Tuesday, March 31, 2015


This wonderful place is worth a visit. The last 18th century barracks in the country is right in the heart of Trenton, NJ. The structure is largely intact, right down to the fireplaces and masonry marks. Soldiers and prisoners from the Seven Years War to the Revolution lived and fought around it.

Best of all, the interpretation is excellent. Many of the rooms are furnished, and the bread oven and camp kitchen are used all day. These ring-trenched mounds appear in period books, but to actually use one to cook is a learning experience. The coals in the dirt firebox were still good the next day.

Another great event created by young people, and it was an honor to be invited. Whenever bullshit strikes, I recall the twelve-year-old (with the unholy light in their eyes) who takes a single careful photo. He/she already knows how the musket works, they want to talk about bayonet evolution over time. As they return to talk again and again, their mother apologizes and I tell her it is like looking in a mirror.

They are half my age and already exceed me in sewing skill. They find new cultural nuggets I have never seen before. The twelve-year-old grew up, and keeps me inspired to do this till I can't run anymore.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Attach the waistband to the breeches body as shown with back stitches. There is slightly more waistband forward of the outer leg seam, and the back of the leg is gathered to fit. Note that the outside leg seam is finished as far as the button stand.

A quick pin up of the legs proves this pattern still fits. If there is any question, best to cut the legs with extra material on the inseam. Finish the outer leg seam of the lining and insert it BEFORE attaching the waistband. Stitch through the body and lining.

Flip the waistband up and press the fold flat. Pull the waistband lining down over the stitch line as shown and sew down. The next step will be the pie piece-shaped gusset at the back and a test fit.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Fall and Bearers

Since these breeches do not have fall extensions, turning the edges of the cuts is not an option.  Make sure the fall cuts are parallel to the center front seam and slightly shorter than the height of the bearer. The fall is around eight and a half inches wide. The cut should overlap the bearer about 1/4" at side and bottom as shown here. The fall is tucked under for clarity.

Make sure the top edges of the bearer and breeches line up, and back stitch along where the pins are in the photo. Overcast the edge of the bearer to the inside of the body if desired. The lining is going to overlap, so it isn't really needed.

To protect the edge of the fall, a separate fall yoke is added. This T-shaped lining piece has it's top and side edges turned and it is back stitched right to the edge of the fall. After that is in place, the fall can be pinned closed. A short (1/2") horizontal back stitch right at the base of the cut secures the fall to the bearer underneath and prevents tearing.

Monday, March 16, 2015

After Guilford

Pity the poor Fusilier, the Carolina sun finally came out and dried him after days of being soaked. Promoted corporal (largely through attrition) he somehow avoided capture at the Cowpens, saw his tent burned, waded through chest-deep rivers, and cleaned the mud from his uniform in a horse trough. He survived the slaughter at Guilford, moved wounded men for hours, and can no longer coax the ramrod from his firelock until it dries.

There is magic in hearing Lord Cornwallis's compliments read while standing on the muddy ground where hundreds died in 1781. Keeping weapons functioning, powder dry, and cooking food in the wet is a challenge. The winter uniform fared remarkably well. Back home, it is time to assess damage and make repairs.

Starting from the top, the hat slowly uncocked itself and is now soft. It is steamed back into shape, and shellac applied to the soft spots. The coat needs little attention: mud is brushed from it with a stiff brush. The right waistcoat pocket bag tore and needs to be stitched up. Ruffles are cut from the shirt before it is hand-washed. They will be ironed and replaced when the shirt dries.

The winter trousers are still in fat configuration and need to have three inches cut from the waistband back. Eyelets will be redone, and the popped seam inside the left thigh fixed. The stirrup straps stretched and need to be cut shorter. Water and a stiff brush remove most of the mud.  Belts, sling, and shoes are cleaned with soap and water. Shoes get a healthy dose of shoe grease, and some black ball. White leather is painted with white ball and polished with a glass bottle. The brass belt plate gets a high polish.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

British Army Breeches

Breeches start with the waistbands and the bearers. Turn all four sides of the waistband linings and back or overcast stitch them in place on the top and sides. If the wool is thin, turn those edges as well. Leave a 1/2" free at the bottom to turn up when attaching to the legs.

Bearers are similar, but there is no need to turn the top edges, just whip them together. Two or three eyelets finish the back of each waistband, and two or three buttons and buttonholes will close the front. If the wool stretches, add hemp or linen canvas linings to the waistbands (before buttonholes and eyelets) to stabilize them.

  If the pattern is 100% it's okay to finish the center front and back leg seams next. Make sure to leave an opening for the wedge insert at the back. If fit is an issue, leave the center front seam open for fitting over the pelvis.

Backstitch 3/4" of the side seams to get ready for attaching the waistbands. If fit is okay with the pattern, the center front and back of the lining pieces can be finished as well.  

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Very happy with how the old rag turned out. The fit is better, and it kept me alive once again over this past weekend. There was a minor scare on the blog today. Long story short if Google asks you if you want to save space by deleting some stuff, just say no. It took an hour to find the triple secret Picasa/Google + trash can that had ALL the photos to Drunktailor and put them back.  On to better things.

Since this post proved popular, why not knock out a quick and dirty pair of cloth breeches? The 7th Regiment of Foot didn't start out in overalls. Winter regulations originally called for a pair of white wool breeches with marked buttons, no pockets, and button closure at the knee. These will be fully lined. Ignore the pocket in the photo, we don't need it. Next time waistbands.