Saturday, December 7, 2013

It's the small things...

I was re-reading an older manual on tailoring the other day, and they were describing making turned 
belt loops and said something along the lines of how hard it is to turn them. The book didn't even offer up a technique in the first place, so I guess the writer assumed that the reader would figure something out.
It is the small things sometimes that make a process go along smoothly, so in case you are feeling irritated by trying to turn your beltloops, here is a little technique that we like to use.

 First cut a strip of fabric double the finished size (width)of the belt loop plus two seam allowances. Mine are finished 3/8 inch, so I cut a 1 1/4" wide strip. 3/8"+3/8"+1/4"+ 1/4". Lay a piece of narrow cord down the centre.

Fold the fabric in half, right sides together, and stitch across the top catching the cord, then down the long side of the strip, being careful not to catch the cord.

 You can try pressing the seam allowances open (or not), then invert the fabric right sides out over the cord.
The turned and unpressed tube is shown on the bottom, finger press the seam allowances open- you can insert a darning needle to get them started, and press the belt loop flat.

Edge stitch by machine, taking care to edgestitch down one side and then up the other.

Cut to the desired length. Done.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

In my mind's eye...

I had a call from a former co-worker the other day, and it set me to thinking about drafting and how we want to follow the instructions given, plug the numbers into an equation and presto, at the end of the day you will have a pattern for that garment you see in your minds eye.

Well it just doesn't work that way, does it?

Anyway, my friend was making costumes for a community theatre group and had to make a frock coat for a gentleman with a 58 inch chest and a 64 inch waist. Yes, a challenging figure to draft and fit for. So, he picked up his trusty photocopy of the MTOC, (that he hadn't used in years)  and started to draft a body coat for this gent, plugging in his numbers and diligently following the instructions. Then he got to the point of knowing that it didn't look right and he called for help.

After dinner, over to my house he came with his draft, and his book and his frustration with it all.
What can you do in a situation like this?
So we sat down, and I tried to help him, without referring back to the original draft, because I knew it was trouble. Did he have a full set of measurements, no. Balance measures, no.  Photos, no. OK, so we are just winging it here, so I started drawing on his paper  correcting where I thought it was wrong, and offering encouragement where I could, without completely overwhelming him with information.

The point to all this rambling is that I wished I could help him visualize the shape of the person and relate it to the pattern lines on the paper. This is where photos are so helpful because they can indicate things that you may miss in person, or at least sometimes give you a bit more of an objective viewpoint- a bit of distance in a way.

The numbers are just numbers and they don't always indicate where the shape is. One of the most difficult shapes being the very large- because people don't gain weight in a proportional manner.
The drafts for these sizes often apply the extra sizing in one area- the centre front.
As you can see by my drawings, in profile, adding to the CF  looks like it would work, but when you see the shape straight on, you realize that the body is more complex. In this case, the pattern needs manipulation at the sides as well. In reality there are many pattern manipulations that could be done for this body shape, I am just simplifying to make a point. I will point out again and again, that it is so much easier, to have fabric to pin away rather than have to rip open and repin or guess how much more is needed. I don't advocate making a huge shapeless garment but don't be too skimpy either.

Is there a one size fits all solution? No, sorry.  Since each body is different, I do think that visualizing the body shape in three dimensions helps to understand how the fabric will go over it. I guess it is more like sculpture in a way. If you can see the shapes in your minds eye or drawn out on paper, you may have a better chance of success when applying the numbers, or feel freer in deviating from the formula, when things are not working.

In other news, I am making progress on my instructional booklet project, I think I have much better quality now in the photos and like any teaching project, I too have learned a few things along the way!

Monday, November 4, 2013

What have I been up to?

What have I been up to? A lot of little projects it seems.

After delivering their long program costume, I watched Weaver and Poje's Skate Canada performance last week-end.
I was so nervous! I am accustomed to seeing costumes I have made before the public does- and any small tweaks can be made at a dress rehearsal. Not with these! I was glued to the television, looking for problems, checking that everything worked and looked OK. I did see a couple of things that needed work so they came back to me and I have tweaked them a bit more.
I do have to say that I thought they looked great, and I am very critical of my own work. They also had two personal best skates and won second place right behind Virtue and Moir (the reigning Olympic champs in ice dance).
I think they have momentum and will accomplish great things in Sochi!

