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What I have learned from my coat making course


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#1 Nigel

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 06:50 PM

Morley College in South London runs a number of part time tailoring courses.  I signed up for one earlier this year to make a man's coat (jacket).  There were 11 three hour sessions in which the tutor demonstrated all the steps to make a fully structured coat including the use of goat hair and horse hair canvas in the plastron, pad stitching, setting the sleeves etc.  We worked on our own coat at the same time but there was nothing like enough time in the class itself to finish all the steps the tutor demonstrated so lots of homework was needed using his excellent worksheets as guides.  Mine is still not quite done but having just put in the sleeves I am nearly finished.   Until the basting comes out and it has been given a good press it is difficult to judge its success.

 

Those who had not made a coat before were given a standard pattern and told not to worry about fit at this stage, which was solely about learning how to make the garment, not cut or fit it.  Those doing the class a second time were encouraged to use their own drafts.

 

Thirty three hours is clearly no substitute for a seven year apprenticeship but I have learned a great deal.  Even if I never made another coat what I have learned about the manipulation of woollen cloth, making pockets etc would have made the course worthwhile.  But perhaps more importantly it has taken away the fear of tackling a coat-making project.  A copy of Cabrerra has been on my shelf for several years but the chapter on coats just seemed too intimidating.  No longer!  In fact I have now drafted and made up in calico two alternative coat designs for my son - one based on Poole's book from the early 1920s and another from a 1970s draft on this site.  This in itself has been a revelation; the first is along "Edwardian" lines - a very narrow back, close fitting shoulders and a wide skirt - almost like a woman's dress.  The 1970s draft has the classic wide, square, heavily padded shoulder giving the drape more usually seen in what are now regarded as traditional British suits.  My son will no doubt prefer the more modern look but I am thinking of making an Edwardian coat for myself - in a plaid, just to make things more challenging.

 

I am signing up again for next term, when we will be making a less structured coat.  If and when I have something I am reasonably pleased with I will post a picture (but I promise not to break the rules by asking for advice about it).

 

 


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#2 greger

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 05:18 AM

Plaid is nice in in that it will show errors you might not notice. If at the beginning these errors are shown out. It keens the mind, which is best at the beginning for, at least, some people. Stripes and plaids shows warp threads if they are straight or not, and some places they need to be heading towards zenith. Get an eye for warp threads and zenith and you will be able to do balance and,  crooked and straight  better. The horizontal line are helpful, too. 

 

The advice for beginners is not to concern yourself with whats further up the chapter. Like mountain climbing. It isn't one or two steps to the top. But, after many steps,  all a suddenly, you are standing on top. You have accomplished something. And some books and other methods of lessons say, "Don't look to far ahead". 

 

In the old days of Sweden six years and older is to old to begin learning tailoring and fitting. While you want the practice perhaps you should let your son begin the process of becoming an old hand. If he is truly interested in this it will take very little prompting if any. Plus, he'll be the best dressed boy in school no matter what style or fashion. (And later, probably the best dress maker). He'll earn far more money than hamburger flippers do. Those completely hand sewn garments have a softer feel. Is that more luxurious? 


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#3 Nigel

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 04:41 PM

I appreciate the advice about not getting ahead of oneself.  The coat making course required participants to have had previous experience and I was a little uncertain if my four pairs of trousers, four shirts and one waistcoat which I drafted and made my myself without any tuition would qualify.  At the level the course was pitched it turned out to be fine.  The participants were a mix of retired people wanting to make clothes for themselves and their family (such as me) and younger people involved in the garment trade in some way, such as pattern drafters, alteration tailors, theatrical costume makers, dressmakers etc.

 

Much though I would like to acquire the skill of a professional tailor I know this will never happen; the quality of finish on the best coat I own - a tweed sports jacket made by Huntsman - is so exquisite and far ahead of what I am ever likely to be capable of.  However having spent my working life behind a desk I now want to make things with my hands.  I like a challenge - I am also doing a clockmaking course - and I will not be inflicting my experiments in garment making on others without their consent, and certainly won't be demanding payment for them.

 

So many regard clothes these days as cheap throwaway items.  This is not sustainable.  Making clothes from good materials in a way which will stand the test of time and looking after them is far better.  Doing so oneself if one has the time and inclination makes one appreciate these things more. 


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#4 greger

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 05:19 AM

Tailoring is a great hobby. It develops wit. And skills will come. 


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