Thursday, July 9, 2015

Latest project, Unveiled. The Franken Frock (coat). Part I

Most people already know about this--it's not exactly a secret--but I have not officially announced one of my latest hare-brained schemes.  Since November I have been gathering materials, and am finally beginning to work on assembly.

A single breasted Frock Coat, based theoretically on the 1870's patterns (mainly the lapel shape), in a patchwork of tweeds I am upcycling from blazers found at the thrift store.  I have affectionately dubbed this project as my "Franken-Frock".  I've seen a few examples of patchworked coats, and personally have found them all to be hideous, with large pieces of material used in random places.  In comparison, part of the point of this project is to force myself to higher accuracy in stitching, since if I don't the pattern will get slightly askew (i.e. Let's challenge myself with pattern matching).

       Compared to my Huntsman's Frockcoat, this one will be much closer fitting, and lighter in weight--more suitable for summer wear, particularly if worn open.  I also decided to cut down on the number of pockets (you can't have a close fitting coat, and actually use the ton of pockets).  It will have a couple things in common though, such as being engineered to allow movement (my test being whether I can comfortably raise my arms to a shooting position--something you rarely see in non-bespoke coats).  Hopefully my tailoring techniques will also be better, overall.

After finally collecting what will hopefully be enough coats--which were promptly disassembled as I got them--I started in on the pattern drafting, using the instructions I copied down here.  A few modifications did need to be made--that draft seems to require I take a half inch off the outside edge of the front shoulder--plus some fitting since I intentionally cut slightly large (I included the seam allowances in the drafting this time, as well). I also actually finagled most of the sleeve measures, particularly the widths, but still managed to fit it correctly the first time. 

Ten separate wool tweed coats (to start) will be used, cut into 7x11.27 Cm rectangles (not including seams), and sewn together in a very specific pattern, paying particular attention to accuracy at the assorted seams.  Similar to the Keeper's Coat, it will have shoulder yokes--in a Harris Tweed.  Pocket flaps and cut on cuffs will match the yokes.  As much of the source coats will be used, including the linings being re-purposed for some pocketing, possibly the hair cloth (though doubtful).  I'm 98% sure that the buttons will also be recycled (which was not possible while I was still thinking of making this double breasted).
Keeper's Coat, from Here.

Some portions of the design are still up in the air--specifically the lining (which I have not yet purchased or decided on) and the top collar fabric (which will probably be corduroy, since an appropriately coloured velvet is unavailable).
The body is fully underlined with cotton canvas, which is probably overkill, but I like my garments to be wind resistant.  Skirts and sleeves are underlined in muslin instead, allowing better drape.


Some adjustments were needed.

After drafting and fitting a mockup, then refitting with the underlinings, I had to work out the grid that the patches would follow.  This was done by starting on the sleeves to find the basic horizontal lines, then covering the half body with a chart of patches.
    When determining the patch size, I had to make sure they were as small as possible to maximize the number I could get from the materials coats (remembering the 1/4th inch seam allowance on each side), but large enough that they would look good.  I also knew that I wanted them to be in accordance to the golden ratio--1 to 1.61.

 Doing this was a pain--primarily due to the back sidebody seam.

 Three sets of fabrics, each repeating in their own row.  My goal was to keep similar fabrics from being next to each other--either vertically or horizontally.
     One of the other thoughts that went into it was the requirement of certain types of material for certain things; for instance, I wanted sturdier fabrics in the revers, and where the outbreast pocket is located.  I also really wanted the one plaid to be at center back, just for interest with the lines intersecting into a 'v'.

When I was gathering the materials for this project, I had been worried that it would take more than the ten coats I fears needed there!  After I drafted out the patches, I averaged (three coats) the number of patches that size I could get from each garment--it was normally somewhere above 90 patches per coat.  In other words, I could have probably gotten by with three to four coats to make this frock coat (but it wouldn't have had nearly as much variation in the fabrics.  I'm a bit disappointed, really--I recently noted some tweed jackets in the store, in a wider range of colours than I was able to find when still buying for this project.  C'est la vi).
        The one I did run out of, however, was the contrast tweed being used for the yokes, cuffs, etc. 

The skirt grid.  I found that I will have to finagle it, somewhat, and won't be able to pattern match as well as I like.  There will be three gores, in the same fabric as the yokes.

Before I started cutting the patches, I set out all the coats, in the same order as the reference sheet (two pictures above).

I put the pieces together one strip/column at a time, working both the left and right sides of the garment simultaneously.

Once all the strips for that pattern piece were made, I began sewing them together, making sure that everything lined up and keeping my lines straight.

The assorted strips for the center back.  This was more than a bit of a pain, since the top patches are angled, and the lower ones are vertical.  Some finagling was required.

All of the strips done for the skirt.  I decided to pattern it so that the patches would line up diagonally (with the exception of the top row, which had to match the coat body).

 The assorted skirt panels basted at top and bottom, pinned into submission, and then trimmed.

A completed skirt.  Happily, it actually matched up to my pattern fairly closely.  I do have to say, though...tweed does not like to be cut into slender gores.

 The process was repeated for the sleeves. I decided to go with a slightly different scheme here, with the pattern going symmetrically from the underarm seam.  More or less, anyways--I decided it wasn't really possible to get the center patches to be perfectly the correct size and still have the rest line up.  I attempted to pattern match so that they would line up with the patches on the body...we'll see if it worked or not...

Front yoke sewn into place.  Notice that the blue lines in the Harris tweed actually line up with the patches--this wasn't planned, but was intentionally placed once I discovered that the measurements were the same.
It wasn't as difficult as you would think to match up the lines there.

 The back yoke, on the other hand, gave me more issues--probably because it was cut completely on the bias.

 Completed and trimmed front pieces.

Side body pieces.

Thankfully, those slight errors that caused the white bits are within the seam allowances.

Completed and trimmed sleeves.

 Before doing anything with the skirts, I decided that the layers /really/ needed to be permanently attached together.  So, after I transferred the markings and lined everything up (more pinning and basting), I perma-basted the vertical seams.  I did this with an uneven backstitch (much longer on the back than on the front), running in the ditches.
The sleeves got the same treatment, with the quilting running horizontally.

Cat mostly ignores me...and then I lay out fabric.  Getting ready to cut the skirt linings.

By now, I've pretty much decided on everything, except the buttons.  The lining is a gorgeous chocolate brown twill bottom-weight, and the sleeve lining is a silvery grey (same material).  Unfortunately the local fabric shop has almost nothing in the way of appropriate /natural fiber/ lining materials--I was looking for cotton sateen.  The topcollar will be in a corduroy, even darker brown (like 95% dark chocolate).

© John Frey, 2015. 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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