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Jim_Ruley
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« on: August 27, 2015, 07:18:00 AM »

I am working on a circa 1830's "dress coat" for a client interpreting the Texian Revolution (he has appeared as Col William Travis at the Alamo).  Some people refer to this era as "Late Regency", although technically the Regency ended when King George IV assumed the British throne in 1820.

The first question was what pattern to use.  Erik provided a copy of Laughing Moon's Pattern #121, "Men's Regency Tailcoat", which has all of the construction and styling features desired.  However, since he has a 36 inch chest, I thought this would be a good opportunity to try out an original ca. 1838 pattern draft from "The Tailor's Masterpiece", a work originally by George Walker that R. L. Shep reprinted as "Early Victorian Men".  I also decided to try my old standby, DeVere's 1866 "Handbook of Practical Cutting" with the changes necessary to "backdate" the style to the 1830's.

After several days of drafting and mockup construction, here are the results.  First, the Laughing Moon pattern:







This could be made to work, but has some issues.  With twelve sizes (34-56) in one package, the pattern requires some adjustment for anyone not of ideal proportions for a given size.  Since Erik is quite tall for a 36 chest, the coat is a bit short in the waist.  The pattern also betrays its modern origins with deeper than needed armscyes and deeply curved side back seams; and I personally find the 5/8" seam allowances cumbersome to work with.  That's not to say the pattern would not work well for many people; and the styling and construction information are well worth the purchase price IMO.

Now, here's the 1838 Tailor's Masterpiece draft:









Again, a workable start; and this would be worth pursuing further except that Walker's drafting method is very cumbersome.  He starts by drafting the whole back (tails included), then has you cut it out and place it in various positions to develop the forepart and tails.  These positions depend on some rather dubious "balance measures" which could easily be affected by the client's posture and build, spoiling the pattern if they are not taken precisely.  Walker also locates points as the intersections of large arcs rather than DeVere's rectangular grid, which is harder to work with.  As to the mockup, it's very tight overall (which is to be expected since he calls for the chest measure to be taken over the coat, which would add some ease), and the scyes are a bit high, which is probably the cause of the nasty wrinkle in the shoulder seen in the first photo.   The model measures in the book were used, so again the coat is a bit short on Erik's proportionally long body.

Now, let's look at the "backdated" DeVere draft:









This is the best looking fit in the body so far, and Erik reported it was the most comfortable.  The waist is in the right place since actual measurements were used, and the coat fits well in the scye region.  The only real issue is the overly long sleeves, which is not the fault of the draft; the measure he sent me was taken too long.  The sleeves are also a bit looser than desired at the hand and elbow.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2015, 08:01:25 AM by Jim_Ruley » Logged
Jim_Ruley
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« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2015, 07:51:55 AM »

With these results, the consensus judgement was to put Walker's sleeve on DeVere's body.  Here it has been replaced on the right side of the coat:





This was the only gross adjustment required.  With some minor tweaks (half and quarter inch here and there) we were ready to proceed with construction.  I'll post the results as they progress.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2015, 07:56:09 AM by Jim_Ruley » Logged
Ginger Lane
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« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2015, 08:10:24 AM »

This comparison is so interesting. Thank you for posting all the pictures!
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Jim_Ruley
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« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2015, 11:23:34 AM »

Here's the wool laid out doubled and marked ready to cut.  The layout goes over the end of the cutting table because I like to make sure I have enough material before starting:



Here's the first portion (background in previous image):



Coats of this era were commonly unlined in the body, but faced with the same wool as the shell.  The pieces chalked in blue are the chest and tail facings.  The white thread is tailor's tacks, marking the crease line of forepart, pleat line of tails, and inside breast pocket slit.



My favorite wool shears are this pair of vintage Heinisch, probably made before the name of the company changed in 1871.  Lighter weight than a comparable length modern pair and just as sharp!


