Author: James Williams

The Facings

To begin construction of the facing, first lay out your parts as shown. It’s easy to get the waist facing facing the wrong way, leading to a misalignment when attaching it to the forepart.

With right sides together, baste the facing pieces together along the inner edge of each.

Sew with a 1/4″ seam allowance. While we originally added a 1/2″ seam allowance, that extra 1/4″ is taken up by the front facing.

Press over the waist facing. The seam is not opened up, rather, the front facing lays completely flat.

Lay the facing into position on the forepart. Remember that you added an extra 1/2″ around the front and bottom edges, so they should extend off the edge of the forepart. Baste everything in place along the waist, center front, and collar.

As you get to the roll line area of the collar, hold the facing slightly loose as you baste, to give some ease when everything is turned right side out. This will help the collar lay flat. I give about 1/4″ of ease, spread out about 1/2″ on either side of the roll line. You can just make it out in the photo, with the two ripples that are showing in the facing.

Continue basting up to the top of the collar.

After the basting is complete and you are happy with everything, turn the forepart over and trim off the extra bit of facing along the collar, center front, and waist.

Sew along the collar, center front, and waist with a 1/4″ seam allowance.

By sewing with the facing on the underside, you will help ensure the fullness near the roll line is distributed evenly. By machine, the feed dog will aid you. By hand, use your fingers to fine tune the distribution for each stitch.

When you get to the center front and waist corner, take two stitches on a diagonal, instead of making  a sharp turn. This will give the seam allowance more room when you turn everything right side out.

Trim the seam allowance at the corner to about 1/8″. It’s not a good idea to trim further, as the material has a tendency to fray through to the other side of the stitching, shortening the life of the waistcoat.

After removing the basting stitches you just put in, carefully turn the facing right side out, smoothing with your fingers. You want the facing to stop about 1/16″ to 1/8″ from the underside, so that it will not be visible on the right side. Baste about 1/2″ from the edge as you work along. At the bottom corner, you might have to use something to help you get a crisp corner, such as an unsharpened pencil or pen, closed scissors, etc.

Keep up with the basting. When you get to the roll line, you’ll want the facing to now extend 1/16″ to 1/8″ beyond the forepart, as when it is folded over, it will hide the seam underneath.

Here’s a closeup of how the facing is extending beyond the forepart, above the roll line. Below the roll line, down the center front and across the waist, it is the opposite.

Continue basting up to the top of the collar, keeping the facing extended beyond the collar.

Now, we need to ensure that the collar rolls (or in the case of a waistcoat, folds) properly over the forepart. Since the facing is on the outside, the distance around the roll line is longer than that of the forepart.

Holding the collar in its finished position, begin basting at the fullest section of the collar, about 1/2″ from the edge, towards the roll line, and finishing 1/2″ beyond the roll line.

You’ll have to open up the collar as shown to get the last stitch in beyond the roll line.

With the collar still in its final position, baste along the roll line on the collar side, 1/2″ from the roll line.

Finish the basting about 1″ from the end of the collar. I basted too far and had to unpick a few stitches when I went to finish the collar in the next module.

Open the collar and with the front of the forepart facing down, baste 1/2″ from the roll line on the facing side in a similar manner as above. The previous row of basting stitches holds the facing in place along the collar, at the right tension.

Now baste the inner edge of the waist facing down as shown. Distribute any fullness near the front corner with your fingers.

Continue basting along the inside edge of the front facing, through all layers, about 1/2″ from the edge.

Continue basting to the shoulder seam, stopping about 1″ from the end.

Here is the result so far. The collar should almost feel like it wants to pull itself into position atop the forepart, thanks to all of the work we did basting and distributing the tension properly.

With either a machine stitch, which was very common, or a side stitch by hand, top stitch along the waist, center front, and collar, 1/8″ from the edge. This firms up the edge and makes it much more durable, as well as helps to prevent it from rolling one way or the other.

When you get to the collar, the right side will be underneath, so it’s important to keep an accurate distance from the edge for a good appearance.

End your top stitching 1″ from the end of the collar, unless you wish to join me in picking out stitches later on.

With the basting and top stitching complete, we’ll now permanently baste the inner edge of the facing in place, with smaller stitches and matching silk thread. The stitches go through the facing and canvas only (and the padding, when you get to it). Be sure not to let the stitches show through to the right side.

Baste along the entire inner edge. The stitches should be within 1/4″ from the edge.