I don't usually take on private clients but occasionally I do - usually when other work is in limbo or hard to come by so, I drafted a new shirt for a old client, did some alterations on a few expensive off the rack jackets for another person, and may have a commission for a suit coming up.

The other thing that has been taking up my spare time lately is putting together a photographic instructional booklet for tailoring. The idea began while I was teaching and morphed a bit over the years from a text document that would be accompanied by samples to something more visual. I have worked on in fits and starts over the years, but always was pulled away by other work.
In our work context, we spend time making samples as we change and improve and invent methods. We may be asked to do something unusual or we have come up with a way of dealing with a common technique that is more efficient. We generally make some written notes to go along with the samples, and keep them in a box at work. They can be reviewed for years this way. They have been invaluable tools for training on the job when we have a new seamster, or just to refresh the memory when dealing with little used techniques. A couple of years ago Silvia made up a booklet of photos documenting  the process of building fall front breeches, which was very nice for us to have and refer to.
Silvia's photo booklet, combined with the lack of instruction available online or in person, has led me to revive my old instructions and combine them with detailed photos in order to eventually have a pdf booklet of some of the tailoring techniques we use.

My photography skills are being put to the test! Sometimes I yearn for the days of film and a Pentax K1000. 
So I am plugging away at it, hoping to get at least sections of it done.

For now, that seems to be what is going on.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Velvet survival

 Well, it seems that I have survived the velvet  after all.
It did require a bit of careful basting, especially when dealing with the collar. I used a heavy shirt fusible in the collar stand, but only one layer of lightweight interfacing in the fall. The velvet is not overly heavy, but it has more thickness than a regular shirting. The fall of the collar therefore needed to be a bit deeper to account for the turn of fabric at the top edge.
In the top picture I still had the top collar edge  basted because I wasn't sure it would look alright with a top stitch, or would behave under the presser foot of the machine. It did in the end.

The design called for the shirt sleeves to be rolled up, but of course the backside of the velvet would show if I made a regular shirt sleeve. Instead, I made a separate tubular cuff
and attached it to the shortened sleeve of the shirt. The cuff then folds up onto itself a bit and it is tight enough not to slip down the arm.

To finish it all off, it is attached to a brief, which keeps it looking nice and tidy no matter what movement is happening in the upper body. It also prevents the shirt hem from bunching up when it is tucked into the trousers.

I didn't put buttons on it, just sewed snaps on to close it up to the mid chest line, so nothing distracts from the velvet, which is a really fabulous colour I must say. Very flattering look, deep colour, simple cut, and rich looking fabric, and not as bad to sew as I had thought.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Forgive me if I cry

Oh please forgive me if you see me crying, for I am sewing velvet. Stretch velvet....
Denise the velvet queen will be laughing, I know it! She will be thinking finally the cutter gets to share in the challenging fabric department!
I'll post again after I emerge with a finished garment. Don't tell her- it is not as bad as I thought.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The costume cutter's job description aka "There is no formula"

As a continuation of the brief discussion about the costume designer's job, I will now endeavor  to sum up what my job description, as a costume cutter / tailor is.

Before I do, I really think that the designer Dierdre Clancy really hits the nail on the head in her description of the designer's job. People mistake the designer's job and the cutter's job all the time! That won't happen anymore now that it has all been explained :)

Without further ado:

The Costume cutter's job description

Workload and Paperwork
The cutter is assigned a workload, and must manage that workload to the budget and deadlines for the show. In some theatres that means working on a single show at a time, in a rep situation like ours, I would work on three different shows at once.
This translates to paperwork!
I get a list of all my assigned characters/cast in the show and a budget breakdown to indicate what is being built from scratch, what is coming from stock, or being bought, and the estimated hours given for each item.  I then compile all the info into individual show binders, by actor or character, and get their measurement sheets or request a measurement session.
I  am also responsible for filling out costume time sheets, so I have another large binder where I list all the costume pieces, fabric swatches, and the budgeted time. As we make the costumes, the team records  how long they spend on each item in this binder. We keep running totals so we know if an item is taking longer than budgeted or is being completed with time to spare. These records are then compiled at the end of the season, and averaged out so the management staff have a basis for future costing.
I also get a list of my team members, their start and finish dates and their experience level.
I get a list of the actor availability so I can figure out which costumes I should start on first. I try to find out the designer availability as well, cause we cannot schedule fittings unless we have the designer there.
There is also a variety of paperwork indicating the key people on each show(director, designers-sound, lights, costume and set), as well as key dates, such as the first rehearsal date,  first tech dress, first preview, opening night and overall number of performances.
I also try to read the script, and make notes on the characters I have to deal with.
Once I have all the paperwork sorted out, I can move on to:

