Tuesday, 21 April 2009

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.
The first thing to do is sew the two halves of the back together, from nape of the neck to the small of the back (see right). This seam ends up inside the back vent capacity. You can just see where the split is not sewn below this.

It then takes about 30 minutes of preparation to get ready for the next, relatively tiny, but critical bit of sewing: after stitching the lining together in the same way as the back, it has to be pinned securely to the Alcantara and the whole thing folded in half, lining outwards; I then have to mark the position of the stitching that runs from the nape of the neck to the top of the vent (where there is a triangle of reinforcing stitching), and an inch-worth where the second reinforcing stitching is located in the small of the back. This has to be sewn from the lining side, which because the silk slips around a lot, is not easy.

This picture (left) shows the back sewn at these points. I have drawn a red line where the stitching is located as it is too fine to show up. Above this line will form the capacity in the vent; below, when pressed out flat, is the visible back of the coat.
By wrapping the lining around the vent capacity before sewing and catching it in the stitching, keeps it nice and tight in the back of the coat.

I am always amused by how these two very short runs of stitching and where there are located, are so important in creating the back vent.

It’s then a matter of carefully pressing everything out and pleating the lower part of the coat to form the base for the buttoning which runs down the split. All of the folds are then topstitched about 1 to 1.5mm from the edge. The photo (right) you can just see this (I hope).

I must say at this early stage, that the Alcantara I am using has a wonderfully soft, but weighty feel to it - real nice to work with!

It’s then time to get out my trusty buttonhole spacing tool (see left) and put the four holes in place, which I am marking with proper tailor’s chalk. I happily marked away with pencil or felt pen on the calico test, but it’s best to use the right tool for the job now.

After sewing the button holes, I then attached the lining down the inside of the split, leaving it a bit vague at the bottom, which will be sorted out when it is hemmed at the last minute. Finally I sewed the reinforcing triangles, which are sewn clean through the whole coat back, securing the vent capacity in the process.

Just to see how things were looking, I lightly pinned the Alcantara back to the rear of my Mk III and took a couple of pics. Below you can see the real coat at Earl’s Court (left), against the new Mk IV (right), with more mustard-coloured sleeve of Mk III in the corner. Even in these quick snaps, you can see the texture difference between the Malabar and the Alcantara.

That’s enough for now - I have left sewing the tailoring back darts for another day . . . .


  1. Is the extra section of fabric on the back copied on both sides? If so, are the folds the same?

    1. Pattern-wise I cut both sides the same, but each side pleats differently.
      The side with the buttons does then have a good inch graded back. It's just easier to do this during assembly rather than factoring it into the cutting.

  2. Is the lining pleated the same way as the outer coat fabric? That is, did you pleat both the outer fabric and the lining at the same time, treating them as one piece in that respect?

    1. You're bang on. Line the fabric then pleat it as it it was one. Sew the back seam above and below the the vent, catching the lining as you go.

  3. Righto. And is it the second, lower reinforcing triangle that holds all the pleats together where they begin, in the small of the back?

    1. Yes.
      Sew through all layers from back of the coat to the lining below.