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TUTORIAL: Ravel Grading...A Master Tailor's Technique

There are many ways to grade seams. Among them are trimming one seam allowance narrower than the other, turning the scissors on edge to "bevel" the allowances, and using Pinking Shears.  But the hands-down most elegant and effective way I was ever shown, is to "Ravel Grade".  This was the favored technique taught to me by my Master Tailor mentors during my apprenticeship. You are unlikely to find this technique in any tailoring books, as it is a very esoteric "old world" technique.

Below you will see a photo of 2 pieces of wool, that have been underlined with Pro-Weft Fusible Interfacing to within 3/16-inch of the seam edges. The 2 pieces of wool have been placed right sides together, and you can see (very faintly in blue), that a 5/8" seam has been sewn down the length of the two pieces, on the right.

^ Click to enlarge ^

The first and only step in the "Ravel Grading" process is very easy. Merely ravel off a few threads from the edge of both seam allowances, leaving soft fringed edges. So what does that accomplish?  In this example, by completely removing the warp (lengthwise) thread  from the seam allowance edges...the fabric there is now half as thick as before!
NOTE--Both seam allowances will be trimmed to 3/8" in some areas like lapel edges and jacket fronts before being Ravel Graded, and will remain "married" (not pressed open).  But instead of being the thickness of 2 layers of fabric, one layer has been raveled away resulting in the edge-bulk being totally eliminated...the finished lapel and jacket front edges (collar edges, etc) will be sharp and completely flat after pressing.

^ Click to enlarge ^

In the photo below, you will see the seam allowance pressed open. Notice how elegantly the bulk from the allowance edge has disappeared, because the fabric there is now half  of it's original thickness!  And to think that all that needed to be done was ravel away a few threads :)
^ Click to enlarge ^

So I ask you...which seam allowance shown below will be far less likely to leave a "pressing ridge" on the right side of a finished garment?  The "pinked" side...or the side that was Ravel Graded ?  Especially if your fashion fabric is very thick, highly slubbed, or other wise textured?  Why the "Ravel Graded" side, of course :)
^ Click to enlarge ^

SEWING NOTES: Medium weight wool flannel fabric is underlined with Pro-Weft Fusible Interfacing, a very lightweight highly flexible interfacing available exclusively at Fashion Sewing Supply.  

In case you are wondering...about half the beautifully tailored, very expensive garments that were created in the shop during my apprenticeship were made with fusible interfacings that my mentors imported from Italy.  When I created my own line of custom-milled fusible interfacings, I managed to reproduce the same uncompromising "premium" professional quality. If they were still on this earth, I dearly hope that my mentors would be proud of my efforts :)

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Blogger Gorgeous Things said...

Brilliant Pam, thank you!!!

2:03 PM  
Blogger Mary Beth said...

Thank you Pam! I've raveled the interfacing back to the seam edge before after making an error in cutting it too large and loved the result. Sometimes the best methods are the most simple and logical. Love what you do to document these beautiful methods!

2:19 PM  
Blogger meredithp said...

Little did I know, I was doing this unintentionally. ;-)

Thanks, very interesting!

2:19 PM  
Blogger Gigi said...

That is truly brilliant! Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Pam~Off The Cuff ~ said...

Meredith...the best techniques are always the ones that make common sense ! :)

2:54 PM  
Blogger Gertie said...

Pam, I love the tidbits you share from your tailoring apprenticeship!

Sending you many "get well soon" thoughts. :)

4:13 PM  
Blogger Rose said...

Thank you, Pam, for sharing your wisdom. This tip will be very helpful to me. (It goes on my list of "Why didn't I think of that?"). Take care and get well!!!

4:47 PM  
Blogger willow and moo said...

Pam, thank you for sharing your knowledge. I learn so much from reading your blog.

I hope you are feeling better soon.

5:41 PM  
Anonymous Karen Witcombe said...

Pam, I always learn so much from your tips - I would love to see you put them together in a book! I'm sorry to hear you are still having health problems and am sending you very heartfelt 'get well soon' thoughts.

5:43 PM  
Blogger Handmade said...

Very interesting and very useful! Thanks - and best wishes for a speedy recovery!

5:50 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

Fantastic tutorial, thanks Pam. Prayers for you and wishes for a quick recovery.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Bunny said...

Just brilliant, Pam! Thanks so much for sharing this knowledge. I wish you a quick and total recovery. Take care.

7:59 PM  
Anonymous Phyllis said...

That tip is a first for me, I've never heard of that - but its stunningly great!

10:13 PM  
Blogger Beth (SunnyGal Studio) said...

What a great technique, and a time saver versus trimming one side at 1/4" and the other at 3/8" to create a difference. I am always thrilled when I find something to make me sew faster and better.
Wish you a speedy recovery.

2:15 AM  
Blogger Summerset said...

How simple, but yet brilliant. Thank you for sharing. I do hope you can wait in patience and comfort until the surgery. You're in my thoughts and prayers!

7:49 AM  
Anonymous Jeannine said...

I am so incredibly envious of your talent and everything you learned. I may have a heck of a sewing room, but I would give everything to have had your talent and knowledge. Thanks for sharing. I love tailoring techniques.
I just found a really sweet blog that you would probably love, because she too has had lots of tailoring experience (French). Go to http://townmouse.typepad.com. I simply cannot leave her blog. It has been my reading for the last three nights.
Take care Pam.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Barbara Q Bowers said...

Oh this is such a wonderful tip! So simple, so effective, like the best things in life. Pam, I am sending you many wishes for greatly improved health and well-being. You are truly an inspiration to me. Aloha nui, Barb

8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope your health is restored. I will pray for your recovery.

God Bless You

7:03 AM  
Anonymous Lydia said...

I am compiling a book of your tutorials. I know this sounds trite, get well soon. I(we) miss your posts......Lydia

12:31 AM  
Blogger Vicki said...

Thanks for sharing. I have a question though - do you have to be very careful with making sure the interfacing is not too close to the edge? And it wouldnt work if you block fused before cutting out?
Hope you are feeling better soon too.

6:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for another great tutorial and my prayers and wishes for a quick recovery.

7:00 AM  
Blogger Pam~Off The Cuff ~ said...

Vicki...thanks for a great question!

First, about importance of being careful about the interfacing not being too close to the edge-- Yes, somewhat. But if the margin is a little more and/or a little less is some places, it really won't make a difference.

Secondly, I often block fuse. However when tailoring, I do not fuse my interfacing *Completely*...I just fuse it enough to stick. Then, *after* I cut out my pieces, I peel back my interfacing from the edges that I plan to "Ravel Grade", and trim or tear off a bit of the edge interfacing.
*Then* I finish the fusing process.

There are some interfacings on the market that cannot be "1/2-fused". But I designed the ones that I have custom-milled, and sell at Fashion Sewing Supply to be versatile enough to be 1/2-fused, then be finished-fused later :)

9:21 AM  
Blogger Vicki said...

Thanks Pam! Great explanation.

5:32 AM  
Anonymous Tory said...

Fabulous technique, loved the additional fusing tip from Vicki's question. Thanks so much for them.

9:17 AM  
Blogger mary lynn said...

Thank you so much for this. I'm contemplating making a cape from some camel's hair I bought a couple of years ago and this will be the PERFECT TECHNIQUE!

hope you feel better.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Bunny said...

This is positively brilliant. Thank you for your expertise and I thank your mentors for the wisdom imparted to you and now shared with all of us.

7:02 AM  

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