Sketch interpretation
OK, I am going to say it again: "the cutter is not the designer", but we work very closely with the designer as we are the interpreters of the sketch they provide.
We are given the sketch, the measurements of the actor, and we sit down with the designer to discuss the costume in question so we can then move on to the pattern making stage. The designer hopefully will bring fabric swatches along or may have already purchased the fabrics and trims. Most designers bring along research but cutters generally have their own collection of books and reference materials to draw from. We talk about what the director is trying to achieve, how the designs relate to that, how each costume design defines the character. We talk about fabrics, the colours and trims that may be needed, the period details, the actor playing the part, quick changes, requirements for dance or other movement, and how the costume is put on or taken off. Cutters also need to be able to estimate yardages required for a variety of different periods and garments so I keep a record book- after all you never know when you will be asked to estimate how much trim is on a 19th century dragoons coat, how many square feet of leather for trunk hose or how many yards in a floor length cloak with a 24 inch pattern repeat!
Once that is done, and usually before I have any staff in, I try to absorb all of it, figure out what costumes I should start with, and that leads to:

Pattern making
Drafting or draping. Tailors generally draft, many women's wear cutter draft and drape depending on the costume. Most of the time we are drafting to an individual's measurements not to a standard size  and grading up or down.
The cutter needs to be able to take accurate measurements and/or be able to work from provided measurements in order to make a pattern. Knowledge of human proportions, and standards are very helpful, especially in the case of less than ideal measurements.
Pattern making can be, at times, simple, or very complicated. A pattern is a two dimensional representation of a three dimensional object, and the cutter must be able to both interpret the sketch as the designer sees it, as well as be able to make it fit a particular body.
A cutter needs a working knowledge of period shapes and silhouettes, the defining characteristics of a period and how to achieve it. An ability to think three dimensionally is a must.
This is where "there is no formula" comes into play. As much as I am a tailor, I don't always get tailoring to do. I may have to make draped Greek tragedy robes, or spandex unitards with full feet and sleeves with hands, leather gorgets, fabric armour, a wearable salt shaker. In all these instances there is not a book I can turn to or a reference that will show me the absolute, step by step way to achieve these things. It is the cutter's job to figure it out. Most cutters develop their own formulas and methods for approaching these challenges. If you haven't done something before, you have to be able to draw on what you do know and modify it.
Even with straight ahead tailoring, I need to be able to modify the pattern shapes to fit an individual, from a child of 8 to a stout size 52 adult. The very few books that will help you to understand how to do this will only give you guidelines. It is a continual learning curve!

Construction supervisor 
 The cutter along with a senior stitcher usually figures out the methods of construction required, and supervises the process from first baste up or toile through to the final finishing touches.
The cutter should have an extensive background in sewing in order to supervise the construction and a familiarity with the properties of the fabrics they have been given to work with. They should also be familiar with a variety of sewing machines and their functions.
A cutter is also responsible for laying out the patterns on the fabric for most efficient use, choosing the correct support structures, and physically cutting the fashion fabric, linings and trimmings to complete the garment.
Once the pattern is made, the cutter would cut either a toile (mock-up) or cut right into the fashion fabric for a first baste up. The cutter co-ordinates the construction so that all garment pieces required are ready for the fitting. The cutter marks any alterations on each garment after the fitting and supervises the finishing.

Once the costume is ready, a fitting is called and the garments are tried on with the designer in attendance. This is where the designer and cutter interact, determining both the technical fit as well as the design interpretation. Cutters need to have and maintain the etiquette appropriate to the fitting situation. You must be able to interact easily with the actor and designer as well as any other personnel involved in the fitting process. All the while you need to actually fit the costume, take technical notes so you can make the changes required. 

