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On Swelled Edges: When Are They Best Used?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by dieworkwear, Mar 4, 2013.

  1. dieworkwear

    dieworkwear Well-Known Member

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    I've been thinking about swelled edges, or "double stitching" on Neapolitan jackets, and wondering when they look best. It seems to me that they almost always make an odd jacket or casual suit look better. Casual jackets almost don't look right to me now without swelled edges.

    Any thoughts?

    Swelled:

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    Regular/ non-swelled:

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  2. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Well-Known Member

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    I like this detail on casual jackets a lot too, but only if the edges are actually swelled. If its just double stitching, as in some Neapolitan jackets such as Crompton's jacket or some Sartoria Partenopea jackets I've seen, I don't like it near as much.
     
  3. poorsod

    poorsod Well-Known Member

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    I think swelled edges are best on fuzzy tweedy coats.
     
  4. mafoofan

    mafoofan Well-Known Member

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    To be clear, double-stitched and swelled edges do not always go hand-in-hand. My odd jackets and overcoat and casual suits are all double-stitched, but none have swelled edges.
     
  5. Makoto Chan

    Makoto Chan Well-Known Member

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    I liked this suit at a J Press store very much:

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  6. dieworkwear

    dieworkwear Well-Known Member

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    I had a nice talk with Vox about this yesterday. I think a good rule-of-thumb is: double stitching if it's a plain, solid-colored, casual jacketing - like something such as a cotton, linen, or a very casual wool (say fresco) - especially if the jacket is going to be of an Italian make. Then swelled edges on rougher fabrics such as tweeds and corduroy. Vox noted that swelled edges can either be hand or machine sewn, but I'm unclear on what difference it might make. My assumption from browsing threads is that machine sewn ones would be tighter and fuller, but this is only a guess.

    There's also apparently something called single stitches, which are different from the AMF or handsewn pick stitch that everyone is familiar with. I'm unclear what a single stitch would be on a lapel, however.

    The above rule-of-thumb would be good for sport coats and suits, since we're talking about casual garments in both cases.

    As is, I have a tobacco brown linen suit, gun club faux tweed, and a blue fresco in the works with NSM. And next month, I plan to ask for a navy hopsack BlazerSuit, brown Shetland houndstooth, and brown herringbone tweed from Steed. I asked for double stitching on the fresco, and think I might see if Mina can put the detail into the linen suit as well. I think the faux tweed might be too busy for swelled edges, but am open to comments.

    The Shetland houndstooth and herringbone tweed, however, I think really call for swelled edges. I don't think they'd look right without them. BlazerSuit will be plain, just to tilt it towards a suit.
     
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  7. aravenel

    aravenel Well-Known Member

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    Agreed that swelled edges look best on rough fabric, like thick Harris tweeds. Frankly, I think they look really weird and vintage, in a very bad way, outside of that.

    I honestly haven't given a lot of thought to double stitching on flatter fabrics, but I have to say, my first inclination is to keep it to only very casual fabrics--cottons, linens, etc.

    Gives me something to think about, will need to ponder this one a bit more.
     
  8. jefferyd

    jefferyd Well-Known Member

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    There seems to be some confusion about what swelled edges are and are not. So here we go.

    The cut edges of cloth fray so the seam is made a certain distance from the cut edges, using a lockstitch, which is the technical name for an ordinary machine stitch. The ¼” to the right of the seam in this photo is known as the seam allowance. The cloth is sewn face to face.

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    The seam is then turned so that the cut edges are concealed between the layers of cloth. It’s easier to see on this double-faced cloth

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    The edge is then pressed. This is done on all edges, regardless of whether they will be plain (bluff) or swelled.

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    Because this pressed edge could puff up if exposed to humidity (steam!) or roll the wrong way, it is traditional to pick stitch the edge to keep these four layers of cloth flat, about 1/16” from the edge (using a backstitch, for those who care). The stitch creates a compression of sorts, keeping everything in place and flat; when done by hand, the goal is usually to be very discrete.

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    There are machines which replicate this stitch (to varying degrees) known as AMF, Complett and Columbia machines.




