Welt Pocket Construction

Now that the stripes are aligned on the welt as we like, it’s time to move on to the main construction of the pocket.

Cut out the pocket bags for each of the pockets. The pockets should be the same width as the welts, and about 3 or 4 inches in depth. You want the bottom of the pocket to be free of the seam allowance, in the case of the waist pockets, but these can be trimmed later, so don’t worry if they’re too long.

Draw in the seam line on one of the pocket bag halves, and baste it to the top of the pocket, right sides together.

Mark each end of the pocket bag, 1/4 inch less than the width that you made the pocket welt. This is so there is room to turn in the ends of the welt later on.

Stitch the pocket bag from one mark to the other along the seam line you drew, 1/4 inch from the edge.

I went slightly past the line here, though it should be okay as long as you have close to 1/4″.

Here’s the view from the wrong side of the forepart, more clearly showing the lengths of the two stitch lines.

Take the other half of the pocket bag, and with right sides together, place it against the non-sewn edge of the welt.

Baste the two pieces together, just out of the seam allowance.

Mark the ends of the stitch line, aligning them with the ends of the welt stitching.

Sew the pocket half to the welt. Note how the stitching ends at the same distance from the edge of the pocket.

Aligning Pocket Welts

Now we are ready to proceed with the pocket construction. In my case, I am using a striped fabric, and so will show you how to match the stripes of the pocket to those on the forepart. In period examples of waistcoats, one finds a whole range of diligence in pocket matching. Some are perfectly aligned, while others are totally random. Since I’m more of the perfectionist sort, and the fact that there is no skill in randomly aligning the stripes, I’ll try to show you how to precisely line up the pocket stripes.

First, you’ll need a pocket welt pattern. You’ll need to do this individually for each pocket. Draw a rectangular pattern piece that is 1 inch wider than the finished pocket (1/2 inch on each side), and the height of the finished pocket welt plus two 1/4 inch seam allowances. A good average pocket welt height is 3/4″, which you could scale up to as much as 1 inch on larger vests.

Place the pattern piece into position above the pocket line (the bottom of the pattern should touch the line), and then using a ruler, draw in the stripes as shown. If the stripes are smaller you could mark fewer of them, the important thing is to have a good reference point. I marked the red stripes with a little pencil mark to make things more clear.

Now place the pattern on your uncut fabric, lining everything up just as it was on the forepart. Mark with chalk, and cut out the welt piece. Repeat for each of the other pockets.

Place the pocket welt on the forepart to test the alignment. Assuming you worked accurately, and did not stretch anything out of shape, you should be fairly close at this point.

Turn to the wrong side of the pocket welt, and draw in the 1/4 seam allowance.

This next step is the trickiest and the appearance of the finished pocket relies almost entirely on this one step. You need to get the three lines shown, the edge of a stripe on the forepart, the seam allowance on the welt, and the corresponding edge of the stripe on the welt, all aligned precisely at the same point. As you can see in this picture, I’m slightly off, though I think that’s because I was just arranging the pieces for a photograph. You need to do this all by eye, and the more you practice, the more precise you will become.

Baste the welt to the forepart, just below the seam line. I’m relieved to know that I indeed aligned the stripes correctly here! As you are basting, be aware of stretching one piece or the other — since both are on a slight bias, this is extremely easy to do. As you baste, make sure each intersection is properly aligned.

You can turn the welt up after basting to get an idea of what the alignment will look like after, though it will be slightly off due to the misplaced basting stitches. The only way to know for sure is after sewing it for good.

With the welt accurately basted, mark both ends of the pocket, in pencil, 1/2 inch from either end.

Carefully sew the welt from end to end, stopping precisely at the marks you just made. I used a machine stitch but this could also be done with a backstitch by hand. Seems my tension was off a little, hmm. Stick as precisely to the seam line as you can, it looks like mine was off slightly.

Remove the basting stitches, and check your alignment for the final time. Success! If yours is off, it’s possible to undo the stitches and try again, but you may need to cut a new welt piece if the fabric frays too much.

Pocket Stays

Now that we’ve completed the darts and collar lining, it’s time to move on to the waist and watch pockets on the vest before moving on to the inner workings. First off, we need to reinforce the pocket area with strips of linen. While on some thicker fabrics you might be able to get away without adding these stays, it’s a good idea, especially on thinner fabrics, in that it helps to prevent tearing, and also stretching, since the pockets are slightly on the bias.

To begin, cut two strips of linen 1 1/2 inches wide by slightly longer than the width of the forepart. Cut a third strip, shorter in length, for the watch pocket.

Turn to the inside of the forepart, and if you like, draw in the pocket line in chalk, using the tailors tacks as a guide. Or, just use the tacks as a guide, and draw a parallel line 5/8″ below the bottom of the pocket, extending all the way across the forepart.