Team Manager and all round people person
The cutter is in charge of a team of stitchers, of varying experience and must distribute the workload to the appropriate person and co-ordinate the process so that all the pieces required to complete the costume are ready in a timely manner. In a large company like ours, the cutter is responsible for conducting yearly employee performance reviews.
The cutter also has to interact in a professional way with actors, designers, other artisans, management and sometimes the media.

Researcher, archivist, and jack of all trades
I think that most cutters have a lifelong interest in researching, whether it be either historical details of a period, pattern making, art, or design. We also tend to archive a lot of information, from books, patterns to sewing processes. Most of us are also contract workers so we tend to work in many venues, gaining experience and skills along the way.
Some people may say that you have to either be a control freak or an adrenaline junkie to work in this business, and that may be somewhat true!
It is certainly different everyday, interesting as well as challenging in many ways. In the end it is also satisfying, making something with your hands come to life from the page to the stage!

Ok I am sure that I will come up with something I neglected to mention that is really important, but I think I have covered the gist of it all.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Ice dance!

Well, I think I can let you know about my last project since it has now been seen in public.

Margaret (who cuts women's wear) and I just finished costumes for Canadian ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje who are starting out their competition season this week  at the US Figure Skating Classic in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Whew! it looked like there were no costume malfunctions- hurray- since that results in points deducted!
We made two costumes for them, a "rehearsal look", with Kaitlyn in a thirties style playsuit, and the finale look which is what you can see in the video I am linking to here.
I made Andrew a pair of french blue high waisted trousers worn with a striped shirt for the rehearsal look and a black with blue striped trousers and waistcoat, with a white pinstripe shirt for the finale look.
It was very nerve wracking getting all of it together in such a short time frame and with basic/sketchy measurements and only one fitting.
    Adding to the pressure was the fact that the clothes have to not only look good, but must also fulfill a level of functionality that most clothing doesn't. He needs to be able to skate in them and do whatever the choreography requires, without any problems. I felt a weight lift off my shoulders as I watched both the practice routine and the finale and everything was fine. It always feels like flying by the seat of your pants when you take on projects like this. Yikes!

It seems like only yesterday that I was making opening ceremony costumes for the 2010 Olympics, and now my Olympic connection may continue as I wish Kaitlyn and Andrew all the best in their quest towards Sochi 2014.
I think we may have another project in the works for them.
Costumes designed by Debra Hanson.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

shirt collar and deadlines

Are there any crazier people than theatrical costumers?

If you've been wondering where I have been lately, I'll tell you. Margaret and I took on a project in a new venue for us, not sure if I can even publicly say what it is for, as I don't want to spoil any surprises, but it had a short timeline by any standards!

We got measurements August 24th. I started on patterns and cutting out on the 26th, ready for a fitting on the 31st. back the same day after 8 hours in the car and delivered half of the goods on the 4th, and the other half of the goods today, the 7th.

 It was such a nice shirt collar that I choose to stop and take a photo. I had a sample paper collar from the 1940's that I used as a reference. I liked the soft rounded corners.
So this is where I was at this morning around 11 am.

At 5:30, I bagged it up and went off to Margaret's house and waited for our clients to arrive.
They did, along with wine for both of us, so tonight I am putting my feet up, drinking a glass or two, then crashing.

Wishing them the best of luck in their endeavours though.
Will let you in on it all later.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Making samples

Well, since I last posted, work has been quite frantic, and although my contract has ended, my work was not finished! I could have stayed an extra week but decided that time off with the family was more important. 
I actually hated to leave the work for others to finish but I am sure Denise and Silvia will be fine without me. The garment that was in pieces was a leather doublet for an understudy. The original was made by someone else on the team, so I thought I would make a little sample of how I remember the process for reference.
Sampling for techniques is something we take the time to do when we are figuring out the best way to put things together, or are dealing with a specific fabric or when we change a previous technique. It is a great thing for new stitchers as well. 
Sometimes it is years in between making certain garments so even experienced people find a refresher helpful

In this case, I whipped up a sample since I won't be around to answer questions.
This is a leather doublet, with an interior structure of washed/preshrunk cotton duck. It has spiral boning in a few places to keep the shape from completely collapsing over time. The leather has been pretreated by our resident craftsperson who does surface embellishment and also breaks down the finished costumes. She reduced the shine of the original leather and also distressed it and painted it a bit before I cut it out.

