Finishing my waistcoat
I have been busy hand-stitching my waistcoat together. Finally it took about two weeks to make this garment but it has been worth it. However, before talking too much about the finished waistcoat, I will first describe the remaining sewing steps. The first part of this project you can find here. Once more, I thank Materials Helsinki for the discount they gave me of this gorgeous wool tweed.
If you are only interested in the final result, jump here.
Attaching the waistcoat facing
Before I could attach the collar I had to sew on the facing. Sewing on the facing wasn’t really anything difficult. However, the Cabrera book once more had cool instructions on how to make the lapels look as sharp and neat as they are in tailor-made coats. The secret was to first trim the seam allowances (6 mm width for the waistcoat, 10 mm for the facing), press the seam allowances open and then sew shirring threads to the seam allowances. By pulling the shirring threads the seam allowances are drawn to the waistcoat side and tacked to the tape. Then finally the lapel tip is pressed flat.
Only after that the facing is turned over and the seam edge and the roll-line are basted to keep it in place.
Finishing the under-collar
After the pad-stitching was finished the under-collar already wants to turn into the right shape. This is emphasised further with pressing the collar. Then it was time to trim away all the seam allowance. I also trimmed a couple of millimetres extra from the canvas to keep it firmly inside the collar with no strands of it showing through the seams.
I basted the collar felt on the waistcoat neckline. Then I turned the waistcoat around and cross-stitched the waistcoat seam allowance to the collar canvas:
Now it was a good time to try the waistcoat on. The waistcoat fitted me quite well although I noticed I could take in the sides a little bit. However, the collar didn’t really work. In my opinion, it was too big and heavy looking.
I couldn’t move the notch anymore but I could easily change the shape of the upper collar. so, I took my magic marker and tried different shapes and then carefully trimmed away about 5 mm from the long edge. I also snapped away triangles from the collar corners.
The waistcoat lining
While pondering the collar shape, I decided to make the lining. I had beautiful Italian shirting cotton that matched the wool well. This needed to be attached to the back neckline before the upper collar.
Making the upper collar
The upper collar started from a bigger piece of fabric. I had cut the actual collar shape out of the wool but I ditched it after reading the instructions from Cabrera. Instead I took this bigger wool piece and started by stretching the top and bottom of it (the piece happens to be upside down in the picture):
The waistcoat collar was then positioned on top of the upper collar piece and basted on after the pattern alignment was adjusted. Here I outsmarted myself.
In this kind of small check a proper tailor would pattern-match over the gorge seam at the lapel notch. Well, I tried to be “smart” and taught it would be easier if I turned the edge of the collar wool over and pattern matched like that. Well, don’t do this! Of course, with this method, you end up mirroring the pattern over the gorge line instead having that perfect pattern match that you can see in the picture below.
The top collar edge is then turned under the collar felt. With tiny stitches the long edges of the collar felt are slip-stitched in place:
After that the inner edge of the top-collar is hand-sewn on using a combination of ladder-stitch (at the gorge line) and a slip stitch.
The ends of the collar are turned on the wrong side and fastened there.
Getting sharp edges
Just pressing the fabric doesn’t create lasting sharp edges that make a waistcoat or jacket look really well-made. So, the next thing to do was to prick-stitch the collar and the facing edges. This means making tiny, practically invisible stitches along all the edges. I used dark grey silk thread that completely vanished from view. As I was at it, I also prick-stitched the welt-pocket welt edges. This took some time but I carried my work around and/or listened audiobooks while doing it.
I even met this little lady bug who was super interested in my sewing. She crawled around my work and my hands while I was sitting in a park one day sewing. In fact, after I got home hours later, after shopping more materials to finish this waistcoat, I noticed that she still had stayed hiding in my silk scarf. Nowadays she lives in our garden.
The waistcoat lining goes on
Before I could stitch the lining on, I cross-stitched the facing edge to the canvas. The canvas had stretched a bit at the edge but I was able to shrink it back.
Then I slip stitched the lining to the facing and the top-collar.
Before finishing the bottom edge I made the final fitting. I ended up taking a little bit in from the side seams and just a tiny bit from the top of the princess seams at the back.
Now I could turn the hem and the armhole edges and first baste and then cross-stitch them in place. I did slash the armhole edges at several places to make them turn neatly.
Then I slip-stitched the lining onto the armholes and the bottom hem and finished the edges with prick-stitch.
With true Victorian fashion I wanted to add boning to my waistcoat. For that, I purchased steel spiral bones from Wiipurin erikoiskorsettiliike, which is a shop in Helsinki that sells custom-made corsets and regular underwear. Luckily they also provide materials for those keen on making their own.
Instead of using cotton tape, I found this pretty ugly ribbon in my stash and decided to use it to make bone-casings. I sewed them on by hand.
The buttons and the buttonholes
I found a big pile of these brass buttons with only 1 €. Despite having that many, I figured out that four would be a good number of buttons for the waistcoat, though. I also got this dark grey silk buttonhole twist to make the buttonholes by hand.
Here is a tip for anyone that uses button-hole gimp for their buttonholes: You can buy it in several colours but finally you need only white. So what to do when making dark buttonholes for darker fabrics? Simply, take a Sharpie and colour your gimp with it to the right shade!
Here is how my buttonholes turned out. I still need so much practice! With the first two buttonholes I made my stitches too close to one another so that the buttonholes ended up looking twisted and ugly. With the two last ones, I did a better job but I still have a bit trouble catching the both fabrics with every stitch. Luckily the buttons cover the most of the mess I made and well… I sort of prefer that my learning shows.
Now, with all that done, I could remove the last of the basting stitches and give my waistcoat the final press.
The finished waistcoat
I am super happy on how this turned out. My first classic collar looks good and stays in its place without curling in any direction. I designed the length to hit just my skirt waistband at the back and it does it nicely. (The modernized Edwardian walking skirt post is here.)
And of course this is the perfect outfit to climb an ancient oak! My husband says that judging from my expression I should live in one. Ok, I like climbing trees and this is the first one I have scaled since my childhood!
I still need a better white blouse to go with this vest. This one has a Peter Pan collar which doesn’t really work with the collar of the waistcoat.
There is perhaps a small grain line issue at the side back pieces but well… nothing is perfect in this world. The next time I will need to change that a bit to remove the diagonal wrinkles.
Anyway, I learned many things during this project and I will be wearing this a lot. Now I hope I have enough of this wool left (I luckily managed to acquire some more) to make a full-length skirt for the winter.
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You did a wonderful job and it looks great on you.
What an amazing piece of sewing. I love how your work shows not just the craftmanship, but also the learning experiences such as in the buttonholes. That is also what makes a garment unique, it becomes part of your personal history
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I have been working on a self drafted waistcoat, and couldn’t figure out where I’d gone wrong with the collar. Thank you for sharing your learning process with us so that we can learn too. My toile is done and fits perfectly, and the collar lays properly now!