Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Stotting Part Two

The over cuff is longer than the under cuff, but has about the same diameter. That means it needs to be stretched, and the under cuff compressed to sew it on. Here it is with the edges of the short sides stitched together. Press the puckers out of the seam, and turn it inside out.

Now pull the over cuff, convex-side first, over the under cuff. The under cuff will curl and resist--scrunch it up so 1/8" of over cuff shows equally around the back edge of the under cuff. Match the over cuff seam to the bottom sleeve seam as shown. Use lots of pins and stretch the over cuff while stitching. The mouth of the over cuff should stick WAY past the sleeve opening.

Turn the entire sleeve inside out. Keep pulling until the cuff pops out as shown. Once it is evenly pulled out all the way around, the free edge of the over cuff can be sewn to the sleeve as shown. I'm using my hand to pull it tight.

Now look up inside the cuff, there is a crease previously ironed into the under cuff. Mark the crease with pins all the way around the outside.

CAREFULLY, turn the sleeve and cuff right side out. Pins mark exactly where the finished cuff folds back over the sleeve. Fold, pull the pins out, and iron with lots of steam. One down, one to go.The reduced seam bulk makes a huge difference. Time to add button holes, tape, and buttons.

Oh yeah, and if you accidentally have the sleeve twisted in your lap while you are measuring for buttonholes, and you carefully mark, outline, cut, and whip over a button hole on the INSIDE of the cuff (where it shouldn't be) It is pretty easy to sew the button hole edges closed again after all the stotting practice!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Stotting Part One

Time to put the cuffs on. Henry showed me a cool way to do this called "stotting." The sleeves of a regimental coat in this period should end 1/2" above the wrist joint. This might sound too short, but trust me.

 First: pin the under cuff piece to the sleeve opening, making sure the short edges match the lower sleeve seam. Pin the mouth of the sleeve to the long concave edge of the under cuff. The under cuff must be exactly the same size as the sleeve with no overlap. Pin it so the edges of the under cuff are touching (as shown.)

Now comes the fun part. Carefully sew the short edges of the under cuff together. Don't sew it to the sleeve. The cuffs on this coat will fold down to cover the hands in cold weather. This technique keeps the cuff seam from bulking up as layers are added.

If the long, convex, outside edge of the under cuff doesn't match when done, carefully trim it.

Next: whip stitch the concave edge of the under cuff to the mouth of the sleeve. Try and keep the stitches to within 1/16" of the edge. Once the under cuff is on, roll it down off the sleeve and iron all the seams flat.

The last step is to carefully fold 1/2" of the under cuff into the sleeve, as shown at right, and iron it all the way around. Now the cuff comes right down to the wrist. Next time, the blue over cuff gets added and it becomes a mini lapel: complete with tapes, buttonholes, and buttons.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Faux Pocket Flaps

This fusilier coat will be the death of me. With all the hooking and unhooking, rotating, and overall tightness, large hunks of plastic started falling out of my sewing form. The top of the neck opening is no longer straight. Hopefully, it will all hold together.

At the end of the 18th-century, British enlisted men's coats had fake pocket flaps, complete with regimental tape and buttons. The feeling was lowlifes should have as much trouble getting to their pockets as possible, but the coat should still look good.

Here is the flap pinned to the coat, the tapes already in place. The top edge is folded, and a running stitch holds it on.

When uniform re-issue time came around, regimental tailors cut the old coats apart, removed the tape, turned them inside out, and cut them shorter to clean up the ragged edges. The pocket flaps were also removed.

Second order coats (and light infantry/highland coatees) had vertical flaps--like wings. No buttonholes, but the buttons get the "hole poked, secured with linen tape from the backside" treatment. Since this is the drunk tailor, there must be a wtf moment after hours of labor.

 After folding the pleats, the left pocket appears a bit too far back. On the plus side, the tapes are slightly too far forward. Time to remove 1/8" of pocket material. Now it looks like I know what I'm doing.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Field Trip!