This completes the installation of the facings.

Cutting the Facing and Lining

It is now time to cut out the facings and lining pieces for the waistcoat. While one could use a paper pattern derived from their original draft, I find it is often easier, especially for one-off projects, to simply take the pattern from the forepart itself. In addition, facings were usually constructed without and darts or seam lines between the collar and forepart sections, so as to give a more continuous look to the finished vest, which makes using a paper pattern slightly problematic.

Here are two diagrams showing the result we are looking for. The first shows the exact seam line of the facing and lining. The second shows the seam allowances added. We need to add extra allowance to allow the facing to drape properly over the darted forepart and give us some extra ease to work with.

To begin, align your fabric fabric on the table, right sides together, and place the forepart on top, as shown. Along the center front, try to have the seam line, which is 1/4″ from the center, fall in the middle of a stripe, for a better visual appearance.

Along the shoulder line, at a distance about 1 1/2″ from the collar, make a chalk mark. This denotes the width of the facing. Note that this measurement can vary depending upon preference, originals you are copying, etc.

Along the bottom waist, about 3″ from the front edge, make another mark for the bottom of the facing. Again this can vary.

Now trace around the forepart, from the shoulder mark, around the collar, and down the center front to the lower mark. I removed the forepart here for more clarity in the photo.

Now connect the two dots with a graceful curve, completing the inner edge of the facing. Refer to the diagrams above for more clarity.

The lower end of the facing should be pretty much parallel with the front edge of the forepart.

Along the top edge and front of the collar section, and the bottom of the facing, add a 1/2″ allowance (or more if you feel nervous about it), to give us some ease when putting everything together later.

When you are satisfied with the shape and allowances, cut out the front facing.

The waist facing piece is now cut out in a similar manner. Lay your fabric out as before, and place the bottom of the forepart on top. While you could align the stripes between the facings, it is not necessary. I chose not to match the stripes so as to save fabric.

Transfer the mark you made for the bottom of the facing onto the cloth.

About two or three inches from the bottom of the side seam, make another mark, denoting the top of the waist facing. Trace around the bottom of the forepart, from this mark, along the waist, and partway up the center front.

Now lay the front facing in position on top of the outline you just drew. Remember you added an allowance to the center front, so make sure to offset it the same distance.

Trace along the inner edge of the front facing, as shown.

Add a seam allowance equal to twice the seam allowance you are planning on using, which would be a total of 1/2″ in this case. This allowance extends towards the front of the forepart. Also add a 1/2″ allowance along the bottom and side seam (not shown).

Now draw a line for the top of the waist facing, following the general curves of the waist. I have two lines here only because I was not happy with my first try.

Cut out the waist facing. Note that I added an extra 1/2″ allowance along the bottom and side seam.

Cutting the Lining

Lay the forepart on top of your doubled lining fabric – in this case I am using a cotton muslin.

Transfer the mark you made on the forepart shoulder to the lining fabric and begin tracing around the shoulder, armscye, and side seam.

Transfer the mark on the side seam indicating the top of the waist facing to the lining fabric.

Continue along the bottom of the waist, ending at the mark you made on the forepart for the front facing. Transfer that mark.

Here is the result so far. Note how the three marks are clearly indicated.

At the shoulder mark, add an additional 1/2″ to give yourself a seam allowance. This 1/2″ is twice our normal seam allowance of 1/4″.

Add a similar amount along the bottom waist.

Now lay the cut out front facing on top of the lining fabric, lining up the inner edge of the facing with the two marks you just made. Trace along this edge, giving you the front edge of the lining.

Now we must determine the position of the bottom seam of the lining. Along the side seam, lower the mark 1/2″, giving us a seam allowance. Lay the  waist facing in position, and trace along the top of the facing, giving us the lower edge of the lining.

Here is my progress so far.

Before cutting, add at least 1″ allowance to the side and armscye, enlarging that allowance to 1 1/2″ at the top of the armscye. I also added 1/2″ along the shoulder seam. These give us some room for error, and can be trimmed after the lining has been installed. Cut out the lining.

Creasing the Collar

Now is the time to crease the collar along the roll line. Unlike a coat, in which the collar rolls over gracefully, the waistcoat is creased firmly with an iron to decrease the bulk under the coat. Lay the collar on your ironing board, and fold along the roll line. Press with the iron. It’s not necessary to use a tailor’s ham here, as the roll line is straight – though you’ll want to keep the iron along the edge of the roll line, no more than 1/2″ onto the collar.