« Last Edit: August 27, 2015, 11:29:33 AM by Jim_Ruley » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2015, 12:20:45 PM »

Cutting in progress.  Since we chalk around the outside of the pattern pieces, the cutter should cut just inside the chalk lines, not split them:



After cutting, the slack is pulled out of the loops in the tailor's tacks:



Then the loops are cut through, leaving a nice row of thread ends along whatever line you want to mark on the right side of the fabric:


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Jim_Ruley
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« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2015, 02:12:19 PM »

Of course a coat of this date should be totally handsewn; however, the time required is not available and would make the cost excessive.  However, we can catch some of the "spirit of the age" by using this fine old ca. 1867 Singer 12 straight stitch machine for the long seams.  A real flea market bargain, with case and treadle irons, for all of $35.  The shuttle (case that holds the lower thread bobbin) was missing, and a spare one on e-bay cost me more than the whole rest of the machine!



I like to begin coat construction with the sleeves, because they are easy and it gets some of the bulk out of the work area Smiley.  I won't use pins on the old machine, because of the danger of breaking needles (which aren't made anymore) and messing up what remains of the original finish.  So, the sleeve pieces are first pinned together to get things lined up; then a row of basting thread is run and the pins are removed.  Also shown is a 9600 yd spool of basting cotton, we shouldn't need all of it...



This coat will have trumpet-shaped self-faced cuffs that drape over the wearer's hand.  The pieces for these are treated the same as the sleeves:



The old Singer chewing manfully away.  It makes a nice tight stitch when the tension is adjusted properly.  Thread is a fine silk.  



For precise work (such as the sharp point at the fold line of the trumpet cuff) you can stop treadling and use the handwheel:



This old machine can't sew in reverse, but you can still lock the end of a seam down.  Just stop at the end of the seam with the needle in the work...



...then raise the presser foot, turn the work around, foot down and sew a short distance in the opposite direction.   I find this works well on a modern machine as well...



When the sewing is complete, the seams are trimmed back to 1/4" and the basting is removed.  If you are thrifty you can re-use it, but it's not worth the trouble IMO for short pieces like this.



If you are serious about working with heavy wool I highly recommend a gravity feed steam iron like this one.  They are not too expensive, I believe this unit and water bottle cost right around $100 from an e-bay store several years ago.  That's less than just one of the big Rowentas I used to burn up with some regularity.  Every piece of this iron that is liable to wear out is replaceable by the USER, not the factory!



This is the water tank, suspended from the kitchen ceiling.  First time visitors to our house usually say "What the heck is that?"  Again, higher capacity than a consumer iron and with the gravity drop it makes a lot of steam when you need it.



The seams of the cuffs are pressed open, then they are turned over and pressed flat from the right side.  Draping over a sleeve board prevents spoiling the shape of the point.



The fold line is then marked with wax chalk:



The cuff is folded along the mark and pressed firmly.  The mark disappears when the wax melts.



The sleeve seam is treated like the cuff, also pressed open over a sleeve board to prevent distorting the shape:


« Last Edit: August 27, 2015, 02:40:55 PM by Jim_Ruley » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2015, 05:16:03 PM »

With right sides together, the cuff is basted to the sleeve, then stitched:



The seam is cut back to 1/4" and pressed open:



Buttons and holes are located and marked with chalk on the wrong side of the fabric, then with basting thread going through to the right side:



Linen stay pieces are basted in place over the button and hole locations:



The cuff is now folded together backwards (wrong sides out) and the edge is stitched down, but only on the upper sleeve edge:



The sleeves are now basted right sides together, and the hind arm seam is sewn.  This detail shows the cuff area where the stitching stops:



The seams are given the customary treatment and pressed open, then the cuff is turned right side out and the finished upper sleeve side of the slit is pressed firmly:


« Last Edit: August 27, 2015, 05:23:10 PM by Jim_Ruley » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2015, 07:25:46 PM »

The cuff facing is basted in place, then the raw edge is catch-stitched to the sleeve with a cross stitch.  The facing is back-stitched to the cuff and sleeve in the tab area, one seam back from the raw edge as shown.  For extra security I back-stitched on one side, then turned the work over and back-stitched again on the other side.



The cloth is cut off close to the stitching, leaving a raw edge:



The sleeves are turned right side out, and lightly pressed on the hind arm seam to keep the elbows in shape:



The sleeves are now set aside.  Buttonholes will have to wait until the covered buttons arrive Smiley.
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Jim_Ruley
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« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2015, 08:35:29 AM »

We begin constructing the body by joining the forepart and lapel.  Here are the pieces laid flat on the cutting table.  Compared to and 1860's coat, the gorge line is extended to make a better looking turnover with the higher collar; and the lapel tapers outward near the top, rather than inwards:



The seam is treated in the customary manner (basted/sewn/clipped to 1/4"/pressed open).  The lapel is cut longer than the front edge so it will cover the strap of the skirt, so for now we stop the stitching a couple of inches above the waist seam.  The remaining length will be sewn after the skirt is attached.  When pressing, a ham is used near the top to avoid pressing the roundness out of the chest.