I spent a fantastic weekend with my pal and mentor Henry Cooke, helping at a workshop for 18th century regimental coats. Participants got a coat kit, cut to their size, and two days of expert help in sewing and fitting. This is how I learned to sew all those years ago, and I picked up some new tricks which  I will share in the months ahead.

Henry dressed three reconstructed figures of George Washington at various ages, that really have to be seen to be to be believed. He is one of the most skilled period tailors in the World. He also collects period clothing made by drunken and sober tailors alike. Needless to say, I worked for free.

Even my stuff looks better than this thing:

Made from horrific sandpaper-like broadcloth, this late 18th-century French jacket is unlined, and has sleeves similar to an early waistcoat. Henry thinks the neck shows signs of a military heritage. If so, it is a perfect example of recycling and reusing. The English definitely had their neighbors beat in the wool quality department.

The interfacing bits are random pieces of broadcloth (cut off pleats?) One of the pocket bags has adorable cross-stitch initials on it. A closer look reveals more curiosities:

There is only one working buttonhole in the front of this coat. Each pocket flap has THREE working buttonholes (bad neighborhood?) Francois must have had a nice waistcoat to go under this. Aside from the olive buttonhole thread, I love the fact that a poor guy has fake buttonholes on his work jacket.

ALSO: broadcloth covered buttons? Sounds like a huge pain in the ass, which means I'll have to experiment. Now if you were to leave my rum-soaked shop and go to the good part of town, you might see something like this:

This frock coat is made from Nankeen, produced in what is now Nanjing. The embroidery is likely Chinese, done before the coat was assembled. And yes, it is lined in hot pink silk. Yet ANOTHER example of how the Victorians ruined everything. The cotton textile is so narrow, the garment has multiple side seams. There are surviving 18th century embroidered "kits" for coats and waistcoats, that tailors could cut out and assemble.

Here is what the top of a pleat looks like on the inside. Water stains appear at the back vent. I can only image how pimptastic this coat looked when it was new. It has worked buttonholes and center back, reverse pleats like the linen coat I made (but much nicer.)

Nankeen was so popular, the natural warm color was widely copied by dyeing ordinary cotton in the 18th and 19th centuries. It's nice to see the real deal up close. I leave you with a few more pictures of this amazing coat.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


English regimental coat collars in this period mimic the lapels in construction. Here is the under collar attached to the coat with the seam pressed open. The lining and interfacing peek in at the bottom.

As with armholes and sleeves, the neck opening of the coat has to be the same length as the long under collar edge. Too long is much easier to fix than too short.

The blue over collar overlaps the under collar by an 1/8". Here is the back turned up, the point is common on late 18th-century collars. To reduce bulk, the left and right collar pieces are sewn together edge to edge. Don't try this with anything but Kochan broadcloth. Make sure to fold the collar down BEFORE attaching the over collar. Pin it in a couple places--important to match the over and under collar fold so it doesn't pull the under collar outward.

The over collar covers the top pressed open under collar seam at the neck edge. The lining edge gets turned under, and covers the bottom under collar seam allowance. It is secured with an underhand hem stitch. Now comes the tricky part--the collar buttons to the top-most lapel button.

Mark and cut a horizontal buttonhole in each collar edge. They get the same treatment and tapes as the lapels.  Next time faux pocket flaps.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


So with the hooks and eyes secured over the form, and all the buttons buttoned this happened. Pinning the side seams makes the inside curve of the lapels so severe that the buttons are now too close together.

Note to self: in future, sew on hooks and eyes BEFORE the buttons. Time to cut all the linen tape holding the buttons and move each down a 1/4". I love sewing.

The original holes in the broadcloth will gradually shrink and be covered by the buttons. Next time: collar and collar buttonholes.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hooks & Eyes & Bays

As seen here, three evenly-spaced hooks and eyes hold the regimental coat closed. The bottom pair lines up with the fourth buttonhole in the lapel. The coat seams are pinned together, inside-out, on the form. The now familiar linen tape holds the lapel buttons on, sewn to the canvas interfacing.