    If this stitch is done with a lockstitch machine (the same type of stitch used to make the seam itself), it is known as a single stitch. It used to be a feature of all J. Press suits to be single stitched 1/16” from the edge, I don’t know if this is still the case.

    On sportier garments, this stitch is sometimes done a certain distance away from the edge, away from the seam allowance. The compression created by this stitch where there are only two layers, next to the four layers created with the seam allowance which is encased by this stitch, creates a sort of bas-relief effect. Think of the effect of quilting a down jacket.

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    When a single stitch is used instead of a pick stitch, the added tightness of the stitch and additional number of stitches per inch create a more pronounced effect.

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    The effect is much more evident on heavier goods (conversely, it will be almost nonexistent on lightweight goods).

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    Done this way, the swelled edge is seen as a somewhat decorative detail to give character to sportier garments. The style in southern Italy is somewhat more exuberant, so it is common to see heavier threads being used to do the stitching there (silk buttonhole twist is common). Having two rows of it is just seen as an additional detail to show that just a little more work has gone into the garment, and most garments that have two rows are done in a very showy, exuberant manner.
     
    11 people like this.
  9. aravenel

    aravenel Well-Known Member

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    Wow, very helpful, thanks for that.
     
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  10. alexSF

    alexSF Well-Known Member

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    ^Great post as usual!

    I have a question about pickstitching,

    In the lapel do you usually use a real backstitch or a running stitch like the one used for pocket flaps?

    Thanks
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2013
  11. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Well-Known Member

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    More photos: brown jacket is an Attolini, I think bespoke, from 20 years ago (I got it off eBay). These swelled edges are very subtle, and I think done by hand. The black is on an Armani pea coat, from maybe 10 years ago, I am almost sure machined.

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  12. aravenel

    aravenel Well-Known Member

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    The Attolini one looks great--it's a rough tweed fabric, and a subtle swell. The pea coat... I think it works because I would expect that on a pea coat. Were that a blazer, I'd be less enthusiastic.
     
  13. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Well-Known Member

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    Agreed on both counts. The Attolini one is by far more elegant. The fabric on that coat is actually cashmere and therefore soft, but it's quite heavy and has a bold pattern of a tweed.
     
  14. aravenel

    aravenel Well-Known Member

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    Right, rough as in not-smooth-worsted, not rough as in polyester-imitation-Harris-tweed. I'm sure it's a gorgeous fabric, I'd expect nothing less from Attolini.

    So, are handmade swelled edges the next SF-approved "it" feature? :D
     
  15. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Well-Known Member

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    A series of posts on the bastardized near-misses can't be far behind.
     
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  16. jefferyd

    jefferyd Well-Known Member

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    When working by hand, I guess it's possible that some people may use a running stitch on some parts (the AMF etc. stitch is a running stitch), I was taught that it is a back stitch everywhere.
     
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  17. hymo

    hymo Well-Known Member

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    I doubt it is ever a running stitch if sewn by hand. There are these relatively long stitches on the underside that can snag on things. With a backstitch, any damage to the stitch remains local. With a running stitch, you'd have to re-do the entire pick stitching.

    I guess with swelled edges it is necessary to maintain the full thickness of the seam allowances. It is customary to "stage"/"step" the seam allowances to make for thin edges. This requirement is a big danger, because coatmakers oftentimes work reflexively/on autopilot and would step the seam allowances only to recall later that the coat is meant to have swelled edges.
     
  18. alexSF

    alexSF Well-Known Member

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    ^Thanks for your answers

    Backstitch is also easier to do and more precise, my doubt born because I rarely seen the classic overlapping in the underside of backstitch in lapels and flaps.

    also pictures found on Jefferyd blog confirm this, for example here:

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    Or maybe I am making confusion with terms, how do you call the stitch above?

    Thanks
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2013
  19. jefferyd

    jefferyd Well-Known Member

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    Not necessarily- you would still have the effect.
     
  20. jefferyd

    jefferyd Well-Known Member

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    That is probably a backstitch- you only get the overlap on fine cloth. Also depends on the angle of insertion of the needle. But now we're getting a bit too esoteric, I think.
     

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