Here is the collar after pressing.

To make this crease more permanent, a row of felling stitches are placed along the roll line. Begin about two inches from the top end of the collar, and stitch all the way to the bottom of the roll line, ending just before you hit the stay tape. The stitches are about 1/16″ in depth through all layers, and are spaced about 1/8″ apart, or slightly more.

Staying the Edges

Now that the canvas is securely in place, it is time to work on the edges, in preparation for attaching the linings and facings. By adding stay tape to the edges, we gain a crisper, firmer edge, that will hold up to more abuse and keep the vest in shape longer.

Though not pictured, begin by trimming any canvas that extends beyond the edge of the forepart flush. I had two small areas that I had to trim.

Next, using a ruler or seam gauge, mark around the bottom, front, and collar a distance just over the width of the seam allowance. I did 3/16″ here. Start along the bottom.

Along the front edge.

Along the front of the collar. I ended up taking too much off here because I measured from the edge of the canvas, rather than the edge of the main fabric.

And continue along the entirety of the collar.

Next, trim off that allowance, being careful to cut only the canvas.

Here’s that area where I cut off too much. Luckily, it is fixable when I add the stay tape on in a minute.

Add a length of stay tape and baste it to the canvas and forepart, through all layers. The stay tape should extend off of the edge of the canvas by about 1/16″, which is why we trimmed off 3/16″ earlier. Start at the collar, just beyond the shoulder line, and basted down along the collar.

When you get to the roll line area, allow a little excess in the stay tape. This will allow the collar to fold along the roll line without any tightness.

Continue basting down the center front. When you get near the waist, you can hold the tape slightly taut, which will then force the bottom to stay near the body, rather than its usual tendency to pull away.

When you reach the corner, you’ll need to make a miter in order to allow the tape to turn cleanly without building up additional layers. Start by making a 45 degree cut through the tape, just to the point where you want to turn. Don’t cut all the way through the threads, try to leave the edge uncut.

Turn the tape into place along the waist line and note the overlap created.

Trim from the outside corner, 45 degrees towards the inside, cutting off the excess. You should be left with a clean miter.

Continue basting along the waist. The stay tape stops where the waist line meets the side seam.

Now it’s time to secure the stay tape to the forepart. Using a row of slip / felling stitches, about 3/8″ to 1/2″ apart, sew the stay tape down along the outside edge. These stitches should show as a small pinprick on the right side.

Then continue along the inside edge of the tape. This time, the stitches catch only the canvas layer, and do not go all the way through to the right side.

Tacking the Pockets

With the canvas in place, it is time to tack down the pockets permanently. By tacking the pocket ends through the canvas, it helps tie the two together, and provides additional strength for the pockets, which are under a lot of stress.

Begin by trimming the end of the pocket  to 1/4″ seam allowance.

Starting from the bottom, fold the end of the pocket in, and fell, trying to make the stitches as small and invisible as possible. Work the stitches with about a 1/16″ spacing between them, through all layers. You may need to make it a ‘prick’ stitch, when the needle passes all the way through to the bottom, due to the thickness of the materials.

When you get to the top of the pocket, gradually fold under the remaining material that will have a tendency to want to stick out. Fell across the top of the pocket, for about 1/4 of an inch, hiding the fabric as you go.

At 1/4″ from the ends, at the location of the needle in the following photo, work 4 or 5 stitches in place through all layers, to firmly tack the pocket, as this exact point is where the most stress will be.

Working in a line parallel and 1/4″ from the end of the pocket, work a row of side stitches through all layers, towards the bottom of the pocket.

Here is the completed pocket end. Repeat the process for the rest of the pockets.

Installing the Canvas

Now that the canvas is complete, it is time to install it onto the waistcoat forepart. This is an important step, and while it may seem tedious, the results are well worth the effort, and will help make the canvas and forepart act as one, enhancing the shape and figure of your waistcoat.

Begin by clearly marking the roll line, in a straight line, on the wrong side of the forepart. Remember, it starts 1/4″ away from the edge of the forepart, to leave room for the seam allowance.

Taper the collar end of the roll line into the original roll line. The angle is shallow enough that it won’t affect the roll of the collar.

The final re-marked roll line.

Run a row of basting stitches along the newly-marked roll line, so that it is transferred to the right side.

Place the canvas, with the wool batting facing down on the table, and place the forepart on top, as shown.