Working with leather is not difficult but you do benefit from having a walking foot leather machine. there is the advantage of being able to use a raw edge with leather- no worries about fraying! You do have to be careful that you do not need to restitch over the same area, because the leather can and will perforate- and letting leather seams out leaves a very visible former seam line of punched holes. So it is best to make a toile and then you limit/eliminate  any changes once the leather is cut out.
The binding at the waist and the skirt are glued on, clipped and wrapped to the inside before being stitched. That line of stitching is top stitched through the binding. The stitch line to attach the skirt is done along the top edge of the binding to eliminate two lines of stitching in the same place.

The facing is leather, because we are making simple functional buttonholes, consisting of a stitched rectangle and a cut through the layers of the front. the facing has a raw edge where it is seamed to the front edge- this reduces bulk that a regular seam allowance would create.
We are lining this doublet, because it is worn open. The lining at the waistline will be finished last, by hand.

As you can see I have written all over it for reference, and after the doublet is complete, the sample will reside in our sample box, ready to be examined next time we need it.

Now, onto a mini getaway and then my next project which is a bit tentative. It may be that I have some time to do more thinking and more detailed posting. I will have to wait and see.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Suits: the finishing details

Well, we are reaching the finishing stage for our suits. I thought I would share a few photos of the finishing details here.

Marking the lapel buttonhole, ready to go to the machine. You can see the way the under collar has been hand stitched onto the jacket and how the collar end has been finished
Here is a view of the inside of the back neck. I cut two piece top collars nowadays because a lot of the fabrics we use don't respond to being stretched and shrunk. This one actually is a stretch wool! A challenge to work with, but if carefully handled you get results like this.

A close up of the finished jacket front.
Here is a view of the top collar of a linen jacket, nicely matching at the centre back. This one had top stitching details on the patch pockets and the front edges.
Front view

Back view.


Here is a silk, linen and wool windowpane check jacket with a notch collar and patch pockets.
This one turned out very nicely. I am not sure how well it will stand up to wear and tear, but for now it looks great.
This one needs a final press and we don't have a stand that shows it well. Wait! did I forget to put the lapel buttonholes in?
No, I think they're in, just very subtle. DB in a tone on tone stripe wool. I guess I will check the jacket tomorrow just to be sure.
This one is one of the last minute additions, in the fitting it went from a two button to three ( good thing we hadn't taped off the roll line and had the front edge still basted! ) a ticket pocket was also added at that time. This is a black wool tone on tone herringbone stripe. These shoulders have a flatter look that the other jackets, the seam allowances have been pressed open at the shoulder/crown of the sleeve, to give less shoulder expression. They have just a little sleeve head of soft lambswool instead of a canvas sleevehead.

Tomorrow, we have to get the last jacket wearable for Tuesday, finish a couple pairs of trousers and get back to finishing our doublets and robes which need to be loaded out by Friday. It will be another busy week, and I am looking forward to the deadlines being over!

Friday, July 5, 2013

The best laid plans or where is my fabric?

Tuesday morning arrived, and I was ready to start right in on cutting that three piece suit that was added to my workload.
Well, you know how things go when you are under the gun, not much time left....of course the fabric that was shipped was not what was ordered.
Change of plans for Tuesday, so the fabric was reordered, and I changed focus to the period costumes that  needed my attention. Wednesday came and went. Thursday at 2 p.m. the correct fabric arrived! So off it went to be pressed and bolted and I started cutting. At the end of the day I had the trousers and jacket cut, today I cut the waistcoat and the little bits like pocketing and welts and the like, and by the end of day Monday, we will have the suit basted up and ready for a fitting. A bit of teamwork makes it all possible: someone makes up the sleeves and back, someone else the fronts, someone else is making the trousers and a fourth person is basting up the waistcoat. Once the fitting is over, one person will continue with the jacket, one the waistcoat and a third on the trousers. Then I will also be able to cut the second suit, and hope that after the first one, I should have minimal alterations.

