Jacket shell front (the pattern called for fusible interfacing--next time we'll go with hair canvas and handstitched tailoring). There was a good fit at this point and a nice roll on the collar. Our first was the funky darts in the front.
Debi has asked me to write a bit about our recent joint project - the Prince Charlie Jacket and White Tie Vest that we made for my graduation ceremony. It was a trying experience at points but it was great working through the hurdles together.
We went to Edinburgh Fabrics together two weeks ago, as they have a great selection of British wool. Debi picked out a great medium-weight wool with a fine weave and texture. It looked black but we realized later was actually dark midnight blue. We decided to go with it, as deep, dark shades of blue are my favourite colours anyway.
As it turns out, midnight blue was often used for formal wear in the 1930s and 1940s, as it appears "blacker than black" and is especially rich in daylight or twilight. As this was a morning ceremony, I thought it would look very sharp, especially in contrast with the black duchess satin lapels and white piqué (marcella) fabric we were making the vest and tie from.
We used Folkwear Pattern No.152, which was easy to follow but had a few steps we would probably do differently next time, but I'll get to that.
The back of the jacket taking shape. Debi did a great job on the details.
I cut out the pattern pieces first in some nice spare fabric Debi had in her stash. It was wool with kid mohair in Air Force Blue. We'll probably end up putting it together at some later point. The fitting went well, and we made markings for alterations, which I transfered to the new fabric before cutting.
I had the pieces cut out in the midnight blue wool before I left for work, and came home to find the jacket hanging from my desk chair. Debi was restless and upset, because she'd had a very difficult time with the collar and lapel. She was able to get the roll just right but because the method for lining the jacket in the instructions made things a bit difficult. It involved attaching the undercollar to the lining and the overcollar to the jacket, sewn inside-out, then flipped through the armhole, so she was sewing it blind. It's basically a bagged lining, which was easier for the rest of the jacket but the time it saved us was spent tenfold while trying to fix the collar and lapel.
In the end, we had to pull the stitching out and cut a new lapel front (luckily, we had extra satin) because with all the handling, the original had begun to fray. I spent the rest of the night steaming, stretching, and pressing the lapel and collar into shape.
Button detail: Lion Rampant with Gaelic inscription, "Clann nar Gael, An gralli bra crelle." I've looked it up extensively and cannot find a translation - it's neither modern Gaelic/Gaeilge nor can I find the words translated in middle Gaelic. It must be ancient. The first bit is "Family of the Gaels" but I cannot find the words "gralli," "bra," "óra" "crelle" or any combination thereof. Anyone know?
We looked in the shops for the buttons but ended up getting them online. They're made in many finishes now, including chrome and black, in addition to gold, "antique" and silver finishes. Since it's formal, I thought it should be shiny but the chrome finish has too much of a sheen. I was glad to find them in silver, as I prefer the hue of polished silver to chrome.
Attaching the buttons. Debi did a wonderful job on the flap details - the seams were sharp and the shape was perfect.
The song also reminded me of when we went to the Clan Grant International Gathering in Grantown-on-Speyside in the Highlands two summers ago. Chief "Corntassel" Smith of the Oklahoma Cherokee Nation accompanied a contingent of Cherokee Grant descendants to meet the Scottish Clan members and the current Clan Chief, James Grant of Grant, Lord Strathspey. It was a great visit, and planted a lot of seeds in my head for my own work/research.
You can hear the song, by the group Walela, here.
The next problem came with setting the sleeves: The sleeve caps are larger than the sleeve opening on the main body of the jacket, so there's a lot of work required to get the cap to fit just right.
The first of many seam rippings: The right sleeve cap...
We finally got it right (third time's the charm), and I, in celebration, reenacted a favourite scene from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.
Taking a break from the complicated bits, I turned to the construction of the flashes, which hang from garters under the top fold of the sock. I tried to make it as simple as possible - of course, I could have used the proper width elastic, but that would be far too easy...
Debi did a great job sewing these up and even made an extra pair for my friend, Stephen.
Sewing up the Flashes
Hand-sewing the bowtie...
I'd been looking for a bowtie in piqué/marcella in town to no avail. Some of you will remember that I'd sewn one to go with Debi's creations two winters ago but it's time-consuming and piqué is stiffer and more frail than silk or satin. Debi had suggested overstitching but it wouldn't look right and the fabric frays easily. In the end, she stitched the top and sides, leaving the bottom open. I flipped it right side out, pressed the hem, and hand stitched the rest.
As it turns out, on our way to the ceremony, we passed a shop that sold white piqué bowties. But as you know, there's nothing like wearing something you've made yourself, and this will now join the other pieces of my kit, all of which have special meaning.
Debi got to work on the vest. It was past 3AM and we'd decided to just make a go of it and not sleep. It wasn't the best idea but the snags we'd hit cost us many hours and there was simply nothing for it.
I put on the Puppini Sisters, and we did our best to steel ourselves for the long night and day ahead, put our heads and fingers to the task, and soldiered-on. The music soon put us both in a better mood, and we used the loopiness that came with staying up so late to our advantage. We finished it together and were very pleased with the results. Debi did an amazing job tackling the unfamiliar and tricky aspects of sewing a men's jacket, and both the jacket and vest ended up looking very professional.
Stay tuned for pictures of the finished outfit!