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.