I was recently commissioned to build a gentleman’s suit circa 1861. In my usual bespoke fashion, I measured the actor and drafted the pattern by hand to fit him. The construction process was long and detailed, but here are some glimpses to give you an idea.
Cutting out a sleeve, by tracing around my pattern pieces
Hair canvas I pad stitched into the chest front. The reinforced area is often as wide as it is tall, but this particular gentleman is quite thin.
Placing the welt, to begin making a pocket
Setting the sleeve. The loosely woven wool I was provided with frayed easily, requiring extra caution during most steps of construction.
Pressing the trouser hem on a roll. The hem has a gentle curve to it, so the trouser leg is longer in back than in front, as often seen in Victorian pants.
Pressing the coat collar over a ham. Traditional tailoring brings out many pressing tools that a non-sewist may never have heard of.
While constructing a tailcoat recently, I refreshed my memory of varying collar shapes. Here you see the difference between a coat that is meant to be worn closed, vs. a coat that is meant to be worn open. My pattern lines are the sewing lines; no seam allowances here.
When setting out to make a garment, one way to increase the level of difficulty is to use a patterned fabric instead of a solid color. The designer needs to make the stripes, dots, or other motifs line up nicely on the body of the wearer. This project is an example of a pattern matching challenge.
Normally one would draw a sewing line with a black pencil on light-colored fabric, or use a white pencil on dark colored fabric. When presented with this high-contrast brocade, neither black nor white pencil would show up against all of it; so I had to use both pencils and trace each pattern piece twice.
The person requesting the garment wanted me to use both sides of the brocade, so I had the challenge of matching the pattern not just to itself, but to its flip side, balancing the slight difference between the two.
These are a pair of trousers, and here you see the pattern was carefully matched up each leg. With that accomplished, there came one more hurdle. Extra pockets were to be placed on the sides, like cargo pants. Somehow the pocket’s pattern had to blend in with the two brocade patterns already present, even though the pocket is a different grain. Here is my design.
The crochet rectangle on top of the cargo pocket is not just a decorative element, it is also another pocket. I made it the ideal size to hold ID or business cards. If you want to make a card pocket like mine, use a V stitch in Speed-Cro-Sheen (a stiff cotton thread about size 3).
It’s time to go forward with another screen print design. Here are the necessary ingredients (left to right): blank silk screen, image of the design printed onto transparency, the 2-part emulsifier that will soon coat the screen, ink to do the printing, and a theatrical lighting instrument with which to “burn” the image onto the screen.
Long ago, I had someone tell me she liked to make cords on the knitting nancy (aka knitting mushroom), but then didn’t have a good project to use them up. If that sounds like you, try making a scarf like mine. Using about half a skein of each of 4 colors of worsted weight yarn, run them through your knitting nancy until you have knitted cords 5 yards long.
Next fold each of the cords in half, and pin the folded ends down so they can’t move. Weave them in a simple over-and-under pattern like this. In the beginning it looks like a heart.
Continue weaving until you get to the bottom. If when you get there, you find a cord is longer than the rest, unravel it and cast off at the right length. Tie off and tuck in ends.
The scarf takes many hours of knitting, but the result feels like a springy cloud in your hands.
After the layers were assembled, it was time for boning channels. The diagonal ones across the raised back keep the corset from digging into the shoulder blades when worn.
Most of this corset’s bones are 6mm cane (the kind of wood-like material often seen woven into chair seats). After cutting each length I smoothed out their ends with sandpaper. This photo also shows the bias binding being added to the hem.