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.

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