Monday, April 21, 2014

Huntsman's Frock Coat

Being interested in the steampunk genre, as I am, I decided one day I wanted to make myself a frock coat.  After browsing around the costumer's manifesto, with its scanned cutting manuals from the period, I found the Huntsman's frock coat pattern.
Made of wool melton, and lined with a plaid wool flannel (or supposed to be), it was a loosely fitting frock coat made for the Hunting master of a large Noble estate...and my brain started firing.  Here was a practical, working coat that I could wear, and I felt would make a good start to a Steampunk outfit.
I started off by drafting my pattern, as per pages 14-15 of the costumer's manifesto--the ones for the double breasted coachman's overcoat.  When you do this, read through the instructions very carefully, perhaps translating them into your own words; and when you actually draft, check off each step, before going to the next one.
Coachman's Overcoat.  Source link above.
I had to use this particular pattern instead of the one for the huntsman's coat because the planned coat has no information on drafting.  I did, however apply the ease as for the huntsman's frockcoat.
Obviously, I drafted it as single breasted.

A word on the waist: The pattern has and discusses two different waist measurements--the real waist, and the fashion waist.  The real waist is, indeed, your actual waist; the fashion waist is 1-2 inches below that, approximately where your hipbone is...this is where the "waist" seam of the frockcoat actually goes.  If it is too low (as mine was originally...I had to take it all apart and remove a couple inches), it will look wrong. 
When I made it up, in scrap fabric, it almost fitted fine--I had to make a few modifications, but most were not difficult.  The main one was the waist measurement, which, when taken over my waistcoat, was much larger than expected.  To fix this, I took in the side seams of the waistcoat (now with a smaller waist), and added about two inches to the bust and waist, over the half measure.  This worked.
I also found that in these patterns the neck tends to be a bit too large for modern taste--this is most likely due to the extra layers of cloth worn on the neck at the time--collar, cravat, waistcoat, etc.
The next step was to draft a sleeve, also following the directions--the above was my second try.  Notice that the head is fairly shallow, giving me relatively good mobility.  This was a priority, since one of my fitting requirements was to be able to comfortably shoot a gun while wearing the coat.
The specifications here say "The sleeve should be cut long and forward hanging, and it is the custom with some firms who do a big business in Hunting Frocks, to carry the forearm seam well under, adding, say, 1.5 in. to the topside sleeve at the forearm, and taking it off the under, and in making up, this is lapped and double stitched, the object being to avoid a seam which might act as a gutter for the rain to run through.".
After much thinking and tinkering, I believe that the bit about forward hanging means there should be a bit extra ease on the back scye--so the sleeve pattern is rotated vertically, rather than via sleeve pitch when set in.
In the above photo, I have not carried the forearm seam under--I did this later, by simply cutting the pattern there, rather than opening up the seam.
Now that I have my pattern, I drafted it out on gridded paper--Christmas wrapping paper, to be precise--with the corrections, then used that to cut out my shell.  Before beginning construction, I highly recommend reading through This Page; bespoke tailors blogs also can have useful information on making your coat up.
I chose a heavy wool twill, in dark brown for my fabric, with the napped side out, and heavy cotton flannel as the lining.  Also used was a full canvas interlining (which was cut without most of the seam allowances, to reduce seam bulk).  A full interlining is not usual.
Later, I found that frock coats often, if not always, had a quilted lining.
  The extra layer in the breast was cut on the bias.  It runs at a slight downward angle from the bottom of the armsye.  The canvas interlining (particularly the breast, collar, and lapels) should be made with "hair canvas", a specialty tailoring product.  I do not have access to this, and used cotton duck. 

At this point, I decide to insert the breast pocket.  It is single welted, with a flap which does not fit into the pocket.
Above, you can see the canvas seam backing for the pocket, basted into place.  It is important to baste when you do pockets, rather than pinning--the pins tend to get in the way, don't stay in place when you sew, and aren't as smooth.  I did not take full process photos for this step, so will refer you to The Victorian Tailoring blog, with his tutorial on single welted pockets. 

