Cutting the Facings

It’s time to cut and prepare the facings for installation. Traditionally, the facings were cut with the collar in one piece to maintain a more seamless look to the finished waistcoat. To accommodate the lack of darts as well, the facings are cut with an additional allowance so that the facings can be manipulated into place. I’ll be demonstrating the ‘quick’ method for getting the pattern pieces, but if you’re using a plaid or more prominent stripe pattern that you want matched, take care in the layout of everything and use more precision as necessary.

Begin by laying out the waistcoat on to a fresh sheet of paper and tracing around the lower side seam, the bottom, the front, the collar, and shoulder seams.

I’m using a pen here so that you can see everything more clearly, but I recommend a pencil so that you don’t accidentally get ink on your waistcoat.

As you’re tracing around the collar and shoulder area, try to hold everything in a neutral position. The pieces will want to distort due to putting the three-dimensional fabric on the flat paper.

Before removing the waistcoat, slide it over slightly and determine the outer edge (including a seam allowance) of and how wide you want the facing to be. I made mine end just before the dart and about two inches from the inside buttons.

Then use a hip curve to draw in the desired shape of the facing on the inner edge. It should meet the shoulder about 1 1/2″ to 2″ from the collar (remember this includes the seam allowance).

The shoulder should meet the facing in as close to a right angle as possible to make the sewing a little easier and the lines more pleasing. Finish the curve as necessary using the hip curve or French curve.

Now draw in the lower facing, about 3″ or so above the bottom of the waistcoat, following the shape of the outline. This does again include a seam allowance on the upper / inside edge, so choose your widths accordingly.

Here’s what I’ve got so far for my facing pattern. You could actually cut this out as one piece if you have enough fabric, but I’ll be constructing mine with the two separate pieces. We’ll add a seam allowance for that in a bit.

Now along the side, bottom, front, collar and shoulder seams, add an additional one inch (or more if you’re not feeling as confident) allowance to the pattern. This will allow us to manipulate the fabric around the shaped areas of the collar and darts.

Now on a fresh piece of paper, trace out the lower facing along the outer edge (with the 1″ we just added). I drew in the original seam line with a dashed line for clarity, though no need to do that really.

I also marked the top and front edges, since it’s easy to get this piece mixed up. Then, I added a 3/4″ seam allowance along the front edge, double the usual seam allowance. It occurred to me just now that I probably could have used a 3/8″ seam here, since we included the seam allowance on the main facing piece, but the extra allowance won’t hurt anything.

Cut out both facing pieces.

Now trace the facings on to your fabric. I kept the original grain lines for the alignment, but you could also feel free to experiment with this to get different stripe alignment on the collar area.

The lower facing could be cut on the grain as well, but I rotated it in order to save fabric, a common practice during the period.

And then cut out the facings as usual. Here’s what mine looks like so far.

Stay Taping the Forepart

Before installing the facings, I like to reinforce the edges with linen stay tape. This gives a firmer and crisper edge to the waistcoat and prevents the seams from rolling out of position over time.

Begin by marking out the seam allowances (3/8″) along the bottom edge using a ruler and chalk or pencil.

Continue marking along the front edge and around the collar.

Trace all the way to the center back of the collar.

Carefully trim away the seam allowance from the canvas only, being careful not to cut into the fabric underneath.

Be extra careful near the fold of the roll line – it’s so easy to accidentally cut through to the right side. I accidentally made a very small snip through the silk, but luckily caught it in time before too much damage was done.

Lay the stay tape along the edge of the collar, just barely overlapping into the seam allowance. Begin basting about an inch above the shoulder, keeping the end of the tape free to finish up later.

Continue basting the stay tape to the waistcoat through all layers, along the collar.

About an inch above the roll line, take a stitch in place to lock the stay tape in place.

As you continue basting across the roll line, allow a little excess stay tape with each stitch. This excess is needed so that when the collar is folded in place, there will be enough slack in the tape to allow it to fold nicely without pulling back away from the body. Make one more stitch about one inch below the roll line to lock everything in place again.

Continue basting the stay tape to the forepart along the front edge. When you get about two inches from the bottom edge, make yet another stitch to lock everything in place. From here to the corner, hold the stay tape a little tight as compared to the forepart. This will draw the corner of the waistcoat inwards a little, helping it to stay in place when worn.

