Thursday, December 6, 2012

Waistcoat Making

Here we see the fore part of the vest, the front edge is turn back and padded to the canvas, only.
Ready for facing.

Cut a strip of cloth 3" wide and longer than the opening of the vest, 1" passed the shoulder and top button.

Using a long basting stitch, full the facing onto the inside of the vest.
Keep the mind the draw of the front edge tape when fulling on the facing.
Try to full and equal amount to the draw. 
Do not make it tight, better to be full.

Turn the edge back and baste along the front edge, rolling the seam on the inside, where it won't 
be visible from the front when hand felled.

Keep the stitch close for control, the longer the baste the fewer the stitch. In order to keep the edge straight use three to four basting stitch per inch.

Once the fornt edge is basted we turn our attention to the inside of the facing through the chest.
Men with larger prominent chests need length through the facing the vest to hang neatly over it.

A basting stitch is used to distribute the fullness into the chest area. The shorter the stitch the more control one has when basting in fullness.

When the fullness is evenly distributed a padding stitch is used to secure the facing to the canvas. A minimum of three - four stitches should be used.

The forepart is broke hollow using a wooden block called a "clapper". It is used during pressing to create shape, using technique tailors call " keeping it short".

A canvas press cloth is placed over the exposed cloth and water is added using a brush or " dobber".
A "dobber", is a roll of waste cloth called " mongo", that is folded and tied in the middle.
Tipped into a can of water a spread over the press cloth.
This will also prevent water damage which can occur, if not used sparingly. 

A 12 lb dry electric industrial iron is used to shrink the fullness back into  the cloth. It is placed on the press cloth and left for a moment before being lifted and moved down to the cover the whole area.

Steam softens, heat presses, weight creases, and dry cold weight, like the vintage iron shown here, dries and sets the cloth.

In this instance I have used the inlay at the hem of the waistcoat to act as the bottom facing, just like the jacket. With my heavy industrial iron I can easily manipulate cloth stretching and shrinking it.
If one is using a light height semi industrial iron, it would be better to use a facing here, especially if hem is curved and cut away. 
In either case little ease is all thats need when padded the facing to the canvas.
Do not full in the facing across the hem.

Next is the front edge facing. Cut a cloth strip on the warp, in the same direction as the cloth lay, particularly important when cutting one way cloths like velvet and cashmere over coating.

This facing two is 1" longer on the hem and 1 1/2" passed the top button.
Using a long basting stitch full the facing through the centre, keeping in mind the draw of the front edge. We don't want the facing becoming tight, I typically draw the tape 1/8 for every 2'', so full at least 1/8 for every 2" in the facing front edge.

Turn up the facing hem, little ease here, when one hand stitch the tension used require, length, more on the top than the bottom. When felling lining, two pieces, one on top of the other, the top side requires fullness and the bottom does not, this is the result of hand sewing that differs from machine stitching.

Turn down the facing 3/4 above where the top button is positioned. This will prevent the buttonhole ending up in the facing seam and also make the join less visible.

Again a basting stitch is light weight, 50 cotton, is used to distribute the fullness along the vest forepart at the button position. Length is required, it is needed particularly on the left side where the buttons are located, length is placed between the buttons so the if the facing get distorted when the buttonhole are cut, there is length there to prevent tightness occuring. 

Three to four stitches per inch is minimum, distribute the fullness evenly. 36 machine cotton is used, match the thread colour to the cloth.

Here is a view of the work just explained, ready to be pressed and shrink the fullness into the cloth.

When fullness is shrunk away it does not disappear, it remains there and does it purpose. In handcraft I am creating a 3D garment that has built in shape that create a silhouette that is permanent.

Here I have shown a pipping detail. When pipping in Handcraft tailoring the pipping is folded, pressed and basted full on to the facing before the lining is basted on top and back off the edge the required pipping width.

I would advise back stitching the pipping first and then basting the forepart lining in position.

The pipping is turned neatly at the bottom and is tucked under the forepart lining.
This vest does not require pipping and the pipping has now been removed.

The forepart lining is cut larger all round than the vest forepart itself. This trimmed to size during production.

Rather than placing a dart and a vent in the front, I simply place a 1 1/4 vent through the dart and higher to the chest position. Again this vent allows for the expansion of the chest. Waistcoat/ vests are body coats and therefore are cut close to the body.

A long baste is place through the center of the forepart attaching the lining. Again the lining is eased between the stitches, allowing a little length, 1/4 max.

Baste around the armhole and down the side, keeping back 1" from the armhole edge to allow room for turn back the lining.

Baste down the front and trim back the excess lining. Note: it is easier to get the folded edge straight when 3/4 is allowed on the turn, less and the edge is more inclined to wave when fullness is introduced.

Keep the baste stitch short, the closer the stitch the more control one has of the edge.
A short close baste makes easier felling, as it keeps the run straight.

Next is the lining around the armhole. As the lining will be come short when turn back on itself on a hollow run, it is nip or cut several times round the curve within an 1/8 of the armhole run.

Turn the lining back off the edge 1/16- 1/8 and basted with a short stitch and fullness.

When hand sewing lining to cloth, it is fulled on at a rate of 1/8" for every 1 1/2"

Traditional handcraft waistcoat have 3/4" side slits, this allows the vest to spring over the hip.
Trim off the excess lining across the shoulder, side seam and hem. Leave inlay on the lining across the hem to allow for future alterations.
Baste the lining along the hem, nip and turn at slit. 

Waistcoat usually have a lined back, cut and thread marked from the last fitting, the inside lining needs 
to be cut and sewn.

Lay the back lining over a stripped or plain white lining, trimming the white 1" longer through the shoulders.

Machine stitch center back seam.

Buckles and straps are found at the back of traditional waistcoats. They are simply for show and should not be chinched to close the waist.

There are more traditional method to make a strap that the one shown here.
However I do believe this to be the better strong method.

Take two 4" strips of lining on the weft. Fold in half sew left to right from 1 3/4" to 7/8" at an angle.
Under the lining and into the seam twill tape or heel tape is used as reinforcement.


  1. I really enjoyed reading that, thank you!

  2. Rory,
    You're work is awesome. I've tailored dress shirts for 13 years and have begun to learn to tailor suits; if you ever teach a workshop please let me know.