Now we put some three-dimensional shape into the forepart with the iron to accomodate the shoulders and hips (this is called "ironwork").  Here the hollow of the neck is being stretched about 1/4".  This is easy to do (and overdo!) because this edge is cut on the bias:



The same technique is applied at the middle of the shoulder seam and two places on the upper scye.  Here is the shoulder area when finished:



The same technique is applied to the side body area at the upper part of the curved seam (shown) and the waist line:



The waist seam is stretched at the hollow of waist:



Here is the side body showing the effects of the stretching:


« Last Edit: August 30, 2015, 10:04:25 AM by Jim_Ruley » Logged
Doug Frank
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« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2015, 09:55:03 AM »

Wow, that is really looking great, the comparison of the pattern and the two drafting techniques are also highly interesting.

Doug
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« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2015, 04:10:11 PM »

Next step is prepare the front canvas, which supports the wool shell and holds in its shape.  We could cut separate forepart and lapel canvas pieces, but this puts even more bulk in the lapel seam.  Instead, a one-piece canvas pattern is developed, with darts at the lapel seam line.  The pattern pieces are shown here - wool on the right and canvas on the left.  The canvas is cut longer at the bottom so it will reach the bottom of the skirt strap; and some extra room is allowed at the shoulder and scye seams.


(Why salmon pink pattern paper?  Well, my next-door neighbor gave me a huge roll of shelf paper several years ago, and I still haven't used it all up....)


Here are the canvas pieces after cutting.  The material is a medium weight, plain weave linen-cotton blend from the upholstery department of a fabric store.  This is closer to period materials than modern "hymo".

Unlike wool pieces, the darts are cut open.  The roll line is located with tailor's tacks as per the wool pieces.  Cuts are made in the neck, shoulder and scye as shown to build in shape to correspond with the ironwork in the wool.



The lower dart is first basted up loosely, using what I call a "ladder stitch" (take one stitch forward and the next across the seam).  These two images show the right and wrong sides after stitching.





The right side is then covered with a strip of waste material (polished cotton) and padded over:



The upper dart is treated similarly, but because this area will be pad-stitched the polished cotton stay is not necessary, and the thread used is finer.  Right and wrong sides:





The four cuts are covered with small wedges of the canvas material which is padded in place, leaving about 1/4" open at the top of the cut.  Right and wrong sides:





Here are the completed canvasses (right and wrong sides):



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Jim_Ruley
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« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2015, 05:29:23 PM »

The canvas nust now be basted into the foreparts.  This needs to be done carefully to ensure the two layers lie smoothly together, and the canvas will support the wool without pulling it out of shape.

Because the chest has a convex shape, it is important not to baste the canvas in flat.  Experienced tailors can drape the layers in place "over the hand" to build in the curvature.  Another method is to use a small wooden block as shown here:



The ends of the crease line marks are pinned in place, then the layers are laid over the block and smoothed out:



The first row of basting stitches goes from the middle of the canvas to the middle of the shoulder.  You can just see the impression of the block under the chest:



Additional rows follow the roll and neck lines, and the back edge of the canvas and scye.  Once the basting is complete, the pins on the roll line can be removed.



The front is now held canvas side up and padding of the lapel begins.  The area to be padded goes on the left (assuming you are right-handed) and rows of padding are worked in alternate directions as shown:





The padding is finished.  Notice the stitching goes all the way to the edge only behind the roll line.  Along the top and front lapel edges it stops about 3/4" back of the edge.


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Jim_Ruley
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« Reply #12 on: August 30, 2015, 07:14:08 PM »

Next step is the decorative side pocket flaps.  A wool piece is folded over and pressed as shown, leaving a seam allowance on the outside only:



I marked stitch lines with wax chalk, then backstitched all the way around each end, beginning on the inside and ending on the outside.  I then catch-stitched the cut edge of the inside to the top at the seam line:



Next, I carefully shaved the surplus material off the ends as close as I dared cut to the stitching.  Raw edges like this were common on coats of this vintage.  A book called "The Tailor", published in London and dated by some to 1801, suggests holding the shears at an angle so the outside edge will be just slightly longer than the inside.  (I cheated and used a rotary cutter).