Do the same for the breast pocket, only the line should extend from the armscye, stopping about an inch beyond the end of the pocket.

Lay the strips of linen on the wrong side of the forepart, lined up with the line you just drew. The ends should extend off either end of the forepart.

Baste along the top and bottom edge, as shown. These stitches will stay in until completion of the waistcoat.

Turn to the right side, and trim off both ends of the linen.

Now repeat this process with the watch pocket, only the linen will stop 1 inch from the end of the pocket, rather than continuing all the way across the forepart.

The Undercollar

I like to attach the undercollar next, even before the pockets, to help prevent stretching of the neck during construction. Cut out the collar from brown polished cotton, and mark the roll line.

Lay the collar right sides together on the forepart. It’s sometimes very confusing, but if you’ve drawn the roll line in, make sure it touches the neck line, and you’ll be sure that it is aligned the proper way!

With right sides together, align the tip of the collar so that it extends off the edge of the forepart just a little, aligning the seams exactly.

Place a basting stitch here to hold it securely.

Continue basting the collar to the forepart, allowing the fabric from the collar to naturally gather, as shown. Use your fingers to help the process.

A closer view of the fulled collar, giving you an idea of the amount of excess.

Continue basting to the end of the forepart. The fulling lessens as you get towards the end of the collar, as both pieces are straightening out.

Sew the collar to the forepart using a 1/4″ seam allowance. The collar side should be down if you use a machine, so that the feed dogs will help distribute the excess fabric equally. One thing to be careful of, is getting folds of the collar stuck in the stitching, as I did here. Since it’s such a curved seam, the collar will want to get in the way of the stitching, so just be aware of that. Luckily I caught this in time, before having sewn the entire collar.

From the right side, using a pressing ham, press the collar over as shown. It’s probably a good idea to get the wrinkles in the collar out as well, but I just figured I’d get them later . . .

It’s hard to see here, but if you attached the collar correctly, the roll line will meet up with the roll line on the forepart. If it’s off by a little, don’t worry too much, as we’ll be redrawing the roll line anyway, due to the dart.

Here is the completed undercollar.

Darts or Fishes

The first step in the construction process is to close up the darts on the forepart. If you haven’t already, draw the lines for the dart on the side of the forepart that did not receive chalk marks, using the tailor tacks as a guide.

Fold the dart in half along the middle, right sides together, ensuring that the construction lines of the dart line up with each other. I sometimes stick a pin through both layers to help see if things are properly aligned. Baste securely.

Cut a small piece of linen, mine was about 2″ by 1″. As silk can be fairly fragile, it’s a good idea to add some reinforcement to the dart, particularly at the tip, to prevent tearing over time.

Fold the linen in half and place it over the end of the dart. You should have about 1/2″ of linen extending beyond the point of the dart. Baste closed through all four layers.

Redraw the dart lines over the linen.

Sew the dart along the line, using either a back stitch by hand, or a machine stitch. In the interests of time, I’ll be doing mostly machine work.

Trim the excess linen down to about 1/4″ from the stitching.

Press the entire dart to one side. It doesn’t matter which direction, really, but just try to be consistent between both halves of the forepart.

Here’s the result from the right side, after pressing. Ideally you will not have the chalk marks on this side, but oh well. Note how the roll line is misaligned now.

A view of the other half. You can see that the dart messes up the nice look of the stripes, which is why it’s important to have it hidden underneath the collar.

Pattern Layout

It’s now time to finally layout the pattern pieces on our fabric. I’m using a striped silk brocade here, so I’ll show how to layout patterns on striped fabrics to get things to match properly.

With right sides together, fold the cloth in half so that the stripes are aligned with each other all along. Pull back the top layer of fabric to check yourself for alignment.

Note: I know I said right sides together, but I was clearly not thinking when I laid out my waistcoat, and did wrong sides together. While it worked out, in that the fabric was less slippery on the wrong side, there are layout marks on the right side that I have to hope will come out!

Lay your pattern pieces on the doubled fabric, making sure the layout lines are parallel to the edge, or as in my case, the chest line is perpendicular to the edge of the cloth.

Try to get the front edge to fall entirely within a stripe if you can. If the stripes are thinner this won’t be possible, but it helps with the finished appearance.

Don’t forget to mark the location of the darts.

As well as the roll line. I initially misplaced the line by going to the edge of the fabric instead of the edge of the seam allowance, hence the two roll lines.

Finally, mark in the breast pocket, which will be on the left side of the waistcoat only.

And the front pockets. I draw in a line marking the pocket, and then mark the ends according to the length I want them.

