I started my waistcoat by drafting the basic waistcoat block, this didn’t have any stylistic features as I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to take my waistcoat at this stage. I found the drafting process reasonably easy but the tutors were giving different methods of directions which did cause a little bit of confusion but I managed to keep my waistcoat drafting consistent.
The next day after doing some research into the type of waistcoat I wanted to make (I looked into 18th and the second half of the 19th century waistcoats and settled on a waistcoat from 1890), I really liked its style and general shape. I began drafting and attempting to replicate its features on my waistcoat block resulting in my first waistcoat draft. I ended up taking my draft in on wednesday and saw my tutor who helped me refine the draft. I showed her the image of the waistcoat I wanted to replicate and she brought up that the waistcoat looked very similar to a waistcoat featured in “Men’s Garments 1830-1900, A guide to pattern cutting and tailoring” by R. I. Davis. Hester found a copy of the book for me and sure enough the waistcoats were strikingly similar. I then scanned and printed all of the pages in relation to that waistcoat, both for research and and reference. I didn’t trace the pattern from the book at all however I did use it as a point of reference for pocket placement and their sizes.
I found that pockets move around and change shape a lot throughout history and I wanted my waistcoat to be an accurate representation of the era. My tutor also showed me to draw my waistcoat lines as a curve as they shape over the body much better than straight lines. I then altered all of my lines (apart from CB and CB) to be ever so slightly curved. I retraced my grainlines as they were now off due to the alterations, drew my pockets in, shaped the neckline and drew in the collar. I also traced my chest and waistline incase they were needed again later on. With those alterations made I had a new final draft pattern.
I then traced the patterns off of my master copy making a seperate pattern for my collar. Hester instructed not to cut them out on the line but to instead leave a small outline around the edge so I could then sew into the paper when sewing my tailors tacks and tear the paper off at the end leaving my tracks behind.
In the next lesson I started on my tailors tacks, I found using a back stitch worked best for me and I was able to get through my tacks quite quickly. I colour coded each individual piece on the waistcoat making identification easier later on. I found it easy sewing though the paper and I felt that it would yield more accurate markings than attempting to chalk everything and then tack the markings through.
When I had finished it came to the tear off, in my mind this was going to go smoothly but was a little more difficult than I had imagined. I ended up having to hold the wool down and carefully tear the paper off bit by bit rather than being able to tear the whole thing off in one go. This left my pattern a ripped mess, it wasn’t my master so I wasn’t too worried but I still laughed at how awful it looked.
I think this was down to the paper thickness, if I were to do this again I would try transfering my pattern to tissue paper, then tailor tack through and pull the tissue paper off. I think I would have more success with the lighter tissue paper.
I was really impressed with how well the tacks transferred onto the wool, there were a few gaps where the tacks had pulled through but the wool was still easily identifiable. I then mounted the wool to the canvas after giving the canvas a press. The two fabrics were then held together with a long running stitch which I circled around the waistcoat three times. At this point I found my waistcoat getting quite dusty (the black seams to be an impossible magnet for dust) so whenever I stored my waistcoat I attempted to weight paper on top of it to keep the dust off of it.
Next came sewing the welt pockets, I found this process really interesting although it was quite lengthy yet methodical. I started with making the welt and taking my lines in to make identification easier when sewing everything together. I left a chunk of fabric and the top and bottom of the welt (past the seam allowance), I don’t remember why I did this but I even up cutting it off before the next step.
The welt was sewn onto the waistcoat and the welt was sewn up creating a rectangle. The pocket opening was then slashed (making sure not to catch any of the wrong fabrics in the process), I found pinning absolutely everything away from where the opening should be before cutting into the fabric worked best as it took the anxiety of cutting into the wrong fabrics away. The welt is then bagged out and everything is flipped through to the wrong side.
My tutor suggested to tack down the welt at this point to stop it from shifting. I then gave everything a firm press.
Then the pocket bag is sewn in, we had the option of using our (chosen) lining fabric or using the black fabric provided in our packs. I decided to use the black fabric provided as I wanted to keep my lining fabric for the back piece only.
I realised quickly that you had to be quite accurate with your sewing as to not catch the top fabric when sewing the bags in. I marked out each bag, making sure to leave a gap as the bottom of the lower pockets so they wouldn’t fall lower than the bottom hem of the waistcoat. And for the top pocket I made sure it didn’t fall low enough that it came into contact with the pocket below it.
I marked in chalk the size of the pocket bags before sewing them. I was very careful not to cut the pocket bags until I had inspected them just in case the fabric shifted or they were too small.
I’m very pleased with how my pockets have tuned out. All three of them sit flat against the canvas and I haven’t found any issues with them.
After the pocket bags were sewn I stitched the sides of the welts down so they would sit flush with the waistcoat. I hand stitched from the wrong side of the fabric so that there would be no visible stitching.
This was the result of my welt pockets.
Next two sew were the collars. I cut my lining and wool out and sewd them right sides together. I then trimmed down the seam allowance and ironed open the seams as best I could. I found suing a tailors ham worked quite well in some areas but the wool was very resisten and needed to be heavily steamed before it was doing what I wanted it to. The collars were then flipped right sides out and pressed. When pressing the collars I made sure to roll the wool over slightly which concealed the lining from the front. Again the woll was a pain to press during this process, the hardest areas were the sharp corners but a lot of steam got me there in the end.