Line up the edges as closely as possible.

Starting at the top of the shoulder, baste all layers together in a single row of stitching, down towards the chest, and then straight down to the waist. Smooth the fabric gently towards the waist as you go, to ensure there are no folds or excess in either the canvas or the forepart.

Stop this first line of stitching about 1 inch from the bottom of the forepart, to leave room for working with the edges.

I like to have this first row of basting stitches pass the inside edge of the bottom pocket.

Another view of the basting to give you a better idea of what’s going on.

Next, start a new row of basting stitches at the same location you started the first, at the center top of the shoulder, and move across the shoulder seam towards the armscye, always staying 1 inch from the edge.

Continue basting along the armscye. Be sure not to catch the pocket ends that are still loose. Smooth the fabric with your hands in the direction of the armscye.

Baste along the side seam, again smoothing the fabric towards the side and downwards as you go.

Baste along the bottom edge, stopping where the first row of basting stitches ended. Smooth the fabric towards the bottom.

Start the third row of basting stitches at the waist, 1 inch from the waist, and 1 inch from the center front, working your way upwards. Sorry it’s so hard to see here.

When you get to the roll line, continue basting directly on the roll line. The more accurate you are here the better.

Continue basting along the roll line all the way to the end of the collar.

Now  roll the collar over into its final position, using the basting stitches as a guide. Work another line of basting stitches from just behind the roll line, near the area where the dart is, out to within 1 inch of the collar edge. This ensure the right amount of fabric is distributed where it is needed, when the collar is rolled over.

Working from the roll line to the other end of the collar, and with the collar rolled into its final position, baste along the collar 1 inch from the edge.

In the photo, I stopped at the end of the shoulder, but keep basting all the way to the end of the collar.

It’s hard to see here, but when you open up the collar again, you will see that it has a tendency to pull upwards, which is a very good sign that you have basted correctly. When the waistcoat is being worn, the collar will then hug the body.

Here you can see more clearly the collar being pulled up from the table. This completes the basting portion of installing the canvas.


Padding the waist is important in order to give shape to the chest area. I like to start with a rectangular piece of wool batting that is roughly the size of the canvas area that I want to pad. Gradually cut away the excess until you are happy with the fit. I like to keep my padding one inch away from the armscye and shoulder seams, and about the same distance from the roll line. Other than that, the padding may differ widely between body shapes and sizes. You’ll have to determine where the padding will look best in your case.

Lay the padding on the wrong / inside edge of the canvas. Then baste down the middle to secure it in place.

Then continue basting around the outer edge of the padding.

Use a diagonal basting stitch for the greatest strength.

Constructing the Canvas

Now that the pockets are complete, it is time to work on the canvas. I like to use a firm linen, about 5 or 6 ounces in weight, which compliments the weight of the silk perfectly. The pattern used is exactly the same, with no changes except for the darts, which should be made one inch longer – the width of the opening remains the same, however.

Here is my dart, cut out on the seam line. If you compared this to the forepart, the dart here is one inch longer. This smooths out the transition between the two darts, avoiding a pointed look which can sometimes happen, especially in silks and linens.

Now we will use a technique called stoting to secure the raw edges of the dart together. Begin at the edge of the dart, to ensure the ends are lined up, and make three or four stitches in place to secure, catching a couple of threads on each side of the dart.

Continue making a horizontal stitch across the dart, closing it up as you go, as shown.

When you get to the point of the dart, fasten off the thread with a few stitches in place.

Now if you thought this looked weak, you would be correct. We must strengthen the dart with a piece of linen, about 1 1/2 inches wide by about an inch longer than the dart.

Place the linen piece on the canvas, centered over the dart, extending a little bit off of the edge of the neck seam as shown. Work a row of padding stitches directly over the dart, catching both sides of the dart if you can.

Continue the padding stitches along one side of the dart, securing the linen in place. You can subtly shape the fabric into a gentle curve with your fingers as you go, but this should be done naturally, not forced or exaggerated.

Pad stitch the other side of the linen in the same manner.

Turn over the canvas and trim the excess linen from the edge. You can see in this photo the hollow that has been created from the combination of the dart and pad stitching.

And here is the completed dart from the right side of the canvas.

To attach the collar canvas to the chest canvas accurately, it’s helpful to draw a guideline on the canvas along the neck seam. This should be two seam widths from the edge, or 1/2 inch in my case.