When you get to the lower front corner, take another stitch in place to lock everything, keeping about 1/2″ from the corner itself to give yourself room to work with. Then at a 45 degree angle, cut the stay tape almost but not quite all the way through. The end of the cut should ideally be right over the corner of the canvas underneath.

Now fold the stay tape in place along the lower edge.

Clip the overlapping section of stay tape at the same angle.

When done, you should have a nice crisp miter that won’t leave any extra bulk in the area. This one came out pretty nicely, but as I like to say, it ‘miter’ been better.

Make another stitch in place, and again hold the tape tight to the forepart for another inch or two along the bottom edge.

Continue basting until you get to the side seam.

Trim the excess flush with the side seam.

Here’s the forepart so far after basting on the stay tape.

Beginning at the top of the collar, one inch above the shoulder line, begin stitching down the stay tape along the outer edge using a bit of a felling stitch. The stitches are about 3/8″ to 1/2″ apart, and the needle enters at a slight diagonal, catching only a couple of threads on the right side. You can also use a cross stitch, shown at the end of this lesson.

Stitch along the front outside edge, past the roll line.

And continue down along the center front and waist line.

Then repeat the process, this time on the inside edge of the stay tape, and catching only the stay tape and canvas with each stitch, as these are in a more visible location looking from the right side.

Again, end the stitching about 1″ above the shoulder line. This entire area needs to be free to work with later on.

As an alternative, you could also cross stitch the stay tape to the forepart. The results are the same, but I do find this stitch is better at distributing any fullness, for example, around the roll line. It’s up to you which version you choose.

Finally, remove the basting stitches – they’re so much easier to remove now than later if you forget.

Here’s the forepart so far after installing the stay tape.

Tacking the Pockets

To complete the installation of the canvas, we’ll again turn back to the pockets, which we left unfinished at the ends. We’ll now trim the ends, turn them under, and tack them down through all layers, including the canvas, which will give them additional strength and prevent the canvas from shifting during wear.

Begin by trimming the raw ends of the pocket welt down to about 1/4″ or 3/8″, either square across or more of an angle if you want more of a ‘boat’ shape to your pocket ends.

Fold the raw edge under, forming the shape you want, and pressing firmly with your fingers against the table.

Depending on the angle of your pocket, you may have a little excess fabric poking above the top of the welt. You’ll have to push this under the welt with your fingernail as you fell the top edge.

Along the top of the welt, about 1/4″ from the end, form 4 – 5 felling stitches in place, going through all layers. You may need to make this a prick stitch – that is, passing the needle all the way through to the underside, in order to get through all of the layers. This is the point of the pocket that takes the most stress, so the additional stitches in place are necessary.

Continue felling along the top edge of the pocket towards the end, through all layers.

Then continue felling down along the end of the pocket itself, taking as small a stitch as you can into the welt to minimize the stitching that’s visible. It’s a bit tricky in silk, but it can be done.

Here’s the end of my pocket after felling.

Now pass the needle and thread to a point about 1/4″ from the end of the pocket, and along the bottom edge. Make your first stitch by passing the needle to the right side of the waistcoat.

Now pass the needle back into the fabric through all layers, immediately to the side of the first half of the stitch. This is what’s called a side stitch, and due to the way the stitch is formed, is very strong, perfect for this situation.

The stitch should be very small – almost invisible. The one I made here is a little large. Now, draw a line visually with your mind from that first stitch to the original group of overcasting stitches you made. Continue sewing in as straight a line as possible back towards those stitches.

I was kind of disappointed with how these came out, while they look good, I was not concentrating on aiming for those original felling stitches and shifted a little off towards the end of the pocket rather than keeping parallel to it. Alas …

Finish off the pocket from the wrong side with a few stitches in place.

Repeat for the other end of the pocket, though you’ll probably be working in the opposite direction – just takes a little getting used to. So here I started from the bottom of the pocket on the outside edge, worked my way up, and across the top, making the felling stitches in place to tack it down, and then side stitching down the pocket.

Here’s one of the completed pockets, continue with the remaining pockets.

