Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pockets and &c.

Merry Christmas, all.

 Here is the marking stitch for a pocket flap. On period coats, the pocket flap is even with the lowest button on the coat front and the hip buttons over the side pleats. The curve matches the top of the flap.

Small problem: sewing is going to be with right sides together, so that reverses the curves. The pocket flap interfacing is cut a 1/4" shorter than the outer material, which acts a as handy measure. The trick is to go slow and check measurements often.

 Once the flap is back-stitched in place, it is pressed down and the seam allowance works as a guide to cut a V-shaped slit in the coat. All the slit edges get turned under, as does one edge of the pocket bag piece. With the two turned edges whipped together, the bottom lip of the pocket is done. The pocket bag is one piece. Folded in half, the other top edge gets sewn above the slit--under all the flap edges in the top of the photo.

All that is left is to back-stitch the bag sides, and buttonhole stitch the edges of the slit to the back of the pocket. A bit of top stitching to finish the flap and four decorative buttons complete things. One down, one to go.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


This mess is the inside of my center back pleat. Cheap lining material covers all the interfacings. The center back opening and side pleat edges are finished. Long, black basting stitches hold everything in place.

Across the top, rough stitches join the pleat to the lining. Also visible are the tiny stitches that close the horizontal seam in the back of the coat. Not terribly intuitive, this old timey tailoring. I'm glad I never learned how to sew, since it is completely bass ackwards from modern sewing.

The two back pieces of the coat have been sewn together, lined, and that's it for construction for awhile. The fronts will get  linings, buttons, pockets, and all edges finished. THEN the coat is fitted and put together. Weird, huh? 

Here is the center back pleat from the outside. On the right, is the first faux buttonhole hiding the center back pleat seam. My best Frankenstein stitching is on the left. Without the buttonholes, M. de Garsault says "the tailor must be very skillful in making his pleat so there is no gap." No kidding. Since there are four buttonholes on the pocket flaps, there should probably be four pairs back here. Depends on how lazy I am.

Next, pocket flaps and pockets.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mysterious Folds

Time to study the beast in the wild. This fantastic English suit coat at the Met dates to between 1750 and 1775. You can see more pictures of it here:

One thing has always bothered me about men's coats in this period. Where do those big pleats (on either side of the center back vent) come from? The side pleats are easy--there is a seam there, and a pair of buttons and pocket flaps to hide the train wreck of stitches from which they hang. The only thing that makes sense is a big horizontal seam right across the back.

Not terribly obvious, is it? Except for the six sets of weird stitches, (actually close worked buttonholes from the last post.)  At the start of the 18th century, the entire length of the center back opening of coats could have buttons and buttonholes. This one only has six. It is the top pair of decorative buttonholes that hides the seam. Clever little bastards, those tailors.
 Hard to tell if there is any interfacing in the tails of this mid-century coat. It starts to disappear in this period. Go back in time 30 to 40 years and the horsehair padding becomes pretty apparent:

This one has eight buttonholes. The gentlemen of the 1730s loved their poof. M. de Garsault calls it "pannier," like a dress. I chose the goat hair/wool Hymo for my pleats so I could split the difference on these two styles. Stiff, but not fluffy.

Next time, the mystery pleat's inside.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Close Worked Buttonholes

Okay, I lied. A small side-trip before the back pleat returns.

The pocket flaps need four decorative buttonholes. I did some experiments to see how the coat material handles tight stitches. It seems to hold together, but care is required. This is the essence of drunk tailoring: meticulous sewing on sleazy material.

I find worked buttonholes fun, soothing work. Done properly, they look much better than regular ones. I start by marking their location and length with chalk. Period tailors would often put in some long stitches as well (and leave them in, since the buttonhole is decorative anyway.)

Next, take two long stitches on either side of the marking stitches with some heavy thread or cord. Open worked buttonholes are similar, except they have to be outlined with stitches and cut before the long stitches go in. The functional buttonholes on this coat will be open half way--just enough for the buttons.

The buttonholes are two inches long, so I cut two arm lengths of buttonhole twist. The buttonhole stitches are made over the cord, parallel to the "hole," catching some of the material beneath. With the loose weave of the cloth, I had to pull slowly and kind of sideways. 

These close worked buttonholes will come in handy when it's time to hide the big ugly seams above the center back pleats.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fronts and Buttons

Here is the left side of the diagram (a coat front with canvas pinned in.) The interfacing on mid-century coats is substantial. The skirts are fully-lined and the button and buttonhole backing pieces are wide. There is even some padding in the collarbone hollow.

 The pleat re-enforcing piece is clearly visible at top. The waist seam, at right, will be hidden under the pocket flap when that goes on. Next step with the fronts will be to add the pleat interfacing and mark and attach the pocket flaps.

Look at these cool buttons:

These one-inch pewter buttons are made in period molds. Perfect! Next time, the mysterious center back pleat returns.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Step One

So here is one back piece. Compare it to the right side of the diagram in the last post. M. de Garsault says the tops of the pleats need to be re-enforced first. I made mine out of scraps of brown hemp canvas. The coat back has two: the rectangle on the left keeps the slit above the center back pleat stable. The horseshoe-shaped bit is partially covered by the hymo that lines the pleat.

The green stuff is more hemp canvas, lining the center back slit of the coat. The creases of the center back pleat have already been ironed in. The cloth the coat is cut from has a nice herringbone weave, but it frays easily. Even though its for summer wear, I can already tell the finished garment is going to be heavy.

Next time the fronts get their interfacing.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

L'Art du Tailleur

I find this diagram intriguing. All of these different types of interfacing were common in mid-18th century coats. According to M. de Garsault, the tail padding was out of fashion by the 1770's. Equally interesting is the center back pleat--a big gash in the coat that somehow needs to be hidden after it is all folded up.

I haven't gotten to the level where I make my own buckram yet. As a substitute, hemp canvas with the sizing in it is almost as good. Also, the horsehair material ("crin" in French,) is hard to get, but there is modern goat hair and wool canvas called Hymo, which I can get. Time to get online and spend some $$$$.