Sunday 26 April 2009

First full shots of new coat

At last! At last! The coat is finished and here it is!!!

Can’t blame me for having a little fun in my first time in front of a camera with it, eh?
I took these in a local underpass, which I think gives it a suitable grungy feel. Better than just in the back garden like on previous coats!

First a little sonic action, though again, I can’t find my new series sonic! It must be here somewhere - just don’t know where!

Click to enlarge
The a bit of action photography!

Friday 24 April 2009

Home straight

Last thing to finish the main work on the coat is hemming the bottom.

After deciding how long I want the coat, it being a compromise between being too long and tripping over it all the time (as I did with my Mk I - hell that was too long!) and ending up too short, I pin the hemline I want to have.

I then press it along the hem to define the edge I will work to.

While I was researching The Competition’s Efforts, I noticed a couple of pictures showed people wearing their Tennant coats held open, to show the internal pockets. 

When they did this, the lining was hanging like a big bag and sagging badly in the middle (see left). I wanted to try and prevent this, so I sewed the lining’s vertical seam allowance to the seam allowance down the insides of the coat to support and secure it. I did this from around 6 inches below the armpit to 18 inches from the hem. This is a bit unconventional - I’m sure you aren’t supposed to do this, but it has also stabilized the position of the lining around the hem area, which I then found much easy to work with.

The hem is then laid out flat and I cut the lining level with the seam allowance of the coat hem (see right). At this point I need to check the circumference of the the lining and the coat match. If there is any extra, I just slightly take the vertical lining seam in a bit.

Getting the collar right - at last!

This is the one bit of the coat I think I am the most stressed about putting together!!!

Since the collar and lapels seam with pretty much the entire coat, any slip up could be far reaching, meaning I might have to re-cut right back to almost the beginning. If I had ruined a pocket, I would only have to remake that isolated part, not the whole coat.

That said, the first thing to do is set the under collar into the body of the coat. This will check that I have the collar the right length. Sometimes I need to adjust the pattern slightly to make sure it fits, so I have left cutting the collar until now, rather than when I cut the rest of the coat earlier in the week.

There is a tricky dog-leg seam to sew in each side which ends up below the collar, so I set these and ease the rest of the collar in across the back of the neck. This give me the first chance to really see how the coat is looking (see right). Looking good.

The pattern is cut a little generous around the collar, to give me some cloth to play with in case of crisis. I therefore adjust and mark the final collar size before stitching.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Setting the sleeves

One of the things I did earlier in the week when I had a blitz on cutting the fabric, was to quickly make a start the sleeves. I only sewed them together to get a head start, and now I am setting them in the coat body which has been assembled ready, I’ll recap all I did with the sleeves.

Sleeves are always one of those easy things to assemble, but if I haven’t done them in advance, can slow down assembling the coat.

I first cut the sleeves (see above left) in Alcantara. Notice the marks for sleeve apex and three parallel lines for the sleeve head formation. I also cut the lining using pinking sheers, which proved to be a sucessful exercise on the test coat (see above right).

Firstly I stitch the longer back seam and press it flat, but with all of the seam allowance folded towards the front of the sleeve. I then topstitch the seam, within 1 to 1.5mm away from the edge. The sleeve is then closed off by sewing the front seam, which is just conventionally pressed flat.

I am using the slightly adjusted pattern I did for the calico coat, which is designed to give a more roomy fit at the back, while still being quite tailored at the front.

These two photographs show what I mean: (left) you can see the sleeve is set in cleanly and is well fitted (right) you can see a series of puckers at the seam, which is giving it a fuller fit. To mimic this I need to adjust the level of gathering in the sleeve head so it is smooth at the front and across the apex of the sleeve, but allowing it to pucker slightly as it falls down the back of the sleeve.

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Sum of its parts

Well, I have now finished ‘decorating’ (as I like to call it) all the main sections of the coat, and am ready to start bringing them together at last.

