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Best seams for boiled wool jackets

kapnoel | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Dear all,

My next project will be a boiled wool jacket. I am wondering what are the best seam techniques for such a project and how to achieve them. Could you advice me on how to achieve a nice deconstructed look or a neat serger finishing (please indicate recommended settings)?

Thank you very much in advance!

Best regards



  1. starzoe | | #1

    I don't have a serger, so my vote for a seam on boiled wool would be a flat fell seam. This would give you the option of having a reversible jacket. I have sewn a reversible jacket from a two-sided, long haired fleece using flat fell seams. A simple pattern with few seams would be a choice in boiled wool whether or not you opt for serger finish or flat fell seams.

    1. sewslow67 | | #3

      Hi Starzoe; I was wondering if you do the "regular" flat fell seam or if you do some kind of modification when you sew fleece.  I've only done regular seems so far, and I really don't have that much experience sewing with fleece either.  Because the pieces I have are so heavy, and fleece doesn't seem to ravel, would it work to do a sort of "fake" flat fell seam, i.e. just overlap the two pieces - like you would when sewing ultra suede and then do the top stitching?

      Also, on another thread, we've been discussing which foot works best, and if you find that using a walking foot (or IDT system on Pfaff), works best.  It would be most helpful to a number of us if you would share your expertise.  Thanks so much, my friend.

      PS: I've also got a small piece of boiled wool to use for a vest, and I've been debating what seams to use for that as well.  Any ideas?

      Edited 9/29/2008 9:56 pm by sewslow67

      1. starzoe | | #4

        I don't have a walking foot and I have been sewing for about six decades, so I can't offer any help there. The seams I used on the "fleece" (not ordinary fleece, it was two-toned, brown on one side, matching bronze on the other)was the fake flat fell seam. Sew right sides together, trim one seam allowance to about 1/4", lay the other s/a over the cut edge and sew down. This would work with ordinary fleece, with felted wool, boiled wool, or any fabric that didn't ravel.

        1. kapnoel | | #6

          Dear friend,


          I have a RTW garment that has fake flat seams, but it is from thin wool. If I use thick boiled wool shall I stich the last seam by hand? Would it lie flat then?How could I achieve that the seam looks evenly stiched and straight?

          Thanks in advance for your additional help!


          1. starzoe | | #7

            The only way to know if it will work is to practice on a piece of the fabric. You will have to ease up on the presser foot - and a good piece of advice was given here just a few days ago - use buttonhole twist for topstitching on soft, thick fabrics.I do a lot of work by hand, I like the result and I enjoy the pace. Use the edge of the foot and/or the position of the machine needle to gauge the width of your topstitching.

  2. Josefly | | #2

    I like the look of boiled wool garments with exposed seams, stitched down either with a plain stitch near the edge of the seam allowance, or decorative stitching. Side seams, shoulder seams, sleeve seams all work well with this method; I think you would have trouble with curved seams, though. I used a fusible tape to stabilize the seam allowances - tape between the s.a. and the garment - to prevent shifting or crawling of the layers while doing a satin-stitch. The tape worked well and didn't change the stiffness of the boiled wool. Often, overlapped seam allowances are recommended when using boiled wool to avoid extra bulk. You can trim the seam allowances down and topstitch 1/4 inch away from the overlapped stitching line, for a flat-felled look without all the folded layers which add bulk. I think this technique would work well for set-in sleeves, or the straight seams listed above. .In some situations you can trim the seam allowances completely off and butt the two edges together and zig-zag or use another decorative stitch to join the to edges. I wouldn't use this technique in a seam that will have to take stress, but it can be used when adding a straight peplum, for example.Experiment a little on some scraps of boiled wool to see what look you prefer. I think you'll have fun with it.One thing about stitching on boiled wool, though - the stitches tend to sink into the wooly nap of the fabric, disappearing. So if you do straight top-stitching (as opposed to zig-zag or satin-stitch), you may need to use a heavier thread, like button-hole twist, or two strands of regular sewing thread, so that the stitching will show. I have also used Sulky Solvy over the wool for the decorative stitching, and it sort of holds the thread on top of the fabric so it doesn't sink in; then the Solvy can be mostly pulled away after stitching, and any little remaining bits can be wiped away with a damp cloth.

    1. kapnoel | | #5

      Dear friend,

      Thank you for your detailed explanation. One additional question: what shall I use to create the collar with exposed seams? I fear that if I do not stabilize the collar, it will stretch, but would still like to apply exposed seams on the collar, too. Any ideas?


      Thanks in advance!