Here my tutor suggested that I place the collar onto my waistcoat and tack the lining to the outside stitchline on the waistcoat. This would help keep the collar in place. After sewing these tacking lines I sewd the collar lining onto the wool of the waistcoat (keeping close the the outline of the collar) which would hold the collar down and prevent the collar from flipping up while being worn
Next the facing and lining were sewn on, I matched the facing up with the stitching lines so that it sat exactly where it should. I was also keeping in mind to make sure the collar wasn’t being moved when pinning/sewing.
The lining was also sewn on by matching the stitching lines together however, the lining was only sewn on around the armhole as the rest would be hand stitch in.
The back pieces were sewn together and this was my first real encounter with how slippery my lining fabric was. I ended up using a lot of pins to prevent the fabrics from moving away from each other.
Next I cut down the seam allowance for the arm opening on the front of the waistcoat, the curves were also clipped to add ease to the fabric when flipping it out.
This was then pressed into place.
The facing was then pinned down into place where I herringbone stitched it to the canvas.
The lining was then turned over and pinned over top of the facing and waistcoat bottom edge making sure to cover everything so no canvas or gaps were visible. I stitched this down using a small whip stitch in a black thread which blended quite well with the wool and purple lining.
I cut my waistcoat jiggers out using the pattern available in class. Due to my lining fabric being so light when ironing them out the wiggles a little bit but I don’t think this will be noticeable on the waistcoat onced the jiggers are threaded through the buckle.
After the jiggers were prepared I continued with the waistcoat back pieces. This included sewing the two back pieces (back and lining) together at the bottom edge while leaving a 6 inch gap where the waistcoat would be bagged out later on. The armholes were also sewn together at this point.
The waistcoat fronts were then put in between the two layers of the back pieces, lining up the waist coat sides together. At this point I also put the jiggers into these seams so they sat on the waistline back.
Once I had sewn the side seams I pinned and sewd the shoulder seams into place.
The waistcoat was then bagged out and flipped to the right side where I checked it over for any imperfections/tucks. Luckily I didn’t find anything.
I finished off the bottom of the waistcoat by closing the 6 inch gap used to bag the waistcoat out. I pinned the opening closed and used a slip stitch to close it off.
I decided to use covered buttons for my waistcoat so I could match them to my lining fabric. My tutor showed me how to use the covered button machine (press?), we decided that because my lining was so thin it would need an extra layer. I first tried doubling the lining fabrics together but they were still too flimsy. My tutor suggested that I interface the back of the lining and then cut out the covers. This was much more successful and I soon got the hang of using the press. I really like the results and I will definitely be using covered buttons for future projects.
Finally came the button holes, because my waistcoat is based on a 1890’s piece the only historically accurate buttonhole is the keyhole buttonhole. I did practice hand sewing the keyhole buttonhole but I’m far from perfect! I’m not happy enough with my samples to feel confident enough sewing them into my waistcoat. However, my tutor in the last tech skills mentioned that there’s a ‘Buttonhole Man’ who will sew keyhole buttonholes into garments for you. She showed me examples from the 3rd years who had brought their garments to him and I was very impressed. And I have decided that will be my buttonhole option.
In preparation for bringing my waistcoat to the button man I marked the button and buttonhole placement on my waistcoat in chalk. I also tacked the centre front line in white. I also took out the rest of the tacking lines on the waistcoat which was very satisfying!!
When I got to the buttonhole man’s shop I was told that the markings should be on the wrong side (the facing) of the fabric so I quickly remarked them. I was lucky enough that they didn’t have a lot of work that day and the button holes were done while I was waiting which took about five minutes.
When I got my waistcoat home I hand stitched my covered buttons on. I also made sure I got rid of all of my tailors tacking using tweezers for any strands that were wedged between stitches. Anything I couldn’t remove I snipped off as close to the wool as possible and jiggled the wool around until it disappeared from the surface.
And my waistcoat was finished!
I’m very pleased with this project and have learnt a lot of new skills from it which I will definitely be implementing into future projects. It’s encouraged me a lot with working with more formal garments and I’d love to make a ladies late victorian walking suit using these skills
If you made it this far, well done. I lost motivation for blogging the last few months and a lot of the projects I was working on (in my opinion) weren’t inspired enough to earn solo blog posts so I simply never wrote about them. In the next week or so I will do a round up of everything I’ve covered in my first year of university but forewarning, I struggled. Not with the workload or anything academic just the fact that the first year was a mixed bag or interpretation (my chosen specialism) and design (something I’m not so interested in). This dragged me a lot and a think for a little while I got a bit depressed caught up on the idea that the first year was a wasted opportunity for me to specialise straight away, this played on my mine more so because I’m having to pay international fees (unjustly by the way I’m a British citizen thank you /you can read more about that in a earlier post I believe/) which is expensive to say the least.
I am greatly enjoying Wimbledon College of Arts however and I’m still very pleased to be studying here. I had a meeting with the course director today and the second year in terms of interpretation is much more appealing and I’m excited for it!
Summer holidays is just about here, as I move out of London on Wednesday and I’ll be free to start and continue projects that got put on the back burner. And I will be posting again, it may not be as frequent as my weekly posts of the past but they’ll be more regular than the huge breaks I been taking recently.
Also if you’re on Instagram check me out, I post there a lot more. See my story for work in progress costumes and the like. I’m @NiverasWings as always!
Thank you for reading and thank you for putting up with the long breaks!
*I’m posting this late so apologies for any spelling/grammatical errors, I’ll edit in the morning