The actual pocket, sewn to the top and the welt, prior to being pulled through to the wrong side.
Second photo is of the completed pocket.
Sorry for the fuzziness, but here you can see the curve that pad stitching the breast gives the canvas.  This is worked from the right side (the outside, though it won't be seen) over your fingers.  I will refer you to This tutorial, on how to pad stitch.  Here, at the breast (which could also have a layer of padding), the pad stitching goes only through the two layers of canvas--in the other spots (collar fall, and lapels) it pricks through the fashion fabric as well.
Pad stitching stiffens the fabric in one direction, and forms a curve in the other.  It is also used in the collar and lapels.  The smaller and tighter the stitches, the more of a curve will appear.
The next step (before doing the lapel) was to baste the canvas edges in place.
Here, you can see the roll of the lapel, caused entirely by the pad stitching--no pressing has been done.
 At this point I began assembly, sewing up the side seams.  It was actually suggested to not sew up the back seam until the very end of construction (when you apply the overcollar)--that way you are only dealing with half a coat of fabric (I, of course, did it the hard way, to allow extra fittings).
The seam allowances were carefully felled down so the stitches are nearly invisible from the right side.  This also permanently attached the canvas to the shell.
At this point, it was time to do more pockets...the pleat pocket, specifically (I love these pockets!).  These spacious (capable of holding a full bottle of wine) pockets hang between the lining and shell.  I used This Tutorial Here to learn how to make them.
Compleated pocket.
At this point, it is time to install the hip pockets.  They are made the same way as other single welt pockets, but the flap (interlined with the pvc material for waterproofing) is sewn into the waist seam.
Each is large enough to hold a decent sized hardcover novel (a requirement).
At this point, I sewed the skirt to the front body, adding in the two pleats at their appropriate locations on the way.  Following this, the back side seam was sewn up--pins will not do it for this seam, you need to baste, since you are dealing with a heavy curve.
Now, I cut the lining out using the same pattern as the shell, and stitch the front facing down.
Another one of my requirements for this jacket was to have multiple inside pockets.  These are all double welted, or jetted.  I may or may not have gone slightly overboard, because I was having a lot of fun making these.  I followed This Tutorial to learn how to make them.  The majority of the pockets are lined with cotton duck--in the future I would use a polished cotton, as it is lighter in weight. 
Lining was constructed much as for the shell, with the back seam being lapped and hand sewn.
The collar pattern was made up per pages 22-24, and Plate 2.  The canvas is cut on the bias--I found this did not drape properly the other way.  Rather than attempting to draft the fall into the pattern, I draped it.  This was done by basting the collar into place and noting where the nature fall was.
Plate 2.  Source link above.
A '<' was cut into the collar back seam at that point, so that the line of the fall would be shorter than either edge--this helps keep the collar close to your neck.
The stand of the collar is done in a prick stitch (I believe)--the stitch is a running stitch variant, with very little (or no) thread showing on the right side of the fabric.  It is important here to have the lines of stitches following the fall line, and have each stitch be parallel to the one above it--this stiffens the fabrics.  The fall was controlled with a pad stitch, starting off with small, tight ones at the fall line to produce a tight crease, and gradually grow larger as the rows get to the hem.

Before stitching the collar on, some assembly was required.  I chose to make the fall in black velvet (per popular consensus), with the stand in wool.  The pattern duplicates the under-collar, with the seam being along the fall line.  They are sewn together, wrong sides together, clipped, and turned.
This was basted, then sewn down to the neckline.  It is not connected to the lapel, as I wanted to be able to leave the collar down, while being able to button up to my neck.
Sleeve.  Nothing special, other than I only found out at this point how to do a surgeon's cuff (which was required for the coat)...the extra bit for buttoning overlap should have been added into the back sleeve seam. 
The seam allowances here are folded to the top of the sleeve, and sewn down by hand, with two rows of fine stab stitch.

This is the sleeve head padding.  They are constructed of two layers of simply soft quilt batting, wrapped with cotton ticking, and follow the shape of the sleeve head--a loose pad stitch holds the layers together.  As can be seen, the are basted (within the seam allowance) at the top, and tacked down at three points at the bottom.
These are the actual shoulder pads, made of 2-3 layers of simply soft, and 1 of ticking (again, pad-stitched together).  I did grade them, and removed a layer where the shoulder seam goes (don't need more bulk there).  The right one is the extra large shape to provide shoulder padding for shooting.