      1. Josefly | | #8

        This sounds like it's going to be an interesting jacket.If you've decided on a pattern, would you let me know the brand and # so I can see what kind of collar you're thinking of? Are you thinking of facing the collar or using only one layer for the collar? The curved neckline seam, joining the collar and the body of the jacket, may be tricky when it comes to pressing the sa's open and stitching. If it's a stand-up collar, it's possible you could overlap the seams, trimming the collar seam allowance almost entirely off leaving only 1/8" s.a.; barely overlap the edge over the neckline edge (a scant 1/8") and stitch very close to the edge and again 1/4 " inside that seam line. Does that make sense? This would only work, I think, with a stand-up collar.I think if I were attaching a roll-out collar, I'd try the butted seams, cutting the s.a.'s off. You will have to be very careful butting the edges and stitching, so as not to stretch the fabric. You could use a temporary stabilizer under the seam to prevent stretching. Obviously, you can't put it on top while you sew since you need to be able to see that the edges are perfectly together.Another alternative, if you want to use a two-layer collar, would be to overlap the seams at the neckline, as described in the paragraph above, but sandwiching the neckline between the upper and lower collar layers. Then you can trim/clip the inside s.a. after stitching. If you use this method, first cut off the seam allowances around the outer edges of the collar pieces before attaching. Then once the neckline seam is sewn, the outer edges of the collar pieces can be top-stitched together, still giving something of an "exposed seam allowance" look. There are some good books about sewing on fleece, and the techniques used for joining seams on fleece can often be used with boiled wool, since both fabrics don't ravel and are bulky. I have Nancy Cornwell's "Adventures with Polarfleece" which gives some good tips for eliminating bulk in seaming. The same author has some other books out, too. I've been able to find some of her books in our public library. I haven't looked, but there may be some tips online, too, for sewing fleece. You might get some further ideas about how to join the pieces.You mentioned using a flat-felled seam. I'd like to reiterate, with boiled wool, I would use overlapped and top-stitched seams instead, since with a flat-felled seam, you're adding another layer of bulky fabric, perhaps two, to an already bulky seam.Oh, dear. I think I've given you way more wordage than you needed. Without knowing what pattern you're using, I just spouted off about all the possibilities. Maybe some of it will be helpful. :>)

        1. katina | | #10

          Super info for all of us - thanks very much.


        2. kapnoel | | #11

          Thanks for your detailed explanations. Here are two jackets that inspired me:

          http://www.oska.info/oska-muenchen/en/jackets/  Amy and Amela


          I have tried them on and they are wonderful. They are made from boiled wool and with exposed seams. Boiled wool is not so expensive where I live, so I will give it a try. With all the good advice I got from you all I am sure my project will be a success.


          Thanks again!



          1. Josefly | | #12

            Many beautiful jackets on that page - lots of inspiration. Thank you for sharing the site. The Amela style looks like a rolled "shawl" collar. I couldn't find the "Amy" version, but the "Abby" looks a lot like the Marcy Tilton/Vogue 8430 pattern I have in my stash, which I'm planning to make up in fleece or boiled wool if I can find it. It would be so simple in boiled wool. It's not so easy here to find in local shops. I'm hoping to find purple! - I'm definitely old enough to wear it!Good luck with your project.

          2. kapnoel | | #13

            You are definitely right, I mistyped the word, it is Abby I wanted to type not Amy.  Last year I got boiled wool in pink and I made a wonderful jacket for my 6 year old daughter, but I used a pink cotton ruffled collar and similar trims for the sleeves (I was afraid the collar would stretch). It turned out very beautiful and quite different from what you see in German stores. Purple is definitely en vogue and I,too, wear it very gladly. If you are a winter type, it will look smashing on you!


            Thanks again!


          3. Josefly | | #14

            I do really like that Abby style. And it appears the collar would pose no problems for boiled wool, since the fold-back collar is just an extension of the front pieces and no bulky seams would be involved.The jacket you made for your daughter sounds darling. I love to see different fabrics combined.Where in Germany are you? Just curious. And welcome to this forum.

          4. kapnoel | | #15

            I am actually in Brussels in Belgium, but my husband is German and our kids attend the German school. We go very often to Aachen for shopping, German RTW can be very interesting (excellent materials, solid correct construction, but a little bit too colorless and too straight, except for some brilliant exceptions). I often alter German clothing to add some individuality, but at the end, althought the result is good, I wonder if it would not have taken me even less time to sew the garment from scratch.

            Nice talking to you, the weather here is disgusting (a grey rainy day) and unfortunately it will stay like this for the w-e. I hope you are luckier than me in this!


            Have a wonderful w-e!



          5. Josefly | | #16

            I once visited Brussels, but it was in the summer (June, I think) and the weather was lovely then. What an amazing city - the guild buildings. We're having beautiful sunny, dry, cool fall weather, but expect the temperatures to return to "Indian summer" steaminess before long.I know what you mean about altering rtw vs sewing from scratch. For me to do that, the rtw must be a terrific buy. Nice talking to you too. Hope your jacket project will be a success.

          6. Teaf5 | | #18

            Here in California, we're praying for rain; it's been 270 days since the last preciptation, and we're facing a serious drought.  A grey, rainy weekend would be a tremendous relief, and the storm system heading our way is being welcomed by one and all.  Of course, after a few months of it, we'll all be feeling as you do now!

      2. Josefly | | #9

        As if my previous message weren't already long enough:I meant to mention, that fleece is a good inexpensive way to experiment with joining seams, if you want to try the overlap or butted-edge techniques before you cut your boiled wool. If you have scraps of fleece to practice on, that's great; otherwise sometimes you can find very inexpensive fleece. You could cut out the collar and just the upper part of the bodice and see how to join them. I'm hoping you'll share your progress with us.

      3. Teaf5 | | #17

        I would use a third layer of the boiled wool inside the collar, stitch the layers together like a quilt (right sides out on the top and bottom layer with the third layer sandwiched in between) and then topstitched to look the same as the other seams on the jacket.  In this way, you won't get the white interfacing/stablizer peeking out between the wool layers.

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