Sunday 16 January 2011

Ultimate Six Frock Coat - quick Calico test

The drafting of the block for the frock coat has gone well, and when I traced it from the ‘rubbing’ I took of the original coat, I found pretty much every piece matched and corresponded where needed.

What I need to do now is produce a pattern and then prove it with a calico test to check it really does work.

I know I do keep banging on about doing this before cutting any final fabric, but it saves you so much time and money in the long run, I would be stupid not to do it.
As well as proving the pattern works, it gives me the chance to see firsthand the potential problem seams prior to assembly. It can be surprising when you find a panel you think will be easy needs a bit more thought and attention.

So, first I need to make a proper pattern with seam allowances, which I do by tracing off each individual piece from the block. Some seams need a little more than others for various reasons: I am giving the hem around 2.5 inches; and the waistline seam I am giving 1.25 inches; elsewhere I stick with a 0.75 inch allowance.

The pattern is made in tissue paper, and at this point I quickly found my first heads-up, as there are a couple of panels of the skirt that are very similar shapes which I need to distinguish between.
Also they are all triangular or tapering rectangles, and it is important to know which is the leading and trailing edges so I don’t put panels in back to front or transposed. Nightmare.

Notes on the pattern pieces, including the fabric grain, become all important.

It’s early days yet, but I have marked each piece with the fabric number (referencing the fabric breakdown) and the side it is cut for assume fabrics have a side to them.

Anyway, for the immediate job in hand I do not need to worry about this too much as I am cutting it all in calico.

At this stage I am gonna keep things real simple and just make up the body of the coat, the skirt, and worry about one sleeve only. The lining will need to be cut specially (I’ll explain why when I get to it); the pockets need engineering, so I will do those as a separate sampler; and the collar and lapels will need to be drafted separately as their cut and fit will depend on how the body comes out, so I’m delaying that until I really need to.

There's really not much to say about making it up, as assembly is really relatively straight forward for the sections I am doing. You can see the first effort here (see left and right).
One good tip is to always use a contrasting thread with the longest stitch length possible. Calico tests are often sewn with the full intention of unpicking it later to incorporate revisions, so there is no point making it hard for yourself to undo!
The pattern is cut with seam allowances on the lapels, so the look a little broad at the moment, and the hemline is long, allowing for the turn-up.

This first attempt looks good, and confirms the pattern to be sound. Nothing on the body needs revision, but I can see there will be a few challenges along the way to ensure that seams align correctly and seam allowances inside the coat don’t crash into each other.

My next focus is the sleeves.

It was impossible to pattern trace the sleeves of the coat as you cannot lay them out flat enough with the seams accessible to trace, so I always planned to use an adapted sleeve from a classic overcoat block I use.

The patchwork nature of the coat can be quite unforgiving in its design.

It is critically important that the back seam of the sleeve meets with the curved seam line on the back of the coat. Since each of the four panels of fabric meeting at this point are different colours, the slightest mis-match will be glaringly obvious.

Setting the basic sleeve I find that it is a good inch out of position (see left).

It is not, as you might think, simply a case of rotating the sleeve in its socket until it lines up correctly. Rotating a sleeve, even an inch either way, will cause rucking of the fabric when worn, or undue pulling making it awkward to wear.

In this instance the only way to make sure it works right is to produce a test sleeve, set it so the sleeve hangs right (ignoring the mismatch), measure how far out it is, then revise the block accordingly. This way I can move the seam around the sleeve, keeping the arch of the sleeve head in the same place.

I wanted to do this right, so used it this week as my college work, to get the advised of my tutor.

She showed me how to mark the correct line for the seam directly onto the calico in pencil, blending it into the old line from the elbow up.

The sleeve is then removed, unpicked, and the pencil line transferred back into my block.
The old line is left, and the new one is marked in a different colour to distinguish it (see right).

This way it is possible to backtrack through the alterations if need be.

Once the pattern is then re-cut and the sleeve re-made, I then set it again, but fixing the sleeve and back seams so they align perfectly. The test will then be if the sleeve hangs correctly elsewhere (see left).
It does – so that’s sorted!

Now that the body and sleeves are cut, I can now start to fennise the pattern and fill in some of the details that make it work.

The main thing I need to sort are the outer pockets. These look like welted pockets, but in some ways are a bit more simple than that.

The pocket opening spans the width of the pocket panel, disappearing into the vertical seams either side. I am therefore going to split the panel horizontally at the pocket opening, add seam allowance and fold the edges over to make the welts.
The pocket flap is then inserted between the two parts (see right).

Things become a little awkward behind the pocket, with the placement of the pocket bag, but with a little jiggery I can get it to work.

I have just made the pocket an isolated sampler (see below) as there is no real need to work this into the calico test.

I have bigger plans than that . . . . . real exciting plans!

Check back soon as I have already started this, and even at an early stage it is looking AMAZING!

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