The ends of the hooks and eyes should be even with the fold in the lapel, and strongly stitched to the interfacing. The buttonhole tapes on the lapels SHOULD line up when the coat is hooked.

Here is a closeup of a pair. I purchased these from William Booth Draper, great folks with a fantastic selection of 18th-century stuff. To cover this mess, British military coats were lined with Bay (a loosely woven plain wool,) for nearly 300 years. Prior to 1768 it was the same color as the coat facing. After, it was white or buff.  The front linings have separate skirt pieces, and since the pocket flaps on the coat are fake, there are internal pockets in the lining waist seam.

Here is the slit between the skirt lining and top, where the pocket will go. Once again, this will be a welt-style pocket. I'm excited to be using the Kochan Phillips Bay for the first time. It frays like mad, so building pocket welts out of it is a challenge. Once the pocket bag and the welt are done, the front edges of the lining are turned and pinned over the lapel edges.

The folded edge of the lining is overhand stitched about 1/8" in. Only the heads of the hooks and eyes peek out. For now, the raw edges of the lining are pinned around the neck opening, shoulders, sides, and bottom of the coat.  Back pleats practically vanish from enlisted coats in this period, but the lining can be folded and stitched overhand to what is left on the sides. The top of the pleat is left open until the side seams can be fitted and the pleat folded.

Here is what the finished pocket looks like:

Oh yeah, and for the first time EVER I made two left coat linings, put in a backwards pocket and everything! See what happens when you get too comfortable? Time to cut out a bunch of back-stitching and try again.

This is drunk tailoring at its finest.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fusilier Lace

There are a couple ways to make a rectangle pattern loop and the 7th Regiment's is the hard way. The larger of the two loops requires 8 3/4" of lace (the smaller is around 8".) Here are two of the larger pieces ready to be folded.

Only one line of stitching holds these things together, the rest is folding and ironing. If it goes bad, unfold it, press it flat, and start again. If making lace for a non-working buttonhole
skip down to step 7. The open end gets hidden under the button.
Match the ends of the lace and pin it at a 45 degree angle. The pin is 1/4"
 in from the stripe side edge. This is the stitch line.

Ino, I used a sewing machine. I'm terrible. It won't be seen when it's sewn down.

Here is the first fold, pressed. The tail needs to be cut off and Fray Checked.

Flipped 90-degrees, here is the tape held against a finished one for size.
Fold the other end back on itself  as shown.

Iron the second fold. This is the height of the finished rectangle: 1 1/8"

With the lace right-side up, press a 45-degree fold to complete one end.
The long sides should be parallel and the inside edges nearly touching. 

Now fold the whole tape in half, to locate the center of the unfinished side. Here
it is marked with a pin. The center keeps the tape symmetrical when folded.

Back to the coat--flip the tape upside down, center the pin on a finished
buttonhole and make two folds, 1 1/8" apart. Make these as even as possible. 

Getting close--two more  folds are ironed. The finished length should be around 2 1/2".

Iron the other side flat with two more 45-degree folds to finish. Here it is from underneath. 

Next time, hooks, eyes, and linings.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lace and Buttonholes

The 18th-century British army LOVED lace. Musicians were practically wrapped in the stuff. The 1768 Lace Book at Windsor Castle documents the official pattern of each regiment on a sample of the coat facing cloth. Roy Najecki was kind enough to document it on his website. Of course, some period paintings show different lace than the regulation--the perils of research.

It's heartwarming to see a military organization, at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, going bonkers over all the great stuff available to distinguish themselves. Not just all the different colors of wool lace, but folding and pairing, combined with coat facing and lining colors, badges, and numbered buttons all made them unique.

The Royal Fusiliers were no exception. While they had a rather tame pattern, with only one blue stripe, their method of folding was annoyingly distinctive. As far as is known, they didn't pair their buttonholes, so there are ten equally-spaced on each coat lapel, four on each pocket flap, cuff, and back, as well as two on the collar. All but the pocket flaps and back are functional.