Cut out both layers of fabric at once, being careful to cut on the inside of the chalk line, since the chalk has a width to it. Here is the general idea of what you will end up with.

Now add tailor tacks to all of the markings – pockets, roll line, and darts, to transfer the marks to the lower piece, and to make the lines more durable.

The pockets are marked with tailor tacks.

After cutting the tailor tack threads, you should be left with two identical halves of the front.

You can see how the tacks transfer the pocket markings to the other half of the forepart.

Shawl Waistcoat Toile

Now that we have the pattern updated with the styling details, it’s a good idea to make another muslin to check the fit and proportion of the collar and other details. This will also be good practice in assembling the various pieces of the waistcoat.

The first step is to transfer the pattern to the cloth, making sure to include all of the darts and collar roll line markings. Note here how I cut the dart out of the paper pattern, but not in the fabric itself.

The first thing to do is construct the darts. With right sides together, pin the darts closed so that both sides align with each other. Stitch closed.

Press the darts open using a tailor’s ham. Note the shape this dart just imparted to the forepart.

With the right sides together, pin the collar to the neckline of the forepart. It’s very easy to put the collar on upside down, so try to remember to have the roll line toward the edge that will be sewn.

It’s hard to see, but at the bottom of the collar, the collar will extend off the edge of the forepart by 1/4″, to ensure that the seam allowances line up. Also, as you are pinning, there will be some fullness worked into the collar, especially in the curved areas. This should happen naturally and isn’t something to be forced, but just be aware of it.

Sew the collar on with a 1/4″ seam, and press open on tailor’s ham, since it’s a shaped seam.

Note here how the roll line flows from the collar on the bottom to the forepart in one harmonious line. That tells you the collar was put on correctly. However, the dart messes up the roll line, which must be corrected.

Using a ruler, redraw the roll line. There’s some room for error here, the important thing is that it’s straight from the shoulder point to the bottom of the collar, and that both sides are done the same way.

Sew the side seams of the front and back together, as done with the original muslin.

Now it’s time to sew the shoulder seams together, which are slightly different due to the added collar. Line up the seams, right sides together, and sew from the armscye to the point where the seam allowance meets the stitching for the collar. Don’t sew any farther than that or it will be visible on the finished collar.

Closer view of the shoulder seam meeting the collar, for clarity.

Press open the shoulder seam, and you should have a nice clean join of the three pieces. All that remains is to sew the rest of the collar to the back, right sides together.

If you have a center back seam, sew that first.

Pin the back of the collar to the back itself, and sew from the stitching to the center of the collar. You can join the collar halves together first, if you are able, but in my case, I was about 1/2″ short (hence the reason for the toile).

Press open the back of the waistcoat and collar, and this is approximately what you will be left with. If you need to add more to the back of the collar, like I did, make sure to do that to the pattern now, before you forget.

Now that your toile is done, try it on for a fitting, and if you’d like, take some photos and send to me either in the Facebook group or through email.

Seam Allowances

Seam allowances are drawn as shown for the forepart, back, and collar, at 1/4″ for each. Keep in mind that no seam allowances are added for the armscye, as Devere already accounts for that.

It may be helpful to draw in guidelines as shown by the arrows, to indicate pattern placement in line with the grain of the fabric. Especially on the collar, which can easily get confusing! All pockets, darts, and roll lines are also marked on the pattern.

Begin by tracing your original pattern pieces to a new sheet of paper, giving them a little space to make room for drawing in the seam allowances. Then use a ruler and draw in the 1/4″ seam allowances as shown.

[callout]Note: If you wish to use a one piece back, leave off the seam allowance of the center back, and cut this piece on the fold.[/callout]

Here’s my collar traced out with the seam allowances added, as well as the roll line drawn in.

After all the seam allowances are drawn, carefully cut out each piece. Also cut out the dart in the forepart — I must have forgotten to do that before taking this photo.

Pattern Adjustments

Before starting work on the waistcoat, we must make some style adjustments to the basic pattern, which you should have already drafted and fitted. Note that in the following I used dotted lines for the construction lines just to make things easier to see.

First, begin by marking the position of the front opening, using the Opening measurement if you took one. The proportional placement of this point is along the Line from D, though you can move it up or down as necessary. In my case, I have a long torso so moved this point down in order to account for that – otherwise the collars look too small on me.

Draw the roll line, from the opening point you just marked, through the shoulder point, and extending outwards a distance equal to that of the back neck.

Spring out from the opening point, any distance required, to give the width of the shawl collar. Devere springs out 7/8 graduated inches, and upwards 2 3/4 graduated inches. You could also take the measurements directly from an original vest and apply them here, or use your artistic skills and copy a fashion plate or photograph of the period.