In the meantime, I had a couple of fittings and we can now go ahead and finish many things, such as these trousers. They have the main components installed, but the waist, hems and CB seam are just basted for the fitting.

 There's a lot going on in these trousers.
They are double reverse pleated, with slanted or quarter top pockets, with a grown on waistband. They have two back pockets, and they finish with cuffed bottoms. They will  also get belt loops, set down from the top edge by a half an inch for a narrow belt.

It is interesting what the camera picks up, and I can see that the left pocket edge is smooth and the right side shows ripples. It wasn't apparent to me in the fitting, but I can guess that it is the effect of directional stitching. On one side the stitching was done from top to bottom and the other from bottom to top. In a twill fabric like this, it can be just enough to cause this effect. I will have to hang them vertically to see if it shows up then.

A quick peek on the inside reveals the back pocket bag finishing as well as the inside waistbanding.We finish the waistband and centre back of trousers differently than commercial trousers to make it easier to alter when pulled from stock. After all, once the show is down, they go into stock and may be used over and over on different people.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

A morning's work drafting

 We had a late addition to my workload, so I headed in to work this morning to do some drafting.
I get so much done when I am alone in the room.
No interruptions!
I started the trouser pattern late yesterday afternoon, and finished it up before I started in on the waistcoat and jacket pattern.

I started with my basic grid set up, and draft to the measurements I have- then I modify where I think it is needed. In this case I am dealing with an eight inch chest to waist drop and a drop of five inches waist to hip. So a bigger broader chest and slim hip size. I made a little modification in the back   length as well splitting  the back and opening it up for a bit of a forward head/neck.

The jacket starts with my grid set up as well- and I made a mistake  in my set up, forgetting in a moment of thinking too fast that I had added seam allowance. So something looked odd.  I say it over and over to other cutter's apprentices and stitchers that if something looks wrong it probably is,  so stop and retrace your steps.
I was drafting in pen to try to make it visible in photos, so you get to see the mess I made!
A bit further into the process, I think on paper, at this stage I change my mind and the lines as I make adjustments on the fly.
I made a further adjustment after getting the pattern cut out, I needed to create a bit more breadth in the upper chest area only.
I had to leave at noon, so I left it to percolate around in my head for the rest of the week end. The fabric should arrive Tuesday morning and I need to put the scissors to it right away.

Sorry about the photo quality, had to be quick about it all and of course the camera battery chose today to run low!

More later.....

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Not only suits being made

 Well, things have been very busy at work and we are not just making suits, we have some period costumes to put together or refurbish from stock.
These are some of the costumes we've been working on.
A pair of suede trunk-hose. These are built on a fitted under base of twill. This year we are trying a few new techniques for putting these together. The lower leg or canion of suede is flat mounted onto the twill pieces before the legs are put together.   We constructed the fly completely into the under trouser, which allows us to construct the upper suede pouf separately. The pouf is attached to the thigh first, then brought up and attached to the waistline before the waist band is sewn on.
 The centre front opening in the suede is faced back to the fly notch with a cotton twill tape, and that will then be slip stitched to the fly opening of the under trouser at the end. We figured that by doing it this way, we can remove the pouf if required, make changes to its size, add under structure if needs be without too much trouble. So far so good.
We are also making a doublet that has suede sleeves. These are in cowhide and have decorative ridges sewn down the top and under sleeve. We were able to create a similar look on the seams themselves by stitching a regular seam , pushing all the seam allowance to one side then top stitching a quarter of an inch away- like flat felling- then opening up the original stitch line so creating a similar ridge effect. Luckily we have access to boots and shoemakers and their equipment, because the last seam had to be done on the post bed machine. It makes top stitching inside the tube of the sleeve possible.

Lastly, what is a season without a large robe? It seems I get one every year. Last year was the velvet robe completely lined in fur. This year we have a large scale silk damask, lined in silk duppioni. What isn't in the photos is the waist length capelet of the same fabric lined guessed it, fur.