Before I do, here they are, and a little reminder of some of the details and features each has.

Capacity vent in centre of back; two top-stitched tailoring darts on each side of vent; four-buttoned slit with receiving buttonholes in enclosing pockets; lining integrally sewn at initial stage.

Welted pocket with separate pocket flap surface-sewn 1 inch above pocket; tailoring dart down centre; two underarm tailoring darts ending at pocket flap; four 28mm horn buttons along dart.

Orange Dupion flashed internal welted pockets.

Over-stitched back seam; single stitched underarm seam.

Panic over a seam I did not know about!

Next thing to tackle, which took most of a day last weekend, were the fronts. Initially I thought this was going to be nice and easy, but then I had to go and make it difficult for myself!

I had long studied the coat, and thought I was familiar with every single seam and tailoring dart it contained. While I was writing a previous blog entry about the sleeves, I posted a cropped vserion of a picture to show the detail of top-stitching on the back darts (see above).

What I spotted in the picture - slightly to my horror - was that there are two tailoring darts in the front half of the coat, under the arms running down to the tops of the pocket flaps. 
I have tried to make it a bit clearer here (see above) by labeling the darts and seams.
I had long known that there was at least one there, but had only included it in my pattern when I got to the calico test coat, which I was just finishing at the time (I had noticed it not long after finishing the Mk III.)
I realized that in all the pictures I had seen to date, David’s arm had covered the back dart when seen from the front; and covered the font dart when seen from the back; I had never seen a picture showing BOTH darts together, until now.

Inside pockets - smoke and mirrors

My next sewing session on the Alcantara coat was a mid-week evening, so I kept it to relatively simple stuff rather than anything too involved. That I save for the weekends!

The work I had done on the calico coat was now paying dividends, as I could confidently storm ahead and start cutting the final cloth without the usual stages of cutting and adjusting as I went along. This time I would know they would all fit together right, pretty much first time.

In one evening I cut essentially the rest of the whole coat, bar the collar, which I felt needed special attention. I won’t show you all this now, but will reveal the cutting of the coat as I tackle the assembly of each relative section.

The first manageable part I decided to assemble were the lapel fronts, which although they are cut, don’t get sewn in until much later, but the inside pockets can be set now. It is so much easier doing it while the lapels are loose pieces of fabric: it is like sewing a demonstration or test.
The pattern is marked with the roll of the lapel and pocket positions, though the Sonic pocket is now canceled (see right).

I then transfer the pocket position from the pattern (see left) and mark it in tailor’s chalk; and attach the lower welt, which is made of interfaced orange Dipon fabric (see below - top left). The welt is pinned upside-down, rightside facing down. The back of the pocket is attached in the same way and the width of the pocket is sewn between the vertical chalk marks. I then carefully slit the gap between the two lines of stitching (see below - top right).

Work begins


At last, the moment I have been building towards for so long . . . I am starting to make my coat from Alcantara!!

Goes without saying I starting with the back, made even easier by the adjustments I have fed back from making the test coat. I am more confident about assembling it now, being still fresh from working in calico.

Friday 17 April 2009

Pieces in a jigsaw

Now that I had refined and tested my pattern to a stage where I was happy with it, I can now cut the entire coat almost in one go, rather than be designing and cutting in tandem.
Because of this, I realised how few pieces I actually needed to cut to make the coat!

The complete list is as follows:

Back - 2
Fronts - 2
Lapels - 2
Collar - 2
Sleeves - 4
Outer pockets (welts & flaps) - 8
TOTAL - 20

(above - the freshly cut lapels)

Back - 2
Fronts - 2
Sleeves - 4

Inside pocket welts - 2
(above - the outer pockets, Alcantara parts)

Inside pocket backs - 2

Inside pockets - 2
Outer pockets - 2

(above - cutting the upper sleeve)


What’s in a colour?

Apologies in advance if this entry may be a little dry and dull - but I thought it worth talking about the colour of the coat before embarking on making the Alcantara version.