Sewn in, basted to the canvas.  I had to practically turn myself upside-down to stitch these in, since the curve had to be correct.
At this point, I finished assembling the sleeve.  This was done by blind hemming the shell sleeve (cross stitch), then hem stitching lining down, a quarter inch from the shell hem, as per The Victorian Tailor, Here.  I did not use any interfacing. 
When I actually installed the sleeve, I basted it, several times, to check the pitch.  One of the things I learned here was to line up the lowest points on the sleeve and scye and adjust pitch from there.  Eventually, I machine sewed it into place (a heavy duty machine would have helped) and pressed on a tailors ham.  The sleeve lining was caught in the same seam.
To cover the raw edges of the seam, a strip of the lining material was stitched down over the seam.  The collar seam was covered the same way, with the addition of a hanging loop (which I made far too small) in the center.
Pretty much completely assembled at this point.  The next step is to hem the front opening.  This was done with what is known as a side-stitch, per This Tutorial, although I probably used more of a stab-stitch.
The hem was done the same way as the sleeve hem.  In future coats, it will not be done this way--I will machine stitch and turn the lining in, around the front hem at least, if not the bottom hem.  I feel this would help it lay more smoothly.
All that remains are the buttons.  The coat has five buttons (plus a small one under the lapel), evenly spaced, started at the waist seam; they have a small reinforcing button one the wrong side, to prevent the thread from pulling through the fabric.  I chose not to button the pockets, with the exception of the pleat pockets and a couple inside pockets (to help support the lining below).  There are the pleat "buttons" on the back, as well--they serve no function that I am aware of.
At this point, after pressing everything (necessitating an emergency trip to Joanns for a tailor's ham) on curved surfaces, and inserting my makers tag, I am done.
Of course, I had to make a matching deerstalker cap--otherwise I would be improperly dressed.  And my ears would freeze.
The skirts have, with wear, started draping a bit more smoothly.
There may, or may not be a full bottle in one of the pockets....

·       Actual Order of operations.  I referred to this to make sure I didn’t forget anything.
o   Cut out shell, skirt last, marking pockets.  Cut out canvas, removing the seam allowance from everywhere but the front shoulder seam, and pin to body.
o   Sew Exterior breast pocket (left side).
o   Pad stitch breast, then revers.
o   Check the fit of the Back side seam, and note on back piece.  Then remove.
o   Sew front to side.  Iron and Cross stitch seam allowances down.
o   Sew pleat pocket to the seam allowance of skirt.  Then sew vertical skirt seam, leaving the pocket seam open.  Iron seam allowances, and fell with a cross stitch.
o   Make up side pocket flaps, and insert single welt pockets into skirts, 1 inch below seam. 
o   Sew skirt to front body, starting at the front edge.  The edge of the pleat should be at the back side seam, but the vertical seam should not be covered.  On left side, include ticket pocket.  Include the side pocket flaps and support back of pocket in the skirt seam. 
o   Sew side to back.
o   Baste shoulder seam, and pattern collar.  Pad and prick stitch collar, and set aside.  Remove stitching from shoulder seams.
o   Pad Stitch two layers of batting into underarm and back of scye, not in seam allowance, to add body to the area.
o   Cut lining out.  Cut two sets of the side piece (one set with a sewn in expansion pleat).
o   Attach front facings (by hand).
o   Mark and construct inside pockets.
o   Sew lining in the same order as shell.
o   Finish sewing skirt seam with the pleat.   Iron and fell, then fell lining top over bottom.
o   Sew facing on center back (turned), and fell down over lining.
o   Sew shoulder seam, shell first (Iron and bind), then lining gets turned and lapped over.
o   Sew seams on sleeves, and flat fell.  Hem stitch a good inch and a half.
o   Sew buttons on sleeves
o   Sew sleeve lining, turn right side out, and stitch the wind sleeve in (6-8 inches of the same pattern, with elasticized cuff).
o   Sew in the edge of the lining, loosely (hem, turn under 1.5 inches, and stitch the edge down there, slightly above the shell hem), then turn rightside out.
o   Baste batting to the sleeve head to fill it out—maybe an inch wide along the edge.
o   Sew skirt back lining in place, underneath the facing and slightly taut (so that the inside edge will curve in).
o   Sew sleeve in place, making it forward hanging (rotate top of head back ½ inch).
o   Assemble collar and front facing.
o   Press sleeve head on ham, then bind the seam with lining material.
o   Sew up back seam, iron and fell a seam binding over.  Then fell the lining over.
o   Bar tack the overlap in center back.
o   Trim hem as needed, and do bottom hem same as cuff, w/out a facing
o   Heavily press front hem.
o   Mark and sew all buttons on, then buttonholes.  5 +1 buttons up front (bottom at seam), 2 small on chest pocket, 2 mediums on hip pockets, accent buttons at side back, 1 m/l 1 small on each pleat pocket, 1 m/s with tab under collar fall.  2 medium on each sleeve
o   Add boutonnière loop on back of right lapel.

Time to make: 81 hours, 15 minutes.

© John Frey, 2004. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.  Photographs of my work may not be duplicated.


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