It is time consuming and sometimes stressful cutting out these large garments. Often I have made a pattern and done a toile fitting without knowing what the fabric will be. So without knowing the fabric width or the size of the repeat, I often have to alter the pattern to fit the yardage I get. 

Anyway, I guessed pretty close as I didn't have to modify the pattern, but it takes a good amount of time to lay out the pieces and make sure that the pattern placement overall is good and the pattern matches at the sides, and that you will have enough yardage overall. Garments like this have to be cut in a one way layout as there is a definite up and down to the pattern. This produces a lot of waste as you cannot top and tail the layout. I also lose a half vertical repeat when I cut the yardage so I can lay the fabric right sides together to cut. This fabric is meant for drapery so it is woven with a half of the pattern ending right at the selvedge edge. I prefer to not use the selvedge as my seam allowance, so I lose then lose a half repeat horizontally, as I lay the centre front and centre back in the middle of the next pattern repeat from the edge. Hope that makes sense.......

Under the cape is an under gown of red velvet brocade with a really nice hand. It is a little bit tricky sewing it together and trying to match the pattern as the velvet pile comes and goes along the seam. I think it is easier to sew plain velvet.
The trick according to Denise is triple rows of pinning. One row of pinning on the sewing line and a row either side to prevent shifting. Oh, and using the narrow velvet foot on the machine. Even then it can be a challenge!

This will be fit tomorrow, so I will try to get a photo of it all together next time.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Back to making suits

I had been working on a post to describe my job, but I was having a hard time writing it down in some kind of blog friendly manner. I think it will have to work on it a bit longer. The working title is "There is no Formula". I think I should get a plaque that says that and mount it on the door to our workroom. :)
Anyway, I haven't given up on writing it, but it will take some time to do.

So, instead, I will show you what I have been up to lately.
I am still in the land of the 16th century and making doublets and trunkhose- a pattern for a doublet toile is in the top photo.  We had a fitting of the toile and I am in the middle of marking the pattern alterations. This one will be made in leather- just waiting for the designer to buy it.

In addition to the 16th century, I get to jump ahead to the 20th century and make a few 1930's suits.
I have some great style and cutting references for this period in my collection, and I was happy to put them to good use.
We will be making seven suits for three different gentlemen, and the first one off my cutting table is this one in linen.

This is the real fabric, basted together like toile- so the pockets are not in, (I usually just thread mark the breast pocket placement, but Susy put together a little fake welt) the patch pocket is just a sample where Susy tried out different thread colours for the possibility of a machine topstitch detail.
The lapels are just quickly basted to the chest canvas, and there are generous inlays left for possible alterations. Luckily, I measured this guy myself so I was quite sure of the numbers, and it all went well in our fitting- not many changes at all.  The sleeves need to be lengthened, and the designer wanted a peak lapel, instead of the notch lapel I was trying to sell her. Other than that, we are good to go ahead, finish this one and get started on the other three for him.

 The trousers are high waisted, double pleated, with slant pockets, a grown-on waistband, and cuffs. They are lined in the fronts to just below the knee, and still need back pockets installed. For some reason I marked them an inch lower than they should be- slip of the ruler I guess- good thing we didn't put them in!
They look tapered from this camera angle but they are about 19  inches at the hem, wide, but not overly so. The hem width needs to work with the person's height and shoe size as well as the style of the period.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A few finished doublets

 Before I get going on this post, I have to say something about the weather. It snowed today.
Last week the temperatures were in the mid to high 20's (Celsius), and today was a high of 3, with flurries. I am not amused.
                                                        I have also been very busy at work, which has tired me out and  on top of that we had a vehicle fire and have lost our VW Westfalia, which has not helped in the staying positive department!
But enough of that talk.

I thought I would show you a few finished items today, two doublets and a variation of trunk hose that I am quite happy with.
The brown doublet is quite a large size, I think a 52 chest if I remember correctly. I wasn't expecting this trim as it was not indicated in the drawing I was working from, so it was a surprise when the designer wanted it.
I had already cut the body out when that happened and I was fortunate to be able to accommodate the trim placement in the existing body panels. The unfortunate part for the budget was that it had to all go on by hand, for a few reasons- One: the backing and structure under the fashion fabric was boned and the fabric had already been mounted to the backing, - Two: the trims were wobbly and needed to be basted in place over a ham so they wouldn't be too tight- Three: one trim was quite open and the other was velvet that crossed over the other, and machining looked like it was going to get tedious. The original though was double lines of trim, but that would have been almost 75- 80 metres of trim, so instead it has single lines and 35 -40 metres of hand sewing. Denise and Karen's fingers were very weary by the end of it all. The sleeves eventually got small ruffs as well- sometimes the opportunity to get a picture of anything totally completed eludes me!

