Constructing a Toile
With the pattern finalized as best you can, it’s time to prepare a muslin toile for the first fitting. The toile is important not only to help with the fitting, but to work out any errors in the pattern you may have introduced and get you more familiar with the construction process.
Begin by laying out all of the pieces, being sure to align the grain lines, and trace around each with some sharp tailor’s chalk. You can weigh the pattern pieces down to keep them from moving.
Also be sure to mark the roll lines on the front and collar pieces. Then cut out each of the pieces, keeping to the inside of the chalk lines. As you get to the darts, do not cut them out, rather, leave them in and cut across the bottom edge of each.
Here are the two front pieces all cut out. I marked the darts and roll lines on the wrong side, then flipped over to the right side to mark the pockets, button positions, and center front line.
Any darts are closed in the same manner. Grasp the fabric and fold the dart in half along the middle, aligning the chalk marks as best you can.
And pin the dart closed.
If you’re putting in a front waist dart, the same method is used, though it can be slightly more tricky to get everything aligned.
Here are both of my darts pinned and ready to sew.
Sew the darts, following along the outer edge of the chalk line. I like to start at the outside and work my way towards the point.
As you get to the point, gently taper the stitching into the fold, ending just as you reach the edge.
Press the darts to one side or the other (just be consistent).
I like to press the neck dart downwards to make it a little easier to press over the roll line later. You’ll notice that the roll line is no longer straight, thanks to the dart, and this is something we’ll address later on as well.
Here’s one of my waistcoat fronts after sewing the darts.
If you put in a front dart, that will mess up the pocket lines as well, so feel free to redraw them if you want.
Attaching the Collar
Lay the collar on top of the waistcoat front, right sides together. Be sure the collar edge with the roll line is laid alongside the neck seam underneath.
Align the bottom of the collar so that the 3/8″ seam allowance is aligned with the edge of the waistcoat front and pin in place.
Continue pinning the collar to the waistcoat front, working your way up the neck. Distribute the fabric as necessary as you go.
Do keep the pins away from the seam allowances. As you get to the top, you should have about three inches of collar (roughly) extending beyond the shoulder.
Turn the waistcoat over and mark a point along the neck seam 1/2″ below the shoulder to indicate where the stitch line stops.
Sew the collar on from the bottom edge through to the point you marked using a 3/8″ seam allowance. I like to keep the collar on the underside while sewing, as it seems to help distribute the fabric more evenly.
Press the collar seam over towards the collar, using a tailor’s ham to support the curved areas.
Here’s the completed collar.
Construction gets a little easier from here on out. Lay the back piece on to the front of the waistcoat, right sides together, aligning the side seams.
Pin the side seam.
And sew the seam using a 3/8″ seam allowance.
Press the side seam open.
Align the back and front shoulder seams, right sides together.
Fold the collar extension out of the way so that it doesn’t get caught in the stitching.
Carefully align the seam allowances and pin both ends of the shoulder seam. This is the armscye side:
And the neck side with the collar folded out of the way.
Sew the shoulder seam using a 3/8″ seam allowance, being sure to keep the collar out of the way.
Press open the shoulder seam using a tailor’s ham.
Here’s the completed half of the waistcoat. Repeat the entire process with the other half if you haven’t been keeping up with it.
Center Back Seam
Align the two halves of the waistcoat along the center back seam and pin.
Mark a point near the bottom of the center back seam just at the point where the curve straightens out to indicate the end of the stitching.
Sew the center back seam using a 3/8″ seam allowance and press open.
Securing the Collar
Lay the waistcoat on the table with the right side of the back facing you. Arrange one side of the collar along the remaining neck edge, make sure it’s neither too too nor too loose. Mark on the edge of the collar the position of the center back seam underneath.
Move that half of the collar out of the way and repeat the process with the other half.
Square across the collar at each of the points.
Now align the two collar halves right sides together along the lines. Ideally, the collar will be perfectly even at the ends, but I must have gathered on the collar slightly differently on one half while pinning it — something to be aware of.
Sew the collar halves together directly along the line.
Trim the excess collar down to 3/8″ from the stitch line.
Press the seam open.
To finish up the collar, pin the collar to the back of the waistcoat, right sides together, aligning the center back seams of each. Then pin along each side as necessary.
Sew the rest of the collar on using a 3/8″ seam allowance. Take care not to catch unwanted parts of the collar under the seam — the tension tends to draw the collar towards the needle here.
Press the collar and seam allowances up towards the top of the waistcoat.
Begin pressing the roll line at the back of the waistcoat. This is best done by someone else while you’re wearing the waistcoat (not with the iron!), but you can get fairly close just by developing your eye.
Then by putting some gentle tension on the collar and neck seam area, you can get a fairly close idea of where the roll line should be (it was distorted due to the neck dart).
Press the remaining areas of the collar as necessary.
With the toile complete, go ahead and try it on to see how it fits. If you need any help or advice, please post photos from the front, side, and back along with a top down photo of your pattern, so that others can learn from your experience as well.