Collar Roll Line

With the canvas installed, we can move on to finalizing the position of the roll line. Take your collar pattern and align it on the collar canvas as closely as possible. Slide it down about 1/4″ to expose the linen underneath and make a mark at the top of the collar along the roll line.

Then mark the roll line at the bottom edge of the collar pattern. This point most likely won’t align with the final roll line position due to the dart, but it’s useful to see the amount of adjustment.

Finally, pull back the canvas to find the location of the bottom of the roll line, which should have been marked on the forepart.

Mark the bottom of the roll line as closely as possible. I usually just do this by eye but you could make a tailor’s tack through all layers from the right side to find the location that way.

Now start marking in the final position of the roll line. In the original draft, it’s indicated as a straight line from top to bottom, but I find that doesn’t actually work so well in practice, and a bit of nuance is needed in the positioning.

At the top end of the collar, keep the roll line parallel to the lower neck edge (closest to the top of the photo) for the first 3 inches or so, to about level with the shoulder.

Then ever so slightly shift the ruler so it aligns with the bottom mark, and draw in the rest of the roll line.

Here’s the roll line all marked out, you can see the slight angle we put in. When the waistcoat is worn, this will help everything stay closer to the neck.

Keeping everything flat and aligned between the layers, baste a row of straight stitches about 1/4″ away from the inside of the roll line.

It occurred to me afterwards that it might be easier to just baste directly down the center of the roll line, that way the layers will stay together even better without much effort on your part.

The roll line after basting.

Now crease the collar along the roll line with your fingers, as closely as you can to the marked line.

Press carefully and firmly over a tailor’s ham, as the collar and roll line have a good deal of shaping built in thanks to the dart.

Here’s the entire forepart so far after pressing the roll line.

Now starting about an inch from the bottom of the roll line, begin overcasting the folded edge, being sure to catch all of the layers with each stitch. Keep the stitches between 1/8″ and 1/4″ apart.

The stitching is started an inch from the bottom so that we can open the collar back up and do a bit more work around the edges of the waistcoat.

I started with three or four stitches in place.

Since I had basted to the edge of the collar, I found my stitches were missing the silk layer underneath, so I opened up the collar and press the silk into the crease with the finger of my left hand while I made the stitch.

It’s a good idea to check every once in a while to make sure you’re catching every layer.

Continue sewing towards the center back of the collar in the same manner.

End the stitching about 1 1/2″ to 2″ from the back of the collar. We need this free so we can join the collar halves together with a seam later on.

And here’s the completed roll line and collar after stitching.

Installing the Canvas

With all the preparatory work out of the way, we can begin installing the canvas. Begin by laying the forepart on top of the canvas, right sides up, and aligning the forepart at the darts, collar, and other visual landmarks. If you’ve not done this before I’d recommend starting on the side with the 1″ allowances marked on the canvas.

Also note that the upper part of the collar, along the bottom edge, should align exactly with the edge of the canvas, since we didn’t add any allowance there.

The following process basically consists of basting the forepart to the canvas down the center, and around the edges, all the while supporting the shape with your hand underneath and smoothing out any excess in the forepart. This is the general order I use to install the canvas.

Begin in the center of and about an inch below the shoulder, basting down the front, smoothing out the excess fabric in the forepart as you work. You can use either a straight basting stitch or a diagonal stitch – I tend to vary depending on the angle I’m working at.

When you get below the chest level, aim for the center of the waist or the location of the dart, if you have one. Continue smoothing out the fabric as you work – please see the video for a demonstration of this.

Stop your stitching about 1″ above the waist. You need room to do some work there later.

Starting at the same point as the previous stitching at the shoulder, baste along the shoulder towards the armscye, again keeping 1″ from the edge.

Continue basting along the armscye, pushing any excess down and away from the center of the waistcoat and away from your stitching.

And continue basting along the side seam towards the waist. Here you can see me pulling gently on the forepart with my left hand in an effort to smooth everything out.

Keep basting to 1″ from the waist.

Also, try to keep the basting away from the ends of the pockets. We need those free to be able to turn under shortly.

Then baste across the bottom of the waist to the dart, keeping again 1″ from the edge of the forepart.

Finish up installing the canvas by basting from the bottom of the dart towards the front.

Keeping 1″ from the edge of the forepart, baste up along the center front of the waistcoat, smoothing the fabric as you work.