The "trunk hose" that goes with the doublet is an interesting adaptation from an idea that another cutter had on a stand. Instead of building separate panes for the trunk hose, the paned look was created from the main fabric. I marked out the "pane" placement, and cut felt in the shape of each pane. The felt pieces were laid on the fabric and the edges were wrapped and top stitched. The fabric in between the pane area was then gathered and distributed behind the panes which creates the effect of depth. It was very lightweight and effective as well. They are built upon an under structure trouser of lightweight drill, that I fit first. The fabric on the canions was applied first, then the paned piece was stitched on at the lower level, along with some shape support (gathered crin), before being brought up to the waist, where the waistband was stitched on through all the layers. That was a very short description of a complicated process!

Next, we have a suede doublet with contrasting sleeves of striped silk. This was a fun project, marking in all the detailed slashing lines. The suede is a bit soft for this kind of project in my opinion, so it will be interesting to see what it looks like after being worn for six months. We opened up the slashes a bit by stretching one edge with our fingers, like fluting pie crust. The sleeves are bound off separately and then attached into the armhole which is finished with a clipped binding and a second clipped piccadil style wing.

This last doublet is the finished result of the muslin I posted about here. It was supposed to look like two garments, the front edge of the grey is loose and the two are sewn together along the piped seam. It also needed a pocket for a letter, which we found out as we were well into the finishing stages, so on the left side we opened the seam between the two "garments"and added a stay piece of cotton that connected with the side seam and also enabled us to create a pocket bag there, without compromising structural stability.


So, what is next you ask?
I have a couple of doublets and breeches to make for understudies on a show I didn't work on in the first place, so that is well underway, and later on I should be starting some suits! Hurray! some regular (1930's-40's) tailoring, and I am looking forward to it.
There may be a doublet or two thrown in for good measure, but I can't wait to make some suits.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

More ruff construction

I have been grabbing photos here and there during the construction of the ruffs.
The top photo shows another ruff being laid out on the original pattern so that the markings for the folds can be made. Once all the circles have been marked (I think I cut 11 circles for this ruff), the next step is to thread a needle with a heavy thread- we use a button thread (Coats and Clark  Dual Duty Plus) and stitch down through one mark and up through the next to accordion pleat the ruff.
Tie off or wind the thread ends around a pin and then start sewing the inside edge of the ruff to the prepared neckband. You can see the stitches in the second photo. Sorry, I didn't get sewing action photos during the construction of the ruffs.

The third photo is another circular ruff we made. This one is in black linen with the same crin as a support structure. The difference here is the edge finish. This one has a piping edge, so that entails finding a fine cord - we ending up using yarn- inside a folded bias to make the piping first. The crin was stitched to one layer of the linen, then the piping was sewn to the edge, then the second layer of linen was used to "bag out" the outside edge. The tedious part of this process is the trimming and the pressing of the seam allowances along the outside edge, and then edge stitching the seam allowances down before you can join all the layers on the inside edge. You need to be careful to cut the one set of circles that form the top layer just outside your drawn line thereby making them just slightly larger, because you have to allow for the turn of the cloth taking up an incremental amount of the fabric.  The piped edge does make a beautiful finished edge to the ruff, but it also adds almost a days work compared to the sewn edge finish. The bottom photo is our spiral ruff in place on the doublet. I think I may need to provide a little supportasse at the back to make sure it doesn't ever flop downwards at the back due to its size.
The ruffs are snapped to the collars of the doublets so they can be removed for dry cleaning and other maintenance such as make-up removal.
I have also made straight ruffs that had a softer fabric sewn to the inner circle to allow them to come from the inside of the doublet collar, so there can be many variations on the theme.