A tale of terror, tailoring, and tragedy.
Okay, I’m no good with suspense. I need to get this over quickly. I finished Osiris’s frock coat. This is what it looked like Friday evening, as we headed out for a night on the town.
Here’s a slightly-clearer closeup.
And this is what it looked like Sunday afternoon…
… after it got caught in the rear wheel of Osiris’s motorcycle.
Thankfully, he’s fine, and the motorcycle is fine, and he will never ever ever ever wear a long trailing coat on a bike again. I’m trying really, really hard to focus on that and not the fact that he FRICKIN DESTROYED HIS BRAND NEW COAT. Down that road lies madness, or worse, divorce. Not going there.
Anyway, the rest of this post I wrote triumphantly after finishing the coat, but before tragedy struck. And I just don’t have it in me to re-write everything to reflect the current situation. So I’m just going to go with it, as is, and then go and cry some more in a corner. And it’s a bit skimpy on the pictures because I didn’t get the chance to do a real photo shoot before…
I made a coat!
Hmm, probably that should be finished a coat. One that I started planning, oh, well over a year ago, and last worked on a little before last Christmas. That would be Osiris’s frock coat. I adapted the pattern (testing with two muslins) using Sherry’s RTW Sewalong, and got as far as assembling the shell when it became clear that all my muslining had failed to produce anything like a decent fit. Stymied, I lost steam and made him a shirt for Christmas instead (which I never actually blogged either, come to think of it—it’s black, he wears it a fair bit but it’s pretty much impossible to photograph.) And the coat sat.
Well, as I’ve mentioned before, we recently moved back to our hometown. While I’m still assessing what this means for me, what this means for my husband is that for the first time in half a decade, he has people around he’s actually willing to leave the house to see, and, maybe, show off for.
So he got a bug in his ear about getting the coat finished, and was even willing to head over to his mother’s (where my sewing room is now located) to hang out while I worked, in order to be on hand for fittings. Almost without whining. Almost.
So I re-fitted, pinned, re-sized, hunted down my lining fabrics… and realized that I had no idea where my painstakingly drafted lining pattern had gone. In fact, I have this sinking feeling that it was kicking around in a roll on the floor of my old sewing room and may have gone into the trash-can during the last, frantic stages of packing. Oops.
What to do? Make a rub-off, of course. Argh. This is where you stretch the various bits of a finished garment out on paper and copy the shapes, by drawing where possible and by pushing pins or tacks through the fabric where not. It’s laborious and, at least when done by an irate and impatient Tanit-Isis, not overly exact. (Note that I am not bashing the rub-off. I just didn’t do a good job of it.)
But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
One of the things I had decided, back before last Christmas, was that the coat needed a lot more structure than the RTW sewalong called for, being more of a tailored kind of thing. Now, I have a fair bit of information on women’s tailoring (“dressmaker tailoring”), but not so much on men’s, and most of what I could find readily on men’s was a bit too advanced, specialized, and piecemeal. (I’m thinking primarily of the Cutter and Tailor forum and Made By Hand.) Some searching did eventually turn up a neat little booklet on Google Play called “Sewing Menswear: Jackets” (there’s one for pants as well.) It’s not overly detailed, but had a nice overview of the basic stuff I was looking for—what and where to put the extra interfacing.
So I made up a back piece (did I mention it would’ve been SO MUCH EASIER to do all this if I’d had pattern pieces to work with?, which I made in two layers, flannel and then hair-canvas when it became clear that flannel wasn’t quite going to cut it. I had eased the back shoulder in the fashion fabric quite a bit (not entirely successfully, although several steamings improved it considerably). On the flannel I replaced this with a dart, which I slashed and pressed open, and on the hair-canvas I cut out the dart and butted the edges, stitching them together with a triple zig-zag. The feel of the back of the coat was vastly, immensely improved by all this.
It was around this time, I guess, that the coat went from being a slick product of a RTW-lookalike sewalong to a sterling example of what I like to call bas couture. (And I suspect that it should really be basse couture, but I’m not certain, and anyway it’s possibly an even more apt name if I got it wrong.)
