Those of you that have follow my efforts for a while will have noticed that I have a certain fascination with waistcoats. I’ll not try to analyse just why I like waistcoats, but suffice to say they are stylish and practical, and add interest to your outfit. What’s not to like?
Well, waistcoats are not in huge supply. While a few of our trusty manufacturers of menswear have cottoned on to the fact that waistcoats are good, there tends to be a fairly meagre selection available, and these tend to be either tweedy variants or work wear inspired. How about if you fancy something a little bit special? There are of course plenty of opportunities to have one tailored, or something vintage, but maybe there is yet another option?
Never being one to let a lack of skill stop me from having a go at things, I was struck by inspiration to have a go at making my own waistcoat (or waistcoats, as I tend to go industrial on my projects). My previous experience of using a sewing machine was at school around 30 years ago, and a little more recently doing some leather stitching for a car interior, and of course hemming my own trousers. Watching “The Great British Sewing Bee” on BBC recently though was truly inspirational, and I couldn’t help think that it actually looked fun.
To start with, I would obviously needed a pattern. I googled around and asked on Twitter and got a firm recommendation of a pattern 2447 by McCalls. Easily available, I ordered one from a pattern supplier on eBay. Now, I’m an engineering, but I did find the pattern quite baffling to start with. It didn’t help that the pattern was for not only a waistcoat by shirt, bowtie and tie as well. Still, with a bit of help from the more experienced mind of WellDressedGirlfriend, I managed to work out how it goes together.
And it really isn’t all that difficult! For my first effort I used some fabric from WDGs stores, not something I’d consider wearing seriously, but good for a trial run. First point though is to cut out the flimsy paper pattern. This means identifying all the parts necessary and making a judgement of which size to select. I went with the medium size pattern to start with, and cut all the pieces out.
Once you have all the pieces of the pattern, they need to be pinned to the fabric so you can cut out the pieces. You need to pay attention to what will be outside and inside, but otherwise it’s quite straight forward. I found it was a good idea to iron the fabric before going further, as it was much easier to work with a fabric that would like nice and flat.
Use plenty of pins and take care to get it right. Some pieces should be placed at a fold in the fabric, so you’ll cut through two layers of fabric at the same time.
Once all the pieces are cut out, you start assembling. Again, plenty of pins to keep things aligned and accurate. The pattern is made with a 1cm measurement along the edge to allow you to sew it together.
The photo above shows the lining being assembled. When you get this far you can start trying the pieces against your body and may catch issues or necessary adjustments in an early stage, where it’s very much easier to make adjustments. I shortened the height of mine a little at this point, adjusting the size from medium down to small, to compensate for a lack of stature.
I made a mistake at this point as well, misreading the pattern to mean making cuts up the darts. This is a really bad idea.
Once you get into the assembly it starts getting fun. Pay attention to the sequence of assembly, as a lot of the time things have to be done in the correct order. I had to redo the rear darts to include the material for the rear cinches.
I found myself being quite surprised at how decent my sewing turned out. The combination of the sewing machine, taking care to iron pieces, using plenty of pins, and using the age-old adage of “measure twice, cut once”, things really came together. The detail above shows the front lining, after having been sewed on the reverse side, and then turned the right way out.
And after only a few hours work, the finished result. More practise would reduce the time used quite a lot, plus experience would mean working more accurately and efficiently. Given that this was just a trial run, I didn’t finalise it with buttons and button holes, but I think I have proven to myself that I can actually do this, and that I should be able to make something nice. Now I need to search for the fabric that will really make a top notch waistcoat!
One idea for version 2 is to add a few pockets on the front. If I go for work wear style patch pockets, this is really very easy. I also found that the fit round the arm holes (professional tailoring term, I’m sure) could use some adjustment, so I’ll compare against other well-fitting waistcoats for a bit of adjusting there.
For version 3 or 4 I am thinking of up-cycling some Harris Tweed from old jackets I have bought secondhand. Given that they’ll never fit, I think it would be nice for them to donate their soul to the Waistcoat Project.
What do you think? Feeling inspired? Maybe you’d like to join in the fun?
The result so far looks as below, in a suitably Yuletide setting.
- Waistcoat Wednesday wicked wishlist (welldresseddad.com)