When you get to the roll line, turn and continue basting following about 1″ below the roll line. We still need to finalize the position of the roll line, so don’t worry too much about following it perfectly.

Continue basting below the roll line onto the collar. I neglected to draw the roll line in on my collar, so I’m just keeping the stitching near the lower edge of the collar.

Continue basting to the end of the collar, stopping 1″ from the end. It gets a little tricky near the shoulder due to the tighter curves, so just be aware of any excess, smoothing as you stitch.

Finally, baste from the edge of the collar across the shoulder to the midpoint, where you started, just to get that area secured.

After you’ve finished basting, hold up the waistcoat, on yourself or a tailor’s form, and check to see how well you did – are there any wrinkles or excess fabric still remaining in the forepart? If so, you may need to go back and re-baste. Kind of a pain but well worth the effort.

When you’re happy with everything, carefully trim the excess linen away from the forepart.

This completes the installation of the canvas.

Chest Padding

The last thing to do before installing the canvas is to add a bit of padding to the underside. I’m using a 100% wool quilt batting from Hobb’s Heirloom, which gives just the right amount of body without being overly thick.

I first cut two layers of batting to very roughly the size of the area I want to pad. The area depends on your own individual body type and shape, but generally the chest area can be padded rather reliably.

After cutting, I like to very lightly press the wool batting to smooth out any wrinkles. Just the lightest of touches with the iron will allow the fibers to relax and puff up a little bit after being in the packaging. Just don’t press too hard or you’ll flatten it beyond repair. You could use a little steam if necessary as well.

Now gradually trim away the wool batting until you’ve got the shape that looks like it will work for you.

Here’s what I ended up with. I kept it out of the very top of the shoulder since mine are already full enough, and dropped the padding just to above my stomach area. At the same time, keep the padding about 1″ from the armscye as well as the roll line, as well as any edges if you decide to make your padding larger than mine.

With one layer of padding in place on the wrong side of the canvas, baste down the center of the padding using fairly small diagonal basting stitches – 1/2″ or so. These stitches will permanently keep the padding in place so you don’t want them to fall out over time.

Then continue basting around the outside edge of the padding.

If you’ve got a larger padding then you may wish to do more basting along the central area, but for a smaller-sized padding, this works.

Collar Canvas

We can now turn our attention to the collar canvas, which also must be attached with as few layers as possible. Begin by drawing in a line along the neck edge, twice the seam allowance in width. So using 3/8″ seam allowances, my line is 3/4″ from the edge.

Beginning at the base of the collar, align the edge of the collar with the line you drew, and baste the collar to the forepart with a diagonal stitch, keeping a neutral tension.

Make sure the front edges are aligned as closely as possible.

Near the top of the shoulder, the curves tighten up a bit so it’s slightly trickier to get everything in place. I like to take smaller stitches in this area to ensure nothing moves out of place.

Here’s the completed collar after basting to the forepart. Don’t worry about the roll lines quite yet, we’ll straighten them out later.

On the sewing machine, stitch two parallel rows about 1/8″ from the edge of the collar and from the forepart’s neck seam, along it’s length.

And here’s the canvas thus far, after stitching down the collar. Repeat for the other side.

Preparing the Canvas

With the canvas cut, we can move on to the construction, which involves closing any darts we may have to give shape to the waistcoat. We’ll be closing the darts along their raw edges – no seam allowances – to minimize the bulk in the canvas.

With the right side up (you should have two opposite facing canvases), hold one of the darts closed, raw edges butted together, and work a few stitches in place near the end to hold the dart together while you work.

Then passing the needle through the opening in the center of the dart and under the canvas, poke the needle up through the canvas about 1/8″ to 3/16″ away from the opening.

And do the same on the opposite side. Keep each group of stitches about 1/8″ from the previous, and continue working your way along the dart, closing it up as you go.

Feel free to rotate the work while stitching so as to make it easier on your hands. I had to contort my fingers to get a good photograph.

Continue working with alternating stitches until the dart is closed, being sure to keep both sides even with each other.

The waist dart is a little trickier due to its length and more complex shape, so try to keep both sides evenly aligned with each other as you work.