Haute couture is when stitchers of fabulous skill use gorgeous hand techniques to create the creme-de-la-creme of high-end, custom garments. Bas couture is when some half-asser like myself attempts to use grossly similar techniques to make up for their own lack of precision and foresight. For things like adding in back pieces after the shoulder seams have been stitched, and other offenses against the Sewing Gods.
In addition to the back piece, I made a front shoulder piece. On further fitting, I decided that I didn’t have enough room for the intended shoulder pads, so I replaced them with “pads” made from two more layer of hair-canvas. All of this was reverse-engineered and hand-stitched in, laboriously and not always correctly.
I should mention that this coat has the most hand-stitching I’ve done since the Lady Grey sewalong, and it doesn’t even have any pad-stitching. Bas, bas, bas couture.
Once I had the shell in something resembling good shape (it’s amazing the improvement an adequate amount of interfacing gives), I got to work on the lining. Oh, dear.
Since I was pretty sure my lining pieces were more approximation than accurate, I decided to insert it by hand. This let me fold and fudge bits as necessary, and there was plenty necessary. The shape of the bottom of the pieces came out remarkably well (my attempts at a bagged lining, not so well, since I was rushing by that point and didn’t take time to look it up), but around the shoulders things kind of went to pot. Despite my best efforts, my sleeve lining wound up not being long enough, and my one inch of pleat at the CB wound up being closer to 2″. I used a back stitch to insert the lining, which I’d never used before. It’s not hard, and goes fairly quickly. A men’s dressform would’ve made the process much less nerve-wracking, but I managed to resist the ones my mom found second-hand the other day (yes, the day we came home with the treadle.), so I have no such equipment.
I confess, the fact that I could do the hand-stitching at home in the evenings, rather than over at my mother-in-law’s, may have played a part in my decision to do so much of it for this project. Anyway.
To make up for the too-short sleeve lining, I fudged a wide bias strip of lining fabric in between the two. Pretty? Hell, no. Illegitimate? Highly. Effective? Surprisingly so, although one sleeve is still binding a bit from the lining, so obviously the insert needed to be a bit wider. And it’s not at all noticeable now it’s all done.
I did two welt pockets on the inside, neither of which are quite large enough, and completely forgot to photograph them. They’re nothing special, though, except that I hadn’t done a welt pocket in ages.
I used my Greist buttonholer to make keyhole buttonholes. They’re not lovely, but at that point I had only hours to finish the damn thing before the Deadline*, so I was happy as long as they were in place and not full of big wadded knots of thread.
Oh, and it turns out (after all those muslins) the sleeves are too short. I don’t think I could lengthen them more than a cm without them looking freakish when his arms are down, but they pull back way too much when he raises his arms, apparently. I suspect the angle of the sleeve-cap is involved, but it’s a bit more than I can wrap my head around just now. If you know what I did wrong, please share.
He did, while we were at the fabric store picking buttons, pick out some purple brocade for a vest. I’m working on that now.
*For those interested in the true extent of our geekishness, a Vampire: The Masquerade LARP.
…. so the coat did survive through one major outing, at least. It did quite well.
It’s not actually irredeemably destroyed. I could actually cut it off just above the slashed bit, make it symmetrical, and have a (to me) really nifty tailcoat sort of thing. Or cut it off at hip length and have a more ordinary sort of jacket. However, Osiris is pretty clear that he wanted a frock coat, dammit, and is not terribly interested in salvage. So I’m not sure what will become of it. His father (who has never shown a lick of fashion interest otherwise, to my knowledge, and would probably wear the same golf shirts and black jeans from now until the sun burns out) was quite taken with it when I was working on it during a family barbeque last week, and asked that his have a red lining. Maybe he’d like a salvaged (non-red) version. We’ll see.
Ok, now you can tell me about your biggest sewing disasters, please, to make me feel better?