Saturday, 11 September 2021

Eagle's View 18th Century Waistcoat - Red Wool

Patterns: Eagle's View Men's Waistcoat, 18th century version, with alterations. 
Fabrics: 100% wool, tomato red, tropical weight. 100% linen, natural, medium weight. 

Chest: 42-43"
Waist: 37-39" (back lacing to fit)

Pattern Overview

Firstly, I really like the Eagle's View patterns. They're simple and lend themselves well to alterations. The pieces are properly made and meetup correctly (a problem that, sadly, happens too often in indie pattern companies) There are a few downsides, though, but nothing that the intermediate and above sewist can't handle. 

1) The sizing comes in a few wide ranges. For the waistcoat, the chest goes from 38 to 42 in one shift, quite a jump, but someone skilled with dealing with patterns knows how to mark "between the grade lines" and adjust fitting accordingly. 

2) The instructions can be a tad confusing, and the methods given too modern. Again, if you're already familiar with 18th century construction techniques, this is something you can just ignore and assemble the garment in the manner you like rather than going to the pattern instructions. 

3) In keeping with the simplicity of these pattern, a possible negative for less advances sewists is that there is nothing in the pattern or instructions about interfacing, interlining, front facing, or any of those little construction details that can make or break the silhouette of a period garment. Again, if you are already familiar with such things, you can just add them (I highly recommend The Cut of Men's Clothes, which contains many diagrams showing the locations of proper padding, interfacing, etc. on 18th century garments.)

As for alterations, the only change I made to the pattern itself was putting the shoulder seam back to a more 18th century correct position. Modern shoulder seams tend to be straight and high on the shoulder, while in the 18th century they did a sharp angle to the back, creating an 'A' shape effect on the back. Otherwise, the pieces are unaltered. 

Interlining & Support

Waistcoats are deceptively simple (i.e. not simple at all). In fact, more work and "extras" go into a men's 18th century waistcoat than into a lady's full caraco jacket. There's just a lot going on "behind the scenes", and it's all necessary for a good fit and lay. 

(above and below) Because I was dealing with a tropical weight wool, it was always going to require a second layer of full interlining anyway, in addition to the heavier interlining. You can see here the back (inside) of the front pieces, after I had already put in the pockets. 

The area of heavier interlining is meant to cover where the buttonholes will be, as well as give a stronger area for the pocket hole. As for the shape of it, the reason I prefer this rounded kind of shaping rather than just a straight strip, is because anything straight under the surface will create a natural folding area, and the interlining would show itself more that way through the front layer of wool. 

Also, by extending the heavy interlining wider in the chest, you create for firm shaping to help fill in that "hollow" area that most men have just above their chest and before the shoulder starts. 

Why doesn't the heavy interlining go all the way to the edge?
~~~Because bulky seams and edges are terrible! You want your leading front edges to be as flat and sharp edged as you can get them, and keeping excess material out of that seam, that fold, is how you do it. There are two ways to do this. 

1) What I did--Since I was already fully flat interlining the wool because it was so light weight, I had a built-in cheat where I could just stitch the heavy linen interlining to the light cotton interlining first. This keeps it firmly in place with no stitching going through to the outside. Unless you're using a very heavy fabric and really don't want to add more, I would recommend doing this method whenever you can. And if you're using something that shows pin pricks badly, such as taffeta, you must use this method!  

2) If you aren't doing a full flat interlining, you will have to loosely tac stitch your heavy interlining area to your outer fabric. Use a gaudy contrasting thread, so you don't miss it later, and make the stitching ridiculously big, like 1" wide. These tac stitches will stay in place through your buttonhole work, the pocket flap attachment, everything in order to keep the heavy interlining from moving around while you're working. In fact, taking out the tac stitches from the outside should be the last thing you do after completion. 

Buttons & Buttonholes
I have shown many times, in other posts, how I make 18th century covered buttons using thread and wood rounds. For this waistcoat, I used .75" rounds and heavy red thread to make the shanks. [Modern metal covering buttons that you can buy in craft stores aren't just historically inaccurate, they're terrible period! I don't use them for modern clothes either, because the backings are weak and the shanks fill pull out under the slightest straight.] 

As for the buttonholes, I do keyhole shape buttonholes using silk floss and a heavier cotton cord as the "filler" under the stitching to give body and strength. The best reason to use the keyhole shape is to avoid your button shanks pushing against the edge of the buttonholes and creating a wavy effect between the buttons during wear. In short, if you don't give a little open area at the edge of the botton hole for the shank to easily sit in, the shank will press the buttonhole open and the effect is not attractive during wear. It makes the waistcoat look rumply. 

Back Lacing
There is almost no strictly correct way of doing the fit mechanism at the back of an 18th century men's coat. They used every method. Everything from full open lacing to plain ribbon ties, to separate tabs. I've even seen a museum piece where the back was closed, but eyelets had been stitched in anyway for two or three separate strings to go through. They did it all, so you can too. Whichever method you like best. 

The method I went with is not part of the Eagle's View pattern. Two simple tabs with eyelets and narrow cotton tape. [another great thing about this pattern is that the waist runs large, so the wearer is far more likely to need to pull in the fitting rather than let out] 


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