Baste the collar onto the forepart canvas, aligning the raw edge of the collar with the guideline you just drew. I started off using a straight basting stitch but that was not holding well enough, so I switched to a padding style of stitch which worked much better. Remember that the pieces are shaped differently so they will need some manipulation with your fingers to get everything in place.

Machine or backstitch along the center, 1/4 inch from each  edge, as shown. Notice the shape that appears in the front of the collar, this is from a dart that is formed thanks to the way we drafted the pattern.

This completes the canvas construction. Next up, padding and installing the canvas!

Completing the Welt Pocket

With the pocket pressed, lay the forepart on the table with the upper pocket bag on the wrong side, and the welt and lower pocket bag on the outside.

Cut a piece of linen the width of the finished pocket (5 inches in my case), and the same height as the welt, subtracting one seam allowance. Lay this piece of linen on the welt as shown, just touching the stitch line that holds the welt to the forepart. This will give strength and support to the finished welt.

Baste the linen to the welt layer underneath, making sure not to catch the forepart.

Here’s what everything will look like from the right side of the welt.

Holding the pressed seam allowance over the linen, cross stitch the linen securely in place. You may have to make the stitches fairly deep to avoid fraying the fabric.

Fold the pocket bag over the welt, leaving about 1/8 inch of the welt showing on the bag side, as shown. Baste securely in place about 1/4 inch from the edge and press.

View from the outside. The pocket welt should be the same height all the way along. If not, you’ll want to go back and rebaste the pocket bag.

[callout]If you’d like to top stitch across the top of the welt, feel free to do so now, using a machine stitch or a side stitch by hand. I chose not to, as the tacking at each end of the completed pocket should hold the linen in place.[/callout]

With the pocket bag on top, cut a triangle from the end of the stitching to a point along the edge about an inch from the basted edge.

This will allow the pocket bag to be tucked inside the pocket without puckering.

Tuck the pocket bag inside, ensuring there are no puckers. If necessary, go back and trim the pocket bag further.

Baste across the top of the welt, staying about 1 inch from either end, through all layers. This will hold the pocket securely closed until the vest is completed.

Turn to the inside of the forepart, and baste the two pocket bag halves together just below the pocket opening.

Draw in the stitching lines for closing the pocket bag. The two sides should be parallel with the grain on the forepart, or the stripes. The stitching starts just where the stitching holding the welt on begins. The bottom should be about 2 or maybe 3 inches below the top of the pocket, and away from the seam allowance at the bottom of the vest. It should also be angled, following the general angle of the bottom of the waistcoat, which will allow items to fall towards the front of the pocket, keeping them secure.

Stitch along the chalk line. Try to get as close as you can to the top of the pocket, but be sure not to pull anything as you’re doing so, or you may catch the welt and ruin the appearance.

Trim the excess material from the seam allowances, down to 1/4 inch.

Here is the completed pocket from the inside, showing the linen stay as well.

And here is the completed pocket from the outside. The ends of the welt will be tacked down after the canvas has been installed.

Cutting and Pressing the Pocket

Now it is time to carefully cut open the pocket. Use extra care here because a mistake can ruin all of your work thus far. Fold the pocket in half, lengthwise, making sure that the pocket line, in between the welt and pocket bag, is aligned underneath.

Make a small cut through the folded section, just big enough to get your scissors through the resulting hole.

Open up the pocket, insert your scissors into the hole, and carefully cut through all layers to the end of the pocket, stopping at the shorter mark you made on the pocket bag, on either end.

From the wrong side, as it’s easier to see what you’re doing, cut on a diagonal from the end of the cut you just made, to precisely the end of the welt stitch line. Cut through only the linen and the forepart itself, not the welt or the pocket bag seam allowances. You want the cut to end just at the end of the stitches, to prevent gaps or puckers from showing in the finished pocket.

From the end of the original cut line, cut at a right angle to the end of the stitching for the pocket bag. Repeat for the other end.

Place the pocket welt on the ironing board and press the pocket bag over as shown.

Turn to the wrong side, and pull the pocket bag through. Arrange the layers neatly as shown.

The ends of the pocket bag should fold nicely along the seam line.

Press open this seam as shown.

Pull the pocket bag out to the right side again to get it out of the way, and pull the pocket welt and bag to the wrong side as shown.

Press open the welt seam.

It’s a little more tricky due to the slippery silk fabric, but try to get the ends as neat as possible.

Press the seams from the right side to get a crisper edge.