FACT: colour is a very subjective thing.
Someone may see something as red, someone else may see it more as a purple, others a magenta.

The 10th Doctor’s coat is equally puzzling as it seems to change colour from image to image.

Shown here are close-up details from fifteen images of the coat.
They ALL look different colours; some are beige; some are walnut; a couple are dark brown; some are even bordering on an olive colour - but they are all allegedly the same coat, therefore have to be the same colour.
Now to be fair, some of these images are heavily retouched and altered to create a mood image for the relevant episodes, so some colours here are probably red-herrings.

So, with all this choice available, who can point to a single image and say - THAT is the colour the coat should be?

From a couple of close-up portraits of The Doctor, I could see the coat had been made from a faux suede material, so I set about finding as many as I could.

Thursday 16 April 2009

I’ve finished the calico test coat!!!! Phew

I have finally reach that point with the test coat were suddenly it seems so much more finished and when I try it on for size, it feels a better fit - all in the space of one day’s work!

The technique I use (which I strongly recommend), whereby the panels of the coat are ‘decorated’ with pockets etc in isolation before bringing them all together, does mean you do a lot of work before you see some tangible result. Even then, when the body of the coat is assembled, without the sleeves or lapels sewn it, it hangs even more limp and ill-fitting than you feel it should at that stage.

See embarrassingly frumpy looking pictures of the test coat being worn for the first time. The calico is very stiff, so it is NOT draping right. Still to do are buttons; sleeve linings; sewing the body lining; and hemming the bottom; the collar needs some re-shaping.

Having said that, I think the back of the coat is looking good. The fitting of the coat is difficult, as the back needs to be very tailored and sit tight to the small of the back; compared to the front, which is a lot looser and free hanging. If you look at various publicity stills, it hangs straight down from the shoulder line, without it looking fitted from the front.
The outer pockets have worked out at just the right, comfortable height and they aren’t as awkward to use as I had anticipated.

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Turning the other collar

The last major piece of work on the coat is the lapels and collar.

I was always confused as to how best to set lapels and collars - which do you do first? And in what order to get a nice tight notch? Sew the fronts and back together, then join them up?

For my first two coats I sewed the lapels in first and then set in a pre-assembled collar. This I found quite hard work to do - nothing seem to quite meet up correctly once they were all sewn together. I also found when making the Mk II that the seam running away from the notch did not sit as flat as it should (see right). After a while the points started curling up too. Very frustrating.

For the Mk III I bought an invaluable book, Tailoring: A Step-by-step Guide to Creating Customised Garments, which gave me a definitive set-by-step guide to assembling a decent notched collar. I can heartily recommend this book!

It is full of photo-illustrated descriptions of how to make a range of jacket styles, using either a standard machine stitching method; a corner cutting iron-in interfacing method; or a more intensive hand-sewing technique, all running in parallel.

Where do Time Lords keep their armies?

Previously I had not really paid much attention to the pattern for the sleeves, as I had lifted it directly from the Honest Dragon coat with little or no adaption. However, I had recently studied my pictures from Earl’s Court and had noticed that the backs of the sleeves are a lot fuller and less tailored than I had realized, although from the front they have the appearance of a snugger fit. I also noted that there was a slight amount of gathering in the lower back seam to create this extra fullness. (note in this picture how creased the back of the sleeves are)

I therefore adjusted the pattern by opening up the width of the upper sleeve on the rear descent of the sleeve head.

The photo below, if you look closely, shows the over-stitched sleeve hem; the over-stitched shoulder hem; the over-stitched back darts; and the two front tailoring darts.

For me, setting sleeves are one thing that I have never totally mastered - let me do a welted pocket anytime! I find it either sets in perfectly first time, or I have to reset it three or four times before I get it acceptable.
I did read up for the Mk III and found some tricks that did help me, with some success.

Sunday 5 April 2009

The inside story

Having completed the outer pockets, time now to sort out the inside pockets.

