Sunday, November 14, 2010

Waistcoat and breeches alterations

The breeches and waistcoat have been altered. So has the fingerprint on my needle-pushing finger, I think.

The waistcoat and breeches began looking something like this:

Note the 1750’s cut to the waistcoat, and the, um, baggy fit. Ditto for the baggy breeches.

Now, I understand that it is nigh unto impossible to buy something ready-made that is going to fit in the proper 18th-century manner. Men’s smallclothes (the waistcoat and breeches) were form fitting without being restrictive. Well, except for the seat of the breeches. Breeches were snug from the crotch to the kneeband, with the seat cut full so that one could actually sit in comfort.

Anyhow – the waistcoat was too big for the owner, so the back and sides were pinned to fit, and a new armseye drawn in. the tails in the back of the waistcoat were shortened, and squared off, instead of being flared. The front of the waistcoat was cut away at an angle, and shortened a bit. The cut-off bits of the waistcoat tails were made into new pocket flaps. There was a narrow band of fabric sewn over the neckline which was removed, and the resulting raw edges turned in. This was all done by hand, in part, to keep the cotton lining (hawk, spit!) from drooping as is often found when a garment is bag-lined. (This is basically when a garment and lining are assembled separately, then placed right sides together, edges matched up, and sewn around the outside, leaving a space to turn it all right-side-out again. This kind of lining tends to sag, especially if the outer fabric and lining are made of two different types of fabric. So as I opened up all the seams took them in, and re-sewed the lining to the seam-lines.

Side view - front has been shortened, and angled. Back has been shortened and squared off.

Front - enlarged armseyes and altered neckline.

Original pocket flap on top, new and improved version on the bottom.

The breeches … well they’re better than they were, I hope. These were also impossibly large, so I pinned the inseam until they were a bit snugger. I didn’t pin too far up, IYKWIM, but later, when I transferred the marks to the inside of the breeches, I extrapolated my sewing line up through the crotch. I took 98% of the stitching out where the kneebands were attached at the bottom of the leg, leaving the end with the buttonhole still attached. I ripped out the inseam seam, and then re-sewed it using my penciled-in line as a guide. Then I ripped out the stitching “gathers” over the kneecap. I understand that you need some extra ease over the knee area so you can bend your knee. What I don’t understand is why the gathers were over the knee on one leg, and behind the knee on the other. (Shakes head sadly) I tried to iron the wrinkles out of the fabric, and then I ran two rows of gathering stitches around the bottom of each leg opening, about ¼” and 3/4” away from the cut edge. I then drew up the slack in the gathering stitches as far as I could without actually putting gathers into the fabric. This is called “easing”. I effectively had the diameter of the leg opening as small as if it had been gathered without the unsightly wrinkles. I briefly considered hand-sewing the kneebands back on. I looked at the sheer volume of visible machine stitching on those breeches and laughed at myself. I figure that people are more likely to notice the hand stitching on the waistcoat than the breeches anyway, so I shortened the kneebands (since I had the legs were now narrower) and machine-sewed them on.
New stitching line drawn in.
The "gathers" at the bottom of the leg opening.

Leg opening with the extra fullness eased in. Those are wrinkles you see - not gathers.

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