Pad Stitching the Darts

While this stitching does hold the darts closed, it’s obviously not very strong, and so additional work is necessary to keep them from ripping open. Cut strips of linen about 1″ wide by about 1″ longer than each of the darts.

Center the strip of linen on the dart, extending the strip about 1/2″ beyond each end.

Now using a small pad stitch, about 3/8″ to 1/2″ in length, pad stitch along the center of the linen, ideally catching the center of the dart underneath. The stitch itself is about 1/8″ wide.

As you work, flip back the linen strip to ensure you’re still centered on the dart.

Here’s the first row of pad stitching complete.

Then continue pad stitching the dart closed with two rows on one side. Try to work in a little additional shape to the dart by holding the linen strip taught and just barely pulling the forepart in towards your hand. It’s very subtle and you’ll barely see the movement, but it’s worth it if you can pick up the technique.

Followed by two rows on the other side. Unless you’ve cut your linen wider, I find five rows to be perfectly adequate.

Finally, trip the ends of the linen strips flush with the canvas. Repeat with any other darts you may have. You can see how much shape we’ve worked into the canvas, which will make the waistcoat fit all the better.

One quick shot showing the underside. Again you can see the shape we’ve built in.

Cutting the Canvas

With the pockets completed, it’s time to move on to the canvas construction. The canvas in a waistcoat or coat provides structure and shape to the garment and is usually made of linen. In my case since the waistcoat fabric is rather lightweight, I’m just using a piece of regular medium weight linen.

Begin by laying out the collar and waistcoat patterns on the linen, being sure to keep the grain lines parallel and leaving at least 1″ around the edges.

Trace around the entire pattern, including any darts.

Also draw in the roll lines for the collar, though we’ll be editing them a little later.

Here’s what you should have so far.

Now add 1″ around the outside of the waistcoat and collar, along the front edge, bottom edge, side, armscye, and shoulder, and the outside of the collar.

No extra material is added to the inside of the collar or the neck edge, as these have seam allowances already and will be sewn together.

The extra material added here aids in installing the canvas later, giving us a little more room to work with.

Don’t forget to add extra material to the center back of the collar – it slipped my mind here and I added it off camera.

Here’s a diagram showing all of the extra fabric added.

Next, extend the length of any darts by one inch, redrawing the dart lines as necessary. This prevents all the darts from stopping at the same point, allowing the shape to be a little more gradual and subtle.

Cut out the canvas pieces for the forepart and collar, including the darts directly along their seam lines.

Breast Pocket

The remaining breast pocket is constructed in the same manner as the other pockets, but the angle is a little steeper, so I thought I’d show a few little details to help you out.

Here I’ve transferred the stripes to the pattern piece. The lack of a dart in this area makes it a little easier to match the stripes, though the bias cut negates that a bit.

Here I’ve basted in the pocket welt and the upper pocket bag. I like to cut the pocket bags for these angled pockets a lot wider than I need them, so that I don’t have to figure out the exact angle of the pocket bag, which is much more prone to error. By cutting them larger, the angles can simply be drawn in later and the pocket bag trimmed to size.

Be careful when basting in the pocket welt – since it’s cut on the bias, it has a tendency to want to stretch out of place.

My stripes ended up being ever so slightly off, about 1/32″ at most.

After sewing in the lower pocket bag, you can determine the angle of the pocket itself. I’m keeping my lines about an inch away from the pocket bag seam line, they’ll be trimmed more closely later after sewing the bag closed. The lines should be vertical.

Trim the pocket bag on either side.

Now taper the pocket bag with two cuts, right to the ends of the stitching on the pocket welt. They’ll be a bit larger and deeper compared to the lower pockets, due to the extra fabric we still have, and the angles involved.

With the pocket bag trimmed, you can pass it through to the inside of the waistcoat.

Lay the other bag on top, and draw in the pocket bag seam lines, beginning and ending at the ends of the pocket welt. I tend to make these pockets about 3 inches deep, the bottom edge slightly slanted towards the center front. Curve the lower corners of the pocket as well. Before sewing, double check that the lines you’ve drawn overlap the pocket bag below.

Sew the pocket bag closed and trim the seam allowance to 1/4″.

And here’s the completed breast pocket. The ends will be tacked down after the canvas is installed.