I made this rough template from a scrap of cardboard. It measures the distance between buttonholes on the lapel and the exact distance of the buttonhole location from the lapel edge (and some other stuff I can't remember.) After the top and bottom buttonholes are measured, a simple chalk line shows where to edge stitch and cut.

Since the buttonholes will be lined with tape, super-craptastic contractor grade buttonhole stitching will suffice. Edge the chalk line with blue thread, cut it with an appropriately-sized chisel and whip over the raw edges. I know, it looks bad, but the King doesn't pay by the hour.

Here is one of the little buggers folded up (more on that later.) There are two different sized loops on the 7th Foot coat. The ones on the pocket flaps and cuffs are slightly smaller. Obviously, it will be bigger than the actual buttonhole. Start by pinning the inside tape edge to the outside end of the buttonhole.

A running stitch in white thread secures the inside edge, then square and pin the outside and repeat the process. British military contractors were crazy enough to add a THIRD line of stitching to the center, but drunk Irish tailors ignore such things. Once all ten are on, use linen tape to secure the buttons to the interfacing on the inside of the coat.

Make sure to iron the snot out of the tapes to flatten them out. With all that said, this is a lowest bidder job. It's perfectly acceptable to use tapes only closed on one side for non-working buttonholes. The buttons on the pocket flaps hide the open end, so one sided loops are fine there. Next time, the mystery of lace folding.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Regimental Coat

The 18th-century soldier's coat was his pride and joy. The tactics of the period called for close-order, fighting elbow to elbow, so it had to be snug. It must not interfere with the handling of the firelock either, but it also had to be comfortable.

Usually, redcoats could expect a new garment issue every year, which they paid for through stoppages. Contractors supplied the regiment with coats in a number of sizes, loosely assembled. Soldiers who who were tailors in civilian life, were then exempt from duty to measure and fit the regiment.

After a year of sun, rain, snow, and wear--the previous year's coat would be shortened, turned inside out, stripped of tapes, and reassembled for fatigue duties. Soldier's wives who were on the regimental roles, were entitled to wear their husband's old coat.

The late 18th-century Royal Fusilier coat followed a standard pattern--madder red broadcloth for enlisted men, with Royal Blue facings. the pocket flaps were decorative, and the body was lined with white wool bay. The skirts could be turned and there are two epaulettes edged with lace.

The first step is to back-stitch the under lapel to the coat front, as close to the edge as possible. Leave 1/8" free to attach the collar at the top, and flip the fronts over. 
 Hemp canvas serves as interfacing, this need only be tacked in place on the inside. 
Pin the blue over lapel to within 1/8" of the under lapel outside edge. I'm using natural linen thread for construction stitching. This is what the top of the lapel looks like from the inside.

The last step, is to fold the blue cloth over the front coat edge and stitch it to the interfacing
Next time, buttonholes get added to the lapels, and we look at the 7th Regiment of Foot's unique lace pattern.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Military Weskit Finished

Greetings! Sorry for the delay. Lots of small things jumped to the head of the line for events. The British army weskit fronts got buttons and buttonholes in my spare time. After that, It was buttoned--inside out, and pinned to the serge back from my previous attempt. After the side seams are fitted, the lining edges are turned under and whipped closed.

 The extra material on the front paid off--it covers the hip-hugging waistband on my old, patched overalls completely. The middle-aged largess is secure. The buttons are fixed as they were on the previous project, with linen tape. Wool serge serves as lining and back.

Next time we'll work one something more interesting. Check out those Regimental buttons!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Weskit Pockets

This is going to be easier than doing things from scratch. Here is the complete pocket from the old 7th Regiment waistcoat. This style is typical for watch pockets in breeches. A tutorial on how to make these is here.

The new fronts have a chalk line the width of the pocket bag, but not as wide as the broadcloth welt seen on the left of this photo.

Here is the welt pinned upside down to the weskit front. After the welt is back-stitched to the slit, the pocket bag is pushed through. The pocket bag back is then sewn to the slit sides and top, the welt is folded up, pressed, and the welt sides are back-stitched. Easy.

Next time--the fronts get buttons and linings.