Draw the neck line, beginning at the neckpoint H, and following the original neckline to begin with. Connect with the point of the shawl that you drew in the last step.

Now at the end of the collar, draw a line perpendicular to the roll line, indicating the height of the collar. I used 7/8″ for the bottom, or stand of the collar, and 1″ for the top, or fall of the collar. The extra 1/8″ ensures that the collar will cover the neck seam properly. This line should be at a distance from the neckpoint H equal to that of the back neck.

Draw the bottom of the collar. At the top, it begins parallel to the roll line, gradually meets the neck line of the forepart, and ends at height about 3/8 to 1/2 an inch above the sprung out point of the shawl. This gives us a nice dart built into the draft, which will help the collar roll smoothly and give some tension and shape.

Draw the top of the collar. Again it begins parallel to the roll line at the top. The rest is up to you and your artistic judgement – it’s a good idea to study some original photographs to get a better idea of the shape.

We will now add another dart, which will aid in rolling the lapel and potentially move the armscye forward, if you are using silk fabric. At the area where the collar meets the forepart, draw a construction line perpendicular to the neckline, about 2 – 3 inches in length. Ideally it should be hidden from view when the collar is folded over it.

Now, measure from each side of this line 1/4″ or 3/8″. If using wool, you want the total width to be no more than half an inch. If using silk, however, this dart needs to be a total of 3/4 in width, so as to help move the shoulder forward (since we can’t do the typical ironwork). Complete the lines of the dart as shown.

During the time of the 1860s, it was fashionable to have a longer waist. Lower each point of the waist by 1 1/4 graduated inches, springing out at the front and side seams. Don’t forget to do this to the back as well! Redraw the curved seam lines. Typically, I’ll just account for this lengthening as I do the original draft, using the Length of Front measurement, but this is how Devere explains it.

Finally, draw in the pockets using a single line (you can mark the endpoints, though). I usually make the lower pockets about 5 graduated inches in length. They’re about 3 inches from the bottom of the vest, and 1 inch from the side seam, and angled in a similar way as the bottom of the vest.

The upper pocket (made only on the left side of the waistcoat) I tend to make 3 or 3 1/2 graduated inches in length, and about one inch from the armscye. The angle should be steeper than the lower pockets, as shown. Again, exact placement will depend on your body type and the originals you are using for inspiration.

Here’s my completed pattern, showing the collar area. Note how I lowered my collar below the chest line to account for my long torso. You’ll have to do what looks best for your body type as well.

Fitting the Waistcoat

Waistcoats are probably the easiest articles of clothing to fit, as there are only a couple of seams to worry about. After you have constructed your muslin, try it on, and look for any excess fabric, or pulling. This will help you decide on the adjustments to be made on the pattern. Please post photos of you wearing the muslin waistcoat in the forum, and I will help you figure out the best solution.

Thin or Stout

This is the easiest adjustment to make. If the waistcoat does not close in the front, measure how much extra you need to add, divide that by four, and add the product to the front and back of the pattern as shown. Likewise with a waistcoat that is too large in the waist, just subtract the product.

Devere gives the following advice on the subject:

The Thin Waist requires the pattern to be sloped off at the front of waist in the forepart, and at the bottom of side seam in the back. Stout Waists, on the contrary, require extra allowances given at these places, according to the size, half being given to the front, and half to the back (Devere is speaking in terms of half of the pattern, so these are really quarters, as discussed above). It should be observed that for Stout waists, the extra allowance in the front, is sloped off to nothing at the height of the breast line, and also that the side seam of the back, is, for Stout men, drawn in a straight line.

Stooping or Extra-Erect

Check out the back of the neck area during the fitting. Devere’s draft gives us a fit good for an average man, but some of us may have a more stooped posture, or a more erect posture, which can lead to issues in this area. If you see a lot of excess fabric, then you must decrease the height of the neck as shown above. Likewise, do the opposite if there is pulling away at the back of the neck, or tension.

The back, as compared with the forepart, may be required to be made higher or lower, according as the client is Stooping or Extra-erect, and unless this alteration is correctly made, the pattern can not have the proper balance, and must fit ungracefully.

Now that you have these fitting issues sorted out, and a nicely fitted waistcoat, it’s time to move on to completing your draft with the styled aspects, for example, a shawl or stepped collar, lengthening according to fashion, etc.


Here is an example of one alteration I had to make. This is the back, showing the back neck balance being shortened due to some folds I had in that area when trying on the muslin. I make the corrections on the original pattern, based on measurements I took while wearing the muslin. Tricky to do by one’s self!

I then trace the corrections on to the pattern piece (or a new piece of paper if necessary), and then cut along the new line.

Your Progress

[columns gutter=”0″]

Fit your toile as necessary.

[col align_text=”center, middle”]