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.