your original pattern!)
To make the lapel... There are two upper lapel pieces (roughly shaped like a horseshoe) and four lower lapel pieces (shaped like triangles). You might want to lay them out loosely on a flat surface, first, just like fitting a jigsaw puzzle together on your tabletop. The very first seams will attach these four lower lapel pieces to the two upper lapel pieces. There are markings on your paper pattern pieces that will help you identify where these pieces match up. Remember to align your fabric pattern pieces with the "right" sides facing each other, before you pin them. And use straight pins to secure this alignment in preparation for running your seams on the sewing machine.
The standard seam allowance marked on all my BAB patterns is 0.25 inches (which should comfortably accommodate a 16-inch Build-A-Bear Workshop toy). Depending on the size of your Build-A-Bear (BAB), you may want to increase your seam allowance. Doing so will make the resulting article of clothing slightly smaller in size, which is appropriate for both 15-inch and 14-inch bears. I don't have access to a 12-inch Duffy the Disney Bear or ShellieMay, just yet, but I suspect the fit may be comparable to a 14-inch BAB... Check my later entry about tailoring for tips on how to adjust a paper pattern to better fit your particular bear!
After you have run all four of these seams, you should open the seams and press them flat. With this done, you'll have two more-or-less-identical lapel pieces.
Now, place both lapel pieces together with the "right" sides facing each other. It is important to make sure the seams line up as closely as possible in each of the corners. As long as your seam allowances are equal and consistently straight, this should be pretty easy. If not, you may have a little trouble. In the worst case scenario, think of this as a rehearsal: Finish assembling this lapel, then cut all new lapel pieces from your chosen fabric, repeat these steps to make a second lapel (hopefully better than the first one), and then attach your very best lapel to the jacket in the remaining steps of this entry.
Place pins around the outermost edge of your lapel pieces, to secure the alignment. Then run a seam all the way around the outermost edge, only, following the contour as closely as possible. Pay close attention to the acute angle between the upper and lower areas of your lapel, where those first seams are. I use the stitches of this seam, as well as the pressed fold, to help me place my needle for the turn. Plunge the needle at the point of the desired corner, lift the presser foot, and then turn the fabric, pins and all. Lower the presser foot again, and then make some more stitches, until you reach the point of the next desired corner. Repeat as necessary.
After you have run this seam, you should clip the corners in your seam allowances. This is to reduce excess bulk and to release tension around the contour of your seam in preparation for turning the lapel "right" side out. If you end up with any unsightly wrinkles or buckling, try turning lapel inside out, again, and make a few more clips in the right places.
Now, it's time to attach the lapel to the jacket. If you aren't happy with the way your lapel looks, the way it is right now, this is the point at which you should make another lapel before proceeding.
Take a look at either side of your lapel, and decide which one you want to be most visible. That'll be the "good side" of your lapel, and the other will be the "underside" of your lapel. Lay the lapel in place around the neckline of your jacket, and adjust the alignment all the way around. The contours should match, practically perfectly. In the event that they don't, the most important thing is for it to be symmetrical (or appear to be symmetrical) in the front. Once you have it in position, pin the lapel in place from the inside.
This next seam will attach your lapel to the shell of the jacket where the "underside" of your lapel meets the "right" side of the neckline. You'll run the seam all the way around the neckline on the inside of the lapel, only. Your seam should start at the line of stitches inside your lapel at one end of the neckline, and your seam should stop at the corresponding line of stitches inside your lapel at the other end of the neckline.
You don't want any pleating or buckling. Your lapel should lay flat all the way around the neckline. Make any necessary adjustments before you commit to running the seam.
Once you've completed the seam, clip the curve around the neckline. The seam allowance needs to be turned inward, and held in place with a row of stitches along the inside your lapel. These stitches will be visible from the "underside" of your lapel, but invisible from the "good side" of your lapel.
The hemline needs to be turned in the opposite direction. So be sure to make a small cut at either end of your most recent seam. Otherwise, you could end up with some unsightly bulges where this edge gets stitched into place while trying to turn in two opposing directions at the same time.
With the lapel open to expose the "wrong" side (along the inside of its construction), run a line of topstitching over the seam allowance. Try to keep your stitches parallel to the neckline seam, all the way around the inside of your lapel. These stitches will hold this bit of fabric down, keeping it flat and flush inside your lapel, while also strengthening the bond between your neckline and the lapel. I'm not recommending the use of any interfacing for this project, since the scale of this clothing is so small. This step will achieve a similar effect, in lieu of traditional interfacing.
With that done, this next line of stitching is the final step. Lay the edge of your lapel's "good side" down over the neckline, closing your lapel and hiding the inside seams. Then turn your hemline all the way around the shell of your jacket. I like to pin it in place, and then press it with a hot iron. This way, my hemline should remain turned even if I remove the pins.
Run an edge seam along the hemline starting at the back vent. When you reach the point where your lapel meets the neckline, continue the seam as topstitching to close your lapel around the neckline. This topstitching should closely follow the contour of your neckline seam, but (if possible) also maintain the same distance from the neckline seam as the distance between your stitches and the edge of your hemline. When you reach the point where your lapel meets the neckline at the other end, resume running an edge seam along your hemline. Your hemline should stop at the back vent.
Once that is done, you might want to run an edge seam along the contour of your lapel. This is entirely optional, of course, but I like the way it looks...
You can see the end result in the below image. On the left of this image is the way your lapel should look from the "underside", if your lapel gets flipped up from the "right" side of your suit coat, blazer, or jacket. On the right of this image is the way your lapel should look from the "good side", if your lapel gets flipped up from the "wrong" side of your suit coat, blazer, or jacket. You can clearly see to rows of topstitches running parallel to the seam, on the left of this image. And you can clearly see a single row of topstitches along the inside of the neckline, on the right of this image. Notice how these stitches run continuously from hem to lapel and back again, all the way around.
On both the left and the right of this image, you can see some decorative topstitches that run along the edge of the lapel, drawing attention to its geometry and construction. Skip that step, if you don't like the way it looks. It's just decorative!
And that's it! You've finished sewing the pattern together! How does it look?
If you're thinking it actually looks a bit un-finished, you're right: I'm leaving one thing out.... Depending on the closure(s) you've selected, steps for placing and attaching them will vary. So I haven't included any instructions for adding buttons, snaps, or hook-and-loop closures in this entry. But if you'd like some pointers, right away, relevant information can be found here and here.
** Most of these photos were taken by Michael Caporale, so that I could use my hands. Thanks for your help, Mike! **