The finished flap is now secured to the coat at the waist of the side body:


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« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2015, 10:20:36 PM »

Is this the book you mentioned? https://archive.org/details/tailorlondon00londrich

What a beautiful sewing machine and great work can't wait to see more.
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« Reply #14 on: August 31, 2015, 06:04:35 AM »


Yes, that is the culprit.
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Jim_Ruley
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« Reply #15 on: August 31, 2015, 06:15:00 AM »

Now we are getting ready to attach the skirts.  The first step is to press the pleats into place, using the tailor's tacks as a guide:



Midnight, the "shop cat" supervises operations.  Every shop should have a mascot!



It's important to line up the pleat line of the skirt with the seam line of the side body.  I like to mark both pieces, then knot a doubled thread (as for sewing on a button) and tack the marks together:



The skirt is deliberately cut with some extra length on the seam.  The front strap is pinned "fair" (no stretching of either part), and the fullness is worked in under the pocket flap.  This will provide some room for the prominence of the hips.



The waist seam is sewn, trimmed and pressed out.  A ham was used under the flap to preserve the shape:



The short remaining section of the lapel seam is now pinned, then sewn, clipped and pressed:




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E L Watkins-Morris
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« Reply #16 on: August 31, 2015, 07:38:34 AM »

All, right you've convinced me, next purchase is the gravity feed iron I've been waffling on.

You've definitely got iron "shaping" down pat. I need to practice on some scraps-my attempts are icky.

Liz W.
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« Reply #17 on: August 31, 2015, 05:59:34 PM »

Next job is to attach the backs to the side bodies, down to the top of the pleats:



Here is the seam pinned in place.  Before sewing, it's important to make sure both the left and right sides are pinned the same.



The top of the seam is pressed open over a ham:



Here's the joint at the bottom of the seam once pressing is complete:



The tail pockets will be put in next.  Eric provided a cotton shirting to use for this purpose.  The sleeve linings are cut out of the same material:


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« Reply #18 on: August 31, 2015, 08:45:29 PM »

We begin the tail pockets by placing a pocket piece right side up in position on the wrong side of the skirt.  The upper portion of the pocket covers the waist seam:



Marks are made at the edges of the mouth portion of the pocket bag:



The pocket piece is turned over (right side to right side of skirt pleat) and basted in place:



The back is now laid over the skirt and smoothed into place.  Marks are transferred to the pleat edge of the back as shown, and the other half of the pocket is basted into place.



The pocket halves are sewn on, then pressed over the wool as shown:



The pocket halves are now basted together, then sewn all round to close the bag:



The back is now laid under the skirt, and the pleat line is basted down through all layers.  This keeps everything in place during future steps:



The skirt pleat and pocket are now flipped over into place.  The pocket is basted down all round to keep it in position:



The pocket flap is lifted up, and a row of back stitching put through all layers to secure the top of the pocket in place:



A small bar tack is worked through all layers near the bottom of the back edge of the flap.  This keeps the flap from flipping up, and also keeps the top of pleat in place:



« Last Edit: September 01, 2015, 12:50:10 PM by Jim_Ruley » Logged
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« Reply #19 on: September 01, 2015, 12:56:35 PM »

The tail vent edges of the back are now finished.  Coats of this vintage commonly had a narrow "tack over" where these edges overlap, so the edge is folded back even with the raw edge of the upper back.  With a 1/2" seam allowance this will leave a 1 inch tack over after sewing.



After pressing, the folded material is held in place with a cross stitch.  Extra length was allowed in the back to account for misalignment in assembly.  It's much easier to shorten the back piece than the skirts Smiley.



A piece of stay tape is now basted in place one seam allowance (1/2") behind the front edge, going all the way from the lapel seam to the bottom of the tails:



In the canvassed areas, the inside edge of the tape is carefully backstitched down, being careful not to go through the cloth:



Below the canvas, the inside edge of the tape is secured with a cross-stitch, again taking care not to break through:




« Last Edit: September 01, 2015, 02:05:34 PM by Jim_Ruley » Logged
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