In making my coats to date I have strived for screen accuracy. However, this has only extended to their outward appearance, as for purely practical reasons, I have shied away from this on their insides.

Although I mastered welted pockets, I was terrified of having to do a welted pocket with the inherently flimsy lining material as a base. I was always worried it would sag badly, or at worst, stretch out of shape and rip or tear at the corners.

My solution was to go a little freeform. I had a nice Gant coat which had a curved triangular shape extended from the lapel to the underarm seam in a broad sweep. The internal pockets were then set in this area, giving them a strong base and support. 
Since there was no decent photographic reference of what the pockets should be like, besides no-one would see the inside of the coat, I thought it a compromise that I could easily replicate. Seen here is the interior of the Mk II coat, complete with special handy narrow pocket for pens or maybe a sonic screwdrivers.

This time round, since I have invested in the Alcantara fabric, I can’t let through anything less than complete and total screen accuracy for every aspect of the coat. This, for the first time, includes the inside pockets.

As I said, there is precious little photographic reference for the inside pockets, and we rarely get to see them in the series. Here is one of the few shots that does show the internal pockets.

The pockets show up as strips of orange. But what were they?
At the time this episode (New Earth) was screened, the coat was not yet on display anywhere, so there was no chance of studying the coat up-close.

Wednesday 1 April 2009

Pocket wonder

Having now completed work on the back, I moved on to sorting out the outer pockets of the coat.

At first glance they look like conventional pockets, but as I said before, this is no conventional coat, so these pockets are far from standard in their design.

When I first saw the coat when it was on display at Manchester, I quickly realized it was the coat referred to in the book Doctor Who: The Inside Story. There is a section that discusses the costume for David Tennant and recalls a story that the coat was planned as being long, but producer Phil Collinson thought differently and personally asked for 6 inches to be cut off the length. The moment he saw the result he saw the error of his judgment and conceded that it should be longer as planned. 
This hesitation in the length is clearly visible on the display coat, as the bottom 6 inches have been reattached, leaving an ugly seam all round the coat.

I therefore took with a pinch of salt some of the other details in the coat. For example, the shape of the lapels is not quite the same as on screen: they are not as wide and the angle the collar meets the lapels is wider. So what I observed on the outer pocket design made me think they had installed one design of pocket then changed their minds and had done a quick-fix change to represent the final intention.

This detail picture of the pocket, shows what I mean.
The pocket is single welted, about 5 inches wide. Sited about an inch above the pocket is a surface-sewn pocket flap, around 7.5 by 3 inches in size.

This is unusual as conventionally the flap would be sewn in with an upper welt, running the width of the pocket.

All my coats to date had been sewn with 'conventional' pockets.

However, I recently came across a couple of stills which, knowing the structure of this un-conventional pocket, clearly shows the screen used coat does have this peculiar arrangement.

If you look closely, the flap behind the sleeve, is not flapped up; the pocket his hand is in is clearly not as wide as the flap - all consistent with the odd design.

When it comes to replicating this, it is, if anything, easier than the pockets I have been doing to date!

Back again

Just to catch up, here is the work I have done on the back of the coat at the weekend, then some further work I have done this week.

I showed last time the back being cut and the origami-like folds needed to create the vent and complex buttoned split.

Also stitched in at this initial stage was the lining, which wrapped around the folds of the vent in the back, fully lining it. This then carries on down to the hemline, giving enough lining material to run the length of the hem.

The buttonhole side of the split was then folded and pressed, and the buttonholes marked with my magic spacing tool. 

The picture here shows the back being pressed after the buttonholes and buttons were installed.

I then tackled the tailoring of the back. Marking the parallel darts either side of the vent is always difficult. The aim is to get them spaced so the sides are divided into three equal widths. It can be a bit hit and miss, as you need to allow for not only the spacing of the darts, but how much material they eat up in the process of sewing them and the seam allowance where the back joins the fronts.